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Letter from President Wright responding to the McKinsey & Company report

April 26, 2006

Dear Members of the Dartmouth Community:

Last fall, we engaged a team from McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm, to review Dartmouth's non-academic administrative operations and to provide us with recommendations for how we might provide administrative support more effectively. Organizations grow and change and there are always different and sometimes better ways of doing things. The McKinsey team has helped us to identify just such opportunities, and the process has been extremely valuable. I am excited to begin a broader set of conversations about how to implement some ideas that have been advanced through this study.

We asked McKinsey to come to Dartmouth as part of an ongoing process to improve administrative support for students and faculty and to focus resources across the institution where they will have the most impact. Dartmouth is an outstanding institution of higher education, offering one of the world's best educational experiences. We need to continuously look for ways to promote opportunities for learning and scholarly pursuit as well as to enhance the residential experience to make Dartmouth all that it can be.

The McKinsey team visited campus from November to January and met with approximately fifty faculty, students, and staff. The team also analyzed an extensive set of data on administrative cost and functions from across the institution and compared them to historic trends and data from other institutions. We asked the McKinsey group to limit their analysis to the administrative and student services operations of the College. They did not review the Faculty of Arts and Sciences or any of the graduate schools faculties.

I have enclosed an executive summary of the McKinsey findings and recommendations. Their team did an excellent job of capturing Dartmouth's complexity, highlighting its many strengths while also identifying areas for improvement. I will look to implement many of these recommendations over the next year, beginning this summer. As a first step, I would like to proceed with the following initiatives:

1. Communications and Culture:

The McKinsey report suggests that we could communicate decisions and priorities more clearly. We also need to look for more ways to encourage managers and other administrators to take the initiative in developing new ways to strengthen the support of faculty and students and to make improvements in the general oversight and stewardship of the College's infrastructure and resources. We must have the systems and culture in place to enable us all to work more effectively and to take fullest advantage of the creativity of our colleagues in the administration.

I have asked Senior Assistant to the President Sheila Culbert to chair a working group to examine these issues and to recommend actions. The following people from across the campus have agreed to serve in this important assignment: Rick Adams, Nelson Armstrong, Ellen Arnold, Josie Harper, Jeff Horrell, Kim Keating, Maria Laskaris, Stuart Lord, Martin Redman, Rosemary Rudnicki, Frank Roberts, Christopher Strenta, Amy Stockman, and Michael Wagner. The committee will begin its work this spring and will continue to meet through the summer. They will consult widely to solicit input, and I expect to be personally involved in implementation of its recommendations. 

While this committee undertakes its work, I also intend to ask my colleagues in the senior administration to reflect on our processes and structure to ensure that we model best practices. We have not communicated our goals or decisions as crisply as we should have, and we will need to examine how we can improve this process. 

2. Recruitment and Retention Issues:

The McKinsey Report suggests that it is time to review our procedures for hiring and dealing with employee issues as part of a larger initiative to delegate responsibility and accountability to key officers and managers. Just as we attract faculty and students from around the world, our staff and administrators must also reflect the full diversity of backgrounds. We must hire the best administrative staff that we can and then retain them here within a culture that expects and thrives upon excellence, that is open to everyone, and that provides opportunities for growth and advancement. Human Resources must find new ways to support this culture. Within clearly understood processes, guidelines, and expectations, managers and hiring committees should have more independence in shaping their recruitment and hiring opportunities. The senior officers and I will work closely with the office of Institutional Diversity and Equity to monitor the results and effectiveness of the new system.

I have asked Provost Barry Scherr to chair a group to examine these and other employment issues. John Crane, Robert Donin, Lenore Grenoble, Joe Helble, Marcia Kelly, Jerry Nunnally, Marga Rahmann, and James Washington have all agreed to serve on this working group. Director of Human Resources Traci Nordberg and Interim Director of the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity Michelle Meyers will serve as resources to the committee, which will undertake the bulk of its work this spring with the expectation that we can implement new guidelines and procedures this coming academic year.

3. The Annual Planning and Budget Process: Consistent with the general theme of reallocating some critical responsibility, executive Vice President Adam Keller with Provost Scherr will develop a new annual budget process that more effectively ties departmental budgets to institutional and administrative priorities. They will work on this initiative closely with executive officers as well as the vice presidents and deans.  The goal here as well will be to shift more responsibility to managers of major budget areas and to encourage them to think differently about how to meet our institutional priorities.

4. Procurement

McKinsey has suggested that greater centrally negotiated procurement could result in significant budget savings. The arrival of Frans Barends as the director of procurement this January provides an opportunity for us to reconsider the ways in which we buy goods and services. EVP Keller will work with Mr. Barends and the senior officers to implement new practices around procurement, which should, in turn, result in savings for departments to reallocate toward priorities.

5. Organizational Changes

McKinsey made a number of suggestions about reorganization. While there is no indication that we have major organizational issues, there are places where operations can be better coordinated through reorganization, and we will consider these carefully with the senior officers over the next few months. This process will include conversations with the affected departments. I expect to follow up on some of these proposals.

6. Performance Evaluations

I have asked all vice presidents and deans to insist that managers undertake performance evaluations for all employees. This is an issue that Provost Scherr's committee will examine in more detail, but, in the meantime, I expect managers to comply with the current system.

Finally, we have received preliminary results from the staff survey. Almost 60 percent of employees from all areas of the College participated in the survey. We will release a full analysis of the survey shortly. 

Please read the McKinsey Executive Summary carefully and work with us as we seek to further enhance Dartmouth's administrative support for students and faculty and the values and purposes that shape this community. The administrative team at Dartmouth is strong and dedicated, and they work incredibly hard to advance the College's purposes and to steward our resources. Across the institution, in all departments and areas, my administrative colleagues are tirelessly committed to promoting the distinguished work of Dartmouth College. It is often a thankless assignment so I now wish to thank all who share in this work. We can all be proud of Dartmouth's accomplishments and each of us should work now to find ways to improve even more our good work.


James Wright

Last Updated: 8/21/08