Two years ago, the Milwaukee County Council’s professional staff was quite top-heavy, with one manager for each of the nine youth-serving executives. This cumbersome structure slowed decision making, complicated communications, and misdirected resources, according to Council President Mike Derdzinski.
“We realized that to have a strong Scouting organization, we needed strong grassroots support,” Derdzinski said. “It takes people at the level of the neighborhood and the community and the church to make that happen.”
To refocus the council, Scout Executive Sharon Moulds eliminated three management positions, a move the executive board applauded. One professional was ready to retire, while the region found positions with different councils for the other two. “They didn’t miss a day of work,” Moulds said.
Eliminating the three management positions has improved communications, which had resembled the old game of telephone, where a message becomes garbled as it moves from person to person. “We’ve eliminated one of those opportunities to have the story changed,” Derdzinski said.
Beyond flattening its structure, the council has worked to develop a staff that mirrors the community. Today, four of the council’s nine youthserving executives are African American and one is Hispanic; four are women.
Creating a leaner, more diverse staff has paid dividends. “In membership, we’re holding our own and even doing a little better than the national average,” Derdzinski said. “When you think about the financially sustainable council, we’re in a much better place now than we were a couple of years ago.”
The Pikes Peak Council is also much stronger today than in previous years. Friends of Scouting support has increased by more than a third since 2003, traditional and Scoutreach membership continues to grow, and the Colorado council has earned the Quality Council Award for three straight years.
Much of the council’s success stems from a recent staff reorganization that focused on improving field service. Among other things, Scout Executive Ian Lilien took steps to tie program to district operations. “If the two aren’t connecting, you can have chaos,” Lilien said.
At the same time, the council has worked to reduce distractions that plagued district executives. For example, a weekly e-mail newsletter answers many basic questions executives once had to deal with. “That has made a big difference,” Lilien said. “It has freed up our staff immensely.”
But perhaps the council’s greatest accomplishment has been to identify the best possible person for each position on the professional staff.
Council President Brent Hawker credits Lilien for most of the council’s success. “He is a uniquely gifted person in that he can find the right person for the right position,” Hawker said. “It’s fun to work with the council. We’ve got a lot of positive things happening.”