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:
- Increasing “buy-in” and readiness
- Installing and sustaining the implementation infrastructure
- Assessing and reporting on fidelity and outcomes
- Building linkages with external systems
- Problem-solving and promoting sustainability
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:
- Knowledge and understanding of the selected program or innovation including the linkage of components to outcomes
- Knowledge of implementation science and best practices for implementation
- Applied experience in using data for program improvement
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.