Illustration by Rae Scarfó
Imagine: a change is coming. You as a construction business leader plan out your communication and have supporting materials and frequently asked questions attached. The distribution list is set.
It may even look something like this:
“As of (insert date) we will be switching to (insert change). Attached, you will find more information related to this as well as answers to the questions you may have.”
But when your date comes and goes, what was your success rate? It’s likely that some people made the switch, but you probably have many more still using the old methods. Why is it so difficult to get everyone on the same page at the same time?
Because, when it comes to change, whether it’s adopting a new technology or process, or asking workers to behave differently on a jobsite, it’s an individual game.
What does that mean?
It’s fairly common for a company to take a one-size-fits-all approach to implementing change. However, that approach doesn’t account for the individuality of each person required to make the change.
For years as a change management leader, I have been using a process focused on the individual to implement change.
The five stages—and their goals—are:
- Awareness: each person needs to understand why the change is necessary.
- Desire: each person needs to choose to engage with the change.
- Knowledge: each person needs to understand how to change.
- Ability: each person needs to prove they are competent to make the change.
- Reinforcement: a person’s behaviour needs to be reinforced for it to continue.
Many times, as I’m working with a team looking to implement a change, I will reference each step of ADKAR and we will brainstorm what the messaging for each step could include. It’s important to note that ADKAR is a linear process; you can’t skip achieving awareness, for instance, and expect a person to jump straight into desire.
Part of them choosing to engage in the change will include the fact that they understand why they need to make the change in the first place.
Making change personal
Let’s break this down with a practical—and personal—application.
Five years ago, when my daughter was about 3 years old, my husband and I were having an incredibly hard time getting her to stop chewing her hair. She would grab the front pieces of her hair and they would end up being chewed off so that this part of her hair would only be as long as her mouth.
It was incredibly frustrating. My husband and I tried everything we could—or so we thought.
ALSO ON BUILT:
We would inform her that chewing her hair wasn’t good for her (awareness). We would catch her in the act and redirect the behaviour and ask her to not chew her hair—because remember, it’s not good for you or your hair (reinforcement).
We even found ourselves desperate enough that we put a small amount of pepper water in her hair to negatively reinforce the behaviour.
It was about this time that I completed my Prosci certification and learned that the ADKAR technique can be used to guide anyone through a change, not just my business colleagues. So, I sat down and started assessing my daughter’s behaviour through the ADKAR lens.
- Awareness: she certainly knew that we were not interested in having her chew her hair.
- Desire: at this point, we assumed she would have the same desire as us. Chewing your hair isn’t good. It’s not sanitary, and it creates gross, wet hair. That should be a great reason to stop, right?
- Knowledge: she was old enough to know how to not chew her hair.
- Ability: we knew she was capable of not chewing her hair. There were many moments that she didn’t.
- Reinforcement: we were already pretty heavy in this area, both positive and negative.
So why couldn’t we get her to stop?
One day, my daughter mentioned to me that she really wanted to grow her hair out “super long like Rapunzel.”
Suddenly, a switch flipped in my brain.
We were approaching this change with our desire for her. In this moment, I realised her desire to make this change was to have Rapunzel hair.
So, as we were talking, I told her: “You know, to have Rapunzel hair, you will have to stop chewing your hair. All of Rapunzel’s hair is long. Plus, if you keep chewing it, mummy is going to have to cut it so that it looks OK with all the short pieces.”
You could see the realisation come over her. This was the missing piece of the puzzle. Her dream was to look like Rapunzel, and now she knew that wasn’t possible if she couldn’t stop chewing her hair. It took very few reinforcement moments after this to remind her to stop chewing.
I realise that “Rapunzel” is not going to be a great desire trigger for your construction workers. Still, what Rapunzel moments are you having? Are you missing major communication opportunities in awareness and desire with employees you are leading or managing?
Have you provided adequate training with enough time prior to the change (knowledge)? Have employees been able to prove that they can make the change (ability)?
Finally, do you have reinforcement plans in place, both positive and negative?
ADKAR is a tool that is simple to pick up on and can provide incredible, immediate benefits as you work through the changes you plan to introduce to your construction firm.
Remember: with any change, big or small, construction leaders must communicate and manage the process through an individual lens. Why would every role on your team be motivated by the change?
Be aware of that level of individual awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement—and manage the change with those themes front and centre.