Thought Leadership Articles

    Covid-19 and Change

    Mar 26, 2021 | Posted by Stuart Watson

    Catchy title, right? A simple mention of Covid-19 in the title and all of a sudden, we are guaranteed more attention. So why should you read on? Stay with me for a moment – as a social scientist and change management specialist, it is my considered view that one of the fundamental challenges we are facing right now as individuals, organisations and even countries is the need to develop a degree of change fitness, to help us confront the fatigue which the constant shifts we are going through right now require. 

    In a recent blog post, I suggested that applying the Prosci ADKAR® model was an excellent way to approach managing change at a personal level, since this model describes the sequential process of change which individuals go through; and of course, once we demonstrate Ability, we will have successfully moved through the transition stage, for that specific change 

    Having focused on ADKAR® as an individual change modelwe need to consider how to move ahead as families, schools, organisationsindustries and even whole societies. 

    Coming to terms with the fatigue of constant change 

    One of the challenges we face right now is that the future state is unfolding incrementally – each new day brings more insights, more people who have been vaccinated and (at the time of writing in early March in South Africa), a slow return to how things were before Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic approximately one year ago. 

    The challenge of course remains that we are still left with a lot of uncertainty – for some of us, we have started returning to our offices, and most children are back at school now. But the questions persist, including: 

    • Why do we need to return to a physical office if working from home worked? 

    • Isn’t it cheaper for the organisation if we continue to work from home? 
    • How do I know I will be safe working environment back at the office? 
    • What if new restrictions are put in place? 
    • I was more productive at home as I didn’t have travel time to work!
    • What if someone tests positive for COVID-19 on the day we return to work? 
    • How do we practice social distancing in the office? 
    • Do we need to wear masks in the office? 

    So, what is happening to us? 

    Kurt Lewin, a German-American psychologistknown as one of the modern pioneers of social, organisational and applied psychology, developed an early model of change, which he described as taking the form of a three-stage process. The first stage he called unfreezing. It involved overcoming inertia and dismantling the existing mindset. In the second stage the change occurs - this is typically a period of confusion and transition. We are aware that the old ways are being challenged but we do not have a clear picture as to what we are replacing them with yet. Lewin referred to the final stage as ‘freezing’, where the new mindset is crystallizing, and our comfort level returns to previous levels. 

    Years later, Prosci included an alternative view of these stages, defining them as the current, transition, and future states. As the graphic below reflects, reaching the outcomes/results we are looking for requires both technical and people-specific focus: 


    The technical side of the changes we are going through involves a significant amount of planning, communication, and implementation around vaccination, safety and cleanliness protocols etc.

    However, if we are to successfully overcome the constant change we are facing, it is the people side of change which will require focus. If we can successfully move the individuals in our families, organisations, industries and nations through the individual stages of the ADKAR® model, we are likely to succeed.

    5 Building Blocks 09.04.21 (002)

    But how?

    You may be shocked at this answer – process. Complexity in change within an organisation is often driven by the volume of people that need to go through their own individual change processes to a pre-set timeline. So how do we move large numbers of individuals successfully through transition? By following an orderly, structured change management process.

    Learn more

    If you’d like to learn more about this process, consider registering for one of our in-house certification programmes. 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.

    Interested to learn more about the Prosci ADKAR® model?

    Join us for our upcoming 'The Five Building Blocks of Individual Change' webinar on Friday 9th April! Register here.


    Lewin, Kurt (June 1947). "Frontiers in Group Dynamics: Concept, Method and Reality in Social Science; Social Equilibria and Social Change". Human Relations1: 5–41.

    Topics: ADKAR, Sponsors, Planning and Executing Change Management