Should you skew the numbers?

jte_numbers_200I heard from a pack committee chair, who asked me:

Our unit commissioner was helping me with our charter renewal and suggested that we register one of our den leaders as an assistant Cubmaster instead. He could still function as den leader, but it would make our Journey to Excellence numbers better. We’d get another 50 or 100 points if we did. Sounds like a good idea. What do you think?

Journey to Excellence is a tool for evaluating how well your unit is serving youth. It measures a dozen or so objectives and assigns points depending on whether your unit meets the objectives. It’s not perfect, but as measurement tools go, it’s pretty good. It was carefully thought out  and developed by an experienced team of volunteer unit Scouters and commissioners and is adjusted each year to improve its effectiveness

As such, it has two purposes that benefit your unit:

  • It reaffirms the areas in which your unit is doing a good job serving your Scouts.
  • It identifies areas where your unit could improve.

By tilting the numbers to make your unit look better, you defeat both of these purposes. It makes you look like you’re doing better than you are, and it doesn’t show where you could tune it up a bit.

Packs, troops and crews should not design their program to score highly on Journey to Excellence – that’s not the point. Nor should they circumvent its principles just to score higher. It’s a snapshot of how your unit looks at year’s end, and to skew the numbers would be like putting on makeup so you’ll look better when the camera clicks.

Adult volunteers should be primarily doing the job they’re registered in – not moved around just to satisfy or boost JTE’s scorecard. You shouldn’t just plug someone in on your roster if they’re not doing that job. By the same token, the Cubmaster shouldn’t double as a den leader or cover a committee function, for example. So unless the den already has two leaders (and one is willing to change positions), you should avoid registering one as an assistant Cubmaster so your numbers look better.

Of course, your assistant Cubmaster (whose job is to back up the Cubmaster and help with his duties) can also help, but not function as, the den leader for his son’s (or any other) den. A successful pack has plenty of adult help in areas where it’s needed, and nobody should be wearing two or more hats.

You can learn from this year’s evaluation, identify areas that need improvement, and recruit an assistant Cubmaster during the next year. If you do, you’ll come by those 50 points honestly.


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3 Replies to “Should you skew the numbers?”

  1. This is a great post. A few years ago, our District (before I was on the District Committee) made the decision to record a CFOS donation for the next year as the current donation to allow our District to meet its Gold level. Needless to say, we failed for the next two years to even make Bronze. When I became District Chair, there was ample angst about our District making it back to Gold. I continued to receive “ways” to “massage” the results to achieve the Gold. I did not accept them and after being Bronze last year we have now returned to the Gold level we desired, without “massaging the numbers”. Could we be better, certainly. Now our District goal is to achieve more points by continuing to provide service to our units and provide leadership to our Council. A win-win for the youth we are challenged to support, but also a win-win for our Committee members.

    1. Michael,

      Thanks for sharing your experience with your district committee.

      We naturally want what’s best for our kids, and being able to wear the gold emblem on our Scouts’ (and our) uniforms can be a point of pride. We may also be fearful of our parents’ reaction when we tell them that we achieved Bronze (or nothing at all) instead of Silver or Gold. They’ll wonder why their pack or troop isn’t as good as the others. That’s not a reason to fudge the numbers – it opens up an opportunity.

      • For the parent who asks “Why didn’t we make Bronze?”, ask them “Would you be willing to volunteer to be Assistant Cubmaster? We would have made it if you did.”
      • For the parent who asks “Why didn’t we make Silver”?, tell them “We didn’t have enough adult support to go on enough campouts last year. Would you be willing to help?”
      • For the parent who asks “Why didn’t we make Gold”?, ask if they could organize a conservation project for the pack to do.

      Complaints from parents are rare, fortunately, but the key to doing better on Journey to Excellence can often be linked to how well the parents support the unit program, especially at the Cub Scout level.

  2. very good article and I agree whole heartedly. I’ve argued this point a number of times, don’t focus on the bronze, silver or good. Our goal or main focus is to deliver a quality program to the units and when we do this, you’ll get your awards. Massaging the numbers does nothing to improve the program

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