Pareto gave me whiplash

Hopefully you all know the pareto principle, the 80:20 rule. The idea is that the first 20% of effort gives 80% of the benefit, and a million other combinations all suggesting that there are worthwhile benefits even in just doing part of a job. Its the rallying call of half job harrys and bodgers everywhere, and all under the guise of increased return on investment.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there are many areas where the 80:20 principle is completely valid. But I’m here to tell you skateboarding is not one of them!

This is a reconstruction obviously, I was actually skating the bowl at the local park. A proper skateboarder came up and did a back side kick turn, where you go up the ramp, and as you slow down, lift the front wheels, rotate around the back wheels in the direction your heels are pointing 180 degrees and come back down.

I did at least 80% the same as him, same approach speed, same angle, similar stance, same smile, but I got my weight slightly wrong and went flying – my board nearly decapitated him, and I landed on my arse, hard.

I got sent a spreadsheet recently to review, it was the same thing, on the surface it seemed reasonable, the formulas were a little long but not to bad, the VBA was long but seemed understandable, there were lots of sheets, but the names seemed to make sense, etc etc.

When I came to properly investigate it though, it was incomprehensible, the developer had used 80% reasonable practice, but had really fallen on his arse. I won’t go into the gory detail but the model was a monster.

I’m all for 80/20, maximising return on investment, cutting out features where the cost outweighs the benefit, but I think its important to recognise that you can’t do that everywhere. In most of the work that I do a system that is 80% right is 100% wrong and 100% useless, or worse.

What areas are there that you can think of, where pareto does not apply?



And yes, thanks for asking, I can move my head again finally.

6 Responses to “Pareto gave me whiplash”

  1. Harlan Grove Says:

    Parenting. 20% effort on a child’s part doesn’t come close to producing 80% cleaner rooms. Methinks they start with the other 20%.

    Cooking. 20% of cook time doesn’t produce 80% done. All too often (especially with company) 100% of listed cooking time doesn’t get 80% done.

  2. Steve Says:

    me thinks its the other way round

    u expend 100 % effort

    the first 80 % of effort results in the greatest returns

    the last 20 % much less so

    aka the law of dimiminshing (sic) returns

  3. AlexJ Says:

    AlexJ’s law of application project managment:

    The first 80% of the work takes the first 80% of the time.

    The last 20% of the work takes the other 80% of the time

  4. Jon Peltier Says:

    Simon –

    What’s 80% of 180 degrees?

  5. dougaj4 Says:

    “What’s 80% of 180 degrees?”


  6. Bob Phillips Says:

    “What’s 80% of 180 degrees?”

    In this case, it sounds like about 570 degrees. I think Simon should stop complaining, he is quids in.

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