The Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, is a theory maintaining that 80 percent of the output from a given situation or system is determined by 20 percent of the input.
Take a look on this picture, looks fun isn’t it?
The Pareto Principle is very simple, yet very important. It is named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who found that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.
There are many conclusions from this simple principle. In my Industry (IT) we know how hard can be “the last percent of the task” sometime the last percent of features costs us ninety percent of spent time. Why? Because it is probably the hardest thing to implement, and it can depend (and even change) on huge parts of previous work. Just now I am working on the project in which I finished all the task during one week, and still working on the last, final, part for last three weeks. It’s almost a rule of thumb.
That disproportion is something that easy to notice but hard to include to the planning.
Modern theories of the planning teach us “fail fast”, it’s mean that we have to deliver our features as fast as we can, and “verify” them on our clients/users/testers. In case if we did something incorrectly it is much better to know about that as fast as possible and correct plans.
But it seems not to be related to Pareto ? Only for a first sight. If we go deeper to we can see the problem of choosing those “first” parts to implement. Let’s say we develop some GUI (graphical user interface) that demands us a lot of work with rich UI. What should we implement first?
– The most complex case that covers a few user requests?
– The simplest one that covers as much use cases as possible?
Not a simple question but statistics teach us that implement pareto’s tasks is more successful strategy in general.
Where else we can apply this rule? Almost to anything.
Let’s consider an example of language learning.
Such a poor guy as me might have a lot of problem with all the parts of learning : speaking, pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar etc, etc. How to chose one to focus on?
According to law above one should choose the worst part. People have troubles with understanding you even when you speak simple worlds like “Car, encourage, leave”? What will enchanting of your vocabulary give to you then? If you can’t pronounce simple words correctly how knowing hundred synonyms for “gloaming” would help? Or vice versa if people already understand the mayor part your pronunciation what the reason to improve it more if you have grammar problem and can’t use narrative times at all?
The only trick is : be “agile”. Re-evaluate your skills often, don’t hesitate to change your focus on currently-the-worst-part, and I believe you will develop overall skills faster.
Have you known about Parete principle before?
Do you agree or disagree with my conclusion about language learning? Maybe you have good counterexamples? I’d like to see them then!