In a recent discussion with our troop Scoutmasters, I found myself using the term “goals and objectives”. Instantly I was reminded of those management concepts that were to revolutionize the corporate world. Remember “Management by Goals and Objectives”? It’s a concept developed by the management guru Peter Drucker in the 1950s, which ironically he later downplayed as not the end-all of management, but rather another tool in your toolbox of methods. Goals and objectives are not the same thing. Goals are broad concepts and general intentions; objectives are specific, tangible, and precise points that can be measured and which will carry the organization toward the goal – hopefully a SMART goal, which we should all know about by now.
However, the term still fits what we do in Boy Scouts, and it’s a great way to add direction to the troop program. How many times has the PLC noodled around for an hour, filling in the blanks in the troop meeting planning sheet, assigning flags to the Frogs, the game to the Giraffes and the skills to the Salamanders? They’ll pick a topic from the Big Book (Troop Program Features) and throw in some activities from this month’s theme. If you’re lucky, they’ll wrap it all up, the SPL will make sure every patrol leader has a copy and knows his part, and off they go on another month of so-so, poorly-attended troop meetings.
But what gets accomplished? Maybe some Scout skills taught, or a game played, but is anything achieved? Challenge your SPL to have a quick goal-setting session around the chosen monthly theme at the beginning of the Patrol Leaders’ Council meeting. Encourage him to have the PLC define what the successful outcome of the month’s worth of troop meetings will be. Each topic in Troop Program Features gives Scouting Outcomes, which are broad goals that the topic’s chapter works toward, and a variety of activities that all build toward the goal. Specific objectives can and should be set by the PLC, using these outcomes as a guide and taking the troop’s needs into consideration. If the theme is Backpacking, for instance, the outcomes include physical fitness, appreciation of the outdoors and enhanced self-confidence. Specific objectives can include every Scout having an understanding of what goes into a backpack and why, how to cook a backpacking meal, and how to get along with others on the trail. Then, the troop meeting program can come to life with skills instruction and practice toward these goals, with the older, more experienced backpackers giving the younger Tenderfeet the benefit of their knowledge. The monthly camp-out that they plan will then build on the skills learned in troop meetings and put them into practice, perhaps in this case with a short backpacking hike with lunch cooked on the trail.
Goals and objectives are important. Without a destination, it doesn’t matter where we go or how we get there. With something to aim for, we can better plan our route, our activities, and our program.