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  • Defining the Patrol Method.

    I'd like anybody interested to answer a few questions. First, define the patrol method. What are the key characteristics of the patrol method? What is the role of the Adult Scouters in a troop run by the patrol method? What does the SPL/ASPL do on a trip with the patrol method? Has your troop always used the patrol method? Please describe your troops use of the patrol method. Thanks!

  • #2
    Wow! Lot's of questions, but let me borrow what I've learned (mostly from Kudu) ...

    Simply (and more generally) put, a patrol is a group of roughly 8 youth who hike and camp independently.

    A patrol leader's primary responsibility is to qualify to take his(her) members hiking and camping.

    Adults exist to mentor PLs and help identify senior PLs who would do a good job replacing them as mentors. The challenge for adults is maintaining the necessary physical distance for multiple patrols to operate comfortably in a troop environment.

    Although we have encouraged patrol method, there are lots of impediments (both among adults and youth). So, we have had a difficult time maintaining that culture. Venturing, which doesn't use patrols as a method at all also can be problematic. The older the youth, and the less responsibility for younger youth, the more they prefer a "club" organizational structure to the patrol method.

    The G2SS making it seem almost criminal to trust a patrol to execute a 24 hour plan hasn't helped. Thus, as soon as my youth leave the BSA, they start using the patrol method.

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    • #3
      Patrol method = every patrol member has a job to do and every patrol member helps finish all patrol jobs.

      Key characteristics: NO one is sitting on their duff watching others work. If a patrol is working smoothly, it is not readily apparent who the leaders (PL/APL) are (true for any group).

      Adult role: Optional, though I guess G2SS requires an adult(s). Sometimes mentoring and logistics support.

      SPL/ASPL - may assign patrols certain troop duties like flag ceremony, skits, latrine duty. Mentor PLs as needed, handle discipline issues,

      Always used patrol method: No unfortunately. Klondike Derby and patrol method summer camps are our best examples where we use patrol method.

      My $0.02

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      • #4
        Patrol method ... key characteristic ... a set of scouts that want to spend time together and do things together.

        Our troop is doing patrol method not as well as we did 10 years ago. Fewer scouts. More competition for time. The big change is that leaders restructured patrols and the scouts lost any emotional tie to their own patrol. It's common now for scouts to not know what patrol they are in and that's really sad.

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        • #5
          The Patrol Method is the method for developing a scout’s independent decision making skills and confidience by working with other scouts in a single group during scouting activities.

          The key characteristics I look for in successful patrol methods is the whole group functioning together to accomplish their tasks.

          The adults’ responsibility for the patrol method is to insure the patrols are being challenged for continued growth at the maturity and experience of the scouts in the patrol.

          The responsibility of the SPL and senior youth officers is to insure the scouts are growing through training and role modeling the scout oath and law.

          Barry
          Last edited by Eagledad; 06-02-2014, 03:02 PM.

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          • #6
            1. Patrol Identity: the patrol comes first. A Scout primarily experiences Scouting in the patrol, not the troop.
            The patrol is the team; the troop is the league in which the patrol plays the game of Scouting
            Mr. Scoutmaster, how are your teams doing?
            Shared responsibility among patrol members builds team identity.

            2. A “small group of . . . friends.”
            The patrol members select the patrol members.

            3. An indefinite life span. NOT an ad-hoc or temporary grouping. "It takes time."

            4. Scouts lead the patrols and the collection of patrols called a "troop."; youth leadership is not optional.
            Leadership includes planning the patrol programs and planning the troop program
            Leadership includes teaching
            Stand outside the meeting room door. Do your hear Scouts or adults giving leadership? Now you know.

            5. Scouts elect key leaders and appoint the rest.



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            • #7
              Pretty much the same as what everyone else has said except for the SPL/ASPL combo. They have no role in the patrol method other than support the PL/APL combos if necessary and when asked. Unless they are mentoring and supporting stay out of the operations of the patrols. If they, as has been mentioned, dictate which patrol does what, etc., then sorry, but such policy setting as such is the troop method. Every patrol is capable of doing their own patrol flag ceremonies, doing their own duty rosters, and latrine duties. As a matter of fact, unless an SPL is an experienced PL that can actually mentor the PL's, as the SENIOR PL, then he's pretty much a waste of time in my book. In all my years of scouting I have found maybe one or two scouts that could effective fill the role of a mentoring SPL. Otherwise, for the most part, they do nothing more than just interfere in the operation of the patrols.

              I believe the PL/APL are selected by the patrol members. How they do that is up to them. If they want to elect fine. If they just come to a consensus, fine. If one boy wants to try it out and the others don't mind, fine. It's their decision, they can come to it anyway they see fit.

              As far as troop "officers" like QM, Chaplain Aide, Scribe, Instructor, etc. If these officers are supporting the patrols, then they should be selected by the PL's because it will be those boys that will be needing their help. Troops that decide for the patrols who their mentors are pretty much provide a useless service to the PL's and their patrols. Lets have all the boys select based on popularity their pals for SPL, etc, so they can wear the patches, get the advancement, and every PL thinks they're just a bunch of meddling fools. That's a recipe for disaster.

              A troop, it's adults and it's youth leadership are there to support the independent activity of the patrols.

              In my troop, the highest ranking officer is the PL. He runs his patrol and everyone else supports him in doing that. The troop program consists of nothing more than "the patrol-method". There is no troop program, there is no need for a troop program, and efforts to create troop programming do nothing more than interfere in the patrol method.

              The PLC is a clearing house of patrol concerns that the troop offices need to be providing to the patrols. If the SPL wants something to do, he can coordinate the troop officer's response to the patrol needs and make sure the PL's get what they need to run their patrols. If 3 patrols want to go to summer camp and three patrols want to do high adventure instead, the troop officers figure out what it's going to take to make it happen.

              Too often the SM dictates to the SPL, who dictates to the PL's who dictates to his members and the adults call this boy-led, patrol-method. It is as far as possible, 180 degrees from what they think it is. Look at the chain of authority/command. Everyone just follows the SM, period. No need for any boy to actually produce any leadership for anyone ever. Just ask the SM. He's already told you what needs to be done.

              Ever hear of a SM, SPL, ASPL, TG, Instructor, QM asking a PL what he can be doing to help him be a successful PL? Nope, me neither. How can anyone have a successful patrol-method unit when nothing is being done to support PL's in doing their jobs?

              Stosh
              Last edited by jblake47; 06-02-2014, 09:50 PM.

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              • #8
                The troop and troop activities are part of the "life of the patrol" as defined by Mr, Hillcourt in his Patrol Leaders Handbook in Chapter III, "The Patrol and the Troop.". Thus, the SPL, as the leader of the troop, has a legitimate role to play in Mr. Hillcourt's Patrol Method. This is also, in theory, true of B.S.A. Scouting today.

                It is a major part of our job to train the SPL to understand his proper role as it relates to the patrols, PL's, and the troop and to help him be good at it. All issues of "fault" aside, if the SPL does not understand or does not play his proper role, we have not succeeded at a material part of our job as Scouters.

                You end by identifying the "troop method" that I see commonly in this declining age. It is not what Mr. Hillcourt describes because the troop activities have devoured the patrol activities that should be the bulk of the scouting going on in a troop, making of the PL's mere flunkies for the SPL or, more likely, the Scoutmaster. This B.S.A. at least tolerates to date. You would apparently, Mr. Hillcourt to the contrary notwithstanding, have no troop activities to avoid this evil.

                Everyone is free to reject Mr. Hillcourt's vision and to imagine whatever they think works best. I suppose they are also free to call it whatever they think best, It would certainly would be better to have the typical tiny troops run as a patrol, sans SPL, or, I think, to have no troop program, if we are unable to meet Mr. Hillcourt's vision.

                Unfortunate title, "Scoutmaster." As unfortunate as BP calling the principal adult "the officer" or referring to adults as "leaders" in the troop instead of "adults" or "Scouters." Words have power.
                Last edited by TAHAWK; 06-03-2014, 12:44 AM.

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                • #9
                  I wonder if there's not a better way to describe the leadership in a troop. Assume there is a pyramid then mentoring and guidance go down and decisions come up from the point closest to the problem. If the decision coming up is not what the leader above likes then he has to either just ignore it and go with it, ask the scout below some questions to make sure he's seeing the entire problem, or, in the worst case, overturn it. The last case is probably reserved for safety and extreme cases of poor scout spirit. The main idea is to develop the leadership and trust of those below.

                  So, say a new scout is given the task of finding a patrol site. The PL mentors the young scout and as long as the scout doesn't, say, pick a campsite in a dried river bed while big, black clouds are forming overhead, the PL goes with the decision. But if the young scout is adament about the river bed then the PL can just say no. The same relationship exists between the SPL and PLs, and the SM and SPL. Part of good leadership is knowing when to step in and overturn a lower decision and when to let it be a learning experience. So, if the SPL says "let's play capture the flag on a freeway" then it's reasonable for the SM to say no. If the whole troop wants to camp in a ravine and it's not a flash flood concern, then it might be best for the adults to camp on higher ground and let it be a learning experience.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by MattR View Post
                    I wonder if there's not a better way to describe the leadership in a troop. Assume there is a pyramid then mentoring and guidance go down and decisions come up from the point closest to the problem. If the decision coming up is not what the leader above likes then he has to either just ignore it and go with it, ask the scout below some questions to make sure he's seeing the entire problem, or, in the worst case, overturn it. The last case is probably reserved for safety and extreme cases of poor scout spirit. The main idea is to develop the leadership and trust of those below.

                    So, say a new scout is given the task of finding a patrol site. The PL mentors the young scout and as long as the scout doesn't, say, pick a campsite in a dried river bed while big, black clouds are forming overhead, the PL goes with the decision. But if the young scout is adament about the river bed then the PL can just say no. The same relationship exists between the SPL and PLs, and the SM and SPL. Part of good leadership is knowing when to step in and overturn a lower decision and when to let it be a learning experience. So, if the SPL says "let's play capture the flag on a freeway" then it's reasonable for the SM to say no. If the whole troop wants to camp in a ravine and it's not a flash flood concern, then it might be best for the adults to camp on higher ground and let it be a learning experience.
                    Unfortunately you describe the perfect management setup. Issues float up from the bottom and the higher level people dictate their resolution. Suck it up and live with it is always a management option that can be dictated back down the line. Sorry, but that's not leadership, that's management. Management deals with problems, tasks, issues, while leadership deals with people and until that issue gets resolved in the minds of everyone in the troop, the troop-method of management will prevail. If that be the case, don't bother wasting everyone's time trying to implement any sort of boy-led patrol-method system. It simply won't work. Stepping in and overturning others' decisions is not helping them, it's only doing a management CYA routine. Ivory tower management where only the really smart people at the top of the food chain know all the answers is not something I want to develop for my troop. I develop leadership and when the "leaders" turn around and realize their arrogant know-it-all attitude has reduced morale and no one is following, it just might dawn on him at that point, he needs people to follow if he's going to be a real leader.

                    Good leaders are constantly looking out for the welfare and safety of their people, so much of your concern doesn't apply here unless one is talking about poor managers who need to get a task done and don't worry about people. Cases of poor scout spirit wouldn't apply to the leader who's taking care of his people either. Chances are with good leaders, many of the "problems" you are describing will never get past the PL in the first place which once again leaves the SPL out there with nothing to do.

                    In the 30 years of working with scouts, I have never had to "step in and overturn a lower decision" of any scout I have had the privilege of working with. But then again, I develop leadership from the bottom up and they seem to do quite well in the trenches. I have my 6 Webelos cross-over boys going on their first campout this weekend. But I'm not worried. They have their menu planned, rides lined up, adults committed to be there, site reserved, plans for shopping this Thursday and equipment inventoried to make sure all 6 boys will have what they need. Yep, 6 Webelos boys is all I have in my troop. 100% attendance at the service project they worked on last Saturday and 100% attendance at the outing. No SPL, no TG, no QM, no troop officer of any kind, just a PL taking care of his boys getting them to their first outing. Nothing for me to overturn, their decisions are great, well thought out and for being in the program for less than 6 months, pretty impressive management skills demonstrated by all the boys in the patrol. If anyone asks my PL what his job is in this whole process, he will always answer, "I'm here to take care of my boys." They need the service project hours and campouts, and that's what he's doing. Management is but a small sub factor in real leadership, it's not all that it's cracked up to be by the management training programs of the BSA today.

                    Turn your pyramid upside down. Now, as SM, it appears you are there at the "bottom" to SUPPORT everything going on. Next assume everyone you support is a leader, not a follower. If something is going to need to get done, you're going to need the most hands available. Which level has the most hands? Oh, yes, the top level. If this analogy is beginning to make some sense, then you are on your way of developing a boy-led, patrol-method program run by a ton of leaders within the troop, not just a few the elected management style parlor scouts.

                    Stosh

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                    • #11
                      One problem being that for every Scoutmaster who cuts free from BSA policy and ends up with youth-run patrols and troops, more Scoutmasters seem to end up with totally adult-run troops and no real patrols at all. After all, it's all "optional."

                      We have a Scoutmaster in our district who sees it all as optional. His troop went twelve years with no PLC meetings and no patrols - just one big bunch with him as a leader. 50% turnover a year. A Scout came back from NYLT and made some changes as SPL, but the Scoutmaster wore him down, supported as he was by a Committee that agrees with him that "Scouting is all about advancement." Oh, and he doesn't like to camp, so . . . .

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                      • #12
                        I agree with much which has been said. In my mind I sum up the patrol method as "the troop is a collection of patrols" as opposed to "the troop is broken down into patrols".

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Stosh, we actually probably agree with each other. If I turned my pyramid upside down then I'd be making all the decisions and the youngest scouts would be coaching the PLs. Mentoring goes down and decisions are done as low as possible.

                          Case in point, tonight's meeting of my troop. The scouts wanted to have a scavenger hunt in our down town area. They put it together and they did a good job. I asked about the buddy system and they already had it taken care of. I did not make any decisions. At the end of the contest a bunch of scouts were hanging around listening to some guy standing on a box telling everyone they were going to hell. Then all of a sudden an angry drunk starts shouting at the soap box guy, and there are half a dozen scouts between them. I stepped in and made a decision to get my scouts out from the middle of that. It was the right thing to do even though some of the scouts wanted to stick around and watch, including some patrol leaders. That's the kind of decisions I'm talking about over ruling. I've dealt with enough drunks to know they're unpredictable and the scouts haven't.

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                          • #14
                            Matt, I'm thinking we're pretty much on the same page with the exception of the pyramid. I like it upside down to show that mentoring doesn't often get defined correctly, but support pretty much speaks for itself. Some seem to think that mentoring involves a lot of direction giving whereas support involves finding out where the boy is at and then help him with his decisions. It also is a visual on who has the heaviest weight to bear to hold things together and assist in making it happen. It also means the SM and SPL's are focused not on the whole picture, but just the responsibilities directly above them they have to support.

                            And maybe you have dealt with enough drunks over the years and the boys haven't. But if you're going to drag them away when the fun's just starting, they aren't going to learn until next time when you're not around. I'd get my boys back away a safe distance, but then during the after action review (AAR) I would use it as a discussion on the drugs/alcohol thingy. Heck you had a real live example for your demonstration for the boys.

                            I create opportunities for my boys. Some will enhance and inspire, others will be a challenge, but the boys will learn from both. If my boys ever are accosted by someone when I'm not around, I surely hope they will remember their scouting experiences to guide them through.

                            Frankly, I like the patrol-method the best. It is a never ending source of inspiration to me and the parents when they see their kids taking on some pretty challenging tasks within their patrols.

                            And before anyone gets too out of shape about the independence of each of the patrols, there is nothing in the rules that say two or three patrols can't coordinate their activities for a larger group experience. Maybe the SPL could assist/support in those cooperative ventures. QM could take inventory of gear to know if there is enough equipment to handle a bigger endeavor, etc.

                            I had one of my patrols go with a troop (adult-led) that had never been on any kind of high adventure and asked if some of my older boys could help on introducing them to HA. My older boy patrol jumped at the chance and did a really nice job working with the other troop. The SM was concerned at first because only I as ASM from my troop went on the trip. I think they were looking for some adult help, but soon realized they didn't need any. I basically went along for the ride, drank coffee and pretty much stayed out of my patrol's way.

                            Stosh

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                            • #15
                              I wonder how many Adults end up not volunteering in Scouts because they're afraid it's "too much work?"

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