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Whether you’re implementing a new ERP or just changing the way timesheets are submitted, why is change so hard? Too often, it’s because the person in charge of the change initiative is a Project Manager and understandably treats it like a project, with timelines and deliverables, while ignoring the process of “change management”. Project Managers focus on ensuring people have the knowledge and ability to make the change happen. Their tools are budgets and timelines. They focus on the information side of change. Change Managers, on the other hand, focus on awareness and desire – the emotional side of change. Both are necessary, but without awareness and desire, the information required for effective change will fall on deaf ears.
ADKAR is the acronym Change Managers use to assess how ready individuals in an organization are for change. It stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. The Change Manager uses a 1-5 scale to assess those that will be affected by change, knowing that any individual at 3 or below in any of the first four areas can put the change at risk of failure. The ratings aren’t at all scientific. They are based on the gut feel of the Change Manager.
When my editor was reading this article she said, “This doesn’t make sense. Surely just one person wouldn’t be able to cause the whole change to fail?” Au contraire, ma soeur. And we’re not just talking about the leader. But how do we define failure? Well, that’s exactly the point. PMs define it based on whether a project is “on time”, “on budget”, and “on scope”. CMs base it on ROI. If you’d like to learn more about this, we’ll have a future post on The Human Factors that Determine the ROI of a Change Initiative.
To illustrate ADKAR, we will use a change the hotel industry initiated in the late 2000s to persuade guests to reuse their towels.
While most hotel guests could easily figure out that single use of towels required more water, the card shown above aggregated the problem for them and ensured they understood how much water was being wasted. It raised and amplified the awareness. Before they had this information, most hotel guests weren’t thinking about the problem.
In contrast, when companies are implementing new timesheets, they often don’t explain the “why” of the change to the people affected by it. To create better awareness, they should quantify and describe how much administrative time is wasted collating and transposing individual reports and how the process is prone to error and rework.
The re-use initiative was not just altruistic toward the planet. The industry was spending a lot of money on energy, detergent, and staff resources to provide clean towels to the guests every day. But that fact alone wasn’t going to spur its guests to change their behavior. To appeal to the individual hotel guest’s desire, they pointed out how a small act could have a big global impact and tied it back to the guest’s own question, “What’s in it for me?” While the guest may feel cynical about the hotel’s motives, they can’t deny the impact they themselves can have.
If a company is embarking on a new timesheet initiative, there isn’t much in it for the people who must change their method of submitting their time. Desire can be built, however, by appealing to their compassion for the people who have to aggregate the time information when they understand how a small effort for them can lead to a significant improvement of work conditions for the administrative staff by eliminating redundancy and rework they have been subjected to with the original method.
But how to act? Specific instructions were required for the initiative to work. If a guest was not informed of the signal (hang up vs. leave on floor), none of the Awareness and Desire they created would have made an impact.
This is the step that more traditional change management initiatives often start with. Having paid lip service to the why of change (Awareness) and what’s in it for the person doing the changing (Desire), Project Managers schedule training sessions for those that will be affected. But the Knowledge doesn’t work if the Awareness and Desire aren’t already there.
In the hotel example, having Ability was quite simple: hang up or drop. In corporate environments, this is not always the case. For example, an app based timesheet system won’t work for employees that do not have smart phones. They may have Awareness, Desire, and Knowledge, but without the tool the ability is not there.
In the case of the towels, Reinforcement was provided by the sign in the washroom. In corporate change initiatives, regular reporting to management on progress and results is required to make the change stick.
Using ADKAR is simple. Using the chart below, assess the readiness of each person that will be impacted by the change on these five criteria. Use a 1 to 5 scale (5 high, 1 low). The squares graded 3 or below requires attention.
Next time your organization is gearing up for a change, take a breath and see if all of the elements of ADKAR are in place for all of the people who will be impacted. The higher the scores, the better the chance your change will stick and deliver the return you are looking for. And if the scores are too low, work to change them.
Bellrock is a process benchmarking and change management company based in Vancouver, Canada. The information from this article comes from the Prosci methodology, which Bellrock uses in all of its implementation programs. If you found this article informative, please share it with your networks.