At this most difficult time amidst a pandemic that we as a nation seem to have been so significant and remarkably unprepared for here within these United States, I believe a lot of soul-searching is taking place—both personally and professionally—that will determine in part how the future unfolds for each of us in terms of how we live, how we behave, and how we see ourselves as part of a worldwide system.  After all, this pandemic didn’t single out one country, one government, or one people.  This is a global crisis and one in which only cooperation and collaboration are going to help resolve. State by state we seem to have risen to the challenge and are doing all the right things locally to keep us as safe as possible and help flatten the curve on this unfortunate situation.

This has been a great demonstration and example of change management in action according to the ADKAR model of change, created by Prosci founder Jeff Hiatt. ADKAR is an acronym that represents the five tangible and concrete outcomes that people need to achieve for lasting change—Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement.  This is a process model that flows from top to bottom as illustrated below.

According to the above definition, ADKAR is a model designed for permanent change which of course still leaves the door open for new information to help drive additional change if the current change needs to be improved upon.  The awareness of the need for change has certainly not escaped anyone as our personal and daily lives have been so significantly interrupted to become anything but normal.  I believe we have seen enough evidence to desire to participate in some of these changes.  We’ve been given the direction and the knowledge around what needed change and why and we’ve instructed in many cases as to action we needed to take enabling us to implement the behaviors.

Reinforcement has come in different flavors.  I happen to live in Massachusetts where we have a most level-headed governor that has calmly and confidently led us through these changes in a rational logical an unemotional manner.  Some states have mandated the behavioral changes and some have largely ignored the recommended changes, being more interested in the economic recovery than the recovery of our health and safety.  While some politicians seem to remain at the top of the pyramid, some actually willing to die in the name of the stock market recovery, Covid-19 has forced us regular and more sane folk to the very bottom rung of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs—food, shelter, safety, security, health, and employment. As I ponder this change process, and what we’re going through right now, I can’t help but wonder what among the many changes that have taken place so far will become permanent changes. Here’s what I envision.

Personal and Social Changes

One of the first things we’ve all been compelled to do is the social distancing and the frequent handwashing and the wearing of masks while in public places.  Effective as that is, I do see it continuing onward in some form once the pandemic has plateaued and starts a downward trend.  While I see us eventually getting closer and more personal over time, and perhaps shedding the masks in many situations, I do see some behaviors becoming more permanent.  Handshaking was never a health-conscious practice, to begin with, and I see that replaced with things like bowing or genuflecting or perhaps using the respectful Sanskrit Namaste greeting of hands pressed together with a slight bow—which means “the light within me honors the light within you.”

Visits to the supermarket have changed dramatically and some of the process changes have been long overdue.  Distancing is a good thing in general, although 6-feet may eventually reduce to 3-feet but the process of queuing for the checkouts and only having cashiers deal with one customer at a time is a welcome change that I see becoming a more permanent one.  Plexiglass barriers along with additional foot-traffic control, aided by technology, is where I see this becoming a permanent process change going forward not only within grocery stores but for shopping in general. The customer experience as I perceive is a most welcomed change.  I find my trips to the grocery store (despite some still barren or unstocked shelves) to be a friendlier, calmer, and more pleasant customer experience.

During a recent visit to a local pharmacy, I was met with newly installed plexiglass panels that provided a safer barrier between the customer and the pharmacist or pharmacy employees.  That’s a change whose time is long overdue. People who use pharmacies are often ill and they are there for medications.  Why would customers and pharmacy workers not want to be protected?

Professional Changes

Working remotely was something that’s always been challenging to businesses in general and for certain Theory X managers—those who assume that employees dislike work, are inherently lazy, unmotivated, and will do almost anything to avoid working and therefore need to be under watchful and constant supervision. Now that the pandemic has forced so many employees within businesses to be working from home—at least those whose work allows them to accomplish their objectives—this is beginning to prove to businesses and individuals that this can be done and done effectively.

Has this challenged some businesses?  You bet it has but going back to the ADKAR change model we see that it followed that process of ADKA out of necessity and now they’re at R because reinforcement is where the change is sustained, as that is the only current option available for many businesses and individuals.  While I do see an eventual return of employees to their business location, I do believe there will be new operational practices to keep those employees safe and keep viruses in general from creeping back into their work-life.  That makes perfect sense when you consider the more systemic issues of productivity losses when employees are sick and unable to work. Some roles will continue to work remotely.  Meetings over technology platforms such as Zoom will become the more prevalent way to remain productive and be more inclusive of teams and employees located in different geographies.

Those employees within training and development roles within their organization or those organizations whose primary offering is training will find more reason for converting over from in-classroom to online learning—whether asynchronous (self-paced) or synchronous (instructor-led) which will become the primary way of learning. We at HorizonCX had converted our in-classroom programs over to and instructor-led synchronous on-line course in January—well ahead of and, just in time for, the restrictions that were about to be forced upon us. The same holds true for colleges and universities where both on-campus and blended learning has morphed into 100% online.

What will this all mean for those businesses and academic institutions that survive the pandemic and not be forced into bankruptcy?  Smaller buildings and remote workers and smaller campuses with remote professors? It’s not out of the realm of possibility. Whether a campus or a workplace environment, think about all the things we touch with our hands.  Is this an opportunity for more voice-activated technology—a la Alexa?  How about restaurants and especially those that seemed able at times to cram 100 patrons into a space designed for only 50?  Aiming for-profits violating fire codes is one thing, but I see them quickly reconfiguring to cater to the safety needs and desires of customers and that becoming a more primary experience objective that many customers will demand.  Fewer seats in airplanes?  How about fewer flights in general, led by businesses really questioning whether they need to be sending employees to so many destinations, especially when remote-meeting technologies can accomplish many of the same goals.


The change will be incumbent upon us and require open-mindedness, discovery, new thinking, innovation, and creativity and the ADKAR model will be put to good use.  I hear people saying they can’t wait until things return to normal.  I have breaking news to share: You’re never going to see things return to normal—or whatever you thought was normal.  I hesitate to use the phrase “the new normal” because, the way I see it, that will be short-lived and replaced with another normal.  It might be better to think of this as the next normal until the one after that comes along to replace it.  That’s the power of change!!

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Karl Sharicz – Founder, CEO – HorizonCX, LLC. | December 27, 2019

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