Do you think the Kenyan Government is doing a good job with change management for the Covid-19 crisis? Are there lessons we can draw from the initiative? Is it safe to say the lessons and or successes are more perceptual and the evidence is anecdotal? Be as it may, it doesn’t mean it would be difficult to fairly judge how well it is doing and draw key lessons.
There are two possible perspectives to evaluate the Government’s effectiveness in change management by, namely process and immediate results. The process perspective focuses on establishing how close the Government is aligned to known and generally accepted change management principles, practices, and standards. The immediate results perspective is interested in identifying any outcomes realised especially the intended ones.
Before we do the analysis let’s remind ourselves that change management is all about instilling a permanent change of attitude and behaviour among key audiences.
The Process: Perspective
There are various established theories, models, and best practices in leading and managing change. Some familiar ones include, The Kart Lewin’s Unfreeze-Change-Freeze model, John Kotter’s eight steps to leading change, McKinsey’s Seven S model, and PROSCI’s ADKAR® (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement) and PCT (Project Change Triangle) models. This article will not discuss the models in detail; rather we will seek change management lessons from the Government initiatives related to the Covid-19 crisis aligned to the models mentioned.
Some of the Government’s Covid-19 response initiatives clearly align with known change management models and principles and we will highlight a few here.
- Creating awareness: Based on the ADKAR® model, the Government has put a lot of effort into creating Awareness. The use of daily press briefings, mainstream, and social media, and public education by County Government officials, enables information and updates to flow throughout the country.
- Instilling a sense of urgency: Aligned with Kotter’s eight steps of leading change, the Government has implemented the first step and created a sense of urgency. It has clearly communicated the imminent dangers of ignoring precautions and directives issued, shared statistics on the impact of the disease from other countries, and clearly demonstrated the urgent need for a concerted response to the crisis. This has also served to generate the necessary Desire (ADKAR®), among citizens in making individual choices to comply and do the right thing.
- Having a guiding coalition: The Government has created a multi-sectoral team or a cross-functional team to lead and guide the change. The President is the Chief Sponsor, the Cabinet Secretary for Health is the Chief Champion and various sector or ministry heads serve as Change Agents or Co-Champions. This aligns well with Kotter’s second step of creating a powerful guiding coalition and with PROSCI’s PCT model. It recommends effective leadership or sponsorship of change, effective management of the change initiative or project, and effective change management; the people side of change.
- Knowledge of what to do: The ADKAR® model states that change succeeds when people have the Knowledge of what is expected of them and how to do it. The Government’s multi-faceted communication approach has clearly laid out key behaviour changes required among citizens. These include maintaining hygiene, keeping social distance and minimizing movements among others.
- Empowering teams for action: Based on another of Kotter’s principles, the Government is making every effort to equip medical personnel and other key actors with the tools and facilities to effectively handle this crisis. This also aligns with Ability (ADKAR®) in ensuring that those on the frontline are capacitated and well equipped to handle the unfolding crisis.
- Creating short term wins: Aligned to the sixth step in Kotter’s model, the Government has identified and communicated gains so far. An example is the announcement of those who have been fully cured of the disease showing there is hope for others. The examples of success or short-term wins go a long way in Reinforcing (ADKAR®) the change message and desired outcomes.
Immediate results: Perspective
It is clear that citizens all over the Country are adjusting to and adopting new ways of living and working. There is evidence across the Country that people have taken seriously Government’s directives on managing the crisis. This can be considered as a positive outcome in attitude and behaviour change, following the various change management initiatives put in place by the Government.
It seems like there is still a long way to go in this crisis and we are yet to see how the days ahead will unfold. However, one big lesson is that whether by design or by default, the Government’s application of change management best practices appears to be heading in the right direction and yielding positive change management results.
The majority of sentiments on various social media platforms, the main communication feedback loop for citizens, indicate positive feelings about how the Government and the Ministry of Health are handling the crisis. This shows the faith and trust citizens have in the Government’s actions of demonstrably prioritising citizens’ interests.
Nonetheless, there are a few critics and people who don’t fully support Government efforts. This is typical of change resistance which happens in almost every change management situation and needs to be effectively identified and mitigated. As we have seen in the Government’s response a key way to address hardcore critics is sharing facts, figures, logic, and tangible results. It also helps to ensure that critics whether individuals or groups of people are properly onboarded as stakeholders by giving them focused attention to listen to and address their concerns. Critics may be uncomfortable to deal with yet they could have genuine and valid concerns that should not be ignored.
We keep hope alive and believe we will together make it through this crisis. And while at it, keep learning and innovating in whichever sector we are in, including change management.
Written By Dr. Antony Mburu