Helping Senior Leaders spearhead the change with ADKAR

29 April 2019

A quick read with practical insights backed by PROSCI’s research and participants’ hands-on experience .

author picture Article written by Vincent PIEDBOEUF

Change must be endorsed, sponsored and communicated properly. Failure to do so will only fuel resistance and lead to more organisational inertia. Conversely, genuine commitment from senior leaders usually produces a ripple effect which drives the adoption rate of change(s) among employees. We may behave as if these things were self-evident but the fact is that leaders have more often than not a poor understanding of their role. When the injunction to be active and visible throughout the project does not translate into actionable steps, it falls on deaf ears. That is when ADKAR® comes into play and why we dedicate a special post on the best and most effective ways to engage leaders. A quick read with practical insights backed by PROSCI’s research and participants’ hands-on experience[1].

Benefits of equipping senior leaders with ADKAR.

Sponsorship is the prime source of success. But what it entails often remains unclear to senior leaders. Polyphony and dissonance are the worst enemies of change as they hinder top-down dynamics. Not only does ADKAR offer a powerful clarifying tool and a guide to taking action, it also allows leaders to speak in a single voice through a common language.


Back to Change Management basics, ADKAR insists on following a sequence of clear steps to ensure deep-seated change. It all starts with raising Awareness about the necessity to change and making sure there is a true Desire to shake things up. Needless to say, senior leaders are first in line since they are expected to embody the change and walk the talk. Only then can the emphasis be placed on Knowledge and Ability. As people tend to easily revert to their old habits and working routines, the method also stresses the importance of Reinforcement activities. Beware though that the sole understanding of ADKAR may not be enough to generate buy-in among stakeholders … people “looking for an easy way out” is always a possibility that should be assumed. Complementary training in Change Management is thus needed to help uncover resistances – pushing nay-sayers to be truly vocal -, iron out conflicts and move everyone towards the end goal.

What it takes to engage senior leaders.

As we just said, full-on training sessions on Change Management, not just limited to ADKAR, are crucial to drive engagement from the get-go and throughout the transition. They may be delivered either internally or outsourced to specialised consultancy providers. As far as format and timing are concerned, sessions can be embedded into leadership development curricula or coupled with annual leadership meetings.

On the basis of past practice, the easy-to-follow structure of ADKAR truly resonates with leaders, who highlight its convenience for both personal use and transmission purposes. Its insistence on Awareness building has always proved to be efficient in curbing the tendency to rush the change process and address Knowledge issues before the foundations are even laid down. Indeed, countless initiatives have failed because of a such a poor - but admittedly “intuitive” approach - to change-readiness. Besides providing leaders with a solid framework, ADKAR is also praised for its smooth integration with Project Management. As leaders use ADKAR steps as milestones, alignment in the form of timelines and objectives becomes easier. And so does communication!

For leaders to spearhead the change, the three watchwords are: visibility, clarity and transparency. There is nothing better than a robust but simple structure to help them play their part and take on a more active role.


[1] According to PROSCI, 96% of participants declared that ADKAR was “either somewhat or extremely effective for equipping senior leaders”. See PROSCI (blog), The ADKAR Model and Senior Leadership, Application of ADKAR Research Study.


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