The Prosci ADKAR Change Management Model - Everything You Need to Know

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    Home / Growth / The Prosci ADKAR Change Management Model - Everything You Need to Know


    It appears to be one of the scariest words in the English language for many people, but it is also necessary and inevitable. 

    And you know what? It is also good.

    change management ADKAR
    if it's coming from Rafiki, it has to be true 😉

    In fact, if you don't embrace change, your business will not survive.

    Because of that it’s essential for leaders and organizations to have a clear plan in place. 

    And that's where ADKAR comes in. 

    The Prosci ADKAR Change Management Model is a framework that helps businesses initiate, implement and sustain change.

    In this blog post we will cover:

    • The origins of the ADKAR model,
    • What Prosci ADKAR model is,
    • The strengths of the ADKAR model,
    • The weaknesses of the ADKAR model,
    • When not to use the ADKAR model,
    • How the ADKAR model fits in the process, and
    • What to do if the change fails

    What is the Prosci ADKAR Model? - The Origins

    Fundamentally, Prosci's ADKAR Model is based on how we as humans experience change.

    The origins of the ADKAR Model stem from the model's developer, Prosci’s founder Jeff Hiatt, asking himself why change management activities work:

    • Why do we communicate?
    • Why do we need to see executives supporting a change?
    • Why do we train people?

    The ADKAR Model's five main building blocks evolved when the answers to these "whys" became evident. Prosci then began working on validating and refining the elements of the model that are still in use today.

    You've seen the ADKAR Model in action if you've ever seen someone successfully make a change in their life or at work. 

    What is the Prosci 3-Phase Process?

    Specially designed to facilitate change implementation within an organization, the Prosci 3-Phase Process is a structured, repeatable and adaptable approach for managing the people's side of change.

    Wait a second, what does this have to do with the ADKAR Model?

    “The Prosci 3-Phase Process is a framework for organizational change- the ADKAR Model focuses on individual change—guiding individuals through a particular change and addressing any roadblocks or barrier points along the way.”

    The Prosci 3-Phase Process, which is a fundamental component of the broader Prosci Methodology, leads practitioners through the high-value steps and activities to undertake during projects and initiatives in order to achieve change success.

    Each phase concludes with a key deliverable that allows you to compile and present all of the work completed during that phase. As a result, you will have a better understanding and commitment to the change management process.

    Each deliverable is flexible, adjustable, and scalable to meet the needs of your unique project and company.

    Let’s take a closer look at each phase of the Prosci 3-Phase Process.

    Phase 1 – Prepare Approach

    In the first phase you want to answer the following questions:

    • Define Success - What do you want to accomplish?
    • Define Impact – Who will have to do their tasks differently and how?
    • Define your approach - What will it take to succeed?

    The main goal of this first phase is to set the stage for success by creating a customized, scalable change management plan as well as obtaining the necessary sponsorship and commitment.

    Obtaining support from the major sponsors and key stakeholders is very important at this phase. Without early commitment, the support you need may never come, which may result in jeopardizing your chances of success.

    The deliverable for Phase 1 – Prepare Approach is the Change Management Strategy, and it informs the activities in Phase 2 – Manage Change.

    Phase 2 – Manage Change

    Throughout this phase, you'll learn how to measure, track and modify performance, as well as build particular strategies to guide impacted individuals and the business through the ADKAR changes.

    This is the longest phase in terms of time and the most apparent to the organization and those impacted.

    The bulk of the change management team’s work gets done in this stage. Here are 3 questions that must be taken into consideration:

    • Plan and Act – How do you prepare, equip and support people?
    • Track Performance – How are you getting on?
    • Adapt Actions – What adjustments do you need to make?

    At this stage, a change practitioner creates a set of strategies to guide individuals and organizations through their ADKAR transitions in order to achieve the desired adoption and usage.

    The change management plans required depend on your unique organization, project or initiative. Phase 2 – Manage Change culminates with the Master Change Management Plan deliverable.

    Phase 3 – Sustain Outcomes

    The organization achieves the project's benefits and concentrates on maintaining the outcomes in this last step of the Prosci 3-Phase Process.

    The following are the three phases of key activities:

    • Reviewing Performance - So, where do we stand now?
    • Activating Sustainment – What is required to guarantee that the change is maintained?
    • Transferring Ownership - Who will take responsibility for the results and keep them going?

    The goal of this phase is to ensure that the project or initiative achieves the expected results by ensuring adoption and then enabling the company to maintain the changes over time.

    After reviewing delivery at each performance level, Phase 3 – Sustain Outcomes ends with a celebration of accomplishments and the transfer of long-term sustainment efforts to the appropriate operational team members to sustain project outcomes.

    The Change Management Closeout is the deliverable for Phase 3 – Sustain Outcomes, and it closes the initiative's formal change management effort.

    The Prosci 3-Phase Process, which is a major component of the Prosci Methodology, allows practitioners to create and adapt a strategy to their change management projects and initiatives. 

    It's designed to be adaptable, scalable, and flow logically.

    By moving through each phase and using the right processes and tools, The Prosci 3-Phase Process provides a process for activities and actions that will help you successfully implement change in your company.

    prosci adkar change managmeent model

    What is Prosci ADKAR?

    The Prosci ADKAR Model is a well-known and widely used technique that helps people analyze their change, learn more about it, and make better decisions throughout their changer management journey. The model is based on five elements that also give the model its name - awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement. 

    But what does the ADKAR model look like in practice?

    Let's take a look.

    1. Awareness: Communicate the reason for the change

    We are all aware that almost all the time, change is good for businesses.

    Especially in SaaS, you can’t risk running in circles. Yet we never ask the most important question.

    Why is change necessary? 

    Because as a business, you need to outgrow yourself, or you go down.

    And why is it necessary to state your reason to change?

    Because people will be reluctant to participate unless there is a clear reason and explanation for the change.

    To raise awareness of why the change is necessary, provide the argument from many perspectives.

    People don't want another "bullet list"; instead, they want to hear what problems exist in the current state and what can be accomplished in the desired state.

    It's important to encourage people to reflect, ask questions, and express their own ideas and experiences by setting up frank discussions among them. You can also arrange video calls with customers or employees to provide different points of view and create a more compelling argument for the change.

    2. Desire: Empower and engage individuals

    ADKAR change management

    As much as we know change is important, we all still have our safe comfort zones. Yes, even at work. So the question is:

    How do you get people to want change?

    Because you can't tell others how to feel, this aspect of change management is very difficult. People could be resistant to change for a variety of reasons and most of the time you can’t know what that reason is.  

    However, employees are far more likely to accept change—even if it has negative consequences—when they’ve been treated well and listened to throughout the change process.

    A typical mistake is inviting employees to a strategy kick-off where they engage in a discussion about the change and then failing to follow up.

    Employees are fed up with writing suggestions on post-its and receiving no feedback.

    As a result, regular communication and engagement are essential for growing the desire for change and preventing change resistance that typically arises from frustration.

    So what to do?

    Invite your employees to share their expertise and experiences, providing feedback, and responding enthusiastically to any questions they may have.

    3. Knowledge: Learn by sharing

    There's not a single person who can learn and apply training in isolation. 

    For an organization to make real, lasting change, employees need to be given the opportunity for constant learning at every level. Beyond just new knowledge or skills passed down from the management. 

    Sharing reflections on what one has learned is a key part of this step.

    It helps individuals put their acquired insights into practice by making sense of them with others (and vice versa). Social learning is essential for spreading knowledge and adding value to your company. 

    Don't just send folks to training, make sure they have the framework and resources they need to put new ideas into action.

    4. Ability: Identify and address barriers

    What hinders people from contributing to change?

    There are several reasons why someone might feel unable to participate, but by keeping your ear close and asking questions you could find out what they need in order to do their best work. 

    You could discover that a lack of knowledge is holding the individual back. 

    Maybe there’s something new or different they want more information on so it will make sense. Or they just need to see how other people have approached similar tasks that would help lighten their workload. Or maybe this person doesn’t know where they should start with all these ideas floating around their head!

    They may even feel constrained by their own skills, time limits, or organizational system.

    As a leader, you should be someone who encourages people to believe in themselves. Even if they fail, give them credit since they will learn from their errors which is a valuable lesson.

    Since discussing flaws in the workplace might be difficult, make it clear that asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

    5. Reinforcement: Keep your eye on the ball

    One of the biggest challenges with organizational development is making change stick. 

    Sure, it may seem like things are going great and that people have finally accepted these changes as necessary for future growth, but there's always a chance they'll go back to how things had been before.

    And how do you prevent that?

    Continue to discuss how things are going, celebrate milestones, and share success stories to keep the momentum going.

    Share messages and stories about the change on a regular basis, whether it's a video from a satisfied client or a quote from an employee, to ensure that everyone understands how it's going and what has to be done.

    👉 Encourage managers to meet with team members one-on-one to follow up on their concerns. 

    👉 Encourage your staff to feel free to approach you about any issues and concerns that they may have and promise that they will be dealt with as soon as possible.

    👉 Encourage everyone to keep the change mentality constantly.

    And then you should be good to go. Let’s take a look at why you should use the ADKAR model.

    Strengths of the ADKAR Model

    Using the ADKAR model has a lots of benefits:

    It takes a hands-on approach rather than a theoretical approach to change management. Some change theories focus only on group psychology or organizational change. These theoretical ideas can be beneficial, but they are difficult to put into practice in the real world.

    It's a one-of-a-kind solution. It should not be necessary for businesses to reinvent the wheel. This makes ADKAR a great alternative for businesses looking for ready-to-use change recipes.

    It's been thoroughly field-tested. ADKAR has been around for quite some time now. It is also one of the most popular and widespread change models, proving its effectiveness.

    It includes extensive training and support. The company behind ADKAR, Prosci, provides comprehensive training and assistance at a fair price. As a result, businesses always have coaches and trainers on hand to assist them as they change and grow.

    For these reasons, ADKAR is an excellent option for a lot of businesses.

    Is it, however, right for your company?

    adkar change model pros

    ADKAR Model Weaknesses

    Let’s now take a closer look at the common “weaknesses” of the ADKAR Change Management Model. 

    The ADKAR model fails to distinguish between "incremental change" and "step change"

    "What is the single biggest problem affecting directors who are considering or beginning on a change initiative?"

    This is an excellent question that is difficult to answer because there are a lot of important things to consider. However, the most important choice to make early on is whether the change can be managed within the context of the business as usual or not.

    Namely, is it an incremental change or a step change? The following are the deciding factors:

    • Complexity
    • Size
    • Scope
    • Priority

    In my opinion, the ADKAR model is great for incremental changes. But, it falls short of being fully effective in a step change initiative.

    The ADKAR model fails to recognize the distinction between leadership and management responsibilities and functions.

    What difference? For example:

    • Managers bring change, while leaders drive it.
    • Culture is defined by leaders, while managers are defined by it.
    • Managers administrate, leaders innovate.

    While the basic definitions of change management emphasize the management element (which is crucial), a large part of the reason for the 70% failure rate in change initiatives is the lack of leadership.

    The ADKAR model ignores the need for leadership to address the emotional dimension

    The move from stage one of the ADKAR model (awareness of the need for change) to stage two (desire to participate in and support the change) can be significant, especially in a step change.

    Let’s just clear up one thing while we are at it. Transition is not the same as change.

    Change is what happens to you. Transition is what you experience.

    And transition, even the most positive one, is a process that involves a sense of loss and letting go. 

    As you make changes to your lifestyle, job or relationship, getting out of the old familiar routines and ways of doing things related to social identity, role identity, status in society can be hard.

    It may feel like everything has fallen apart for a while because nothing seems right anymore. 

    So, before beginning your transition journey ask yourself:

    What inner relinquishments will I make because of this change? How can I now fulfill my needs?

    The single biggest challenge leaders face in a change process is just getting people to make the necessary changes. To do this, leaders must speak directly with their co-workers and motivate them to take action by appealing to their emotions.

    Keep in mind that a change can happen only if people affected by it can get through the transition successfully.

    The ADKAR model fails to see the macro level of programme management

    Knowing how to change, having the ability to implement change, and reinforcement - making change stick - are all addressed in steps three to five of the ADKAR model. And they all relate to one of the most challenging aspects of the implementation process, which boils down to one thing:

    Translating vision and strategy into actionable steps.

    Restructuring, refocusing, and re-engineering are just the beginning in this environment.

    Business executives confront an equally difficult, if not even more difficult task of convincing employees to deliver their new vision and meet revenue targets.

    The ADKAR model refers to the classic project approach, which sees it as a series of activities that, when completed correctly, produce a result. In other words, the traditional process-driven strategy that has consistently and spectacularly failed over the previous 20 years.

    There is a significant difference between the micro and macro perspectives of change management, which the ADKAR fails to recognize.

    At a macro level, the primary reason is a lack of clarity and communication regarding the human elements of change management - and, more fundamentally, a scarcity of language and contextual framework to define and manage the essential change processes that will benefit people.

    Delivering a plan and creating a culture at the micro level necessitates hands-on precise management - micromanagement on occasion - in the complexities of how to accomplish it, especially in its early stages.

    So, at the operational level, people must be empowered and supported in order to develop the capabilities needed to execute your strategy and become what you want them to be (or as close to it as is realistically possible).

    Here are three excellent starting points:

    1. Clarifying return decision-making - this entails taking into account risk assessment and mitigation [as well as opportunity] while evaluating  outcomes and their likelihood.
    1. "Grinding out" in practical, achievable detail what the high-level strategy means for the "troops" in action - the specific actionable actions.
    1. In the delivery of the strategy, establishing clear links and connections between vision ➡️ senior management choices ➡️ task-level execution ➡️ and results.
    adkar change management steps

    When Not to Use the ADKAR Model

    Given the advantages listed above, it's tough to criticize the ADKAR model. 

    There are times, though, when a company should consider using a different change management approach.

    As previously stated, ADKAR focuses on individual change and because of that, it may not be appropriate for every organization since it takes a very prescriptive approach to change management.

    When you  want to look into different choices, there are a couple of things to think about:

    Do you need more than a ready-to-use model for change management? As previously stated, ADKAR is a ready-to-use solution. If you need something that you can use right now, this is a great choice. However, if your company wants to learn more about the field, this might be a disadvantage.

    Do you need a more sophisticated and extensive change? more complex management methods are required to be employed. There is generally nothing wrong with ADKAR, but it may not be suitable for every business solution. When a company wants or has to develop a new change process, they will almost certainly need to look into alternative choices.

    Are you innovating or establishing change management in-house? Prosci can definitely help with the development of internal change management capabilities. Innovative businesses, on the other hand, could choose to recruit their own change management experts and build bespoke in-house processes.

    Are you facing other types of business changes? For example, a company undertaking digital transformation may be using numerous technologies at the same time. Companies may need to use the help of digital transformation agencies, digital adoption solutions, IT consultants, and other professionals.

    Is your company culture not so conventional? The Prosci system is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It may be incompatible with certain businesses on a cultural level, in which case it would make sense to examine different change models that are better suited for your company's needs.

    How the ADKAR Model Fits into a Change Process

    At this point in the article, we should all see that the ADKAR Model is clearly a powerful framework for change management.

    Now let’s see how it works in practice.

    • Identify a business need
    • Start building awareness
    • Start working on designing concepts to meet the need 
    • Encourage a desire for change
    • Implementation

    Change implementation starts with equipping your team with knowledge and ensuring that they have the skills they need to work within the new process.

    However, make sure you don't let things slow down after implementation. This is when your team needs to be reminded to keep using the new methods.

    Why now?

    Because it's important for everyone on board, from top management down, to keep up their momentum in order for change efforts not just to happen but to endure as well.

    If you look into why projects and change attempts fail, you'll find a variety of reasons.

    Some studies say that the failure to deal with the human component of change is the reason for failure. Others say that failing to consider the "hard" elements is the fatal error.

    The truth is somewhere in the middle.

    Even the most devoted team will not be able to meet the business's needs if the practical change strategy is off track. If you do both of these things right, your efforts will be rewarded with success.

    Keep in mind that you can't move on in the change process unless you've completed the relevant stage in the ADKAR model. For example, if you haven't established awareness and desire, you can't expect implementation to work.

    If you skip over these essential prerequisites and go on to the knowledge step, the employees you're trying to train won't get the most out of their training.

    You could receive a resentful "Why should I do this training anyway?" attitude if they aren't aware of the need for change. If there is no desire, the response will most likely be "I don't want to learn this."

    Struggling with Change? Go Back to ADKAR

    The ADKAR model can be used to make change happen, but did you know it can also be used to fix broken change processes?

    When you have a dysfunctional change process, do you look into what can be a reason for that? Once you recognize the problem you can address it.

    It's possible that the problem isn't a company-wide one at all.

    A single individual who does not understand the need for change does not want it, does not know how to implement it, or is attempting but lacking in skill can throw the entire change process off.

    The ADKAR model has been used for decades to help managers and executives through the process of change. However, this technique is very versatile. It can be implemented both in personal development or when trying to assist a friend in making changes.

    You could even use the ADKAR method as an effective parenting tool!

    Change is never easy, but using the ADKAR model to understand the human aspect may help you avoid many mistakes that might lead to failure. If you get into trouble, ADKAR is there to help you figure out what to do next.


    Should you use the ADKAR Change Management Model? 

    The answer is not always clear because it depends on many factors, such as what kind of change you are trying to implement and how much support and training you need in order to make the transition run smoothly. 

    If you need a “total package” that provides streamlined training, consulting, and support, then ADKAR may be the right choice for you. 

    However, before making this decision, take a look at the considerations mentioned above or consider other resources available here on our blog so that you can determine which particular approach will work best for your situation!

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Is Prosci change management worth it?

    Prosci ADKAR model is a commonly used model that has been around for decades. Although it suffers from certain weaknesses, it still has its strengths. What matters is to figure out whether your company is fit to succeed with ADKAR.

    Why is ADKAR important?

    The ADKAR model is fit to succeed not only in the business context but also in many other spheres of life, which is what makes it so useful and easy to implement.

    What does ADKAR stand for?

    ADKAR stands for awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement.

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