The 20-60-20 golden rule of change management

If change is part of business and means progress, why is it so difficult? The 20-60-20 rule of change management answers how to tackle that.

When you try to make an important change in your business, you face two primary sources of resistance: your stakeholders and yourself. The root causes for that resistance are three basic instincts: the comfort zone, being in control and fear of the unknown (the change curve).

These causes are often intertwined, and addressing resistance to change becomes a complex exercise. One of the most frequent expressions is in the form of a Present bias. It happens when people believe that the transformational program’s future benefit is not a sufficient reward for the considerable effort they had to put in the present time. In other words, your team understands the purpose, but they think it is not worth the effort, the investment, the stress. 

The question is, how do you deal with it

How do you make people change for what you believe is better?

Use the 20/60/20 rule for change management strategy, which is also extremely popular in politics. 

It is about understanding people. There is never likely to be a situation when 100% of the staff will follow when transformation or growth hits the strategic agenda. So the first step in managing change is accepting that reality. 

The second is to understand that your people will fall into one of these 3 groups:

  • The supporters are usually about 20% of the people in your team, public, business, or organization. These people will support you always, no matter what. They believe in you, and they will buy in your vision. This group of people tend to like innovation and challenges. 
  • The indecisive (the majority) is about 60%. These individuals are unsure whether to follow you or not. They tend to prefer a safer environment but are equally aware that some changes are needed. They are open to being persuaded, but they are prerogative. 
  • The opposers are the remaining 20% who resist the change you propose because their beliefs lie elsewhere. They tend to disagree openly and can make your life hell if you do not handle them cleverly or dare to confront them openly. 

Leaders often make the mistake to focus all efforts on persuading the 20% of the opposers or totally ignoring them. Unfortunately, such plans are destined to fail for two reasons:

  • You will waste all your efforts to convince people who might never see your point because they have different goals, beliefs, and aspirations.
  • You are neglecting the indecisive, and they will drift further away from you under the influence of the opposers, who won’t lose this opportunity to gain more followers.

The best strategy to adopt is to strengthen your position with the 20% who support you, use their help and convince the indecisive about coming onboard. 

So, share your plans with your followers, give them management responsibility, involve them in decision making, make them part of the change journey and repetitors of your message for change. They will help you influence and convince the indecisive ones to join, to see that there’s a benefit awaiting everyone who puts effort into making change happen. 

Let the resistance part of the crowd watch, avoid confrontation with them and keep open communication. Then, as you progress and achieve milestones and quick wins, some of them will start buying in. And you, as a leader, will have the support you need to grow, to transform your business.