ADKAR Model of Change explained: theory including an example
ADKAR Model of Change: this article explains the ADKAR Model of Change, developed by Jeff Hiatt in a practical way. This article contains the general definition of the ADKAR model, practical examples and a downloadable template for you to get started using this method. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful change managemen tool. Enjoy reading!
What is the ADKAR model?
Organizational change usually meets with employee resistance. The ADKAR model is a change management tool to help identify why change is difficult and why some changes succeed while others are unsuccessful.
The name ADKAR is an acronym and the model is based on five building blocks that bring about successful change. The letters stand for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement.
The ADKAR model for change management was developed by the founder of Prosci Jeff Hiatt in 2003. It was introduced as a practical tool by Prosci, a renowned change management consultancy and learning centre.
The model is mainly intended to be a coaching tool and the model focuses on helping and assisting employees through the change process within organizations.
All five elements of the ADKAR model are sequential. When bringing about change it is important that everyone understands the reason for the change as the natural reaction of employees to change is to resist. This is why people need to be made aware of the need for change.
The precondition for implementing change is sound and extensive knowledge. Learning new skills and steering toward a different behaviour are part of this. After change has been implemented, it is necessary that this change is sustained in order to prevent a lapse into former behaviour.
The five building blocks of the ADKAR model
The ADKAR model outlines the five building blocks to achieve successful change management:
Employees must be made aware of the need for change.
The first building block of the ADKAR model revolves around possibly the most important question: why is change necessary and desired? Without a clear answer to this question including motivation, staff will have great difficulty accepting the change and joining the movement.
Effectively communicating these reasons, from different perspectives, is necessary to create awareness. Preferably, the communication consists of practical examples about why employees will find the planned initiatives useful and why it will benefit their work.
An important method of achieving this is by opening an open dialogue between employees and management. It is important to make them think about the change, ask questions and share their own experiences and examples. It is also possible to conduct interviews with customers or employees in which they explain their perspectives and make a plea for the change. These interviews can be filmed and shown to larger groups of employees.
Employees must have the desire to participate and fully support the change.
The second building block revolves around motivating employees. Companies can’t tell their employees how they should feel about something, but they can motivate them. There are a number of specific reasons why people feel resistance to change.
For example, studies show that some employees can embrace change if they feel heard and treated well throughout the change process. A common mistake is therefore to invite employees for a dialogue about change and then not organize anything anymore. In many cases, employees find it useless to write down ideas on paper that they don’t hear about later.
It is therefore essential to organize regular communication and feedback moments. In this way involvement is stimulated, which helps to accept change.
By gathering knowledge about the change process, the (ultimate) goal of the change will become clear for the employees.
Learning does not happen in a closed space. Whatever knowledge employees have, it is important that they share knowledge and reflect knowledge in an organized learning process.
In this way they give meaning to what has been learned and help each other to benefit from newly acquired knowledge. This is also known as social learning. Social learning is the key to spreading knowledge in a natural way.
Organizations should not just send their employees on a course, but should actively let them deal with new knowledge.
Because of the ability to learn new skills and by managing behaviour, change is accepted.
What prevents employees from contributing to change? Sometimes it’s because they feel like they’re not part of the change. By listening to employees, companies can identify and remove barriers. Ask them how things are going and how they experience their position.
Encourage people to believe in their own abilities and give them recognition. Even when they fail, because then it is more likely that they will learn from their mistakes. It’s hard for employees to show their weaknesses in the workplace, so remind them there’s no shame in seeking help. Developing and valuing the ability of the employees is an essential part of the ADKAR model.
Reinforcement to sustain the change makes it clear for all employees that there is no turning back.
To support the change, an organization must encourage employees and managers to keep talking about the progress of the initiatives, celebrate milestones and continue to share success stories. Provide employees with a platform to easily share stories.
By reinforcing change and maintaining the new normal situation, it shows the seriousness and importance of the change. This can help create a solid base for any future change following the ADKAR model. This is especially the case when employees are reminded of previous successful and beneficial changes in other stages of the ADKAR model.
Change occurs in two dimensions: the organization and the employees. Change can only be successful if the change takes place simultaneously in both dimensions.
If stagnation surfaces in one of the building blocks in the model, then it is advisable to take action with respect to this element. This targeted approach focuses on the element with the highest chance of success.
The ADKAR model does not just help to determine in advance what steps need to be taken to achieve the right goal, but it also identifies, with the benefit of hindsight, why changes have not been successful. This evaluation is valuable because it can help realize the change after all. Additionally, an adjusted ADKAR model for a failed change can be a solid base for the implementation of a future change.
Pros ADKAR model of change
There are many benefits associated with using the ADKAR model. Some of these benefits are listed below.
- The ADKAR model offers a practical and simple approach to change management. Many change models only prescribe change in group dynamics or organizational change, but are difficult to apply.
- ADKAR is an out-of-the-box approach, but it doesn’t require companies to reinvent the wheel. It’s a turnkey solution for companies that want change.
- ADKAR has been around for a long time and has been extensively tested. It is one of the most widely used and popular change models.
- ADKAR comes with a lot of explanation, training and support. The company behind ADKAR, Prosci, offers good and comprehensive training for reasonable prices.
Cons of the ADKAR model of change
Naturally, there are also some drawbacks associated with using the ADKAR change model.
- The ADKAR model ignores the need for companies to develop a vision for the long-term implementation of their change plans.
- The ADKAR model is better suited for smaller change proposals because it focuses only on the human aspect of change. This is not enough to realize large-scale change.
ADKAR Model of change template
Here you can download a handy ADKAR model template to demonstrate the full 5-step plan for change. The template provides editable sections to include key elements of a change initiative.
The template can also be printed and used as a handout when giving a presentation or holding a meeting about the planned changes within your organization.
Download the ADKAR Model of change templateThis template is exclusively for our paying Toolshero members. Click here to see if a membership is something for you!
It’s Your Turn
What do you think? Is the ADKAR model applicable in today’s modern economy and organizations? Do you recognize the practical explanation or do you have more suggestions? What are your success factors for applying good change management?
Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.
- Shah, M. H. (2014). An Application of ADKAR Change Model for the Change Management Competencies of School Heads in Pakistan. Journal of Managerial Sciences, 8(1).
- Hiatt, J. M. (2006). ADKAR: a model for change in business, government and our community. Prosci Learning Center.
- Hiatt, J. M. & Creasey, T. J. (2003). Change management: The people side of change. Prosci.
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Published on: 03/14/2022 | Last update: 03/05/2023
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9 responses to “ADKAR Model of Change explained: theory including an example”
In a theoretical sense, your article, which explains a generic mental process (unless misused), could be complemented with:
– Tuckman’s model ie stages of group/team development: forming, storming, norming, performing, (“breathing” – to accommodate change)
– Conflict resolution matrix (or a social-psychopath model), a negative but extremely damaging case of bad management (a person competes with his/her staff, avoids other managers, accommodates superiors, compromises with staff from other work groups, but rarely collaborates)
– Situational leadership model (Hersey-Blanchard) to match the needs/readiness of individuals,
– Visual management, which speeds up ADKAR, may help those constantly blamed regain confidence, will reveal those hiding/waiting behind those being blamed, acknowledged actual data and quiet constant conflicts, and beware of bad managers before things change for better.
– Satir model – as an internal emotional change progression
– and so on
Thank you for your comment and sharing your experience and suggestions Leo.
Good articles. Quite relevant in today’s time as well. Only thing is more example can make it interesting n easy to comprehend
Thank you for your comment and suggestion, Yogesh.
I’ve found ADKAR useful as both a planning and an assessment tool, but it is by no means the be-all and end-all of change management, and therefore shouldn’t be promoted as such.
Further, change managers must be highly skilled communicators, preferably with a good understanding of behavioral psychology.
I personally prefer Kotter’s 8 steps (which Hiatt based his method on).
Thank you for your comment, Michael.
Employees would be less resistant to change if they trusted that the change being implemented considered their needs and perspective. Often times change is imposed on teams without having first solicited the team’s real engagement and input. For example, a company decides to change the online web site for customer shopping, order entry and payment. The total focus is on the customer experience. A little bit of the focus was on the back office. When it is time to implement the change, the project team wants to make sure the Finance team is on board and will not resist the change. The problem is that the project team did not properly engage the Finance team in the development of the tool. Change is readily accepted when one feels they had a voice in the tool/ process being changed.
Thank you for your comment, Eva.
A concise summary of the Prosci ADKAR model. Exploring the subject in detail, I believe it’s critical to focus on both the Organization as well as People dimensions of the ADKAR model.