When my partner and I are hired to provide external assessments for college and universities, we are asked to offer objective perspective on in-house organizational structures, expenditures and effectiveness –based on our many years of experience and knowledge of the industry.
It’s a good idea, and here’s why:
- The landscape is shifting, and adaptation is key.
Our firm produces a daily and weekly scan of trends in higher education, and 2016 was a particularly tumultuous time for the sector. The tensions and the stakes are high. At the same time, the media and communications environment has changed dramatically, with more platforms and channels available than ever before. In-house teams need the right skills and roles to manage this complex stew effectively, and likely differently than just a few years ago.
- It’s a gut check.
The team and the resource allocation might be just right, or it might need some tweaking based on the institution’s goals and vision, but expert assessment of the organization helps ensure leadership confidence in the overall direction. Also, we find it is a terrific opportunity for the team to update goals and objectives in a way that is more challenging in the midst of the day-to-day workload.
- In-house teams want to do their best work, but sometimes barriers set up a log jam.
As part of our assessment process, we conduct interviews with a wide variety of stakeholders to get a good sense of culture and operations. I wish we had a nickel for every time those interviews have identified infrastructure or resource issues that are preventing folks from performing at their most strategic and timely levels. Yet many times those barriers are fixable, or preventable in the first place. Sometimes our roles here are a bit of “barrier whisperers.”
- Leadership transition offer an especially fruitful time for assessment.
Recently we have had a slate of assessment projects when the communications leadership role becomes vacant. Presidents and deans are using that time to take stock. They find it helpful to have us in to assess future opportunity, advise on any updates necessary to the position description for the top role, and network within our community for potential candidates.
- It provides a solid basis for future strategy.
We just wrapped up an assessment with a report that is chock-full of not only guidance related to organizational structure and resources, but ideas for future communications strategy gleaned from our review. We can’t help ourselves. Hopefully our clients see our suggested ideas and initiatives as a value-added component of bringing us in. Not all the strategies will find their way to implementation for one reason or another, but we hope the ideas we offer will give the in-house team the chance to do some “blue-sky” thinking about future vision. Often the recommendations we propose have been prompted from the team members or campus stakeholders we talk to, and our job turns into “strategy whisperer.”
- It’s a good investment.
Higher education must be focused on the educational experience for students and the compact with its many stakeholders. Resources spent on communications activities have to be appropriate and effective given this mission, and external assessment helps to provide guidance about the best use of communications budgets in a changing environment.
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