Breaking with tradition, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) recently decided that they will admit girls. It appears shocking at first. But they are no stranger to changing their policies when the environment and customers change. Openly gay boys were banned from the nationwide group as a founding policy. After the military reversed its “don’t ask don’t tell” policy in 2010, the Boy Scouts reviewed their policy and decided to retain it. In 2013, under heavy criticism from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender rights groups for discriminatory practices, they reversed themselves and announced and end to their ban on gay scouts. Gay leaders were allowed the following year. And now the Boy Scouts will not be held to a single gender.
What happened? The mindset of the customers had changed. And the organization had not. The younger generations are more open about their lifestyle and appear to be less critical of other people’s personal preferences. It was the outcry from the public including their members-to-be who denounced their anti-gay stand and caused them to change their decision.
The Boy Scouts knew that girls and families were requesting to join the elite boys club, but ignored them, most likely because there is a Girl Scouts organization. While there is similarity in their mission for developing youth, the two organizations differ in what they offer. The values of scouting are important for boys and girls as well as developing character and leadership.
Their research showed that underserved groups were interested in activities they could participate in as a family. Families are busier and more diverse than ever, which makes convenient programs a big factor in appealing to families.
The leaders switched the emphasis from boys to an emphasis on developing youth. In fact, BSA has had a separate co-ed program since 1971. But it is not the same program that takes boys from Cub Scouts through to the highest level of Eagle Scout, which is what girls can enroll in starting next year.
The BSA realized that their customers had changed. And it was time to adapt to that change in order to grow. They could have stayed the same and face the potential of decreasing members. But their customers were asking them to make changes to improve their lives.
Are your customers asking you to change and you haven’t taken notice? People, culture, the environment, and technology are all factors that cause your customers to change how they think and act. They expect that your organization will change with them because without it, your customer and you will be taking divergent paths.