Chapter 5: The Vital Few And The Trivial Many

Vilfredo Pareto, the Italian economist, discovered the 80/20 principle in 1897, which is now referred to as Pareto’s rule. He discovered that 80% of the output results from 20% of the input,

80% of consequences flow from 20% of causes, and 80% of results come from 20% of effort. Joseph Juran referred to this 20% as the ‘vital few’ and the 80% as the ‘trivial many’. Sir Isaac Pitman, who invented shorthand, discovered that just 700 common words make up two-thirds of our conversation. He found that these words account for 80% of common speech.

A student covers 80% of his syllabus in 20% of his study hours. About 80% of the question paper in the examination is from 20% of the syllabus. About 20% of customers contribute to 80% of growth, profitability and satisfaction; 20% of products and services account for 80% of the turnover; 20% of employees generate 80% of productivity; the opinion of 20% defines the society; the output of 20% of the population defines the economy of a country.

If you have 20 sales people, four will be great, six will be mediocre, and ten will simply be hanging in there. Sales managers make the mistake of working with the under-producers and non-performers, trying to get them to be more productive, while the top performers go unattended and are taken for granted. The easiest way to lose your top sales producers is to ignore them in favour of the ‘trivial many’. Focus on the strong and make them stronger.

80/20 thinking is the secret of achieving more with less. Start celebrating exceptional productivity instead of trying to raise the average effort. Strive for excellence in a few things rather than good-enough performance in many.

There is a tragic amount of waste everywhere. Almost four-fifth of everything that is happening in your life is yielding very little in return. Too much focus is on the 80% which yields only 20%. Transform your thinking. Revamp your outlook. Reallocate your resources from the unproductive ‘trivial many’ to the productive ‘vital few’. Effectiveness is not about what happens to the 80%, but about how you manage, control and utilise the 20%. 20% of your time actually defines what you are and what you will be in life.

Focus on the 20% and 80% of everything in your life will be taken care of.