This preface attempts to answer the questions, “Why
should I read this book?” and “What’s in it for me?” For
business and government leaders managing change, the
challenges and demands are non-stop. The stakes are high and
so is the stress. We at the Change Management Learning
Center deal with benchmarking data from hundreds of
organizations and talk with project leaders every week. Many
new techniques for managing change result from these
interactions. The ADKAR model provides a primary framework
to bring together new and traditional methods for managing
change and is instrumental in diagnosing failing changes.
For nearly 20 years, both as an engineer with Bell
Laboratories and as a project leader for other companies, I
worked large-scale process, system and organizational
change. My experiences were a mixture of successes and
failures. A common theme around project failures was
resistance to change; as one of my colleagues joked, “All of
our change initiatives would have gone great if it weren’t
for all the people involved.”
The more I immersed myself in the field of change
management to address this resistance issue, the more
complex the problem became. One would think that engineers
are fairly good problem solvers. This solution, however, was
proving elusive. After nearly eight years in undergraduate
and graduate engineering, I was surprised to find the most
challenging problems dealt with people and not with things.
The catalyst for the ADKAR model was a reaction to the
myriad of change management approaches that were proposed by
management consultants and authors. These approaches focused
on many activities to manage change, including assessments,
communications, training, coaching and so on. I struggled
with the idea that these change management activities were
surely not an endpoint by themselves. From a business
perspective, I was constantly bothered by the absence of an
end result that these activities should produce.
This focus on results turned out to be the genesis for
the ADKAR model. I began to ask the question “Why?” every
time I heard about another change management tactic or
approach. In other words, “Why would you do that?” and “What
is your desired outcome?” For example, communications is
commonly cited as an essential element for managing change.
Why? One objective of communications is to build awareness
of the need for change and to share with employees why the
change is happening. Employees want to understand the nature
of the change and the risks of not changing. This led to the
first component of ADKAR: awareness.
By examining a large number of change management
activities and mapping them into their desired results, I
was able to envision a fairly simple model that included
five building blocks for change: awareness, desire,
knowledge, ability and reinforcement. During the early
drafts of the model, some of the words changed. For example,
I struggled with the term desire versus motivation.
I settled on desire because my research suggested
that motivation was only one component that created the
desire to change. On first analysis this model met my
“engineering” criteria: It was simple and identified the
desired outcomes for different change management strategies
The Change Management Learning Center began studying
ADKAR as a model for change. The more research we did, the
more convinced we became that this simple model for managing
change was essential in both the learning process for new
change leaders and in the effective application of change
management activities. We were finding support for ADKAR
based on research data from hundreds of project teams. As we
began sharing our benchmarking data in reports and
publications, we found a growing interest in this model.
Recently we added ADKAR to our change management training
programs. Even though we spend just a short time during the
three-day program on this model, the most commonly cited
highlight of the entire program from the feedback forms is
ADKAR. I still ask people in our change management training
courses why they gravitate to the ADKAR model, and the
answer is almost always the same: “It is results-oriented
and easy to apply in a number of change settings.”
Over the past several years, ADKAR has become the most
sought-after model from the Change Management Learning
Center, with adoption by many Fortune 100 companies, the US
Department of Defense and other government agencies around
the world. Many companies that provide change management
training for their managers choose this model as the primary
tool for working with employees during change.
I did not then, nor do I now, view this model to be some
type of breakthrough, but rather a framework for
understanding and applying many approaches for managing
change. ADKAR is a perspective on change that enables other
change management tactics to have focus and direction. I
very much credit those authors and practitioners whose books
and real-life experience have influenced my understanding of
change management. William Bridges, John Kotter, Daryl
Conner, David McClelland, Frank Petrock, Peter Block,
Jeanenne LaMarsh, Patrick Dolan, Richard Beckhard and Reuben
T. Harris are a few of the writers and practitioners who
have shaped my views on this topic.
This book is a formal presentation of the ADKAR model. In
addition to presenting ADKAR, I will also attempt to answer
three fundamental questions about change using this model.
- Why do some changes fail when others succeed?
- How can we make sense of the many methods and
tactics for managing change?
- How can we lead change successfully, both in our
personal lives and professional careers?
The staff of the Change Management Learning Center has
contributed many case studies, research findings and
perspectives that hopefully will make this book engaging and
applicable to both your work and life.
Jeff Hiatt, President and founder of
Prosci and author of
ADKAR: a model for
change in business, government and our community