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"ADKAR" - a model for change management
Change Management Tutorial Series

 

For more detailed information about the ADKAR Model, the first complete text on ADKAR, titled ADKAR: a model for change in business, government and our community, is now available.

 

Overview

This tutorial presents an overview of the ADKAR model for change management.

ADKAR is a goal-oriented change management model that allows change management teams to focus their activities on specific business results.  The model was initially used as a tool for determining if change management activities like communications and training were having the desired results during organizational change. The model has its origins in aligning traditional change management activities to a given result or goal.

For example, Awareness of the business reasons for change is a goal of early communications related to a business change. Desire to engage and participate in the change is the goal of sponsorship and resistance management. Knowledge about how to change is the goal of training and coaching. By identifying the required outcomes or goals of change management, ADKAR becomes a useful framework for change management teams in the planning and execution of their work.

   

The goals or outcomes defined by ADKAR are sequential and cumulative. An individual must obtain each element in sequence in order for a change to be implemented and sustained.

As a manager, you can use this model to identify gaps in your change management process and to provide effective coaching for your employees. The ADKAR model can be used to:

  • diagnose employee resistance to change

  • help employees transition through the change process

  • create a successful action plan for personal and professional advancement during change

  • develop a change management plan for your employees

The ADKAR model has the ability to identify why changes are not working and help you take the necessary steps to make the change successful. You will be able to break down the change into parts, understand where the change is failing and address that impact point.

The ADKAR model was first published by Prosci in 1998 after research with more than 300 companies undergoing major change projects. In 2006, Prosci released the first complete text on the ADKAR model in Jeff Hiatt's book ADKAR: a model for change in business, government and our community. This model is intended to be a coaching tool to help employees through the change process. Refer to the Change Management Toolkit for more information about organizational change management.

To use the ADKAR model effectively, you will need to understand the underlying framework for change initiatives. In the diagram below, change happens on two dimensions: the business dimension (vertical axis) and the people dimension (horizontal axis). Successful change happens when both dimensions of change occur simultaneously. 

 

 

Business dimension of change

The business dimension of change includes the typical project elements. 

  • Business need or opportunity is identified.

  • Project is defined (scope and objectives).

  • Business solution is designed (new processes, systems and organizational structure).

  • New processes and systems are developed.

  • Solution is implemented into the organization.

These are the standard elements of a business change that managers feel most comfortable managing. 

People dimension of change

Research shows that problems with the people dimension of change is the most commonly cited reason for project failures. In a study with 248 companies, effective change management with employees was listed as one of the top-three overall success factors for the project. Helping managers be effective sponsors of change was considered the most critical success factor overall.

Effective management of the people dimension of change requires managing five key goals that form the basis of the ADKAR model:  

  • Awareness of the need to change

  • Desire to participate and support the change

  • Knowledge of how to change (and what the change looks like)

  • Ability to implement the change on a day-to-day basis

  • Reinforcement to keep the change in place

          

 The ADKAR model 

In the following scenarios, we look at the ADKAR model with one work example and two personal examples. After reviewing these examples, you can complete an exercise for a change that is personal to you. This exercise is important for building understanding about the model and how it can be applied in different situations.

A work scenario

If you are an employee in an organization undergoing change, your reaction to the change and how you are viewed by the organization will be directly affected by each of the five elements in the ADKAR model.

Take for example the implementation of a new software tool. If the change is implemented and you believe it was not needed (i.e., you were not aware that any changes were required), then your reaction might be: 

“This is a waste of time.”

 “Why change if it was working just fine before?”

 “If it ain't broke, don't fix it.”

 “They never tell us what’s going on!”

Our natural reaction to change, even in the best circumstances, is to resist. Awareness of the business need to change is a critical ingredient of any change and must come first.

If someone had taken the time to explain that the old software would no longer be supported by the vendor, and that new software was necessary to meet the needs of your customers, then your reaction (based on this awareness) would likely be very different: 

“How soon will this happen?”

 “How will this impact me?”

 “Will I receive new training?”

Take this same example one step further. Assume you were made aware that a change was required, but you had no desire to participate or support the change.  

“What’s in it for me.”

 “I doubt they are really serious about this.”

Now the tables are turned, and you may become the target of an emotional response from individuals within the organization. You may be labeled as difficult, inflexible or unsupportive. Some may say you lack initiative or vision. You may be called a cynic or pessimist.

Awareness and desire are two critical components of the change model. In the personal examples that follow, you will see how the other elements of the model play a role in a successful change.

 

Examples from personal experience

Changing a child's behavior

Changing unwanted behavior in children follows the ADKAR model well. Consider the five goals of ADKAR as it relates to this example. Children first need to know what they are doing is wrong. This awareness often comes when an upset parent tells the child he is doing something wrong. Simply knowing it is wrong, however, will not stop most children. Their natural inclination is to test the boundaries and push the limits. Consequences, either positive or negative, are usually required. These consequences impact the child's desire to change. However, the process cannot stop here. Given proper motivation to change, children need a role model to understand what the proper behavior looks like. They need examples so they can obtain the knowledge of what the correct behavior is. Next, they need practice in order to obtain the fourth result of ADKAR, ability. Few children can change immediately; it is an ongoing process requiring them to develop new skills and habits. They need time to develop the ability to act in a new way. Finally, children need reinforcement to keep the good behavior going. This may be in the form of positive encouragement or other types of rewards.

This example highlighted all five elements of the ADKAR model. Note that each element represents a particular result that you are trying to achieve. Also consider that these results are cumulative and must be taken in order.

 

Coaching a sport

   

In this case study example, a parent was attempting to improve the batting style and skill of his son playing baseball. Dad was concerned that his son's batting was not up to the level of the other boys on the team. He searched the Internet for batting videos and purchased a tape for his son. For weeks he tried to get his son to watch the video on batting mechanics. With some parental persuasion, Dad was able to get his son to watch part of the tape. After that, the video was left untouched.

The father's attempt to educate his son failed and resulted only in a frustrated parent. He finally sat down with his son and asked him why he would not watch the tape and use it to improve his batting. His son replied that he just enjoyed playing baseball with his friends, and it did not matter to him if his batting was as good as some of the other boys.

In this example the father skipped elements of the ADKAR model (from awareness to knowledge). His son had no desire to change and was content just to be out there playing the game. Dad’s efforts to build knowledge failed because his son lacked the desire to change.

Power of ADKAR for managing change

The power of the ADKAR model is that it creates focus on the first element that is the root cause of failure. When you approach change using this model, you can immediately identify where the process is breaking down and which elements are being overlooked. This avoids generic conversations about the change that rarely produce actionable steps. This results-oriented approach helps focus energy on the area that will produce the highest probability for success.

ADKAR can help you plan effectively for a new change or diagnose why a current change is failing. In some cases, corrective action can be taken and the change successfully implemented. Here are the five elements of ADKAR again. 

 

  1. Awareness of the need for change.
  1. Desire to make the change happen.
  1. Knowledge about how to change.
  1. Ability to implement new skills and behaviors.
  1. Reinforcement to retain the change once it has been made.

 

Now it’s your turn.

The best way to understand the usefulness of this type of model for business change management is to apply the model to a personal situation. Using a situation you are personally close to will help separate the key elements of the ADKAR model.

Begin by identifying a change you are having difficulty making in another person (a friend, family member or work associate). Complete the worksheets to the best of your ability, rating each area on a scale of 0% to 100%.

Be sure you select a change you have been trying to make happen in a friend, colleague or family member that is not working regardless of your continued efforts. Answer and assign a score for the following questions.

 

Exercise

The change. Briefly describe the personal change you are trying to implement with a friend, family member or work associate:

1. Awareness. List the reasons you believe the change is necessary. Review these reasons and rate the degree to which the person you are trying to change is aware of the reasons or need to change (1 - 5 where 1 is no awareness and 5 is total awareness).

 

2. Desire. List the factors or consequences (good and bad) for this person that create a desire to change. Consider these motivating factors, including the person’s conviction in these factors and the associated consequences. Rate his/her desire to change on a 1 - 5 scale.

 

3. Knowledge. List the skills and knowledge needed to support the change, including if the person has a clear picture of what the change looks like. Rate this person’s knowledge or level of training in these areas on a 1 to 5 scale.

 

4. Ability. Considering the skills and knowledge identified in the previous question, evaluate the person’s ability to perform these skills or act on this knowledge. Rate this person’s ability to implement the new skills, knowledge and behaviors to support the change on a 1 - 5 scale.

 

5. Reinforcement. List the reinforcements that will help to retain the change. Are incentives in place to reinforce the change and make it stick? Rate the reinforcements as helping support the change on a 1 to 5 scale.

 

Now transfer your scores from each worksheet to the table shown in Figure 1. Take a moment to review your scores. Highlight those areas that scored a 3 or below, and identify (using the order listed on the score sheet) which was the first area to score less than 3.  


 

 

Now consider the first area in which your score was 3 or below. You must address this area before anything else is done. For example, if you identified awareness as the area with a low score, then working on desire, knowledge or skill development will not help you make the change happen.

On the other hand, if you identified desire, then continually repeating your reasons for change is not adequate to move this person forward. Once they know these reasons, you must address their inherent desire to change. Desire may stem from negative or positive consequences. The negative consequences have to be great enough to overcome their personal threshold to resist change (same for the positive consequences).

If knowledge was the area you identified, then you want to be careful not to dwell on the reasons for change and the motivating factors. This could be discouraging for someone already at this phase. What is needed is education and training for the skills and behaviors that are needed for change.

If ability was the area selected with the low score, then several steps are required to move forward.  

The person will need time to develop new skills and behaviors. Just like learning a new sport or any new skill, time is required to develop new abilities.

The person will need ongoing coaching and support. No one-time training event or educational program will substitute for ongoing coaching and mentoring.

Outside intervention or support may be required.

  

Finally, if reinforcement was the area identified, then you will need to investigate if the necessary elements are present to keep the person from reverting to old behaviors. Address the incentives or consequences for not continuing to act in the new way.

Now that you have completed the ADKAR model for a personal change, you can follow the same process for the change happening at work. This process should give you insight as to where you are in the change process, and what steps you can take to not only survive change, but advance professionally in a changing business environment.

You can think of organizational and personal change in the context of the ADKAR model. If you are deploying a major change in your organization, then a critical step in change management is organizational awareness of the reasons for change. Desire to change at the employee level must be addressed as resistance will be a natural reaction to change. As the change moves into implementation, your will need to develop knowledge about the change and the ability to implement new skills and behaviors. Once the change is in place, you will need to reinforce the change to avoid moving backwards to old behaviors.  Each element of the ADKAR model represents a business goal for managing change. This results-oriented model helps guide change management activities for both organization and individual change management.

Tools and products related to ADKAR

Tools are available to help deploy the ADKAR change management model in a work environment. Prosci's newest book, ADKAR: a model for change in business, government and our community, is the most complete discussion of what makes up each of the elements and how you can help individuals through the process. For employees, you can provide them with the Employee’s Survival Guide to Change. This paperback book uses the ADKAR model to help employees through the change process. For managers, you can use the Change Management Guide for Manager’s and Supervisors. This toolkit is a complete guide for using this approach with a group or department.

For change management leaders and consultants, the Change Management Toolkit and the online Change Management Pilot provide step-by-step instructions, assessments, tools and templates for managing change at the organizational level.

 

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The 2007 change management benchmarking study reveals what is working and what is not in the field of change management.  426 participants from 59 countries share lessons learned and best practices. 

Specific guidelines and recommendations for effective change management can be found in the new best practices report.  Details can be found on the following topics:

  Research finding 1: Most popular change management models

  Research finding 2: Top reasons for change resistance

  Research finding 3: Communications - what worked and what didn't

  Research finding 4: Qualities of the best change management teams

  Research finding 5: Role of change management consultants

Order the report online or call 970-203-9332 for more information.


 

You can think of organizational and personal change in the context of the ADKAR model. If you are deploying a major change in your organization, then a critical step in change management is organizational awareness of the reasons for change. Desire to change at the employee level must be addressed as resistance will be a natural reaction to change. As the change moves into implementation, your will need to develop knowledge about the change and the ability to implement new skills and behaviors. Once the change is in place, you will need to reinforce the change to avoid moving backwards to old behaviors.

 

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References:

1. Best Practices in Change Management:  a report based on 288 companies that share experiences in managing change and lesson on how to build great executive sponsorship. Report included success factors, methodology, role of top management, communications, team structure and more. The report makes it easy to learn change management best practices and discover the mistakes to avoid when creating executive sponsorship.

2. Change Management Toolkit: a leaders guide to the change management process that includes templates,  worksheets, assessments, checklists and guidelines - designed for change management team members and consultants.

 


 

 

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