4.2.7 Implementing the solution
Getting agreement will not in itself ensure effective implementation. An action plan is needed, to set out exactly what each person now has to do. Your adjusted project plan (especially the critical path diagram and Gantt chart) and observation of what is happening should enable you to monitor how the recommended actions are being carried out.
In Example 8 the leader of a children and families team describes how they tackled a quality problem as part of a project to improve the process of reviewing cases.
Example 8: A quality problem in a social work team
From supervision of my team, I had some very tangible evidence that there was a quality problem. The quality of case reviews varied considerably from worker to worker and from case to case. What concerned me most was that care plans were sometimes vague, and even when their quality was high, there was evidence of drift. Deadline dates for key events were not adhered to and some actions were getting lost altogether. Even the dates for reviews were sometimes not kept to, so problems in implementing care plans were not picked up and rectified. Don't get me wrong. I'm very proud of the team and the work they do – and so are they. Everyone has a heavy caseload and they are often very complex cases. Someone or something will always disrupt the best of plans. It's often the everyday wheeling and dealing that moves a case on, leaving the formal plan way behind.
The team were going through the motions of completing the mass of forms but I don’t think they really saw any relationship between the bureaucracy and the quality of their work. They were demoralised really. There seemed to be some management problems as well: team leaders often didn't attend reviews and this seemed to be becoming the norm. Good delegation, you could say, but if we don’t take reviews seriously enough to attend, then why should our staff?
And where were the service users in all of this? To me, children and their families can find very little in the process that they can be positive about. Generally speaking, it must be a totally alienating experience. Some key workers do a good job of taking families through the review process before it takes place, explaining what's going to happen, but even then it can be painful. Parents are always included, of course, but they are outnumbered and outgunned. Children and their families have a chance to comment on the process and outcome, but it doesn't feel to me like really listening to customers. I think they just accept the review process as another hoop to jump through.
So I had some tangible cause for concern and some gut reactions that I needed to check out.
On the basis of the information in the case study, draw a fishbone diagram to define the problem and identify its possible causes.
How would you find out which were the main causes that needed to be addressed?
You may not be familiar with the social work setting, but you will probably have identified the central problem issue as being poor quality of childcare reviews. You may also have recognised problems of communication, shortage in equipment and resources, and personnel; and failings in the use of procedures and systems. Figure 6 (causes of poor quality of childcare reviews) shows the fishbone diagram the team leader drew with her team.
To collect more data, the team leader consulted a number of people involved in the process, using structured interviews with individuals and small groups. The team also devised evaluation forms for use with different groups of stakeholders. The number of reviews carried out on time was monitored, and a bar chart (Figure 7: Quarterly review of care plans against agreed quality requirements) was drawn after auditing a sample of case files against quality criteria.
The data collected by the team, as well as the problem-solving process they went through, helped them to explore solutions to the quality problems in their work.