Managing FCRC’s “Army of Volunteers”

You get what you measure …

Organizational performance does not just happen by chance. It takes effective management applied persistently throughout an organization. As we all know, Republican performance in Fairfax County over the last few years has been poor, despite the well-intentioned and hard-working efforts of many volunteers across the county using traditional political organizing methods.

To change that performance, we need to adopt performance-based management practices and tools that will redirect Republican efforts toward a broader range of tasks and increased productivity. When we do so, watch Republican performance at the polls improve.

Impossible? No. Once when it was pointed out to me that my Marine battalion located in the “booming metropolis” of 29 Palms, CA, needed to improve our reenlistment rate, I took that guidance to heart. Notwithstanding the inherent difficulties of getting Marines to “ship over” at an isolated base in the Mojave Desert, I established reenlistments as a top priority for my battalion and tracked performance on a weekly basis.

The result? We exceeded our annual reenlistment rate by the end of the first quarter, exceeding by far the reenlistment performance of Marine units in far more reenlistment friendly Camp Pendleton on the California coast. “You get what you measure!”

FCRC must not only recruit an “Army of Volunteers,” it must manage them effectively to achieve the improved Republican election results we all seek. This management of volunteers is no trivial matter, as volunteers come with different skill sets, interests, and time availabilities. The trick, of course, is to match up volunteers with identified needs and ensure all requirements for volunteer help are met.

The current method of managing volunteers, one based on vaguely defined volunteer positions and captured on separate, individual spreadsheets scattered across the precincts and districts in the county, makes for uneven practices, limited data sharing, minimal visibility of volunteer strengths and weaknesses, and weak management control of the volunteers.

Based on my experience working in high performance jobs, e.g., commanding a Marine battalion in Desert Storm, leading business development organizations that won multiple billion dollar plus contracts, managing sensitive contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, I propose FCRC adopt the following four standard management practices to improve its volunteer management:

1. Develop a complete listing of volunteer positions in a restructured FCRC. In the expanded scope of work that I propose for FCRC, a broad range of volunteer positions must be filled, going way beyond traditional door knocking and phone calling voters. The following diagram indicates the breadth of such volunteer positions. We need to develop a complete catalog of these volunteer positions to ensure we cover all task requirements to maximize Republican voter turnout.

2. Build job descriptions for each volunteer position. Once we have a catalog listing of required jobs, we need to build job descriptions for all Republican volunteer positions at FCRC, district, and precinct levels. These job descriptions, including estimated time requirements, will help FCRC’s recruiters articulate their volunteer needs and will help potential volunteers understand the scope of specific volunteer positions and match their skills, inclinations, and time availability to a preferred volunteer position.

3. Establish a performance measurement plan for each position. The old adage of “You get what you measure” applies to political organizations as well as all other types of organizations that must deliver results. We must develop a performance measurement plan for each position that defines the position’s purpose and objectives, standards of effectiveness over time, method and frequency of measurement, who is responsible for the measurement, leading and lagging indicators of success, and reporting requirements.

Through performance measurement, we will gather the data needed know where the organization is strong and weak, which will allow for prioritization of remedial action to eliminate our weaknesses. And, consistent with a natural desire to do a good job, volunteers filling FCRC, district, and precinct positions will inevitably focus time and energy on areas where they need to shore up weaknesses. We would then have ourselves a data-driven, continuously improving organization. Bring on the Democrats!!

4. Procure and use an integrated management system that provides full visibility into Republican capabilities and activities at all levels. We need to ditch home-brewed, individual precinct and district volunteer lists and buy a data system that will allow us to document all FCRC capabilities and activities and grant password-protected access to FCRC volunteers and key managers. 

Such a management system that does nearly everything but make the morning coffee is not a pie-in-the-sky concept. Many political organizations across the country use a system called Trail Blazer to help them manage their activities. Among its many capabilities, it allows tracking of volunteers at precinct, district, and county levels; identification of political donors and their history of donations in an area; email blasts to all volunteers or volunteer sub-groups; “SharePoint” collaboration tools; integration of separately purchased voter data; and tracking of all organizational financial transactions.

And the price for such a critically important integrated management capability? $2-5K per year, depending on the specific modules purchased. Who knows, other companies might offer better deals. Nevertheless, is it not worthwhile to spend $5K per year for the use of an integrated management system that will deliver 21stcentury command and control? Could we not interest a donor to fund the purchase of such a system based on the merit of what it will deliver?

If elected as the new FCRC Chairman, I will implement the professional management concepts and tools for FCRC that will advantage us over the Democrats who are currently dominating the political landscape in Fairfax County.

I ask for your vote at the FCRC convention to elect a new Chairman on March 17.