Month: June 2011

JTE.. More

The balanced Score care approach is nothing new, it has been floating around organizations for some time now and provides a balanced view for organizational performance.  Who looks at this?  Well really you do.  As much as some would like t0 think that Councils and District level leadership are actively engaged in what goes on at the unit level (and I am talking Pro staff here, not volunteer) the fact of the matter is that where the rubber hits the road, the unit leadership are really the only leaders dedicated 100% to their units.  That is not to say that District, Council, and even National leadership could care less.  It is just that they have different fish to fry.  They are concerned at the “Big” organizational level in areas of membership, fundraising, and policy.  And that is fair.  Hey, I don’t want to think about that stuff, I want to go camping.  So the Journey to Excellence program is a tool that ensures our units are meeting the mark as we can measure our programs.  I think this is important to make sure that we all are delivering the promise of Scouting in a uniform manner.
Last month I attended the National meetings of the BSA in San Diego.  The Assistant Chief Scout Executive for Council Operations Gary Butler gave a great talk at the Scoutmaster dinner.  In his talk he gave the analogy of Starbucks coffee.  He said that when you order a coffee at Starbucks in Seattle it tastes like the same cup in New York City, or Atlanta, or Boston.. the message is that the coffee is the same where ever you go and that is part of business model of Starbucks.  The Promise of Scouting is just like that cup of coffee.  It needs to be the same consistent program, delivered in many ways, but the same program throughout the Boy Scouts of America.  We have great outline, but Scouters choose not to use it.  The Journey to Excellence program attempts to bring some of that back in line.
Now, I know that many of you, myself included, do not like to view the BSA as a business.  Certainly not at the unit level.  But just like every organization if certain measures are not in place, lets say for growth, for financial stability, for improvements in the program, the organization will fail.
Remember a couple posts ago, I shared that I knew a unit that was a Quality unit every year, but then it just folded?  It is because they did not have a plan to grow and stay fit.  They took it year to year and hoped that the Cub Scout pack would just continue to “Feed them”.  They did not have a stable financial plan, they did not have a plan to assist the youth leadership… and yet they were “always a quality unit”.
None of us want to see our units fail.  JTE is a week to week, month to month, year to year tool that sets on a Journey to Excellence.
OK.. 500 words in and not a word about camping.. so lets talk just a little about Short term and Long term camping as it applies to the JTE.
You all understand that Short term equates to weekend camp outs and long term camping refers to those week long (or longer) camping opportunities such as Summer camp, Jamboree’s, High Adventure base participation.  Now I think the BSA set the bar low on this one, and so many if not all of us will automatically qualify at the Gold level when it comes to short term camping.  Bronze = 4 camp outs throughout the year.  Yeah, that is not a typo.. I wrote 4.  Silver requires a unit to camp 8 times and to achieve the Gold standard you need to camp at least 10 times.  Like I said.. I think we all have this one in the bag.   And for the Gold level you get 200 points for just doing what we all do, and that’s camp.
Now I think it is interesting how the JTE handles long term camping.  You will qualify for the bronze level if your unit attends a long term camp.. lets call it summer camp.  You will achieve Silver level status if 60% of your Scouts attend Summer camp (or another long term opportunity).  And it only takes 70% of your unit attending camp to achieve Gold level status.  I recently had a small discussion on Camp staff with some Scouters that I consider “In the know”.  We debated on whether a Scout that serves on camp staff is counted in that percentage.  And the answer according the definitions of JTE is this; ” Boy Scouts attending any in council or out of council long term summer camp (of at least three days and nights), high adventure experience, jamboree, or serve on camp staff within the past year”.  The part that really weirds me out on this is the three days and nights.  But not to worry, most if not all summer camps run a week.  No problems there.
The bottom line is that camping is where Scouting happens.  It is where the Patrol method is executed, it is where teaching happens, it is where the boys can be boys and learn, practice, and teach skills.  Camping, I am sure you will agree is what most think about when we talk Scouting.
Next time we will dive into the Patrol Method.
Thanks for the emails, you can email me anytime.  Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Journey to Excellence Pt. 2

Ok.. so the first post on JTE has been met with some resistance.  Let me just say this, then I will move on.
As a Scoutmaster or Committee Chair, you need to have a way to measure the success of your unit.  Going camping, having Scouts cross over, and holding a Court of Honor or two is not an accurate way of knowing that you are delivering the promise of Scouting to the youth of your Troop.  We all can stand back and say that we are doing a good job, but can’t we do better?  Sure.
I heard a comment about JTE as it applied to the old Quality Unit program in that they were always a Quality Unit, and now they may not be in the new system.  Well then, maybe your unit needs to work harder in the areas that you fall short.  Other comments reflect a need to pass it off to the youth leadership.  And while I agree that Scout units are to be Youth led, every unit should have a plan that is part youth driven and part adult driven.  The Troop committee must have a plan that supports the plan of the PLC.  Handing off the JTE program to the PLC will only get them so far down the road.  This is not setting them up for success.  The Journey to Excellence program is designed to bring out the best in the units leadership both adult and youth.
OK.. so having said that, lets dive into the program.
In this post I am going to discuss the first couple elements of the JTE program.  Advancement and Retention.
Advancement.
The objective is to increase the percentage of Boy Scouts earning rank advancements.  To earn the Bronze level you need to have 55% of your Scouts earn one rank or have a 2 percentage point increase.  I think this is important especially if you have older Scouts that are not going to advance in the year.  Lets say a Scout is Life, it is likely that he will not earn Eagle in that next year.  So having a percentage increase helps your score when you have younger Scouts earning Tenderfoot to First class in that first year.  This is attainable in every unit.  For the Silver level 60 % of your Scouts need to advance or 55% AND a 2 percentage point increase.  The Gold level requires that 65% of the Scouts advance AND a 2 percentage point increase is attained.  I find that these goals are within reason and with encouragement from the committee and Scoutmasters, every Scout, especially those younger Scouts can assist your unit in achieving this goal.
So what is the PLC’s role in this objective.  If the PLC encourages each Patrol to shoot for the Honor Patrol award, then Patrol members will advance.  The Troop guides play a major role in attaining this and working the younger Scouts on the trail to First class.  So its not just a number, it is a goal that assists your PLC and Troop Guides in properly functioning within the structure of their leadership roles.
Retention.
Simply put the objective here is to improve your retention rate.  So you have to retain and reregrister 76% of your Scouts or have a 2 percentage point increase from the previous year to earn the Bronze level.  80% for Silver and 85% for Gold.  I think this is a worthy goal.  My only heart burn with this goal is retention in general needs to be thoughtfully considered with each Scout.  Here is what I am saying.  I believe that every young man should be in Scouting.  I don’t however think that every young man fits in Scouting.  I have often said that I would rather have 10 Scouts that want to be there than 100 Scouts and no one really wants to be there.  Having a large troop that has a small percentage of active Scouts is just as good as having a small troop.  I like the idea that the Boy Scouts of America wants us to retain everyone, but at 85% retention that means we are really allowing for those that do not want to be there to find a fit elsewhere.  I like that.
So in my Troop I can lose 6 Scouts (not that I want to) and still have an 85% retention rate.  Last year we gained 9 and lost 6.  Our retention rate was still at 85%, but our net gain for the year was +4.  This would be a 40% gain for the year and qualify for the Gold in the JTE program for both retention and Building Boy Scouting.  Most of us would agree that these numbers are reasonable and easy to attain, as long as we are building a good program that the Scouts want to be a part of and establish good recruiting habits and relationships with Cub Scout packs.
Now, more than likely I lost many of you that are tired of the numbers.  Those of you that think that Scouting should not be about the numbers and that this is just an excercise in helping the DE’s look good.  I beg to differ though.  I think that periodic looks at the numbers keep your unit on track.  Further, I think it is important for the Scouts of your PLC to understand some of this.  It is a tool that they can use to assist in recruiting for the future of your troop.  Who better to recruit then the Scouts that enjoy the program?
This is just as much a function of the Patrol leaders council as the Troop committee’s.  They, working together will achieve success as a unit on a Journey to Excellence.
As much as the PLC of my Troop wants every year to be the Troop of the Year, the Journey to Excellence is a part of the program that gives them goals and tangible results.
I know that I am not going to convince some of you.. and you are probably the same Scouters that balk at anything that “National” forces on you.  Like methods and Aims.. you reluctantly went along with Quality Unit and this has no meaning to you either.  So be it…  I am sure you can run a great program without it also.  As for me.  I like the tools and I like to teach and mentor Scouts to do the hard things in life.  To set goals and plan to achieve them.  This is yet another opportunity to do that with our Patrols, our committees, and our Scoutmasters.
More later. 
Your comments are welcome.. send them to tbirdironchef@gmail.com or simply leave a comment here or at the SMMVoice mail 503-308-8297.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Journey to Excellence. Part 1

Now before I even get started on this.. let me tell you that as much as I like patches.. this is NOT about a little patch.  This is about measuring success.  In the world that I live in, working for the Big Brown, I am totally in tuned to everything being measured.  I do believe in measuring, it gives us good solid data that we can learn from and grow.  When we measure things based on a standard, we can see where we are and where we need to go in order to be successful.
Here is the beauty.  In most cases in life, we get to decide what success looks like.  And so we get to determine what that measurement is.
ENTER JOURNEY TO EXCELLENCE.
Quality Unit was a program that, well kinda measured what a unit was doing.  I say kinda, because at the end of the day.. if you had a pulse, went on a few camp outs, recruited a Scout or two (read held a cross over ceremony) and got your charter turned in.. you were a quality unit.  I saw units in our district that got Quality unit and then did not recharter the following year.  HUH?  How is that possible.  Quality unit one year and dust the next.. errrr… something was wrong with this.
The Centennial Quality unit, was not much better.  The same old take on Quality unit, but cooler patches.
Now we are heading down the path to the Journey to Excellence.  This program is actually performance based and not just numbers.  Where the old programs of Quality Unit measured a process.. the Journey to excellence (JTE) measures the performance of a unit.  NOW STOP READING HERE if you are afraid of delivering a good Scouting program to your Scouts.
Over the next couple posts I am going to share and discuss the Journey to Excellence program as outlined and defined by the Boy Scouts of America.
There are three levels of levels of performance in the JTE.. Bronze, Silver, and of course Gold.  It is the unit that will decide at what level they have performed based on real numbers and expectations set out in their annual plan.
The JTE will ask of units to actually look at certain areas of their program and improve on them.  The beauty of the program is that measured success can be tracked all year long and point values are attached to the areas of concern.  It is a total score at the end of the year that will determine your success.. falling short in one area can easily be over come by larger success in others.  But the point is that rather than a simple sheet filled out at recharter, the JTE is a tool that a unit can use to measure and track success all year long.
There are 13 individual criteria that is measured in the JTE. For a Boy Scout Troop they are:  Advancement, Retention, Building Boy Scouting, Trained leadership, short term camping, Long term camping, Patrol method, Service projects, Webelos to Scout transition, Budget, Courts of Honor/ Parent meetings, Reregister on time, and a final annual assessment.
I will go into all of these in greater detail in the next few posts.
Here is the bottom line.  If you have no goals or a plan then you will not improve.  There is not a unit out there that is perfect in every way, and the JTE is a tool that will move you to greater success.  Building your Scouting program is important, not only for your unit, but for Scouting in general.
I like the new JTE program, and I hope I can share some information here to help you achieve that success your unit deserves.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

This Weeks Poll.. What do YOU do at Summer Camp?

Summer camp is a fantastic experience for the Scouts of your Troop.  But that does not mean it can’t be fun the adults that go too.  Each year we take our Scouts to camp.  We limit the amount of Adults, after all, this is a program for the Scouts, but the three or four adults that do go get to have a wonderful time in camp also.
But what do you do when you are at camp.  This weeks poll gives you a few choices that came off the top of my head after many years hanging out at camp.
Here is typically what I do.
First.. always take a good book. 
Second… Stay out of the Scouts way.  Be there to sign books and blue cards.  Cheer them on when they play games, and have a smile on my face every day.  But camp is for them.. leave them alone to hang out.  We always make it a point to take the tents the furthest away from the patrols and in lots of cases use the back doors if they face into the camp.  We want them to work the patrol method at camp and part of that is the interaction that takes place when they are playing and yeah I’ll say it.. screwing around.
And finally, I like to participate in adult programs that are offered.  One of our camps takes all the Scoutmasters on a Horse back ride.  A few of the camps offer adult swims and lunches.
By and large my week at camp is to provide support when needed and a great week to relax and take a break.  Most days you will find me at the water front with a good book just taking in the sun.
So what do you do at camp?  Let me know, leave a comment.  Better yet.. use the SMMVoice mail line and tell me, it may end up in the next podcast!  503-308-8297.  Lets hear about your week in camp!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Troop Elections.. Poll follow up

The results of the “Elections” poll are in.. 75% responded that they hold elections every 6 months while the other 25% hold annual elections.  There was a lot of email and comments on this one.  Thank you!
As promised I told you that I would weigh in on this after the poll.
My unit holds elections every 6 months, BUT here is how our PLC decided to conduct elections.
They only elect the Assistants.  Let me explain.
After struggling to maintain any consistency in leadership, meaning… after the out going SPL or Patrol leader left office the incoming SPL had to learn the ropes.. well this was taking about 6 months.. just when he had the job down, he was out.  So they decided to elect Assistants.. the Assistant would spend the 6 months learning, being coached and mentored.. and at the end of the 6 month period, he would automatically step up to the position of SPL or Patrol leader, which ever the case may be.  This way he had a year to practice and then work in the position.  The Troop has been doing this for 4 years now and it works out fantastic.  The same amount of Scouts have the opportunity to lead and when they become the actual leader, they know what they are doing. 
Our Troop holds elections after Summer Camp and then again in February right before our annual Red and Green Dinner.  This makes for great transition periods.  We hold Troop Junior leader Training each Fall and every one is invited.
This program has been very successful and I don’t see our PLC changing it any time soon.
Thanks again for all your emails and comments on this topic.  There were some really great ideas and I was glad to see many of you participate.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Patches… We don’t need… errr

Ahh… yes we do need patches.. we love patches… are you kidding me?
I have been in Scouting since I was 7 years old.  I have always “collected” patches from my Scouting experiences, places I have been, camps, councils etc.  But it was not until last years Jamboree that I traded patches.  All that time and I never traded a patch.  Then I got the bug.  Collecting and trading patches took on a whole new meaning for me at Jambo.
First, it is a terrific way of making new Scouting friends.  What I loved about trading at Jambo was the conversations over the patches and the handshake at the end of the trading session. 
Second, the patches themselves all tell a story.  As I look back at the patches from my youth and the patches that I have received recently, they all tell of an adventure, a personal connection, or a great place that I saw.  Not to mention the friendships that were made along the way.
And Finally, the fun I have with the collection.  People collect many different things.  Stamps, cars, baseball cards, Scouting literature.  But Patches to me are a great Scouting tradition.  They have been around for years and are a part of Scouting that connect us with the past and future.
Recently a bunch of us Scouters on Twitter started a Twitter Patch trade-o-ree…  A patch is sent and another returned.  So far my collection has grown with some really cool patches.  Now so far the Twitter Trade-o-ree has been all CSP’s, but I can see more stuff happening in the future. 
And why?  Because these little pieces of embroidered cloth mean friendship, Scouting, and they all tell our story from the many corners of Scouting in which we live.
So many thanks to those of you that have already traded.  If you would like to get in on the Twitter Trade-o-ree..
I am @smjerry.. shoot me a DM and we will trade.  It’s been lots of fun so far.. and I have lots of room in my collection for more!
Join the fun of our Twitter Trade-o-ree!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Fathers Day 2011

Father’s Day Poems

Walk a Little Slower Daddy
“Walk a Little slower, Daddy.” said a little child so small.
I’m following in your footsteps and I don’t want to fall.
Sometimes your steps are very fast, sometimes they’re hard to see.
So walk a little slower Daddy, for you are leading me.
Someday when I’m all grown up, You’re what I want to be.
Then I will have a little child who’ll want to follow me.
And I would want to lead just right, and know that I was true.
So, walk a little slower, Daddy, for I must follow you!!” – Author Unknown

Yesterday was Fathers day, a day that we honor our Fathers and thank them for (insert thanks here).  Yesterday I spent my Fathers day delivering my daughter to Girls State.  Oregon Girls State, a premiere leadership, volunteer and citizenship training program unlike any other.  Oregon Girls State is a program sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Oregon.   Each summer they host a one-week session for young women to come and learn about our governmental and public systems and how to become actively involved in the community as leaders.  This program gives young women an opportunity to experience state government in a hands-on, interactive environment.  This will be a stretch for my daughter and I am sure she will find herself having a wonderful time.   When we departed Willamette University yesterday, she had already met a group of young ladies that grabbed her and made her feel welcome.  This will be a life changing event for her.
At the same time, my wife took our oldest son to the University of Oregon to Boy’s State for the week.  Then after Boy’s State, he is off to Camp Pioneer for the rest of the summer as a Staffer. 
Our youngest son was along for the rideyesterday, but at least got to see the Football stadium at UofO.  It was an interesting  Fathers day capped off with a great dinner with my Dad.. so what am I thankful for as a Father.  Great kids.
What am I thankful about my Father.  He has been a great role model, a mentor and someone I have always looked up to.  Yesterday was Father’s day.. and like most Dad’s I am helped my kids take a step closer to finding their dream.  And that suites me just fine.
Hope you had  a Great Father’s day.. and a Great Scouting Day!