Friday, October 13, 2017

Scouts of America

It's interesting that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) are allowing girls to enter the program. They say they have the infrastructure to handle it. At least in my day, most of the Cub Scouts dens had "den mothers". Perhaps not much has changed in these decades. The most-mentioned reason for this new policy is that some girls wanted to become Eagle Scouts. However, the Girl Scouts of America (GSA) aren't happy with the announcement. So the whole thing begs strategic questions.

It's not unusual for organizations, especially non-profits, to co-opt another organization's customers if the customers feel they're not being served satisfactorily. You see this most often in charities, churches, service industries (like courier/logistics services, professional services, etc.). In this case, BSA says they don't need to establish anything new in order to incorporate a new market segment. Suppose it did.

1) Couldn't BSA and GSA merge since they have similar missions? This happens all the time in the corporate world. It happens when one corporation wants to add a technology, product line, distribution channel, market access and so on to their current portfolio. Downsides to mergers and acquisitions usually appear when corporate cultures clash, and that could have happened here.

2) Couldn't BSA license the Eagle Scout program to GSA for their customers? There aren't the complications of a merger. BSA gains some income. GSA retains customers and expands their offering. Plus, BSA doesn't appear to be trying to undermine GSA's reputation.

BSA obviously viewed themselves within a certain paradigm of being an independent organization, better than GSA (perhaps with a bit of sexism)...and somehow in competition with GSA. If they had viewed themselves in cooperation with GSA, they might have explored different options with regard to the request of girls to participate.

Ken Burns' recently released documentary on the Viet Nam War expressed the two paradigms regarding the country of Viet Nam and its rebellion against French rule: 1) the US could view the rebellion in the spirit of anti-colonialism (ala our own history of seeking independence from England); 2) the US could view the rebellion as communists trying to take over the country. Our government fell on the side of number 2...and we know what the historical implications have been.

How often has your organization's leadership had a certain paradigm that's limited the strategic options? Does your board force the executive team to shift perspective (i.e. test the assumptions)?

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