Moving from words to action – time to start revisiting SMART actions in training?

26 February 2015

Moving from words to action – time to start revisiting SMART actions in training?

This month’s blog has been written by Amanda Jones.

What does it take to move from words to actions?  Moving from the “what” to the “how”.

In training we often talk about the idea of “don’t just do something sit there” to help people think about the importance of conversation and not jumping into action without first having all the information.  We often use a quote from Einstein to illustrate this: “If I had an hour to save the world I’d spend 55 minutes defining the problem”.

I wonder if Einstein would have adjusted his timings if he then had to set actions that others needed to be involved in and not just himself.  Actions need to mean something to those responsible and be clear, so that they almost act as a recipe with the end product being what will be achieved.

If I was given an action plan to implement that said – Action: “Save the world,” By when? ASAP, Who’s responsible? “ALL,” apart from the rest of the world being in serious trouble, it would be nearly impossible to implement as I wouldn’t know where to start.

I still see a lot of action plans that don’t truly match the conversations that people have, and don’t reflect the wonderful detail that we see in other areas of a plan. It’s almost like the word “action” makes people think they need to stop talking and just get some dates and ideas recorded. There are still issues around the implementation of plans in services and while we can discuss whether or not people see it as part of their role and the culture change that needs to take place, I think a starting point is creating clarity in the way we write down whatever it is we are expecting people to do. It’s hard to hold people accountable for following through on actions that are not clear in the first place.

We’ve started to create more space in training to talk about action plans and some top tips for capturing actions.  A staff member came back to the second day of training recently and shared with the group, that after talking about action plans on the first day of training he went back to work and scrubbed out every action plan that used the term “ongoing” in the ‘by when’ column, and “all” in the ‘who is responsible,’ and set his own action to find time to revisit the plans and fill in the missing detail. This was exciting to hear and a great example for others. It is also reflective of the need to look at the step between planning and doing, when we are developing and recording plans.

We find that we spend progressively more time teaching person centred thinking skills, and less time on courses that do actually focus on planning.  Many of the Australian states that have begun to legislate for something akin to person centred planning, have shied away from any mandated proformas, and have generally pushed the message of creativity and individuality in how plans are captured.  I wonder if one of the casualties of this is people actually knowing how to plan and record actions.  Even people who may have been trained to record SMART actions in the past, now seem confused about how this fits into the world of creative and individually tailored planning.  It is becoming evident that while we travel around the country ensuring we share new learning, it is equally important to ensure we revisit the foundational concepts every now and then, even if they do seem like good old common sense.

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