IPMA International Project Management Association
19 June 2019 / 9:00

ADKAR® – How to successfully implement change

I am currently preparing for the Prosci Practitioner Qualification and Certification, which includes reading the book “ADKAR: a model for change in business, government and our community“. The model is easy to understand, it explains how change can be implemented successfully and guides the way for people engaged in change projects.

ADKAR is a goal-oriented change management model that guides individual and organizational change, created by Prosci founder Jeff Hiatt. The five letters represent the five tangible and concrete outcomes that people are required to achieve for sustainable change: awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement. It´s an effective tool for defining and planning all necessary change management activities (e.g. readiness assessments, sponsorship, communications, coaching and training), preparing leaders for facilitating the change and supporting employees throughout the change process. The model can be applied after change has been identified.

Awareness is important for people to understand why change is necessary and what happens, if change isn´t performed at the right time. The latter is an important factor, economically often called “opportunity cost”, which could mean that employees lose their jobs in case the do not qualify for a new software implemented, or a car manufacturer loses market shares in case they do not offer electric cars. The awareness for change is often linked to internal and external developments, trends and drivers, which may not obvious or transparent to all people affected by the change. Thus, the first step of preparing for the change is make this transparent and understandable for all.

Desire addresses the intrinsic motivation of people to go for the change, to support and engage based on the awareness already mentioned above. This desire may be sparked by an understanding of the need for change, by expectations towards a reward or benefit often just put into the question “what´s in for me?”, or by the outlook of development opportunities through the change. While the desire is very individual, the second letter of ADKAR needs to be dealt with through an intensive dialogue with all the individuals affected by the change, targeting their intrinsic needs and motivation, and involving them through intensive means of communication.

Knowledge, the third letter of ADKAR, highlights the know-how necessary for performing the change. It could be made available to people affected by change through information transfer (e.g. literature, webinars or newsletters), training sessions with focus on how change can be successfully achieved or coaching while performing the change. The knowledge may encompass general information about change and change management, behaviours, processes, tools, systems, competences, roles and techniques.

It should also describe the interrelations between change and project management.

Ability means turning the above mentioned knowledge about change into action. People are supposed to get started with the change by implementing the first steps of their change activities, defined by the plans or just exploring the situation and defining what needs to be done in order to move forward. That may come with difficulties and drawbacks, but it´s important to simply do something about it.

Reinforcement represents all activities dedicated to sustaining the change. Otherwise the people may fall back into their old habits, or they do not actively follow-up on the change activities and the long-term objectives may not be reached. Thus, the change management should focus on follow-up activities, monitoring and reporting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as Return-on-Investment (RoI), productivity figures or fluctuation rates. Positive reinforcements may be performed through an appraisal, feedback or celebrations, lessons learned could be made available for further change activities and for improving the current state.

The ADKAR model provides valuable insights for all project managers learning through the IPMA Individual Competence Baseline ICB 4.0 about the competence “change and transformation”, which is necessary for nearly all projects we perform nowadays…


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Reinhard Wagner

Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defense, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is Past President of IPMA and Chairman of the Council, Honorary Chairman of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH.