Practicing the ADKAR® Model: Turning methodology into real-life success

04 February 2020

The ADKAR® model is the focal point of Prosci’s renown Change Management Methodology.

author picture Article written by Nexum Group

The ADKAR® model is the focal point of Prosci’s renown Change Management Methodology.

If you have ever participated in any of Prosci’s courses, I could probably wake you up in the middle of the night able to cite ADKAR®. If you haven’t, then it is about time because this is a tool that real kick some a.. in achieving success with your changes.

So, what can you use the ADKAR® model for?

  • Developing a Change Management strategy
  • Creating a successful action plan for personal and professional advancement during change
  • Helping employees’ transition through a change process
  • Identifying gaps in your Change Management process
  • Diagnosing and addressing employee resistance to change

What is the ADKAR® Model?

The ADKAR® model is a 5-step framework that helps you deal with the people side of change. It was developed by Jeff Hiatt, CEO of Prosci, in 2003.

At the heart of ADKAR® is the common – yet often overlooked – understanding that organisational change only happens at an individual level. Organisational change is basically about changing the individuals’ behaviour in the organisation.

ADKAR® is an acronym that stands for the building blocks that people must go through to achieve successful change:

  1. Awareness: Leading people to see the need for change.
  2. Desire: Establishing the desire for change.
  3. Knowledge: Providing employees with the information or skills they need to achieve change.
  4. Ability: Applying knowledge and skills to bring about change.
  5. Reinforcement: Making sure that people continue to use the new methods.

Each element of the ADKAR® Change Management Model should be followed in a sequential frequency to ensure change readiness. Before at step is completed at a satisfactory level you cannot succeed in the next stage. Is a stage scores below 3 on a 1-5 scale, it’s considered a barrier point as it blocks the employees readiness to move forward in their change process.




Putting the ADKAR® model in practice

To address how you can actually use the ADKAR® model in practice, let us take a look at each step:

Awareness: Communicate the reason for change

What are the changes about and why are they necessary? This is perhaps the most important questions to answer. You need to make people aware of what is going on and why – including the consequences of not changing. If you haven’t communicated a clear rationale, the big ‘why’, people cannot desire the change (the next step).

What tactics can you use?

  • Communicate effectively: To create awareness for why and what, communicate the rationale from the different perspectives of your target groups. A good way to do this is to use personal stories because the employees want to relate to challenges they know about the current state. To make the stories even more potent and ensure consistency in your message, we recommend that you create a core story (read how to make a core story here).
  • Make business information accessible: Do not underestimate the power of accessible information about the company’s performance, markets conditions and changing business priorities. People understand more, when they know more.
  • Coaching by manager/supervisor: A supervisor is the best person to help employees understand the reasons for change and the personal impact is has on them. Enabling open dialogue is important to make them reflect, ask questions, and share their concerns.

Desire: Empower and engage individuals

This element is tricky and complex since you cannot control how people feel. However, studies show that employees can best embrace change – even if it has negative consequence – when they feel well-treated and listened to throughout the change process.

What tactics can you use?

  • Engage employees in the change process: Regular communication and involvement are key to increase the desire for change and to ensure that resistance will not build up due to frustration.
  • Equip managers to be effective change leaders: As the managers have the direct contact with their employees, they need to be able to conduct effective communication about the change – at both group and individual level. To fill their role as change leaders, they need the proper coaching, training and tools (read more to about managers’ roles in Change Management here).
  • Anticipate resistance: Scope the number of impacted groups, look at how the change will affect the impacted group – is it their job role of work processes that is affected? If so, to which degree? In this way, you will have a better picture of where to focus your efforts.

Knowledge: Learn by sharing

In order for a change to actually happen in your organisation, employees and managers will most likely need to acquire new knowledge or skills.

What tactics can you use?

  • Make user groups and forums: Learning from peers is very powerful. Social learning is a great way to spread knowledge in your organisation. Also, helping or teaching others is the most effectful way of learning yourself. So, it is not only making your colleagues better – you make yourself better by peer learning.
  • Make effective training and education programs in-house: Do not just send people off to a course. Make sure you have the structures and tools in place for them to actually implement new skills.
  • Have 1:1 coaching session: This is a way of customising training to specific employees whose job roles might be more impacted or who find themselves in a unique situation during the changes.

Ability: Identify and address barriers

While knowledge is about theory and understanding, ability is all about practice. It is just like getting your driving permit. You might have the capabilities to drive a car by the time you get your license, but becoming a competent driver means practicing on the road for some time after having passed the test.

What tactics can you use?

  • Ensure day-to-day involvement of supervisors: Supervisors need to keep a close eye on the employees to ensure there are no gaps in their ability to work in the new way. Should there be a gap, time to further practice should be made available to achieve ability at the satisfactory level for the reinforcement to happen (which is the next step)
  • Make hand-on exercises: A good way to achieve ability is to include different exercises. It could be role play, simulations or simply hands-on work with roles and processes.
  • Provide access to subject matter experts: Having someone to reach out to for assistance is key. Therefore, employees should know to whom and how to reach out when they needed assistance.

Reinforcement: Keep up the good work

A major challenge with organisational development is making change stick. But quite frankly, it is actually the most important aspect of changing anything. This is where you need to keep the momentum of all your hard work to prevent employees from going back to old ways.

What tactics can you use?

  • Celebrate and recognize successes: Celebrating long- and short-term successes means continuously sharing messages about successful parts of the change. It can be done by video statements from a happy customer, a quotation from an employee or the executives, or merely facts and figures. This will affect people’s understanding of how the change is working and motivate the late bloomers to get onboard.
  • Collect feedback from employeesThis is valuable knowledge for learning how the employees have experienced the change process which is both a learning opportunity for the project team and a way to identify areas you might want to do over.
  • Rewards: Rewards are motivational, but it is important you keep your promises. If you say you will look into something or do something, you need to follow through. Otherwise it will be more damaging than not promising anything at all.

Are you struggling with changes? Revisit ADKAR®

Not only can you use the ADKAR® model to make changes work. You can also use it for troubleshooting dysfunctional change processes.

Simply take a step back, revisit the ADKAR® and find out where the problem lies. Perhaps you didn’t ensure proper training or maybe you forgot to deploy enough reinforcement initiatives? Once you find the missing link, you can address it. And it is actually simple to measure the level of each ADKAR® step to find the barrier point.

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