Taking Process to Alaska

January 30, 2009


dont-feed-bears2By John Munce, Deployment Executive, The Tatham Group

How do you keep a bunch of boys from turning into bear snacks in Alaska?

That’s the question I asked myself before my Scout troop went to Alaska for ten days last year.

Imagine having 20 boys from age 11 to 15, cooking our own food and camping in areas frequented by bears, moose, and wolves.

My main concern was the Alaskan grizzlies.Unlike the bears in North Carolina, where I live, these bears will do more than just break into your food bins if you’re not careful.

Grizzly bears have been known to break into cars by popping out the windshield just to get to some sandwiches on the front seat.If you get food on yourself cooking or cleaning up, bears may follow that intriguing smell right into your sleeping bag.

And clean up, never a favorite activity for boys, is particularly important.Sloppy dish washing can not only make you sick but will also attract bears. Hearing some of these scary stories had me very worried.

Thankfully, process came to our rescue.We established a documented process for key tasks like clean up.Each group had numbered washtubs, a set of scrubbers and towels, and instructional photographs.We followed the same drill every time.

It was reliable because, if followed, the dishes were spotless.It was repeatable because we did it the same way each time. We brought out the laminated instructional photographs if there was doubt or an argument on what or how to do something.It was consistent because each of the three cooking groups used the same method.

As often as we had to clean up, it was a blessing that we could get into a routine that worked.It saved us lots of time and we avoided having any boys consumed as a bear snack.

My Scouts didn’t know that I was using the same techniques I learned in Boot Camp, but they did think I was a bit like a drill instructor about getting them to follow the process.