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Revitalising Change: A Guide for Project Managers on the ‘R’ of ADKAR 

Revitalising Change: A Guide for Project Managers on the ‘R’ of ADKAR 

Organisations face rapid changes due to their environment's Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity, commonly known as VUCA. In a world where disruptions are common, change is a necessary action. To continually evolve to stay competitive, effective change management is crucial. In the VUCA world, change can no longer be treated as an event but as an everyday occurrence. 

In the landscape of project management, effective navigation of change has become a critical success factor. While project management focuses on achieving established goals within defined parameters, change management recognises the fluidity of projects and equips professionals to navigate unforeseen circumstances by seamless implementation of modifications. Managers need to have strong change management skills in order to be effective. 

One widely recognised change management model is the ADKAR framework, which has five key elements, each playing a vital role in the change process. In this article, we will focus on rejuvenating the "Reinforcement". 

It's time to reawaken the R because, many times, the operating management –  overwhelmed with competing priorities, limited resources, and new initiatives – tends to place this element on the back burner.  

ADKAR, an Overview  


The five elements of ADKAR are: 

  1. Awareness: Employees must understand the need for change. 
  2. Desire: Next, they need to have a desire to participate in the change. 
  3. Knowledge: Acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills for the change. 
  4. Ability: Individuals must possess the ability to implement the change. 
  5. Reinforcement: Involves sustaining the change as a part of organisational culture.

The Importance of Reinforcement 

Organisations invest significant time, resources, and effort into implementing change. However, the backtrack phenomenon frequently occurs – to the previous state after an initial period of change, as people's systems tend to revert to old habits. Rejuvenating the reinforcement is crucial to hold the entire change management process together.  

"R" is indispensable for: 

  • Consolidating change to become a part of the organisation's culture, embedding new behaviours, processes, and attitudes. 
  • Sustaining momentum generated during the earlier stages of the change and preventing regression. 
  • Mitigating resistance of employees for various reasons and at different points in time by emphasising the positive aspects of the change. 
  • Measuring the effectiveness of the change strategies by evaluating the sustenance of the change over time. 

Inadequate reinforcement leads to dwindled motivation, cynicism, distrust of leadership, and the backtrack phenomenon despite initial successes. Factors contributing to this phenomenon include: 

  • Humans who are inherently resistant to change often seek comfort in familiar processes. As the novelty of change wears off, the allure of returning to the "comfort zone" becomes appealing. 
  • Inadequate or unclear communication about the change hinders employees' understanding of the benefits and expected behaviours, causing them to revert to what they know. 
  • Inadequate training may fail to provide the necessary skills or support, leading employees to start finding it easier to return to their previous methods. 
  • Failure to align incentives, rewards and recognition systems with the new behaviours introduced by the change may diminish employees' motivation to sustain the effort. 
  • Change fatigue due to frequent or fast-paced changes makes individuals feel overloaded and may induce reversal as a coping mechanism. 

Considering all the above, it becomes apparent that proper and consistent reinforcement is a crucial aspect of change management. Without sustained reinforcement, individuals may not fully internalise the new behaviours or processes, leading to a gradual erosion of the impact expected from the change. 

Common Challenges in Reinforcement 

  • Looking at reinforcement as a one-time event rather than an ongoing process. 
  • Resource constraints for implementing effective reinforcement strategies. 
  • Lack of clear metrics to track the impact of reinforcement. 
  • The allure of new initiatives can overshadow the need to solidify past changes. 
  • Communication often dwindles after the initial phases of change, creating challenges for keeping the importance of the change alive. 
  • Inadequate recognition of employees who contribute to the success of the change impacts reinforcement. 

Strategies for Rejuvenating Reinforcement

Revitalising the R requires a multi-faceted approach, as noted below: 

  • Consider reinforcement as an investment in the future, not a cost and quantify its ROI through the long-term benefits of sustained change. 
  • Dedicate resources to reinforcement strategies. This involves ongoing coaching, recognition schemes, and regular feedback mechanisms. 
  • Tailor the approach to individual preferences and needs. What motivates one person might not work for another. 
  • Celebrate small wins and milestones along the way, not just the final achievement, to sustain the momentum. 
  • Develop clear metrics to track the impact of reinforcement efforts. This allows for data-driven adjustments and demonstrates the value. 
  • Create a culture of continuous improvement through an environment where learning, adaptation and feedback are encouraged. 
  • Highlight the learning and development opportunities embedded within the change process.  
  • Leverage digital tools and platforms to automate and personalise reinforcement interventions, track progress, share successes, and provide feedback. 

An effective strategy would involve various activities such as: 

  • Continuous communication and engagement that keep employees informed about the progress and impact of the change. This could include regular newsletters, meetings, and creating employee forums. This is to foster a sense of community and collective ownership of the change. 
  • Comprehensive training programs are essential to help employees refine their skills, adapt to evolving processes, and navigate the challenges associated with the change. This includes both soft skills and technical training through modules, workshops, and mentorship programs.  
  • Cultivate a culture of continuous learning to promote resilience and adaptability. Employees should feel encouraged to experiment with new approaches, learn from both successes and failures and apply these insights to further improve the change process. 
  • Recognition by rewarding individuals and teams that contribute to the success of the change is a powerful reinforcement strategy. It's crucial to align recognition with the specific behaviours and attitudes that support the change. This recognition can take various forms, including monetary rewards, public acknowledgement, or opportunities for career advancement.  
  • Establishing feedback mechanisms allows employees to express their concerns, suggestions, and insights regarding the change. This not only provides valuable information for refining the change strategy but also empowers employees by giving them a voice in the process. Surveys, focus groups, or dedicated feedback sessions can be used to gather input from employees.  
  • Celebrating both big and small milestones provides a sense of achievement and progress. Celebrations can take the form of team events, recognition ceremonies, or even personalised thank-you notes.  
  • Integrating change-related objectives into the performance management system reinforces the importance of the change at an individual level. This involves setting specific, measurable, and achievable goals related to the new behaviours and regularly evaluating employees based on their contributions to the change. 
  • Regular monitoring and measuring the impact of the change is essential for assessing its effectiveness. Key performance indicators (KPIs) should be established to track progress and identify any key areas that require intervention. 
  • Change is dynamic, and leaders must be adaptive in their approach. This involves regularly reassessing the organisation's progress, identifying areas that require additional support or adjustment, and being willing to iterate on the change strategy.  
  • Leadership plays a pivotal role in reinforcing change. Leaders should consistently model the desired behaviours and actively champion new initiatives. When employees see leaders embracing and embodying the change, it sends a strong message about its importance and legitimacy. 


Rejuvenating the R of ADKAR is about creating a culture of continuous learning and support. By focusing on intrinsic motivators, personalised approaches, and ongoing recognition, we can turn reinforcement into the driving force for lasting change rather than a postscript to the change management process. 

The holistic approach that includes the elements discussed above can help organisations create an environment conducive to sustained change, which unlocks the true potential of their change initiatives and transforms change from a temporary disruption to a catalyst for enduring success. 

Organisations and leaders need to remain conscious that change is not to be considered a destination but a journey where the R of ADKAR should be used as a compass to navigate the path to lasting success.