One problem was the large gulf in experience and training between the two of us, since I was a new Eagle Scout who had just finished JLT and had been in scouting for about 4 years. Based on that, I tended to want to run the troop all on my own, without much consultation or communication with the SM. The communication that existed primarily was routed through my dad, who was an ASM in the troop.
The new SM didn't really seem to be all that interested in joining with the PLC to plan for meetings or outings, and wasn't really ready for me to try to run everything. This occasionally led to friction and scheduling conflicts.
It was very helpful for me to have advanced training as well, since it provided ideas for bringing the boys into running the troop.
The thing that helped me most in taking over as SM was being willing to allow the boys to run the troop. The other thing was having the committee take care of much the paperwork details, which are really the committee's responsibility anyhow. This left me free to work with the boys.
I wonder whether the SPL and ASPL should have been brought into the process much earlier. They were left out until the change was announced to the PLC. This was not done intentionally, but rather as a result of scheduling difficulties.
It also would have been easier if the annual planning had been done before the transition, so that I had a program in place while getting comfortable with their new role. This was intended in our transition, but didn't actually happen. This led to some awkwardness in dealing with prospective new boys and their parents, since I couldn't tell them what the upcoming events were.
The Committee Chair felt things went very smoothly. She felt that the outgoing SM and I did a good job of coordinating the change, especially in discussing the status and characteristics of the boys in the troop so that there was not a big change for them. She especially noted our cooperation on the issue of one scout wanting to advance to Life. Also noted were was that we each wrote letters for the newsletter about the change as well as speaking together to the PLC.
The previous SM also felt that things went very smoothly. He felt that the transition to his being SM and the transition to me being SM were both helped by the previous SM remaining with the troop to serve as a resource. He felt that it would be better to sit down and talk with the SPL first about the change taking place. Also, he felt that the new SM should probably sit down with the committee and discuss the changes he intends to make as SM.
Niels from Denmark (a pidgeon) -- three comments about boys' reactions to the change: they may wonder why the old SM left; they may wonder how the change will affect the rules and procedures they got used to under the old SM; they may be anxious about the loss of an adult they look up to.
Bruce from Maryland -- took over as SM just after bridging with his son from Webelos. Started attending scout meetings a couple of months before the transition, and attended SMF. They used a ceremony based on the Navy change-of-command ceremony. He believes the keys to a successful transition are to start to be around and develop relationships with the boys before the transition and to have new ideas/activities to capture the boys interest and get them fired up. Also made a point to get the new scouts to be accepted and to make sure everyone knew that he was committed to attending campouts if others would plan them.
John from Maryland -- really important to make sure that all parties are prepared for the transition and have the same understanding of when it will occur. Also support about 2-3 months into the job is really important (as the initial excitement wears off).
Charlie from California (a fox) -- still in the beginning stages of the transition. Transition was planned for almost a year, and the old SM stayed away for several meetings to let him become accepted as the SM (as is the case with several of these, the old SM is now the CC). He is taking changes slowly (as Wood Badge training continually suggests). He did have some anxiety both from the boys and the adults; some of the adults called for extended conversations on a number of issues, and some of the scouts immediately tested what the limits of the new SM were.
Steve from Minnesota -- went from being #3 ASM to SM when the others all dropped out in short order after he joined - didn't even have Fast Start. Left with new QM, 25 scouts, and no program. Currently is in the process of turning over reins, after having worked in parallel with person for a year. New SM has SMF (as do the other ASMs) and will probably attend Wood Badge in the summer. New person will begin at planning session for next year along with new SPL.
Bob from Colorado -- when their troop went through the transition, they wound up choosing a fairly young leader (who came forward after having been overlooked as too young). This has worked out quite well. He recommends that choosing someone from within the program, and says that it is best if the new SM can "apprentice" for a while, but that young and "inexperienced" leaders can still do quite well. He stresses the importance of setting up a good corps of ASMs, including one who is designated to take over when the SM is absent. Included in their experience was recruitment of college students to be ASMs. Also important is making sure that there is a good supporting cast (from committee and such) and that the new leader feels comfortable delegating tasks. Don't discourage new ideas and new ways of doing things. Recognize the new SM for his work, including nominations for Scoutmaster Award of Merit. If the old SM stays on, make sure he doesn't overshadow the new SM.
Michael from Washington -- choose person involved with troop already. Arrange for old SM to be out of the picture for a while
Mike from Pennsylvania -- keep good relationship with old SM; draw on long experience. keep troop traditions going. had a bit of a problem with another ASM who had been around and thought he would take over as SM; person left and formed new troop. recruit people to take over in case something happens to you.
Dale from Texas -- a month before SM left, committee had interview panel; candidates submitted "resumes" of scouting experience. need to be careful to avoid complaints about political maneuvering.
Roman from Indiana -- had two sections of his ticket which involved this. The first was to find out more about the role of Scoutmaster by reading the SM Handbook, visiting a meeting of a different troop, and talking with a committee member of a different troop. The second was to learn more about Scoutmaster Conferences by sitting as the subject of one several times in the process of working his ticket. He feels that both of these experiences are worthwhile to allow the new SM to get a feel for the position.
In addition, it is generally preferable to have someone who has been with the troop for a while. Lacking this, the person should have made a point of attending as many troop activities as possible in order to get a feel for the troop and the people in the troop. They should work with the outgoing SM and the troop committee to learn about both the needs of the boys in the troop and the policies of troop. Intended changes to troop policies and practices should be discussed with the committee, and then integrated into the program gradually (if possible) so that the troop members aren't overwhelmed by all the changes occurring.
There needs to be a definite point of transition, and it is important for all parties to know when it will be. It seems like it is probably also best to have the change come at a natural break in the troop year, calendar year, or school year so that the boys are already ready for changes. Care needs to be taken just after the transition to make sure that the former SM does not overshadow the new SM, which in some cases might even mean that the former SM should step out of the picture for an extended period of time.
The transition time can be made smoother by having a program and a supportive committee already in place. If these are not present, then they should be obtained as soon as possible in order to provide supports for the new SM. The new SM should also be encouraged to have as much training as possible so that he better understands the roles of everyone in the troop leadership.
Finally, in some cases there will be more than one candidate interested in the job. In this case, it is important for the committee to come up with an impartial method of selecting the new SM in order to reduce the incidence of bruised feelings.