Framework 4: Implementation Teams

An implementation teams diagram portrayed as four inter-connected blocks

Who does the work? The role of Implementation Teams is to leverage implementation science principles and systems change best practices to support the widespread use of evidence-based programs and practices.

Next, let’s take a look at Implementation Teams and expert implementation support. There is evidence that creating Implementation Teams that actively work to implement programs and innovations results in more efficient, higher-quality implementation.

Traditional dissemination and diffusion approaches to implementing evidence-based programs for children and families have not been successful in closing the research-to-practice gap. In extensive reviews of dissemination and diffusion literature, past efforts to support implementation have been characterized as “letting it happen” or “helping it happen”.

Approaches that “let” implementation happen leave it to administrators, teachers or to State staff to make use of research findings on their own. Approaches that “help” implementation happen provide manuals or web sites to help implementation happen in real world settings.

Both of these approaches have been found to be insufficient for promoting the full and effective use of innovations. There is another category of activities called “making it happen.” In this approach, expert implementation teams play a role in actively supporting implementation of a new program or innovation.

Implementation teams provide an internal support structure to move selected programs and innovations through the stages of implementation. They also ensure that the implementation infrastructure, as detailed in the implementation drivers discussed earlier, is effectively used to support the programs and practices. Here is an example of an implementation teaming diagram in education. When multiple teams are engaged in a larger-scale change effort they need to be purposefully linked to support communication and engage in problem-solving. The functions of each team need to be clearly defined and known to all other teams.

Implementation Teams focus on:

Too often innovations rely on just a champion or two. Those champions can move on to new challenges or burn out. So innovations come and go with individuals.  An advantage of relying on implementation teams is that the team collectively has the knowledge, skills, abilities, and time to succeed and sustain the work. The team embodies the capacity needed to implement well and maintain and improve programs and practices over time and across staff.

Ideal core competencies of an Implementation Team include:


Activity 1.4
Getting started with Implementation Teams

So, how could you leverage the Implementation Teams framework in your work? Consider the following questions when creating teaming structures to support new programs and innovations. We encourage you to discuss these with your team and/or to write down your responses.

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Purveyors and Intermediary Organizations

Implementation teams might actively work with external purveyors, vendors, or technical assistance providers of programs or innovations. For example, early childhood program purveyors represent a group of individuals very knowledgeable about an evidenced-based program or evidence-informed innovation. The purveyor actively works to help others implement the program or innovation with fidelity and good effect. Purveyors are often affiliated with university-based researchers and/or technical assistance centers or may be private consultants.

External implementation support could also be provided from intermediary or regional entities or organizations. Intermediaries facilitate the exploration, installation, implementation and sustainability of a number of programs and innovations by:

  • Broadly educating and stimulating interest
  • Assessing evidence and fit/feasibility
  • Linking program developers and purveyors with implementing schools and districts
  • Ensuring effective implementation and fidelity systems are developed and maintained
  • Building capacity to implement well and integrating efforts to implement multiple initiatives
  • Assisting with alignment of policies, procedures, and guidelines to support new ways of work
  • Working at multiple levels of the education system to promote quality implementation and scale-up