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There will be a point when it’s time to start making changes. It is not going to be easy. This chapter helps you plan your actions, suggests ways you can get the agreement of others and how to manage events to reduce the chances of things going wrong. (PARTNERS)

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Your action plan

Putting actions in place can be very testing. This is where a number of initiatives go no further, or the responses end up as merely pointless activities with very little impact on the problem. To make a difference you will have to be able to coordinate a series of actions, similar to a musical conductor.

It maybe that one action is needed to be done by another or the same action needs to be done by a number of different people. It maybe that one person or organisation has to do a number of actions or a different action needs to be completed by different people. Just to make it even harder, some of these actions will need to be done simultaneously, while others will need to be done sequentially to be effective. This is even more testing if it is being done across a partnership.

For example, in some places school children at the end of the day all use the same bus stop to go home. Rivalries exist and unfortunately fights sometimes take place as a result. This problem has been resolved by schools staggering the times they end the school day and by the bus companies ensuring that there are enough buses to pick up the children at the critical times. These actions not only had to be coordinated but negotiation and sales skills were needed by those tasked to resolve the problem with the local bus company, schools and parents.

Finding your own champion

If you are working on a problem and you need support, it does not have to be just financial but could be a change in policy. It is going to be useful to have someone to supply this support for you.

These people are normally higher up the organisation, where the demand was from in the first place before it was directed downwards for something to be done. If you are having difficulty in implementing their wishes, for the lack of funding or anything else, then they can be approached for support. My advice is not to make too many requests to this person, but to seek their ideas as well as offering your solution.

Getting agreement with others

It is crucial to get the cooperation of others. My approach is to focus my efforts on those who can enable the changes to take place. These people are described as being “the junctions of influence”. They are not necessarily the heads of departments but have the ability to influence what does, and what does not, get done.

You will find them in all industries, sometimes they are the ones who have been there the longest, hold a supervisory role or have the strength of character to move others to what they want to happen. You may yourself be that person who is the junction of influence. My advice is to find the right people to get on your side. It is not always easy, as some will work on ‘not showing out’.

However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because they are not visible they do not have the expertise, motivation and capacity to manipulate events. I have found the best way is to negotiate with these people, especially as they are going to be very knowledgeable and can be your greatest allies.

Selling is an important skill in Problem Solving. It will help you sell to others the idea of working in partnership with you, the reasons for supporting your actions and the fact that effective Problem Solving can sometimes take time. Don’t try to sell the entire approach at the first meeting. Allow time for the other person to think and reflect. Sometimes you may only sell another meeting. Prepare alternatives. If you can’t make your primary objective, have a fallback position ready.

Trade off

A very effective form of negotiation with other organisations is the ‘Trade-off’. This works rather like bartering. Firstly, look for something that is expensive for them but cheap for you ‘expensive’ and ‘cheap’ doesn’t just refer to finance, it can also mean staff hours, resources etc. Next, look for something that is cheap for them but expensive for you. Then Swap.

Setting an Action Plan

Here are points to consider when you produce your Action Plan.

Part 1 – What you want done

  • Describe the actions required and state them as an Objective. This needs to be SMART with consideration to the Impact Scale as discussed in earlier chapters.
  • What processes or policies need to be changed for the actions to be progressed?
  • How much latitude is going to be given to make any changes to the way it’s done?

Part 2 – What people are needed

  • Who is going to take the lead for the response? Who is going to be the deputy?
  • How specific do you want to be? This is going to be a balance between giving people flexibility and making sure it’s done correctly. Would a diagram, map or template help?
  • Do people need extra information or extra skills, such as additional training?
  • How much money, facilities and transport are needed for the actions to take place or for those doing the actions?

Part 3 – When you want it done

  • When will it start? How much time is going to be given to each task? Does there need to be a sequence for each action?
  • Is this going to be part of a person’s day job, or are they going to be given extra time?
  • When do you want it completed by? Does it have to be done now, and what can be done later? Have you built any unexpected delays into your timing?

Monitoring the actions

When the actions have been put in place, you need to monitor them to ensure that they are doing what was intended and stop those that are unsuccessful or those that are actually making the problem worse.

Monitoring is the process of continually assessing whether actions are achieving the Aim and Objectives. You will need to decide what information to collect; where from; how to collect it; who will collect it and when to collect it. The questions need to find out how things are going. Are they getting better, worse or staying the same? Is what we are doing making a difference? Are we still correct about what the problem is?

You will need to get a balance between measuring things to assess how things are going and measuring something just because you can. “You won’t make a pig any bigger by keep weighing it!” I believe this statement was made by a Norfolk Police Officer, prompted after being monitored by an outside body.

Monitoring to confirm an action is effective

You will need to make sure that the things put into place are still there and being used correctly. An example of this was when concrete barriers were fitted to prevent disputes at cab ranks at an airport. A queuing system was in place but some cab driver would drive to the front of the queue, push in and encourage the travellers to take their cab. Something needed to be done as some of the disputes were resulting in fights between drivers. The concrete barriers were effective as they physically stopped mini cab drivers jumping the queue to collect the fares.

It also had a second benefit that customers, who may have been tempted to take advantage of the queue jumping cab drivers, could not physically get themselves and their luggage over the barriers. You need to make sure that the concrete blocks are still in place, and that the offending mini cabs have not overcome the obstacle and are again jumping the queue.

Monitoring to see if the action is achieving the aim

You need to make sure that those you are trying to change have not found a way around it. Just as an aside, people can be very creative at this point, and it is a shame they were not part of the session generating ideas.

An example of a tactic being negated is from Catalonia, Spain. A tactic used to put off sex workers trading alongside the road, was to fine sex workers working on the highway for not wearing fluorescent bibs as required by law. Two women were fined but now these women wear the yellow bibs and so this tactic is no longer effective.

Monitoring to make sure you have not made the situation worse

This is to check to make sure you are not making matters worse. An example was when a cleaning company, who had a contract to clean an underpass in Central London, had the problem of rough sleepers getting in the way of the cleansing machines. So the contractors decided to pay the few rough sleepers to go away when the machine arrived and save the crew time. Unfortunately, word got around that if you were in this subway at 7am you got paid to go away again. You have probably guessed already, and yes, the next day there were ten and by the end of the week over thirty. They stopped paying!

Additional points to be considered

How are you going to measure what’s been done? How does the person report any problems and give other feedback?

What system do you have in place if others are not doing as agreed? Ways of dealing with these providers needs to be established. The way it is to be done needs to be shared with those who are receiving the service.

If the plan is not being followed as expected, was the objective realistic or is there something wrong with the task?

Should more priority be placed on one or more of the objectives?


We have looked at how the ideas become actions, how they can be applied, risk assessed and monitored. The next chapter looks at how we can measure whether what you and others have done has actually worked.

If you want to know more about this topic then please contact Neil via his DIRECTORY entry at this link

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Updated February 2015