Yesterday evening we were invited to attend a Court of Honor for the local Boy Scouts troop.  The event was put together to honor three young men who achieved the highest honor in the Boy Scouts program, which is the rank of Eagle Scout.  Our friends invited us to take part in the event as their son was one of the three individuals honored.

As I may have mentioned in previous posts, I grew up in Amman Jordan, and as such had not had any opportunity to learn about the Boy Scouts program while growing up.  In fact yesterday’s event was my first time participating in any of their activities.  It was not only a joyous occasion for our friends, but indeed a great learning opportunity.   To help better understand what this program is all about, I pulled the following quote from the website of the Boy Scouts of America:

“The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. The BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.

For nearly a century, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. The Boy Scouts of America believes — and, through nearly a century of experience, knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.”

During yesterday’s program we were informed that the Boy Scouts of America celebrated their one hundredth year anniversary. This is impressive on multiple levels, especially considering the program that these young people have to go through to achieve Eagle Scout.  According to the booklet that we saw, the values and responsibilities that Eagle Scouts have to learn and embrace are:

“Honor, Loyalty, Courage, Vision, and Service.”

What is most fascinating about the program is the character building that takes place which results in developing a new generation of leaders in the community.  Statistics indicate that while only one in four boys in American will become a Scout, it is interesting to know that three out of four leaders (in business, politics, and religion) in America were Scouts.  Another interesting factoid is that of any one hundred boys who become Scouts only four go on to achieve Eagle Scout.

One of the side benefits of the Boy Scouts program, as I discovered, is that it teaches the young people project management.  This is especially true for the Eagle Scouts who have to undertake a project to help them achieve their goal.  What was very refreshing about hearing these three young men talk about their projects is that they have managed to develop a deep understanding of leadership and project management without attending a single training workshop.  They did not take a PMP prep course nor a fundamentals of PM workshop.  They  developed their knowledge by doing.  Here is what they had to say:

Eagle Scout 1: “The important lesson that I learned as a result of this project is that planning is a vital part to the success of any project.  Whether it is big or small, planning is what makes or breaks an idea.”

Eagle Scout 2: “…calculated the shortest and most efficient route to get to the next step.  And then you did it.”

Eagle Scout 3: “The drafting and writing of the plan to (do the project) was far from easy.  I spent many hours in the evening editing, re-wording, re-phrasing, and editing all over again.”

To hear these young men speak of these projects one can not be but impressed that this wisdom is coming for sixteen year olds. The amazing part of it all is that these teenagers have achieved certain insight about project management that most adults seem to miss.  Sometimes it takes years for business people to develop an appreciation for planning.  I can not recall how often I’ve had to argue with stakeholders that we should not begin a project with implementation but rather we should spend the time first planning.

I am glad that we attended the event as it quickly became clear that this is an area for the profession that offers a great deal of untapped potential.  There is still hope that the next generation of college graduates will enter the workplace with project management skills rather than having to worry about acquiring them after they start their careers.