So let’s start with a definition or an understanding of the ‘Pareto Principle’?
“The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) states that 80% of the results come from 20% of the causes.”
Let me give you an example of how I used this many years ago. I was the training manager in a company that had a centralised typing pool (I did say it was many years ago). Staff in the pool struggled to turn the work around within the target of 24 hours. As a Consultant, I was asked to look at what training was needed.
80% of typing pool problems came from 20% of the causes
I started out by analysing the issues and discovered:
The 4 issues mentioned were some of many mistakes that I identified. When I looked at the statistics they accounted for around 20% of the errors but around 80% of the wasted time. The 80/20 rule applied! (80% of the problems came from 20% of the causes.)
The solution: I coached the typing pool supervisor and deputy to coach the authors (and her staff) in a proactive way. The result; after 3 months the target time of 24 hours was being achieved more regularly, and after 6 months all the time.
So what is the link with project management?
I have worked with project managers, project sponsors and team members. They talk about their problems – and do they talk!
Now I have not done any formal analysis as I did with the typing pool. However I feel that if the 80/20 rule were applied then many of the problems mentioned would effectively be prevented. What are the problems – that account for 80% of issues people face?
If these 3 issues were proactively managed then many of the problems around delivery of projects would disappear. Now I know some of you reading this will say this is too simplistic. I would argue that so many problems around project management can be identified even before the project kicks off. The 3 identified account for the 80% of problems are holding back project delivery (from 20% of the causes)
So what can project managers and team members do?
Focus on managing out the three problems.
Ensure there is a written project definition signed off by the sponsor and involving key stakeholders. Carry out a formal and in depth stakeholder management with a range of actions, including effectively communicating to all parties. This can also include developing influencing skills of all project managers (influencing without authority courses can easily be run for project staff). Finally, personal organisation skills can quickly be developed again with the application of time management principles and techniques alongside clear priority setting by the organisation.
Project managers need to solve problems and if they solve only the top 3 then their lives would be a lot easier. Of course, your problems may be different however it is still up to you to solve them, proactively
Maybe the title of this article should read “The Pareto Principle should be alive and well in project management?”
Do your own analysis and let me know what you think.
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