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LeCastor

Each Patrol Member Needs a Job

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As a Commissioner and trainer of Scoutmasters, I often suggest (strongly) that every Scout in a Patrol needs a job to do. That means every Patrol should have a PL, APL, scribe, quartermaster, historian, webmaster, etc. I don't know how many times I've heard the pushback that, "our Troop already has a quartermaster". 

Patrols should have gear, a blog, meetings (requiring a scribe to take minutes), etc. Troops don't need a quartermaster as much as a Patrol does, provided the Patrol has its own gear (which it should). I think a Troop quartermaster who works with Patrol quartermasters is a good idea, though. 

In essence, the more responsibility given to the Scouts the better! 

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:rolleyes: Pushback from the peanut gallery ...

I certainly didn't have "a job" in my patrol. Each of us had lots of jobs. The guy who signed out the mess kit and tents from the troop QM never got labeled "patrol QM". With 8 guys, you knew who was absent or present and who said what, so we didn't need a scribe. Anyone could carve the victories on the patrol flag pole, and when they did, we didn't call them "historian." If you were the first in the patrol room and swept out any spiders, nobody called you "webmaster."

We had a bunch of jobs: check out gear from the QM, make sure your flag reflected your victories, pay attention to the plan, clean your patrol room, touch base with the guys who couldn't make it to a meeting, raid mom's cupboard for the food you needed, make captions for the Polaroids on the poster boards ...

There's lots of jobs to do. And most have to be done every camp out. So, somebody has to commit to doing those jobs. The PL could commit each scout to doing the same job for a few months, or each month, the PL could ask who's doing what each time. Now, if he has a kid who is really good at doing one of those jobs, he might make him the patrol cook, QM, pole-carver, photo-journalist,  pyro-technician, or whatever ... and brag about him so that the SPL will know that he's capable of filling a troop PoR. Or not. His patrol, his call. The more responsibility given to the PL, the better.

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My question is why? 

  • Can't be for advancement.  "Strictly speaking", only the patrol leader job counts for advancement. 
  • Why does each patrol member have to have an official job?

I think this gets to the philosophy and personality of the troop.  Is the troop advancement focused or focused on teaching the kids responsibility, etc ?  Focused on creating the ideal, perfect troop ?

From my last few years of experience, I'm done with troops that are intensely focused on how things should be done exactly.  Rather, I'd rather find a troop that is doing things.  Camping.  Hiking.  Exploring.  Being active !

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I have to disagree LeCastor, the essence of a patrol is that they organize themselves, with some leadership and formality in the form of a PL.  A functioning patrol will probably fall into a recurring set of roles, the same way any group of people will, but there's no virtue in compelling that or spending a lot of time trying to formalize or enforce that.

If a patrol is struggling then defining some roles for a period of time until they mesh together and find their own level may be helpful, but for the most part the patrols know what tasks  they need to complete and are best left being held accountable for completing them.

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There's a difference between a formal job and something that just needs to get done. Not every scout needs a formal title but they all need to help out, especially on campouts. Designating a patrol QM for a campout is a job and a good way to train leadership. Grub master and clean master are also jobs that unload work from the PL. So that's 5 jobs when you include PL and APL. For the other scouts, who are likely young, giving them something simple, like flag bearer and cheer master gives them easy responsibility at a young age. So I like the idea of giving everyone a job to do.

Using the sports metaphor, each player has a position to play. What better way to develop teamwork than having each player know they contribute and, if they don't, they let their team down? At the same time, scouts can be a bit more fluid. But too often I see scouts with nothing to do - and getting bored - because things are too fluid and a couple of scouts are "taking care" of everything. It's webelos 3 at a local level.

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Thanks, all, for the discussion thus far!

1 hour ago, qwazse said:

There's lots of jobs to do. And most have to be done every camp out. So, somebody has to commit to doing those jobs. The PL could commit each scout to doing the same job for a few months, or each month, the PL could ask who's doing what each time. Now, if he has a kid who is really good at doing one of those jobs, he might make him the patrol cook, QM, pole-carver, photo-journalist,  pyro-technician, or whatever ... His patrol, his call. The more responsibility given to the PL, the better.

This is the point I'm trying to make. Did you roll your eyes at me? ;) 

35 minutes ago, fred8033 said:

My question is why? 

  • Can't be for advancement.  "Strictly speaking", only the patrol leader job counts for advancement. 
  • Why does each patrol member have to have an official job?

Quite simply, my answer is because it's the Patrol Method. Not everything one does has to be for advancement. If you are doing something strictly for advancement, then I don't think you are doing it for the right reason(s). 

 

25 minutes ago, T2Eagle said:

I have to disagree LeCastor, the essence of a patrol is that they organize themselves, with some leadership and formality in the form of a PL.  A functioning patrol will probably fall into a recurring set of roles, the same way any group of people will, but there's no virtue in compelling that or spending a lot of time trying to formalize or enforce that.

If a patrol is struggling then defining some roles for a period of time until they mesh together and find their own level may be helpful, but for the most part the patrols know what tasks  they need to complete and are best left being held accountable for completing them.

How is the disagreeing with me? 

Let's have a moment of Green Bar Bill wisdom:

"You will never get anywhere with a one-man system. The farthest if can bring your Patrol is into the ditch and one might assume that that is exactly the place of all places where you don't want to see it.

"If you want it to succeed you will have to build up a system of organization in which every one of the boys is a part with special duties and special work to perform for the good of the Patrol.

"As you work along you will soon find that the leading of a Patrol is much more than a one-man job, and you will soon find that you need the help of every one of your boys to take care of special details."

(page 67, Handbook for Patrol Leaders, 1929 1st edition)

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I think the pushback, and some shown here so far, is that adults want to make everything "formal" and "official". The Patrol Leader is the one who makes the decision about who does what, based on each Patrol members strengths. The Patrol Leader is the only "formal" and/or "official" role as far as the Scoutmaster should be concerned. 

Now, I don't think there's anything wrong with a Troop of 8 Patrols to have 8 Scouts with QM patches on their sleeves. See what I mean?

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7 minutes ago, LeCastor said:

... Now, I don't think there's anything wrong with a Troop of 8 Patrols to have 8 Scouts with QM patches on their sleeves. See what I mean?

This is where we part ways. The troop's QM in this context is to get account for the troop gear used by 64 scouts. He may need one assistant, he doesn't need 8. Or rather, he already has 16 assistants: they are the PL's and APL's.

The patrol QM is only ever responsible for the gear used by 8 boys, max. That's not a lot of responsibility, especially if the PL and APL are decent chaps and keep everyone well-ordered. Personally, I would only have a PL call his guy a QM if the mess kit is exceptionally shiny, all loose guy lines are in perfect chain knots, and the dining fly drains flawlessly. Even so, the scout is worthy of the title ... but not a patch.

The real cost to over-delegating is a PL stuck with 7 boys who chant "that's not my job" when the correct answer is "Sir, you say jump, I say how high, sir!"

The pinnacle scouting experience is hiking and camping independently with your mates. The best mates are cross-trained for the set of jobs that makes independent hiking and camping feasible.

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12 minutes ago, qwazse said:

The troop's QM in this context is to get account for the troop gear used by 64 scouts.

I hear what you're saying, Q. :D 

Now, I would ask why the Troop needs a QM if each Patrol has its own set of gear in the closet/trailer/corner. I don't want to get hung up on QMs or any particular role here. My point is giving a Troop position takes away from a Patrol position. If we give greater responsibility to more Scouts are we not giving more accountability to more youth?

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I think most of the disagreement here stems from an official or formal "position of responsibility" as opposed to "a job". These are two very different things. The patrol QM might be for a single campout, or he might be so good at it, he continues for the entire year. Regardless, every patrol member should be doing something to help out, whether it is setting up the tents with his buddy, while two others gather firewood. The point is no patrol mate should be sitting around while others are doing something. Thus I have no issue saying "every patrol member needs a job".

There are varying degrees of responsibility within the patrol and troop. I find it difficult to say a troop cannot have more than one QM for POR if there is enough responsibility to share. A troop with 8 patrols vs a troop with 2 patrols? Heck I have seen troop QMs when there was only one functional patrol. IMO most of the PORs are patches not responsibilty anyway in my observations. I would rather that requirement be changed to "service to my patrol, troop, pack over and beyond the basic expectations of a scout"(or something to that effect". The scout would need to demonstrate what he did which exceeds just showing up and leading the opening every once in a while. Sure it is subjective, but as I mentioned many get signed off by having a title without really doing anything. The official positions could still exist, and doing something while wearing the patch should be acceptable. But it is the doing and leading that matters.

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41 minutes ago, LeCastor said:

I think the pushback, and some shown here so far, is that adults want to make everything "formal" and "official". The Patrol Leader is the one who makes the decision about who does what, based on each Patrol members strengths. The Patrol Leader is the only "formal" and/or "official" role as far as the Scoutmaster should be concerned. 

At this point, I can agree.  I've often described it differently, but I think it's similar.  I've viewed it as when a team is working on something whether it's setting up individual tents or cooking dinner or ...  Everyone works.  When cooking, some get water, others start the fire, others find the ingredients, etc.   You don't just do your part and then sit down.  In another case, ... if your tent is up, but your patrol mate's tents are not done, you help your patrol mates.  It's part of being a team and not just individuals.  

A good leader helps the individuals on his team find their purpose to be on the team.  It's part of working together.  

My fear is making it official or overly pompous.  I swear I've seen adults have custom patches made that say things such as patrol grub master or patrol quartermaster.  

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@DuctTape and @fred8033, you see my point now. 

How many times have Scouts gotten bored and quit because they had nothing to do? A Patrol Leader should be working with each member of the Patrol to make sure responsibility and accountability is shared.

35 minutes ago, qwazse said:

The real cost to over-delegating is a PL stuck with 7 boys who chant "that's not my job" when the correct answer is "Sir, you say jump, I say how high, sir!"

I don't think Green Bar Bill ever said anything like this. Instead he quoted the Three Musketeers: "All for one, and one for all!" :D 

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11 minutes ago, DuctTape said:

I think most of the disagreement here stems from an official or formal "position of responsibility" as opposed to "a job".

I agree.  I've seen troops that have multiple ASPLs as those ASPLs were assigned different responsibilities.  But sometimes it seems like titles are being created to give people a patch.  For example, eight quartermasters ?  Do you then have a senior quartermaster patch and then patrol quartermaster patches?  At some point we are teaching the bureaucracy of middle management instead of leadership.  It's scouting.  It's supposed to be simple and structured around outings.  

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When our troop grew to 100 scouts, the PLC was overwhelmed with the responsibility using the old standard troop assignments, so they added two more ASPLs. And that fixed their problem for about 18 months. Then I was approached by the SPL who told me I would be mad because he removed the two ASPL positions. Hey, I'm always impressed with scouts making executive decisions. I wasn't mad, I was proud.

The SPL was pretty sharp and knew how to run a more efficient program. But, we really did need those added responsibilities at the time the PLC created them. What I'm saying is the needs and requirements of the patrols change over time, so we shouldn't be surprised when job structure changes to fit the immediate needs.

My scouts will tell you that I want is for each scout to grow from their experience. If they are bored, something needs to change. And if the leadership is overwhelmed, something also needs to change. Fixed job structures aren't a bad thing for starters, but scouts should learn to adapt and not be afraid of change. Truth is, scouts by nature will adapt and change, because by nature, they like to take the path of least resistance. It's the adults that tend to be rigid and obstructing change. They don't see the patrols day to day struggles, and it is easier keeping track of a familiar structure. They also like the path of least resistance.:laugh:

Barry 

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12 minutes ago, fred8033 said:

Do you then have a senior quartermaster patch and then patrol quartermaster patches?

The patch isn't the point. The "job" is the idea here. 

How many times have we seen a Troop campout where 2-3 Scouts from six different Patrols showed up, causing the Scoutmaster to make the decision to create an ad hoc weekend-long Patrol? Might the fact that each Patrol member has a job create a sense of ownership where each member is compelled to show up consistently for each outing?

Edited by LeCastor
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