The #1 Way to Sabotage Your Next Organizational Change Initiative

Whether you’re realigning job duties because your treasured right-hand assistant recently left, you’re transitioning to a new and improved database system, or you’re restructuring to create better alignment with your long-range goals…managing change is challenging.

As the saying goes, “better the enemy I know than the one I don’t!”  And when you add people to the equation, things really get complicated.

Your current system may be full of flaws, but it’s one your team is familiar with; and for that reason alone, change, no matter how great, is almost always met with

That’s why it’s critical that you include a plan for the “human side of change” in your change roll out.

Knowledge alone does not produce a change in behavior. Just because we know how to do something doesn’t mean we will do something. I mean, after all, I know how to exercise, but that doesn’t mean I do it!

ADKAR is a change management model that we use and love at Painefree. Developed by Prosci, ADKAR stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement and is a fantastic framework for managing the people side of change.

Let’s break down each level — and explore the one critical piece your change strategy can’t survive without:

What’s in it for me? (Awareness and Desire)

Most change projects start with a problem and due diligence to determine the best way to resolve that problem. Help your team understand what the change is, why it’s necessary, and importantly, the risks associating with not changing.

Once your team is aware of why the change is needed, you must instill a desire for the change. You actually need to create communication strategies for taking that awareness piece and getting employees on board.

This is where you need to get personal and think about the different users of the new system. Who are the influencers for them? What are the things that are important to them? Why does this matter to them? Use each type of employee’s unique motivations to customize a plan that will increase their desire.

If your employees are not motivated to do something, it doesn’t matter how functional the new system is…barring brute force, they won’t use it.

How does it work? (Knowledge and Ability)

Knowledge relates to the technical side of the change — so employees understand what to do and how to do it. This is usually done through some form of training…and it’s usually the easy part!

After gaining that knowledge, you need to evaluate your team’s ability to implement the change. It’s not like you’ll train your staff and voila!  it happens flawlessly. So you need to monitor how people take action on their new knowledge.

The difference between knowledge and application is subtle. Knowledge is understanding how to cook an omelet because you watched someone else do it. Ability is when you’ve been cooking omelets for two months — you’re putting that knowledge into practice.

Once you’re into the new system, quirks start to appear. Problems come up. If you don’t address them, people tend to abandon things and revert to the old system.

So don’t just train, but test. Keep an eye on application and watch how people are using the system. Go in stages so you can make tweaks before you set the whole organization up for failure.

How do I get it to stick? (Reinforcement)

Once people are showing their ability with the new system, you want to sustain the change by reinforcing the new behavior.

To do this, create both formal and informal feedback loops. Collect feedback through surveys, observations, reports, meetings with the management team, even by listening to the grumblings at the water cooler.

It’s important to identify gaps between what you thought the new system would be and what it is in practice. Based on the feedback you receive, you can finesse the new system, making performance even better.

It’s important to address the negative AND celebrate the successes. People like to feel acknowledged. After all, change is hard! It’s nice to mark the milestones and celebrate along the way.

The one thing that matters most 

Failing to plan for resistance is the #1 way to sabotage your new change initiative.

As the saying goes, the only thing constant is change. And unfortunately, humans tend to be wedded to their comfort zones and are naturally resistant to change.

To ensure your project’s success, it’s crucial to anticipate where resistance is going to come from and incorporate resistance management as a part of your rollout plan. Failure to do this will only belabor the success of your project.


Have you recently implemented a new system or process in your organization? How did it go? Where did your employees resist the change, and how did you navigate that resistance? We’d love to hear!

If you’re planning a change and would like support in managing the people side of that project, we should talk.

Schedule a complimentary call and learn how we can help make your next rollout “Painefree”!

By | 2018-01-29T19:12:02-06:00 November 23rd, 2016|Leadership, Management|Comments Off on The #1 Way to Sabotage Your Next Organizational Change Initiative