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Notes about the Organizational Overview

Page history last edited by Answer Blip 14 years, 3 months ago

Notes from AQIP about the Organizational Overview



AQIP has reviewed the Notes presented here to make sure they conform to AQIP and HLC policies, and to ensure they present sensible strategies and useful practices for Systems Portfolios. Every organization preparing a Systems Portfolio is not obligated to follow the advice presented here, but organizations can be confident that heeding this advice will not mislead them. Notes pages are locked, and only AQIP can change them.

View or contribute to Support about the Organizational Overview





Provide an Overview of your organization by briefly introducing vital characteristics such as mission, values, strategic vision, history, location, control (public or private) and status (for-profit or not-for-profit), and then answering the following nine items in a total of fewer than 5000 words (approximately 10 double-spaced printed pages). Devote no more than 1000 words to your introduction, no more than 1000 words to item O1 and no more than 500 words each to items O2 to O9. In your Overview, describe the context and constraints within which your organization structures and operates its systems and processes, but use the appropriate AQIP Category P, R, and I items to explain and evaluate the processes themselves.


Don't attempt to cover both the old Overview questions and the new ones:  one or the other set is fine. The new ones more closely match the nine Categories, and so eliminate the need for additional Context questions in each Category; consequently they're an improvement over the old eight questions.  But also notice that our new instructions say to cover these nine questions in an Overview that stays under 10 pages.  If it would make your Overview more effective rhetorically, you can begin with something general ("briefly introducting..." things like history, values, sketch of the college) before you get to questions 1 - 9.


O8. What are the key commitments, constraints, challenges, and opportunities with which you must align your organization’s short- and long-term plans and strategies?


If you've done a SWOT (strenghts - weaknesses - opportunities - threats) analysis has highlighted clearly and comprehensively challenges and opportunities, that's exactly the kind of information that you need to provide here to give the team the proper context for reviewing your Portfolio.


Commitments are promises you intend to keep. If you've promised never to raise tuition, to offer programs in windmill design, to hire the governor's daughter as your next VPAA, to build a branch campus somewhere, then keeping those promises severely constains what you can do in the future. (If you make promises you don't intend to keep, you may create problems concerning your integrity, but you are not then constraining your future actions.)


Constraints may be a bit more difficult, as are whatever the opposite of "constraints" should be called. By constraints we mean things that limit your institution's freedom of action, particularly things that might not be apparent to people from other schools outside your region. For example, if your program offerings and tuition levels are set by your state, that fact clearly constrains your freedom to do things that might be done (at other schools) without outsiders second-guessing the institution's judgments. Or if your institution has so much money (from state support, benefactors, reserves, subsidiary businesses, or whatever) that having available resources are never an issue for you in planning (i.e., you have more than enough money to do anything you dream up), then that fact needs to be clear for the Systems Portfolio appraisers. These are simply examples of things beyond an institution's direct control that need to be factored into evaluating the kinds of plans it is making for itself.


It's often hard to see a constraint, particularly if you've lived with it forever and you can't imagine life structured in a different way. In many states, for example, the need to publish information for prospective students in languages other than English is a fairly recent phenomenon, but in your institution it may have been a necessity so self-evident that no one ever thought about it. Yet something like that might constrain your institution in important ways -- if, for example, you decide that all distance education courses needed to be provided in multiple languages.


Do the best you can to imagine what a new faculty member or administrator, coming from someplace totally unlike your institution, might have to learn in order to know "how things work" where you are. Don't overdo this -- Systems Appraisers are generally pretty smart, and can figure out a lot that hasn't been stated explicitly, but at the least provide a few explicitly stated limits or freedoms that govern how you look into the future.


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