The 10:80:10 Rule

The 10:80:10 Rule

March 30, 2015

Very few organisations have a genuinely mature innovative culture that continually challenges itself, drives continual optimisation and looks to continually review, assess and reinvent itself in response to changing market and customer demands. Most require some level of intervention either from an internally sponsored change initiative or an often externally facilitated one. Over the course of many years of my career, I’ve developed an observed rule of thumb; the 10:80:10 rule. This suggests that in any organisation where change is required, c.10% of the organisation is ready, open armed and open minded, seeing the need (for change) and wanting to get on with it; these are the “energisers”, the “champions” (of change). c.10% of the organisation face you with crossed arms and closed minds; the “nothing needs to change, it’s working just fine” crowd; these are the cynics, the neh-sayers, the potential “blockers and derailers” (of change). The majority of the organisation, however, the 80% will be on the fence. There will be a latent will for change in the organisation but many will have seen previous initiatives come and go and will be reticent to stick their head above the parapet until there are clear signs that it won’t get “shot off” and in fact that embracing change is to be positively supported (and rewarded) by the organisation. For any leadership team looking to drive change, these three organisational communities need to be engaged, no one community should be ignored least of all the “cynics”, which if left unchecked can create a disproportionate level of “noise” and increasingly weigh down the early, positive initiatives. Equally, the agents of change need to be supported and re-enforced to create early momentum and send the right signals to the organisation that change is to be encouraged and ultimately rewarded. These two communities are key to get engaged early to ensure that any change initiative is not killed at the starting gate. However, it is the “silent majority”, the 80%, that will actually be the deciding factor as to whether any change initiative will begin to take hold within the organisation and critically have a chance to embed and ensure the desired change outcomes are being realised. Genuine transformation therefore, is complex and hard work and requires committed leadership, organisational resilience and regular communications speaking to all communities within the organisation. If this communication is honest, timely and regular and importantly led from the top and through the Leadership team, then this is the best chance to create genuine change momentum.