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? rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.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:
- Own Your Space
- Since we spend so much of our waking lives in our offices, it's surprising how few of us take control
of our immediate surroundings. If you do — if you make your space uniquely yours — you'll
feel better about the time you spend at work.
- Games for Meetings: IV
- We spend a lot of time and emotional energy in meetings, much of it engaged in any of dozens of ritualized
games. Here's Part IV of a little catalog of some of our favorites, and what we could do about them.
- Problem-Solving Preferences
- When people solve problems together, differences in preferred approaches can surface. Some prefer to
emphasize the goal or objective, while others focus on the obstacles. This difference is at once an
asset and annoyance.
- Embolalia and Stuff Like That: II
- Continuing our exploration of embolalia — filler syllables, filler words, and filler phrases —
let us examine the more complex forms. Some of them are so complex that they appear to be actual content,
even when what they contain is little more than "um."
- Paradoxical Policies: II
- Because projects are inherently unique, constructing general organizational policies affecting projects
is difficult. The urge to treat projects as if they were operations compounds the difficulty. Here's
a collection of policies for projects that would be funny if they weren't real.
See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming April 1: Incompetence: Traps and Snares
- Sometimes people judge as incompetent colleagues who are unprepared to carry out their responsibilities. Some of these "incompetents" are trapped or ensnared in incompetence, unable to acquire the ability to do their jobs. Available here and by RSS on April 1.
- And on April 8: Intentionally Misreporting Status: I
- When we report the status of the work we do, we sometimes confront the temptation to embellish the good news or soften the bad news. How can we best deal with these obstacles to reporting status with integrity? Available here and by RSS on April 8.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.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 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- 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.