If we don’t look to the future, it is hard to ensure that the scouting we deliver continues to be consistent and relevant to the young people of today. A variety of factors could impact on the way your group runs, this could include things like, changes to where the group and sections meet, a lack of coordination between leaders and sections or even a tired old programme that no longer appeals to young people.
By reviewing how your group runs and thinking about what works and what doesn't work, and the potential issues and opportunities available, you can build upon your successes and find ways to improve upon your weaknesses. This will help you and your leadership team to grow and provide better scouting for more young people.
Reviewing your group and planning for the future should not be seen as a 'negative' activity simply focussed on what is going wrong. It should be looked upon as is a positive opportunity to:
- celebrate the areas where you and your group works well
- look at the areas where things could be improved
- plan for how you are going to make things better.
Remember: reviewing requires honesty from everyone, and at times the need to accept criticism.
Planning provides the framework for informed decision making and can improve your group enormously.
Giving your team time to plan will pay off in the future. As planning ensures that you stay on track with your goals and are focussed on what you need to do.
By planning what you are going to do, you will be establishing a framework that will enable you to tick off items from your ‘action list’ list as you go along. This is an extremely effective way to manage any tasks that you have.
Creating a plan plays an important part in understanding the way your group works and helps you and your team to focus on what you want to achieve and how and when you are going to do things.
A well prepared plan demonstrates that your team has a vision; know the direction that your group is going in and that you have thought through the future development of your group in terms of programme, management and finances.
Who should be involved?
Your plan will outline the goals and aspirations for your group for the foreseeable future. With this in mind you should involve your leadership team and include your executive committee officers. You should also involve other interested parties connected to your group such as the District Commissioner. Everyone should have a chance to put forward ideas and comment on proposals and this will increase the chance of achieving your goals.
The plan should be a living document. This means that it is reviewed regularly and updated when necessary. It should not be written and then left in a computer or on a notice board for the next three years. Your team should review progress towards the targets in the plan at regular intervals and keep everyone informed of progress. The plan should be reviewed as an agenda idea on your group leaders and group executive committee meetings.
What if we don't achieve our goals?
Don't worry; your plan is an internal document for your leadership team to monitor. The plan is an outline of what you want to achieve. It is not a document you will be assessed against, but a list of the most important aspirations for your group.
This is why an action plan has to be a living document. By constantly reviewing it, you can assess whether you are likely to succeed in your intentions by the time you say you will. If not, you can change and update the plan to reflect this, and include any new work required.
What should a plan look like?
A plan should be a list of realistic tasks that your group wants to achieve. It should be simple, highlighting what you want to achieve, who is responsible for each task and the dates you would like to achieve your goals by. You should prioritise your agreed list as short term (6-12 months), medium term (13-24 months), long term (25 months plus).
Key to the planning process is the need to approach any discussions honestly, whilst ensuring that any comments or criticisms you make are constructive. Everyone involved in the process should be aware of the pressures that other people are under, and take care to remain positive when discussing challenges. Similarly, everyone should be honest in accepting the challenges that are raised and remember that the process is intended to help deal with them rather than criticise individuals.
Tools for the job
There are a variety of tools available to help with the planning process. These will highlight potential issues and challenges and develop ideas to resolve these.
Listed below are some of the tools that will help you to review your current position. These are designed as a guide. Choose a combination of tools that will help the most.
Red, Amber, Green (RAG) Assessment
A RAG assessment looks at a number of indicators across your group and allows you to categorise different areas as being in a red, amber or green category.
This traffic light system enables you to see areas where you are doing well and areas where you need to review things to improve them.
Highlighting red areas should not be seen as a negative thing. Bear in mind that no one does a perfect job, and we can all improve the way we do things. A RAG assessment enables you to prioritise those areas, and focus your efforts and resources where they are needed most.
SWOT analysis is a tool that can be used to audit your section and its environment and helps to focus on key issues. This will allow you to build on your group’s strengths, correct your weaknesses and protect against internal vulnerabilities and external pressures. They also keep an eye on their overall environment within the group and spot and exploit new opportunities.
SWOT analysis is based on the assumption that if your leadership team can carefully review strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, a useful strategy for ensuring the groups success will become evident.
Simple rules for a successful SWOT
- Be realistic about the strengths and weaknesses of your group when conducting your SWOT analysis.
- SWOT analysis should distinguish between where your group is today, and where it could be in the future.
- SWOT should always be specific. Avoid grey areas.
- Keep your SWOT short and simple. Avoid complexity and over analysis -SWOT is subjective.
Strengths could be: active group programme, proactive group leaders meetings, self-funding events and activities.
Weaknesses could be: no money in the bank, no section plans in place, insufficient adults helping in the Cub Pack.
Opportunities could be: Opportunities for adults to get involved with running group events, a chance to run a group family camp to encourage parents to get involved.
Threats could be: Rising cost of hiring your meeting place, new youth club has opened in the local area, falling youth population.
Having generated a list of things you need to look at for your development plan, you will need to decide which ones you should focus on first, we call these ‘quick fixes’.
A simple way to do this is to categorise your priorities according to how important they are, and how urgent. This will help you to decide what actions you must take first.
Group health check
A group health check combines all of the tools listed above designed to assess where you are working well and where you need to think again.
It is a useful tool to develop some evidence based data on which to assess your group’s current position and areas to concentrate on to help your group’s future development. This process provides a snapshot of your group at a particular time, this is important if you need to track changes in your group which, you could provide as evidence to funding bodies if you are applying for grants.
The health check should form the basis of your future planning as it enables you to understand your group’s strengths and weaknesses and look at ways in which you can improve what you are doing for the good of your section.
Use the Development planning template to help you with your checks and assessments.