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How to make change stick – the ADKAR approach

Michael Wyatt

In my recent blogpost, I highlighted three ways in which action could be taken to improve preventative support for children and families. Identifying changes and implementing change are two very different things. So, if we know that we can make changes and ultimately improve outcomes for people, why is it often so challenging to implement the change?

An underlying principle of change management is that change does not happen in isolation – it impacts the people touched by it. To ensure change is thoroughly and sustainably implemented, and that the benefits are achieved, it is necessary to focus on human behaviour. So, how do people move from the current situation to the new one? What is their journey towards working and behaving in new ways to support the change?

It is important to remember that organisations don’t change, people do. If investment is made but nobody changes their working habits, there will be no impact. For example, a business can implement a perfectly designed solution that will resolve all their problems but, if no one uses it, it adds no value. For change to stick, individuals must do their jobs differently.

Jeff Hiatt’s ADKAR Model of Change defines five building blocks that must be present for change to be successful, based on how human beings experience change and our need to ask ‘why’ when change is suggested. The five sequential (but often overlapping) building blocks to change are:

  1. Awareness of the need for change
  2. Desire to participate and support the change
  3. Knowledge on how to change
  4. Ability to implement required skills and behaviours
  5. Reinforcement to sustain the change

So, how can we apply this to improving prevention services for children and families?

Consider how using evidence and insight on the impact of preventative interventions can raise awareness of the need to change. Engage frontline staff and commissioners in the production of solutions. Allowing them to make a personal decision to support the change will create desire across the organisation.

Provide the necessary information and skills to ensure staff have the knowledge to enact the change and provide them with the space and confidence to translate knowledge into ability to deliver the greatest impact.

Once change occurs, reinforce it through impact stories and case reviews, evidencing how this change is benefitting the children and families staff work so hard to support, as well as the wider system through reducing avoidable escalation of need and demand.

Whilst often viewed as mutually exclusive, balancing budgets for children’s services and delivering better outcomes for children and families can be achieved simultaneously. But only if the right conditions are in place. Delivering effective, targeted prevention is key to this, and whilst the steps to achieving this are complex, change management tools like ADKAR provide valuable support to make the change stick.

Written by

Michael Wyatt

Senior Consultant

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