A 5-Step Framework for Managing Organizational Change

Today's post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member and HR Bartender, Sharlyn Lauby.

As much as organizations and individuals want to return to “normal”, there are probably going to be aspects of business that change for a very long time, if not forever. That might not be terrible. There are some good outcomes emerging from this unprecedented time.

But we've all seen the statistics that more than 70% of change efforts fail. Part of the reason is because organizations don't do a good job of managing the change process.

At last year's KronosWorks conference, Melanie Berg, senior user adoption consultant at Kronos, showed us how to use the ADKAR Model as a framework to achieve individual change. But I could see it being a framework for organizational change as well. ADKAR is an acronym that represents each step in the process.

  1. AWARENESS. Of course, this is the acknowledgement that change needs to take place. What I think is important about this first step is understanding what change needs to take place and how much we feel that we can handle at one time. It could make more sense to do a series of smaller changes - even though that will involve more time and resources - because it means the change will be successful.

2. DESIRE. Organizations need to identify the “why” and be able to clearly articulate it to stakeholders. This includes customers, employees, vendors, candidates, etc. In addition to being able to discuss the need for change, organizations should proactively address any possible topics of resistance. The goal in this step is to let stakeholders know what's in it for them (aka WIIFM).

3. KNOWLEDGE. Organizations will want to identify all of the changes that will need to happen. Change management efforts often involve new policies, procedures, processes, systems, tools, roles, responsibilities, tasks, attitudes, beliefs, and even compensation. Companies can use the RACI model to help with accountability. While adjustments can always be made after implementation, the more that can be addressed upfront, the better.

4. ABILITY. This is where the change goes into effect. All of the planning and communication are tested. And that's okay. The change effort should be able to hold up to scrutiny. Throughout the change, every level of the organization should be regularly communicating what they're seeing and how they are feeling about the progress. Not everyone manages change at the same pace and internal stakeholders should be prepared to support each other.

5. REINFORCEMENT. Ultimately, this step is about realizing the benefits of the change effort. It's about stakeholders experiencing the WIIFM from step two (DESIRE). To effectively sustain the change, organizations want to regularly discuss their execution and regularly debrief to learn: 1) What's going well? And 2) What can we do differently? This allows the organization to refine the change effort and look for signs of success.

Models like ADKAR can help individuals manage professional change. They can guide managers and project leaders through new ways of doing business. And they can help organizations grow through processes like digital transformation. Giving all employees a roadmap for change and teaching them how to use it will benefit the individual and the organization.