How to use “Quantum Change” and the 80% Rule to Get Decisions Made
One of the simplest things is also the one that derails many IT transformation efforts: the ability to make decisions.
BATTLING OVER BITS AND BYTES
One of the biggest reasons that consensus becomes a problem is that the discussions devolve into the lowest common technical denominator. The deeper that a conversation or debate gets into the technical weeds, the harder it is to ever find consensus – there are just too many ways to skin the cat. Everyone has an opinion and the more technical the discussion, the less likely it is that everyone understands the nuances enough to debate the topic fairly.
So, teams spiral down battling over the minutia and trying to find common ground where they have little basis for common understanding. Throw in a dash of ego and politics and it’s easy to understand why decisions never get made and change never comes.
MOVING FROM TECHNICAL TWEAKS TO QUANTUM CHANGE
Overcoming this consensus paralysis requires that IT leaders elevate the conversation. You need to get your teams past the minutia and get them focused on the big problems that are facing the organization.
You need to get them focused on Quantum Change.
Used effectively, this focus of moving past the technical tweaks and looking for fundamental changes to how your organization operates can have a cathartic effect. It forces the teams to look beyond themselves and their comfort zones, look at the big picture and focus on a big, hairy audacious goal. (All due deference to Collins and Porras.) Doing so causes teams to be able to find a moment of quiet and to actually come together around something bigger than any one of them or their technical fiefdoms.
In reality, most people like the idea of instituting Quantum Change. They want to be a part of something big. Something that lasts. Something that has a real, meaningful impact. They’ve just been programmed after years and years in corporate environments that big, crazy ideas aren’t allowed. So, they’ve resigned themselves to fighting it out over the little things because that’s all they have to work with.
But given the option, most people will leap at the opportunity to be a part of something that is setting out to make “Quantum Change.” Give them that chance.
AN ACE IN THE HOLE
There’s an additional, secret little benefit that comes from setting out to affect Quantum Change.
It becomes a card that your “change agents” can keep in their back pockets and pull out whenever teams start to get mired down in the muck. When the team gets a little lost and the normal battles around minutia start to ensue, your initiative lead or other change agents can whip out the “Quantum Change card.”
“Guys, we need to move past this discussion. We’ve not been sent into this to make little changes. We’re here to make Quantum Change – and this thing we’re arguing about really isn’t going to help us do it. So, let’s agree that this won’t be perfect, let’s make a decision on this one and move on. We’ve got bigger fish to fry.”
And they move on. This may sound like a script from some lame, Sci-Fi B-Movie, but I’ve been in the room and heard that conversation unfold. And you know what happened? The team thought about it, nodded and moved on. A decision was made. Everyone knew it wasn’t perfect. Everyone didn’t agree. But they were after something bigger, so they made the decision and kept moving.
WHEN 80% RIGHT IS PERFECT
This brings us to the second powerful member of the dynamic duo in the change agent’s toolbox – the 80% rule. When combined with Quantum Change, the use of these two tools can accelerate your team’s effort and create a tremendous amount of momentum.
The rule is simple. Whatever you’re putting in place doesn’t need to be perfect. It doesn’t need to solve every problem. It doesn’t need to be the 100% right solution to whatever the problem is.
It just needs to be 80% right.
It’s a little bit like the Pareto Principle in reverse. The last 20% of the “right” solution will cause you 80% of the grief and team-destroying battles. That 20% is where all of the technical nuances live. It’s where all of the battles get fought and it’s where projects come to a grinding halt.
It can actually be a lot of fun to watch this get invoked. It’s like a free pass that gets pulled out as meetings get contentious. “I’m invoking the 80% rule,” someone will say and the team will take a break. They’ll legitimately consider whether they’ve gotten to 80% and if they have, they’ll make a decision and move on.
It sounds crazy. It sounds way too simple, but it really works. Try it.
CLOSING THE LOOP
There is one additional piece, however, that is required to make this work. When you agree to settle for something that’s 80% right, that means that it’s going to be 20% wrong. Most of the time, that 20% contains a bunch of stuff that’s not really that important; but sometimes it is.
For this to work, it’s critical that a Continual Service Improvement program be in place – even if it’s a rudimentary one. There must be a mechanism to correct whatever isn’t right and to fix whatever doesn’t work. It’s the only way that you can get your teams to agree to accept 80% and it’s the only way to ensure that you don’t inadvertently wreak havoc on your environment.
But with a simple CSI model in place, you will have the power and freedom to move quickly and get things done. You will be able to break through the consensus paralysis that has held your teams captive and you will begin to create lasting change in your organization. As teams find that decisions can get made and that change really occurs, it creates a powerful momentum for continual and ongoing transformation.
Most importantly, it begins to break through all of the cynicism and apathy that has built up over the years – as your team learns that they really can make Quantum Change.
Founder & Institute Fellow
Charles Araujo is a technology analyst and internationally recognized authority on the Digital Enterprise and Leadership in the Digital Era who advises technology companies and enterprise leaders on how to navigate the transition from the Industrial Age to the Digital Era. Having spent over thirty years in the technology industry, he has been researching Digital Transformation long before it became the uber-buzzword of today, and is now focused on helping Digital Era Leaders prepare themselves and their organizations as the macro trends of the primacy of the customer and the primacy of the algorithm collide, ushering us into what he calls The New Human Age.
Principal Analyst with Intellyx, founder of The Institute for Digital Transformation, author of three books, and most recently the co-founder (with his wife) of The MAPS Institute, he is a sought-after keynote speaker and has been quoted or published in CIO, Time, InformationWeek, CIO Insight, NetworkWorld, Computerworld, USA Today, and Forbes.