Scouts-L Mail Archive for June of 1999: Patrol Method vs. Corporate Scouting
Patrol Method vs. Corporate Scouting
Sat, 26 Jun 1999 13:32:47 -0400
Anita wrote about problems getting transportation organized and concluded:
> And a last thought: everything in our troop runs this way.
> Is it clear now why I want to draft a Procedures Manual?
My answer would be "No" - I am not sure that a procedures manual really
would solve the problem at all. Too often as adults we tend to think in
terms of the workplace with a myrid of rules, procedures, guidebooks, and
the like. And there is a tendency to want to apply these comfortable
crutches to Scouting. Some would call this "corporate Scouting" as a good
natured jab. :-) Symptoms include using jargon terms like "transcoord".
:-)) Sorry, couldn't resist the tease.
All seriousness aside, Anita got me to thinking about how we view our roles
as adult leaders in Scouting.
The problem Anita described is a difference in philosophy between adults
involved in a unit. In her case the adult leadership has taken a strong
view that the Scouts should plan and manage their activities including
planning transportation with a very strong "hands off" approach.
This unit's leaders may be a little more stringent in applying the idea that
adults should not be doing anything a boy can do for himself. Sometimes
this can be taken to an extreme if reason is not applied.
If you look at the eight methods of Scouting you'll see Patrol Method and
Advancement. We've all heard horror stories of a Troop that has gone too
far with advancement making it the entire purpose instead of using it as
method to get a Scouting's real goals of Character, Citizenship, and
Fitness. Similarly, leaders can get too far into any other method and let
that become the all important thing. We've heard stories where adults
wouldn't let the Scouts run a Troop - way too much adult association. :-))
Here we may have too much focus on Patrol Method and a need to pull back
with some coaching and help on the part of leaders.
To be successful leaders we need to balance between the various methods of
Scouting and use them as need to achieve the ultimate goals of character
development, citizenship preparation, and fitness. In this case that means
the adult leaders need to step back from their hands off approach and talk
to the PLC about why things are not working. The patrol method doesn't work
in a vacumn. It works hand-in-hand with good adult association; e.g.,
advice, counseling, and help (but not taking over).
Being a successful leader does require balancing, exercising discretion,
reacting to new situations, adjusting approach to fit individual needs, and
constant change based on evaluation. You just can't get this in a
procedures manual. Yep, you can write down an ideal way to do something and
then point to it as the authorative source. But that is a very rigid
approach and ignores what we are trying to do with the Scouts. We are
trying to train them, help them to learn skills, and help them to think
situations through. If all we teach them is to rely on an adult's manual,
then what happens when they hit a situation that is not in the manual later
in life and have to think for themselves?
For the adults it is very comfortable to have a rule book, an operations
manual, or whatever you want to call it. Writing one takes a lot of time
and energy. The product can never anticipate every situation and usually is
under constant modification to add new sections each time something comes
up. Eventually it can get so ungainly as to be useless. And the reality is
that in most cases, the guidebook is going to be unread by most parents,
unused by most leaders, and relegated to dust collection as adults change
ideas trying to help kids.
The key to successful Scouting is not writing rule books. Instead it is in
working with other imperfect human beings and trying to stay focused things
that help the Scouts grow. When that is the primary focus, it is much
easier to talk informally between adults about what each can do to help out,
what the adults can do to encourage the youth members, and what coaching is
Please don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating that adults sit in a lawn
chair being cerebrial all day. Nor am I advocating that they throw out
planning, finances, or the like.
There is a place for guidebooks - Short Guidebooks! One of the best I ever
saw was only about five pages in length. It was present to each new member
of a Troop. Inside it contained:
* Contact information for adult leaders, merit badge counselors, and youth
* Meeting place and time
* Calendar of planned activities
* What to buy - uniform and gear
* Troop policies (only a very few on things unique to the Troop)
* Reference to BSA publications on safety, advancement, uniforms, etc.
and that was it. Most of these were kept on bulletin boards and magneted to
refrigerates at the homes of the Scouts. They were short, easy to use, and
frequently used. Now how did they get by with such a short thing?
The adult leaders (SM & Committee) realized that most adults associated with
the unit wouldn't read anything too long and so decided to focus only on the
bare minimum needed. Instead of spending a lot of time on rules, procedures
and the like, they started working on how to use the methods of Scouting,
the huge amount of printed resources already available, and resources on the
Scouting is not intended to be a mirror of corporate America and doesn't
work well using corporate methods. It works best when we get away from
concerns about perfection, "zero defects" or no mistakes, and measurable
results. We are working on intangibles - the things that make youth members
grow into successful adults. Many times you can't measure the results for
years. Adult planning for perfection can rob boys of the opportunity to
learn from mistakes. The trick is to help them by coaching according to
their experience, knowledge, and needs, which are changing all of the time.
There is no single formula that works each time. This means that it can be
a very tough and demanding job to be a Scoutmaster or leader. And leaders
make mistakes too - because it is a tough job.
So my advice is not to rely too heavily on using guidebooks or procedures to
solve problems or achieve goals. They have a place in helping to
communicate essential information, but are not a substitute for the tougher
problem of helping kids to grow.