Revisiting the “80/20 rule”

I had lunch recently with a friend who referenced the “80/20 rule” because someone had referenced it to her.  When we compared notes on what it means, we realized that neither of us was entirely sure. I realized in that moment that the term “80/20 rule” is part of my vocabulary but I have lost touch with it’s actual meaning. In the spirit of “Words Matter,” a blog I posted in September last year, I thought it was time to revisit the meaning of these words. In addition, I closed out 2014 by asking the question, “how are you spending the 24 hours you are given each day?” and this concept of “80/20 rule” is completely relevant, as I know that it relates to focus and leveraging time for the greatest impact and value.

What I re-discovered about the “80/20 rule” also known as the Pareto Principle, is that it means that 80% of the effect comes from 20% of the causes. 80% of the sales comes from 20% of the customers. 80% of the complaints come from 20% of the clients. 80% of the sales come from 20% of the products. In other words, as it relates to time management and focus…focus on the 20% that matters. Focus on the 20% that will drive results.

I, in fact, had this wrong. I was operating under the belief that 80% matters, so don’t sweat the last 20%. My interpretation was that once you get to 80%, the effort to achieve that last 20% going from 80 to 100% was not a good return on investment of time. Based upon this incorrect interpretation or recollection of what the “80/20 rule” means, I was devoting my attention to 80% rather […]

What can you learn by simply switching lenses?

Last month I spoke at the CLO Exchange, held on Coronado Island off of San Diego in southern California. A beautiful venue for a thought-provoking gathering of Chief Learning Officers and other learning professionals from around the country.

One of my messages was the importance of expanding beyond our functional expertise as learning professionals, to integrate best practices from other disciplines. Every function or discipline approaches problem solving through a particular lens, and often the solution can be found by simply switching lenses.

The case study I shared was about integrating marketing principles as learning professionals. I find that many learning and development practitioners struggle with how to get buy-in or support from the business leaders with whom they work for the portfolio of learning and development programs and services they offer. What is the ROI? How can we measure the outcomes? In a resource constrained world, both financial and human, business leaders are appropriately challenging their learning organizations as to the value of a leadership development workshop, or the rotational program for high performing talent. The natural tendency is to respond by defending the proposed workshop, to justify the cost of the rotational program, and to attempt to quantify the value of work that is inherently qualitative and difficult to measure. As an aside, I advocate for measuring business outcomes not the learning program, and linking the business outcomes back to the learning. But this is a topic for another blog posting…

Rather than falling into a trap of defending and justifying each workshop and program, what can we learn by looking through the lens of the marketing professional. Marketing teaches us the power of a brand. A strong brand equals a strong reputation. If you […]