Importance of congruence between communicating and executing implementation programmes: a qualitative study of focus group interviews

Lars Lindholm, Minna Laitila, Antero Lassila, Olli Kampman

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Background: The Ostrobothnia Depression Programme (ODP) in Finland was intended to implement two evidence-based brief psychotherapy interventions, namely motivational interview and behavioural activation, in several regional psychiatric teams. A simultaneous effectiveness study was conducted. Considerable tension was encountered between these two arms, causing resistance to change. We conducted a qualitative case study to better understand this tension and to discuss how managerial and executive practices may ensure the successful running of a hybrid design programme.

Methods: We conducted focus group interviews to evaluate the phases of preparation and practical execution of the ODP from the perspectives of management and the programme executives. To gather the data, we applied the revised Socratic approach for health technology assessment and focus group interviews. We analysed the data deductively according to the Normalization Process Theory.

Results: We identified two main critical issues: (1) The ODP programme plan ignored the team leaders' crucial role in influencing the implementation climate and mobilizing organizational strategies. The ODP had a simplistic top-down design with minimal and delayed collaboration with its target groups in the preparation phase. (2) Incongruence occurred between what the project group had explicitly communicated about being the spearhead of the ODP and what they then actually enacted. These two issues caused tension between the implementation efforts and the effectiveness study as well as resistance to change among the staff.

Conclusion: Early, open collaboration with all prospective stakeholders towards a shared understanding about the programme is the first action the programme administrators should take. Agreement on goals and the means to achieve them would lower tension between the two arms of a hybrid design programme, thereby reducing resistance to change. Congruence between the goals communicated and the actual managerial and executive actions is of paramount importance in getting the programme recipients on board.
Original languageEnglish
Article number94
JournalImplementation Science Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2020
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Effectiveness-implementation hybrid design
  • Evidence-based treatment
  • Focus group interview
  • Implementation
  • Normalization process theory
  • Programme evaluation

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