Pareto: 80% of Your Time is Spent on Trivialities
The 80/20 rule (Pareto Principle) indicates 80% of your activities are trivial and 20% deliver results. Who wants to go to their CEO and say I’m wasting 80% of my time?
It’s shocking to suggest that 80% of an employee’s time is available for richer activities. It’s even more uncomfortable to apply that rule to ourselves.
You may be thinking, if 80% of my activities are trivial, why am I stressed out and time pressured? One reason, you haven’t identified triviality. What are you doing that doesn’t take you where you want to go – that doesn’t deliver results?
I was reminded yesterday that organizations support their mission with trivial activities. For example, when someone signs off on documents they don’t read, they’re engaged in trivial activities.
You may suggest that the sign-off is to keep them in the loop. Is the delay worth it? Would a weekly or monthly report satisfy the need?
Is your team spinning their wheels? Maximizing their time and energy requires clear direction, guiding values, planning, goals and objectives, prioritizing, scheduling, controlling, delegating, and more.
Drucker explained, “Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.”
80% of our time is spent on trivialities because effectiveness and efficiency require persistent intention and focus.
A word of caution:
Accepting the challenge of effectiveness and efficiency drives some toward ineffectiveness. You may believe honing processes, procedures, and getting more things done is the answer. There’s a place for that. But, effectiveness and efficiency begins with people.
Great teams love delivering meaningful results; enable them.
How can leaders create effective, efficient environments where team members spend more time delivering meaningful results and less time on trivialities?
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This is so good, Dan. As a systems-oriented/task-oriented person, I read your post and was reminded that people come first. I’m guilty of setting up some of THE best routines and notice they are delaying the end result.
As far as my own 80/20, I have an accountability partner who helps me stay focused on at least 3 results-producing tasks each day.
Scott, you made me laugh with your comment about routines that delay the result – I’ve done that! And kudos on your accountability partner; that’s a great help if you can find an effective one.
I thought I was ranting but your statement about hits the nail on the head … “routines that delay results” … I’m heading off to tweet that!
Dan, this topic makes me cringe, because of the distinction you point out between efficiency and effectiveness. We operations folks are all about efficiency, but with people too much focus on efficiency can hinder effectiveness; it can add stress, devalue social interaction, and so forth.
And you hit the nail on the head when you point out that organizations waste people’s time as frequently as people do. Legacy thinking (“This is how we’ve always done it.”) keeps us requiring the same things long after need or technology has passed them by. A key leadership point is that every time you make an improvement, go back to see what (report, signature, data capture) has been made unnecessary. If you don’t you’ll find that 5 years later you’re still manually recording batch temperatures when the programmable logic control now does it automatically, to take an example from my world.
My suggestion for whittling away at the 80%: focus on the what with your team and worry less about the how. Let them find the best way to the result you want. In fact, give them permission to temporarilty stop anything they thing is unnecessary. If they’re right, you’ve gained. If they’re wrong, someone will speak up and then you’ll know.
Excellent post! Applying the 80/20 rule to oneself and one’s team definitely has it’s merits. Stephen Covey calls it putting 1st things 1st ( http://wp.me/pZiRD-4A ). Covey explains that the Important but not Urgent activities are the really valuable tasks that make a difference. Some people don’t even get 20% of their time in that quadrant though.
Thanks for sharing.
Great teams love delivering meaningful results; enable them.
Although your post focused on efficiency, it is the subjective word “love” in this sentence that drives a team’s ability to be efficient – they ideally must love their role in delivering meaningful results – and love it enough to defend their “why’s” when they are given a role in defining how something gets done. It is not easy sometimes for subordinates to point out tasks that have become “barnacles” – tasks done because they’re “in the procedure” even though they have long ago lost all usefulness.
You sure added a useful dimension to this conversation. Be sure to include the whys! Great call!
Best to you,
Paula is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read her bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/paula-kiger
“80% of our time is spent on trivialities because effectiveness and efficiency require persistent intention and focus.”
I have another word for trivialities, its routine. As humans we love routine and ritual. That monthly report comes to us at the same time every month and we know what to do when we get it. It is comforting in a way. Its that comfort that we resist giving up.
When you talk to the team about effectiveness and efficiency, talk to the newest team members first. They have the least invested in the routine and are the most likely to be willing to see the things that need to be changed.
Excellent tip on talking to new guys first, Bonnie. Thanks.
I think Greg caught a key idea you offered. Go to the new folk first. I’ve found there are few things more interesting, disruptive, and helpful than a set of new eyes.
I’ve invited “outsiders” in as undercover investigators to tell me what they see. Not to catch people doing wrong stuff just to see and give an outsiders interpretation to things we are doing.
I believe that leaders create environment that determines effectiveness. Efficiency is created by process and effective use of technology and resources. Generally leaders take various measures to motivate people. These measures are more related to incentive and promotion etc. But I think, they need to focus on increasing morale which is beyond monetary gain and more on relations, affection, transparency and leaders being self exemplary.
I strongly believe that leaders can not create lasting positive impression only my putting motivating measures in force. They need to connect with people. They need to create personal respect with people. Over and above, people should realize and feel that they are getting equity and justice in the organization.
Great post Dan. I often work with leaders who genuinely believe it’s helpful to insert themselves into every aspect of what their employees are doing. It’s almost as if they believe that the act of appearing to be really busy (and in charge) is the same as actually doing meaningful work. Paradoxically, they could easily get more done by doing less of what they currently do.
You provide powerful insight into each posts. However I have to confess that I do not read these until several days after originally posted. You stimulate great comments from others which provides a broader thought-provoking process.
I truly appreciate your hard work in putting together “Leadership Freak” for all of us. Thanks!
Thanks for the good word Doug and for contributing to the discussion. I read all the comments. Dan
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