At some point a new Scoutmaster be trained, and will have studied the resources. Once that’s happened a new Scoutmaster will be reasonably confident that some changes need to be made. These may just be changes of style or they may be fairly systemic. Bear in mind that all change can be challenging, Scouts and adults are typically resistant to it and it can be an unpleasant process if not handled properly. It will be up to you to win hearts and minds when it comes to change; to shepherd your herd of cats through the process. You need vast reserves of patience and equanimity to bring change to any organization.
To my lights there’s three steps to making changes – educating yourself (training, independent study), observation and implementation. I’ve discussed the first, training and study, in previous posts.
Observation – Do a lot of watching and asking questions. Don’t offer opinions or directions at this stage – just listen. Find out why things are the way they are before you start thinking about changing them.
Implementation – once you are convinced that change is needed start by discussing this with your Committee and or patrol leader’s council. Go slow, listen, and win hearts and minds – allow latitude for your opinions and determinations to evolve.
Slow, incremental change is best in many cases. In others it’s about stopping practices altogether. In Scouting some practices are totally unacceptable and must be stopped if they are discovered:
Hazing : read this story and this definition.
Practices not Adhering to Youth Protection : You are trained and know how to apply youth protection practices. Insist that they are followed.
Unsafe Practices: Any activity or tradition not complying with the Guide to Safe Scouting has to stop. Now.
Most other changes deal with the application of the program and will yield to more incremental change. The world is full of Scouts who gain much from Troops and Patrols who make lots of program delivery missteps and mistakes. Once you are trained and have done some studying you’ll want to make improvements – take your time and be cognizant that one person’s ‘improvements’ can appear destructive to others.
Here’s some common missteps or misapplications of the program and advice on how to change them:
Adult-led vs. youth-led: There are a number of opinions on just what constitutes a youth-led program. I discuss it at length all the time. Here’s the first of a series of posts about transitioning from an adult led to youth led model. I highly recommend the book Working The Patrol Method.
Committee Matters: Committee members need to be trained too. Frank Maynard has excellent guidance on troop committee matters at Bobwhite’s Blather.
Advancement Problems: Misunderstandings frequently arise over advancement. This is largely a committee matter but the Scoutmaster usually deals with the difficulties directly. The Guide to Advancement 2011 is the resource. Your troop will make some changes once you read it – I know mine did.