Unleash Productivity With Clarity — How To Put First Things First.
In 1896, a scientist at the University of Lausanne noticed something unusual. After examining the distribution of land ownership in Italy, he saw that about 20% of the population owned almost all cultivated land.
Amazingly, the same distribution seemed to be repeated elsewhere, too, not just in Italy. 20% of the population owned about 80% of the land. Wherever Wilfredo Pareto looked, he saw the same thing.
Much later, a management expert Joseph M. Juran formulated “The Pareto Rule” based on these observations. He said that 80% of the companies’ turnover seems to come from about 20% of the customers.
Correspondingly, An Englishman, George Zipf, discovered a similar phenomenon in his linguistic studies in 1949. He noticed how people used only a small part of the vocabulary in most everyday conversations in all languages that he studied. A minority of the words covered the majority of communications.
It was a revolutionary insight for learning languages. It meant that anybody could learn new languages much faster than the original assumptions were.
But what has the Pareto principle got to do with project management?
The same phenomenon applies to software development. Here’s an example. According to a 2002 Microsoft report, fixing 20% of most reported bugs solved 80% of system-wide problems.
Similarly, 80% of the system gets coded in 20% of the time allocated. Then the last 20% of the system development consumes 80% of the total time-budget.
Now answer this.
If 80% of the results came from 20% of the work, when the last time you discussed with the team which one-fifth of activities was most important?
If you can’t remember, check out the tool below and do what it takes!
If 20% of work creates 80% of results, what work is the most crucial? What activities make the needle move the most?
Protip: First, do this exercise alone and for your role. Then take this to your team.
Step 1: What does your typical workday look like? Start at dawn. And describe all activities using a bullet point list.
(Example: Morning coffee, Huffington Post, Scrum meeting, phone calls, emails, slack messaging, coding, messaging again, coffee break)
Step 2: Looking at your list, pick three activities that produce most of the results vital to you. Circle the items on the list.
Step 3: For the three items, reflect in writing: What would happen if you could double or even triple your focus and time around this specific activity?
Step 4: Now comes the critical question. Think about all your daily activities; which of them could you ignore or shrink significantly to give you more focus and time on what matters?
Step 5: Experiment. Plan a perfect day when you only focus on the three most important activities and ignore everything else. Then, schedule that plan. Make sure you setup out-of-office replies to email and block the time on your calendar too!
Bonus step: After the test, write a journal entry for yourself. How did it feel like? What did you accomplish? Should you repeat this experiment or tweak it a bit?
P.S. Are you a someone who is committed to excellence? The FREE ”What Makes Software Awesome” E-Book I wrote might be for you. Check it out here: https://prove.guru/ebook
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