Vilfredo Pareto: The First Productivity Master and What He Discovered

The Man Behind the Rule

Vilfredo Federico Pareto, was an Italian economist.

One day he realized that the 80 percent of the pea pod harvest from his garden came from the 20 percent of his pea plants.

This discovery made him think about the uneven distribution. He kept digging and discovered that the 80% of Italy land was owned by the 20% of the population.

In other words, 80% of Italy's wealth belonged to only 20% of the population.

Developing the concept

The 20/80 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, is one of the most useful concepts for productivity and time management.

It states that 20 percent of your activities will generate the 80 percent of your results.

This is a concept and can be applied to whichever activity you can think of:

  • 20% of the input creates 80% of the result.
  • 20% of the customers generate 80% of the business revenue. 
  • 20% of the workers produce 80% of the results. 
Before moving to the next section, let me share that the 20/80 ratio is an estimate, most of the times the real ratio may not be the same, but be close.

The 20/80 applied to Project Management

Let's try to land this concept and find some practical examples in our field.

The Critical Path

We as project managers tend to build tools to have control over our projects. 

We create Timelines, Action Logs and so on... but sometimes we may lose the focus on the tasks that are essential to project success. 

These tasks are called "the critical path". 

If one of these tasks gets delayed, it has a big impact in the project timeline. This is where we should be focusing most of our energy.

Stakeholder Management

Project Managers spend most of their working schedule communicating:

  • Follow up calls with our team.
  • Vendor management activities.
  • Executive reporting to project sponsor.
  • Steering Committee.
  • And the list could keep growing...

BUT, the key is to identify the 20 percent of communication activities we do that produce the most outcome possible.

Have you heard about the Power/Interest Matrix?

This matrix is a tool for identifying project stakeholders based on their Power/Interest level against the project.

If we complete this exercise, we will get the list of Stakeholders with high level of Interest and Power. 

We should focus on managing theses ones.

Final thoughts

Allow me now to close the loop.

In my last post I wrote about the Sacred Hours and how they could boost our productivity. I won't go today through this concept again.

In case you lost it. You can check it here

So, now you may see the synergies:

First, we identify the 20 percent of tasks which generate the most success.

Then we use the Sacred Hours to focus on these tasks and definitely boost our productivity.

Are you already using any of these productivity tips? I'll be happy to read you in the comments section.

October 13, 2022


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