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Use the ADKAR management model for seamless change

PostsProject management
Georgina Guthrie

Georgina Guthrie

February 01, 2023

Change is an inevitable part of life, and the business world isn’t any different. How you manage that change is the key to getting the most out of it. The ADKAR model is one great option.

Whether introducing a new system, changing your company culture, adjusting your prices, or adopting continuous improvement — change is essential for business, but it can be challenging. Humans are creatures of habit. It can be difficult to adjust when we become comfortable with a certain way of doing things. 

As a manager or project leader, you’re likely to meet resistance from employees at one point or another when you try to introduce a change. Resistance could range from flat-out refusal to willful ignorance. Frustrating? Yes. Understandable? Also yes.

As clergyman Thomas Fuller once said, “All things are difficult before they are easy.” And as a manager, it’s your job to help your employees on this journey.

What is change management? 

Broadly speaking, change management is the process of helping people transition from their current state to a desired future state. It focuses on the psychological and emotional factors that can impede or advance change efforts and the practical steps you need to take to ensure success.

There are lots of change management plans out there to help streamline the process. One such model is the ADKAR Model, which stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement — five essential stages to achieving successful change. 

As a process, it’s designed to help project managers successfully navigate any kind of organizational change process by breaking it down into manageable steps. 

In this article, we’ll explore how to use the ADKAR Model to make the choppy seas of change a little bit smoother. 

What is the ADKAR Change Management Model?

The ADKAR Model is a goal-oriented change management model created in 2003 by Jeff Hiatt. Since then, it’s been used by companies worldwide to help their employees accept and adapt to change more effectively.

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Here’s what each of the ADKAR letters means: 


The first stage in the ADKAR Model is awareness. This involves recognizing that you need a change and understanding why it needs to happen. It also includes establishing goals and objectives for the project, assessing current progress, and determining areas for improvement.

Here’s a workplace example:

Jane, the creative team manager in an ad agency, has noticed that her remote workers struggle to keep their projects on track. She realizes that introducing project management software would help her team collaborate and stay organized. She’s aware of a problem and has located a solution. Enter the winds of change! 

For this to happen, she needs to chat to the CEO about an investment, set some time aside to trial tools, then roll it out to the broader team and get everyone up to speed. She’s likely to experience two main points of resistance here:

  • Firstly, her boss might be reluctant to invest in a new product without seeing the benefits first.
  • Secondly, her team may not be keen on changing their existing processes and learning to use something new.

To minimize these, Jane needs to make a business case for the change well in advance of shopping around. In addition, she needs to let the team know why the change is necessary and how they can benefit from it.

The takeaway: explain your reasoning, and do it early.


The second stage involves motivating people to embrace the change. After all, there’s a giant gap between knowing you need something and actually wanting it.

As a manager, you need to get everyone on board, so they fall into the latter camp. To do this, you need to focus on the benefits of the change and help people see that it’s a positive thing for them. Pull this off, and they’ll work hard to participate in the change and make it work fully.

Some employees might not see the same as necessary. They may even actively resist or fall back on old methods when you’re not there to keep an eye on things. For these people, you may need to work harder. You must really sell the benefits and provide more support or incentives to encourage uptake. Try to be patient, and allow them to voice their concerns. They will likely dig their heels in even more if they feel steamrollered or ignored.

Here’s a workplace example:

For Jane’s team, she’ll need to highlight how project management software can make their lives easier — from reducing admin time to helping with collaboration between remote workers. She should also be open to feedback, so that team members feel heard and considered.

To encourage the desire for change, Jane can set up meetings with her team to discuss the proposed software, discuss any worries they have, explain how it’ll solve their current struggles, and find out how they’d use it in their work. She can also offer rewards (like a pizza lunch!) for anyone who has a great idea for how to use the software or goes the extra mile to get up to speed.

In addition, she should get a core group of employees to trial the software first, so they can be evangelists, preaching the benefits to the rest of the team and holding their hand (not literally) during the onboarding process.

The takeaway: people need to understand why the change is necessary and how it’ll benefit them before they become motivated to embrace it. 


The third stage is about equipping people with the skills and resources they need to change successfully.

To get your team up-to-speed, you’ll need to provide adequate training and development opportunities — think webinars, manuals, or online tutorials. Make sure everyone gets the same amount of exposure to the process and that they have enough support to go around.

It’s also crucial to consider their existing skill levels when rolling out the change. If people don’t understand the basics, they’ll likely feel overwhelmed and frustrated with the process. Try breaking down big changes into smaller steps and tasks so everyone can make more manageable gains.

Here’s a workplace example:

For Jane, this could mean setting up a few trials with sample data to help everyone get used to the system first. She can also ensure her team has access to any technical support they might need or organize a go-to person who can answer questions when they arise. 

In addition, she should reserve some time each week for everyone to get together and brainstorm ideas or provide feedback on ways to improve the system.

The takeaway: give people the right environment and resources to learn and consider their current knowledge level when rolling out changes.


As anyone who’s tried to learn a new skill knows — there’s a big jump between wanting and doing.

Now that your team is motivated and equipped with the necessary skills, it’s time to help them implement their new abilities. To do this, you’ll need to ensure they’re working in an environment that enables action. This includes giving them access to tools and resources alongside continuous support as needed.

Here’s a workplace example:

Before diving into the project, Jane can start by ensuring her team has everything they need — like hardware or software licenses. She can also provide rewards and recognition to those who take the initiative or go above and beyond to encourage others to do the same. 

She knows that learning is never a straight line (or even one that consistently goes forward), so she should keep support options open for a couple of months until everyone is comfortable with the new tool. 

The takeaway: people need a supportive environment where they’re free to use their newly acquired skills at their own pace. 


The final stage involves reinforcing the change to ensure it sticks and that people don’t revert to the old way of doing things. The more complex the new habit, and the longer people have been doing things the old way, the longer it’ll take for the change to take over. 

As a manager, you should keep an eye on how people adapt to the new process. Be ready to step in if anyone falls back into old habits. 

Use positive reinforcement to encourage people towards the new way of doing things, like celebrating successful outcomes or providing appropriate feedback. In addition, use this stage to look for problems or potential issues with the new process. This could include running surveys or focus groups to get feedback or setting up regular check-ins between managers and team members. 

Here’s a workplace example:

Jane could consider setting up regular check-ins with her team, so she can gauge their progress and offer any assistance they need. She should also reward those who continue to adopt the change — from regular praise to more tangible incentives. Finally, she can stay on top of issues or problems that need addressing. 

The takeaway: for changes to stick, they need to be reinforced over time. Monitor the process and use positive reinforcement to ensure everyone sticks with it.

Adopting the ADKAR change management model: best practice

Here are some tips for using the model effectively:

  • Break big changes into smaller tasks or steps so everyone can make more manageable gains.
  • Provide the right environment and resources to help people learn and use new skills.
  • Monitor progress and look for problems or potential issues with the new process.
  • Use positive reinforcement to encourage people towards the new way of doing things.
  • Brush up on your organizational communication skills so you can clearly sell the benefits to your team, manager, or stakeholders. 
  • Have regular check-ins between managers and team members so everyone can stay on task.
  • Use chat apps and video calls to check in on remote employees. Make sure they know they don’t have to struggle in silence.
  • Use project management tools to manage tasks and track progress on larger projects.

Final thoughts on ADKAR

Using the ADKAR Model can help ensure success in any change management process, no matter how challenging. You can quickly identify areas where people need extra assistance by breaking down a change into manageable steps. Plus, you can motivate people to embrace and commit to organizational changes by providing resources and support throughout each stage of the ADKAR Model. With this model, you can rest assured that your project will reach its goal with minimal resistance.



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