There is always a gap between perception and reality. Communicators have to operate within that space trying to narrow the gap and strengthen their intended message.
The government opted to use moral suasion to get citizens to stay at home, but a drive or walk through neighbourhoods, towns and cities gives a perception of non-compliance. People are going about their business as usual.
What else accounts for the number of cars parked around certain establishments? What else accounts for the foot traffic in certain areas?
What we are experiencing is the surreptitious opening of various establishments in order to survive. As a people we have mastered the ‘sneak’, and this will continue until there is serious enforcement of the rules across the board and a reduction in the perception that some are more equal than others.
We are doing well in limiting the spread of Covid-19 by applying sound science while appealing to the non-scientific feature of duty and morality.
This is really an appeal to a deeper sense of responsibility and concern amongst our people forgetting that our dominant behaviour is to ‘fix yuhself first’. Further the systems, structures and process which shape that behaviour have been crumbling. The ‘sneak opening’ is just another way to work around the system.
For us to emerge on the positive side of Covid-19 we need to embark on a massive culture change initiative with buy in at all levels. Even if the prime minister’s ‘dream team of 22’ comes up with a most appealing plan, it will fail unless the people are energised around implementation.
I note recently the life given to the legendary quotation from management guru Peter Drucker: ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. One interpretation of that quotation is that it means how things get done is more important than what is being done.
Our Achilles heel will continue to be the elements which feed into the Ease of Doing Business (EDB) indicator. The Covid-19 recovery strategy must comprehensively tackle those factors, which brought us from number 62 on the EDB list in 2010 to 105 in 2019.
The current prime minister has been in the Parliament for almost half of our period of independence. During his 29 years, he either witnessed or presided over the demise of some of our systems and processes.
He is now in the fortunate position to preside over the re-start of the economy. There are a number of things that are needed and all cannot be achieved, but my wish list comprises three areas of focus: ensure the final assent of the procurement legislation, reduce the number of state enterprises, and provide a laser focus on strengthening the systems, processes and procedures which will help our country move towards the lowest position we ever held on the EDB index.
The crisis of Covid-19 presents an opportunity for us to shape the future society of our dreams but we must listen with our hearts, create and support systems of compliance and provide open and honest feedback to our collaborators.
We can do this!