What Is the ADKAR Change Management Model?

UPDATED: January 12, 2024
PUBLISHED: January 15, 2024
Smiling boss because she's using the ADKAR model of change management

Earlier this year, I facilitated a rapid fire training on change management to more than 50 health care leaders. Change management is a structured process that involves coordinating various activities to lead people through desired change.

The training was 45 minutes, but the group was fully engaged and we almost ran out of time.

We discussed the ADKAR model to change management. This may help organize your thoughts and planning if you’re implementing some kind of change.

What is the ADKAR change management model?

  • Awareness: This is all about identifying and explaining the need for the desired change. At this stage, it’s best to answer the question, “Why is this change needed at this time?”
  • Desire: It’s critical at this point to identify why the change is important for each person, department or group. Think of this as answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” When done right, this can often solicit significant buy-in from others. 
  • Knowledge: Knowing what to do during the change process and how to perform after the change are both important. At this stage, we’re creating a connection between our current state and future state.
  • Ability: Knowing what change is needed is one thing; actually implementing the change is another. During this phase, we’re developing the skills and behaviors required to implement and sustain the change effectively.
  • Reinforcement: For change to be a success, it has to become the new normal, which can be uncomfortable at first. Reinforcement is all about ensuring forward progression and not going back to the previous state. 

How to address mismanaged change with the ADKAR model

When elements of the change process are handled poorly or not considered at all, it results in mismanaged change. Common causes may include poor communication, lack of leadership buy-in and overlooking culture and fit. 

Keep in mind that following any change management process can still result in mismanaged change. This is why it’s important not only to carve out appropriate time to think through all areas of a project, but also to include various stakeholders. This allows for diversity of thought to ensure the project is examined from multiple perspectives. 

If you notice the following examples of mismanaged change in your business, it’s best to address them immediately before moving further in the change process:

  • Resistance or slow adoption rates. This could show up as “I’m not going to use the new payroll system. The way I used to do it works fine for me.”
  • Incurring increased costs. This could mean the new backyard pool being installed is going to cost another $10,000 because the ground has to be leveled off, which wasn’t considered in the original quote.
  • Facing higher risks. Perhaps there are now more safety issues and risks involved because the foundation isn’t strong enough to add an extra 10 stories to a condo complex.

When change is done well, it can mean increased employee engagement, improved productivity and greater ROI.

ADKAR change management model bigger picture

Change management isn’t just needed in organizations. What about within your family? What about within yourself, for personal growth or optimal leadership performance?

It could mean moving from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset or to a place of increased confidence and improved presentation skills. ADKAR principles still apply: Identify your current and future state and what needs to happen to reduce the space in between.

When change is managed well at the individual level, the end result can be priceless! It could mean paving a new way of life for you and your family, bringing on additional employees or creating a new program for youth in your community. 

You likely know exactly what you need to change in your life, business or career, so ask yourself the following question: What’s holding you back from making that change, and what’s at stake if you don’t? 

Photo by Branislav Nenin/Shutterstock.com