Unrolling the Blueprints: Revisiting the Theory of Action When Evaluating SSIP Progress

A theory of action is essential for any project. Just as building blueprints detail dimensions, elevations, and materials needed to build a sound structure, a theory of action outlines the strategies that will result in the accomplishment of a final goal. When evaluating your State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP), you can use your theory of action to assess progress toward your long-term goal—the State-identified Measurable Result (SiMR)—and to identify opportunities for adjustments.

Why should you think about the theory of action at this stage of the SSIP? Now is the perfect time to take stock of your SSIP by reassessing the alignment of current activities and results with the original blueprint. The theory of action acts as a set of checkpoints to track progress and evaluate whether the plan is achieving your expected outcomes. It is important to review evaluation data, reexamine existing SSIP activities in light of these checkpoints, and even revisit the theory of action itself.

As you evaluate progress with regard to your SSIP, you can use the theory of action as a guide to answer questions like, What has and has not worked in the plan? Are the SSIP activities being implemented as anticipated? Can the data available answer evaluation questions? If the plan is not meeting expectations, the theory of action can be used as a map to identify where to intervene to get improvement efforts back on track. Revisiting your theory of action can be especially important if factors in the state landscape have changed or if the work is not progressing as anticipated.

Remember, your theory of action is not set in stone. As changes or challenges arise, you may need to revisit the blueprint and make adjustments. Ensure that your theory of action is aligned with the work you are doing to improve the likelihood that you will achieve positive outcomes and make progress toward your SiMR.

—Tamara Nimkoff