Implementation Tips for State and Agency Staff
Transforming nutrition education began in Massachusetts in 2003. Change is a complicated and messy process, filled with exhilarating, challenging, rewarding, discouraging and surprising moments. The Massachusetts WIC Nutrition Program has accomplished a great deal and is excited about the opportunities this change has created.
This section offers practical implementation tips designed to speed the change process in your state or local agency. It helps to have two or three passionate, committed people who keep staff focused on the big picture—the transformation of nutrition services using emotion-based approaches—during change. Below are implementation tips learned along the way that were experienced in this transformation.
Secure staff commitment
- Encourage all staff to be part of the change. All staff members need to feel ownership in this shift in direction. Ownership comes from participating in decision-making and problem-solving. Creative thinking and flexibility come when everyone is part of the process.
- Inspire, don’t dictate. The project leader's role is to inspire change toward an exciting new vision, not dictate every step in the change process. Be available to problem-solve and cheer accomplishments but allow each clinic staff the freedom to determine how they will approach this change and how quickly or slowly they will go about changing.
- Remember that staff members have feelings too. Create a climate where all staff members can feel successful and safe. Offer words of support during difficult times. Celebrate contributions that move the clinic forward. Encourage questions. Encourage talking about experiences.
- Create an atmosphere to win. No one likes to fail. A fear of criticism or punishment may hinder change and kill motivation. Yet failure is part of success and any creative change process. Turn failure into an opportunity for creative group problem solving.
Keep staff motivated
- Introduce new materials over time. It is exciting to have 33 new materials to use with WIC families—but also overwhelming. Success is more likely if materials are introduced in small batches. Introduce new materials in sets of ten or less. This allows staff members to become comfortable with the approach gradually and helps ensure success.
- Provide positive reinforcement. To keep enthusiasm high after the training, provide positive reinforcement for everything educators and staff are doing right. Encourage staff to keep emotion-based messages and approaches high on their agenda by talking about them at staff meetings.
- Offer praise often. Positive words offered every day are essential to change. Offer praise liberally in words and with actions. Celebrate successes at meetings and conferences and reward individual contributions in newsletters.
Identify and address problems
- Encourage creative thinking. Emotion-based approaches focus on the feelings of participants and staff, and are not governed by a defined set of rules. Different situations and feelings call for different actions. Encourage all staff to identify problems and challenge them to uncover creative solutions.
- Solve problems together. Help staff problem solve frustrating challenges with you immediately so you can move forward.
Be realistic during the change process
- Shift focus from numbers to people. Too much emphasis on increasing caseload can stifle excitement for change and paralyze creativity. Yet numbers are important. Be flexible and allow sufficient time for creative thinking as staff members transition to emotion-based approaches. Participants are likely to respond positively—and they will tell friends.
- Recreate evaluation criteria. Traditional criteria for clinic evaluations are tailored to traditional logic-based approaches to providing client services. Consider new criteria for emotion-based approaches so your staff doesn’t feel penalized for making changes.
- Set realistic timelines: Change takes time. Each clinic has different motivations, skill sets, and staffing patterns which may make achieving rigid timelines difficult. Encourage clinics to set realistic timelines.