"Planning is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up."
~ Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)
This section describes the steps in developing an improvement plan. While there are many ways that a state may choose to develop a written improvement plan, this guide provides the basic steps in improvement planning. A state may complete the steps in a different order, or add or eliminate steps and should use this resource in a way that fits state needs.
During Phase I of the SSIP, states reviewed their data at all levels, assessed their current infrastructure, and developed Coherent Improvement Strategies and a Theory of Action that specifies how the State-Identified Measureable Result (SIMR) will be achieved. Now it is time to put this all into action! An improvement plan for Phase II will provide the details needed to achieve the expected outcomes and make progress toward achieving the state's SIMR.
Improvement planning is an organizational management activity that is used to:
- Set priorities
- Focus energy and resources
- Ensure that internal and external stakeholders are working toward common goals
- Establish agreement on intended outcomes/results implementation
Planning occurs all the time, both informally and formally. Effective improvement planning is intentional and provides an opportunity to assess the current status, determine if what is being done needs to be done, and decide where to go in the future. Improvement planning involves setting priorities, assessing internal and external resources, and engaging all interested parties in defining the activities, desired outcomes, and implementing/revising improvement strategies as needed to achieve the SIMR.
In Phase II, developing the written plan will provide states with the structure and detail needed to achieve the SIMR through implementation of the improvement strategies. Including stakeholders, key partners, and staff in this process ensures that all perspectives are represented. The evaluation measures provide the feedback needed to track progress and make needed adjustments.
The improvement plan must address improving the infrastructure and how the state will support EIS programs and/or EIS providers in implementing the evidence-based practices. It should include the following:
- Activities and steps that will be implemented, who is responsible, and according to what timelines
- Resources needed for each activity
- Leverage points and partners from within the lead agency and other initiatives and agencies
- Communication strategies and stakeholder involvement
- How identified barriers in the infrastructure will be addressed
- How activities will be implemented with fidelity
- Procedures for monitoring the plan's implementation and strategies, timeframe for plan evaluation, and modifications, if needed, to ensure progress toward desired outcomes is achieved.
Improvement Plans answer the following questions:
- Where are we now? Use this opportunity to review the current environment and clarify the vison, mission, and purpose.
- Where are we going? Think ahead several years to assure consistency and alignment with the direction the organization is headed.
- What will achievement of the SIMR look like? Identify the expected short, intermediate, and long-term outcomes that will result from achieving the SIMR.
- How will we get there? Lay out the road to connect current activities with future desired goals. Develop an improvement plan with clearly defined activities.
- How will we know we've been successful? Determine benchmarks of success. Develop an evaluation plan that leads to improving and adjusting the activities to ensure a dynamic and responsive process is in place to achieve the SIMR and the intended outcomes.
Other questions to consider include the following:
- What actions or changes will occur?
- Who will carry out these changes?
- When will the changes will take place, and for how long?
- What resources are needed to carry out the activity (e.g., staff, funding, supplies)?
- How will the improvement plan be communicated to stakeholders, the public, providers, and families?
- How will input be provided to make needed adjustments to the improvement plan?