By Mark Connelly Updated: 21 April 2023
The ADKAR® change management model is a practical answer to effective change management for individuals and organizations. Developed from research conducted in more than 700 organizations, this model is easy to learn, makes sense, and focuses on what really matters.
In five stages, this change management model provides a solid framework for change. In this article, we explore the ADKAR® model and provide tips to use it to lead change in your organization.
The emphasis on individual change is what gives this model the edge.
Many change management models focus on the steps necessary for organizational change. ADKAR® focuses on the individual's journey through change. This makes it easier to identify where people may be struggling and to provide the support they need. ADKAR® emphasizes that effective change occurs only when each person is able to adopt the change.
It makes sense then that this model, developed by Jeff Hiatt, CEO of Prosci® Change Management (www.prosci.com), and first published in 2003, focuses on 5 actions and outcomes necessary for individual change, and therefore successful organizational change.
The ADKAR® change management model
Jeff Hiatt refers to these five actions as building blocks for successful individual change, and therefore successful organizational change. The process is sequential - each step must be completed before moving on to the next. Hiatt emphasises that it is not possible to achieve success in one area unless the previous action has been addressed.
The Awareness stage of the ADKAR® change management model is the first step toward successful change. In the Awareness stage, people become aware of the need for change, why it's needed, and the benefits it can bring. At the end of this stage, people will understand why change is necessary. They'll also know what will happen if there is no change.
Planned communication is essential, but you need to do more than communicate to build awareness. If you tell people that you plan to move the coffee station, some may agree, but others will not. Some may feel victimized, while others may believe that it's another cost-cutting exercise.
People don't respond in the same way, and you may face resistance. Plan your message, but realize that the message itself is not enough. How each person receives and understands the information matters more. Some may disagree about the need for change or the change required. Some people will be more affected than others.
Building awareness can happen over a period of time. You will need to consider who is best to deliver the message and what channels to use. You'll need to plan to deal with rumors and fake information that may spread.
The Desire stage of the ADKAR® change management model aims to create a willingness and eagerness to engage in the change. This stage should not be a strategy to manipulate people to accept something new. Aim to make the time to understand what people need and to help them commit to the change.
Awareness of the need for change is not enough on its own. Ideally, people will look forward to the personal benefits brought by change. Creating desire is an essential step in overcoming resistance to change. It also helps people commit to the change process.
There are many ways that a company can create a desire to engage in change. One way is to focus on the positive outcomes for the individual. Using "What's In It For Me?" to guide your thinking about what people want is valuable in this stage. You can help people see personal benefits that will make their work easier or more enjoyable.
Another way to create desire is to involve people in the change process from the start. Ask people for feedback and ideas. Include employees in the planning and implementation of the change. When people have a stake in the change process and feel part of it, they are more likely to invest in its success.
The Knowledge stage is a critical part of the change process. It provides the information and resources people need to manage the change. You should address two types of knowledge:
This stage ensures that people have the knowledge and skills they need. It also makes sure they can apply that knowledge in practice.
The Knowledge stage requires a clear and concise communication plan. Training and workshops focused on learning about a new product, process, or sales method will be needed. Don't limit this process to formal training. Coaching, forums, and mentoring are valuable at this stage.
Ensure that the information is relevant, up-to-date, and easy to understand. Use clear and concise language. Provide visual aids or examples, and encourage feedback and questions. When people have the knowledge they need, they feel confident in the change and can apply their knowledge in practice.
Ongoing support and resources give employees the knowledge they need regarding how to change.
The Ability stage of the ADKAR® model refers to being able to apply the knowledge received in the Knowledge stage. In other words, it is the ability to transform newly acquired information into action. This stage is achieved when you see someone working at the desired level or you can measure the impact of their work.
This stage highlights the difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it. Knowing how to ride a bicycle, in theory, doesn't mean you'll ride it well. You need to practice, make mistakes and learn to balance before you feel confident riding it. This is the shift that the Ability stage requires.
While knowledge is essential, it is not always enough by itself. People must be able to perform the tasks required to make the change.
Ability is achievable if organizations provide the necessary resources, tools, and support. These will help people develop the skills and ability to do the job. Training, coaching, and ongoing feedback will help people feel confident in their ability to perform new tasks.
This final stage of the ADKAR® change management model is an essential component in order to sustain change initiatives. It involves putting mechanisms in place to support and maintain the change, so that people don't revert to past ways of doing things.
Reinforcement is as important as all the previous stages of this model. If it is not present people may perceive that their efforts are not valued within the organization or team.
Ensuring that changes stay in place and that individuals do not revert to old ways can be achieved through positive feedback, rewards, recognition, measuring performance and taking corrective actions.
This is often the part of change management that is most difficult as there may be a level of change fatigue. It's also easy to assume that change has been achieved because people are performing the task.
However, for successful
change, reinforcement is essential to ensure that changes are maintained
and new outcomes can be measured.
The primary reason I favor this change management model is the focus on individual change and ensuring each person makes the transition. This is more than a 'soft' approach - it has practical applications.
Most importantly, when you're focusing on the individual you're able to measure where they are in the change process and what is required to assist them. You are not simply relying on providing training, or communicating a particular message, and expecting everyone to follow.
To really understand the ADKAR® change management model I recommend you read Jeff Hiatt's "ADKAR®: A Model for Change in Business, Government and our Community", published in 2006.
The book starts with a
short, effective summary of the model and then continues to describe
each part in more detail. Many examples are used and each aspect of
ADKAR® is explored in detail. For example in the chapter dealing with Desire, Hiatt explores four factors that influence a persons' desire to change.
It's essential reading.
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