It never ceases to amaze me how the “80-20
Rule” applies in all aspects of business and life.
I love to fish, and when I go with my neighbor — we are usually successful. A few weeks ago, the two of us
were nearing our limit of 25 crappie (white perch) each and I looked around to see nine other jealous fishermen close by not
catching anything. One of them shouted at me: "I want your spot when you leave!" — to which I replied, “Why?
They are all under your boat as well!” What we knew, that he didn’t, was that the fish were at least four feet
deeper than most of them were fishing. Of course, they moved in on our spot like piranhas when we left, but I doubt they caught
more than a few fish the rest of the day.
see the same thing all the time in business where folks are not focused on the really important issues. They spend a lot of
time running around doing unimportant stuff, like fishing at the wrong depth, that adds few fish to their catch — never
optimizing their opportunities.
is prevalent throughout industry and is there for the taking — if we know how to capture it. Successful companies identify
their critical 20% opportunities, using simple Pareto charting, and sponsor Focused-Improvement Teams to go after those opportunities.
So many times, I have seen Focused-Improvement Teams pulled off truly great work to get distracted on new “Program-of-the-Year”
or “Flavor-of-the-Month” activities. How discouraging for the team members to know they are so close to real success
but now must go do what the CEO or another manager has seen to be a popular tool or buzz-word. Japanese words have caused
a fair share of distraction over the last three decades and now what’s next? Is it time for Indian or Chinese distractions?
It is these distractions, looking outward to see
what others are doing rather than analyzing their own fishing area, that have left significant opportunities on the table
or caused them to fail by introducing the wrong focus.
Unfortunately, we no longer have time in most companies for focusing on the 20%. We see 10% of problems causing the
most significant impact. The focus should be on that 10% causing the biggest problems or presenting the biggest opportunities
for our businesses.
How does this relate to our day-to-day activity focus?
“The only projects that count are the ones that are
completed and unfortunately most companies are focused on too many projects and don’t accomplish much of anything.”
— Ken McClymonds, P.E., Principal Consultant — OpEx Solutions, Inc.
For example, in two case studies, companies were trying to bite off 20% initiatives in their strategic plan. Going
through 20% caused them to delay finalizing their strategic plan between April and May, two months in which activities had
to occur. How much better would it have been to bite off only 10% of the significant few and be ready to go by January, or
even February, instead of half way through the year? How much greater chance would there have been of executing the initiative
successfully with a running start rather than losing five whole months of execution?
initiatives and frequent leadership changes cause more and more never-ending changes resulting in a downward spiral.
The success cycle is taking the significant few initiatives (10%) which leads to realistic and timely planning, thus
enabling high probability of execution which then leads to success. Team morale is excellent when team members are actually
able to accomplish their mission without being diverted or spread too thin.
In summary, while the 80-20 Rule is useful — the 10% Rule is more effective in today’s world.