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Lars Plougmann

I recently made the statement on my blog that "The 80/20 rule only applies 80% of the time" to see if it provoked any reactions (it didn't). I am happy to see that there is somebody willing to be a bit more serious about the subject.

Whether to go for the 80% solution or the 110% solution depends on the organisational environment as much as it depends on the individual project manager or the project participants. Recent experience working for a law firm suggests that there are environments where only the 110% solution is acceptable and as a result even simple projects take years to deliver. Contrast that with fast-paced organisations where 80% solutions are the norm and only by using the project deliverables in actual operations can the remaining 20% of requirements be defined.

It would be interesting to examine the empirical evidence but it seems to me that the 80% type organisation is typically the most profitable. This of course raises the question of which way the causal connection points.


The 80% rules sounds appealing (get the same results with less effort). The 80% rule is great if you do one and done development. However, as you said, often the client/developers don't know what the end result or deliverables should be (and I have never worked on a project that hasn't been added to or modified down the road).

By putting in the extra 20%, I can prep myself and my team to adjust to the inevitable changes that happen with every project. By putting the extra time initially into our code and testing, we can save time later when having to modify our products. It becomes harder and harder to work around the virtual superglue when using the 80% rule.

Karl Vogel

>I have a collaborator who can quite honestly >take over an hour to write a 20 line email. >Now, that email is a humdinger of an email, >but it leaves me wondering if that email >couldn't have been written in 10 minutes, >and my colleague have moved on to other >work.

If the email would only survive for 10 minutes, you'd be right, but these days correspondence can live forever on Google or in someone's archived email.

Also, when you're communicating with someone electronically, the *only* thing they see is your words; there's no verbal or visual cues about what you're thinking, etc.


As a perfectionist, I recoil in horror from the prospect of not doing the final 20% that would make the work “perfect” … yet I know that in a fast paced commercial environment, this is the wrong frame of mind for me to have.

I look on in amazement as colleagues do the bare 80%, get the work out the door, and enjoy the approval and admiration of peers and bosses alike.

Yet for me the thought of working that way is abhorrent. Part of the problem is that I can imagine (and have experienced) bosses picking on little errors and making mountains out of them.

The 80% approach seems to me to be a form of brinkmanship, a close cousin of poker. If things go your way then everything is rosy. But at the same time, by bluffing, you are handing to others the power to demolish you if they spot the bluff.

Yes, I know this is worst-case-scenario-thinking: somewhere a long ways back I must have developed the habit of thinking that way.

There is a trade of between speed and accuracy: the balance in your particular line of work could be the most important piece of information you have. Currently I strongly suspect that speed holds the upper hand.

Thanks for getting me thinking about this subject.



Nice article out there..keep it up..

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