Jeffrey T. Polzer and Anita Williams Woolley’s case study entitled Chapter Enrichment Program Teams at the American Red Cross reviews the programs and plans of the national organization American Red Cross, particularly in the situation of one of its chapters, the Evans County Red Cross Chapter. The article is a very thorough and detailed study that tackles ideas of leadership, team performance, and program planning for an organization’s well-being. This paper critically reviews the case study of Polzer and Woolley, highlighting the essential issues raised by the two authors on the strengths, weaknesses, and the efficiency of the team who conducted the Chapter Enrichment Program in the Evans County chapter.
Chapter Enrichment Programs (CEP) are defined as a review of the “local chapter operations and make recommendations for improvement” (Polzer and Woolley, 2004, p. 2). The program brings together teams of Red Cross professionals, with usually five to eight members, to observe and evaluate different chapters around the nations, with the main objective of evaluating a local chapter’s efficiency and recommending plans that could help the local chapters increase their thoroughness, performance, and service. This enhancement programs are important in improving the function and service of the local chapters of the American Red Cross. But over the year, the capability of the team members to effectively evaluate had grown worrisome.
Polzer and Woolley’s study follows one case of a CEP conducted on one of the nation’s county. The Evans County Chapter of the American Red Cross was the main subject of the case study. Since Polzer and Woolley (2004) specifically defined CEP studies in their work as something voluntarily asked for by “chapters interested in significantly expanding and improving the quality of their operations”, it is safe to assume that the Evans County chapter specifically requested a review of their area on how to improve their services (p. 4). Based on the evaluation and presentation of authors Polzer and Woolley in their case, the problem of the team that evaluated the Evans County chapter was that they lacked appropriate recommendations to the mishaps that they have noticed on-site. Important points that were raised were not fully addressed in the report anymore for several reasons. One of which was that the team lacked in experts or authorities that should tackle the issue in the county. Another reason was that team members opted not to mention the issues for the protection of the county chapter workers themselves. This dilemma of the team was followed in the case study through Anne Munroe, program officer of the CEP at the American Red Cross. Munroe noticed that CEP reports are starting to become less efficient and the recommendations of team are sounding to be generic and rote already. Also, some points that were questioned in discussions were not included in the report anymore. The team that reviews Evans County chapter mentioned while visiting the site that they noticed that the “chapter had too many staff members for an operation its size” (Polzer and Woolley, 2004, p. 1). They even questioned the presence itself of the chapter when a similar chapter operated in an adjoining city. But this significant topic was not dealt with in the report submitted by the team. This event hints diminishing efficiency in enrichment programs for chapter reviews because it seems that not all problems or questions can be successfully raised or explored by the CEP teams.
The case study of Polzer and Woolley reviews the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the CEP in Evans County chapter and in all other chapters. The strength of the program lies on its capability to produce detailed guidelines in modules that would be beneficial in aiding and enriching the different local chapters of the American Red Cross. Over the years, the CEP has been able to create a set of guidelines that trains team members on how to appropriately work with the program. But its weakness lies on the underlying problem of the team in giving justice to their observations and analysis. The team members assigned to the Evans County chapter noticed that there are staff sizes and service redundancy issues but they have not written these in the report. They were thinking that “any hint the team made about downsizing or merging with another chapter would upset the Evans county chapter managers” so they opted to not mention this anymore even if it may have a significant effect to the whole organization (Polzer and Woolley, 2004, p. 2). Every member interviewed or asked by Munroe about the question of the staff size commented that the issue may be out of their powers and that it would be better if they are not the person to be asked about it. It appears that these people are forgetting that “all team members are responsible for their team’s success” and if they fail to take action when they have noticed a problem already, the issue might just grow out of proportion in the future (University of Toronto). CEP studies face challenges and threats. The review itself is deemed lacking in substantiality and resources because of the failure of the CEP system itself to encourage its members of their importance to the whole Red Cross organization.
To understand the relevance of the teams concentrated on CEP to the whole American Red Cross organization, authors Polzer and Woolley devoted time in explaining a little history of the American Red Cross, how it branched out to different chapters around the state, and how CEP studies and operation reviews emerged. This is important because every case study needs to analyze the company or organization’s history, growth, and crucial development. According to the study, chapters of the American Red Cross are significant branches that aids in improving the services of the organization. The history of the American Association of the Red Cross dates back on May of 1881 and was originally propagated by Clara Barton. The objective of the Red Cross was to respond and help during disasters and emergencies, both locally and abroad. And to make the services more widely reachable, Red Cross created chapters that would branch the organization to the local communities. During World War I, “the number of Red Cross chapter suddenly grew as the public sought ways to become personally involved in the war effort” (Polzer and Woolley, 2004, p. 2). Chapters reached an all-time peak of 3,864 all around the country. As the American Red Cross goes through different transitions and changes, the organization decided to develop a program that would help address problems and issues in a chapter. It organized its own system composed of structuring, staffing, improving, and organizing through teams that are tasked to review the organization’s local chapters and develop plans for growth. This led to the formation of Operation reviews and Chapter reviews intended to solve dilemmas and improve the well-being of the organization. American Red Cross took upon the challenge of public health leadership by creating branches, known as chapters, to fully extend the initiative to help other people. This form of leadership needed in Red Cross “includes a commitment to the community and to the values” that the organization stands for (Rowitz, 2009, p. 5). This had an essential impact to the creation of the enrichment programs for the organization’s local chapters, a project that is still essential up to today.
CEP “evolved as an internal consultancy to try to improve local chapter operations” (Polzer and Woolley, 2004, p. 3). The programs began in 1996 and its first task was to review one of the top largest chapters of the Red Cross, experiencing serious financial problems. As the years passed, the role of these chapter review bodies has expanded to cover more than financial dilemmas and include the different areas where the chapter is involved. Polzer and Woolley (2004) also specifically differentiated the meaning of operations review from CEP. The first is “directed at chapters experiencing serious performance issues” while the second is more prescribed for those chapters that seeks to “identify the initial strengths, challenges, and opportunities they saw for the chapter in their assigned areas” (p. 5).In the case of the Evans County chapter, since the team was not invited to evaluate the issues that the chapter was particularly dealing with and since their job requirements are not in authority to question operation itself, they thought that it would be best for them to leave it alone.
The CEP team of the Evans county chapter was composed of six members from outside the chapter and “each responsible for one or two of the 10 functional areas the chapter had invited the team to analyze” (Polzer and Woolley, 2004, p. 2). According to the case presented by Polzer and Woolley, the team assigned at the county was lacking in initiative and further leadership that could enhance their analysis on the chapter’s performance. The team members are all experienced professionals but their reports do not contain essential analysis on the bigger problems of the chapter. After conducting two conference calls to acquaint the chapter with them team and week-long on-site visit to see the situation firsthand, “many teams recommendations concerned superficial issues that could apply to almost any chapter in the Red cross, while neglecting larger issues altogether” (Polzer and Woolley, 2004, p. 2). This trend was becoming to be apparent in all other chapter reports of CPE teams. Recommendations and evaluations are treading safe ground and were not considering large issues anymore. The program officer of CPE noted that it was “not a problem of low motivation” since Red Cross is an organization run through volunteerism and the team members were willing to take on the challenge even if they are not getting paid (Polzer and Woolley, 2004, p. 2). The problem seems to lie in the strength of the program itself because workers are restricted by their job description and what areas should they only explore. The module guidelines designed to improve each member’s contribution to the team actually limit the overall capability and performance of the team members. But this dilemma could pave way to better opportunities for the whole program and the whole organization. What the CEP probably needs is a revamp on the guidelines it has for the teams administering the programs. Addressing the problems on poor communications, improve “alignment or the amount of resources in insufficient”, and solving leadership problems would be the best first steps to make the teams conducting CEP more organized and efficient (McNamara, 1999, n.p.).
The case study of Polzer and Woolley also noted something that was often noticed by officers of CEP. “There was an overall shortage of qualified advisors” to take action on the role of CEP to the different local chapters of Red Cross (Polzer and Woolley, 2004, p. 7). And because of the limitations of the modules from the system, team members of chapter reviewing bodies are restricted from exploring or giving out ideas, making their reports monotonous. The study analyzed that the teams are good but they are afraid to extend farther from what they are supposed to be doing. Team members are usually chosen “based on their individual abilities to contribute to achieving those objectives” (Lee, 1996, n.p.). The people who take part on CEP are professionals with enough experience on working with local chapters. But not all has the expertise to work on specific job and very few are willing and capable to lead their whole teams. What the CEP teams need are members who can take the initiative and “no delegates” who cannot make decisions for themselves and for their team (Maruca, 2000).
Based from Polzer and Woolley’s evaluation of the case in the Evans County chapter, readers get an image of some important parts of the American Red Cross. The case study provided an appropriate picture of the program amidst its role in the organization. All the underlying strengths and significant weaknesses of the program that should be improving the organization are also pointed out. And, Polzer and Woolley also highlighted possible recommendations that could counter the dilemma. After analyzing the case study, the best recommendation probably for the teams conducting CEP would be to start the enrichment on their own. Over the years, their efficiency has dwindled and could not always produce significant recommendations anymore. The teams handling CEP are too limited by their own guidelines, when in fact; they should be given the liberty to point out everything that could improve not just the chapter but the whole organization as well. The challenge would be for the future teams to be able to be creative and free in giving opinions that could really improve chapters in the most significant ways.
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