The Light at the end of the Tunnel

Tonight, under the leadership of the new SPL and a handful of Patrol Leaders and interested Scouts, the Troop finalized its Annual Plan.  This years planning seemed to take a bit longer, but looking back at the last few years, the goal has always been to get it completed by the end of September.  The Committee chair sat in on this years plan, she gave the boys the nod at the end of the plan suggesting that it was all “doable”.  As I guided the new SPL through the process, it became obvious that he is in need of more training.. and that’s a good thing, he is ready, but him and I will be spending some quality time together developing leadership skills.
Having said that the plan is outstanding!  I am really happy with it and look forward to one heck of a year of adventurous Scouting!
Caving at Dead Horse cave, backpacking a section of the new Oregon Coast trail, a kayak float down the McKenzie river, making Pulk sleds and snowshoeing a section of the Historic Barlow trail, a sweet backpack trip up to Table Mountain in the Gorge just to name a few of the trips planned.  By the end of the session the Scouts were on 9 foot hover and ready for the coming year.  It was all I could do to keep them from not getting to deep into the weeds, but the excitement was clear.
We talked a little about our Journey to Excellence and what elements they would be helping with.  Recruiting and retention will not be an issue.  We have put 2 new Scouts in during September and 6 more will be crossing over in November.  This on top of the group that will be crossing in February and March.  We plan on dropping some Scouts that have decided to remain inactive, and we will be moving two young men into Assistant Scoutmaster positions as they are about to turn 18.  I am glad that they are not taking their Eagle and running.
So now its up to the Scouts to work toward their next rank and keep camping.  This will be a great year of Scouting.
With the trip to Philmont just around the corner and all the new Scouts in the Troop, the buzz is contagious, you can feel it in the room.  We have 41 Scouts on the “active” roster and growing.
I suppose tonight the SPL and his PLC saw a light at the end of the planning tunnel.  When they got the idea that what they were producing was going to a fantastic year of Scouting it became less a chore and more like seeing the camp ground after a long day on the trail.
I am real proud of those guys, they put in the work and are seeing the results of their dedication and persistance.
I am sure we will be talking a lot more about this in the coming months.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Backpacking, blog, Camping, High Adventure, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Patrol Method, planning, Skills, training | Leave a comment

The BigFoot Challenge

As we move into the Fall season Scout Troops everywhere are packing into the woods for great adventures.  Winter will soon be here and so Fall is a great time to reinforce the Leave No Trace Principles with the Scouts (and Adults) of your unit.
No matter what style of camping your Troop does the principles of Leave No Trace apply. is a great resource for you if you are just learning Leave No Trace or just need to brush up or see whats going on in the organization.
One of the cool things that has is the Bigfoot Challenge.  Check it out using the link.
The idea of the program is reducing your footprint.
Last year at the National Jamboree I made a commitment to do the Bigfoot challenge and have been teaching, coaching, and mentoring our Scouts to Leave No Trace.  Part of our challenge was to get a Leave No Trace Trainer in the Troop… yes.. the youth position.  The BSA has added a lot of Enhancements to its Leave No Trace Program and every unit should be taking advantage of it.
So back to the Bigfoot challenge…  The challenge simply asks that we do simple acts of environmental activism.. now this does no mean that you have to wear tie die or sandles.. but it does mean, in a Scouting context, that we act responsibly in the outdoors and are good stewards of our environment, particularly the outdoors that we enjoy when we go camping.
Simple little things like teaching our Scouts how to better plan and prepare to reduce the amount of trace we take out into the woods, using the “Bearmuda” triangle when setting up camp to reduce impact and animal issues, better ways to clean up dishes and cookware, using the patrol method to reduce to impact of large groups.
The Bigfoot Challenge also offers the change to win prizes.. and wait for it… Yes there is a patch available at the website.
So take the Bigfoot challenge…
Teach a Scout, Be an example, Join Leave No Trace and remember to reduce your footprint.. after all Bigfoot has been doing it for years!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Leave no trace, Methods, Patrol Method, planning, respect, Skills, training, Values | Leave a comment

SMMPodcast Show 92

This show is about Summer Camp and Annual planning.
We talk about providing incentives for older Scouts and getting younger guys to attend. 
After summer camp we discuss some of the elements of the Annual Planning session and some keys to making our Scouts successful in planning and executing a great year of Scouting.
A few reminders on the show about the SMMPhoto contest!
Enjoy the show.
Listen in on iTunes, Stitcher, or on the web!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: planning, podcast, Summer Camp | Leave a comment

This weeks Poll- The Annual Plan

In this weeks poll I want to know about your Troops annual planning session.
Your choices are:  Totally on the Scouts, meaning the Scouts put together the annual plan and submit it to the Troop committee to receive the support to run the program.  The PLC does the planning.
It’s all about the Adults, meaning the Scouts just take what the adults decide.  The PLC does not do the planning.
Lets go 50/50, meaning Adult input to the PLC and they split the planning responsibility.
As a primer, here is how our Troop handles the annual planning session.  We start our planning at Summer camp.  This is a great opportunity for the patrols to take a look at the previous year and get the most input from the patrol members.  Sometime about mid-week at camp the PLC will meet and discuss the input from the patrols.
After summer camp the PLC will again sit down with all the calendars and look at months, dates, and locations from the next years plan.  I sit in with them on this planning session to answer questions and offer advise when asked.
Once the PLC is satisfied they have a 12 month plan, they bounce it off me and then the SPL and I take the plan to the Troop committee.
The Troop committees job is to say “Great plan, lets support it” and that is what they do.
Our Senior Patrol Leader and the Patrol Leaders Council does the planning for the year.  That is the way it is supposed to happen, this is their program.  Having them plan their year gives them ownership, tests leadership, and then as the year unfolds and they understand the program, their monthly PLC meetings are better organized and the plan is executed by the Scouts.
It’s not always pretty and often the planning is painful to some… but letting the Scouts run their Troop is the way Baden-Powell intended it.

“The more responsibility the Scoutmaster gives his
patrol leaders, the more they will respond.”- Baden Powell

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Patrol Method, planning, Scouts, Skills, Summer Camp, training | 3 Comments

Train ’em, Trust ’em,….

I have said this so many times it is almost becoming cliche’.. but I’ll say it again…

Last night the SPL of our Troop held the Patrol Leaders Council meeting.  Because of a work conflict, I knew that I was not going to be able to be there, but two of the Assistant Scoutmasters of the Troop would be attending to maintain a safe environment and open up the meeting hall.
I called into the PLC for my two minutes of points that needed to be passed on from the committee and things that I thought needed to be attended to.  It was fun for the Scouts to be on a conference call with the Scoutmaster.  The SPL put his iPhone on speaker mode and placed it in the middle of the table.
I spoke my piece and asked if any one had questions.. then said good-bye.
Later that evening I got a call from… yeah.. you guessed it.. “Frustrated Dad”.  He wanted to know why I was not at the PLC meeting and who was running this show?  Well the answer to the second part was obviously easy.. The SPL is running the show.  As to why I was not there.. Work, sorry, moving on.
Once again I had to explain to him that I trust the SPL.  I know that he has been trained and mentored well and that we had talked before the meeting so he could bounce he agenda off me.  He will be shooting me an email sometime today also to recap the meeting.  Not that I asked.. he just does it.
When we train the Scouts, trust them to do the right thing, and let them do the leading.. they do pretty darn good.  The decisions that they are making, planning for, and executing are shaping them to be better leaders.  They are practicing communication skills, working with others, and yes learning from mistakes also.
The question was asked, “How can you teach them if you are not there?”  Well, I said, I am there.. I am there for them always.  I will be able to coach and teach the SPL when ever he needs it.  Again, going back to the prep work that the SPL did before the meeting.  That was a good time to coach, and I did. 
Remember that Baden-Powell told us never to do what a boy can do for himself… well that does not stop at setting up his tent and fluffing his pillow.. that is directed at the leadership of the Troop.  Never lead the Troop.. that is why they hold elections and serve.
I had to remind Mr. Frustrated that none of the adults in Boy Scouts have the word “LEADER” on their patch..  That stops at DEN LEADER…

Well, I am proud of our PLC, they held a meeting, that I am sure went well, they are leading the Troop, which I know is going well, and they are having fun.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, comments, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Patrol Method, planning, Scouting, teamwork | 1 Comment

Learn How to Build, Recruit, Retain Strong Units and Volunteers

From our Friends at  BSA Internal Communications  Here is a repost of a recent article that can be found on the Scout Wire.  It is two new resources have been created by Membership Impact.  The New Unit Retention guide and a Guide for Strengthening Organizations Through Scouting.  I have reposted on the Unite retention guide here.
You can scan the QR code right off of this blog to get the guide.  Yes it works I tried it. 

New-Unit Retention Guide: This book provides extensive new-unit resources covering the following topics:

Know Your Market, Build Your Team, Make the Call, and High-Performing Units. The guide is available on or by scanning the QR code at left with your smartphone. Spanish and English/Spanish editions available soon.

This is all good information that can help you and your unit.
Give it a Shot!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, planning | 1 Comment

Troop Information Board

I am sure that most if not all of you have a nice information board that you use to attract prospective Scouts and their families.  You break it out on recruit nights and open houses, take along to community events, and generally show it off when ever the opportunities arise.
Well, tomorrow we have a crew from the Outdoor channel coming to hang out with our Troop for a week.  They will be taking some of our Scouts on a week long adventure.  This is a huge opportunity for our Troop, our Council, and the Boy Scouts of America to show Scouts and Scouting and tell our story!  We are honored to have been chosen.
But this also became a good time to update our information board.
So, after yard work and some tinkering with the hammock.. I updated (completely overhauled) our information board.
We keep ours up all the time in the Knights of Columbus meeting Hall.  This way our Charter Org. can see what we are up to and know that we are doing the right thing.
With the Troop of the Year trophy sitting prominently in the hall, as well as the Pack of the Year trophy, the Knights sponsored Cub Scout Pack won this year also, having Scouting out front is exactly where we want to be.
If you have an information board, what kind of stuff is on it?  Let us know, drop a comment in the comments section, an email, or feel free to leave a voice mail by calling 503-308-8297.






Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, comments, Journey to Excellence, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, planning | 1 Comment

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.
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.
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 or simply leave a comment here or at the SMMVoice mail 503-308-8297.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, comments, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Patrol Method, planning, Scouting, Webelos to Scout Transition | Leave a comment

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.
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!

Categories: blog, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Patrol Method, planning | 3 Comments

Grandma always told me…

“You are either part of the problem or part of the solution…”  a great approach to being a part of an organization.  You truly are either part of the problem or part of the solution.  When we teach our Scouts how to lead, being part of the solution is the driving force that they need to quickly embrace and practice.  Never is it ok for a leader to be a part of the problem.  We and the youth leaders of our units are problem solvers.. never problem makers.
I never allow a youth leader to make excuses.. there are none, ever.  We are accountable for our actions, decisions, and the outcomes of our leadership.  It’s never the committees fault, the districts fault, or the council’s fault.  We are unit leaders, us and the youth, and we run our units.  If something is broke, we fix it.
Last year during our recharter, a couple of our Scouts were inadvertently dropped in Scout Net.  Now I could have raised hell and blamed everyone and their brother.. but what good does it do?  Rather, we took our copy of the application down to the Scout office and got it fixed.  Real simple.  What shocked me though was when the gal at the Council service desk informed me that usually this issue is met with irate leaders that want satisfaction.  Satisfaction at what expense?  Tearing into someones hide?  Very Scout like don’t you think?  Lets assume that all of our units do a good job at record keeping.  Well then there is no issue, right.. we just take down our copy and done.
We are either part of the problem or part of the solution.  It is easy to point fingers and assume that things will be messed up.  Patrol leaders try this all the time.  They try to pass the buck or play the blame game.  This is always a great teaching opportunity. 
In my Troop we use the Happy Hand approach to rules. 
1.  Hold up your Thumb.. Everything is OK.. working together we will get through it.
2. Your Pointer Finger is not to be used to point at anyone.. remember there are 3 fingers pointing back.
3.  Your Middle finger is never to be used by itself.
4.  The Ring finger represents committment.  We are committed to each other all the time.
5.  The pinky finger is fragile…  A reminder to be safe.
Everything there keeps us in the problem solving game and not the blame game.  Teach the Scouts to solve problems and seek areas to improve.  Never allow finger pointing and backing out of events because they think it will not be worth their time.  So many times Scouts with great attitudes can swing a sub standard event.  I have seen it many times.
If they want to complain, they need to offer a solution.
NOW.. that goes for you adults to… How you act is how your Scouts will act.  You are either part of the problem or part of the solution.  PICK ONE.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Patrol Method, planning, Scout Law, Scouting | Leave a comment

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