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Get 100% out of that 20% effort


Published: May 29, 2013

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Now be honest: Are you overwhelmed by an overflowing inbox?  Do you struggle to clear your endless to-do list and feel as though you never spend time on the things that really matter?

Then join the ever-increasing ranks of the stressed and overworked Bahamian manager.

But what if you could achieve much more with less effort, time and resources, simply by concentrating on the all-important 20 percent?  This is the tantalizing promise that first came to light in 1897 when Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto established what became known as the 80/20 principle when looking at the distribution of wealth.

Now a mere 116 years later, Richard Koch, an entrepreneur whose ventures have included Filofax, Plymouth Gin, Betfair and author of ‘The 80/20 Manager’ demonstrates that 80 per cent of results come from just 20 per cent of effort.  He claims that it doesn’t matter if you're looking at investments or company performance, you'll find that it's usually the vital 20 per cent that produces 80 per cent of the result.  We are thus left with the disturbing conclusion that 80 percent of what we do counts for little, so it’s just as well that Koch has turned his attention to applying this rule to the challenges that managers face.

The aim of the ‘The 80/20 Manager’ is not to work harder, but smarter, by identifying the most important elements of your work which have the biggest impact and focusing your attention on getting these things done.  It achieves by this highlighting 10 stand-alone leadership techniques to become an 80/20 manager, rather than having to master a comprehensive range of management skills.  As Koch explains, "Being brilliant at one of the 10 ways will take you further than being competent at all 10."  Such techniques include:

• Being an ‘investigating manager’ by cultivating a questioning mind, understanding your product and customer.

• Becoming a ‘super-connecting manager’ by using effective networking.

• Aspiring to be a ‘lazy manager’.  Forgive the irony, but I will let you find out about this technique yourself.

The author claims that Steve Jobs saved Apple from insolvency by applying the 80/20 principle.  However, iconic leadership aside, the ‘lazy manager’ who can successfully select the 20 per cent of the work that matters and achieve 80 per cent of the outputs, gets my vote every time.

• ‘The 80/20 Manager’ by Richard Koch and published by Little, Brown & Company.


Keith Appleton JP, BA (Hons), N.Dip.M, MInstLM has extensive experience within an academic, managerial and strategic leadership role.  He is a member of the UK Institute of Leadership & Management and can be contacted at KeithAppleton@Hotmail.co.uk or follow him at twitter.com/WritingRightNow.


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