Have you ever wondered how organizations change? Well, to be honest, organizations don’t change, it’s the people that change.

But how do we facilitate successful change with and for people?

Let’s wind back a little. 10 years ago, I was in the early stages of my leadership career. Having worked for a certain time in the industry I was given the chance to lead a team of 12 people for one of the larger IT Corporations. Having graduated from the internal leadership academy I had all the tools necessary to lead people. Great communication skills, a deep understanding of the companies values and vision, basic coaching ability, a set of resistance management tactics and a good understanding of the value of a healthy network in the company. However, nothing had prepared me for the coming task at hand: A change from a rather classic sales environment to a new digital age of sales. As leaders we had all the information concerning the need for this change. The company had to turn the wheels to serve its customers wherever and however the customers wanted to be served. So equipped with this vision and strategy all people managers were supposed to inform their teams about how the company thought they should do their sales job from now on. There was extensive training in digital sales tactics, tools and processes. All set… Here we go. NOT. What all leaders from that time unanimously stated is that only a few of the sales staff ever adopted this change to the full and desired extent. In numbers roughly 20% of the whole sales population (and it was a huge population at the time). People stuck to their old habits, their “old-fashioned” sales approach. The company found it very hard to convince people to change their ways. At some stage the company measured how many tweets had been sent out, how many new followers on social media had been gained, etc. This led to huge frustration not only amongst the sales crowd but also the management team, leading to a rise in fluctuation of valued employees. All in all, the project / change went south and the company wasted a lot of money on “enforcing” or “dictating” the new ways. Only after some years the company was able to turn around the sales crowd, by simple “refreshing” the team, hiring new people…

What went wrong?

Well simply put, despite having all the right reasons for starting this change, nobody enabled the employees to be successful. They were told why this change is important, why it needs to be done… and then people were sent off to training to learn new skills. Nobody actually told the individuals what a benefit for THEM could be if they had adopted this new way of work.

At this stage it would have been great to have some knowledge of Prosci®’s ADKAR® Model. ADKAR was introduced to the world by Jeff Hiatt, founder of Prosci®, in 2000 after researching approx. 700 companies focusing of what makes changes successful.

In order to be as precise as possible, the following is from Tim Creasey, Prosci’s CIO, retrieved via on September 16th 2022.

The ADKAR Model

The letters of ADKAR represent the five essential elements that must be present for an individual to make a change successfully:

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

These elements are intentionally sequenced. Earlier elements must be sufficiently achieved before the proceeding elements can be realized. For instance, building Knowledge of how to change is ineffective if an individual does not have Awareness of the need for change or Desire to participate and support the change. ADKAR has been used by thousands to drive more successful change because it presents the structure and sequence required for individuals to make a change. Let’s look at each element of ADKAR in more depth.


The first element in the ADKAR Model is Awareness. More specifically, this is the awareness of the need for change. Change begins with understanding the “why”, including answers to some basic questions, such as:

· What is the nature of the change?

· Why is the change happening?

· What are the risks of not changing, to me and to the organization?

If we do not understand why a change is needed then we do not have Awareness, and our natural reaction is to resist the change. In fact, Prosci’s benchmarking studies show that a lack of Awareness is the greatest source of resistance for both employees and managers and supervisors.


A large organization is implementing a new document management system. Employees will need to learn new processes around retrieving, editing and sharing documents within the organization. The change is needed in order to make the organization more efficient at tracking and maintaining up-to-date documents. The “why” behind the change comes from a failure of the current system resulting in expensive mistakes and lost documents. At the level of an individual employee, the risks of not changing include the inability to access necessary documents and slower turnaround times on finishing tasks.


Ultimately, change requires an individual to make a personal decision to participate and support a change. Because it requires a personal decision, Desire is often the most difficult ADKAR element in an organizational change. However, leaders and managers can influence this decision by addressing the personal and organizational motivators for the change. The Desire element addresses “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM) and “What’s in it for us?” regarding the change.


From an individual employee’s perspective, the consequences of not changing pose a risk to their performance at work, which could have other repercussions on their personal success at work. However, if an employee is not as computer savvy as other employees, he or she may be less motivated to learn a new system. On a more positive note, the new system is promised to work better than the old methods of managing documents, so, for many employees, this change may come as welcome relief.


The Knowledge element of the ADKAR Model is often accounted for with training. Successful change requires knowing how to use the new tools or perform the new skills after implementation and knowing how to change. In many cases, simply attending training does not result in sufficient knowledge. Practice on-the-job coaching, and additional job aids can all help ensure that individuals have the knowledge they need to make a change successfully. Additionally, training without the preceding awareness and desire is ineffective and can actually be more frustrating than beneficial for employees.


Employees are required to know how to navigate the new document management system and understand how to access files. Training was provided to all impacted employees. In addition, managers were trained and equipped to offer individual coaching and support to their employees to ensure the employees understand and know how to use the new tools and processes. In addition, a “practice” station was established so employees could become more familiar with the look and feel of the new document management system.


Following knowledge, an employee must have the Ability to demonstrate the new skills and behaviors. It is possible that an employee may understand the change on a theoretical level and even have the knowledge to make the change, but ultimately cannot demonstrate the required skills and behaviors. It is Ability – when employees achieve the desired change with new skills and behaviors – that the change comes to life and business results are realized.


For the majority of employees, adoption of the new system should be smooth, especially when allowed a few weeks to practice. There will be a select few employees who will be unable to learn the new technology, either due to personal limitations or prolonged time required to learn.


The final element in the ADKAR Model is Reinforcement, a critical step to ensure the change is sustained. Reinforcement includes actions, recognition, mechanisms and rewards that increase the likelihood that the change will be continued. While reinforcement mechanisms can be in place before the change is made, reinforcement at the individual level occurs once the change has been adopted (i.e. ability has been achieved). This does not mean the employee must be proficient to receive reinforcement, but they must first demonstrate some ability for the behavior to be positively reinforced.


The organization has tied the successful implementation of this change to employee bonuses. The project sponsor is very active and visible in giving positive feedback to impacted groups who are demonstrating the change. Managers are closely working with struggling employees to ensure they can succeed at the change as well. In addition, managers are continuing to actively remove barriers and manage resistance to the change.


So just for fun… Can you see why the change in my personal story didn’t stick? Think about what could have been different?

Excited to hear your story. Feel free to comment, drop a message etc..


Patrick Wanner

Prosci® Certified Advanced Instructor

Tiba Transformation Group

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