When change management met the ADKAR framework


“I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better. “ -Georg C. Lichtenberg

Change management: ADKAR framework

I have never seen the movie ‘When Harry Met Sally’ but the title comes to mind when I think of the ADKAR framework. That is because I can remember exactly when I ‘met’ ADKAR and wondered where it had been my whole career. If you are new to project management or change management, you will definitely benefit from taking a close look at the ADKAR framework that was developed in the 1990’s by Prosci. This useful tool is particularly helpful when executing large project initiatives that impact all or the majority of people in your business. I will share, from my perspective, how I have incorporated the framework into a real-life project.

ADKAR is an acronym that stands for:

AAwareness of the need for change
DDesire to support the change
KKnowledge of how to change
AAbility to demonstrate new skills and behaviors
RReinforcement to make the change stick

According to Prosci, “ADKAR is a research-based, individual change model that represents the five milestones an individual must achieve in order to change successfully. ADKAR creates a powerful internal language for change and gives leaders a framework for helping people embrace and adopt changes.”

Real-life framework application

I recently used the ADKAR framework on a large technology implementation. This project was challenging because we had users with widely varying degrees of knowledge and experience in the system and even wider degrees of interest in converting to a new system. Using the ADKAR model served as a way of easing the new technology users into the system and improving acceptance rates and usability from day one. Here are the steps I took using ADKAR that made a difference in the success of my project:

  1. Awareness – Begin by putting together a very strong communication plan. The story behind the Why needs to come from the CEO and his team. From there you should point out simple references to how the implementation will benefit the organization. For example, are you consolidating current systems into one, are you implementing a new technology that will make certain processes or daily tasks easier for the majority?
  2. Desire – Find champions that can provide testimonials to a wide audience explaining how this will help a large population. Find the people in your organization that are known for being first adopters or key influencers as the message will resonant quicker throughout the organization. Keep the messaging simple but relevant.
  3. Knowledge – Pull in your learning and development department to either drive or at least assist the development of materials that are easy to understand by current and future employees. A FAQ or desk handy reference card is what I have done to be effective in the past.
  4. Ability – With the leadership or support of the learning and development department hold either classroom-style sessions or at a minimum webinars to show employees how the new technology works. This allows for real-time Q&A if you are able to have people practice within test environments before the official launch that is even better. Remember to record sessions for those that are unable to attend live sessions.
  5. Reinforcement – Finally make it fun for your organization. Have contests with gift cards or other forms of recognition to acknowledge those that are quickly making the transition to the new system. Reinforce positive behaviors as frequent, and whenever is possible to ensure quicker transitions.

Daily practice action steps for better results

  1. Always consider the change management aspects of any project.
  2. Pull in experts from the learning and development or internal communications department as early as you can in the project to get their input, feedback, and support.
  3. Seek out the first adopters and key influencers who can have a big impact on your project.
  4. Never underestimate and think “Oh, this project is too small to need a formal change management plan, everyone already understands why we are doing this.”

By incorporating the above framework into your next project, I believe you will realize quicker adoption from your users and greater satisfaction across the entire organization if you take the time to plan, communicate and put the full power of a change management process into your project management toolbox.


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