Improving Systems, Practices and Outcomes

Implementation Process: Glossary Terms

This is a companion glossary of Implementation Science terminology used in a Guide to the Implementation Process: Stages, Steps & Activities.

Go to: a Guide to the Implementation Process: Stages, Steps & Activities


Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive leadership is needed to solve complex problems that do not have obvious solutions or widespread agreement about what should be done. Adaptive leadership includes skills that foster systems thinking and builds collaboration and consensus among the people who are expected to use the new innovation or practices.


A person or persons who put forward a new idea or set of practices and promote their benefits and use by others. Coaching

Coaching is a relationship-based process that is used to support practitioners’ use of the innovation or practice in order to achieve desired or intended outcomes.


Coaching is a relationship-based process that is used to support practitioners' use of the innovation or practice in order to achieve desired or intended outcomes.

Competency Drivers

Activities that address staff competence and confidence in putting the new innovation or practice in place. These include such professional development activities as selection of staff, training/TA and coaching, all aimed at enhancing performance fidelity.

Early Adopters

The first individuals or teams to show interest in the new innovation or practice and, after receiving adequate training and continuing support, begin to use the new innovation or practice.


Increasing the number of sites or programs implementing the new innovation or practice with fidelity. This is also referred to as scaling up.


The first stage of implementation that involves stakeholders in assessing needs, identifying the innovation or practice that will address the needs, creating support for the needed innovation or practice, and deciding to move forward the change effort.

Feedback Loops

Feedback loops are communication processes used to gain input, analyze data and problem solve during the implementation process. Feedback loops are used among the State Leadership Team, Implementation Teams and Implementation Sites.


The degrees to which specified procedures, innovations or practices are implemented as intended by developers and achieve expected results or benefits. Fidelity implies strict and continuing faithfulness to the original innovation or practice.

Full Implementation

The fourth stage in the implementation process when most practitioners are implementing a new innovation or set of practices with fidelity and are achieving the expected outcomes.


Implementation is a process by which a specified set of activities are designed to put into practice an innovation or program of known dimensions. These activities occur over time in stages that overlap and that are revisited over time.

Implementation Drivers

Framework for organizing the capacity and infrastructure that influences the successful implementation of new innovation or practice. Drivers include capacity for promoting competency through professional development, leadership and organizational supports such as policy and procedures, funding, administration, data systems etc.

Implementation Frameworks

The conceptual organization for understanding and organizing the long term system change process needed in order to implement, scale up and sustain a new innovation or practice. The frameworks include Useable Interventions, Stages and Steps, Drivers, Teams and Improvement Cycles.

Implementation, Scale-up and Sustainability Plan

A written plan that includes steps, activities, persons responsible, timelines, evaluation and benchmarks to guide the process the implementation process, including scaling up and sustaining a practice or innovation over time.

Implementation Site

The location (program) where the new innovation or practice is being implemented, where an implementation team supports and guides the process of implementation.

Implementation Team

Implementation teams (also called Local Leadership Teams) provide active leadership at the regional or program level to manage the implementation efforts and support the people using the new innovation or practice. They engage in continuous communication and feedback with the State Leadership Team about the issues, successes and needed resources to support successful implementation and expansion.

Improvement Cycles

The framework used by teams to understand the current challenges, find solutions and build upon strengths in order to increase the likelihood that a new innovation or practice is implemented with fidelity and sustained.


Organizational structures (e.g. administration, policies, procedures, finance, etc.) needed for the operation of programs and services.

Initial Implementation

The third stage of implementation involving steps in which the new practices are first being put to use. This includes providing intensive TA and coaching and addressing challenges as they emerge. Data is used to assess the quality of implementation and to quickly identify problems and make decisions for improvement.

Installation: Building System Capacity

The second stage of implementation that involves building system capacity and resources to adopt a new practice or innovation. This stage includes selecting sites and implementation teams, building communication and feedback loops, developing training and TA, and determining evaluation methods.

Leadership Drivers

Leadership drivers are the individuals and teams who provide adaptive and technical leadership at each level of the system (programs, community, school, district, and state) for successful adoption of new innovations or practices. See also adaptive leadership; technical leadership, State Leadership Team and Implementation team.

Levels of the Service System

Levels of the service system include the state agency, regional/county administration, local administration, programs, service providers, families and children.

Organizational Drivers

Organizational drivers are the infrastructures (i.e. data systems, policies, procedures, fiscal structures, etc.) necessary to create hospitable environments at each level of the system (programs, community, school, district, and state) for successful adoption of new innovations or practices.

Performance Assessment

Performance assessment measures the degree to which service providers are able to use the innovation or practice as intended and achieve expected outcomes.


Practices are the teachable and doable parts of an innovation that staff will use with children and families (the intervention) which can be used, replicated and measured for fidelity.


Scale-up refers to the adoption of policies, practices, and implementation strategies that promote widespread, sustained use of evidence-based practices first with-in the program or agency and then spread out across multiple programs or agencies. This is also referred to as expansion.


Persons or groups that have invested money, time and or energy into something. Stakeholders include representation of persons that are affected by the change or innovation such as parents, providers, TA providers and, administrators.

State Leadership Team

State Leadership Team (also called state management or state implementation team) is the group of individuals at the state level who manage the change effort by actively leading and providing the internal supports needed to move the selected innovation or practice through all the stages and steps of implementation.

Technical Leadership

Technical leadership might be thought of as good management. The leader is engaged, quick to recognize and respond to issues that arise, organizes groups to solve problems, and regularly produces desired results. Technical leaders work in the zone where there is substantial agreement about what needs to be done and reasonable certainty about how to do it.

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