Measures and Metrics, continued

As a timely followup to my earlier post on the value of collecting and using statistical data to determine whether the Scouting program is successful, we now have a new set of criteria from National, starting next year, to replace the Centennial Quality Unit program with something called Journey to Excellence. If you haven’t seen the requirements yet, you can download them here.

As many complaints as there were about the CQU program, at least it allowed units to define their own vision of statistical success, and as long as your Unit Commissioner agreed, you could pretty much write your own ticket. I have not seen any figures on how many troops, packs or crews got away with grazing by with minimal requirements, and how many actually set, and met, meaningful goals.

Now, we have the new program – Journey to Excellence. In it, we go back to measuring our units against a set of numerical standards set forth by National. At first, I was apprehensive.  Would the figures be realistic? Would we make the grade? After reviewing the criteria with respect to our troop, however, it appears that we pass – and with flying colors. As we currently stand, we would qualify at the Silver level, and with one or two minor upgrades, we’d hit Gold, no problem. We already do everything they say we should be doing.

But who among us is satisfied with the status quo?  Do you feel that your troop or pack is doing “just fine” and there is no way we can do better? Who doesn’t feel there is room for improvement? If we are already making the grade – at an A-plus level – where is the incentive to provide a better program? For many units, particularly high-achieving ones, this program could become just another meaningless patch to hand out every year at recharter time. Sure, it provides guideposts, and for a great many units, they are badly needed, but it serves as little more than a verification that a pack or troop is doing things the way they are supposed to be done.

The question remains: How do these measurements really impact the only thing that matters – the boy’s experience in Scouting? What difference does it make if boys are advancing at a certain percentage, if they are learning life lessons in the outdoors and having fun? Advancement is, in fact, a method, not a goal. You might as well have a line item for percentage of uniformed youth. I’d rather have a troop of enthusiastic boys, willing to learn and lead, wearing t-shirts to every meeting and campout, advancing as they can, than a troop focused on pushing the boys upward in ranks – an “Eagle mill” as it’s been called.

Don’t get me wrong – these are terrific goals for any unit to ascribe to. Any troop or pack that makes the Gold level is truly doing many things right. It’s still necessary to step back from the numbers and examine the only number that counts – the number of enthusiastic boys who are active in your unit, and the number of parents who are willing to put hands-on to make the program work.

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