How to manage resistance in change programs?

Jim van Hulst has worked in several leadership functions at EY, ING Bank, ABN AMRO Bank, and Johnson Controls International. His positions have included Director Talent Management, Global Head Professional Development, and Global Learning Technology Leader. Jim has an MSc. in Learning Technology from the University of Sheffield and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Arnhem/Nijmegen. He also holds a diploma in Business Management and Leadership from the Rotterdam School of Management, and he completed his MBA in 2020 from MSM, The Netherlands. He is a frequently asked speaker and author of numerous articles. Jim founded Jignite recently in 2021.

Jim van Hulst, owner Jignite

How to manage resistance in change programs?

This blog discusses the ADKAR model as a model for change. The ADKAR model was designed by Prosci.
Prosci  research was founded in 1994 by Jeff Hiatt, an engineer who learned and experienced that successful change was impacted and successful by the outcome of the people involved in change.

Through further research he and his company provided models, tools and training programs which are based on 20 years of best practice research. Prosci publishes their findings annually on their website (Prosci)

Individual Change using the ADKAR model

In order for change to become effective, you first have to understand change yourself. This can be achieved via the ADKAR model, which is Prosci’s model for individual change. ADKAR represents the five elements of change that must be achieved in order for the change to be successful. The ADKAR model was developed by Prosci after studying the change patterns of more than 700 organizations.

It is an effective practical tool for managing change at an individual level but guides activities at an organizational level. ADKAR is an effective tool for identifying the “barrier points“ and diagnosing areas of resistance. The abbreviation ADKAR, the five building blocks for successful change are:

  • Awareness
  • Desire
  • Knowledge
  • Ability 
  • Reinforcement

Understanding change

Change begins with understanding Why (Awareness).  In order to begin changing, we need to understand the Why behind the change:

  • Why change?
  • Why now?
  • What happens if I don’t change?

Once you begin to understand why the change is needed and the nature and reason for change, you can choose to participate in the change or not. Oftentimes the answer to the question “what’s in it for me” raises or lowers desire to participate in the change. You can’t do a lot to affect desire, people still have the ability to “opt out” but the key is to understand why someone chooses to participate in the change.  There must be a solid level of awareness e.g. via communication before the next stage, Desire, can be addressed.

How to manage resistance in change programs?

Change also requires knowing how to change. You need to know what tools, skills, and/or behaviors are required of yourself in order to change. In order to make change successful, you have to put knowledge into action. Ability is the demonstrated capability to implement the change, it’s the achievement of the desired change in performance or behavior. When you get to possess the ability in ADKAR, the business outcomes of the change are starting to be realized.


Finally – change needs to be reinforced in order to be sustained. Reinforcement is the recognition and reward that sustain the changes. Once the change reaches this element, it’s no longer a change! Reinforcement can include both positive and negative consequences. The employees must understand if there are negative consequences associated with a change, e.g. changes where jobs would be lost or eliminated.

ADKAR, while an individual model for change, really drives specific change management activities for teams and organizations to help ultimately get people through the change curve, and back to achieve business results. In all change programs resistance is to be expected.

Top ten methods for managing resistance

Within Prosci the Top 10 Methods for Managing Resistance are:

  1. Listen and understand objections
  2. Focus on the what and let go of the how
  3. Remove barriers
  4. Provide simple, clear choices and consequences
  5. Create hope
  6. Show the benefits in a real and tangible way
  7. Make a personal appeal
  8. Convert the strongest dissenters
  9. Demonstrate consequences
  10. Provide incentives

If the individual (e.g. a manager) is ready to change,  the next step is to lead a team through change.

Do you want to know more on change? See my other article.

Hiatt, J. (2006). ADKAR, A Model for Change in Business, Government, and Our Community. Prosci Research, Colorado. USA
Hiatt, J., Creasy, T.,J. (2003). Change Management: The People Side of Change. Prosci Research, Colorado. USA

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