Could ADKAR Apply to our Response to COVID-19?

    Jun 1, 2021 | Posted by Stuart Watson

    At the time of writing, some provinces in my home of South Africa seem to be in the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID NINETEEN - it's the middle of 2021, and whilst there are some promising signs, most notably the roll-out of vaccines, many of us are perhaps a little less optimistic than we may have been, say, at the end of wave one. The expression 'war-weary' or perhaps 'battle hardened' comes to mind. Make no mistake, we are still in a fight, and the enemy isn't giving up yet. Winter is here in the southern hemisphere…

    So, change management? How could that apply to COVID-19?

    Given that my work involves dealing with the change in business organisations large and not so large, in either an advisory capacity or in the classroom, I am wondering what the field of behavioural change has to offer at a time like this? Surely right now we need science, medicine, and government oversight?

    Absolutely no doubt about that, but we also need people to constantly reflect on their part in the change process. According to the Prosci methodology, change in a macro setting only happens when individuals successfully move through the respective phases of the ADKAR process; firstly Awareness followed with Desire then acquire Knowledge and foster your Ability and finally Reinforcement.

    There are no shortcuts, each person directly impacted by a change enters with their own values, culture, personality etc., and beating the pandemic demands a collective, uniform response. We all need to make sure we are taking all the necessary precautions to protect ourselves, our families and our fellow citizens. And so it is a simple matter of wearing a mask, maintaining social distance, and sanitising.

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    But is it that simple?

    My daily routine involves habitual reflection on the grim statistics of new infections, deaths etc., not only in South Africa, but internationally, especially as I consider my friends and family across the world. During the past year, I was working with a major pan-African retailer, helping them navigate a number of changes, when COVID reached South Africa - suddenly an existential threat to staff, clients, and ultimately operations became the major priority. COVID-19 had became more than just a threat to our health, but a significant threat to the economy. In the face of this seismic change, I have been reflecting on how ADKAR may apply, or perhaps even assist:

    • Awareness for example requires considering the what, why and the risk of not changing - the what is often clearly spelled out - the regulations are typically clear - it is the why and the risk of not complying which often appears lacking and would probably influence my behaviour more
    • And it is this search for the why that impacts on my decision to commit (the Desire)
    • Often the information we are presented with is contradictory, so Knowledge is confusing, and at times I find it hard it instantly adopt what is expected of me
    • And so, demonstrating the new behaviour (Ability) is compromised
    • Reinforcing the change lags far behind as I flounder, stuck wondering why

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    All right so what?

    As we emerge scarred from a brutal second wave, I am starting to wonder if we don’t need to be even more compliant than the law suggests - this was brought home to me whilst visiting a local restaurant just last week - they are open again, and everyone is packing in.

    Masks come off inside and we are all jolly again.

    But I know that this virus has not given up, that a third wave is possible, potentially likely, and I know that the risk of not changing my behaviour may be that I may get sick, and that will impact those around me.

    So I have Awareness. And I can choose to change (Desire). I have the Knowledge I need - even if masks are off for example, keep your distance, stay outside (or in areas where ventilation is good for example), and keep sanitising. So I can choose to demonstrate the capability, and decide where to go and not to go. Time to start doing that and reinforcing that constantly. Hopefully if my individual change is adopted by those around me, we can successfully navigate this change together.

    Learn more 

    Consider registering for our private Prosci® Practitioner Certification courses over the coming months, where you’ll gain access to many of the tools and templates that can help you in your change management work, including the ADKAR Model! 

    If you're interested in bringing Prosci change management training to your organisation, CMC Global can help! Get in touch for a conversation around how we can support you, and how we can meet your needs as an organisation.

    Topics: ADKAR, Planning and Executing Change Management