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A Deep Dive into ADKAR Change Management

ADKAR change management


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When we help a client invest in sales training, we know that they’re not merely interested in producing a successful event for their employees. They want the training to drive a greater change within the team, function or organization. The training itself is merely the tip of the iceberg — the greater challenge is to influence a lasting change beyond the sales training.

One of the ways we accomplish this is through the ADKAR change management model, which we license from Prosci. It is robust, very straightforward and provides the basis for us to build change management plans and activities for our clients.

ADKAR is an acronym for the five steps used in the methodology. The process begins by creating awareness of the need to change and the desire to want it to succeed. We then make sure that attendees have the necessary knowledge of what and how to change and what they’ll be expected to do, which is tied to the training itself. Next is the ability of people to execute what we’re asking them to do. The final and possibly most crucial step is reinforcement through the change management and sustainment plans. If we’re successful in addressing each of these areas, then our clients seeking lasting change will have the best chance of seeing their ultimate goals realized.

ADKAR Model "A" is for Awareness

The goal of awareness is to help people understand the need for change and the risks of not changing. “If we don’t do this, what could happen?” You cannot assume that those affected by the change will “get it” and appreciate what you’re trying to do. Spell it out clearly, and help them to realize the need and benefit of the change.

One of our clients is experiencing fairly fast growth, yet they are frustrated by their competition and therefore want to change or transform themselves. Conversations about the dilemma began by assessing what they’ll accomplish if they change. That was followed by exploring what would happen if they don’t change. That second line of questioning created more urgency and awareness in the room than the positive side of it. It’s important to understand the implications of both changing and resisting change.

We use a change roadmap with our clients to help them to implement this level of strategic change. It consists of a cascading communication plan and messages. In addition to guiding employees, it also ensures that all of the leaders and managers are on the same page. We encourage holding a workshop in which we gather leaders from every level above the first line to talk with them about what’s going to be required to drive the change vertically inside the company.

ADKAR Model "D" is for Desire

After raising awareness of the need to and benefit of change, you need to create the desire among managers and employees to want the change. People naturally resist change because we’re human. We have to recognize that fact and address it as effectively and timely as possible. Creating desire — a carrot, as opposed to a stick — helps to break down resistance to change.

Leaders, managers and supervisors play a critical role in creating and sustaining desire, which requires monitoring their coaching efforts. We encourage coaching to change, which differs from developmental coaching. “Are we doing what we need to do to accomplish our goals?” This also requires leaders to be disciplined to stay the course and keep their people on the new right track. If you allow leaders to slip, then so will their people — and with them, your chance for success.

ADKAR Model "K" is for Knowledge

Employees must have the knowledge necessary to be successful after the change. What new information needs to be learned regarding new processes, products or pitches? This is not only imparted during training, but also through developmental coaching. And from what we know about our natural ability to retain information, we all need help remembering what we’ve learned as time goes on. “Use it or lose it” applies to new knowledge and skills.

Richardson Sales Performance uses a product called QuickCheckTM, which is an innovative tool that helps reinforce the adoption of learning. QuickCheck™ is based on the QStreamTM technology platform, which was developed and used at the Harvard Medical School. Research has shown that within 30 days of a training event, 79% of what people have been taught is forgotten. The QuickCheckTM process takes about three minutes every other day for about eight weeks but has been proven to increase retention from 30 to 90 days out to two years.

ADKAR Model "A" is for Ability

We want people to turn what they’ve learned in training into habit. We want them to try those new behaviors, even if they’re not as successful as they could be. After a typical training initiative, when people go back into the field, they are often reluctant to apply new skills and behaviors because it feels a little awkward. Experiential learning programs incorporated into training helps to eliminate some of those fears. However, it’s important for managers to continue to encourage and model the desired behaviors.

Don’t overlook the need to train your managers to coach. Are your people seeing barriers in the work environment that could get in the way? Your managers will play a pivotal role in them overcome these obstacles. Sustainment tools, such as our CRM applications, embed behavior changes into the workflow in a way that makes it unavoidable. Also, solicit success, stories and broadcast them so people know what could potentially come from them changing their behavior and doing something different.

ADKAR Model "R" is for Reinforcement

Last (but by no means least) is the need for reinforcement. We want to reward people for doing what we’re asking them to do. While some rewards could be financial, managers should look for opportunities to recognize good performance. Review your measurement programs and systems to ensure that they are providing data and feedback on the new expectations.

Be flexible. Don’t embed a plan for the next year that you can’t change along the way because of unforeseen variables or situations. Things change — as an organization, you have to continue to monitor what’s going on and what kind of progress you are making and adjust the plan as necessary.

Monitoring of coaching is important because your managers and supervisors have the best chance of reinforcing the application of the new skills and behaviors among your employees. That’s leadership discipline.

The change management process requires planning, patience and a long view. Anytime you make an investment in your people, you want to have a plan in place that’s going to help you achieve your goals (and return on investment) in 12, 18 or 24 months. The components of ADKAR are embedded at each phase throughout the journey.

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