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Thread: A tale of two Committees

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    Senior Member Bushfella's Avatar
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    A tale of two Committees

    I've been a member of our District Exec for almost as long as I've been involved in Scouting. In all that time I have missed one meeting. However, I have almost always come away from the meetings thinking, what was the point of that.

    Nothing ever seems to be achieved, matters arising get discussed time after time. We do nothing. We achieve nothing. people go away from Exec meetings with a task and come back with it undone - so it gets held over till the next meeting. The only time we have ever managed to achieve anything has been when one or two of us have taken precipitative action and created situations where the problem has had to be dealt with.

    The District Exec is supposed to support Groups and ensure that Groups comply with POR in their management (not programme - that is down to the Uniformed team). So accounts, bills paid, proper insurance, Trsutee declarations, AGMs etc.. are the remit of the District Exec. If these things are not happening then the District Exec has to act. However, it can only act, as I can see things, through the DC. If the DC ( or subsequent DCs) fail to ensure that a Group has proper accounts, an exec and an AGM, so that its business is properly managed, then the District Exec is Powerless. It becomes nothing but a source of funds to bail out those in trouble from time to time.

    Last night I attended a meeting of the Whitley Beaumont Committee, a mixed group of strong willed characters. We came away from the meeting having agreed on action, allocated projects and in the full confidence that those involved wanted to be there, understood their role and were commited to the aims of the Committee. How different to the nihilism of District Exec meetings.

    Does anyone else come up against this apparent spiral discussion that arises at District Execs where eventually they are destined to disappear up their own...?
    Ewan Scott

    It seems that there are a lot of Nawyecka Comanch around....





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    AGSL Russell Corrie's Avatar
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    I agree District Exec Meeting can appear ponitless at times.

    A few years back I (foolishly) agreed to become Districe Chair. The first meeting I chaired I wanted to see what went on so I let it run (and run and run) 3 hours 5 mins and at the end I dont believe we had progressed. So i imformed the commitee that all future meeting would last just 60 minutes after which Tea, Coffee and biscuits would be served and the individuals could chat for as long as they wanted. Anyinthing not able to be raised in 60 mins couldnt be important enought for the whole committe to discuss.
    A few months later we had an extraordinary meeting to discuss the opening of a district Scout shop. I was delighted that this subject was discussed and terms of reference agreed in a meeting that lasted 21 mins.

    Not sure but I believe the Exec meetings have now reverted to the old form sadly
    Russell Corrie
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    http://www.srfexplorers.org.uk

    "the future's bright, the future's scouting" Tarquin Merryweather

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    Quote Originally Posted by Russell Corrie View Post
    Anything not able to be raised in 60 mins couldnt be important enought for the whole committe to discuss.
    Absolutely true and a very good standing order that all execs could adopt, but it's very much down to the chairman. If you have a chairman, possibly with a business background where time is money, you'll likely have a well run committee where he/she will pleasantly but firmly keep everyone on track and decisions will get taken. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the thoroughly nice guy who hasn't got a clue how to run a meeting, is scared to interrupt anyone, and just doesn't realise that the meeting isn't achieving anything. My record was a Group Exec that started at 8pm and finished at 11.45 when so many people had given up and gone home that it wasn't quorate any more and hadn't even finished the agenda.

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    Senior Member Kastor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Russell Corrie View Post
    I agree District Exec Meeting can appear pointless at times.

    A few years back I (foolishly) agreed to become District Chair. The first meeting I chaired I wanted to see what went on so I let it run (and run and run) 3 hours 5 mins and at the end I dont believe we had progressed. So i informed the committee that all future meeting would last just 60 minutes after which Tea, Coffee and biscuits would be served and the individuals could chat for as long as they wanted. Anything not able to be raised in 60 mins couldn't be important enough for the whole committee to discuss.
    A few months later we had an extraordinary meeting to discuss the opening of a district Scout shop. I was delighted that this subject was discussed and terms of reference agreed in a meeting that lasted 21 mins.

    Not sure but I believe the Exec meetings have now reverted to the old form sadly
    But isn't the "art" of any meeting to have a decent Chair who sticks to the agenda, and stops the discussion wandering off? You also need to minute the decisions and then follow them up at the next meeting with at least some pressure/penalty on those who don't have a good reason for not doing what they said they would.

    All too often meetings are seen as a chance for a general chit chat rather than being the powerhouse of the organisation. If you want a chat go down the pub afterwards.
    To get more kids we need more adults - are we getting the message yet?

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    But isn't the "art" of any meeting to have a decent Chair who sticks to the agenda, and stops the discussion wandering off? You also need to minute the decisions and then follow them up at the next meeting with at least some pressure/penalty on those who don't have a good reason for not doing what they said they would.
    Of course it assumes that as well as a chair who can manage a meeting, you have an agenda which they understand, and is meaningful.

    Agendas are great tools if used properly. Some things I've done in the past include:
    - ensuring each agenda point has an owner
    - being clear why each point is on the agenda - is it a decision needed? is it to note someothing that shouldd be known? Is it in advance of a future decision (ie reviewing a draft)? or is no-one quite clear?
    - if a decision, have a draft wording prepared in advance
    - having a two or three sentence summary of the point on the agenda
    - circulating in advance!
    - doing matters arising at the end, not the begining

    If you don't have an agenda, a flipchart to prepare one at the start of the meeting can be usueful.

    Still I've seen companies spend a lot of money not getting meetings right - why sshould we as volunteers be any better?

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    Senior Member Kastor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frazzle View Post
    - circulating in advance!
    This is a great failing of many meetings I go to, both Scouting and work.

    If you don't know what is to be discussed then how can you prepare?

    If the question "Does anyone know someone who could...." comes up and you knew about it in advance then you could have asked around, but if you don't know the question till the meeting then automatically the resolution is delayed to the next meeting (which in the case of our District Exec is months).
    To get more kids we need more adults - are we getting the message yet?

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    Distrcit execs

    Hi Bushfella
    you raise an important issue that hits a note with me, although I am going to disagree with your view that the exec is simply their to support the Non uniformed part of groups.

    being a DC, when I took over my district almost three years ago, from an excellent predecessor, I found a large number of problems with our exec, and as soon as I could changed some of the members of it who simply were not doing their job, but were simply on the exec because they had been in the movement a "long time". The worst example I found was on my first meeting they spent 45 mins discussing whether or not to buy a BBQ and if so where to store it. I then found out the insurance had expired and not one of them had dealt with it.

    We now have a good team and excellent chair, but as always still struggle to get some member of the exec to take on a specific task or issue to solve, but we have to remember many of them have other roles in scouting and as long as we keep moving forward and are doing our Best Endeavours to meet our legal and moral requirements then I am happy.

    My previous DC concentrated on the district scouting provision, which meant that we had a great district programme, but this was at the expense of watching what some groups were up to. I as the DC see myself as overall lead, but the element of the legal aspects are in partnership with the chair who take the lead on these issue. But remember the trustees rules make it clear the whole exec is responsible which is why if you miss your yearly submission every member of the exec gets a letter warning them. So I focus on the Uniformed and the Chair on the legal, but actually the whole exec has responsibility for both uniformed and non Uniformed (think that makes sense)

    I will say that I think the feeling I get from the movement now and from Wayne’s comments particularly is that the movement is trying to up its game and make sure that all members are well trained and understand their responsibilities. Which is great but doing this with volunteer can be very difficult.

    As a final note if you have been on the exec that long and have had always the same feeling then ask your self a couple of questions:

    1, What Can I do to change it?
    2, I am simply part of the problem?
    3, Do I need a change?


    I have got to say and I am afraid it sounds to me that you have shot yourself in the foot a bit. You have admitted to be on the exec for a long time but have not done anything to change the status quo?

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    AGSL Russell Corrie's Avatar
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    We have traini9ng courses for many things why not add one on how to chair a meeting?
    Russell Corrie
    AGSL 1st Southgate
    http://www.srfexplorers.org.uk

    "the future's bright, the future's scouting" Tarquin Merryweather

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    Because most of those who chair meetings don't realise they need a training course on it!

    (Not a reason not to have one, but perhaps why it wouldn't be well attended).

    I think a training course on meetings for all attendees would be useful; specific training for chairman would be an add on, and you could do training for minute taking etc... too.

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    No mountain too high PeterSheppard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Russell Corrie View Post
    We have traini9ng courses for many things why not add one on how to chair a meeting?
    Perhaps before we do that, we could start with an extra mandatory module on "being a charity trustee", for all executive members to complete and validate within one year of appointment

    And perhaps they should validate module 1 too, so they at least know what Scouting is?
    Assistant Area Commissioner (Activities) - Gwent

    "Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap... but by the seeds you plant"

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    nele
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    Quote Originally Posted by Russell Corrie View Post
    We have traini9ng courses for many things why not add one on how to chair a meeting?
    Communication skills and representing others at meetings is part of working with adults module, which all section leaders do. Unless I dreamt it (it was a very full weekend) I believe there was more on this subject in the modules for managers in scouting. However no amount of training will help if the person in question has no natural ability, communication skills or authority.

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    GSL & AESL shiftypete's Avatar
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    As with all meetings it really depends on the chairperson and secretary to work well. Secretary and chairperson need to agree and distribute an agenda in advance of the meeting. During the meeting the chairperson needs to keep discussions on point and ensure that a clear decision is reached and where necessary tasks allocated.

    After the meeting minutes need distributing soon afterwards with clear notes of who has been allocated responsibility for which actions so that everyone should know what they have agreed to do by the next meeting.

    Peter Andrews AESL of Headingley Pirates ESU, Group Scout Leader & Webmaster of Falkoner Scout Group
    www.falkonerscouts.org.uk

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    Please note all views expressed are my own and not those of any organisation I'm associated with

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    A Chairman's training course would be an excellent idea, but the people who need it the most would probably be the last to realise it.

    A few years ago I had a spell on the national council of a professional institution. We only met four or five times a year (like a lot of execs) and there was always a long agenda which had to be dealt with by about 10pm so that people could catch last trains, etc.

    We had basic standing orders which the chairman could invoke or relax as he felt appropriate, but they were his "teeth" when he needed them to get through a long agenda.

    - Agendas were circulated at least two weeks beforehand, with action points from the last meeting listed with the name of the person due to report back. If it was a written report, that also had to be sent out in advance so there were no handouts at the meeting and long pauses whilst people read them.

    - Each member was allowed to speak on each matter once only on the assumption that you'd read the background paperwork before the meeting and decided what you wanted to say. The only other time you could speak was to correct a point of fact or add relevant information.

    - Occasionally something really needed a general discussion and we often moved that to the end of the agenda after the routine stuff, which markedly reduced the amount of waffle on the routine points because people wanted to get to the interesting bit.

    It sounds draconian, but once people got used to the idea it concentrated their minds and we got through a heck of a lot of work

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    This problem is not restricted to scouting, I'm afraid. I used to be a school governor, and until I managed to take on the role of chair person, meetings would often ramble on ad nauseum. I always set a finishing time - certainly no longer than an hour and a half, and got it all done.
    I now go to my group exec, and find they often disolve into 'tales from old scouters', reminscing on the good old days and how it used to be in scouts. I usually can't leave as they are invariably in my house....


    Mark Smith
    SL & ACSL 1st Charlton
    NSRA Instructor
    Spelthorne Gangshow Creative Team

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    Senior Member Bushfella's Avatar
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    Hi Bushfella
    you raise an important issue that hits a note with me, although I am going to disagree with your view that the exec is simply their to support the Non uniformed part of groups.
    There is no real disagreement, but it is a two way street.

    being a DC, when I took over my district almost three years ago, from an excellent predecessor, I found a large number of problems with our exec, and as soon as I could changed some of the members of it who simply were not doing their job, but were simply on the exec because they had been in the movement a "long time". The worst example I found was on my first meeting they spent 45 mins discussing whether or not to buy a BBQ and if so where to store it. I then found out the insurance had expired and not one of them had dealt with it.
    Oh I've seen that too.

    We now have a good team and excellent chair, but as always still struggle to get some member of the exec to take on a specific task or issue to solve, but we have to remember many of them have other roles in scouting and as long as we keep moving forward and are doing our Best Endeavours to meet our legal and moral requirements then I am happy.
    That's great, if you have a good team and a good DC. And that is certainly where the issue has lain for some years now. We have not had a good team, here I go burning bridges ( can you burn a bridge more than once). We have had a run of DCs who were unable or unwilling to tackle issues - where do I start... no girls in Scouting, no recruiting being done, solo sections, solo leaders (and I mean solo), training not done, training being ticked off as validated when it patently hadn't been and so on.

    We lost our last decent DC 17 years ago and she has never really been replaced. (We did have a short spell with a better DC but she left). The last Chairman able to run a meeting and actually take part in running the Exec departed about 15 years ago. We have spent some years without a DC. A triumverate of us tried to make a go of things, but frankly it wasn't going to work with two of us champing at the bit to get things done, and the third, the one who had final say dithering. (Talk about career limiting posts!)


    My previous DC concentrated on the district scouting provision, which meant that we had a great district programme, but this was at the expense of watching what some groups were up to. I as the DC see myself as overall lead, but the element of the legal aspects are in partnership with the chair who take the lead on these issue. But remember the trustees rules make it clear the whole exec is responsible which is why if you miss your yearly submission every member of the exec gets a letter warning them. So I focus on the Uniformed and the Chair on the legal, but actually the whole exec has responsibility for both uniformed and non Uniformed (think that makes sense)
    Yes it makes sense, but, and this is the thing, the District Exec is responsible for ensuring the proper management of the Groups but is toothless and can do nothing, especially if the DC won't act.

    I will say that I think the feeling I get from the movement now and from Wayne’s comments particularly is that the movement is trying to up its game and make sure that all members are well trained and understand their responsibilities. Which is great but doing this with volunteer can be very difficult.
    Agreed. You can lead the Norse to Walter But you can't make him think.


    As a final note if you have been on the exec that long and have had always the same feeling then ask your self a couple of questions:
    1, What Can I do to change it? Frankly - sweet fanny adams

    2, I am simply part of the problem? At the risk of blowing my own trumpet. I am one of the few who have actually done anything over the years. And as a result I am the pain in the backside that keeps pushing at barred doors. Sadly, my only real ally on the Exec resigned in complete frustration after many years' of struggling to keep things right and baling hapless Group execs out of considerable risk and financial exposure. So, the question is rather, do I want to carry on banging my head against a brick wall. As I explained to the new Chairman today. I am not a happy bunny, I want things to happen now, not a year from now, or in the case of some issues two years from now. I can't be doing with leaving things till they become a crisis.

    I can put my efforts into other projects where we have fantastic teams who work together, such as Whitley Beaumont, taken from a wasteland to a growing site in the space of a year, or to my Group where we are opening up second Colony and Pack (Whilst those around us fail miserably to attract adult support and pointedly, refuse to help themselves, BP had plenty to say about that).

    3, Do I need a change?

    I came onto the Exec to try and make a difference. However, I have a fantastic Group and I make things happen, but, it appears that the resources I have built up for the group, hall, archery, pioneering, kayaking, canoeing, and the 30 strong adult team, are just me Empire building (odd that if you grow a Group you are empire building, if you can't attract people, you are doing your best!). The District camps that I have run ( t a surplus that went into District funds), the only Internationls that the District does, the training courses that I have put on, all things that no-one else has bothered doing in 17 years are all just me showing off. (That was why I stepped down from the joint DC role. If people thought that I was showing off then fine, let me step aside and someone else can do it.)

    I could circle the wagons at the Group and watch the chaos from the safety of our HQ, but that's not what Scouting should be about. It is not what I have tried to explain to others - to no avail.

    I have got to say and I am afraid it sounds to me that you have shot yourself in the foot a bit. You have admitted to be on the exec for a long time but have not done anything to change the status quo?
    Difficult to change the status quo much when there is no-one willing to do anything. I organised three recuitment campaigns with the RDM for the area, we handed out leaflets, we spoke to parents, I stood at the school gates and introduced myself. The RDM came to the meetings and was absolutely bumbfounded by the lack of support, and at one the clear antipathy towards Scouting. The District is short of something like 70 adults. As part of the DC team we sat and we went through every Leader and Exec member that we could think of trying to find people to put in District roles, and we failed miserably to identify people.

    I am on the brink of throwing in the towel with the District Exec but then there is no-one left to pull in the reigns when the horses bolt. I feel no pain in either foot. The DC, on the other hand probably does this week.
    Last edited by Bushfella; 09-02-2011 at 04:10 PM.
    Ewan Scott

    It seems that there are a lot of Nawyecka Comanch around....





    Nawyecka Comanch'": "Means roundabout--man says he's going one way, means to go t'other" Ethan Edwards - The Searchers



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