Do not read this document alone. Information and recommendations require a team approach.
If you have continued to read despite the warning, dear reader, then you are clearly a champion. Champions are those creative individuals who see needs and seek change. They are willing to try to innovate within a system. Their enthusiasm and expertise can inspire and lead others to adopt new practices and ways of thinking.
But champions alone cannot create systemic change. It takes a team to make it happen. Implementation specialists need to be thoughtfully selected and purposefully trained as team members. They should be held accountable for effective implementation of programs that demonstrate results (Fixsen, Naoom, Blase, Friedman, & Wallace, 2005).
Consider the decision of a district to adopt a middle school 1-to-1 laptop initiative. Such a significant decision cannot be made and enacted by an individual, though it might have first been championed by a single visionary. A team representing all the key units involved should be selected by the district and trained in their roles. For example:
A technology coordinator would need to know how to support, maintain, and secure the network infrastructure expansion and increased demand for tech support.
An administrator would need to build community support and enthusiasm for the initiative within the school and community and, as the instructional leader, ensure that the initiative benefits instruction and learning.
A professional development coordinator would need to understand and be prepared to meet the needs of the teachers for training and the type of coaching support required once the equipment is in place.
Lead teachers would need to be empowered and developed to be conduits of feedback from the practice site – classrooms – to the implementation team so that efforts are aligned with needs and realities.
In developing an implementation team, the district develops a systemic approach with documented roles, processes and responsibilities. Plans and actions should be reviewed, evaluated, and held accountable for effective implementation.
Once a team process is in place and transparent to the community, the district could feel assured that their investment in equipment is also solidly grounded in a documented implementation process. The initiative could be sustained even through the often-cited threats to success of change in leadership, ineffective professional development, and resource gaps.
The district is making an investment not only in equipment or an initiative, but in its own capacity as a learning organization. Consider a continuum of how organizations perceive and approach innovation (Greenhalgh, Robert, MacFarlane, Bate, and Kyriakidou, 2004) from a passive, emergent attitude on the “let it happen” end to a negotiated, enabled middle ground of “help it happen” to the actively planned and regulated approach of “make it happen”. These conceptualizations, see Figure 1, represent quite different approaches to innovation and change and must be addressed openly in an organization in order to move forward as a team.
Implementing an initiative at a system level necessitates that all levels of the organization take responsibility to change. Information needs to be disseminated to staff and then followed up with training, technical assistance and coaching. New processes and procedures need to be put in place to recruit and orient new staff to the program and ensure that new pressures do not dilute efforts to implement and evaluate the initiative with fidelity. General capacity building work includes enhancing organizational infrastructure and staff skills, identifying funding sustainability, and fostering community partnerships.
These supports build capacity within the system around a particular innovation or program or in the general organizational capacity. From the study of implementation, one clear finding is that repetition of an evidence-based program with fidelity leads to improved outcomes. Therefore, providing ongoing and deliberate training, TA and coaching on the program remain important for an organization to keep fidelity high despite personnel changes. New staff needs to be oriented to the innovation through high quality training and coaching. Fixsen et al. (2005) identify the elements of information dissemination, demonstrations, and behavior rehearsals as essential to high quality training.
Communication and information sharing throughout the system is critical to the success of the initiative and growth of the organization. An implementation team whose members are selected, assigned, and trained to fulfill articulated responsibilities and functions within a system can ensure communication channels remain open and effective. The team can also be sustained through personnel changes.The end results should be improved, documented outcomes for students and greater district or agency capacity to ensure high quality implementation efforts. With a team approach in place, you can truly make it happen.
See the companion Research in Brief articles on Implementation :
Fixsen, D. L., Naoom, S. F., Blase, K. A., Friedman, R. M., & Wallace, F. (2005).
Implementation research: A synthesis of the literature
. Tampa, FL: University of South Florida, Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, The National Implementation Research Network (FMHI Publication #231).
Greenhalgh, T., Robert, G., MacFarlane, F., Bate, P., & Kyriakidou, O. (2004). Diffusion of innovations in service organizations: Systematic review and recommendations.
The Milbank Quarterly, 82