James Governor's Monkchips

"Which third are you?"

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When I talk to enterprise organisations that are undertaking a digital transformation project one of the recurring themes concerns staffing. Generally, the folks driving these initiatives are pretty clear that not everyone is going to make the cut – in fact what I have heard repeatedly is a rule of 3.

A third of employees are ready and only too willing to make the change – they are using Slack already, they’re using SaaS services that haven’t yet been passed by corporate compliance to drive business results.

Another third of employees is open to persuasion – if a DevOps or agile project is clearly successful, if there is some management buy in, if they’re supported in making a cultural and process change then they’ll commit, and help the organisation succeed.

The last third of employees however are not willing to change, they’ll dig their heels in, refuse to adopt new working practices, or learn any new skills. The answer will be simply – no, we’re not changing because we’ve always done it this way. Unfortunately this constituency is not going to make the cut in a transformation that involves staffing and resourcing changes, which is of course all successful transformation initiatives.This attitude might come across as callous, but the IT industry has a continual skills shortage. There are going to be jobs available even for people that refuse to adopt new methods.

It’s important to stress that attitudes to change, new technologies and learning are definitely not age based. You’re going to find all 3 types in people of all ages. There are plenty of life long learners who are still innovating well past retirement age

The segmentation i am laying out here is clearly not scientific – it is not delightful like the 1957 Rogers model of innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards in farming innovation.

But the model sort of makes sense in a potentially useful way. I was talking to an executive yesterday driving a transformation agenda at one of HPE’s customers yesterday. She asked how to deal with employees that flat out refused to learn new skills. I talked about my rough rule of thirds – and she nodded and said simply:

“So I need to ask them, which third are you?”

Yep. I probably need to work out some catchy names for the 3 types. I would love to know your suggestions. As a working model how about change agents, persuadables, and heeldiggers.

HPE is a customer.


  1. the quick, the dead, er..

  2. Who do you think will admit to being in the last third if you give it a name like that? Call it skeptics or something.

    1. donnie i am not sure anyone will admit they are!

  3. realists ?

    also, the pyramid does not show thirds, but a majority of realists..
    it’s probably not a third, but more like the 16% of laggards from the earlier diagram. Most of the realists with their job under threat will be willing to become part of the late majority.

    also, the IT industry doesn’t have a skills shortage, but that’s another argument..

    1. ha. there is that. i just thought a pie chart would be kind of sucky. yes not the greatest visualisation ever.

  4. […] “Which third are you?” – asks James Governor from Redmonk. The thirds being change agents, persuadables or heel diggers. All about your attitude to change. Every organisation has every type, and you need them all onside – or at least enough of them – to make stuff happen. […]

  5. yes, maybe, no

  6. Radicals, Responders, Conservatives

    1. @aidandunphy nice! “Radicals, Responders, Conservatives” indeed

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