JTE revisited

As with many of us we wear multiple hats in Scouting.  First and foremost we wear the Dad (or Mom) hat, then the hat appropriate to our unit, like Scoutmaster or Committee Chair.  Then there often times is some District level hat, whether that is part of the District Training team, a District event, or serving on the District committee.  Some are active within their Order of Arrow Chapters or Lodges, and so another hat is hung there.  And for some, and the numbers narrow here, the Council comes a callin’ and more hats are added to the hat rack of Scouting.  This is all well and good as long as the person wearing all of those hats can A.   balance and manage the time,  B.  give full attention to all the positions that he or she has volunteered for, and finally C.  Remember that this is Scouting and it is still a game with a purpose.
All of that to say… I am putting on my District hat right now for this post.
Thursday night at our District committee meeting I was asked to take on an additional responsibility, that of the District Committee Chair while we are looking to replace our retiring District Committee chairman.  I currently serve as the District Program Chairman, so this was not to far a stretch and so I accepted the interim role.
That is neither here nor there when it comes to the subject of this post, other than to say that in the role of both the District Committee Chairman and the Program Chairman one of the reports that our District Commissioner gave disturbed me to no end and I am looking for solutions.
That report was on the Journey to Excellence status of units within our District.  I’ll jump right in.
In November our Council wraps up it’s rechartering process.  This way all units are good to go heading into the new year.  If done right by the units, this is a nice way to end the year and start their Scouting calendar year off clean.  Maybe it’s because I do not know anything else, but this works well for me.
In November we also close out our now Journey to Excellence (Former Honor unit, Quality unit, Centennial Quality unit) report.  Now of all the programs listed in Parenthesis.. I like Journey to Excellence a lot.  It is a fair way to rank and rate your unit.  It is a good measure of how your program is delivering the promise of Scouting.  In the Thunderbird District we have 129 units that rechartered this November.. well 124 actually turned them in on time.. we are still waiting on 6 of them… which will add to my point here real quick.  Out of the 129 units only 35% of them turned in the paper work for their Journey to Excellence.   That’s only 45 units (Packs, Troops, and Crews).  45!
So the question has to be WHY?  The score card is easy to use, the goals are fair and offer a sliding scale from Bronze to Gold so that units have a way of stepping up their programs with rewards for small and large success’s.  But why would only 45 out of 129 units report how they are offereing up the program?
Is it a lack of knowledge?  A lack of training?  A lack of buy in?  Or does this tell us that the 84 units that did not report are not providing quality programs and do not want to tell that to the District and Council?  I sincerely hope that this is not the case.  I know that there are great Scouters out there in our District and I see the units around doing activities, service projects, and outings.  So why not report.
My thoughts went back to the Good turn for America program.  Our District struggled in getting units to report there also.  We asked a volunteer to chase down units and assist with their reporting.. read.. do it for them.  And amazingly, or not, the numbers went sky rocketing.  Now I am not suggesting that this is all about numbers.  I certainly am not, what I am hoping is that the Promise of Scouting is being delivered in the 84 units that have made the choice not to fill out the form.
In talking with one Scouter, I came to the conclusion that he just did not know how the process worked.  So a lack of training on his part led him to not being able to go through this with his unit.  I call BS on this to a certain degree.  The program is not that tough to just figure out.  He asked about tools that could be used to help with the process.  I told him to go to Scouting.org and look up the Journey to Excellence.  There he would find an easy way to set the goals of the unit, track the progress of the unit, and print the final report.  Along with definitions, Frequently Asked questions, and support.  I also reminded him that the number one function of the District is to support units and he could always call us.
Here is what I like about the JTE program.  If you use the tracker, and I mean break it out monthly and see how you are, as a unit progressing through your program based on your goals.  You will achieve success.  The tracker allows the unit to see potential problems or short falls before they happen.  It allows Troop committees to make adjustments, it is a nice tool for the Patrol Leaders Council to stay on track with their program.  After all the main emphasis of the JTE is in program and participation.  Most of us have a competitive gene in us.  Our Scouts certainly do.  So the Journey to Excellence plays on this part of the game.   There are incentives within the unit to continuously improve.  Better Performance means better Scouting for youth!  Better Performance can earn a higher level of Recognition, and Key requirements are tracked and improvement can be quickly identified so they can see where they are on the field.  It’s kind of like being in a 3rd and long and waiting to punt or 3rd and short and know you can score!
I also like that each year the requirements will change.  Each year,  the requirements will be reconsidered to reflect the improved performance by units.  This is why it is important that ALL units report.  Right now in my District 45 units will set the performance measurement for the rest of the District.  New standards for 2012 are already out.  You can see the Troop score card here.   
So I am looking for solutions to this problem.  If you have any ideas, please leave a comment or drop an email.
Share your Journey to Excellence success’s also in the comments section of this post.
Like I said.  I know that there are good Scouters out there doing the right thing.  But the Journey to Excellence program will help make Scouting better.  Better for the main thing… Scouts.
Have a Great Scouting Day! 


  1. It is regretful that so few responded. I would guess that the low numbers are due to training and the fact that this program. I find JTE to be a great tool. We break it out at every committee meeting to track our progress, and I feel it has exposed some areas where we can improve.
    Perhaps this is an area where the friendly neighborhood Unit Commissioner can help. If they were to sit with their units periodically throughout the year and gently nudge the unit, it would bring JTE more into the minds of the unit leaders, and returns might increase. Using the commissioners seems natural, as they need to sign the form anyway.


  2. Unit Commissioner? Who’s that?? Ours has *never* visited with me or my troop about our performance! Exactly a year ago this month, I blogged about this very thing(http://blog.myscoutstuff.org/2011/01/no-stake-scouting-goals/). It only took them NINE MONTHS to finally communicate goals… and they were only about adult leader training and nothing about JTE. My troop works on JTE anyway despite getting no support from even my committee or other unit co-leaders. Kinda sad if you ask me…


  3. Scoutmaster J- if you are unaware or have not seen your unit commissioner.. I would suggest a friendly call to the District Commissioner and or District Chairman.
    The goals for JTE are not set by the Commissioners.. they are published by the BSA (See link in post) and the unit uses the JTE tool to hit the marks. The Bronze, Silver and Gold levels are bench marks to allow the unit to improve as they move through the Scouting year. In all honesty this can all be done, until the end, without a unit commissioner.
    Having said that… part of the District’s JTE score card is Unit commissioner visit’s and using the Unit visitaion tracker.
    So that is where your district commissioner should get on it.
    Thanks for the comment.


  4. I did break down and complete the JTE paperwork, as a favor to our District Committee. The Excel spreadsheets National BSA posted online certainly helped speed up the process.

    This laundry list of “thou shalts” doesn’t motivate me as a volunteer. I have enough paperwork as it is. I can see that it may help a larger unit see results more clearly, but for a dozen Scouts it’s overkill.

    What gets measured does get done. Should I push my Scouts to do 1 more campout next year, kicking us up to “Silver” so Council execs can feel good about themselves? Try as they may, these metrics can’t measure “Quality”.


    1. I have a dozen scouts and this didn’t feel like overkill at all. I also don’t view JTE as a list of “thou shalts” in any way. In fact, we found it to be a useful list of goals to guide us and provide focus throughout the year. My troop earned Silver for 2011 and in doing so learned that when you run the program the way it was designed, completing the work to accomplish these goals comes pretty easy and natural. Metrics may not necessarily measure quality, but the process of doing the work as organized by JTE automatically drives a troop in the direction of quality. That’s where I see the power of this program. I would also suggest you do 1 more campout so your SCOUTS can feel good about themselves! No one else really matters…


  5. JC-
    First of all you did no one “a favor” The JTE is all about your unit and serving Scouts. When you break down your so called “Thou shalts” it should not motivate you.. it is simply a measurement of the program as the BSA has established it.
    You should not have to push Scouts to do anything, but by assisting, mentoring, coaching, and providing a great program, they should want to.
    Large unit or small.. it all applies.
    When you break down the JTE.. it is nothing more than measuring the methods of Scouting. Advancement, Outdoor program, Adult interaction, Patrol Method, etc..
    So JC- if you are going to do favors.. do them for the Scouts you serve. You will be a “Gold Unit”
    Thanks for the comment.


    1. JTE is OK if it is used as a guide to a good program, but as I have observed with previous quality efforts, the JTE and program priority can easily become reversed (usually by eager adults) and the goal becomes the gold level rather than the methods used to get there.
      Example: JTE (2012) for Troops Item 12 requires an ongoing fitness competition for gold level achievement. What if the Scouts decide that fitness isn’t a core part of their vision of success (realistically, not everything can be)? Should the Scoutmaster push to have a competition in the program? Even if in his opinion the Scouts have a physically active program already? Is a unit’s fitness program a causal factor in it’s success? Statistically speaking, many ‘successful’ units may have such a program but that doesn’t demonstrate causality.
      Just as getting a high score on your SATs isn’t the complete measure of student quality. It’s just part of it – the easy part, since it can be reduced to a single number.
      Maybe JTE is the best we can reasonably do to measure across units, but it presents a dull, narrow view of Scouting in my opinion.


  6. I am a very active adult leader. I like the JTE process, with a few concerns. First of all, most of our adult leaders are very busy people (I suspect this is true in most units!). The JTE process is rather time-consuming. First, it takes time to understand it in the first place. I find the JTE info screen on scouting.org to be really confusing. I have to click on everything just to figure out what it is, and it often isn’t what I need.

    Putting the service information online takes a significant increase in time and effort. I am sure that it provides someone some good metrics, but we are a small unit and we just do not have many adults who are active, and the few of us who are active do not need more work to do.

    I am still confused about the fitness requirement for Gold level. We need “an ongoing fitness competition where members can track their performance.” First – that sends me – the busy leader – off trying to figure out what that means. I have found PALA and other fitness programs that would probably work. It would help if the JTE documentation gave some helpful advice about things like this. (If it is already out there someplace, I haven’t found it yet.)

    In summary, I think JTE is a problem because most leaders will not spend anywhere near the time I have spent to figure it out. There’s a great big barrier right at the front of it. I have a great Venture Crew – one of the best in our council, I have been told – but to keep it that way, I need to spend my time with them, not busywork like JTE. Sorry, that’s how I feel. It needs to be simplified. I will trudge on and probably use it, only because I am determined to improve. I can see many positives in it. But that doesn’t keep me from seeing the weakness of the program and the reason it won’t be used by most troops/crews.
    Debbie R.


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