November 11

Leadership hack 016 – what 80/20 actually means

5There is much advice out there ‘don’t boil the ocean‘ or be ‘80/20‘.  A lot of people think that this means just do 80% of the work.  Few understand its true meaning that you should only focus on the very small, but very significant 20% of the work which creates 80% of the impact.

Understanding that 20% of the work leads to 80% of the impact is important in several ways.

  1. If you have limited resources (e.g., time, people, money) then you need to focus on the 20% of the work that will have the biggest impact, but focus on doing this well (i.e., don’t 80/20 the 20%)
  2. If you need to solve more than 80% of the problem then every additional percent is going to be harder than the last.  Getting from 80% to 90% will be far easier than getting from 99% to 100%

To use the 80/20 rule effectively you need to first understand if fixing 80% of the problem is good enough, and what resource constraints you have.   If solving over 80% of the problem is vital, then you need to understand the impact this will have on the level of effort and resources required.