ADKAR: A Model for Successful Change in Our Personal Lives and Professional Careers


Author: Jeffrey M. Hiatt
ISBN number: 1930885504
Posted: June 13, 2013
Summary by: Marcus Ritosa, Process Improvement Intern

In “ADKAR: A Model for Successful Change in Our Personal Lives and Professional Careers”, author Jeff Hiatt presents a simple model for understanding the change process and some general suggestions for application to individuals in all types of organizations.  This model, which includes Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement, seeks to integrate many change management tools into the general framework which dictates when those tools could be best applied.  Throughout the book, Hiatt offers illustrations and case studies to make clear distinctions between the model elements.  Although Hiatt does not claim that the model is comprehensive or divinely ordained, he offers it as assistance to individuals in many situations related to change management. ADKAR is an acronym: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement.


Awareness of the proposed change and the business need for change is the first element in the ADKAR model.  It is the underlying “Why?” that must be understood or accepted by all individuals subject to a change before one can expect success in later implementation steps.  

Hiatt identifies five factors affecting how a particular individual will build awareness for a change:

  1. The person’s view of the current state
  2. How the person perceives problems fundamentally (primarily internal or external)
  3. The credibility of the communication source
  4. The prevalence of misinformation or rumors
  5. The contestability of the change’s rationale. 

To combat deficiencies in these factors, Hiatt proposes four tactics:

  1. Effective communications tailored to specific segments,
  2. Executive sponsorship connecting the overall business needs to the individual change,
  3. Coaching by direct supervisors able to understand the specific needs of their direct reports, and
  4. Ready access to business information.

Without awareness of the need to change, individuals cannot progress toward supporting the change.


Desire to support and participate in the proposed change is the next element in the model.  Desire relates more to the individual than the business. 

Hiatt identifies four factors affecting an individual’s desire to participate:

  1. The nature of the change and how it will affect them,
  2. The organizational context including how change is generally perceived,
  3. The individual’s personal situation, and
  4. The individual’s intrinsic motivation.

Again, building desire assumes that the individual is well aware of the need for the proposed change.  To augment the desire of employees, Hiatt makes the following recommendations:

- Sponsors need to be highly involved in the change and in communicating its merits personally and through a coalition.

- Managers must be empowered to gauge and address personal concerns with the proposed change.

- An assessment of the organization’s change management history and of the predicted impact of the change will allow change leaders to anticipate difficult challenges ahead.

- Finally, incentive programs must be altered to work with and not against the change.


Knowledge of specifically how to incorporate the change is the next element in the model.  An individual may understand and have a desire to support the change, but without knowing how to proceed, they will be unable to act. Knowledge is differentiated from “training” in that training is too narrow of a concept, referring more to a means of delivery rather than the specific knowledge imparted.  

Employees will each have an existing knowledge level, ability to learn, and access to training resources, all of which affect the likelihood of accepting the change.  Additionally, the organization must possess the base knowledge so that it can be given to its employees.  To effectively impart knowledge, Hiatt recommends having well-planned training programs, job aides such as checklists and one-on-one coaching.  Through these means, individuals of different knowledge levels will be able gain the “how-to” toward supporting the change.


Ability to exact the change and operate in the new environment is the fourth element in Hiatt’s model. Without the physical, psychological, and intellectual abilities necessary, individuals cannot change.  Also necessary are the time needed to develop proficiency and any support resources to do so.  

Hiatt recommends that supervisors be involved day-to-day in the new operations, offering support where needed.  Supervisors should also offer performance evaluations as a form of feedback to employees.  Subject matter experts should be available on an ongoing basis.  During any training exercises, hands-on experiences should be employed.


Reinforcement of the completed change is necessary for it to take lasting hold.  To be effective, reinforcements must be valuable to the individual, correspond well to the success achieved, not be detracted from by negative consequences, and be made part of accountability systems. 

Rewards, recognition, feedback, audits, and new accountability systems may be employed.  Pulling out the special support for the change too early could lead to a great regression in the change.  To combat this, reinforcement is needed.

The ADKAR model can be employed in a variety of situations.  It can be used to assess change efforts currently underway, as well as to plan for new change initiatives.  References to the model can be used explicitly in a project proposal as well as to get feedback from individuals affected by a change.  Successful change will necessarily involve individuals, frontline supervisors, and executive sponsors throughout the change efforts.  Coaching, sponsorship, communications, resistance management, and training will be employed.  What makes the ADKAR model distinctive is that that these groups will employ these tactics in the proper order and structure to be most effective in accomplishing what the organization set out to do.