Change is a constant.  Personally or professionally, we deal with it in big and small ways almost daily.  But we can be assured that methods of handling change are not as unpredictable as the occurrence of change itself.  A company called PROSCI has done us all a huge service and defined a model and method for understanding change at a personal level, and at an organizational level. The two levels are entwined because organizations can only be successful when each individual within navigates and embraces the phases of change and becomes engaged and productive as a result.

I’d like to introduce the PROSCI model for change, called ADKAR®.  ADKAR® has five phases:

  • Awareness of the need for change
  • Desire to support and participate in the change
  • Knowledge of how to change
  • Ability to implement required skills and behaviors
  • Reinforcement to sustain the change

The model overlays very neatly over Kurt Lewin’s model of Unfreeze, Change, and Refreeze—a standard when talking about Organizational Development.

Image result for ADKAR states of change

When organizations are faced with a major change, they must first raise awareness and desire about the need for change, unfreezing the organization from the status quo.  The next step is undergoing the change itself, where new knowledge and skills are required to enact the change.  Last, the organization must take critical steps to reinforce the change, to refreeze it, and make it permanent.

It’s my hope that this blog and tool I’m going to share will keep you from making the same mistake I made some years ago.  I recall a scenario in my position as the new director of a training department.  Our project tracking, contract management, and some fiscal recordkeeping were all being handled by two people manually.  They built complex spreadsheets, which only they could understand and we still had a lot of errors and re-work on outgoing documents.  I decided that we needed an Access database for organized data storage, and creation of consistent document templates, with access for the whole team.  The database would track every project, reconcile its revenues and costs, and produce clean, already data-populated documents with the click of a button.  I immediately hired a consultant and told the two team members what I was doing. Perfect plan, right? Wrong!  From a system perspective and our needs, I was spot on, but from a people one I was off the mark.  They reacted with a range of emotions and perspectives—fear of losing their jobs to a database, anger that they were not consulted, irrational beliefs that the new system would not work, and the old system was fine.  They resisted it every step of the way.

I had overlooked something critical about change—while it is a predictable management process, it involves people—their emotions and mental state.  I didn’t follow ADKAR®–I didn’t even know ADKAR® existed. If I had known, I could have anticipated the phases or stages of change we would experience, and planned for those.  I would have taken more time to enlist their perspective and built a strong case with them around the awareness and desire for the new database as the first step.  I would have dealt with their fears at first, and then described how we would all train on the database together.  The database did ultimately get installed; it worked great; they all eventually loved it, but I could have reduced everyone’s stress significantly by following a prescribed change process and made it all so much smoother and faster.

I’d like to share with you a valuable assessment tool (download here), which you can use immediately to gain insight about where your team is in the process of undergoing change.  It reveals the pinch points, the areas where you as Change Manager need to focus your energy, increase and improve your communication, and react to your team’s emotional and mental readiness for change.  It helps uncover where each of your team members are in the ADKAR® stages.  I highly recommend it.

In my next blog, I’ll discuss how you as a Change Manager work through each of those phases with your team—what questions will help guide you, what actions and strategies you take to move your people through each one.  Don’t make the same mistake I did.  The ADKAR® model can guide as you lead and support your workforce.