Usually I am not a fan of “ready-made” change management models that claim to be the solution to all your problems. In fact, I prefer a custom approach that I devise depending on the situation that I am facing when dealing with a change management initiative.
When talking to clients I noticed that they are quite worried about resistance to change: there are many articles published also by reputable business magazines that talk about resistance as the armageddon of change management. Whilst planning and dealing with resistance is a fundamental aspect of change implementation, this apocalyptic scenes are quite exaggerated. Not all amp;oyes resist change, actually many of them welcome it!
However, as a change management practitioner I support senior managers in their journey and dealing with resistance is definitely an aspect that has to be taken into consideration.
When dealing with clients’ doubts and questions about resistance I often find the ADKAR model by Prosci very helpful. It is simple and easy to understand – even if not necessarily easy to implement! This is a double edge sword as it looks like a piece of cake on paper, but it requires a lot of effort in practice. Nevertheless, if you manage your clients/senior managers expectations, the ADKAR model can be a powerful tool.
What is ADKAR? Is is an acronym invented by Prosci that explains a 5 building blocks model for individual and organisational change: let’s have a look into every single block.
- A stands for awareness: it is the person’s understanding of the nature of the change, why the change is required and the risks of not changing. This block answers the questions “Why is this change necessary?”, “Why it has to be implemented now?”, “What are the risks of not changing?” and the key question for the employees “What’s in it for me?”. Awareness allows the individuals to evaluate a change initiative, but it does not necessarily mean they will embrace it. That’s why Desire is the next step.
- D stands for desire: it represents the individual’s willingness and motivation to support the change initiative and to engage in the change. It is ultimately a personal choice that is influenced by: a) the nature of the change and what’s in it for me as an individual; b) how the individual perceives the organisation and the surroundings that are undergoing change; c) the individual’s personal situation; and d) what motivates a person, including the expectation that the change can be successful.
- K stands for knowledge: it is the training and education on the skills needed to change, the information that is required to know how to change. For example, if you implement a new software knowledge stands for the training that the company carries out to teach the affected employees how to use it. There is a caveat: knowledge does not equal proficiency. Just because the company has delivered some training sessions and has provided information it does not mean that the recipient employees will be proficient when using the new tool. In fact, knowledge does not automatically lead to ability.
- A stands for ability: it means demonstrating capability to implement the change and achieve the desired performance level. Basically, turning the ability into action. When the individual achieves this block of the ADKAR model the change is visible in action or measurable in terms of effect. For example, going back to the implementation of the new software the ability means that the employee can use it proficiently.
- R stands for reinforcement: it includes any action and event that strengthens and reinforces the change with an individual and an organisation. Reinforcement consists of the internal and external factors that sustain change. For example, external reinforcement includes rewards, recognition, celebrations linked to the realisation of the change. Internal reinforcement is linked to the individual’s personal satisfaction with his/her achievements linked to the change itself. Without continual reinforcement the risk is to go back to the old habits, pre-change initiative time.
All five blocks have to be in place for change to be realised successfully and they have to be fulfilled in order: for example desire cannot come before awareness because awareness stimulates the desire and willingness to change.
When is it advisable to use ADKAR?
- as a coaching tool to support people through change,
- as a guide to change management activities such as communication, sponsorship, coaching and training,
- to identify problematic areas that slow change initiatives down.
The risk is to consider this model as a panacea: it is not. When applying ADKAR you need to be thorough and look into all the areas that affect people during change initiatives. Most of all, be very clear when managing expectations. It is not a tick the box exercise: we have answered the why questions – tick awareness; we have explained the what’s in it for me aspects of change hence people are now motivated and onboard, tick the desire box, etc.
This is not the way of utilising a tool: it is a valid helper, but it is not a substitute for experience and knowledge when implementing change management initiatives.