The first step of PDCA is to plan or design the program. Important parts of planning include getting people ready for change, laying the groundwork among teams and systems, ensuring that the agency is ready, assessing evidence, obtaining leadership buy-in and support, and developing an evaluation framework. Planning sets the direction for the program; a well-conceived plan is critical to success.
Define who benefits and how. Begin planning by focusing on who will benefit from the program. Why is this program needed? What is the purpose of the program? What problem or issue will the program address? Who will benefit from it? This is the rationale, the program’s reason for being. According to the National Partnership for Reinventing Government, “All program designs require clear, explicit identification of the primary beneficiaries and the specific benefits they can expect. Without this foundation, no rational program design methodology can be sustained.” 
Define the desired result. The result (or outcome) should be defined during the planning stage. What will result from the implementation of the program? What will be better because of the program? Be specific. Clearly state what the program will improve and who will be responsible. Describe what the program will change or improve, when it will be in place, and what the impact will be. Results are central to planning, implementing, monitoring, evaluating, reporting, and ongoing decisionmaking. Focusing on results rather than activities helps states better articulate their vision and support expected results. Results can help stakeholders better understand the impact that a particular program is to have.
The table below provides examples of inadequate versus improved results statements.
|Inadequate Results Statement||Analysis of Inadequate Results Statement||Improved Results Statement|
|We will improve the quality of early childhood programs.||This result statement is vague and does not clearly state what will be different. How will you know when this has been achieved? Even if progress was achieved, does this kind of result statement provide opponents an opportunity to say that results were not as promised?||By the end of 2017, 75 percent of child care programs that participate in the subsidy program will be in one of the top two tiers of our QRIS.|
|All early childhood services need to use developmental screening.||This example does not specify a result, nor does it specify the setting, whom the screenings are for, or when they should happen. “Need to” is not measurable. “Use developmental screenings” to what end—training teachers? Are pediatricians considered an early childhood service?||All children who attend licensed child care programs will receive a developmental screening within the first 90 days of attendance.|
|Early childhood mental health services (ECMHS) will be coordinated.||This example does not provide specificity or clear direction as to who ECMHS will coordinate with, how coordination is to happen, or by when this is to occur. What is the measurable achievement?||By October 2018, training and support of ECMH consultants in every county will result in a 15 percent increase in the number of counties that have mechanisms in place to coordinate services among ECMH and early childhood programs.|
|By December 2017, expulsions will be reduced.||This example does not specify how the State will go about reducing expulsions, nor does it provide information as to what settings are targeted. Children in any type of program? What age group?||By December 2017, there will be a 15 percent reduction in expulsions from licensed early childhood programs. This reduction will be achieved by increasing knowledge and supports using the Pyramid Model for Supporting Social and Emotional Competence in Infants and Young Children.|
Determine whether a particular program is the right fit. An analysis of fit is critical to designing and implementing a successful program. One tool that can be helpful is the Hexagon Tool developed by Blase, Kiser, and Van Dyke at the National Implementation Research Network. It lays out six key areas that can be used as discussion topics to identify gaps and strengths, what needs exist, and next steps. See the Resources section of this guide for information on obtaining a copy of the Hexagon Tool. 
|Needs of children and families - in other words, how well the program or practice might meet identified needs|
|Fit with current initiatives, priorities, structures and supports, and parent and community values|
|Resource availability for training, staffing, technology supports, curricula, data systems, and administration|
Are the following resources and supports available at all levels of the system (state, intermediary, and direct service)?
|Evidence indicating the outcomes that might be expected if the program or practices are implemented well|
|Readiness for replication of the program, including expert assistance available, number of replications accomplished, exemplars available for observation, and how well the program is operationalized|
|Capacity to implement as intended and to sustain and improve implementation over time|
Source: Adapted from The Hexagon Tool – Exploring Context (2013), by the National Implementation Research Network.
 Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health (2013). Implementing evidence-informed practice: A practical toolkit. Ottawa, Ontario: Author. Retrieved from http://www.excellenceforchildandyouth.ca/sites/default/files/docs/implementation-toolkit.pdf.
 National Partnership for Reinventing Government. 1993. Improving Program Design. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/npr/library/reports/pddc.html.
 United Nations Development Group. (2010). Results-based management handbook: Strengthening RBM harmonization for improved development results (March 24th draft). New York: Author. Retrieved from http://www.un.cv/files/UNDG%20RBM%20Handbook.pdf.
 National Implementation Research Network. (2013). The Hexagon Tool – exploring context. Chapel Hill, NC: Author.