My Story: ADKAR and Quarantines

In my professional life, I apply the Prosci ADKAR model of change to projects to help Zennify customers move their people through embracing, adopting, and using new technology. Now I find myself applying this ADKAR model of change to my personal life to make sense of my own transition to this surreal pandemic lifestyle. I have found this helpful as I work through my process of accepting the new normal, and I hope you will too.

The Basics

ADKAR is an individual model of change that states that in order to be successful with a large scale change, each individual must move in a linear direction through this change process. To be successful in flattening the COVID-19 curve, we all need to go through an individual transition to pandemic life. The process:

  • Awareness of the need for change
  • Desire to participate and support the change
  • Knowledge of how to change
  • Ability to implement required skills and behavior
  • Reinforcement to sustain the change

ADKAR Applied to Pandemic Life

Awareness: A month ago, I was unaware of how my behavior could potentially affect others. Facts were hard to come by and I’m a healthy adult, so I figured if I got sick, no big deal. Then I became aware of the WHO-China Joint Mission Report stats, that showed the extremely high death rates in the over 70 crowd AND in people with cardiovascular disease and diabetes (which is about half of US adults). The research also found that a person can carry and spread COVID-19 for days before showing symptoms (if they have symptoms at all). Ok virus, you have my attention. Are you aware? What data is informing your worldview?

Desire: After gaining real information, I understood that while I may not be in a high-risk group, many others are. I could act as a conduit without realizing it and my actions could contribute to someone’s death. Ego check: My boredom at home doesn’t justify my going out and spreading contagion that leads to overburdened hospitals and death. Seeing graphs about flattening the curve were also helpful motivators to change my behavior. But now I need to know what to do, how to protect myself and others. If you don’t want to do anything differently during COVID-19, what’s really motivating your actions? Are you aware of what’s going on out there?

Knowledge: How much social distancing space is enough? What about small social gatherings? How do I safely get groceries? Are my Amazon boxes safe? What about vegetables that are hard to wash? Knowing what to change, and how, was a process. I kept a focus on experts: the WHO, the CDC, and ICU doctors to help me learn what needed to be done. These resources are all available for you to look at too – new information is coming out every day.

Ability: All of us who have tried to stop touching our faces know that knowledge is only half the battle. I’ve been wearing my hair up to reduce the need to touch my face, but I’ve also been wearing a mask if I have to go out, not to protect me from aerosolized virus, but to remind me not to touch my face. We all know that 20 seconds of handwashing is mandatory, but I need to use some kind of clock to count down for me. I’m definitely going to buy that 20 second light up soap dispenser. What do you need to put in place to support your behavior changes?

Reinforcement: Playing games online with friends and video calls reminds me that we’re all in this together. I’m checking in more with others and they are checking in with me. I’m trying to diet the news, but stories from hospital frontlines, nurse friends, and countries like Italy help remind me that even though everything seems fine from my front yard, it’s still raging beyond my line of sight. Being stuck inside feels too normal, so I’m making regular virtual contact with the rest of the world to reinforce that things aren’t normal, and I’m doing the right thing.

We all adjust to change differently and the ability to adapt is so critical in our current environment. The ADKAR model is just one way to support your adjustment to our new normal. One of my favorite things about how people are adapting is the creativity and selflessness so many are exhibiting. If you have your own tips or would be interested in other ideas, we encourage you to reach out to your Zennify contact. Remember, we are all in this together!

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