Using ADKAR’s 5 Steps to Change for Agile Project Management
There are many tools available for achieving agile project success. Prosci is one of the leading organizations in change management and benchmarking research. One of Prosci’s change management tools, ADKAR, is an acronym for the five outcomes (awareness, desire, knowledge, ability, and reinforcement) individuals and organizations need to achieve for successful change. It is a goal-oriented model for individuals, and a focus model for the discussions and actions organizations need to take together.
Organizational changes still require change for individuals, so the secret to success is affecting change for everyone involved.
ADKAR outlines the individual’s successful journey through change. The five steps of the journey also each align with organizational change activities. They should be completed in the order described next.
Humans find change difficult. When change initiatives come top-down in an organization, people may verbally agree to them, but their actions tell a different story. Mismatch of actions and words is usually innocent and natural. Without awareness, or an understanding of the factors influencing management’s desire to change, or especially without a recognition that something should change, individuals will not be motivated to change.
Informing the individuals in an organization, helping them have a shared understanding of the challenges that exist, and then assessing whether awareness is common constitute the first step to successful, lasting change. It is the basis, without which the initiative won’t make progress.
Based on their awareness of a challenge needing to be addressed, individuals will have an opinion on whether or not change is necessary or desired to address it. Making the connection between the awareness of an issue and what could or should be done about it is the next step. After desire exists for the individuals in an organization, there is motivation to move together to change.
Desire is key, but knowledge of how to make the change and where each individual fits into the change make up the next crucial part of the change process. Individuals throughout the organization need to understand what the changes mean for them, and leadership needs to facilitate education and actions in a cooperative way across the organization. Knowledge comes from training and coaching.
With new knowledge of how to change, implementation requires acquiring skills, redefining roles, and clearly defining new performance expectations. Other commitments may need to be delayed or replaced with new behaviors or responsibilities. Continued coaching and mentoring may be required, and leadership needs to be clear that this reprioritization of commitments is expected and encouraged.
Changes don’t stick after one successful iteration. New behaviors, skills, and processes must be reinforced through continued corrective action and coaching to ensure that old habits don’t return.
The ADKAR model surrounds these steps with assessments and action plans to guide leaders and individuals through their change journey. ADKAR should be used iteratively, using scrum, inspecting and adapting until each step is achieved before progressing to the next step.