Thursday, July 18, 2024

Conquer Change and Win: The 20-50-30 Rule

Last updated on November 23rd, 2017 at 01:28 pm

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.

—Charles Darwin


The rule states that 20 percent of your group or staff is going to be change friendly, 50 percent will be neutral (the wait-and-see folks), and 30 percent will be resisters. The 20-50-30 Rule has been around a long time.  It is the truth very well told.  Unfortunately, those who do not believe it are missing out on a lot of wisdom. I have found it to apply to every situation where accurate data has allowed me to measure such things.  This rule has proven invaluable to me over the years. One reason some do not believe it is that it is so simple and matter-of-fact.

The rule also states that the leader should spend 100 percent of his or her time with the undecided group and the change-friendly group and ignore the resisters. Resisters cause 80 to 90 percent of the problems and make the most noise. They will try to poison the other 70 percent if you give them a platform. Let’s face it. Some unfortunates just will not change, so spend no time with them.  (These squeaky wheels should get no oil!)

I know it is sometimes hard to just forget about 30 percent of the people in your group, but talking to them is a great waste of time. They are generally not in favor of any change. Spend your time, money, and effort on the 70 percent who are willing to change or are neutral. Don’t argue with those who are not on your side. They will enjoy the spotlight and cause problems for you. Failing to ignore the resisters is a major error many make, and this costs those  people a lot of unnecessary stress, misery and failure.

Some resisters will come around and go with the majority in time, but most won’t. It’s just not your job to worry about the resisting 30 per- cent. Ignore them.

conquer change 20-50-30 rule

However, not everyone is equal when it comes to resisting change or embracing it. This rule tells you the truth about the group as a whole. Never forget about the individuals in the 70 percent. They do not all think the same. They do not all have the same talents.  They do not all have the same attitude. They are not all natural leaders.  These four examples are just the tip of the iceberg when discussing the differences you find in every group.

In some change-management movements I have been involved in, sometimes the leaders forget that each group is made up of individuals. They try to treat everyone as an equal.  Do not fall into that trap when working with any group. Every group is made up of individuals—not clones.  When leading a group, you need to discover what each individual is good at and exploit his or her positives. You should lead your 70 percent by seeing your group as what it is: a group of individuals agreeing with your plan or premise in time. All this might seem obvious, but it’s amazing how those in charge (who are otherwise solid leaders) make the mistake of treating each person the same. As a leader, be sure you live in the real world.

Some individuals have more influence than others.  Here is what I mean.  The more powerful the resisting person (employee), in terms of job title, position, and longevity, the more success he or she will have in resisting.   Less-well-positioned   employees   might   resist collectively through an organization, such as a union or a clique.

How do these individuals resist? Resistance to change appears in actions such as verbal criticism, nitpicking details, failure to adapt, snide comments, sarcastic remarks, missed meetings, failed commitments, in- terminable arguments, lack of all verbal support, and outright sabotage. There are many other kinds of resistance.  Those mentioned are some of the most common. The 30 percent who are the resisters might resist as a collective group. The vast majority of them will more often resist as individuals in that group.

The 20-50-30 Rule has worked for tens of thousands of people. Your life and your company will improve and become less stressful if you use it. It works every time. Sometimes the hardest part of the 20-50-30 Rule is to believe it is true.  If you can believe this rule on a consistent basis, you will succeed more and have a lot less stress in your life. If you are a leader, the 20-50-30 Rule will improve your ability to lead. The benefits are hard to overstate.

In the next chapter we will go into more detail about the resistance to change and how to handle it successfully.  You will learn what only a few ever have the chance to know.


Reprinted with permission from the author. If you’d like to continue reading, you can get your copy of Conquer Change and Win by Ralph Masengill, on Amazon, Kindle, and in bookstores everywhere.


Feature image source: Felix Brönnimann



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Ralph Masengill
Ralph Masengill
Ralph Masengill is one of the original change agents in the United States. Before the quality movement came into vogue, he and his associates were presenting seminars and papers to senior management across the nation on quality and change. He and his team were pointing out that until a business, a team, or a person is willing to understand and submit to positive change, effective quality improvement and substantial profit enhancement were not probable. Masengill and his associates have always worked from the industry or business side of marketing.