Mike Bland

Researching Laggards

Review comments on The Rainbow of Death have inspired a genuine research topic, but I need some help to implement it.

- Alexandria
Tags: Rainbow of Death, research

During the review process for The Rainbow of Death, a few commenters asserted that most organizations are composed of Laggards. On top of inspiring me to reconsider the role that Laggards play in the change process and to add the section on The Scarlet G, it got me thinking: How can I prove my own belief that Laggards aren’t such a large proportion of most organizations?

Wouldn’t you know, as someone who’s always tended to favor direct experience over data analysis, I think I’ve landed on a bonafide research subject. Here are the elements of my hypothesis (please forgive my amateur’s attempt to frame the issue!):

  • The proportion of Innovator and Early Adopter (i.e. Instigator), Early Majority, Late Majority, and Laggard populations across organizations remains roughly faithful to the bell curve used to illustrate the Crossing the Chasm model.
  • The perception of the proportions may depend on whether an organization may be classified as pathological, bureaucratic, or generative. (Thanks again to Jeff Gallimore and his "Decoding Culture: Beyond the Fluff and Back to Business" talk from DevOpsDays Balitimore 2017!)
  • This perception may also be correlated with the degree of ownership—however we may define that, perhaps in terms of pride of group identification, or influence over outcomes—that is felt across the organization.
  • Pathological and bureaucratic organizations may be more common in general; generative cultures may be more common in tech.
  • The perception of Laggards being the majority may be due to the prevalance of pathological and bureaucratic organizations, and whether those holding positions of power and influence tend towards the Laggard end of the bell curve (i.e. Laggards are rewarded more often; Pepper Lebeck-Jobe and I discussed this possibility, but neither of us can remember who posited it first).

If the data fits the hypothesis, I hope that it might change the perception of people throughout pathological and bureaucratic organizations, in that they may realize positive change isn’t such an impossible proposition given the population makeup is (hopefully) not so different from that of generative organizations.

If the data doesn’t fit the hypothesis, I hope that it might enlighten Instigators, executives, and stockholders as to why their organizations are so resistant to change, and inform and inspire creative approaches to overcoming obstacles.

In either case, I hope it’ll inspire further thought and research into what’s required to shift cultures from pathological to bureaucratic to generative, in terms of the strategies and tactics required at each step to convert Laggards into Late Majority members at the very least.

This seems like the kind of topic that would lend itself easily to a proper research survey. Is anyone who actually knows how to do this interested in helping me put it together?