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February 2019Vol. 20, No. 1Are You Ready? Assessing Readiness for Effective Implementation

Written by the Children's Bureau's Capacity Building Center for States

Agency leaders and staff at all levels must be both willing and able to put new programs and practices in place for new and ongoing initiatives to succeed. In other words, they must be ready for change. The Capacity Building Center for States' brief Change and Implementation in Practice: Readiness describes how agencies can assess their level of readiness for implementation and use the findings to proactively prepare for a successful change initiative. Some ideas from that brief are highlighted below.

What Is Readiness?

Organizational readiness for implementation is the extent to which an organization is both willing and able to implement and sustain a selected intervention (Dymnicki, Wandersman, Osher, Grigorescu, & Huang, 2014). When organizational readiness is high, successful implementation of a new program or practice is more likely; when readiness is low, change efforts are more likely to fail (Dymnicki et al., 2014; Weiner, 2009).

Components of Readiness

Three aspects of readiness are especially important for successful implementation (Dymnicki et al., 2014; Scaccia et al., 2015):

  • Motivation—The willingness or desire of individuals in an organization to change and adopt a new program or practice. Factors that influence motivation for an intervention include compatibility with agency values and needs, manageability, and prioritization.
  • General (or foundational) capacity—Aspects of an organization's healthy functioning required to achieve its goals. An agency with strong general capacity will have effective leadership, appropriate staff, and clear expectations and procedures for how to do things. Agencies also must have structures in place that support a change process (e.g., strong data systems to explore needs and track changes, training systems to build new skills).
  • Intervention-specific capacity—The specific knowledge, skills, structures, and supports needed to implement a particular program or practice effectively. Intervention-specific capacity may include, for example, program champions, strong agency and service provider relationships, and data systems and training specific to the new program or practice.

A simple equation makes it easy to remember the three components (Scaccia et al., 2015):


Readiness for Implementation = Motivation x General Capacity and Intervention-Specific Capacity

Each of the three components is important for agency readiness. If any one component is very low, then the organization is unlikely to be ready. As an agency becomes stronger in each area, its level of readiness for successful implementation grows.

Assessing Readiness

Assessing readiness involves taking a close look at the motivation and willingness of those involved with change efforts and examining factors that both contribute to the organization's overall ability to change and help the organization prepare for specific changes it is implementing. Such assessments can identify where supports are needed and help agencies set a strong foundation for solutions that address identified problems.

To support readiness assessments in child welfare settings, the Center's readiness brief presents a list of sample assessment tools and highlights key areas assessed by each. Teams may decide to use one of the existing tools, modify a tool (if appropriate), or develop a new one. The Parent Partner Program Navigator contains an example of a tailored tool with items related to different aspects of motivation, general capacity, and intervention-specific capacity.

Readiness assessment findings can reveal agency strengths and capacity needs. An agency is rarely "ready" in every area, and frequently an agency will need to focus its attention on improving particular aspects of readiness incrementally over time. Teams can use the assessment findings to inform capacity building and implementation planning.

Once agency teams assess their readiness for implementation and address their findings, they will be better positioned to initiate and sustain new programs and practices aimed at improving outcomes. For more information on assessing readiness for change and implementation, visit the Change and Implementation in Practice webpage on the Center for States website.


Dymnicki, A., Wandersman, A., Osher, D., Grigorescu, V., & Huang, L. (2014). Willing, able, ready: Basics and policy implications of readiness as a key component for implementation of evidence-based interventions. Retrieved from

Scaccia, J. P., Cook, B. S., Lamont, A., Wandersman, A., Castellow, J., Katz, J., & Beidas, R. S. (2015). A practical implementation science heuristic for organizational readiness: R=MC2. Journal of Community Psychology, 43(4), 484-501. Retrieved from

Weiner, B. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science, 4. Retrieved from