These notes are my attempt to share my perspective on the development of a Boy Scouts of America learning delivery idea which would become Scouting University in April 2014. While Scouting University has not turned out to be what we planned, several people invested a great deal of time and thought into what I believe was a wonderful concept.
Since none of us who worked on this are a part of Scouting University any longer, I wanted to be sure their efforts are remembered.
Soon after I arrived at the BSA’s national office in February 2011, to become the team leader of volunteer development (training) in the program impact department, I discovered I was now the “owner” of several goals of the BSA’s 2011-2015 National Strategic Plan.
One on my goals was cross-department and cross-group:
In early May 2011 I met with Doug Krofina, the director of professional development and my counterpart on the professional training side. I told him about the goal and suggested we needed to get together to see what we could do to achieve the goal. He suggested we meet after the National Council Meeting later that month.
Doug and I had worked on a training course several years earlier and I had great respect for him. He had turned me onto the Gallup “Strengths Finder” and team success theories I used in Kennewick.
On June 9, we had the first of what became almost-weekly “white boarding” sessions on the topic of joint training resources.
Over the summer our conversations began to stray into the concerns we both had about the state of all training in the BSA. We discussed the challenges presented by the reality that each individual department in the BSA was responsible for all aspects of training in their subject matter field – usually without any involvement of the volunteer or professional training teams. We felt this led to inconsistent, and quite often ineffective from a learning standpoint, training being offered to volunteers and professionals.
From the beginning, and throughout the development of the learning delivery concept, we believed one of the most important paths to learning success was coordination of learning design, development, and delivery. We knew learning needed to be a coordinated, cooperative, team effort among the topics’ subject matter experts, those who would eventually deliver the training, and training designers. Too much of our training was done by only one or two of those elements without consulting the others.
• We thought it was wrong on so many levels the training courses for the individual members of a district Key-3 were created by three separate BSA departments/committees.
• We found there were four different training courses, from three different sources, on the basic task of how to organize a new unit.
• Volunteer and professional designers were creating training which trainers had a difficult time delivering and new leaders had a hard time understanding.
• Some courses were only available on-line and could not be taken by a still significant population of Scouters without broadband access.
While not as critical, but a barrier to learning nevertheless, of special concern to us were the preponderance of terrible PowerPoint decks used in training – and presentations in general.
Late in the summer it became clear – to us at least – if we wanted to have consistent, effective training in the BSA, a single training department to manage and coordinate all BSA training might be the best answer.
Doug and I were aware from the start if our idea progressed it could mean the end of the teams we were leading and one, or both, of us might lose our team’s “control” over the learning process for our part of the BSA. But we both thought it was the right thing to do for the Boy Scouts of America and effective learning.
We decided we should begin to rapidly move the idea up the chain, to Deputy Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock who encouraged BSA staff and members to bring him new ideas.
Out of protocol we met with our staff leaders to tell them what we had planned to discuss with Wayne. While my staff leaders – Program Impact Department Manager Chuck Ezell, Impact Group Director Chuck Keathley, and Assistant Chief Scout Executive Gary Butler – encouraged both the plan and the meeting, Doug met with significant resistance from the HR leadership. But Doug felt the resistance had more to do with ownership of employee training than the idea itself.
Much to Doug’s credit, he agreed we should go ahead with the presentation. On September 28, 2011 we met with Wayne to present our concept of a single learning department.
Wayne was supportive of the idea, and to our surprise he told us a single training department had been considered and tabled before by BSA leadership. However, he encouraged us to continue to develop our thoughts, and to prepare a “white paper” for Gary Butler.
We presented the following to Gary in early October:
Boy Scouts of America
Training Department – Draft
Currently training in the Boy Scouts of America is not only spread across two separate development teams in two separate groups, there are training functions or responsibilities in several other departments. While in some cases this may be necessary, this diffusion of responsibility creates a duplication of effort, increased costs, contradictory messages, contradictory methods, a “we-they” mentality, and an inconsistent “language” of Scouting.
A BSA Training Department, created initially by merging the existing Professional Development and Volunteer Development teams, would give the Boy Scouts of America a common direction to train the professional and volunteer mission delivery personnel of the movement. It would further provide a resource for other departments such as supply, camp staff, IDG, marketing, and national office personnel to develop and design training. Cost efficiencies would result as personnel resources are shared, and as the training design function is moved out of various other mission delivery teams.
The fundamental mission of the department would be to be responsible for development, design, and delivery of training, using industry best practices adapted to the BSA culture. Using the BSA model, volunteer and professional subject matter experts would be teamed with professional and volunteer training designers to carry out the mission. The training department would work with and through other departments and their subject matter experts to create necessary training that is consistent and meets desired learning objectives. Training would be delivered through multiple Centers of Excellence, instructor-led courses, learning cohorts, video conferences, and e-learning. Centers of Excellence would include outstanding local councils and districts, BSA conference centers, and national council facilities.
The department would be able to establish training and trainer standards, consistent lesson plans and syllabi, and training metrics to ensure that learning has occurred over multiple learning/teaching platforms. Working across volunteer-professional lines would allow increased and shared competencies. District executives, commissioners, and Scoutmasters would share a common post-training “language” and understanding of concepts and methods. Centers of Excellence would give professionals and volunteers formalized, experiential, “workplace-based” learning opportunities.
The BSA Training Department:
• Reports to the Impact Group Director
• Responsible for design, development, and delivery of all training related to mission delivery: local council professional staff; unit, district, council, and national volunteers
• Serves as a training resource for all other departments of the BSA
• Creates a BSA national learning strategy using industry best practices managed to fit within the BSA culture
• Manages a BSA learning management system that helps national and local volunteers and professional conduct, participate in, and manage training.
A New Project
Gary told us he liked the idea and had in fact been having similar thoughts – which we thought might be the case because he had strongly encouraged the meeting with Wayne. He was also behind my strategic plan goal which started the whole conversation. Gary had already done some extensive research of corporate training, including attending learning conferences and the Disney Institute.
On October 28, 2011 Gary appointed a project team to determine a BSA learning strategy and the viability of the learning department concept. That team consisted of Doug, Gary, former volunteer training committee chair Dan Zaccara (who was also on the HR task force), and me.
The four of us worked on refining a new white paper for presentation to Wayne. The first meeting was with Dan, Doug, and me in room 302 of the national office on November 16, 2011. At that meeting we reviewed the draft Doug and I had prepared, and using Dan’s thoughts and Gary’s comments from a November 13 e-mail in which he shared some of his detailed thoughts on training, came up with the following to present to Wayne:
Boy Scouts of America
BSA training (development) is currently spread between multiple departments. The departments with primary training responsibility are the Center for Professional Development and Program Impact. In addition, there are several other departments that have training functions and responsibilities. While in some cases this may be necessary, this diffusion of responsibility creates a duplication of effort, increased costs, contradictory messages, and contradictory methods. This duplication creates “silos” of knowledge and a gap between what employees are taught and what volunteers are taught, thus perpetuating we/they mentalities between volunteers and employees.
One BSA Training Department, created initially by merging the existing Professional Development and Volunteer Development teams, would give the Boy Scouts of America a common direction to train and develop the professional and volunteer mission delivery personnel of the movement. Cost efficiencies would result as personnel resources are shared, and as the training design function is reduced among various other mission delivery teams – including Membership Impact, Finance Impact, Mission Impact, and Outdoor Adventures. It would further provide a resource for other departments such as supply, camp staff, IDG, marketing, and national office personnel to develop and design training. The organization would be able to put the best training resources into whatever situation or need. An enhanced training effort will allow us to align with the desired outcomes of Journey to Excellence.
How It Would Work
The fundamental mission of the department would be to be responsible for development, design, and delivery of training and leadership development courses, using industry best practices adapted to the BSA culture. Using the BSA model, volunteer and professional subject matter experts would be teamed with professional and volunteer designers to carry out the mission. The training department would work with and through other departments and their subject matter experts to create the courses they need to support and enhance the program – both functional and developmental – that is consistent and meets desired learning objectives. Training would be delivered through multiple Centers of Excellence, instructor-led courses, learning cohorts, video conferences, and e-learning. Centers of Excellence would include outstanding local councils and districts, units, BSA conference centers, national council facilities.
The BSA “Training” Department:
• Would enhance performance support and product delivery.
• Would provide single-point accountability, as determined by the Chief.
• Working with and through the appropriate teams/departments, responsible for design, development, and delivery of courses related to mission delivery: local council professional staff; unit, district, council, and national volunteers
• Working with and through the appropriate teams/departments, responsible for design, development, and delivery of courses related to leadership development: local council professional staff; unit, district, council, and national volunteers
• Serves as an instructional design resource for all other departments of the BSA
• Creates a BSA national learning strategy using industry best practices managed to fit within the BSA culture.
• Manages a BSA learning management system that helps national and local volunteers and professional conduct, participate in, and manage training and development.
• Will enhance volunteer/professional relationships by offering instruction that is consistent across responsibilities and “languages.”
• Protects the Brand by offering opportunities including coaching to improve facilitating and presentation skills from other teams and departments.
• Establishes and enforces standards for lesson plans presented by other teams and departments.
• Having one training department meets two of the six BSA Pillars: Act in the Greater Interest and Impact youth as one family, one BSA.
The department would be able to establish training and trainer standards, identify gaps, establish a process, and create consistent lesson plans, syllabi, and metrics to ensure that learning has occurred over multiple learning/teaching platforms. Working across volunteer-professional lines would allow increased and shared competencies as well as promoting a common language and knowledge base that pervades the organization. This common knowledge base would allow district executives, commissioners, and Scoutmasters to share a common post-training “language” and understanding of concepts and methods. Centers of Excellence would give professionals and volunteers formalized, experiential, “workplace-based” learning opportunities.
Discussion and seek approval of basic concept
Establish and publish a project charter by December 1, 2011
Develop a task force of professional and volunteer subject matter experts as required
The document included our first attempt at a basic organization structure. We left the reporting structure as a TBD because of the resistance Doug was getting in HR and our uncertainty if it was a program delivery or HR function.
The white paper was presented to Wayne on November 18, 2011 for consideration at an upcoming National Cabinet meeting.
On December 4, 2011 Gary wrote to Dan, Doug, and me about his thoughts on the beginning of the project:
I would first like to thank you for your work on the Mission Delivery Center of Learning concept. I have not heard if it was delivered to Wayne, however I believe a lot of good thinking came out of it.
It continues to haunt me though how we have a very fragmented and inconsistent approach today as we train volunteers at the unit, district, council, area regional and national levels, and with how we train our council exempt and non exempt employees. It truly is all over the map and perhaps one of the key limiting factors to getting the program to youth. In our massive “relay race” where we pass the baton from one worker (some paid most not) to another – all it takes is one member in that chain to drop it and our end user suffers. With this comes a responsibility to insure our volunteers and employees are consistently trained to be effective and in concert with each other based on their assigned roles.
I would therefore like to move forward with our Mission Delivery Center of Learning concepts. While there may still be uncertainty on organizational governance over parts of the learning function, the overall strategy for Council Operations personnel of what learning takes place as well as by who would always be our responsibility. The “how” is the piece that appears to be the biggest gap yet we will have to backfill as much as possible given the current state and available resources. I have spoken about the Centers of Excellence concept a lot lately in my travels to both staff and volunteers and received a lot of positive feedback.
I think the first thing we should do is define in a broad framework a national learning strategy for those who deliver the mission of Scouting.
Role based – with certain standardization around the EDGE model. Maybe come up with intensity categories based on impact of role. Level 1 might be Unit committee member, level 5 might be a district executive, level 10 a Scout executive. I also think we should have role-based SME experts for workforce; employees and volunteers. The role based SME experts would work with the designers to develop the learning tracts. They may or may not be the trainers. These SME experts maybe national staff but they also could be volunteers.
The future state for the delivery of Scouting programs to youth is to develop, design and deliver learning that is methodically well thought out based on roles, focused on excellence in role execution, and calibrated in design to insure consistency – insuring learning has been achieved.
I will ask Mary (Jernigan) to schedule a meeting with us four hopefully by year-end to begin the process of designing the strategy framework. I am also assigning a project manager to work with the team on this project.
I look forward to this journey together.
These ideas, and others Gary shared throughout the process, guided our direction.
While we were waiting for a response from Wayne we continued to meet. In February 2012 BSA Vice President Terry Dunn officially approved the formation of a task force to further develop an overall BSA learning strategy idea. Terry appointed Dan as the chair of the task force and Gary appointed Rod Steinagel as our project manager to keep us on task.
Our first official task force meeting was on February 29, 2012. Gary shared his vision of the future of training in the BSA and the possibilities of what we were undertaking.
But on March 9, 2012 we received a response from Wayne:
Doug & Mark,
To follow up with the meeting we had. Regarding combining CPD & volunteer training into one training department, this has been thoroughly vetted and the decision is to not make that change at this time or in the near future. There were good arguments on both sides of the issue. I can see both the pluses & the minuses but neither outweighed the other to the point of making a change. However, this does not negate the idea of consistent, coordinated training between volunteers and employees. This ultimate goal remains achievable through cooperation & information sharing. I’m sure you agree.
Thank you for challenging us to consider something new.
Wayne Brock | Deputy Chief Scout Executive/COO
Next: Now What?