Journey to Excellence

Long-Range Planning: an Alternate Proposal

Posted on Updated on

Traditionally in BSA units, National recommends that units do an annual planning conference one time per year. This is designed to discuss the budget, annual calendar, and longer-term projects, like high adventure outings. The idea is that at least once per year that the unit makes sure that it is staying on course. This is usually done concurrently with the annual program calendar.

The result is that the unit has a full agenda to talk about the calendar. Dealing with other long range issues gets varying discussion and analysis. For units that do the planning as part of an evening meeting, they run out of time quickly. For units that have a full retreat, they have plenty of time, but may have different items on their agenda.

Compounding the problem, most officers of the unit only plan to be with the unit until their son (and soon to be, daughters) leave the unit. This makes planning a much shorter term vision than the unit probably needs. But in terms of prioritzation, it allows the players to focus on what affects them and shorten the agenda.

Scouting already has a tendency to “meeting” our volunteers to death. We tend to have too many short meetings rather than taking the time to do a retreat once.

Read the rest of this entry »

How are we doing? Read your Finish Line Report

Posted on

As BSA puts more and more effort into Journey to Excellence as a method for units to assess how they are doing, new tools are cropping up.

If you log into your account, pull down the menu. Some leaders should be able to see the “JTE Reports.”

This menu option allows you to pull up a report that shows what statistical data that council has received about your unit. The report has several line items numbered as “#1” or “#4.” These numbers indicate a measurement line-item on the JTE system. These lines are very important.

If your unit has reported their advancement properly to council, a statistic showing the percentage of scouts advancing this year will appear. If you have reported your service hours, the total reported to date for the year will appear.

If any of the lines are blank for your unit, where you think your unit has done work, you may want to make sure that you have a person designated to follow up on the missing data.

Service hours are the biggest problem. Units forget to enter the data regularly.  If you have questions, look at the National website. Remember we are working for 1 billion service hours in scouting by 2020.

These reports are worth printing out at the end of each quarter, so April 1, 2017 is a good time to take a look at it. Take it to your unit committee to review with other reports like the treasurer’s report. This will make year end JTE reporting simple, since you will have fixed problems each quarter.

Magic of 5% Improvement

Posted on

At the recent Unit Key 3 Conference, I spoke about the need to work with your Unit Commissioner and your Unit Key 3 (i.e., Chartered Org. Rep., Chair, and Unit Leader) to do a Unit Service Plan.

A Unit Service Plan is a six-month “business plan” for your unit. It examines your annual planning & budgeting, your programming (like camping and meetings), your leadership succession plan, your adult leader training status, and your recruitment and retention status.

If your unit is not examining these departments on a regular basis, it is easy to allow one part or another to slide. The worst case scenario is you ignore the slide until the slide is a death-spiral do you stop and try to fix it.

The goal of doing regular Unit Service Plans is to prevent this scenario from occurring.

If your Unit Key 3 meets with your Unit Commissioner in the next 90 days, we would help you define ways to succeed in a predictable and healthy manner.

One trick is building your unit is to set goals of 5% across the board improvement. Five percent does not sound like much. But it is.

If your unit has 30 boys and it grows 5%, it means that you have replaced boys who have aged out or dropped out, keeping your retention at 100%, then adding an additional 2 boys (it is hard to have 1.5 boys, so I rounded up).

In programming it means moving from 10 monthly events to 11 events (rounding again). If you have 20 events, you move to 21. More opportunities for more scouting leads to more opportunities to find the one event that sparks the passion of one more scout. With the spark ignited, he is easier to retain, even when his parents are offering different extracurricular activities.

A five percent increase in fundraising, for example by adding camp cards to your existing practices, means that you have more money to use in programming that one more event mentioned above.

A five percent increase in trained adults means one more volunteer to staff events.

A five percent increase in advancement means you are less likely to lose scouts because they are progressing and are actively engaged in the program.

Now has your unit improved by 5%? I would argue not. You have add more financing, more capacity for adult leadership, more boys, more events. You are a much healthier unit.

When your next recruitment cycle hits, you will likely gain more than just 2 boys, because you have that much better of a program to pitch.

Schedule to sit down with your Unit Commissioner and see where you can plan a 5% improvement plan. Your Unit Commissioner’s job is to help you find the resources to make your plan work. You will be amazed at how quickly your unit will grow in a short period of time.


Upcoming Cub Leader Trainings

Posted on

Part of Journey to Excellence emphasizes that Cub leaders are trained. North Star District requires that all leaders with greater than 90-days tenure be trained in their position by November 30, 2016 in order to be renewed in that position. In order to serve that requirement, the District making sure that training is widely available and publicized to facilitate leaders meeting this requirement.

To qualify for Bronze level of training (the 20th to 50th percentile of units), one person, whether Cubmaster, Den Leader, or Pack Trainer, needs to be trained in position specific training.

To qualify for Silver level of training (the 51st to 80th percentile of units nationwide), all scouters leading youth, whether Cubmaster or Den Leader, needs to be trained.

To qualify for Gold level of training (the 81st to 100th percentile of units nationwide), all scouters leading youth and 2/3rds of the committee members need to be trained for their positions.

While BSA’s e-training makes getting the de minimis training easier, the best training in scouting is face-to-face. The trainer may not be as articulate as the paid actors on the BSA’s website, live trainers are able to adapt the message for local needs and to reflect more information about local scouting. They are able to answer specific questions or direct to local council or district resources.

Because North Star District strongly prefers face-to-face training, the District is offering the most important Cub Scout training repeatedly the week of Labor Day. Each night from Tuesday, September 6, 2016 through Friday, September 9, 2016 a combination of these course are being offered. Currently these trainings are scheduled to be held at St Luke’s United Methodist Church, 100 West 86th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46260 (Meridian St and 86th St).

We are asking each pack committee chair to emphasize the importance for all pack leaders to have their respective training done by September 9th.

If this creates scheduling conflicts for the leader, other districts are offering these trainings in the following 45 days. Del-Mi (Carmel/Fishers’ District) will be offering these trainings on October 1, 2016. Other trainings at the various scout service centers in the Council are being offered throughout September and October. A link to the council calendar is here.

If your unit has more than 3 adults who can participate in a class, district will send a trainer to your unit to provide the training. You just need to give us 14 days notice, beginning after August 26, 2016. JTE


Journey to Excellence Patches

Posted on

Since our District did so well on Journey to Excellence for 2015, we now get to celebrate our success.

Please make sure to order your JTE patches from the Scout Shop to give to your scouts and scouters. They can put it on their left sleeve (Cub, Scouts).

This is very important for the long-term success of your unit. As I often repeat, we wear patches of recognition for personal recognition but also — and I think more importantly — as an invitation to tell a story.JTE

If you see a scout wearing a Philmont patch, you are more likely to ask about his adventure. If you have been to Philmont, too, you will share your story. This creates a personal bond between strangers.

If a new parent visiting your unit looks at your JTE patch on your sleeve, they may ask what that means. “Gold” or “silver” sounds impressive. It is an invitation for you to brag about the strength of your unit.

If you are at summer camp, other scouters may ask you questions about what your unit does. They may never acknowledge the patch, but they find your unit’s experience more powerful. This is a quiet way for us to support other units.

So, please, make sure that your unit has and wears their JTE patches.

Last note: if you also have 100% Boy’s Life subscriptions, that is a slightly different JTE patch.


Service Hours Reporting Problems

Posted on Updated on

At the last District Committee meeting on February 4, 2016, District Executive Con Sullivan reported that there is a bit of confusion about service hours reporting. Even this writer has been guilty of the confusion.

Apparently there are two separate service hour reporting websites. They do not share data!

The national website, accessible through, reports directly to National Council and is used for your unit’s national statistics such as contribution to the World Movement of Scouting’s billion service-hour challenge, but not Journey to Excellence scoring.

We know this is a problem because many of our largest and most successful troops have reported zero service hours on one or both of these websites. At the same time, these units have had Eagle Scouts reporting hundreds if not thousands of service hours. The scouts are getting proper credit, but it is not passing on to the units.

Journey to Excellence has a separate scoring for service hours which can receive a separate gold-level recognition.

Make sure your unit secretary or registrar is reporting service hours to both National on and the same data to the local website at which is linked on the front page of

To prevent this being a problem in the future, District will be reviewing these statistics quarterly. For troops, we will be looking at Eagle project reports against unit reports. Discrepancies will be pointed out to units.

For Cub Scout Packs, we will be looking at zer0-hour reports as needing updating.

Remember, we are part of a world-wide effort to demonstrate the value of scouting to our communities. Your reports help that marketing effort.

Planning for JTE 2016

Posted on

Based on District’s 2015’s success with JTE, we need to begin planning for 2016’s success.

Journey to Excellence is designed to do more than congratulate successful units.

Journey to Excellence is designed to help units plan the program year, evaluate the unit’s strengths and weaknesses, and provide clarity about what characteristics make a succesful unit.

In order to obtain the full benefits of JTE, a unit should look at the 2016 JTE Scorecard now and begin planning for this year’s success.

The unit should also plan for the Unit Key 3 to meet with their Unit Commissioner in the next 60 days. To do so, review for your Unit Commissioner or contact District Commissioner Jeff Heck for more information.

Let’s try for 100% unit gold in 2016!

Gold Everywhere in 2015

Posted on Updated on

img_2535 The Journey to Excellence program is designed to encourage best practices from all units, districts, and local councils. BSA summarizes the scoring system in its brochure:

The philosophy from the start of JTE has been to set up a system where 10 percent of the councils will achieve gold status, the next 40 percent will achieve silver status, and the next 30 percent will achieve bronze status. Therefore:

• Gold status = top 10 percent
• Silver status = 50th percentile to the 89th percentile
• Bronze status = 20th percentile to the 49th percentile

With this background in mind, we are thrilled to report that our units’ success with JTE this year has made a significant impact on local scouting.

North Star District had 22 units reach gold, 7 reach silver, 2 reach bronze, and 3 tender no report. Of the 3 that did not report, most would have been gold or silver.

As a result of your efforts to report the unit JTE status, we have had a significant impact!

North Star District made District Gold for the first time in years!

Not only that, North Star District making District Gold pushed Crossroads of America Council the last couple of criteria across the Council Gold threshold! (It was touch-and-go down to the last calculations.)

This means that the simple act of your units reporting their annual efforts and successes results in all of Central Indiana’s scouting being nationally recognized as one of the 10% of local council’s nationwide.

Do not underestimate the value of your unit’s contribution to the larger story of scouting!

Congratulations North Star District and Crossroads of America Council.


Rechartering Updates 11-21-2015

Posted on

Note about this report’s completeness: This report is based solely on information available to the District Commissioner as of the date of publication. Due to lags in information-sharing from the Council registrar or information communicated to other Commissioners, there may be missing information in this report. Sorry for any confusion that these information-gaps cause. Your assistance in filling gaps is always appreciated. Pack 625 is intentionally omitted from this report. Troop 191 is only included for purposes of Journey to Excellence reporting.

As of Saturday afternoon, here is the current status of North Star District’s Application for Rechartering and Journey to Excellence Reports.

First, the units that have turned in their Applications for Recharter include

Received recharter 151121

Thank you again to our units for moving rechartering along quickly.

In the next report, we will be looking at any units that have been officially marked as “Completed Rechartering.” This means that these units have completed all necessary paperwork, YPT reporting, JTE reporting, and payments of dues. Our goal is to have 100% of our units “Completed Rechartering” before Thanksgiving this week. Council Commissioner’s deadline for completing rechartering is November 30, 2015.

(Read below the fold for reports on Journey to Excellence results in the District.)

Read the rest of this entry »