Getting certain people to adopt new technology is the essence of change management. As a change management consultant and organizational behavior theorist, the vast majority of my job is to enhance the ability and decrease the risk that organizational change efforts have on an organization.
Statistics have shown a consistent figure in dealing with organizational change resistance. That figure is 3/4 (or 75%) of change resistance is entirely people-based, that is, the lack of willingness and commitment to change from individuals that cause change efforts to fail.
Of that 75%, roughly half is managerial-based. The importance of gathering support and commitment to change from managers and higher-level employees can’t be overstated! Ultimately, due to the nature of top-down influence and support in an organization, gathering managerial commitment is one of the most effective ways to strengthen the entirety of an organization’s change readiness abilities.
Consider this; employees will only be held accountable for employing change efforts when those efforts are being reinforced by their direct managers or supervisors. The only way those managers and supervisors will enforce change is if they understand and recognize the bigger picture that change represents and the benefits change can have on their organization.
This is why top-down influence is so important. It is always easier to attempt organizational change by starting the change effort at the top and letting the effects trickle down the organization as opposed to “fighting gravity” by attempting to change the operational levels of the organization’s structure and hoping the influence catches on.
Therefore, today, we will be discussing the ways in which we can communicate change purpose, vision, and scope to gather and leverage commitment by managers within your organization.
The way in which I plan on doing this is by using a popular change management model: The ADKAR Model by Jeffrey Hiatt.
The reason I want to use this model instead of the many others is because this model not only provides a useful summary of the stages of organizational change but also the diagnostic capabilities of understanding personal and individual change as well. Therefore, it is useful when analyzing and crafting persuasive change efforts that speak to managers themselves and increase commitment.
The ADKAR Change Model
The ADKAR model is very useful in prescribing the proper techniques and methods for crafting change within individuals and an organization as a whole.
Today, we will be focusing on the individual characteristics and motivations for change. This is because we are attempting to appeal to managers, who often share a common sense of scope and vision of the organization’s practices and procedures.
Essentially, this model is a linear method for change. That is to say, you MUST have the first stage completed before you can complete the next stage of change. Each stage acts as a building block to move you towards the others.
There is a useful model that is often used to describe an individual’s motivation for change (it doesn’t matter if that individual is a manager or employee) called the ADKAR model of change management. The ADKAR model stands for…
A – Awareness
Awareness is exactly what it sounds like. Before change can be taken seriously, desired, or implemented, awareness is the key. Awareness simply means that your employees (or, in this case, managers) know exactly what the change entails. So, what does a change entail to build awareness?
The first important aspect of awareness is the vision for change. The vision for change is expressed simply in the answers to the questions “Why is change necessary? And “what does the change intend to accomplish.
Change never occurs on a whim, no organization simply changes because they “feel like it.” Change is always (willingly) brought about with the hopes of improvement in some sense. Whether that improvement is entirely quantifiable, operational, or anything else, they all share one thing in common. They all are intended to affect the bottom line in some way.
Awareness is your ability to express the functions of change as well. That is, what exactly is going to change? Only when people become aware of the NEED for change and what the change entails can they begin developing the next stage; Desire.
D – Desire
Desire is usually the tipping point for successful change efforts, but only as long as awareness is brought to light first. Why is that important? Well, considering the limited scope and perspective of operational employees, they may recognize the need for change but NOT recognize what a change will encompass, or how a change will transform their duties or processes.
It is entirely possible to want to change, but without a solid grasp on the factors of change (as seen in the awareness section) there can be no successful change because there is no given direction and vision.
The reason I call desire the “tipping point” for successful change efforts is because those who have desire typically also have the motivation to learn the skills and knowledge needed to enact changes. Desire and motivation aren’t exactly the same, but they are closely related.
The Desire for change is important because those who truly wish for change to occur, minimize most of their resistance to it. However, desire is also tricky, because most executive sponsors and leaders mistakenly believe that awareness is the same as commitment.
In fact, the largest factor in failed changes is the mistaken belief that those who have awareness also have desire, when this can be entirely untrue. Most resistance occurs as a form of fear, and only when there is enough of a pressing desire to change can that fear be overlooked and the comfortable ways of the past can be altered.
To form desire, it is critical to communicate the benefits the effects of change will have, not just on the organization, but on the individual manager themselves in whom you wish to build desire.
Think of the phrase “What’s in it for me?” or (WIIFM). Consider this phrase the best way to keep in mind that it’s their desires and wants you need to appeal to. Too many marketers make the mistake of claiming what they do (features), and not what the true benefits of their product or service are.
It’s the difference between…
1. “Our child-friendly car seats have a quick-lock mechanism!” (Features)
2. “Our quick-lock mechanism saves you time, painful headaches, and less standing in the line at school with angry honking horns behind you while you strap in your kids!” (Benefits)
Benefits produce desire because it personalizes and visualizes the NEED for the product or service (or, in this case, organizational change).
K – Knowledge
Knowledge is, put simply, the stage that describes the required materials, skills, and resources needed to perform change. Knowledge can be anything from relevant experience, coaching, consulting, or other knowledge-based references towards implementing the change.
The goal of the knowledge stage is to provide the required materials and resources needed to teach people how to support change, perform change, and implement change. Knowledge must be considered in terms of relevance to the change efforts.
Although somebody may have excellent knowledge in their field, that is not a guarantee that they can perform just any change effort, especially if the change is not relevant to their body of knowledge.
Relevant knowledge is directly related to the employee’s (or manager’s) ability to enact change effectively. To get a good grasp on the required knowledge to perform change, ask yourself “What do my employees need to know in order to be able to perform this change effectively from the start.
It’s a simple question, but asking it is critical in preparing for actual performance and change efforts to implement.
Ways in which you can build knowledge include (but are not limited to) training and education, experience, access to experts, and mentoring for change. Gathering these resources for your managers can be a great way to provide preparation and knowledge towards change efforts.
A – Ability
Ability is the nature of your organization to properly perform change. Consider the difference between knowledge and ability. The difference between knowledge and ability is similar to the nature of confidence and efficacy. Knowledge is a means of building confidence and willingness to change, whereas ability is similar to efficacy and the ability to perform change itself.
Ability is similar to change in action, it is the nature of your employees to use their knowledge to enhance their ability to change. The difference between knowledge and ability can be further clarified when considering the requirements that are needed to form them.
To form knowledge, you provide preparatory measures – things like training, resources, materials, experts, coaching, etc.
But to form ability, you require time, practice, modeling behavior, feedback on performance, etc.
Ultimately, ability is your employee’s actual performance characteristics. Performance and experience during the change itself requires time and actual effort. Whereas knowledge is required to perform, ability is the experience of the performance.
Often times during change, actual implementation characteristics of change efforts are altered during the process itself. This is because purpose is not always 100% represented in practice. Things change as change is implemented, therefore the ability to change is represented by an organization’s adaptive ability.
R – Reinforcement
Reinforcement is your ability, as the head (or sponsor) for change, to enforce and keep employees accountable for change efforts.
Employees with desire normally keep themselves accountable, but reinforcement is the power you have as a leader to solidify positive behaviors in order to make the changed systems or processes a part of organizational culture.
There are a few requirements that must be in place before you reinforce a change, however. The largest of those requirement comes in the form of dedicated performance metrics. Have you hit the intended performance metrics and solved the original problem that the change effort was meant to address?
If the answer to this question is no, you do NOT want to reinforce change efforts. Why? well, reinforcing change efforts that do NOT lead to the desired results is a waste of time, ineffective, and possibly damaging to the trust of the organization when you inevitably must present hypocritical actions to substitute your previously reinforced actions.
Reinforcing a specific change effort (action or duty) that you must get rid of (does not reach goals) will confuse employees and dismiss trust as something negligible to leadership, which doesn’t bode well with teams.
As long as you have reached a happy balance of performance and sustainability, you can begin to reinforce change into organizational culture. Do so by offering celebrations, rewards and recognitions, accountability mechanisms, more feedback, and corrective actions.
In the case of a Senior Manager, they must first recognize a pressing issue that causes the need to adapt to new technologies (awareness).
By recognizing this issue and the importance of its resolution, he will likely form the motivation (Desire) to change.
With that motivation comes the willingness to procure Knowledge, and this knowledge will directly affect his ABILITY to change by adopting new technologies.
Reinforcement then must be implemented in order to cement the new technologies in the mind of your Senior Manager by providing guidance and consistent incentives to continue their usage.
The question you must first ask in order to accomplish all of this is, “How can I get my Senior Manager to recognize the COST of NOT adopting new technologies?” This will induce awareness.
Another similar question may be, “How can I get my Senior Manager to recognize the pressing benefits for new technologies?”
Once you have done this, simply move on to DESIRE! What benefits will your Senior Manager receive, both personally and for the organization, if they adopt these technologies?
Thanks for reading!
-Austin Denison is a change management consultant from Southern California and founder/CEO of Denison Success Systems LLC. He is the author of The Essential Change Management Guidebook: Master The Art of Organizational Change as well as The Potential Dichotomy: The Philosophy of a Fulfilling Life.