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Staff Development and Staff-Line Relations An Abstract of an Ohio Leadership Academy Project Steven Howe Department of Psychology University of Cincinnati April 2011 Introduction Line relationships are typically displayed as vertical lines on organizational charts. Academic unit heads report to deans who in turn report to the provost. The occupants of each of these roles have staff members whose function is to assist them in the fulfillment of their line functions. Staff-line conflict can occur when staff and line employees are required to coordinate with one another, or when there are poorly specified reporting relationships between the staffs of people in line positions. Relevance of Ohio Leadership Academy (OLA) Experiences My observations of staff functions at The Ohio State University made it clear that (a) OSU staff were outstanding, (b) reports of staff-line conflict were infrequent, (c) there are staff processes at OSU that reduce line-staff friction that do not exist at UC, and (d) college staff (decanal and departmental) were organized differently than at UC. Specific Aim The aim of my project was to identify strengths-based approaches to improving line-staff relationships at UC based on best practices I saw in operation at OSU. Examples of Key Findings At OSU, functions were more likely to be centrally planned than at UC. They were also more likely to be explicit, and hence formalized. In my OSU college, mentoring for staff members was highly valued. In my OSU college, decanal staff and line direct reports interacted monthly in the A-team (administrative team) meetings. At OSU, there was a high degree of staff specialization within units. Unit level staff might specialize in fiscal matters or in HR matters. In my OSU college, processes that would be rare at the unit level were handled centrally in the dean’s office. In my OSU college, fiscal staff met monthly and HR staff met monthly. There was a formal OSU decision to create dotted line reporting relationships between key college staff and key university staff. At OSU, decisions to implement new technology were associated with processes by which deans and unit heads and faculty had substantial input. For example, the move to electronic RPT dossiers has unfolded deliberately over a six-year period, starting with the small cohort of tenure- track hires in one year who did their annual reports on-line and gradually adding new cohorts each year. Next year, RPT decisions will be based on electronic portfolios for the first time.
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