Unit Reviews

The purpose of a non-academic unit or program review is to allow the University community to examine operations and programs and evaluate how well they function in relation to the University's mission as well as University guidelines, policies, and procedures.


  1. Unit Self-Assessment and Planning Guide
  2. Planned Improvements and Expected Outcomes
  3. Optional Additional Review Activities
    1. Business Process Improvement (BPI) Event
    2. Internal or External Peer Review
      1. Responsibility and Accountability
      2. Planning
      3. Access to Information
      4. Best Practices for Sharing Data Collected During a Peer Review
      5. The Final Committee Report

Finance & Operations Unit Review Process

Revised 2012

I. Unit Self-Assessment and Planning Guide

Completion of an F&O Unit Review falseFileFO Unit Review Self Assessment and Planning Tool - Updated 2015.docx will permit F&O unit leadership, in conjunction with senior F&O leadership, to plan and provide rationale for implementing continuous improvements that support unit and F&O Divisional strategic goals. This assessment and plan satisfies the requirement to complete a unit review every five years. It is recommended that the assessment or activities that support it, such as strategic planning, utilize input and feedback from unit employees and supervisors. Units may also analyze previous unit review reports, recommendations, and action plans, recognizing successes and unfinished items that are still pertinent.

The assessment will gather comparative data required for all F&O unit reviews. If applicable, units may also collect business specific data for benchmarking with similar units in the Big Ten, Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and other academic institutions. Basic information components outlined in the self-assessment and planning guide include:

  • Organizational Profile (focus on past and present):
    • Unit Functions, Culture, Staffing, Organizational Structure, Work Environment, Continuous Improvement, Relationship and Alignment, Customer Focus and Strategic Partners
  • Unit Opportunities and Challenges (focus on future):
    • Competitive Environment, Strategic Context, Continuous Improvement
  • Summary and Planning:
    • Organizational Strengths or Best Practices, Challenges or Issues, Planned Improvements and Expected Outcomes

II. Planned Improvements and Expected Outcomes

Based on the information in the self-assessment and planning guide, the unit leader, in concert with their Director, would decide what planned improvements and expected outcomes are most appropriate. In addition to completing the self-assessment and planning guide, units may choose to engage in further review activities, such as a lean/business process improvement event, external or peer review or customer satisfaction survey/feedback activities as part of their planned improvements or expected outcomes. Units are encouraged to submit a final report of such activities with the self-assessment and planning guide as documentation of their completed unit review.

For example, if the self-assessment indicates that a particular process is severely hampering a segment of their operation and needs a deep examination and overhaul, the unit leadership may decide to sponsor a lean/business process improvement event (see below for further description of a BPI event). If the unit leadership is looking for a new perspective on all aspects of their operation, a more general intern/external or peer review may be more value-added (see below for further information regarding internal or external peer review). Other examples of planned improvements may include conducting and responding to customer satisfaction surveys or identifying and pursing measurable short or long-term goals related to challenges or issues identified from the unit self-assessment. This decision should take into consideration the cost/benefit of having a broad vs. narrow focus for improvement. A brief statement will be required to explain the rationale for the decision.

A copy of the completed self-assessment and planning guide (and a final report of outcomes from any additional planning improvement activities such as BPI, external reviews, etc.) must be submitted to the F&O Senior HR Representative (Suzanne Hilleman, 105 JH) prior to the end of the year in which the review is due.

FileFO Unit Review Self Assessment and Planning Tool - Updated 2015.docx

III. Optional Additional Review Activities

A. Business Process Improvement (BPI) Event

A BPI/Lean event lasting up to 3 days would be organized to review the selected business process. The event would be conducted using the standard Lean methodology. The BPI event report will include action items created during the event with teams and team-leaders assigned to each. These teams will have assigned start and completion dates with specific action steps and prescribed deliverables. After the event a formal presentation/report out will be made to management responsible for the process and then a series of scheduled follow-up meetings attended by the event participants will be held to report progress made on the action items.

B. Internal or External Peer Review

This review could be utilized to meet accreditation, regulatory, or certification requirements in addition to meeting the requirements of a unit review and may consist of a review team composed of on campus/internal to unit, on-campus/external to unit or off-campus reviewers as applicable. The review team would typically review the self-assessment information, gather additional data as needed, and then offer an independent evaluation and disclose the results in a separate report. Results may include recommendations by the review committee presented as action items. As needed, Unit leadership may assign teams and team leaders with start and completion dates, specific action steps and prescribed deliverables. Typically, a formal presentation/report out may be made to management responsible for the unit and then a series of scheduled follow-up meetings may take place to report progress made on the action items.

  1. Responsibility and Accountability
    The Director/Department Head is ultimately responsible for any programs or units falling under his/her authority. However, the Unit Leader will probably be more involved in the review process. It is important that these two plan together and then communicate throughout the entire process. While the review committee may ask the Unit Leader for information or access to people or documents, the Unit Leader will not automatically be asked to attend every meeting – nor will they actually serve on the committee. The Unit Leader's job is to serve as a resource for the committee.
  2. Planning
    The Department Head/Director and Unit Leader meet together to plan for a peer review. The first step in a peer review for the unit being reviewed is typically to complete a self-study such as the FileFO Unit Review Self Assessment and Planning Tool - Updated 2015.docx
    The purpose of the self-study is to provide information to the review committee about the unit and programs, its overall relationship to the University, and its role in relation to University goals and aspirations.For non-academic units, processes may be one way to review and measure a unit's success. Directors and Unit Leaders need to be sure that their self-study provides the reviewers with information about how processes have been reviewed and improved over time. Information about successes should also be included.
    The Department Head/Director and Unit leader also need to select a review committee that will reflect both their stakeholders and their customers. In most instances, these stakeholders and customers will be part of the University community. In those cases where these stakeholders or customers are not members of the University community, Unit Leaders and Department Heads or Directors should make arrangements to provide for their input into the process, perhaps via survey or other communication mechanism.
    The Department Head/Director and the Unit Leader should both be familiar with the Self-Study before it is shared with the Review Committee.
  3. Access to Information
    The Unit Leader and Department Head/Director should consider in advance what documents might provide insight into the workings of the unit. Inclusion of this material in the self-study will assist the committee in doing its work.
  4. Best Practices for Sharing Data Collected During a Peer Review
    A peer review committee may choose to assess the satisfaction of external or internal customers (or both) of the unit being reviewed. To accomplish these objectives, the committee may elect to collect relevant information via survey, interview, and/or focus group. If it is the intention of the review committee to reproduce the collected raw data in any way, it is critical that respondents are made aware of this in advance of their responding. In most cases "raw data" refers to any specific comments or numerical responses of small sample cells. The following guidelines should be followed in order to assure that appropriate confidentiality is maintained throughout the review process.

Data Distribution
Raw data from campus surveys, interviews, or focus groups:

  • Committee Chair
  • Committee Members
  • Unit Leader
  • Supervisor of Unit Leader

Raw data from unit employees, surveys, focus groups or interviews:

  • Committee Chair
  • Committee Members (Maybe -- dependent on judgment of chair)

For the Written Report (No raw data is to be provided in the written report.)

  • Group "like" comments into positive or negative themes.
  • Determine the relevance and/or importance of comments received based on the number of people surveyed and the size of the population surveyed.
  • Remember that comments of a personal nature from employees received via confidential survey, interview, or focus group only provide you with one side of the story. Consider how to include these thematic concerns in your report in a way in which the unit leadership can address them.
  • Avoid creating a situation where retaliation or the fear of retaliation might become an issue. Weave what you hear into your narrative or recommendations rather than quote the comments directly. If you notice a pattern of behavior that needs to be addressed, please do so, but present your concern in such a way that the unit leadership can investigate using standard university policies and procedures.
  1. The Final Committee Report

    The Final Report is issued by the Committee. As a courtesy, the Unit Leader will be given the opportunity to review the report to correct factual errors. The Unit leader and the Department Head/Director will have an opportunity to accept or refute the report; they do not have the authority to change it. Once accepted, the Committee's report then sent to the Senior VP and Treasurer, Finance and Operations along with the Self-Assessment and Planning Guide.

Questions? Contact Suzanne Hilleman at suzanne-hilleman@uiowa.edu