My last article ended up with “So why do I question this efficient operating mode? Why do I wonder about its relevancy?” and that’s the question I’ll answer today.
Efficiency is not effectiveness. How unimportant or important are really those last 20% output of Pareto’s rule?
I don’t intend to ask this question out of perfectionism and a vague desolate feeling for those always by a fifth unreached objectives. Poor ones! What I mean is: aren’t these 20% crucial in some domains of our life? Isn’t this “end of the journey” effort which makes all the difference in some situations? Shouldn’t efficiency sometimes give way to effectiveness as the predominant objective?
What’s at risk, really?
Going through those last 20%, there is still subtle issues or undiscovered errors to point out and they might in some cases change the broad picture. These little lacks and shortcomings are what differenciates good work from expert work. What’s rare is valuable, and as relatively few people spend time on the last 20%, few people are truly experts.
What if, as this is happening now, more and more information is available about all subjects, in real time, all over the world? What if people, wanting to know the basics of all subjects, start spending the 20% input on all of them. The 80% efforts saved for one favorite topic might be taped into. This means still less expertise, fewer experts, fewer people whose knowledge makes them able to question what is generally admitted and to challenge the debate.
In the personal field too, what would happen if, being listening only to 20% of what one of your beloved ones says, you were going to miss out that particular tone of sadness announcing depression or suicide, that particular smile announcing an addition to the family, that particular interrogation about what to do with one’s life?
In most situations, by applying the Pareto rule, you get the big picture and avoid the main pitfalls. You’ll be able to do a good job, and do the next one after that faster, which is valuable. But in some cases, or in some fields, you probably don’t want to miss out the little, discreet signs foretelling a difference with the big picture you’ve painted.
Too hasty generation Y?
So where are we going? Generation Y is tomorrow’s decision-making generation. What if we lack experts? What if we’re unable to take the necessary time to make the right decision? We are often (rightly) told it’s a very worthy quality to be able to make decisions quickly thereby dealing with the uncertainty that is to be met in every situation. But when are we told to take the time to step back for a while and not jump for the first promising idea? What if we’re not familiar with those decision-making processes that are adequate for high-impact decisions?
We will know how to deal with too much information and information obsolescence. We will know how to be quick and take the risk of not knowing everything on one topic. We will probably avoid the pitfall of not doing because you’re not sure. But what if we have to face situations where these abilities are not useful, or maybe even misleading?
Now, what should I do?
Obviously, it seems applying the Pareto rule in every situation and about every topic doesn’t seem so appealing by now. But getting involved in everything you do at 100% doesn’t seem possible either.
In our society, it would probably just marginalize the particular individual. And collectively, it is not desirable nor sustainable. What worth would an expert be if not having any idea of the context of their specific field? How could expertise be coordinated? A team’s efficiency doesn’t come from the simple sum up of the members’ expertise…
So a 80% output ratio can’t be considered as being 100%. Always targeting 80% is not any more possible than targeting 100%. The first thing to do is learn to identify and choose what topics can be dealt with with only 20% efforts, and what others can’t. The second is to learn to step back, take time, and disconnect from the rest in order to be fully there. The question is: what do I want to be an expert about? and what will I do in order to become that expert?