The 80/20 Rule Revisited
What is it?
A summary of the essential leadership skill of… The 80/20 Rule that every Executive must understand & applyto fully realize hyper-performance!
1. think TIME
First become fully aware of time and how you choose to utilize it.
2. learn FOCUS
Concentrate only on high-outcome actions and minimize the rest.
3. live OUTCOMES
Stop thinking primarily about Action and start thinking about Outcomes first.
4. steely DISCIPLINE
Make a real commitment to this approach and stick with it. It works.
Stop being distracted by things that don’t and won’t create hyper-performance.
6. rinse & REPEAT
Every 3 months review progress and then repeat the entire process once more
Ease of Implementation
Can be implemented with only a little preparation and discipline but requires staying power.
Can drastically change performance simply by applying focus on high-outcome generating actions.
1,637 words (8-min read)
Over the years I have always strived to gain maximum performance from my actions and time. It was not always easy under the very heavy, and what always appeared to be my growing workload. I attended many courses, read a host of the latest books as well as many of the classics, and all-in-all considered myself to be a student of performance. It’s not that I was infatuated by performance by itself, but instead the outcomes that materialized when superior performance were achieved.
Whether it was remuneration gains, accelerated promotion and increased job responsibilities, or just bragging rights at the Executive table for a job well done, I loved it!
But then something started to happen. My workload continued to increase, my responsibilities continued to increase, and the never-ending quest for higher revenues marched on relentlessly. I could feel my overall performance begin to slip, and with it my motivation and energy. It wasn’t a lightning-strike change, but one that happened much more gradually over the space of a few years.
I was beginning to think the job was simply getting too much for me and maybe I was better suited at a smaller, less pressure-inducing company.
But that’s not what I wanted. Not at all!
I was lucky enough many years ago to have read a wonderfully illuminating book called ‘The 80/20 Principle’ by Richard Koch. I read it cover-to-cover in a few days, resonating excitedly with the examples on each page. But like many good books, when finished, it landed in my library in the bookcase amongst many other such reads.
It was not until many years later when I was packing to move residences that the book literally fell off the bookcase, and I took it as a signal that maybe a re-read was in order.
This time was much, much different. What was a good book before, quickly became a great book. It resonated even more this time around, but also piqued my interest into how I could apply it in my current situation to ‘right-size’ me once more, giving me back my life-balance, raw excitement for life and my lost passion to overachieve on my sales goals.
And it worked. And really, really well!
Listed below is my own interpretation of this book put into practical steps that literally saved my life and my career. I have subsequently coached this approach to many of my Executive coaching clients over the years and they too have found much success with it. And one of the reasons why it worked and continues to work so well lies in its simplicity. It’s easy to understand, relatively easy to implement, and can be used time and time again.
So here goes…
Everyone intuitively understands the concept of the 80/20 rule in business. It’s pretty rock solid and seems to apply to most scenarios and situations. I think of it as one of the virtually unbreakable rules of business.
In its simplest form applied to Executive duties, it states that 80% of an individual’s performance will be derived from 20% of their efforts. Knowing that most business work-weeks are Mon-Fri, this simple rule is easy to visualize…
Imagine that Monday is your great achievement day. Let’s use this simple assumption for now. So, on this highest performing of days you achieve 80% of your total outcomes and performance for the week.
Phew - what a great day indeed!
Now to carry on with the math, it means that Tue-Fri are the 4 days that only allow you to carve out 20% of your overall performance. Of course, that’s a BIG difference from the 80% (a 4x difference in fact). But it gets a lot worse than that when you realize that it’s 20% over 4 days, which is equivalent to 5% per day.
So, as you can now see, there is in fact a HUGE difference in performance between your magnificent Monday’s and your very lack-luster Tue-Fri’s.
The difference is simply massive. It’s 16x of a difference!!!
Just think about that for a moment. You can either work a certain number of hours and get 1x outcomes, or you can work the same amount of hours and get 16x outcomes.
Seeing the math like this, it highlights such a major imbalance (which is the whole basis of the 80/20 rule), that you have to admit its almost madness to choose the 1x performance option for the majority of your work week.
But that’s what most people do on Tue-Fri’s.
Surely this simply does not make sense?
Well to be frank it doesn’t make sense, and the highest performers of the Executive world and the Sales world have figured this out a long time ago. They know that minimizing the highly non-performant time is always the best option.
So, why did I mention a 75% improvement in the title? Was it there just to grab your attention?
No. It’s real, and it’s practically possible with a few simple steps.
Imagine now you want the extra 75% performance and want it quickly (like me). Consider this very simple approach which has been time and battle-tested and is all but guaranteed to work if done correctly.
1. Identify the type of actions and activities that generate your magnificent Monday’s. Your highest-performing, highest-outcome generating time.
2. Now, pick one more day (maybe Tue for example) and commit to doing the same type of activities as you did on Monday. It may be hard to start with, but after the weeks go by and through sticking to this ‘high-performance, high-outcome’ mindset, you will begin to see positive changes taking place.
Know that this is a key part of the process, but it won’t be sustainable unless you find a way to protect your new terrific Tuesday’s. To do so you need to do the following:
(*) Find a way (or ways) of fitting into 3 days what normally took you 4 days to achieve.
As you start this process, you may initially find it awkward, but after a little effort you will find lots and lots of smart and creative ways to transform 4 days of low-outcome activity into a slightly more efficient 3 days of low-outcome activity.
Most of the time you have a range of options open to make this change, including:
- choosing not to do some really low-priority actions
- changing the frequency of them from say weekly to bi-weekly, or even monthly
- delegating more (always a great Executive skill-set to master)
- creating systems & processes to achieve low-outcomes easier and faster
By focusing on smart ways of reducing 4 days of low-outcome workload to 3 days, you might just surprise yourself and save even more time! But for now, let’s just stick with saving one day of your typical week.
With your now high-outcome magnificent Monday’s and new found terrific Tuesday’s, you will be generating 80% + 80% performance. And with now only 3 days of low 5% outcome performance (15% in total), that adds up to a hefty 175%.
A net gain of 75% performance improvement. Simple as that.
With all smart ideas, the practical implementation based on your own unique circumstances is what matters. It’s up to you to believe these changes are possible and will be achieved. Then to make them happen.
Now, for the highly inquisitive amongst you…
Is it possible to use this approach to gain even more outcome-performance by spending more time actioning high-outcome activities and less time actioning low-outcome activities?
And, the people who do just so happen to be the highest performing of the industry, the vital few who have learned the sage lessons and magnificient outcomes possible from focus and implementaton ofthe 80/20 rule!
Q1. What was the hardest part of implementing the 80/20 rule?
A1. First you have to believe that a significant change in performance can occur with proper implementation. Then you have to be fully committed to not trying it out, but instead making it happen above all else. Inexperienced leaders often give up too early in the process and revert back to previous performance levels.
Q2. How long was it before you saw a marked change in your performance?
A2. It took me about a month to really think about my options for focus i.e. understanding what were the low versus high-outcome actions. Then with a very solid resolve it took me about 3 months to really see significant progress.
Q3. Does everyone you coach get to implement the 80/20 principle well?
A3. Most people after some mandatory coaching topics are covered like strategy, time leadership and empowerment can begin to implement the 80/20 rule. I would say that most Coachee’s do in fact gain significant benefits, with the really keen achieving hyper-performance.
Q4. What’s the biggest obstacle that Sales Leaders have in implementing the 80/20 rule?
A4. Again, I would say that time (or lack of it) is the biggest obstacle. It’s so easy to get dragged into the minutiae detail and low-performance outcomes because they’re easier to do, or other people have expectations that you will be involved. It’s up to the Coachee to stand their ground and choose high-performance outcomes.
Q5. If revenues are down or operational issues high, should any time be applied to the 80/20 rule?
A5. I would say yes, principally because the expected overall outcome of the application of this rule is higher performance, which can (and will likely) include incremental revenue performance.
Q6. Any advice for those starting off making this significant leadership change?
A6. Understand that one unit of your time can derive different levels of outcomes (performance). Stop thinking about Action and instead focus on the Outcomes you desire. Then ‘separate the wheat from the chaff’ and dramatically reduce low-performance outcome activities.
My passion is helping good Executives become great Executives. Having helped many of them through this process, I know it’s possible to make and sustain these hyper-positive changes.
If you feel you would like to find out more, I’d be happy to connect with you and discuss how best to achieve hyper-performance in the timescales you seek.
Simply email me at email@example.com and I will respond same day (especially if it’s a Magnificent Monday or a Terrific Tuesday:)
Master Executive Coach
(for Leaders with Sales Responsibility)