As I’m sure you know all too well, creating meaningful change in organisations and systems is really, really challenging. John Kotter (1996), a leader and expert in organisational change and transformation who I often look to, states that 70% of all major changes within organisations fail. A good example of this is literacy levels in the United States. Despite a joint effort by educational leaders across the board for more than 40 years, national literacy levels have remained the same.
That’s a really big question but fortunately a growing understanding from both experience and the literature has helped us to make sense of the inability to ‘move the dial’ on this. In reviewing the implementation literature, we learned that the most common approaches to implementing change actually produce few results. Used alone, approaches like:
have not produced the expected return on investment related to the types of education, health or social care outcomes that are of most concern (Fixsen, et al. 2005; Durlak & DuPre 2008; Proctor, et. al. 2009). As this has become more widely recognised, the interest in ‘what works’ when implementing change has increased.
An expanding collection of evidence and lessons learned from implementing change means we now know what combinations of approaches are needed to make meaningful change happen. To do this, it’s important to decide:
So, a formula for success looks like:
Source: National Implementation Research Network, 2013
By learning lessons and tapping into the growing evidence around implementation, people working in research, policy, and practice can see how current practices can actually block change. Here’s a set of effective practices that help guide successful implementation and system change:
Even with all the implementation knowledge you can possibly have, the change process can be daunting. It takes knowledge, skills, professional courage, and personal commitment for successful implementation to achieve desired change. This work isn’t for the naïve or faint of heart!
Effective systems and services do make a difference to real people. Educational leaders know that literacy is key to educational success, and educational success is important to many aspects of a person’s life. We know:
‘A parent’s educational level is the greatest indicator of whether their child will grow up in poverty’ (Literacy Partners).
Nurturing and effective parenting provides children with a much stronger foundation for development. Toxic stress
‘derails healthy development for children’ (Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child).
Responding effectively to those in crisis or need can mean the difference between a downward spiral and a managed and productive way forward:
‘some of the starkest evidence for this collective failure to properly help families is to be found in the frequency of problems which are transmitted from one generation of the same family to another’ (Working with Troubled Families report).
Well, educators, social workers, health providers, community developers, and many others want to know that what they do makes a meaningful difference to the children, families, and communities they support. And because Scotland has a great vision and commitment to Getting It Right For Every Child!
Hear more from me on implementation and how we can deliver on the Children and Young People Act (Scotland) 2014 for our most vulnerable children.