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Breakthrough Scouting and Numbers

Organizations that do nothing but measure the numbers rarely create breakthroughs. Merely better numbers.

Seth Godin via Seth’s Blog: Colors or numbers?

One responsibility of every Scouter is keeping track of numbers. We track advancement, participation, membership, and fundraising numbers at the individual, unit, district, council, regional, and national levels because these numbers are indicators of  successful program delivery. But, make no mistake, numbers are only indicators.

When we observe numbers they can tell us things.

If we chase numbers we get in trouble.

Good people with the best of intentions can make big mistakes when they chase numbers.

Author of Men of Schiff , Win Davis, recently posted this history of a misguided number-chasing B.S.A. initiative called “Boypower 76″. The goal of the initiative was laudable, but the result was disastrous. The story Win shares is a great illustration of mistaking indicators for a true breakthrough.

From time to time I hear from Scoutmasters who almost apologize for having a ‘small troop’ of just a dozen (or less) Scouts. I also hear from folks who are quick to point out that their troop numbers 100 or more. Big isn’t bad, but big isn’t better. Bigger numbers don’t automatically translate into better experiences or more breakthroughs.

I also hear individual stories:  I never imagined they would lead so well, my son has grown and matured in a way I never thought possible,  this troubled Scout has turned a corner for the better,  I was touched by the way our Scouts responded to this situation.

That’s what I call breakthrough Scouting.

Breakthrough Scouting happens one individual at  a time, not in massive statistics.

Numbers may indicate a breakthrough but breakthroughs are harder to quantify.

We make a difference in our communities when we shift our focus from tracking indicators to creating breakthroughs.

When an individual Scout reaps the benefits of Scouting we’ve succeeded.

Our focus is on the happiness, growth and experience of the individual Scout. Individual Scouts achieve breakthroughs as members of patrols, troops, packs, dens and crews but we always keep an eye on the individual. When they progress the larger group progresses, when they learn they increase the group ‘s knowledge.

We should be fostering the conditions that create breakthroughs. Every decision, every initiative, everything we put our energy into should ultimately advance the main aim of Scouting for the individual Scout.

Numbers are useful indicators, we ought to continue to keep and eye on them.

If we aim our efforts at creating breakthroughs the numbers will take care of themselves.