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How COVID-19 is forcing us to change...

Updated: Oct 4, 2022

You have heard and probably read great change management books like “Who moved my cheese?” by Spencer Johnson and “My iceberg is melting” by John Kotter. Change occurs all the time, even if we resist. When I led initiatives, I recall people saying yes to change but they really meant, “Yes to change as long as it’s for someone else.”

Boom! COVID-19 hits us in November of 2019. This virus does not discriminate and will not go away if you ignore it. In fact, if it did have the ability to communicate vocally it would encourage us to go about our normal way of living so it can propagate faster.

Corona virus is definitely a game changer. The whole world is affected, going through unprecedented changes, although everyone reacts differently to the pandemic. So how does change management look?

  • COVID-19 is the change

  • The doctors, scientists and governments studying this virus are the change agents. They have the difficult task of figuring it out, informing the public and attempting to contain the outburst by teaching us how to protect ourselves. They are the ones using change management.

  • We are the ones accepting or rejecting their change management.

So how are we, the population, accepting the change to the new normal? Let’s use the DOI or Diffusion of Innovation (also known as Law of Diffusion) established by E.M. Rogers back in 1962 to answer this question.

DOI is widely used today, diffusing, or spreading an idea to the masses in the hope that it will be adopted. It is about how well you relate the message that gains traction altering the way people see things. The one vehicle the change agents have in their arsenal is communication. How they communicate will make a huge impact on how effective you will be accepting and adopting their measures against the virus.

The DOI chart identifies the five adopter types:

Each section of the curve describes a group of individuals:

  • Innovators: willing to take risks

  • Early Adopters: judicious decision-making

  • Early Majority: follow the early adopters' instincts

  • Late Majority: skeptical to change but will once they see others

  • Laggards: averse to risk and change

When the change agents are conducting their change management, they will use methods like:

  1. Knowledge: they are exposing you to what the virus can do; but they may not have all the information. In some cases, it may not inspire trust.

  2. Persuasion: they will persuade you by showing you people on ventilators and how quickly the virus spreads. This practical approach will get your attention, and arouse your interest, inciting you to actively seek more information.

  3. Decision: they will weigh the advantages / disadvantages of the virus and decide what to let you know in order to contain the outburst; at this point they are also looking at how well people have taken to their communications. From your end, you may receive it as fake news, rejecting the change management. You may know of someone that has gotten the virus and feel that more information needs to be shared. You will see this is the case if you go to YouTube, google COVID-19 and get a laundry list of people affected telling their story. These folks along with a majority of the viewers are most probably adopters.

  4. Implementation: they determine what measures need to be in place to contain the virus; a great example is wearing a mask and lately, people wearing goggles or visors. You can see the adoption rate by looking at who adopted the mask, washed their hands, practiced socially distancing, and quarantine as recommended. The places where the implementation has failed is basically shown by the number of cases increasing due to parties and crowding without protection.

  5. Confirmation: they finalize their decision on measures that the population will use and hope we adopt them. Unfortunately, we have not reached this point since the experts are still learning about the virus. We will attain it, once they know all there is to know and can answer the question: “why are the people who don’t have the virus getting together and next thing you know they are all infected?”

From your end, using the COVID-19 pandemic as an example can help you understand how you have adopted the change management. Clearly, this virus only cares about spreading and staying alive. Hopefully, you are on the side, wanting to eradicate the virus and stay alive. Using the Law of Diffusion, we can measure when you decide to believe the change agents and follow their safety protocols. Despite all the great work these experts are doing, we still see people believing this is all a bad joke. Where do you land?

  • Innovators: Besides the doctors and experts at the forefront of this pandemic, were you also part of this bracket? Did you watch what was happening in China and Europe, listen to the WHO that declared it a pandemic at the end of February 2020 and started self-quarantining? If you did, then you are in this category.

  • Early Adopter: In March 2020, your government asked everyone to start quarantining at home for 3 weeks. Everything except essential services were closed. Did you believe the experts at this point, listened to the recommendations, and quarantined? If so, you are in this bracket of adoption.

  • Early Majority: It’s now the end of March, beginning April 2020. You continued watching the news and seeing that others were following the government’s quarantine measures. Now you see the numbers of deaths occurring at the epicenters around the country and it makes you believe this is no longer a joke. You decide to quarantine and when you go out you wear the protective gear. If this is where you were then, you are in this bracket of adoption.

  • Late Majority: You don’t believe it’s going to happen to you. So, you go about doing what you do. The communications are not working. But then you find out someone close to you has the virus. Worse, they are on a ventilator. Well, now that it has hit home, you start thinking this may be more serious than you once thought. You’re like the thirty-year-old in Texas who went to a COVID party thinking it was just a hoax, ended up contracting it and dying. Keep in mind, the doctors are doing everything in their power, so this will not happen but ultimately, it’s your decision of how to live your life. If you are in this bracket, I would suggest going to a hospital near you to see with your own eyes what happens when you contract this virus and think of adopting the protocol to avoid playing with your life.

  • Laggard: You do not believe any of the news thinking they are making it worse than it really is. You definitely do not care to change your way of life. You’re your constitutional right! You walk into stores without a mask. Congratulations, you are COVID-19’s best friend! Unfortunately, chances are the only way you will change is when you contract the disease and are fighting for your life. You may be lucky and come out of it alive or you may have constitutionally become a statistic by dying.

Keep in mind this change has affected your way of life and the choices you make will have an impact on your life and on that of your loved ones. This virus has no intention of going away just because you ignore it. At the end of the day, you can choose to be on the side of the virus or that of the doctors. COVID-19 is sticking around for the long run. So, until a vaccine is made available, where you decide to be on the curve will dictate your livelihood. So, stay safe!

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