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Stosh

Who's running the show?

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I have been on this forum now for over 10 years now and there's an issue that I have interjected a number of times and have yet to get a clear understanding of how others "think" it's supposed to work.  I am putting it in the Issues and Politics section because eventually some moderator is going to put it there anyway.

 

My question is: "Who's running the show?"   I hear comments about too many SM's doing that and it's not good for the boys.  I hear conversation about the Patrol Method being a no-longer relevant part of the program.  I have waded through hundreds of posts about SPL's and the problems they face,   These discussions go on and on ad nauseum with no resolutions.

 

Anyone walking into a unit meeting will within 15 minutes recognize who's really running the show.  Yet with all the mentoring discussions, boy led discussions, "Go ask your PL" comments, it always seems that the "vision" for the unit lies in the authority structure of the adults. 

 

If one sits back and observes the dynamics of the group, it doesn't take long to recognize who the real leaders are.  It is, for the most part, the adults.  They give lip service to boy led, but when the the real decisions are made, it is some adult that holds the ultimate veto power in the group.  The reason the boys are always asking questions and seeking solutions to their problems directed towards the adults is because only the adults have the final say-so.  Why waste their time talking to the PL when he has no real authority or power to correct the problem in the first place.  Even if they do offer a suggestion or solution it always runs the risk of an adult countering it with their veto position.

 

Even the organizational structure of the BSA directives are oriented to adult led.  IH at the top and the patrol member at the bottom.  And this begs the question, for whom is the program for?  the IH or the patrol member who's paying to be there.  He's the customer after all.  Why doesn't he have a voice in the product he's buying?  Every business in this country is designed around the customer and it is up to them to create, make and provide to the customer what they want.  This isn't happening in the BSA program, and for that the customers are voting with their feet.

 

Using the now out-dated Patrol Method is one of the few ways one can get the "product" they paid for to the customer.  Yet each year that passes, BSA steps further and further away from it. 

 

Why can't the patrol member be the one setting the tone?  After all, he's paying for something in the program and should at least get his money's worth out of it.

 

Yes, I have an IH and a COR, CC and MC's, I am the SM and I have ASM's to help, I generally don't have an SPL unless required to do so by council mandates, I have older boys needing POR's doing functional work and I have PL/APL teams running the patrols.  What I do differently is the PL's are the highest ranking officers in the troop.  They are not elected to terms, but are selected by the customers who expect to get what they paid for.  If not, the PL is replaced by someone who does.  Sometimes out of nowhere.  It's the job of the PL to insure the success of the customer by the product being produced, an outdoor program for boys to learn skills and develop maturity into their adulthood.

 

I was with an blatantly adult led unit that was the "gem of the council" because of the program they ran.  They were an Eagle Mill par excellante.  Most SM's looked with envy on how well it was run.  They didn't have a troop trailer, they had a troop kitchen on wheels, multiple canoes/kayaks and trailers, they were on an annual rotating cylcle of BWCA, Philmont and Sea Base. Yet the dark side of it was there patrols in name only, and the number of boys coming into the troop exceeded the fall membership only to drop back to the original numbers by the time annual recruiting started again.  20 boys in the troop in the fall, recruiting took on 20-30 new boys and by the next fall they were back to the magic number of 20.  Obviously that was the largest number of boys the SM and 15 ASM's could handle.

 

So every time I hear discussions about marketing the BSA brand, membership "improvements", focus changes in the programs, etc.it always seems to boil down to putting the blame on the boys.  They are interested in girls, cars, sports, etc. etc. etc., but no one ever puts the onus of the problems on the dedicated volunteers who are going out of their way to get as much bling as possible out of the process. 

 

I have never seen the customer being the problem.  It's the shoddy product that is being duped on them that is the problem.  Adding more bling and trinkets to the pig isn't going to produce better bacon.

 

How many times does anyone hear "YES, you can do that" vs. "NO, you can't."?  After all, every successful program always assumes the customer is always right, or they go out of business.  So who does the BSA fit into all this?  Look at the handwriting on the wall.  Grasping for straws isn't going to cut it.  Why not take a serious look at what the customer wants for a change?

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I agree with mostly everything you say. Espesically about how some say “follow the chain of command†and ask your PL before anything else when they have no authority.

 

What if there was no PLs, instead a SPL and 1-3 ASPLs? ASPLs would have a job, such as camping, instructional, meetings, or whatever is needed by a troop.

 

 

Just a thought, don’t want to cause a arguement.

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I agree with mostly everything you say. Espesically about how some say “follow the chain of command†and ask your PL before anything else when they have no authority.

 

What if there was no PLs, instead a SPL and 1-3 ASPLs? ASPLs would have a job, such as camping, instructional, meetings, or whatever is needed by a troop.

 

 

Just a thought, don’t want to cause a arguement.

 

The patrol method is designed for young leaders to be able to handle a group of boys in a learning experience.  Youth of the boys' age (according to BP) can handle 6-8 boys effectively.  How then can an SPL handle 30-40 boys when professional teachers can't handle a classroom of 20-25?  The adults are setting the boys up for failure!  The patrol method breaks it down into sizes of groups that will offer the maximum success for fledgling new leaders to try things out.  8 boys to a patrol, 1 PL/APL team should be able to handle it.  8 PL's the SPL/APL should be able to handle it.  At that point, one is at about 65 members of the troop and NO ONE has responsibility for more than 8 boys!  If the troop grows add ASPL's on each taking on up to 8 PLs and the SPL is responsible for handling 8 ASPL's.  Still no one is overwhelmed with more than 8 people to be responsible for and the unit membership is in the hundreds.  Drop the numbers down to 6 per patrol and still one is dealing with hundreds of boys in the unit with only 6 boys to take care of.  The patrol method works if applied correctly.  And just think about how many boys are developing leadership skills along the way.  Of course this would mean the adults would have to get out of the way before any of this could even remotely be possible.  Otherwise one is stuck with the number of boys a SM can handle being the only true leader.  This is why the magic number of 20-30 seems to consistently pop up.  It's the tipping point where even an experienced leader can manage.

Edited by Stosh

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I think my idea would work out better for smaller troops, where there’s only 2-3 small patrols won about 6-8 in each.

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I agree with mostly everything you say. Espesically about how some say “follow the chain of command†and ask your PL before anything else when they have no authority.

 

What if there was no PLs, instead a SPL and 1-3 ASPLs? ASPLs would have a job, such as camping, instructional, meetings, or whatever is needed by a troop.

 

So how is the ASPL function any different than a PL and then there wouldn't be any second functional leader in the patrols either, APL?  With 1 - 3 PL's what is the real need of an SPL or ASPL's?  The idea you propose also allows the SPL to appoint leadership in the patrols (ASPLs) rather than having the members of the patrol select their own leadership.  Isn't the idea really for the patrols to have autonomy and be able to run their own show.  After all if the three patrols were NSP, Regular and Venture, wouldn't they be able to offer a unique opportunity focus for each of them separately?  NSP (Advancment), Regular (Leadership development)  and Venture (High Adventure)?  That way the customer gets a custom made program for their skill and maturity levels.  I see the SPL as rather useless if the patrol method is in place.  I see the SPL becoming necessary when there gets to be 4 or 5 patrols and the coordination between the patrols gets a bit cumbersome for the PL's to focus on their patrol AND coordinating between patrols which shouldn't be their focus anyway.

 

If the patrol method is fully implemented what use would the "troop" be other than providing support for the patrols?

 

 

Just a thought, don’t want to cause a arguement.

 

No argument, just some pitfalls with how it might function under various circumstances.  My point would be try and get the decision making process down at the customer level (patrol level), have them design activities that would be of interest to them, rather than having an SPL/multiple ASPL's that would invite a continuation of top down directed program, telling the customer what the product is rather than letting the customer decide for himself whether or not the product is what he wants.  If he doesn't like what's coming down from the top, he'll just walk away.  That's what I'm trying to avoid.  What's wrong with the customer telling the provider what it is they want?  Then it's up to the unit to provide it, rather than dictating this is the program, take it or leave it.  My fear is they will leave it.

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"The patrol method is designed for young leaders to be able to handle a group of boys in a learning experience.  Youth of the boys' age (according to BP) can handle 6-8 boys effectively.  How then can an SPL handle 30-40 boys when professional teachers can't handle a classroom of 20-25? "

 

The SPL is supposed to deal with the PL's and the warrant officers - QM and the like.  If he wants something involving the Bear Patrol, he goes to the Bear Patrol PL.  And I know you know that.   So the SPL "handles" fewer boys than a PL in the typical troop - IF IT WERE RUN BY THE PATROL METHOD.  That is, a Boy Scout Troop instead of this other thing.

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It would seem that if the SPL were to be elected by all the boys, he would be Senior Troop Leader.  The name is kinda misleading as Senior Patrol Leader.  So if he's the Senior Troop Leader, what's the point of having patrols?  If he is Senior Patrol Leader again, what's the point of having PL's?

 

I have always taught that the SPL is slected by the Patrol Leaders to mentor them in a supporting role the same way patrol members select their PL to mentor and support them in their scouting career. 

 

So who's running the show?  the needs of the patrol members or the SPL?  I have always contended that the needs of the customer take precedent over everything else in a well run organization.

Edited by Stosh

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The scout is not the customer.  He is the beneficiary.  Chartered Organizations charter scout units for the benefit of the scouts, but being the beneficiary does not make the scout either the owner or the customer of the scout unit.

 

A boy is not the customer of his parents.  A boy is not the owner of his parents.  The family relationship is not something that fits the commercial model of a customer and owner.  

 

There are many natural associations and voluntary associations that do not fit that model. Scouting is one of them.

 

Who is running the unit?  The IH or his/her delegate.

Edited by David CO
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I agree with mostly everything you say. Espesically about how some say “follow the chain of command†and ask your PL before anything else when they have no authority.

What if there was no PLs, instead a SPL and 1-3 ASPLs? ASPLs would have a job, such as camping, instructional, meetings, or whatever is needed by a troop.

I believe what you are describing is a Venturing Crew.

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I'm really not interested in a semantics competition, but if you insist.  BSA is a non-profit corporation with franchises all over the United States.  It is intended to provide goods and services to a certain market, i.e. young boys and girls.  The program it offers is designed around attracting that audience.  It makes contracts with individual girls and boys through its franchises to provide a program basically centered around character development, leadership, fun and adventure.  When it fails to provide that to the beneficiary, (aka customer) the customer will shop elsewhere until they find a product that fits it's needs.  The franchise has to meet certain expectations for the corporation or it will lose it's franchise and will need to either go it alone or find another franchise.

 

I really don't know if the situation described is unique or there is a misconception of the free market floating around that isn't the general trend in the business world.  When a corporation fails to meet the needs of the customer, it's market share drops and eventually it goes out of business.  It happens every day.  The more membership the BSA loses, the closer it comes to collapsing altogether.  General Motors used to be too big to fail.  It was the epitome of the business market 40 years ago.  Well, it failed and the government stepped in and bailed them out just to keep them solvent.  I don't think that will be the case if the BSA, which 40 years ago was viewed as too big to fail can't follow the same downward spiral.  Evidence to support this comes out every year in the BSA's annual report.  They are grasping at straws trying to come up with better market share and even expanding it's market as we see happening.  But the underlying cause of the problem is not that one needs to expand the market, but to provide a product the market wants.  Just ask Coca Cola how changing horses in the middle of the stream worked out for them.

 

Until a business wakes up and decides to find out what the customers want and provide it to them, they will continually miss the mark with useless guessing as to what they might want.  Go ask them, then design the program around what they want.  They aren't going to buy it if it doesn't meet their needs.  It's as simple as that.

Edited by Stosh

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I believe what you are describing is a Venturing Crew.

 

I'm think the same thing.  The Venturing program does not use the patrol method.  It is designed more like the standard top down structure used by the military and business entities.  Maybe a "club" or "service organization" would be a better descriptor of a Crew.  President, VP, Sec, Treas, etc.  They focus on a certain activity, fun (local kayak club), service (Lion's, Kiwanis, etc.), but don't focus on a specific program, but something of like interest.  Under those circumstances, they are not trying to develop a knowledge of group dynamics and leadership, it is assumed those issues have already been learned along the way.  By the time youth reach the high school years (14-18) they are mature enough to theoretically handle the adult world of group organization.

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Stosh, it's a historic thing.  The senior Patrol Leader ran the troop activities and his patrol.  Then it became a separate office - Senior Patrol Leader.

 

Since 1930, the SPL leads troop youth activities through the PLs and leads the troop leadership team ("TLC" or" PLC," depending when), with one vote in planning youth activities, subject to the  IH's and Troop Committee's implicit veto power (Which they are trained to rarely use - if they are trained at all.).  The SPL does not directly lead a patrol as, except for matters of safety, the SM is not to directly lead boys.  Obviously, the SPL does not "run" all aspects of the troop.  The IH is the highest authority in a Boy Scout Troop, not the SPL, subject to the authority of the National Council to remove or decline a charter.  I have seen far more SMs than SPLs think they were the top authority.

 

Of course, if it's done wrong, it's not like that, anymore than it's like that if the adults act like leaders of youth activities.

 

The CO is a customer in the sense that it is supposedly receiving services/benefits - supposedly "Boy Scouting," which it has supposedly decided is consistent with its values.  Or it may make up its own program, as many SMs do, pretend it's Boy Scouting, and hope someone is getting benefits.

 

The Scouts are customers in the sense that they too receive services from the program, or so we hope.  BSA absolutely "markets" to the Scouts (and the parents). Customers don't (typically) own the service provider and not all customers pay.  If you like "beneficiaries" or "clients" that's fine too.  They are also customers in that they can take or leave the proffered services -  "vote with their feet" if they don't like the "product" and have done so in large numbers.  Not a perfect analogy but not strained either.

 

So far as I know, Boy Scouting as a unit, council, or national organization, unlike say public school teachers, is not regarded as in loco parentis in any state, so it does not fill a parental role.  

 

Obviously scouts don't own their parents (the unit or the CO) and visa-versa.  

 

Minors cannot make contracts except with leave of court - in all fifty states. (Nor can their parent make binding contracts for them.)

Edited by TAHAWK

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I'm think the same thing.  The Venturing program does not use the patrol method.  It is designed more like the standard top down structure used by the military and business entities.  Maybe a "club" or "service organization" would be a better descriptor of a Crew.  President, VP, Sec, Treas, etc.  They focus on a certain activity, fun (local kayak club), service (Lion's, Kiwanis, etc.), but don't focus on a specific program, but something of like interest.  Under those circumstances, they are not trying to develop a knowledge of group dynamics and leadership, it is assumed those issues have already been learned along the way.  By the time youth reach the high school years (14-18) they are mature enough to theoretically handle the adult world of group organization.

Venturing leadership training - for Venturers - includes material on group dynamics and leadership.  The quality of that material has varied over time and from publication to publication.  Many Venturers first enter Scouting through Venturing. 

 

Many chronological adults have much to learn about leadership and group dynamics.  I listened to a middle-level, very bright telephone company manager, age twenty-six, define "leadership" (which I asked him to do) as consisting solely of giving clear orders. "What else is there?" he asked.  I did not approve his proposed termination of the employment of a twenty-seven year veteran employee (stellar previous evaluations), and we sent the manager off to a Blanchard leadership course - "Situational Leadership."

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A scout unit is not a franchise.  

 

We don't need to use other words, inaccurate words, to describe scouts, units, charters, and Chartered Organizations.  We already have the right words. 

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It always amazes me how people often purposely use management and leadership interchangeably.  Maybe because people do it so much no one notices.

 

Managers focus on the tasks needed to be done.  A PL will have his duty roster all carefully prepared and posted.  He's a good manager, he got the job done.  Now he may delegate that task to another scout and follow up to make sure it got done.  He's a good manager.  He makes the announcement that the roster is posted.  He's a good manager.  Everything is all in it's place, duly organized and has measurable outcomes to indicate success.  It makes him a good manager.

 

But if the boys don't care to look at the bulletin board and would rather ignore the PL, then one can assume he might be a great manager, but he is a lousy leader.

 

I find that the so-called leaders of the troop are often assumed to be leaders.  They come to the meetings prepared, paper work is done, assignments are given out, and yet nothing gets done, the boys don't listen, they don't care what the "leader" has to say and disciplinary problems are a way of life.  SPL's don't get the job done regardless of how much "training" they get, still the boys don't take him seriously and they don't listen.  He's not a leader.

 

One can't "train" a leader.  They can encourage an attitude in the boys that will lead to leadership, but no manual, no lessons, no training is going to produce a leader.

 

My only "training" for my leaders is "Take care of your boys."  Those that do that have far less problems than those that don't.  The best PL/APL team I ever saw was a PL that could lead and an APL that could manage.  Between the two I never saw one problem that together they couldn't solve quickly and to everyone's satisfaction, including the adults standing around watching.  Neither of them Eagled.

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