Topic 1: Implementation Stages Overview

Implementation is not an event.  It is a mission-oriented process involving multiple decisions, actions, and corrections designed to make full and effective use of effective innovations in education settings.  Change at the site, local, community or state level does not occur all at once.  Research suggests it can take from two to four years to fully and successfully operationalize an evidence-based program, practice, or effective innovation (Bierman et al., 2002; Fixsen, Blase, Timbers, & Wolf, 2001; Panzano & Roth, 2006; Prochaska & DiClemente, 1982; Saldana et al., 2011). The timer starts when an organization begins to consider change and ends when the change is fully in place and producing intended outcomes in all programs or sites in the community or state.  The process includes four Stages that can lead to the long-term survival (sustainability) and continued effectiveness of any innovation in the context of a changing world. 

Stages are not linear and each one doe s not have a crisp beginning or end.  For example, there are times when an organization will move among stages due to changes in staff, funding, leadership, or unsuccessful attempts at employing the innovation with high fidelity.  There also may be instances in which an organization is in more than one stage at the same time. For example, a program may begin delivering new services due to timeframe limitations and mandates by a funder, while they are still securing resources and putting infrastructure elements in place.

There are key components and processes to pay attention to during each of the stages.  These can guide a systematic and intentional approach for managing system change and building sustainability for the new EBP/EII. 

Lastly, full implementation is achieved when the new practice or approach has stabilized, and we are seeing the consistent use the new practice is resulting in improved child outcomes.  We also see that strategies to gather feedback for improvement by using improvement cycles are highly functioning and providing routine information on how the new practice is going and how the supports are functioning. 

Often times, it takes 2-4 years to get to full implementation, in the best case scenario.

First, we will identify the four Stages and through the following Topic sections in this Module we will examine each of them more closely.

What Are Implementation Stages

Exploration – identifying the need for change, learning about possible innovations that may provide solutions, learning about what it takes to implement the innovation effectively, developing a team to support the work as it progresses through the stages, growing stakeholders and champions, assessing and creating readiness for change, developing communication processes to support the work, and deciding to proceed (or not)

Installation – securing and developing the support needed to put a new approach or practice into place as intended, developing feedback loops between the practice and leadership level in order to streamline communication, and gathering feedback on how new practices are being implemented

Initial Implementation – the first use of an innovation by practitioners and others who have just learned how to use the innovation

Initial implementation is about trying out those new skills and practices, and getting better in implementation.  In this stage, we are gathering data to check in on how implementation is going, and developing improvement strategies based on the data.  Implementation supports are refined based on data. For example, we might find that a new skill educators are using as part of social and emotional development could be further strengthened by additional coaching from an expert; so we would think about how to embed these strategies into ongoing coaching opportunities, and how we would gather data on if the coaching is leading to the improved use of this skills.

Full Implementation – the skillful use of an innovation that is well-integrated into the repertoire of practitioners and routinely and effectively supported by successive program and local administrations