Joseph Juran died on Feb 28, 2008 at the age of 103. He was the man who coined the ‘Pareto Principle,’ named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of income in Italy was received by 20% of the Italian population.
We’ve all heard of the ‘80/20’ rule – books have been written about it, and the Pareto Principle has been applied to all sorts of things, such as:
- 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of your effort
- 80 percent of usage is by 20 percent of users
- 80 percent of problems come from 20 percent of causes
- 80 percent of complaints come from 20 percent of customers
- 80 percent of sales will come from 20 percent of sales people
- 80 percent of work absence is due to 20 percent of staff
- 80 percent of your time spent on this website will be spent on 20 percent of this website
The relevance of Juran’s message is obvious enough – focus on doing things that produce the best outcomes for you, whatever that might mean. It’s not obvious though, and it goes against the grain of much of what we have been taught.Usually, people have a tendency to believe that they should focus on what they do badly in order to improve. And there is some sense in this – some skills (driving a car, for instance) can be improved a lot by practicing. But continually focusing on what is weak instead of working on the ‘bright spots’ can be a fatal mistake since it can cause you to neglect that which you are good at and which you enjoy.
Imagine if Michael Jordan had thought he was pretty good at basketball and had focused on improving his golf game, instead. Or if Tiger Woods had spend time trying to improve his basketball. We would have had two people who were quite good, but not great, at either game.
You can apply the Pareto Principle to your own life in all kinds of ways.
Reduce the amount of time you spend doing any job you don’t like.
I know people who work long hours at a job they don’t enjoy. They might say they have no choice, but in reality there is always a choice – unless you work on a production line, you probably have some freedom in how you approach your job and you can restructure things so that you’re spending more time on what you are good at.
Increase the amount of time you spend doing what you love.
You’re more likely to be productive when doing what you love, so focus on this. We sometimes have a tendency to think that enjoyment is a bad thing; if we’re not ‘working hard’ then we’re not giving value for money. This kind of thinking is self-defeating – doing what you enjoy will increase your productivity.
Delegation is not the same as ‘passing the buck,’ or getting rid of your dirty work. It is getting a job done more effectively and leaving you more time to be productive.
The bottom line is: do what you love and you will be more productive.