The holes in our cheese


Last month, I had the opportunity to spend a few days at the fantastic Abbaye de La Ramée in Jodoigne. The occasion? A training course on change management, with the popular Prosci ADKAR method. Three days of sparring with fantastic people, a meticulously orchestrated and fast paced training (you have to admit, the Americans know how to perfect a model), beautiful weather and a cosy atmosphere.

The essence of the ADKAR method is this: to change an organisation successfully, all those involved must change individually.   A lack of change on the part of individual employees will result in cheese with holes, or Swiss Cheese.  That individual change starts with Awareness (to understand why) Desire (to want to change), Knowledge (to know how), Ability (to be able) and finally Reinforcement (to persevere), in short and simply: ADKAR.

The research at the basis of this method also produced a truism: successful change stands or falls with the active and visible support of the sponsor (= top management). The whole model is fantastically self-evident and recognisable. It puts its finger on the wound. I gladly add the Prosci ADKAR method to my rucksack of experience & methods. 

And yet... why is change still so difficult?

The concept of Prosci ADKAR is a useful tool for the HOW and WHY of change, but it cannot answer the question of WHAT? 

In my experience, the real essence is this: the reason why changes fail is often because they are simply bad changes.  The strategy is unclear or wrong, the project is top-down, it is purely about prestige, the project is badly designed or timed, there is no benefit to the organisation.

Good change management is not a solution for bad projects.

A solution may be to include resistance to change as an essential part of the WHAT: instead of managing resistance, ask ourselves: what do the "holes in our cheese" tell us about the quality of our projects, our priority management & our decision-making process?  Start each project with an honest assessment:  is this a priority?  Does it have a clear target and timing?  What will this project do/solve/improve?

My experience is that change projects with a good WHAT require less change management. These projects are easy to recognise. The reaction of the employees to good change projects is usually: 'FINALLY'!