It Takes Work to Make Change Happen

If anything can be said about the way organizations function today, it’s that you can bet it will change. Whether its a technology change, process change, organizational design change or some other type of change, change is going to happen.

You may even be the instigator of change as you lead your project team to its end goal. Whether you are the leader of the change or not, you’ll encounter resistance across all levels of your organization (maybe you will be the resistor!).

No matter what type of change is happening in your organization, there are a few things you must always remember.

  • Change won’t work if it’s not supported by upper management
  • Change is about people. If the people don’t support the change it’s bound to fail
  • Change is uncomfortable. Many people will have to be pulled along kicking and screaming
  • Change is a process, not a program.

Here’s what usually happens when organizations try to make a change.

  • Someone — typically leadership or the project manager — sends out an email or posts an article in the company’s monthly newsletter about the change that is coming. This communication provides a few details about the change and has a very enthusiastic tone (e.g., we are very excited about this change, this change will help our company be the leader in the industry).
  • Time passes. Another communication (most likely email) is sent out telling affected employees when the change will occur and that everyone will need to attend training. A training schedule is distributed.
  • Employees attend training and the change is implemented.
  • Everyone wonders why the change failed and people are resisting.

Sound familiar? If you want your change effort to be a success, you need to take the people along with you as your work through the process. No matter what you do, if the people of your organization don’t embrace the change you won’t be successful.

But there is hope and it’s called ADKAR.

The ADKAR change management model addresses the people side of change that is necessary as your progress through your project. Through years of research, Prosci (the creators of the model), found that to enable sustainable change in your organization these five steps were necessary. Here’s the scoop about ADKAR elements.

  • A = Awareness of the need to change. This is the first step to securing support for your change. Helping employees understand why the change is happening sets your organization on the path to success.
  • D = Desire to participate and support the change. Employees will wonder “what’s in it for me?” (WIIFM) They’ll need to know the answer and embrace the the possibilities for your change to be sustainable.
  • K = Knowledge of how to change (and what the change looks like). Different areas of your organization will have different levels of knowledge going into the change. You’ll want to make sure you understand what that level of knowledge is so you can address it.
  • A = Ability to implement the change on a day-to-day basis. Leveraging the information you have from the “K” you’ll need to prepare employees with training and other tools to help them implement the change.
  • R = Reinforcement to keep the change in place. Your work isn’t done at implementation. If you want sustainable change, you need to reward good behaviors.

Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? You can bet that it is, however it will pay off for your organization in long term sustainability of the change.

What do you think? Do you have a good change model? Have you tried ADKAR? Let’s talk about it.















Denise O'Berry

Denise O’Berry — aka the Team Doc — has been working with teams and team leadership in the public, non profit and private sectors for over twenty years. Follow her @askteamdoc.

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