The 80/20 Rule – Zig Zag Principle #37

September 9th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

During this first zig it is important to remember that you are not going to have time to be perfect at everything.  Many people who are perfectionists or have a methodical personality type fail at this stage because they try to be great and have everything perfect and buttoned up.  You need to think, instead, about the 80/20 rule.  In general, 20 percent of the effort yields 80 percent of the results. The key to success is not to do anything that isn’t geared towards the 80 percent success ratio.  You’re not striving for perfection.  You’re striving for profitability.

I always say that competence and incompetence always rear their heads.  But it is important during this time to know those things where competency is a must.  If you produce a shoddy product, then your customers will never use you again. But, as you do so, you do not need the perfect organization or to micromanage all the details.  During this phase the important 20 percent is providing a quality product and getting to cash.  If your office is a mess or you haven’t taken the trash out in a week, take a deep breath and give yourself a break.  You can get to those things later.

On the other hand, it is imperative that you keep track of your books and know what your bottom line is, but don’t stress about the little things as you take care of the big ones.  I have a former business associate who had the mantra on his desk to “Strive for Mediocrity.” He was a perfectionist in every area of his life.  If he saw a “t” that needed to be crossed or an “i” that needed to be dotted, he would take whatever time it took to stress over minor details.  He soon found he could not be effective living this way.  He had to look at the bigger picture and choose which things he needed to focus on to succeed, and then let go of the minor things. He was trying to be more “mediocre” in the smaller details so that he could shine in the important aspects of the business.  One of my business partners used to call this “selective negligence.”  He would selectively neglect the less important things so that he could achieve the bigger goals.  Once we became profitable and got to the next zag of adding resources, we could hire someone to take care of those small details.

This can be applied whether you are an individual trying to accomplish an important project with your family, a small bootstrap company, or a large corporation.  You can apply this same principle to a new division you may be heading up, if you are launching a new product, or even launching a new service in a large corporation.  Your budget may be bigger, but the principles will make the division or large corporation even stronger.

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