ADKAR, the “Latest and Greatest” Model for Change

If I had to pick any formal, published “change model” to use, I’d pick ADKAR. I like it because it's one of the simpler change methodologies that get to the core of the issue. It was created by Prosci Resarch, a company founded in 1994 for change management and other business processes used by half of Fortune 100 companies. 

It is simply the acronym for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. These are the elements of the the most fundamental requirements for anyone to succeed and maintain change. Once you identify the first weak element, you have identified the resistance to change. Therefore, these elements cannot be reordered or skipped.

Okay, lets put some ‘meat’ on this model! Most change models were primarily designed for businesses, which can be overly complex. However, because of ADKAR's simplicity, it can work very well for “everyday use”.

  • Awareness – Do you (or your staff) understand why the desired change is needed? (what will be the result of the transition?)
  • Desire – Are you (or your staff) motivated to make the desired change?
  • Knowledge – Do you (or your staff) know how make the desired change happen?
  • Ability – Do you (or your staff) been given the right information and training
  • Reinforcement – Do you (or your staff) have a system of encouraging or keeping the change in place?

Again, this model tries to attack the root of the resistance to change byidentifying the first stumbling block towards making a transition happen. 

Let’s use ADKAR in a real “Office Space" world scenario:
As a software developer for a number of organizations, I’ve become a “target” for employees because we create change (or even eliminate) their jobs. It's the programmers job to eliminate human inefficiencies and cut cost. (Unlike the programming jobs at Introde or Initech) Most of software designed is to make employees work easier. However, the most common resistance I find are employees in this category: they know they could benefit from the programs, but want to cling to the way they were familiar with (their old, inefficient way). Even AFTER they receive some sort of training, but probably felt they were “forced” to. (perhaps at a 9am training session...on Saturday morning?)

Let's apply this model to the scenario above. First, go over the bullet point questions listed above and rate the following ADKAR elements on a scale of 1-10 (the numbers are arbitrary, I just happen to like 1-10). Using the typical Office Space “employee” I just used above we have the following scores below:

ADKAR Element Awareness Desire Knowledge Ability Reinforcement
Score6+ 3 7 7 5
Comment They are aware they need to change, they have been told by their boss a new program will replace their work They are likely not very motivated to change for a number of reasons: it’s easier, they don’t see the benefit, they don’t have a say in the process, etc. They have the knowledge to change, for they have been trained They are likely to have the ability to change, since any program worth it’s salt has to be intuitive to use They will likely hear from the boss about getting those “TPS reports” by Monday over and over, so there will be some external reinforcement. Also, if other people are using the program there is a “social” pull that can sway one way or the other.

With all of the elements mapped out (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement), we now can see the first hurdle. Desire is the root resistance to change. The next step would to bring out more desire, which could include making sure the employees can fully understand how much easier it can be, or generate excitement, or rewards, etc. Also, we see that the reinforcement isn't that high either. To be on the safe side we should incorporate some ways to maintain the change. (POSITIVE, systematic reinforcement, not the nagging managers telling you to get those "TPS reports" in on time!!) 

The final key point is to keep MEASUREMENTS of each of the elements. This way, you can identify what's being changed and the appropriate actions. 

If you wish to find out more about this model in much more detail, go ahead and check out the book, ADKAR: a model for change in business, government and our community by Jeffrey M. Hiatt. It's a great book!

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