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Twinning: ADDIE & ADKAR

Having worked both as an Instructional Designer and Change Manager, I've often remarked on the similarities between the two fields. Maybe it's because so many of the change managers I meet have at one point been instructional designers, but I've always intuited a fundamental connection exists between the two. Whatever the case, I think it's a connection worth a closer look, and a great way to do that is by comparing ADDIE and ADKAR, the methodologies of instructional design and change management, respectively.

Note: While there certainly exist differences between the two worth exploring, as well as additional similarities that will remain unexplored in this limited space, my intention in what what follows is simply to bring attention to the most striking similarities.


First, I think it's important to highlight the fundamental connection between change and learning. Learning is a process of constant change, and it is only through change that we can learn. It's almost as if change and learning are two sides of the same coin, or perhaps two aspects of a unified process. I won't belabor the point, but I challenge anyone to think of a change that doesn't involve some form of learning, or to describe learning that doesn’t entail change.

"Change is the end result of all true learning."

- Leo Buscaglia

With that in mind, let's turn our attention to instructional design and change management. Broadly speaking, both fields focus on creating effective and efficient systems for learning and change. A key similarity between the two is the way they both use systematic and data-driven approaches to design and implement solutions. By making sense of the similarities between these fields, instructional designers and change managers can lean into the strengths of each to create cohesive and effective solutions for learning and change in organizations based on the project's specific needs.

The ADDIE model is a systematic approach to creating effective instructional materials. It consists of five distinct but interconnected phases: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. Each phase is focused on understanding the learner's needs, creating instructional materials that are effective and efficient, and evaluating the results of the instructional materials. On the other hand, ADKAR is a systematic method for implementing change in organizations. In 2003, Prosci, a leading change management organization introduced the ADKAR method. Like, ADDIE, ADKAR consist of five phases: Analysis, Knowledge, Design, Action, and Review. It is commonly used in business and aims to create efficient and effective change. Each phase is focused on understanding the organization's needs, creating a change plan that is effective and efficient, and evaluating the results of the change.

Both start with an analysis phase where the situation is thoroughly evaluated and a range of information is collected to guide the design of the solution. In ADDIE, the analysis phase involves determining the scope, needs, and goals of the learners and the learning environment. Similarly, ADKAR's analysis phase focuses on identifying the scope, needs, and goals of the organization and the current state of the change. In both ADDIE and AKDAR, the analysis phase is crucial for understanding the problem or opportunity, and for creating a solid foundation for the design of the solution.

Additionally, both ADDIE and ADKAR include a phase for evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of the solutions: ADDIE's Evaluation phase evaluates the instructional materials while ADKAR's Review phase evaluates the change. Although the evaluative tools used for each may differ, understanding results in measurable terms and making improvements for future iterations is crucial for each.

Clearly, instructional design and change management share specific traits, but the larger and underlying point is how both fields concern themselves with learning through a process of constant change, and how it is only by enacting change that learning can take place. By understanding and utilizing these similarities, instructional designers and change managers create effective and cohesive solutions for learning, and change in organizations. Rather than viewing them as distinct fields, it can be valuable to recognize them as two sides of the same coin.

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