Research School Network: Ready or Not? The Importance of Readiness in Implementation Mark Miller on a simple formula to help decide if you are ready for implementation

Ready or Not? The Importance of Readiness in Implementation

Mark Miller on a simple formula to help decide if you are ready for implementation

by Bradford Research School
on the

When planning for implementation, an important question to ask is Are We Ready? In the EEF’s A School’s Guide to Implementation, one of the crucial recommendations at the prepare stage is to thoroughly assess the degree to which the school is ready to implement the innovation.’ One way to consider this is with the equation R=MC2.

Scaccia et al (2015) state that readiness refers to the extent to which an organization is both willing and able to implement a particular innovation’ and that it consists of three component parts:

We propose that organisational readiness involves: 1) the motivation to implement an innovation, 2) the general capacities of an organization, and 3) the innovation-specific capacities needed for a particular innovation.


Many factors will influence the motivation of staff. One is the relative advantage’ of an approach. This is the extent to which it is seen as a better approach than the current one, or alternatives. This will be a particular challenge when switching between approaches which seem relatively similar, or those which may require much effort earlier on for staff. Motivation is affected when there is a perception that this is not any better. Having a clear theory of change and planning for how this will be communicated is an important part of building readiness.

If an approach is not seen to be compatible with current norms and school values, then it will impact negatively on motivation, so we need to consider compatibility. Compatibility can also mean compatibility with existing systems, and it may take some more time to ensure systems are able to be integrated with the new approach.

There is also the idea of complexity. Most new approaches bring a degree of complexity, and it is how we manage this complexity that is important. So ensuring readiness might mean spending more time in support materials, professional development, removing elements.

General Capacity

As the EEF put it, An organisation’s general capacities include factors such as staffing levels, leadership capacity, administrative availability, and the overall climate and culture in the school’.

Even when lots of the elements of effective implementation planning are in place, implementation will fail when the organisation does not have the general capacity to make things work. Even when you have the general capacity to run a complex innovation in a school, this might not be the case when the school is running another 10 complex innovations simultaneously.

General capacity indicates how ready you are to implement any
approach, rather than simply the current one, and as such you can assess general capacity for implementation regularly, not just at the start of a new approach.

Innovation-specific Capacity

Having a good school culture and general capacity for implementation is necessary, but not sufficient for readiness. According to the EEF, The innovation-specific capacities relate to the knowledge and skills needed to work with the specific programme or practice to be adopted. They include the capability to train and coach staff, the presence of required staff positions, and the availability of technical equipment required for the application of a new intervention, amongst others.’

Often this can be addressed by taking more time to train staff and put in place innovation-specific elements. How we go about the specific interventions or approaches also directly impacts on the school’s general capacity too.

The EEF have a list of questions that can support school leaders to assess readiness:

  • Who are the key individual and organisational stakeholders who need to be involved in the implementation process? In what ways?
  • Are these staff sufficiently skilled? If not, does our plan contain the appropriate blend of professional development activities?
  • How motivated are staff to engage in this change process? How well does the innovation align with our shared educational values?
  • Are we able to make the necessary changes to existing processes and structures, such as timetables or team meetings?
  • What type of administrative support is required? Who will provide it?
  • What technical equipment is needed to deliver the innovation?
  • How will we collect, analyse, and share data on implementation? Who will manage this?
  • Does the intervention require external support that needs to be sourced outside of the school?
  • And crucially… What can we stop doing to create the space, time, and capacity for the new implementation effort?

These components work in tandem, e.g. if you do not have general capacity for implementation, then motivation to implement is likely to be low. It’s important to ask whether we are ready before launching a new approach, but you must still assess readiness even once an approach has started, because lots of things will change over time. So even as an approach is being delivered, ask whether we are still ready.

Scaccia JP, Cook BS, Lamont A, Wandersman A, Castellow J, Katz J, Beidas RS. A practical implementation science heuristic for organizational readiness: R = MC2. J Community Psychol. 2015 Apr;43(4):484 – 501. d

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