Feet On The Ground

Since the US Government has released some of the documents seized during the raid on Usama Bin Laden, I have been reading a fair amount of the analysis that the intelligence agencies have come up with.  It was interesting (and satifsyfing) to see that his ruminations dealt with his perception of a crumbling terrorist network as well as having grandiose schemes of attacking Americans that were far from reality, or at least what could be done with a decimated organization.  It was also interesting to note that all the analysts agree; Bin Laden was out of touch with the realities of his organization as he was so removed from the day to day activities of that group.

Given his circumstances, it is easy to see why this would happen; he was so insulated that his only communications came through a small number of channels (individuals).  If you have ever been in charge of anything, you will find quickly that if you limit the flow of incoming information you also limit the depth of that information.  An example would be if you were a CEO and you depend on a small number of assistants to keep you "up to date" on the happenings of the company.  You have just limited your information to a level of what your assistants think you should know and may leave out something that you may have found important had you known.  You see this on an individual basis when a Scoutmaster would come to me and make an accusation about an event or an individual based on what a 11 year/old scout would tell him/her.  The information passed to the Scoutmaster was formed on the scout's perception and not reality.  Once the flow of information was opened and the facts come to light, then the reality comes out and the Scoutmaster has that "aha" moment (though seldom to I ever hear an apology for the false accusation that was made....perhaps that is because the Scoutmaster felt duped as well).

I find this issue with my work as well as with the Boy Scouts.  At work, there are many departments that have control over various services.  Unfortunately some of the managers or directors of those departments depend on a small group of people to "keep them informed".  If an issue develops that is not important to any one of that small group; the manager or director will never hear it as it was nothing to be "kept informed" of.  Once it becomes a major issue it becomes apparent to the manager or director that they are not in control of something they are supposed to be in control of.  This is how military officers or government officials lose their job.  They may not have been the cause of an issue, but they are held responsible as they should know what is going on.  At work, small things become big things and then blow up.  In the aftermath the powers that be find out that it could have all been easily taken care of if the ones in charge just paid attention to what was in their control and utilized the resources that were easily available to them.

For the BSA the same is true.  I have lamented many times about changes in uniforms, rules, NCS requirements and the such.  It is my opinion that the decisions made affecting certain aspects of the national scouting program are made by individuals that do not have "feet on the ground".  I think if you got a large group of current Scoutmasters (and by Scoutmasters I mean people aged 30-50 with children currently in the program and have gone through adult leader training) from across the nation into a (very large) room and asked them what they needed in a scout uniform......you would get a practical uniform.  If you put their spouses in another room, you would get a good idea of what that uniform should cost and how often it should be changed.  The same thing goes for summer camping program and regulations.  Put a large group of camp leaders (and by camp leaders I mean individuals who have had leadership roles in resident camps for over ten years AND they still are actively providing program AND living on the facility during operations) into a (very small) room and you will have a practical program outline, standards and requirements for certified leaders.  People on the ground know what they need and yes, they need to be tempered by federal/state/county regulations as well as the limitation of resources and finances.  None the less, it makes no sense for a bunch of "suits" who have memories of camp staff from years past to decide what should be done.  It is grandiose, somewhat unattainable and very much out of touch with reality.  Keep your feet on the ground and focus on substance.