Ability to Change

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“Success is that old ABC – ability, breaks and courage.” — Charles Luckman

Ability is showing that you know how to put your knowledge into play or practice to achieve a desired result.

Ability is the fourth building block in the ADKAR model for adoption and change management.  ADKAR stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement.

If you want to create a change, you need to support ability.

Knowing isn’t good enough.  Change requires doing.  Doing requires ability.  And each person involved in the change, needs the ability to implement the new skills and behaviors.

In the book ADKAR: A Model for Change in Business, Government and our Community, Jeffrey Hiatt shares 5 success factors of ability to improve your effectiveness at managing change.

What is Ability?

According to Hiatt, ability is the act of doing:

“Ability is the demonstrated achievement of the change. Ability is the act of doing, such that the desired objectives of the change are realized.”

Or, more precisely, ability is demonstrated when the change is visible in action or measurable in terms of effect.

In other words, ability is “achieved when a person or organization can implement the change and achieve the desired performance level associated with that change.”

Knowledge is Insufficient

Knowledge is not ability.  It’s easy to confuse knowledge with ability.   You can think of knowledge as the body of information, while ability is competence.

Via ADKAR: A Model for Change in Business, Government and our Community:

“The presence of knowledge is often insufficient by itself.  Someone who recently completed lessons with a golf pro does not walk onto the course and par every hole. Likewise, employees who have knowledge about changes in processes, systems and job roles do not demonstrate immediate proficiency in these areas. Some employees, depending on the change, may never develop the required abilities.”

5 Success Factors that Influence Ability to Change

Here are the five success factors that influence your ability to change, according to Hiatt:

  1. Factor 1 – Psychological blocks
  2. Factor 2 – Physical abilities
  3. Factor 3 – Intellectual capability
  4. Factor 4 – The time available to develop the needed skills
  5. Factor 5 – The availability of resources to support the development of new abilities

Psychological blocks, physical abilities, intellectual capability, time and resources all contribute to our potential to develop new abilities.

Factor 1 – Psychological blocks

Limiting beliefs, fears, and psychological blocks can hold people back, and limit their ability to change.

Via ADKAR: A Model for Change in Business, Government and our Community:

“In the workplace, psychological barriers exist as well. … Public speaking, for example, is a fear shared by many. This manifests itself for some employees when participating in large meetings or giving presentations. Some employees do not perform well in these circumstances and later they reflect their frustration at how this nervousness prevents them from demonstrating their real potential.”

Factor 2 – Physical abilities

Physical ability can limit ability to change.

Via ADKAR: A Model for Change in Business, Government and our Community:

“For some people, physical limitations may prevent them from implementing change. Take the simple task of keyboarding.  Individuals with limited dexterity or arthritis cannot type without tremendous effort. Even when successful, the rate of text entry is very slow. Depending on the performance level required by the change, the new level of performance may simply be outside of the physical abilities of an individual.

In the workplace, physical limitations could include strength, physical agility, manual dexterity, physical size and hand-eye coordination.”

Factor 3 – Intellectual capability

Intellectual ability can limit ability to change.

Via ADKAR: A Model for Change in Business, Government and our Community:

“Intellectual capability can also play a role in developing new abilities. All individuals possess unique skills that fall on spectrums of intellectual ability. For example, some people have a natural talent when it comes to finance and math, whereas others excel at innovation and creativity. Some people are naturally good writers, whereas others struggle to put their thoughts and ideas into words.”

Factor 4 – The time available to develop the needed skills

Sometimes the change fails because there is not enough time.  For example, an individual has the potential to develop the ability, but not within the given timeframe, and so the change fails.

Via ADKAR: A Model for Change in Business, Government and our Community:

“Time can be a factor for many types of change. If a person cannot develop the required skills in the needed time frame, then the change could fail, even if the person might have the potential to develop these abilities given more time. In a business situation, the time frame for implementing change is often driven by external factors outside of the control of managers and supervisors.”

Factor 5 – The availability of resources

Sometimes the right resources aren’t available at the right time, and the change fails.

Via ADKAR: A Model for Change in Business, Government and our Community:

“The availability of resources to support a person during this developmental period will also play a role. Resources could include:

  1. Financial support
  2. Proper tools and materials
  3. Personal coaching
  4. Access to mentors and subject matter experts

The process of developing new skills and abilities is enhanced by the presence of a support structure for an individual. This support structure promotes the cultivation of new skills, but it also can address any knowledge gaps that may be revealed once the change is underway.”

Change is more successful when change leaders and change agents help individuals perform the new skills and behaviors they need to make the change.

And change is limited when individuals lack the ability to make the change.

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Image by Pawel Loj.

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