We were discussing ‘internal inspections’. (This was a management meeting not a medical conference!) There was much concern about how to structure the inspections so that the resulting report would produce change in the performance of the organisation. An action plan was suggested (where have I heard that before?)
It occurred to me that changes in the performance of the organisation were of course changes in the behaviour of people. I expressed doubts whether changes arose in the way being suggested. If in the process of the inspection, the potential for change was not discovered by the participants, I doubted whether an action plan was likely to make much difference. This was a bit rash. A colleague argued with me. He took the view that structural change from an action plan could achieve more than hours of talk. Such a plan could make a measurable actuality of change where an immeasurable and intangible process had for years proved wanting.
It’s hard to work for long in social work without developing sympathy for that view. Hours of talk with offenders can so often seem to produce so little change and the ‘nothing works’ generation of research has left us with a real thirst for tangible evidence of the results of our endeavours.