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ADKAR Change Model – An Evaluation of Its Strengths and Weaknesses

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The ADKAR change model was first published by Prosci in 1998. Prosci is the recognized leader in business process design and change management research, and is the world's largest provider of change management and reengineering toolkits and benchmarking information.

Prosci's own research shows that problems with the people dimension of change is the most commonly cited reason for project failures.

And in terms of change management, study after study shows that 70% of all business initiatives where there is a significant change element [which is virtually all of them!] Fail to realise the envisaged benefits.

Summary of the ADKAR model

It is based on 2 basic ideas:

(1) It is people who change, not organizations.

(2) Successful change occurs when individual change matches the stages of organizational change.

For successful change to occur at the individual level people need to move through each of these stages:

Awareness of the need for change
Desire to make the change happen
Knowledge about how to change
Ability to implement new skills and behaviors
Reinforcement to retain the change once it has been made

For organisational change to be successful, these individual changes need to progress at or close to the same rate of progress through the business dimension of change.

Prosci define the business dimension of change as including these typical project elements:

– Business need or opportunity is identified
– Project is defined (scope and objectives)
– Business solution is designed (new processes, systems and organizational structure)
– New processes and systems are developed
– Solution is implemented into the organization

Evaluation of the AKBAR model

There are 2 quite different streams of thought that have shaped the practice of change management.

(1) The engineer's approach to business improvement with the focus on business process.

(2) The psychologist's approach to understanding human responses to change with the focus on people.

The single biggest reason for the astonishingly high 70% failure rate of ALL business change initiatives has been the over-emphasis on process rather than people – the failure to take full account of the impact of change on those people who are most impacted by it.

Closely allied to that reason is the lack of process to directly address the human aspects of change.

In my view their ADKAR model reveals the BPR background of Prosci and the engineers approach to business improvement, this is quite apparent in the language and tone of their description of the model and with their emphasis on management and process alone.

The clear strength of the model is that provides a useful management checklist of the phases of the transition.

The weaknesses, in my view, are as follows, the ADKAR model:

(1) Fails to distinguish between "incremental change" and "step change"

If the change involves any of these following factors then it will definitely need to be handled as a "step change" and treated as a specific initiative that sits outside of business as usual. The factors are: complexity, size, scope …