Book by Barbara A. Miller
Review by Sybil L. Holloway
Center for Counseling and Human Development
Bloomsburg University

This organizational assessment textbook is a combination of business management, research design & statistics, and psychology as applied to the college setting.  I found it to be a good synthesis of the many courses I have taken in these subject areas.  The information in Assessing Organizational Performance in Higher Education, which is relevant to all individuals working in higher education, enabled me to better understand my own institution and my role within it.  Others will greatly benefit from this book as well.

Miller, an organizational development consultant with an extensive background in higher education, provides a detailed explanation of the major aspects of assessment – its purpose, internal elements, external elements, methods and terminology, measurement of performance, and assessment program creation and maintenance.  She devotes a chapter to each of these topics, spending most of her time on “defining and measuring organizational performance” (Chapter 5), the heart of the book.

“Performance is measured through performance indicators in seven interrelated areas of organizational performance, each of which is linked to specific organizational elements.  The seven areas of organizational performance are effectiveness, productivity, quality (including quality of leadership systems, of inputs, of key work processes, of programs and services, and of worklife), customer and stakeholder satisfaction, efficiency, innovation, and financial durability.” (p. xvi).

This book draws heavily on systems theory.  It provides an in depth look at all components of the system and how their interdependence impacts organizational functioning and assessment.  Thorough explanations, vignettes, worksheets, figures, a glossary, and a reference list are provided.  Two examples, one of an academic department (Chemistry) and one of an administrative department (Information Services), are used throughout the book to show how each chapter’s theoretical concepts fit into the assessment process.  These concrete examples and practical applications are particularly well done.  Miller’s clear writing style and her balance of theory and technique makes this often dry subject matter more appealing and easy to understand.

Readers who are willing to wade through many industry buzzwords – performance indicators, strategic plan, quality control, mission statement, vision, etc. – will likely be pleasantly surprised by the amount of information contained in this book.  In her preface, Miller states that she wrote this book to meet the needs of both assessors and assessment users in higher education.  She certainly seems to have achieved her goal.
Assessing Organizational Performance in Higher Education would make a great supplemental resource for advisors.  Any task becomes more meaningful when one knows why it is being done and how it contributes to the greater whole.  University projects, procedures, and data collection should be a little easier to bear after reading this valuable text.

Assessing Organizational Performance in Higher Education. (2006). Book by Barbara A. Miller. Review by Sybil L. Holloway. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 258 pp. $40.00 (paper). ISBN # 0-7879-8640-2
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