Wipfli logo
Insights - Articles, Blogs and on-demand webcasts

Articles & E-Books


Accounting and change management: What’s your ADKAR score?

Oct 05, 2020

When organizations adapt to changes — especially high-stakes changes such as the process for revenue recognition or the implementation of a new software system — they generally move through a predefined set of stages on the path to adoption and proficiency. 

Understanding what these steps are, and how to help your staff through them, can greatly improve the rate of adoption while reducing resistance and pushback. These steps can be summed up in the acronym ADKAR®. Understanding ADKAR will help you understand where past changes may have stalled and can improve adoption in future changes. But first, what is it?


The Prosci ADKAR® Model is a goal-oriented change management model that guides individual and organizational change. Created by Prosci founder Jeff Hiatt, ADKAR is an acronym that represents the five tangible and concrete outcomes that people need to achieve for lasting change: awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement.

What is the ADKAR Model?

Awareness: Employees need to be made awareof these changes and how they would be impacted by them. 

Desire: With this awareness, they can also come to understand the “why” behind the change and develop their reasons to desire to support the change. There might be benefits to them and their department, or it could simply be a desire to be compliant with new regulations. It’s key to seek out and communicate the individual’s desire versus your desire. Many a project has failed due largely to project managers assuming their drive for change is the same as those impacted by the change.

Knowledge: As employees build an understanding of the specific impact to them and what will be required to implement the new process — how things will change and what they have to do — they begin to have knowledgeof the change. Stopping here is a common mistake. Just because I have a level of knowledge does not mean that I have ability to act on that knowledge. We have to give people the chance to develop their abilities around the change.

Ability: When someone can demonstrate skills and behaviors related to a new process, software system or other change, they have ability in the ADKAR framework. The progress from knowledge to ability is similar to reading how to do something, then having the opportunity to practice it and ask questions. Do not make the assumption that there is the ability to consistently follow the new process; confirm that there is. Give people a chance to try it, then ask additional questions.

Reinforcement: This is where measures are taken to make the change stick. Recognizing departments or individuals who are following the new practice, using the new software or who have developed ways to further improve the new process are all positive ways to reinforce change. There is also the need to watch for the tendency to slide back into old habits or ways of doing things. Rarely there can be intentional resistance, which must be addressed. Having a way to measure the success of the change is a big part of reinforcement.

Putting ADKAR into action

As your accounting department prepares for future changes — such as adopting the upcoming Lease Accounting Standard, or the implementation of a new ERP system — plan to manage the people-side of the changes using ADKAR. There are three main phases in managing change at the organizational level: preparing for change, managing change and reinforcing change.

1. Planning for change

As you prepare for your change, plan out a change management strategy right along with your project management approach. Assign change management responsibilities to your project team, or organize a separate change team — whichever is a better fit for your organization. Identifying the leader or champion for the change, aka the change sponsor, is a critical part of overall success. A visible, supporting and active change sponsor has significant impact on overall project success.

2. Managing change

Managing the change will include the development and implementation of communication plans, along with support efforts for those groups impacted by the change. The earlier that communication and support begin, especially where people have a chance to ask questions, the sooner individuals are able to move through the steps of ADKAR. Training sessions are where knowledge, and eventually ability, are gained. 

Multiple communication channels are best, with a way for people to get their questions answered and to track open issues. There is a big boost to the overall level of confidence in the project when an individual knows their question was heard, documented and will eventually be answered. Don’t let questions or concerns fall into a black hole.

3. Reinforcing change

Reinforcing the change includes measurement, celebration of successes, and additional training and coaching around the change. Avoid the trap of stopping with implementation. Plan to continue to monitor, communicate and correct for some time after the go-live date of the new process or system.

In Prosci’s benchmarking studies, the use of a structured approach to change management has consistently been shown to be the second or third overall contributor to project success. Taking the time early on in your planning to include it will pay dividends in the return on the investment your company is making in the change. Plan to manage the people-side of your next big change as well as you manage the financial side and you’ll see real ROI.

Wipfli can help

Leverage Wipfli’s change management team, powered by Prosci®, to help lead your organization through sensitive or complex changes. With Wipfli on your team, you can navigate change and adjust your strategy to meet your organization’s goals. Click here to learn more, or continue reading on:

5 tips for managing rapid change

A step-by-step guide to unanticipated change management


Deron J. Kling
Senior Manager
View Profile