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Reflecting on Your Implementation Journey

January 7, 2022

It is January, and you know what that means. Bring on the resolutions, goal setting, vision boards, and self-improvement apps. Who doesn’t love a fresh start or the idea of improving? 

However, before you jump into setting goals for 2022, think about this advice. According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”  

In thinking about this personally, if you set a 2022 goal to get more sleep, what would you need to change in your daily evening routines to achieve this goal? You would have to ensure that you were off your screens by a specific time, that you are not scheduling late meetings or activities, and maybe you would need to drink sleepy time tea. In essence, there are changes to your system that need to occur to achieve your goal of getting more sleep. But first, you would have to reflect on your bad habits in the evening, preventing you from reaching your desired sleep. 

So, let’s unpack that quote through the lens of implementation. We often set significant goals to address capacity for implementing an evidence-based practice. Whether we do this through an implementation plan or action planning from your last capacity assessment, clear goals are a must. Often, as we work through this process and start working on our objectives and actions steps, we hit a wall. And that wall would be infrastructure or your organization’s systems. 

Have you ever sat in a meeting where not all the voices were at the table, so questions went unanswered? Or a communication protocol is not being used, so individuals are unaware of decisions made? How can you address these infrastructure barriers or raise the level of your systems to achieve your goals? 

An excellent place to start is by reflecting on the Active Implementation Formula. We often learn about the formula at the beginning of our first implementation journey, but we become so engrained in the Active Implementation Frameworks that we forget our why. Why are we approaching the work in this way?  

Heading into this month’s state team meeting or district implementation team work session, you should take a minute for reflection based on the following questions: 

Effective Practices: 

  • What is being implemented? Is it clear to everyone? 
  • What is the evidence for its effectiveness? 
  • How well operationalized is the practice? 
  • Is adaptation necessary? If so, how? 

Effective Implementation: 

  • How has implementation progressed over time? 
  • How have we built an infrastructure to support sustained implementation? 
  • How are we using data to communicate about and improve our work? 
  • How are we transitioning supports and building internal capacity? 

Enabling Context: 

  • How are stakeholders engaged? 
  • How is data used for improvement and learning? 

Taking the time to reflect as a team will bring everyone back to the why of using implementation science to achieve your goals and allow you to find potential challenges within your infrastructure. Then you can move forward by reviewing your plans, discussing progress on actions steps, and making the necessary modifications to your system. 

This month take time to reflect as a team on your effective practices, implementation, and enabling context. It will open up a conversation about your barriers and infrastructure and allow for improvement. Remember to be honest in your reflection and follow the advice from Brene Brown, “Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.” And we do love measurement in implementation science! 

Active Implementation Reflection Guide 

Resources to collect information for reflection