Your path to a successful change: Introducing ADKAR Blueprint.

11 May 2021

The ultimate “Blueprint” for structuring your change … and making it stick.

author picture Article written by Morten Kamp Andersen

Organisations don’t change. People do. You may have heard it a thousand times, yet the people side of change is often overlooked. Designing, developing, and delivering the technical solution syphons off most available resources, leaving adoption and usage to chance – a sure formula for failure. Part of the problem is the common misconception that we cannot solve human challenges using structured approaches so easily. And when everything looks fuzzy, nothing gets done. 

20 years of research into what makes change happen – and makes it successful – has led our partner PROSCI to design the ADKAR model. Regardless of whether you are familiar with ADKAR, this post gives you the ultimate “Blueprint” for structuring your change … and making it stick.

ADKAR: What true and lasting change is made of

5 letters, 5 steps, 5 building blocks.

In ADKAR’s model, the change process looks like a sequence of 5 steps people have to go through. Each step builds on the previous one, paving the way towards the future state - the vision of what your organisation should look like after the change.

  • A for Awareness. What change are we talking about, why is it so important, and what if we do nothing? People need to hear and understand the strategic reason for the change, but the also the risks of the status quo.
  • D for Desire. What’s in it for the people impacted? Quite simply, why should they personally care about the change? Genuine desire is what drives individual decisions to engage and participate.
  • K for Knowledge. Are people equipped with the right tools and skills to change? Know-how is key to instil confidence and ensure proficiency.
  • A for Ability. Are people able to implement desired skills and behaviours? Practice makes perfect and feedback nurtures ability.
  • R for Reinforcement. Will people continue to work in that direction? Change takes reinforcement actions to make it stick. Recognition and reward can a long way in ensuring deep-seated change.




Never skip one step.

You might have to go back and forth between blocks at some point in time. But never skip one step. This is ADKAR’s golden rule.

Awareness and Desire should always come first. Don’t jump right into the “how-to-do-it” part of the change. First, state your why. Second, tell people what’s in it for them. Get them on board. Only then should you proceed to provide people with targeted training.

Empower the people with Knowledge and Ability. Don’t rush the process. Don’t let engagement and productivity rates plummet because people are ill-equipped for the change. To do otherwise is to mortgage the future as they can lose confidence in their ability to implement further changes.

Know that people can move forward or backward. Campaigns can drive awareness and desire levels. But after learning more about the change through training, people might go back to questioning what it means to them (Desire). Don’t get caught off guard thinking that the process is progressing smoothly. It is sequential, but not linear.

The job doesn’t end there, reinforcement is everything. You may formally cross the finish line without even realising that people are slowly but surely reverting to the old way of doing things. Old habits die hard. That’s why reinforcement activities are non-negotiable.

Now that we know the basics of ADKAR, let’s take it to the next level.

ADKAR Blueprint: the ultimate roadmap for change 

2 things to look for: barrier point and gauge gap

Each organisation, and each new project, presents a set of particular challenges. And not two change processes are entirely alike in terms of priorities and focus. However, using ADKAR, the approach remains the same. To get started on the change journey, you must identify barrier points and assess the gap between blocks.

Barrier point: the focus point for your efforts. People may remain stuck in at a particular point of the process for multiple reasons, impeding further progress along the change journey. Barrier points must be identified to guide CM efforts. On a scale of 1 to 5, say that someone scores 3 in terms of Knowledge. That is where you should focus your attention.


Gauge gap: the expected effort to build a specific ADKAR block for a particular change. Gauge gap is not to be confused with barrier point. It captures the time and effort you should put in to move to the next step. In our example, it would reflect what needs to be done to build Knowledge. The gap separating Knowledge from the next Aptitude blocks can vary in depth and width. If brand new tools involving a steep learning curve are introduced as part of the change – i.e a new software – the gap would be significant, requiring time to bridge.


Take the right action at the right time

“If it isn’t scheduled, it won’t happen”. We all know that. But now that you have identified the barrier points and gaps, turn each ADKAR step into a milestone with a targeted date to start creating a compelling roadmap.

Pace your efforts to match the lifecycle of the initiative. ADKAR milestones need to align with the lifecycle of the project. You want to avoid a big rush when deploying the solution. Build Awareness and Desire from the outset when the solution is being designed. Train the people in the advanced phases of development. And align Ability with Go Live.

Beware that Agile is a very different beast. We won’t go into too many details here. But know that the workflow looks and feels very different depending on whether you stick with waterfall methods or operate in an Agile environment. It is only logical that you adjust the ADKAR model to mirror the iterative nature of Agile. A major feature of ADKAR in Agile is the need to build Knowledge and Ability with each new release and across iterations. Think just-in-time and on-demand modules.


Connect the How with the Who

Once you have identified barrier points, gauged the gap to bridge each phase, and aligned milestones with the project lifecycle, it is time to get key CM players into the game. Sponsors and managers are your best allies. But just as anyone else in the organisation, the people involved at the meta-level too must go through each ADKAR phase to “own the change”. To activate CM key roles, watch out for these two common barriers:

Sponsors’ barrier point: not Knowing the ABC of sponsorship. What if we told you that 50% of sponsors lack basic knowledge about what their role entails? That is a massive issue given that sponsorship is the number one success factor of any change initiative. You will have to spend time with sponsors to train them on the importance of being Active, Building a coalition with other sponsors and Communicating directly with employees.

Managers’ barrier point: no Desire for the change itself. We call them CM superheroes. Managers have to do a bit of everything in times of change (CLARC missions): being Communicators, Liaison officers, Advocates of the change, Resistance Managers, Coaches… all of this while maintaining Business as Usual. It is easy to see why generating buy-in for the change among managers is a topmost priority. You cannot expect them to cascade the change without first discussing what’s in there for them (WIIFM).

210510_graph03_en_1.pngIn a nutshell, adding Activity, Roles and Timeline to each block turns the ADKAR model into a tangible set of activities to execute. It creates clarity of purpose, clarity of strategy and clarity of responsibilities. That is the ADKAR Blueprint, your master plan to create long-lasting change.

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