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A very common term that you’ll often hear in consulting is to be 80/20. What the heck does that even mean?
The concept of 80 / 20 comes from the law of the vital few. It is also known in management circles as Pareto Principle.
Typically, a small number of causes a.k.a, the “vital few”, drive the vast majority of the results.
So if you look at roughly 20% of the problem areas, you are solving for 80% of the results.
It doesn’t mean that the remaining 80% of the problem areas are not important. All it means is that you need to prioritize your attention on the areas(20%) that can give the maximum results (80%).
The remaining 80% constitutes the long tail.
In consulting, you don’t have the time to look at all the infinitely possible areas when you’re solving client problems.
You have a limited amount of time for projects, which means that in order to reach the majority of the results (the 80%) you have first to identify what is the small minority of things you should analyze (the 20%).
Once you figure these 20% things, you start working on them with full steam.
If you still have time at the end of the project, you then put your attention to the remaining 80% but you know that the gains from these 80% would be minimal.
The 80/20 principle is important for everyone including working professionals and students who are appearing for college exams or campus placements.
You don’t want to waste your precious time focusing on things that won’t matter in the long run (projects, exams or interviews).
The delta of usefulness is extremely small and you want to maximize your returns from your invested time.
It takes some amount of judgment to become 80/20 in your life. For e.g., You need to identify what time of the day (the 20%) you are most attentive (the 80%) when you are preparing for an exam or interview. In other words, 80% of your productivity may come from the 20% of your day.
In consulting, it takes a lot of practice to develop the 80/20 judgment. It is certainly not easy for beginner case solvers. In our Consulting TREK Program, we ensure that students develop the 80/20 habit from the first session itself. Someone rightly said, it is always better to develop good habits early on in your life.