Cheryl couldn't believe what she was hearing. As Regional Director of IT Services, she would be implementing the new procedures for requisitioning desktop and laptop equipment, and she could see chaos looming. She felt that familiar knot forming in the back of her neck as she envisioned hoards of frustrated project managers screaming for her head.
Maybe it was time to retire and open that florist shop — but she couldn't really afford that. She would have to find a way to make this work, or find another job someplace.
Before the changes, IT Service Representatives received requisitions for new equipment, and checked them for correctness and compliance with standards. If there were any mistakes, the Service Rep would contact the requisitioner. Under the new scheme, the Service Reps would simply bounce the form back to the originator. They would no longer assist requisitioners in fixing defective requisitions. According to headquarters, this would reduce costs: "It's time they grew up and learned how to complete a simple form."
The form was simple, but the equipment being specified wasn't. And since the list of approved configurations was changing constantly, lots of requisitions would bounce. Some projects would be delayed, and Cheryl could see how her department would be caught in the middle.
Next morning, she had a brilliant idea. Instead of worrying, she would anticipate. Here's what she realized:Use Pareto's Principle
(the 80/20 rule) to
focus your attention.
By addressing 20%
of the problems, you can
eliminate 80% of your load.
- Accept what is
- True, this was a problem Cheryl never should have had. She would much rather have led of a customer-centered approach, without the cavalier bouncing back of out-of-band requisitions, but that issue was above her pay grade. Stewing about it just made her angry. So she accepted it, and that enabled her to anticipate the consequences.
- Use Pareto's Principle to focus your anticipation
- Cheryl recognized that Pareto's Principle (the 80/20 rule) meant that 80% of the difficulty came from 20% of the cases. For IT Services, most of the problems came from only 5 of the 22 site administrators responsible for requisitions. Cheryl decided that she would deal with the "Fabulous Five" specially — perhaps a personal visit from a Service Rep to explain what would happen to their requisitions under the new procedure.
- Prevent problems rather than repair them
- By coordinating with Training and the managers of site administrators, she would make sure that requisitioners had all they needed to get it right. Cheryl reframed the problem from one of making massive repairs to one of reducing the error rate.
There is much information on the Web and elsewhere about Pareto's Principle. For example, visit CDS Solutions, or J. A. Schumpeter, 'Vilfredo Pareto', in Ten Great Economists from Marx to Keynes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1965. Order from Amazon.com
Is your organization embroiled in Change? Are you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt? Read 101 Tips for Managing Change to learn how to survive, how to plan and how to execute change efforts to inspire real, passionate support. Order Now!
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbreniMwghQGRSprvYQbhner@ChacGAigAyqCfZIUPjuWoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Email Antics: I
- Nearly everyone I know complains that email is a time waster. Yet much of the problem results from our
own actions. If you're looking around for some New Year's resolutions to make, here are some ideas,
in this Part I of a little catalog of things we do that help waste our time.
- Knowing Where You're Going
- Groups that can't even agree on what to do can often find themselves debating about how
to do it. Here are some simple things to remember to help you focus on defining the goal.
- Discussion Distractions: I
- Meetings could be far more productive, if only we could learn to recognize and prevent the distractions
that lead us off topic and into the woods. Here is Part I of a small catalog of distractions frequently
seen in meetings.
- Management Debt: II
- As with technical debt, we incur management debt when we make choices that carry with them recurring
costs. How can we quantify management debt?
- Creating Toxic Conflict: I
- Many managers seem to operate as if their primary goal is to create toxic conflict among their subordinates.
Here's a collection of methods for sowing toxic conflict that can help bad managers become worse managers.
See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming November 22: Motivation and the Reification Error
- We commit the reification error when we assume, incorrectly, that we can treat abstract constructs as if they were real objects. It's a common error when we try to motivate people. Available here and by RSS on November 22.
- And on November 29: Manipulators Beware
- When manipulators try to manipulate others, they're attempting to unscrupulously influence their targets to decide or act in some way the manipulators prefer. But some targets manage to outwit their manipulators. Available here and by RSS on November 29.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenpNIDPdAhaiBkjmArner@ChackOzCIONTvUkkUkCroCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- Ten Project Management Fallacies: The Power of Avoiding Hazards
- Most of what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we know "just ain't so." Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully. Even more important, avoiding these traps can demonstrate the value and power of the project management profession in general, and your personal capabilities in particular. In this program we describe ten of these beliefs. There are almost certainly many more, but these ten are a good start. We'll explore the situations where these fallacies are most likely to expose projects to risk, and suggest techniques for avoiding them. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
- Your stuff is brilliant! Thank you!
- You and Scott Adams both secretly work here, right?
- I really enjoy my weekly newsletters. I appreciate the quick read.
- A sort of Dr. Phil for Management!
- …extremely accurate, inspiring and applicable to day-to-day … invaluable.