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Humans are creatures of habit. This means that changes are often viewed with suspicion, making them difficult to implement. This clashes considerably with the VUCA world we currently living in, the main features of which are uncertainty and continuous change.

To help employees accept and cope with individual changes, you can apply the ADKAR model.

What is the ADKAR method and how it works? We will explain it to you below.

What is the ADKAR model?

The Prosci® ADKAR® model is a change management model that supports individual change within changes in organisations. It is the most widely used change management model in the world.

The creator of this model is Jeff Hiatt. Hiatt is an expert on change management and published his book ‘ADKAR: A Model for Change in Business, Government and our Community‘ in 2006. Since then, we have known ADKAR as a change management tool.

Hiatt worked for Nokia Bell Labs and was responsible for restructuring business processes in Europe. He also conducted research with 2,600 organisations worldwide on what works and doesn’t work in change. Based on this, he devised the ADKAR model.

He also set up the training agency Prosci, through which today over 3,400 organisations worldwide manage their changes using ADKAR. Today, the ADKAR method is the most widely used change management model for individual change, in the world.

What does ADKAR mean?

The acronym ADKAR stands for the 5 key pillars within the model. It stands for:

  • Awareness The realisation that change is imperative in today's world.
  • Desire Willingness to actively participate in and support change.
  • Knowledge The right knowledge to implement change and get clarity on the purpose of the change.
  • Ability The opportunity to learn new skills makes change more acceptable. Here, steering for new, different behaviour is necessary.
  • Reinforcement Through compliments or incentives to the people who have to (continue to) implement the change, ensure that the change becomes and remains the new norm.
Wat is het ADKAR model?

Why do companies adopt the ADKAR method

The basis of this model is twofold: change within an organisation and individual change for employees. In an ideal situation, the organisation and employees change at the same time. This makes change optimally successful. If this does not happen and no progress is visible in one of the two pillars, you can take action. This way, you work towards goals in a more focused way.

You can easily see afterwards why certain changes were not implemented successfully. Do you still want certain changes to succeed because they are very important for growing towards a certain goal, for example? Then these kinds of insights are incredibly valuable.

Applying ADKAR in practice

When you want to work with the ADKAR method in practice, you start by scoring employees per pillar. This score is between 1 (lowest) and 5 (highest). When someone scores 3 or lower on a pillar, this pillar becomes a ‘barrier point’, or a point to work on. This means that the person does not meet the requirements of the pillar and is therefore unable to make the desired or required contribution to the change. By working on this, you can change this so that the change can be implemented successfully.

What do the ADKAR ‘barrier points’ for each pillar mean?

Each ‘barrier point’ has a different working method, which depends on the pillar. Below, we briefly explain what you can do when someone scores insufficiently on the pillar.

Barrier point on Awareness

“It’s fine the way it is, isn’t it?”, this is a response you will often get when you recognise a ‘barrier point’ on the Awareness pillar. The question people ask themselves here is what the change is for. This is relatively easy to avoid or minimise by properly informing everyone in the organisation about the change(s) beforehand. If you make it clear to them right from the start of the change what its importance is, both for themselves and for the organisation, they will have a lot less trouble accepting the change.

  • Tip: this works even more strongly when this information is communicated by, for example, an informal leader. Someone who is motivated to work on the change outside their own work and involve or convince others.

Barrier point on Desire

At this stage, the employee does understand that the change is inevitable and why it has to happen. Unfortunately, this certainly does not automatically mean that they are also behind the change and willing to go along with it. Especially when it impacts daily tasks, you will notice resistance from someone who has a barrier point on the Desire pillar.

To get the desire to the desired level, it is important to know well what is going on with the employee. Often, resistance in this phase comes from emotion. They do not feel heard or are afraid of the (consequences) of the change. The key here lies in making it clear why it will also add value for him/her.

Barrier point on Knowledge

Often at this stage, people want to join the change but cannot because they do not understand it. They then reach a barrier point on Knowledge. Through training and documenting processes, you can provide support here. By working on the employee’s confidence in their own knowledge and skills, you quickly achieve the best success here.

Barrier point on Ability

Is the person capable of change? Of course, it is good if someone understands the change and wants to accept it but it also goes further. Someone with a barrier point on Ability is, for whatever reason, unable to (immediately) make the change their own. This may be a physical limitation, which prevents them from performing changing tasks immediately. It could also be that someone is not feeling well for a while, so that it is too much to ask at that moment to adjust things. Lack of experience, for instance in handling new equipment, can also play a role.

This is where sufficient coaching and follow-up is key. Allowing sufficient time to make a change your own can also contribute to positive development here.

  • An example: A person learning to ride a bicycle usually soon understands that they need to press on the pedals to move forward. This does not only mean that that person can cycle immediately. It takes time and adjustment to learn this skill.

Barrier point on Reinforcement

You notice that over time people increasingly want to revert to their old habits. This is normal; it is simply not easy to change habits. Still, it is important that the change is fully accepted and there is no going back to those old habits.

To maintain the change introduced, it is important to give implementers enough credit for the contribution they make. Rewarding people with recognition, a little something or simply a pat on the back will maintain the enthusiasm around the change. This makes it a lot easier to sustain the change.

Change management with ADKAR

Whatever change you want to implement within your organisation, the ADKAR model can help. As we see above, the model focuses on the human aspect of change. You can think of learning to work with a new software, a well-known example of a change that often encounters a lot of resistance. But also working with new equipment or a change in working methods, for instance (think Agile working), require commitment from those who have to do this.

The power of the ADKAR model is that you start looking at each person to see if they are willing and able to go along with the change. If they are not, you identify why this is not the case and you can respond accordingly. You can do this, for instance, by taking the learning level and pace of employees into account.

This way, you tackle change management individually which greatly increases the chances of success. And that contributes to a smooth and permanent acceptance of the change.

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