Sustainability of the Team's Goals and Strategies
Each goal will need to include some strategies to make it sustainable into the future. In order to endure, the efforts of the Team cannot be ‘person specific’. Many innovations come and go because they were implemented without considering if they should or will continue after the people currently leading the charge are no longer involved.
Explore ways to make the plan document itself accessible to all Team members. An electronic format, such as googledocs, makes it convenient to hold virtual meetings where all Team members have direct access to the plan and can make comments or edits. People do not always have to gather in the same location in order to work together.
Change will not sustain itself if it is based on the efforts and commitment of one or a few people. The Team must look for ways to make the change part of the fabric of the system so it will continue into the future. Here are some ideas for types of sustainability strategies to put in place:
Assign responsibility to people based on Agency and position
For example, a specific Team member may be the point person for communication with schools and agencies about transition related information. Make this sustainable by assigning the responsibility to a specific agency and position such as ‘County ESC Transition Coordinator’
Develop an Interagency Agreement
Members of the current Team can initiate the development of an interagency agreement among agencies represented on the Team. The Interagency Agreement can specify what each agency/position commits to do. For example, the Agreement could specify that a particular agency/position will assume responsibility to keep a transition services directory updated on a set schedule (i.e., once a quarter, once a year).
Data, data, data
The Baseline and Progress Benchmark data are what distinguish a plan as ‘strategic’. Without data to back up decisions, the Team finds itself moving from idea to idea, with no way to measure whether or not progress has been made. Well defined data are facts – they are unbiased, objective and impartial. Sure, data can, and should be, subject to interpretation, for purposes of deciding how to amend, revise or extend an effort.
Data established, gathered and analyzed with fidelity stand to clearly define the starting point and the amount of progress made from that starting point. Data gathered periodically while a goal is being implemented should be reviewed frequently.
For example, a Team has designed a training session that provides an overview of agency services. 5 sessions are planned. Participants complete evaluations for each session. After the first 2 sessions, 80% of the evaluations indicate participants do not feel they gained a working knowledge of other agencies, a key outcome expected of the session. The Core Team meets to review the presentation agenda and materials and revise them to address the many questions that were asked during the first 2 sessions.
Without the data, the Team might have presented the sessions without revisions all 5 times, wasting time and resources in an activity that fell well short of the mark. The Team is also at risk of gaining an unfavorable reputation as a source of valuable information or as a source for reliable and useful guidance.
Resist the temptation to respond with changes to ‘squeaky wheel’ input or criticism. Just because it was provided articulately, or loudly, or indirectly through a supervisor does not make it universally true. Rely on objective progress monitoring methods, that indicate the size or scope of the reported dissatisfaction, as the catalyst for revisions.
Set a schedule for updates
Particular products, such a directory, web sites, brochures need to be updated periodically. People change, websites relocate, organizations and agencies can come and go or change names. Create a list of products that need reviewed or updated, set a schedule for updating each and assign responsibility for it to an agency/position. This type of detail could be included in an Interagency Agreement.
Set a schedule for continuous improvement
The plan goals and strategies and the activities associated with them need to continually evolve, change, be discontinued and/or updated, based on changing needs and conditions. Set a schedule for a deep review of the plan, perhaps as the sole agenda item for a Core or Implementation Team meeting. Include the continuous improvement cycle into description of the Team purpose, role and responsibilities.
Keep the plan up-to-date
The Team needs to keep the plan relevant to the current needs and circumstances. The plan should be front and center at every Core Team meeting. All Team discussions should spring from the goals and strategies in the plan. Every Team meeting presents the occasion to review data and data collection. As the Team accomplishes some goals, others are added. A review of data tied to the goal assists the Team to make informed decisions about the effectiveness of goals and strategies. The data guides the Team to dialogue about the impact of implemented strategies, and whether or not it met the Progress Benchmark. Then, goals and strategies can be revised or eliminated.
It is imperative that Team’s take care to implement Sustainability Strategies. Regrettably, even the most effective changes will not continue without intentionally planning for them to do so. Each time the Team adds goals or strategy, also discuss how the results of implementing the goal/strategies will be maintained and sustained into the future.