80:20 Vision… The Pareto Principle
I’m not lazy, but I am a great believer in taking the most effective route from A to B. That’s why I love the Pareto Principle… otherwise known as the Principle of the Least Effort.
The principle is named after an Italian Economist (unsurprisingly called Pareto), who recognised an observable trend: 80% of Italy’s land was owned by 20% of the population. He also observed that this extended outside of economics; for example, 20% of the pea pods in his garden provided 80% of the peas.
A management consultant, Joseph Juran, applied this principle to quality… and discovered the 80:20 principle still stood in this setting. He considered it “the vital few and the useful many”.
So, what does it look like in real-life?
I’m not sure what business you work in, but say you work in sales… I bet 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers. And so the universal principle applies:
- 80% of results come from 20% of your efforts.
- 80% of complaints come from 20% of your customers.
- 80% of a company’s productivity comes from 20% of its staff.
- 80% of a shop’s storage is taken by 20% of it’s stock.
The Pareto Principle is a fantastic tool which you can use to help you target your efforts to achieve the maximum positive impact and optimum results. Let me demonstrate:
We’ve all got 3 million things to do each day and our to do lists can often start looking like the first few books in a new Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Use the Pareto Principle to target your efforts. Identify the 20% of activities and actions that will yield you 80% of the results you need to achieve. Focus your efforts on these before moving onto the 80% of activities that will yield you that missing 20%.
If you’re problem-solving, then pull the Pareto Principle out of your work survival toolbox and get to work. The Pareto Principle would dictate that 80% of your issues are caused by 20% of causes. When you’ve identified your root-causes, use the Principle to analyse what causes are linked with what issues, and identify your 20%… then focus your efforts on those 20% of causes to resolve 80% of your issues.
You can also do the same with Continuous Improvement proposals by identifying the 20% of changes you can make to prompt 80% improvements.
If you’re trying to make savings (whether it be monetary, resource, time etc), then use the Pareto to establish which 20% of activities cause the 80% of waste in a process. Eliminate or improve these to implement significant savings in your business, team or workload.
Hopefully the Pareto Principle will help you purposefully and effectively focus your efforts to achieve maximum results, while reducing pressure and stress at the same time.
Even if you do nothing else this week, remember to focus your efforts on the 20% that matters.