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The Art of Productive Laziness for Project Managers – Part II (#2 in the series The Lazy Project Manager)
By Peter Taylor

Science behind the laziness – being focused

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) states that for many phenomena 80% of consequences stem from 20% of the causes. The idea has rule-of-thumb application in many places, but it’s also commonly misused, for example, it is a misuse to state that a solution to a problem ‘fits the 80-20 rule’ just because it fits 80% of the cases; it must be implied that this solution requires only 20% of the resources needed to solve all cases.

The principle was in fact suggested by management thinker Joseph M. Juran and it was named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80% of property in Italy was owned by 20% of the Italian population. The assumption is that most of the results in any situation are determined by a small number of causes.

So ‘20% of clients may be responsible for 80% of sales volume’. This can be evaluated and is likely to be roughly right, and can be helpful in future decision making. The Pareto Principle also applies to a variety of more mundane matters: one might guess approximately that we wear our 20% most favoured clothes about 80% of the time, perhaps we spend 80% of the time with 20% of our acquaintances and so on.

The Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule can and should be used by every smart but lazy person in their daily life. The value of the Pareto Principle for a project manager is that it reminds you to focus on the 20 percent that matters.

Woody Allen once said ‘80% of success is showing up’, I’m not so sure about that, I have seen projects where there was a physical project manager around but you would never have believed that looking at the project progress, or lack of progress.

No, better I believe to appreciate that of the things you do during your day, only 20 percent really matter. Those 20 percent produce 80 percent of your results.

So, you should identify and focus on those things during your working day.

Despite his title of ‘The Lazy Project Manager’, Peter Taylor is in fact a dynamic and commercially astute professional who has achieved notable success in project management, program management and the professional development of project managers: latterly as Head of Projects at a global supplier of performance system solutions, and currently as Director of a PMO at Siemens PLM Software, a global supplier of product lifecycle management solutions. He is an accomplished communicator and leader; always adopting a proactive and business-focused approach. He is also the author of ‘The Lazy Project Manager’ book (Infinite Ideas 2009) – for more information – www.thelazyprojectmanager.com – you can also subscribe to a series of free podcasts on iTunes (The Lazy Project Manager).

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