COVID-19 series : Before the Pandemic and How it all Started

These last couple of weeks have been full of stress, uncertainty, chaos. More and more of us are now faced with the fact that we need to be working remotely to save our business and support customers. This means a different set of rules, efforts and dynamics. This change has also been a way for us to test the maturity of our business/professional practice and processes.

For the first time in a long time, I feel like we have an opportunity to rethink the OCM approach and what it entails in times of crisis. Is it agility? Is it ensuring the right priorities? One thing for sure, COVID-19 is hitting us as much at a personal level than at the professional level.

Follow us in this series of articles where we relate our experience and what we’ve learned so far. We’ll talk about communications in business as usual times, resistance and how it evolves during a crisis, and finally we’ll explore crisis management in times of change. Let’s start at the beginning, the pre-COVID-19 phase.

Once upon a time… before the crisis

Looking back in time, we were first made aware of COVID-19 in mid-January and we were looking to post a communication to help people become more aware of COVID-19 and what we needed to do to stay healthy and safe. It was business as usual where we needed to work on a simple article relating mostly to how we should prevent being sick from Cold and Flu.

In January, we didn’t quite have the knowledge to understand the urgency behind this request. Little did we know that by mid-March this would become our daily routine and surely, we did not think we would be managing in crisis mode.

Back then, we had the right reflex to start asking pertinent questions and reviewing if we had everything, but we still didn’t quite know what we were getting ourselves into. Following that first communication, we wanted to get more information to help support our employees in case there would be an outbreak. But we never even thought it would be possible that we were going into crisis mode. The business itself was still caught up in its processes, capacity and priority management.

And then it started hitting us… slowly

Then arrived the beginning of February. We felt we needed to get ahead and make sure we started gathering and sharing the right level of information concerning COVID-19. So, we started reaching out to the organisation and proposed to build a communication plan concerning health and safety to see what would need to be done to start communicating more frequently.

With what we knew at that point, we were ahead of this curve. We built our first communication plan, established an operational level of governance to help bring this more in to project mode, and we had all the pieces in place to follow the normal change curve.

We started by building a health and safety campaign across the organization and named some champions across the organization to make sure all information was available out there. It worked and we got the job done. At that point, people did what was needed, but we had no sense of appropriation of its content.

We felt that the Awareness and General and Individual Understanding phases were under control (see learning curve below) because we had engaged with key players in the organization and with managers to ensure they put in place the right set of activities to ensure our health and safety plan was in place.

All we needed to do was to focus on Embracing, Appropriation and Integration, which are the hardest to realize because engagement is complex and much harder to attain good results

This is the learning curve concept we use in our change management toolbox because it provides the sense of how we can help people learn about the change and what is coming. In normal circumstances, this is how we would have further engaged employees.

In our next articles

We’ll talk about what happened to our communications plan and how once a crisis hits, what we consider normal business as usual (BAU) didn’t apply anymore. We’ll also introduce the concept of the change curve, and then talk about resistance vs sense of urgency, and crisis management.

Stay tuned for our next article named COVID-19: When the change curve bent.

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