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Open Access Debate

The meaning and measurement of implementation climate

Bryan J Weiner1*, Charles M Belden1, Dawn M Bergmire2 and Matthew Johnston2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Policy and Management, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

2 Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

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Implementation Science 2011, 6:78  doi:10.1186/1748-5908-6-78

Published: 22 July 2011

Abstract

Background

Climate has a long history in organizational studies, but few theoretical models integrate the complex effects of climate during innovation implementation. In 1996, a theoretical model was proposed that organizations could develop a positive climate for implementation by making use of various policies and practices that promote organizational members' means, motives, and opportunities for innovation use. The model proposes that implementation climate--or the extent to which organizational members perceive that innovation use is expected, supported, and rewarded--is positively associated with implementation effectiveness. The implementation climate construct holds significant promise for advancing scientific knowledge about the organizational determinants of innovation implementation. However, the construct has not received sufficient scholarly attention, despite numerous citations in the scientific literature. In this article, we clarify the meaning of implementation climate, discuss several measurement issues, and propose guidelines for empirical study.

Discussion

Implementation climate differs from constructs such as organizational climate, culture, or context in two important respects: first, it has a strategic focus (implementation), and second, it is innovation-specific. Measuring implementation climate is challenging because the construct operates at the organizational level, but requires the collection of multi-dimensional perceptual data from many expected innovation users within an organization. In order to avoid problems with construct validity, assessments of within-group agreement of implementation climate measures must be carefully considered. Implementation climate implies a high degree of within-group agreement in climate perceptions. However, researchers might find it useful to distinguish implementation climate level (the average of implementation climate perceptions) from implementation climate strength (the variability of implementation climate perceptions). It is important to recognize that the implementation climate construct applies most readily to innovations that require collective, coordinated behavior change by many organizational members both for successful implementation and for realization of anticipated benefits. For innovations that do not possess these attributes, individual-level theories of behavior change could be more useful in explaining implementation effectiveness.

Summary

This construct has considerable value in implementation science, however, further debate and development is necessary to refine and distinguish the construct for empirical use.