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.
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!
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
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenZLkFdSHmlHvCaSsuner@ChacbnsTPttsdDaRAswloCanyon.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:
- Team-Building Travails
- Team-building is one of the most common forms of team "training." If only it were the most
effective, we'd be in a lot better shape than we are. How can we get more out of the effort we spend
- In the Groove
- Under stress, we sometimes make choices that we later regret. And we wonder, "Will I ever learn?"
Fortunately, the problem usually isn't a failure to learn. Changing just takes practice.
- Workplace Barn Raisings
- Until about 75 years ago, barn raising was a common custom in the rural United States. People came together
from all parts of the community to help construct one family's barn. Although the custom has largely
disappeared in rural communities, we can still benefit from the barn raising approach in problem-solving
- Healthy Practices
- Some organizational cultures are healthy; some aren't. How can you tell whether your organizational
culture is healthy? Here are some indicators.
- The Deck Chairs of the Titanic: Strategy
- Much of what we call work is about as effective and relevant as rearranging the deck chairs
of the Titanic. We continue our exploration of futile and irrelevant work, this time emphasizing
behaviors related to strategy.
See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 8: Kerfuffles That Seem Like Something More
- Much of what we regard as political conflict is a series of squabbles commonly called kerfuffles. They captivate us while they're underway, but after a month or two they're forgotten. Why do they happen? Why do they persist? Available here and by RSS on February 8.
- And on February 15: Four Razors for Organizational Behavior
- Deviant organizational behavior can harm the people and the organization. In choosing responses, we consider what drives the perpetrators. Considering Malice, Incompetence, Ignorance, and Greed, we can devise four guidelines for making these choices. Available here and by RSS on February 15.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenZLkFdSHmlHvCaSsuner@ChacbnsTPttsdDaRAswloCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, 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, )
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, )
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, )
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, )
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, )
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, )
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 500-1000 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- 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.