By Annaleis Smith
Jul 14, 2015

From Quality to Excellence, it’s a Journey!

There have been several good articles lately about Journey to Excellence both on The Boy Scout and from Bryan on Scouting.  Both of these articles give good reasons why we should use the Journey to Excellence program as a planning tool at the beginning of our year and as a benchmark during the year, instead of just as a year end reporting tool.  So, I’m going to take a different approach and cover a little history of the award.

Old Quality Unit AwardWhen I first started as a Cub Scout leader, we filled out a checklist at rechartering time to determine if we were a “Quality Unit”  Anyone who has been around scouting for a while will recognize this form.  It was a simple form with 10 questions that you either answered yes or no to. And to qualify you had to answer yes to at least 6 of them. ( 4 were required and the other 2 can be of your choice from the remaining 6) I am not sure if the criteria changed over the years or not.  To be honest, I didn’t really pay that much attention to it other than telling our COR we needed an assistant Cubmaster who was “trained and active”. Some of them had a little bit of calculation involved but overall it was a pretty simple form. It was strictly something you filled out at the end of each year. I don’t know how long the Quality Unit award has been around but I would assume that it had been around for a while.

Old Centennial Quality UnitThen came the “Centennial Quality Unit award (I think it was 2007).  With this new form things changed a little.  You were supposed to have a meeting ( Ideally with your Unit Commissioner) at the beginning of the year and fill in the blanks to create your own goals.  Some of the items were similar to those in the old.  They still asked about trained leaders, advancement, service projects, membership, etc… but rather than giving us a specific percentage (i.e. a pack needed 70% of the boys advancing or a 10% improvement over the previous year on the Quality Unit in 2003) we would now determine our own goal.  I remember multiple years thinking 100%!—Of course.  I think the idea was for a pack to look at their own numbers and make a realistic goal for improvement.  More units would be considered quality units because they were setting their own realistic goals.   Well, the biggest problem with this was actually setting the goals in the first place.  From my own experience we either set the goal too high – like 100% advancement.  Or, I am ashamed to admit, we didn’t actually set any goals until the end of the year when we were actually supposed to be assessing. (“Let’s see… we achieved 85% so let’s say our goal was 83%”) NOT the point in the form.  We didn’t have a unit commissioner who cared enough to visit with us and help us set goals so… we didn’t.  I mean a unit leader is just looking for more paperwork to do, right?

JTE 2011 PackThen in 2011, came the Journey to Excellence, often shortened to JTE.  Again it asks us about Leadership, Training, Advancement, Service etc.  Each year (by about October) we can find and download the next year’s version.  Each year, some of the criteria have changed a little based on previous years reporting (or so I’ve been told). And some items have changed completely. (This year, 2015, the order of may of them were changed)  The biggest change from the old forms to the new is that it’s kind of a hybrid of the two versions.  National is still telling us what they want to see – like the old Quality unit. But we can sort of set our own realistic goals – like the Centennial Quality Unit, with national setting the minimum.  With 3 levels of excellence – bronze, silver and gold. We can be at different levels in different items.  You may be a pack that is outdoors every chance you get.  In which case achieving the gold level for outdoor activities may be easy.  But maybe you only do 1 annual service project a year. That’s all that was asked on the old Quality Unit form but with JTE, that doesn’t even get you bronze.  This would be an area for you to set a goal to improve on.  How about Day Camp attendance?  How many Pack meetings, den meetings and committee meetings do you have each mont/year?  I do like the fact that there are different levels of quality rather than a simple ‘you are or you aren’t.’  A bronze level unit can strive to be better and even a gold level unit is required to improve the next year to remain gold.

And this year the Utah National Parks Council created  “LDS Versions” of the national JTE that all the LDS units are asked to use this year. Some of the criteria have been adapted and re-worded a bit  so that LDS scouters have a clearer understanding of what is expected of them. You can check out this new JTE for LDS units on the UNPC website. In fact there is also a 14 page guide to better help you understand the forms

“When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates” . (Thomas S. Monson – Oct 1970)

That is no less true today than it was then.  Goals are good.  They give us a way to improve our programs.  And the need to report on our goals and performance should increase our improvement even more.  Yes, Journey to Excellence can be a bit overwhelming, especially if the first time you look at it is at the end of the year.  But if we truly do use it to help us plan and keep an eye on things during the year, it’s really not that bad.  Especially if you use the spread sheets they have online to help with the percentages and calculations.  Not every unit has to be a gold level unit but every unit should know where they are and where they want to be.  JTE helps you know what it takes to get there.  We should all be striving to give the boys in our pack the best program we can.  That doesn’t mean that every pack provides the exact same program.  The Cub Scout motto is Do Your Best.  That goes for both the boys and the leaders.  Let’s use Journey to Excellence to help us give the boys the best program we can, the quality program that they deserve.

Annaleis SmithAuthor: Annaleis Smith | Assistant Council Commissioner for Cub Scouting, Utah National Parks Council, BSA

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