Can!do follows the 80/20 rule for change management

April 12, 2023by Editor

Change is a key theme for organisations looking to remain competitive in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape. With the implementation of new technologies and processes, it is easy to lose sight of the most important aspect of any change initiative – tangible, measurable results.

 Can!do understands the value of being real and practical – something that is reflected in our approach to change management. Using research-backed methodologies that deliver real outcomes, Can!do partners with South African enterprises to bring about successful change. 

Part of this change management methodology is the 80/20 rule. Based on this principle, it is understood that 20% of the change will have 80% of the impact. With this in mind, Can!do tracks change at every step of the process. Unlike other change management metrics, which focus only on the measurement of the final outcome, this approach ensures a higher level of success at each stage of the change process.

What is the 80/20 rule? 

Also known as the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 rule was first introduced by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto in the early 20th century. Pareto observed that 80% of the wealth in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. This led him to develop the principle that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. 

The principle was later popularised by management consultant Joseph M. Juran, who applied it to quality management in the 1940s. Juran observed that 20% of the defects in a manufacturing process were responsible for 80% of the quality problems. He also noted that 20% of the customers were responsible for 80% of the complaints. 

Since then, the 80/20 rule has been applied in many different contexts, including business, economics and social sciences. The principle is used to identify the most important factors or stakeholders in a system or process and to focus efforts on those areas that will have the greatest impact. Today, the 80/20 rule is widely used in change management and organisational development as a way to prioritise efforts.

The rule implies that a small group of stakeholders (the “vital few”) can have a disproportionate impact on the success of a change initiative. By focusing efforts on engaging and mobilising this group, organisations can maximise their chances of achieving their desired outcomes.

Case studies of the 80/20 rule 

Companies that prioritise and strategically implement the most critical changes are able to save time, resources and effort while still achieving significant improvements in performance, productivity and profitability. There are many examples of companies that have successfully applied the 80/20 rule to change engagement.

Kaizen is a Japanese term that means “continuous improvement” and is a key principle of the Toyota Production System. It involves making incremental improvements to every aspect of an organisation, with the goal of achieving continuous improvement over time. Toyota has successfully implemented Kaizen to reduce defects, improve delivery times and increase employee engagement. 

Toyota recognises that there are “vital few” employees who have a particularly strong influence on the success of change initiatives. These employees are known as “Key Persons,” and Toyota invests heavily in engaging and developing them to drive change throughout the organisation.

As with all companies in the tech space, IBM has undergone several major transformations over the years. Each time the company has recognised the importance of engaging the “vital few” to drive change. For example, during the company’s transformation from a hardware-focused company to a services-focused company, IBM identified the top 300 executives who would be critical to the success of the change initiative. These executives were given special training and support to help them lead the change effort. 

We can also get inspiration from another tech giant – Google. The company’s innovative culture is built on the concept of “20% time.” This means that employees are encouraged to spend 20% of their work time pursuing projects that are not part of their core job responsibilities. 

While this may seem like the opposite of the 80/20 rule, it actually reflects a deep understanding of the importance of engaging the “vital few” to drive innovation. By giving employees the freedom to pursue their passions, Google taps into the creativity and energy of its most motivated employees to drive change and growth.

Can!do applies the 80/20 to change management  

As a change management consultancy, Can!do helps companies apply the 80/20 rule to bring about successful organisational change. As noted in the case studies, successful change requires a strategic approach that focuses on the vital few changes that will have the most significant impact on the performance. 

By leveraging the expertise and experience of a multidisciplinary team, Can!do assists companies in applying the 80/20 rule to change engagement in several ways. Through an objective stakeholder analysis, Can!do assists companies in identifying the “vital few” – the key stakeholders who will have the most significant influence on the success of the change initiative.

From there, Can!do consultants develop an engagement strategy that focuses on building strong relationships, while also listening to concerns and ideas. This helps to engage staff – making them more likely to support and participate in the change effort.

The next step is to develop a communication plan that ensures key stakeholders are kept informed throughout the change process. This includes developing messaging that resonates with the stakeholders’ values and goals and using communication channels that are most effective for each stakeholder group. Can!do also provides companies with change management tools, frameworks, coaching, training and mentoring to support the successful application of the 80/20 rule.

By partnering with Can!do, organisations benefit from the necessary expertise and experience to successfully apply the 80/20 rule to change engagement. We are able to do this at scale and within budget. For more information about our services, please contact us today.


Can!do works with large enterprises in South Africa to maximise the value of their employees, technology and business processes. To do this, we offer three fundamental services; change management, capability development and performance optimisation

We have 30 years of experience in these fields and have worked with leading companies in South Africa. We are a certified Level 2 B-BBEE company and a leading provider of new business systems and processes that drive user adoption. For industry insights and news, please follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.


Where to find us

Ground Floor, Building 26
The Woodlands Office Park
20 Woodlands Drive
Cape Town
12 Dalmore Ave