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People are Messy

How is it June already? I don't know about you, but this has been a busy spring for us! In the past couple of months alone we have partnered with some incredible organizations to help them achieve their objectives.

One conversation that kept coming up was that people are messy... and they don't seem to get on board with change. This conversation happened no less than three times with three different clients. Since this was so common for them, my guess is that you have run into this issue as well.

Early last month I wrote a post about the importance of individual change when implementing an organizational change (check it out here if you missed it!), but let's take an even deeper dive and talk about a particular roadmap that can help sort through the mess and build buy-in for change: ADKAR.

This acronym is credit to Prosci, a leader in change management and the masterminds behind the ADKAR model. ADKAR stands for:






These are the 5 checkpoints that each and every person as an individual needs to pass through in order to ensure that the people side of change happens. First they need to become aware of the change, then they need to have the desire for change happen. Then they need to have knowledge of what the change really means, and then they have the ability to carry out the change (often accomplished through trainings). The goal is to hit the ability step at the time of go-live. After that, it's all about reinforcing the new change and not allow folks to drift back into the way it was. Here's a handy visual:

But remember, people are messy. Every member of the team will go through these steps at their own pace. For example, some people will desire the change the second they become aware of it, while others more comfortable with the current state might have a looooooong span of time between awareness and desire. And sometimes people are bought into the change at first, but then resist when it comes to go-live.

It helps to map out a plan for when during a change effort that you want people to hit the ADKAR steps. If you're planning for go-live to happen in, say, September, you make your team aware of the planned change in June. A good goal would be to have most members of the team in the desire step by mid-July, and have trainings (knowledge) happen in August so that everyone feels ready and able to implement the change in September. From there on out, it's all about reinforcement.

Let me be clear on this: the step that really clinches the long-term sustained success of the change is reinforcement.

Old habits die hard, I know, but each individual on the team needs to stick to the change and not revert. Encouragement, recognition, and additional trainings are good tools here.

Now will it happen perfectly like that? Of course not! People are messy. Maybe through some missing communication link, someone doesn't become aware of the change until the eve of trainings. Or someone who seemed desirous of the impending change changes their mind. Or during trainings, an individual gets frustrated and doesn't feel they'll be able to implement the change. All sorts of things can happen.

But the important thing is, while everyone is different and goes at their own pace, the steps of ADKAR are widely applicable, and if you want to guarantee buy-in from the individuals, you will undoubtedly need to hit every step with every person, at their own pace.


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