Implementation Teams engage in stage-based work to identify and build upon current system strengths, help manage expectations, highlight systems change success, and focus on creating communication pathways among and across stakeholders. The following sections will discuss rationales supporting their place in education systems and how their work facilitates effective and efficient use of EBPs.
Why are Implementation Teams Important?
An investment in developing and supporting competence and capacity within Implementation Teams can lead to sustained use and dramatically improved outcomes in schools and districts. For example, with competent implementation teams' support, over 80% of attempted implementation sites used practices with fidelity. Without effective and efficient Implementation Teams, only 30% met fidelity criteria (Fixsen, Blase, Timbers, & Wolf, 2001). These authors also found that Implementation Teams contributed to increased success and efficiency, with the time required to achieve fidelity reduced from 7 to 3.6 years.
Studies by Balas and Boren (2000) and Green and Seifert (2005) tracked typical outcomes for using evidence-based programs. A review of their results depicts that it takes 17 years to accomplish modest levels (14%) of the use of well-researched practices or programs. This pace of implementation leaves education systems churning around a mediocre mean (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983; Grigg et al., 2003; Kutner et al., 2007) as innovation is slow with even fewer used effectively in practice. These data emphasize how critical it is to have organized, active capacity provided through Implementation Teams. Just as students need effective teachers, teachers and administrators need effective supports to ensure implementation. Not surprisingly, Implementation Teams have been called a powerful lever for organizational change in education (Higgins, Weiner, & Young, 2012)
Why are Implementation Teams effective?
A helpful distinction between passive and active ways to support effective implementation is anchored along a continuum from "letting it happen" to "helping it happen" to "making it happen" (Greenhalgh, Robert, MacFarlane, Bate, & Kyriakidou, 2004). Hall and Hord (1987) tied this same distinction to school leadership. Principals who employed more active, "making it happen" approaches to using innovations were more successful. Fixsen and colleagues (2011) have applied these distinctions to implementation approaches:
"Letting it happen" – A policy or program has been mandated or adopted, and, with minimal supports, practitioners are expected to translate information to practice. Practitioners are held accountable for intended outcomes.
"Helping it happen" – A policy or program has been mandated or adopted with materials, training resources, and websites to support practitioners. Practitioners are left to figure out how to solve problems while being held accountable for achieving positive outcomes.
"Making it happen"– A policy or program has been mandated or adopted. Active and purposeful implementation best practices are used to support practitioners and administrators. An Implementation Team is accountable for developing the implementation support systems, resolving organization and system issues, and achieving positive outcomes.