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Change Management’s ADKAR Model

April 27, 2022

As businesses evolve to address changing markets, businesses operations must change as well. Unfortunately, too many businesses are resistant to change. Poorly communicated and poorly implemented new processes and procedures often lead to employee stress, frustration, and distrust. The proven solution is in a people-oriented plan that enables employees to succeed in a business operations transition, known as the discipline Change Management.

Change Management can bridge the gap between new operational efficiencies in organizations and the people who will utilize them. To create new ways of working smarter, businesses need to rethink the way their employees work.

The “People Side”

When organizations adopt new processes, the technical side of the change including the design, development, and a tangible deliverable might seem obvious. But, often behind the scenes is the “people side”— the embracing, adoption, and use of the change. Established in 1994, one of leaders in the Change Management space, Prosci, defines Change Management as, “An enabling framework for the people side of change.”

One of Prosci’s proven models for facilitating change management is the ADKAR model, which specifically enables change at the individual level, and is part of a larger change management methodology. ADKAR is an acronym that stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement. Broken down further, ADKAR is:

A – Awareness: Of the need for change

D – Desire: To Participate and support the change

K – Knowledge: On how to change

A – Ability: To implement desired skills and behaviors

R – Reinforcement: To sustain the change

The model operates on the assumption that individual change is the foundation underlying all organizational change.

Making the Case for ADKAR

ADKAR can be particularly helpful when implementing new technology, such as a database or relationship management system migration. In this case, organizations are asking their employees to change the way they work. Perhaps what used to be a weekly team check-in is now a simple status update in a database. For employees who have long tenure with a company, have never used this type of technology, or just prefer a different approach, asking them to adopt a new system is often challenging.

The ADKAR methodology can also help in an organizational restructuring, such as acquiring a new business. Undoubtedly, roles will shift. There might be a new management structure, some employees may take on new duties, and many will have to learn about the functions of the newly formed company. ADKAR can address these anticipated challenges while providing the framework for developing the organization’s final state.

But expressing the need for change management can be a challenge on its own.

The first step in making the case for change management is communicating the need for change concrete. Anticipating the questions employees will ask is part of the Awareness stage of ADKAR, the first stage of the model. It is up to leadership to provide the backbone of the “why.” Conveying past failures in the organization, examples of losses to the organization, and even research into the benefits of change management all strengthen a strong change management plan. In many ways, Awareness is the backbone of ADKAR.

The ADKAR model not only addresses the change for organizations, but the personal change for individuals. According to Prosci, the next four stages of the model, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement, Prosci explains, is “[…] to examine the key steps, messages, and information required to get change management team members successfully through the personal change.” Desire can be one of the more difficult phases because it requires individuals to make their own decisions and raise questions about the relevance of the change. Training employees during the Knowledge phase requires the buy-in accrued from the Awareness and Desire stages. The Ability stage occurs after employees are trained and demonstrates how they will use their new knowledge. Lastly, Reinforcement allows organizations to define and celebrate successes for the recent changes while monitoring and measuring new system implementations.

Change Management methodologies like ADKAR provide a clear, step-by-step way for organizations to develop the plans and assessments needed to create sustainable change into the future. User adoption is often a key component that can make or break new technology adoption, but with a structured plan, organizations can mitigate these risks and allow for a greater success rate.

Washington Business Dynamics

As a leader in the government consulting space, Washington Business Dynamics (WBD) knows the importance of strategic business process improvements and the value of change management strategies.

WBD is proud of our work with the Department of Defense (DoD), where we developed a crowdsourcing platform, Waggl, which garners insights on barriers to change and measures the rate of adoptions across the enterprise. The tool has been adopted by Fortune 500 corporations and over 30 organizations across the DoD for change management insight. The platform allows WBD to generate qualitative and quantitative insights that provide senior officials with real-time, automated graphics with valued insight into change readiness, barriers, and best practices.

WBD helps its clients to make better decisions as they implement new systems, technology, and processes, and develops bespoke change management solutions with data-driven results.

Author: Jessica Lewis, Lead Consultant at WBD, is a CRM and strategy professional engaged with the firm’s Private Sector Engagement Support award with the United States Agency for International Development.

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