The change management journey isn’t complete until we’ve reached the ‘R’ in ADKAR – Reinforcement.
This is the second stage in our change journey where another ‘R’ – Resistance – typically manifests itself. We initially plan to address resistance at the Desire stage of ADKAR, when employees and other stakeholders faced with significant change first tend to dig in their heels.
Even if you’ve done a thorough job of guiding employees through the journey and addressing their needs at every stage, you still need to plan for resistance to crop back up over time. Thus, you need to reinforce the change to sustain the results you expect over the long-term.
It may be tempting to declare the process over, but for organizations going through change, this is still a precarious stage. If employees are not fully committed to see it through, they often drift back into old ways of doing things, putting new business processes at risk. Utilization and adoption stall or may even shrink. If this happens frequently enough, organizations fall into a pattern of poorly managing change, and employees learn that by keeping their heads down long enough, they can ride out change and outlast change.
What are the keys to reinforcing change?
- Moving quickly to help employees quickly implement skills learned during the Ability stage into their daily routines, so that they become second nature before any lingering resistance can take hold
- Connecting the change to broader organizational culture, so that employees aren’t left to move ahead on their own, but rather feel supported by the environment around them
- Rewarding demonstrated competence and commitment that pushes the organization in the right direction
- Continuing to tap into change sponsors as a source of coaching and modeling behaviors that will support the change and address pockets of resistance among their own stakeholders
These should not be treated as an afterthought. Reinforcement activities must be integrated into the overall change management plan so that they flow quickly and naturally as the change unfolds. Any hesitation in reinforcing the change leaves room for doubt and inertia to take hold. For an organization navigating major change, that spells doom.