Scouting University

These notes are my attempt to chronicle, from my perspective only, the development of a BSA learning delivery idea that would become Scouting University in April 2014. There was so much more detail to what we did over the three years we worked on this, but I will not bore you with all that in this blog.

Maybe later…

After we got back from the Disney Institute much of the detailed design work for the project was taken over by Mary Marris. She used her expertise to build what Gary Butler and we had dreamed over the previous two years. Our main roles were to take what she brought to us for consideration and align it with the BSA’s structure and culture – and explain what we were thinking about doing to the rest of the BSA.

On April 10, 2013 Joel Eacker and I participated in Gary’s monthly “Leadership Club” webcast. The topic was volunteer training, and we were joined by volunteers from two of the BSA’s top training councils: Heart of America and Mount Baker.

In the promotion of the broadcast Gary had said that he would announce “a transformational project currently in the design stage.”

This was the first national announcement of what we had been doing.

We do some great training for the over one million members of our BSA workforce. But for many years training in the BSA has been fragmented. Training for volunteers has been created without consideration of professional training and vice-versa. District volunteer training has not been connected to unit volunteer training. Supply, camp staff, high adventure staff, national office employee, local council back office training, have all been created by separate teams with little design, development, or delivery communication – and little sharing of content.

This is expensive, and sometimes sends mixed messages to our mission delivery personnel.

For the past year we have been working on a cross-functional project to create, and then implement, a training model for corporate learning in the BSA that:

• Maximizes return on investment and performance
• Centralizes philosophy and methodology while respecting flexibility and autonomy across the organization’s four business units
• And takes advantage of best practices in corporate learning

The key objectives of the project are to:

You will hear and see a lot more from this project in the coming months. You will already see early impact of this project on new volunteer training courses and the new Center for Professional Development courses – especially a new PD-L1 this fall.

Develop and execute a strategy using industry best practices in corporate learning
• Identify metrics and create a balanced scorecard to ensure alignment with organizational goals and leverage learning capabilities
• Develop strategy to integrate all personnel (volunteers and employees) responsible for the delivery of the Scouting mission through councils, districts, and units
• To have a consistent and centralized learning methodology
• Provide Mission Delivery personnel the skills, knowledge, and competencies to optimize their roles and effectiveness
• Develop support mechanisms for them to reach their full potential
• Create an effective, efficient, and economic model that leverages technology, team based learning, barrier free learning at all levels of the organization
• Create centers of excellence that demonstrate best practices and processes that can be leveraged throughout the organization and at all levels
• Incorporate systems or strategies for intellectual property governance and protection
• To share learning resources across the organization

We were proposing a fundamental shift in learning for the BSA.


With Mary leading the way, and her many meetings with Gary without the rest of us, the ideas were coming at us quickly. To this day I am not sure, in a lot of cases, which ideas were Gary’s and which were Mary’s.

One of the early things Mary, I think with Gary’s input, did was to take our early structures of the combined learning departments and include some additional items.

Originally we had just two main wings to our org chart: a Program Delivery (How to do your job) team and Development (leadership development and long-term competencies) team. Within each team were learning delivery, design, and evaluation elements.

Our original idea after learning from the companies we had studied, especially Disney, was things would work like this:

• The learning team, with the committee/department, would determine the need for training. They would discuss and agree on the desired format and resources.

• The team’s learning designers (both staff and volunteer) would be given the desired content, format, delivery method, and resources to design the course.

• Learning delivery personnel from the teams, the committee/department, and other Scouters, would deliver the training.

The “how to do your job training” for both professionals and volunteers – in many cases the same course for both – would fall under Program Delivery, and the advanced skills courses – Wood Badge, People Management, etc. – would fall under Development.

Because we had expanded our scope to include all training in the BSA, including presentations at Philmont, Sea Base, The Summit, Top Hands, and National Meetings, the structure of the new plan – if not the theory – was significantly different from what we had been working on for the past two plus years.

But while things had changed, we were pleased the all-encompassing coordinated learning which was our dream was in the first days, was now on the table.

Mary’s new structure further separated things out into four teams, led by a Learning Governance Committee (LGC) and the Chief Learning Officer (CLO).

For most of our time we had planned on combining the professional and volunteer learning teams into one, with about the same number of personnel as we had at the time. Perhaps we would bring over staff from other departments whose sole role was training.

What we were working on now had literally many dozens of personnel and would have been the largest department in the BSA, impacting every aspect of the movement. One chart Mary presented had over 100 people.

One funny thing happened at the first meeting Mary presented this to the task force which demonstrated the role we had in explaining the culture of the BSA to her. Mary defined the Learning Governance Committee as being composed of the regional directors, an assistant chief, and key national office personnel. Dan asked, “where are the volunteers?” Mary said, why would we include volunteers, and so we went into an explanation of how Scouting works.

The four teams at this point were:

• Standards/Performance – works with all business units to identify the barriers to performance and selecting the appropriate intervention; identifies the true business need and desired outcomes; measures the achievement of those outcomes; audits consistency of materials and programs; identifies and recognizes best practices; works in collaboration with other learning groups, departments and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs).

• Learning Design – Assess learning requirements; designs the solution in the most optimal format for learning; ensures consistency in branding and format; assess job competencies and develops Individual Development Plans (IDPs) where appropriate; Plans learning tracks at meetings and conferences; works in collaboration with other learning groups, departments and SMEs.

• Talent Readiness – Delivers Orientation and other role-based training; provides and/or assigns coaches; monitors proper use of IDPs; plans and organizes learning tracks at conferences and seminars; works in collaboration with other learning groups, departments and SMEs.

• Leadership Development – Develops leaders through course delivery, conferences, webinars, discussions, mentoring; plans and organizes learning tracks at conferences and seminars; works in collaboration with other learning groups, business units and SMEs.

Standards and Performance would review the effectiveness of courses. We thought we would add this team after a year or two, after we had rolled out new training.

We did not like the term “Talent Readiness” and changed it to Learning Delivery. We also changed the definitions of some of the teams, and added Kirkpatrick’s evaluation levels.

A Logo and a Tag Line

Among the things Mary wanted us to do was to come up with a logo and tag line for Scouting U.

Marketing came up with this as an early logo:

It did not last long.

In early November Mary gathered suggestions from the committee, from others in the building, and made up some of her own for consideration and voting.

My first suggestion was “Prepared. For Leadership” but we were eventually told we could not use it because it was “non-compliant with the BSA branding and encroaches on the existing tag line.”

The list we eventually circulated was:

  • Where the Adventure Begins
  • Knowledge. Leadership. Excellence.
  • One U with the Power of Many
  • Plan. Learn. Lead.
  • Learn. Challenge. Adventure.
  • Map to SUccess
  • Truth. Knowledge. Leadership.
  • Where the Future Begins.
  • Challenge. Learn. Succeed.
  • The U of Many
  • Scouting. Business. Leadership.
  • The Adventure Begins
  • Excellence in Learning
  • Where Adventure Never Ends
  • Be Prepared. To Succeed.
  • Where Learning Begins
  • Where the Adventure is Learning
  • Where Learning Excels
  • Adventure. Knowledge. Excellence.
  • Trail to SUccess
  • Knowledge. Experience. Adventure.
  • Where Learning is Just the Beginning
  • Learning for a High Adventure Life .
  • SUccess
  • Where Adventure Begins.

After the voting and discussion we came up with “Learn. Challenge. Lead.”

On January 7, 2014 the BSA’s marketing and legal departments gave us the approval for the Scouting U logo.

Finishing Up and “Crisis”

Pretty much everything was now done, except for announcing it to the world and selecting who would be a part of the new Scouting University.

In early November, Mary shared her and Gary’s thoughts on the personnel structure and process with the HR leadership. Doug and I were copied.

Org structure: Department level (whether directly under Tom or HR is not yet determined)

Department Name: Scouting University (nick name Scouting U)

Department Manager: Chief Learning Officer (Official title)

Team Leaders:

  1. Standards and Performance (likely unofficial business card title – Director of Learning, Standards and Performance)
  2. Learning Design (likely unofficial business card title – Director of Learning Design)
  3. Talent Readiness (likely unofficial business card title- Director of Learning, Talent Readiness)
  4. Leadership Development (likely unofficial business card title- Director of Learning, Leadership Development)

Other HCP elements (other staffing, some reporting) are still being determined.

14 Nov- Finalized Job Profiles
19 Nov- Post CLO position external
12 Dec- Deadline for CLO resumes
13-17 Dec- Review resumes and ID qualified candidates
17 Dec- Schedule CLO Interviews beginning 18 Nov- 3 Jan
23 Dec- Post internally for Talent Readiness and Leadership Development team leads only
10 Jan- Approximate date for CLO selection
10 Jan- Deadline for internal applicants
10 Jan- Schedule interviews for team leads week of 13 Jan
17 Jan- Select Talent Readiness and Leadership Development

team leads
17-20 Jan- Finalize all other positions and job profiles
20 Jan- Post all other department positions internally
24 Jan- Deadline for internal positions
27-31 Jan- Schedule interviews
31 Jan- Post open department positions externally
14 Feb- Deadline for applications
17 Feb-21 Schedule interviews

Note: November/December dates are very tight; Dates after December are approximate and subject to change; S/P team lead may need to be posted by Summer 2014; Learning Design will remain unfilled until 2015

She also shared a slide for Gary’s presentation at an upcoming national cabinet retreat:

These caused me some great concern, notably the lines about external postings for the CLO job, many positions being staffed externally, and the idea our staff would have to interview for roles in the new Scouting U.

We also thought it meant the CLO position would come from outside the BSA and, despite many years of our involvement in and knowledge of learning theory, Doug and I would not even be considered for the position. A few stress-filled e-mails passed among our staffs, Dan, Doug and I that day.

The minutes of a task force meeting in mid-November reported:

Delays with the release and posting of the CLO position are a combination of factors including some discrepancy with degree requirements and BSA commissioning as well as personnel being on vacation, out of office for training, or other circumstances. Lisa (Lisa Young from HR) emphasized that Tom (Assistant Chief Tom Fitzgibbon) felt a Master’s degree requirement was too high and felt that the candidate should be a commissioned professional. Lisa had also expressed concern that the Master’s degree was not specified. Mary corrected the misunderstanding and that the requirement submitted had specified that the degree be in Training and Development, Education, or other related field. Gary agreed to downgrade the degree requirement to “Master’s degree preferred” and that the commissioning issue should not exclude external candidates but should allow flexibility in commissioning upon selection with some modifications to commissioning training.

The discussion also included the interviewers and process. Tom, Gary, Dan (by phone if necessary), and Ray (Morrell from HR) (alternate) will conduct team interviews. Gary will personally review and interview internal candidates. The interviewing team will select the pool of candidates; however, Gary will have the final decision on the selection.

Lisa mentioned that Tom has not approved the Human Capital Plan as he is unsure of the final structure and staffing.

This further added to my fears about my prospects in the new Scouting U and even my future in professional Scouting.

During all this, the National Volunteer Training Committee held a retreat at the Florida Sea Base. Gary attended to share the final plan, for the first time, with the members of the committee. Their comments were positive about the vision and direction. Many were concerned about the implementation and Gary assured them that they would have input into the transformation and that it would take place over 12 months. The committee was very optimistic and relieved when Gary said they would be involved in the transition and the future of Scouting University.

But I was still very concerned about what would happen to my staff in volunteer development.

It was not until November 18 that Gary reassured Doug and I, at least the part about our concerns for our staff members, when he wrote:

Thank you again for your leadership! I am so excited about the possibilities.

Do me a favor though. Reassure your employees that this change will not cause any reduction or replacement of personnel. Rather, long term it will offer more opportunities for advancement and recognition. Most importantly it will enable everyone to make an even greater impact on our movement.

When the job was posted later in the year we learned it would be open to BSA employees and both Doug and I would indeed be able to interview.

Final Steps

Otherwise, November was concerned with final details such as merging budgets, the preparation for a November 20 broadcast by Wayne Brock which would announce Scouting U and the new learning strategy to the employees of the BSA, a webinar for volunteers and professionals on December 4, the preparation of articles for Scouting magazine and ScoutingWire, and a celebration for the end of the project.

Wayne’s announcement can still be seen (as of this writing) at

The ScoutingWire article was:

Welcome to

“What we learn, from any given circumstance, determines whether we become increasingly powerless or more powerful.” – Blaine Lee, Award winning author

A couple of years ago two executives from the Center for Professional Development were discussing the nine stages of team development. One of the executives, who had recently returned from a local council where he had presented the topic, was asked to name the nine steps in team development taught at CPD. He responded, “I don’t remember, I’ll check the lesson plan and get back to you. ” When this same executive was asked to name the steps taught in Wood Badge, he immediately and accurately replied, “Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.”

This conversation shows two important points: 1) Careful design and organization of information is critical to learning and, even more importantly, 2) We are not teaching the same things to our employees and volunteers. If we do not create good learning and we are not consistent in our information, how can we expect to be successful as an organization? With the changing technological and social environment around us, consistency and good learning design are critical to developing the “workforce” toward fulfilling the mission of the Boy Scouts of America. It only makes sense, therefore, that the learning experiences of our employees and volunteers are combined. We cannot continue teaching different philosophies and ideals and expect to achieve exceptional organizational performance let alone deliver high quality service and programs to our members and youth.

To address this dilemma, a team of BSA volunteers and executives have put their noses to the grindstone for the better part of 2013 and created a framework for a learning strategy that will ensure consistency in the language and content of all programs, create learning experiences in multiple delivery formats to reach all types of learners, and merge employee and volunteer programs to encourage collaboration and sharing of experiences.

In the coming months, you will see the emergence of that strategy in Scouting University as it becomes more defined. The framework was only the beginning; there are many other pieces to the strategy that require further deliberation and planning and will take some time. We are working on a Scouting University web page to keep you up to date with all the activities and progress and you may be asked from time to time to provide feedback; in the mean time, please email your questions and comments to ; you can expect a response within 48 hours. Welcome to the next century of Scouting.

Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” – John Dewey, American philosopher and educational reformer

On Wednesday, December 18th, at the DFW Airport Marriott we held a reception to celebrate the end of the Scouting University project. We invited our teams all those who had contributed from the various departments of the national council.

Dan was unable to attend due to health issues, but sent this note:

I think the most important thing you can do is communicate my gratitude, for their work on this project, for their willingness to serve as change agents for this movement and to embrace the volunteer and professional “we” that will determine our future success.

It was a bittersweet event for Doug and I. We knew if the BSA adopted as we had proposed, it would be the right thing to do. But we also knew it was the end of our learning teams.


Throughout the three years of these projects Gary hinted, and shared, the Scouting U projects were part of a bigger reorganization of the national office. Gary was now the Deputy Chief Scout Executive and working on change.

On January 8, 2014 Wayne announced the “Experience Oriented Scouting” concept using the “Four Scouting Experiences Through Five Core Competencies” we had used in our project.

There was a lot of uncertainty throughout the building and the national staff, but we were all assured there would be no reduction in force.

The interview process for the Chief Learning Officer was conducted in early January. Doug and I were interviewed, and both moved on to the final interviews. However, Dr. Diane Thornton, the Director of Learning for Life was selected.

Doug was given the role of team leader for Leadership Development and I was given the role of team leader for Learning Delivery.

On March 10-11, 2014 the new structure for the national staff was announced. The Standards and Performance team was replaced with two performance coach teams.

Scouting U officially began in April 2014.

I left Scouting U in August 2014 to become an area director in the Central Region.

Doug announced his retirement that fall, and sadly passed away on January 31, 2015.

Wayne retired on September 30, 2015.

Gary retired on December 31, 2015.

Diane went back to Learning for Life.

Dan’s illness is still lingering and he cannot be as active as he, or we, want.