The best way to make change stick – the ADKAR model of change


We all know that throughout our lives, we will experience change. We may be the instigator of the change, or we may experience change because it is happening to us. It’s important that, as change agents or people experiencing change, we understand best practice change management, and a popular model – the ADKAR model of change.

I love researching change and writing about change because it’s one of those inevitable things. And for me, change is something that we should seek out. Without change, we don’t grow. We don’t see new things and we are less open to possibilities. Even workplace change when it is done ‘to’ us we can take all of our experiences and learn from them. We need to be seeing where we can grow and what our role is in the change process.

I’m going to summarise an approach to change that can benefit us both in our personal lives and in our professional careers.

The ADKAR model of change

The ADKAR model of changeSource: Prosci Inc (

A – awareness

D – desire

K – knowledge

A – Ability

R – Reinforcement


Awareness of the need for change

For any change to be successful, there must be an awareness of the need for change. You must be aware of and understand the nature of the change and why it is needed. Equally important is an awareness and understanding of the risks of NOT changing.

Some questions that you must be able to answer, include:

  • Why is this change necessary?
  • Why does the change need to happen now?
  • What is wrong with what we are currently doing?
  • What will happen if we don’t change?

Compelling reasons for the change are needed.

Any change awareness campaign needs to address the nature of the change and how the change aligns with the overall vision; why the change is being made and the risks of not changing; how the change will impact others; and what’s in it for me.

Awareness is a part of the change model


It isn’t just about being able to write a compelling case for change. There are multiple factors that impact people’s recognition of the need for change. These include:

  • A person’s view of the current state – acceptance of the reasons for change will largely depend on how heavily someone is invested in the current state. The more strongly invested in the current state, the more someone is likely to deny that change is needed.
  • How a person perceives problems – some people can anticipate change well and perceive the need for change whereas others can be caught off-guard by the possibility of change.
  • The credibility of the person delivering the message – depending on who is talking about the change will impact whether the receiver of the message believes and accepts what is being said.
  • The presence of misinformation – if people have a vested interest in not changing, they may spread misinformation to thwart the change.
  • Contestability of the reasons for change – if the reasons for change are observable and external it is easier to create the awareness of the need for change. If the change is based on reasons that are open for debate there are more challenges to building awareness.

The awareness of the need for the change builds the groundwork, but there is a lot more that’s needed if a change is going to be successful.



Desire to support and participate in the change

Awareness of the need to change, including the risks of not changing, is not enough to create a desire to change. We might be aware of the need for change, but it doesn’t mean that we actively want to. Awareness and desire are very different things.

Desire - a critical part of the change process
There are lots of factors that contribute to someone’s desire to change:

  • The nature of the change and what’s in it for us as individuals – what will individuals personally get out of the change? What’s in it for me (WIIFM)?
  • How people see the surrounding environment – this could include how people have experienced past changes, and if you apply this to an organisation, their perception of an organisation’s history and culture will play a big role in their desire to change.
  • An individual’s personal situation plays a large role – factors here might include financial situation, age, health, and upcoming personal events.
  • Intrinsic motivation – what motivates us as people, and what are our expectations of our own success and ability to realise change?

All of these factors impact our desire to change, regardless of our level of awareness of the need for it.

At this point in the model we now understand why change is needed, and we have the desire to make the change happen. Now we need the knowledge of how to change.



Knowledge of how to change

In order for the change to be successful, we must know how to implement the change. This might include training and education on the skills and behaviours needed to change; detail about how to use new processes, systems and tools; and understanding the new roles and responsibilities required of the change.

Our ability to acquire knowledge depends on:

  • Our current knowledge level
  • Our capacity to learn
  • The availability of resources
  • The access to necessary information


Knowledge as part of the change process
Sometimes, understanding how to change can be a very simple process. In some situations though it requires a transformation in our thinking, and in that of others.

Just because we might have the knowledge to change doesn’t necessarily mean we have the ability to make the change.

What do I mean by that? Using training as your primary tool to implement a change doesn’t always translate into the ability to make the change. An example might be that you undertake training to use a new software program. It all makes sense during the lesson, but when you go to use the new software program in your work the following day, it doesn’t make sense to you anymore. You can’t do it with the ease that you did during the lesson, and it is much harder when you use real life examples rather than the examples provided in the training material.

Ability is needed in conjunction with the knowledge.



Ability to implement required skills and behaviours

We need to have the capability to implement the change, not just knowing what to do and having the desire to do it.

There are a few things that impact our ability to implement change:

  • Psychological blocks – we all have fears and things that prevent us from realising our potential. Public speaking is a very common one for lots of people, for others it might be a fear of failure, or a fear of being responsible for a high profile project.
  • Physical abilities
  • Intellectual capability
  • Time available to develop the skills needed – this can be a factor for many of us who are time poor, and when we want to implement change quickly without giving it the time it truly deserves.
  • Availability of resources to help us develop the new abilities required – this can include financial support, access to coaching, the right tools and materials, and access to subject matter experts.

Ability is achieved when a person can implement the change at the desired performance level required of the change.

Are we finished with the model yet? Not quite. We need to make sure we sustain the change we’ve worked so hard for.



Reinforcement to sustain the change

We all need reinforcement. When we’ve gone through a change process, we want to know that the change was worth it. This might come in the form of receiving recognition or acknowledgment in some way.


Recognition as part of the change process
A few factors contribute to the effective use of reinforcements, including:

  • The degree to which the reinforcement or recognition is meaningful to the person impacted by the change – the recognition or reward applies to the person and is seen as valuable to the person (not necessarily in a financial sense)
  • The absence of negative consequence
  • An accountability mechanism


Applying the ADKAR model to our personal lives

To apply the model to ourselves, consider a change you want to make in your personal life. I will use an example that applied to me when I wanted to change my personal circumstances. I wanted to do learn a completely new skill and start a new career for myself, working online from home.

Awareness: I was aware of why I needed to change. I was not spending enough time with my family, and I was aware that if I did want spend more time at home with my family, I would need to do something completely different to what I had done for the last 20 years.

Desire: I had the desire to change my life even though I knew it was going to be hard, and that it would most definitely not happen overnight. I made a personal decision to engage in this change based on my motivations.

Knowledge: I knew why I had to change, and I certainly had the desire to change, but I did NOT have the knowledge to implement my change. However, I knew where I could obtain the knowledge from. I signed up to Wealthy Affiliate and started the training.

Ability: I didn’t have the ability straight away. As I was doing the training, I was putting the knowledge into practice by building my website step by step, as I followed the training intently. I had to make time for putting my training into practice. Every day I would do at least one module, and make sure I implemented was taught. When I didn’t understand something, I reached out to the Wealthy Affiliate community with questions, and I would always get the answers I needed. I also had help from the founders whenever I got stuck. They provided ready access to help and support.

Reinforcement: The reinforcement that I get is that I now have my own online business. I know what I’m doing (after knowing nothing about having an online career), and I LOVE what I’m doing! Whenever I post something new I get reinforcement. When I get notified that Google has indexed my posts and pages I get reinforcement. When my readers engage with my content I get reinforcement. When I get positive feedback about my sites I get reinforcement. And of course when I make money I get reinforcement. When my kids look at my websites and say “Did you really make those mummy, I am so proud of you!” I get reinforcement.

Using career change as an example, you can see how the model works on a personal level.

If you want to find out more about ADKAR, here is an excellent book by Jeffrey M. Hiatt. ADKAR – A Model for Change in Business, Government and our Community. You can purchase the book by clicking on the image.

ADKAR book Jeffrey M Hiatt










If my story resonated with you and you want to investigate how to build a career from home, I encourage you to head across to my page What is Wealthy Affiliate and see what it’s all about.

How have you experienced change? Have you used the ADKAR model? Leave me your comments and questions below and I’m happy to help.



6 thoughts on “The best way to make change stick – the ADKAR model of change”

  1. Hey Melissa:

    Your ADKAR model of change resonates with me. I’ve found that if even one of the elements you’ve pinpointed (awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement) is missing from the mix, you probably will end up fighting with yourself about any change you are trying to make in your life.

    The hardest person to convince about the need for change is yourself, it seems.

    • Hi Netta, I completely agree – if any of the elements are missing there are going to be some issues with the implementation and long term success of the change. And yes, convincing ourselves that change is needed is one of the hardest parts! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving me a comment.

  2. Good step by step guide to the ADKAR model of change. I really need to go over the change process in a methodical way in order for it to be successful. This is very clear and has highlighted that reinforcement is the most important for part for me. We have to be able to know exactly what we are looking for and don’t lose the goal in the process, I didn’t have the ability straight away, but I am going through the process and now I know more about it I will be more successful.

    Thanks for the post I feel that this has resonated with me.
    Best regards

    • Hi Jessica, thanks for stopping by and leaving me a comment. The model is an excellent one and really does help us if we go through it step by step. It’s clear to me that each and every step is critical in order to get a great outcome, and I think that reinforcement is often a forgotten part of the model. It is so crucial though for the long term success of any change.

      I wish you every success in your change journey.

  3. Change is the only thing that’s constant. And change is always resisted by many. In today’s multi-generational workforce, much of the change is happening technologically which some of the older generation, in my workplace, abhors! Reinforcement to the new knowledge (to the change) is so much needed by many. Oftentimes, they expect the staff to learn from training modules attached forgetting that many of us need an actual hand to understand.
    Thanks for sharing this ADKAR process. I think its a concept I can actually present at work since we’re undergoing a major change in our work process.

    • Hi Gigi, thanks for stopping by and leaving me a comment. Training modules are only one aspect and discounts all the different learning styles that people have. A range of training methods should be employed to ensure that all different learners get the information that they need in order for the change to be successful. I’m glad you have found the ADKAR process useful, and I hope it comes in handy for your change process at work.
      All the best,


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