Change agents guide to 20/50/30 – or how to ignore your detractors in 2 easy steps

How to lead change management with 20-50-30 rule

While most of us have heard of the 80/20 rule there is another rule that can also be applied to everyday life. This is the 20/50/30 rule. Whilst the rule has been around for a long time, I first came across it in a financial context (see example here) but it’s also an excellent tool that can be applied to change management.

How does it work I hear you ask? Basically, it helps you carve up your organization into chunks of who will be pro your change project and who will be against it. This can help you structure your communications strategy and plans to

Used in change management the rule can be generally applied thus:

· 20% are likely to be advocates of the change
· 50% are classed as wait and see
· 30% are going to be against the change.

So the initial take away is that from the off only 20% of the organization are likely to be supportive of change. Bit of a shocking number eh? There are many reasons for this

That leaves the question of which group the project team should devote their attention to. The answer might seem surprising. The Project manager should focus on the elements of the organization that are advocates (20%) and undecided (50%) and not spend any time with those against. This is somewhat surprising given that those involved in change management know that most of the issues come from those that have a level of resistance to the project and it’s deliverable.

Let’s face it not pandering to those that are trying to drag you down takes some perseverance but the wisdom is that this group is unlikely to change and the time is much better spent influencing those that are likely to be supportive. The hope is that if you can create momentum with this 70% then some of the resisters will hopefully come along (but let’s face it the majority will not).

Part of the trick is identifying the influencers within 70%. It might seem obvious but the more power an individual has within an organization the more success they will have in their particular outlook on the change. For example, if they are a resistor and in a very senior position then you’re going to have problems. You should also consider those with lesser levels of influence as individuals but power as a collective group.

As a result of this it’s important that you don’t underestimate the challenge though in the 70%, all people are different (be that skills, knowledge of the change, overall outlook) and you will have your work cut out in delivering to this group. It’s just that your time is better spent on this group than a section of the organization that you may never be able to please. Your life will be less stressful and more productive by simply focusing on the 70% and ignoring the rest.

Of course, successful management of the 70% will involve a plan and that typically will involve a mix of communication and involvement (there is no better way of building advocates than to get them involved).

So, when the time is of the essence on your project (and let’s face it what projects aren’t) and you’re looking for a simple tool to help you then consider the 20/50/30 and let it help you drive the management of your stakeholders.

Have some thoughts on 20/50/30? We’d love your feedback in the comments section below.