Pareto principle (or the 80-20 rule) in group work

According to this website (, the Pareto, or 80-20, rule for time management is:

When applied to work, it means that approximately 20 percent of your efforts produce 80 percent of the results.

Each person has that particular 20% of effort that produce 80% of the result. That is, in a group, each group member has a specific task that they are good at, where they can contribute 80% of the result with 20% of the effort. This means that, for the whole task to be done, the group has to have coverage over all things that need to be done.

The question is, can a team get the job done, and done well, if each team member only put in 20% of the effort to get 80% of the result each?

I believe so. I think that one person’s 20-80 (i.e. 80% of the time produces only 20% of the result) is another person’s 80-20. That’s why it’s good to allocate the tasks according to skill and interest – either the existing ┬áskill/interest or skill/interest to pick it up. I’d say the interest is a prerequisite before skill, as someone with interest (and the skill to pick it) up may complete the work faster than someone with the skill but no interest!

For example, consider a job that took 5 people a month to complete. It may be that this group was a mixture of experts and novices, with a range of professional interests that are suited for the project. If the job was split into 5, and we applied this 80-20 rule, each person would only complete 80% of their respective tasks, and thus only 80% of the entire project. But, if the tasks had sufficient overlap, i.e. the job was split into small tasks, each person can choose which of the tasks will only take them 20% of their time to complete 80%, and share the tasks accordingly. This means that it will take 5 people instead of 4 to complete this job at 20% capacity for a month. However, this is in contrast to a poor person working on every single task at 100% capacity for a month, whether they liked it or not.

Could this be what the thinking is behind Aristotle’s quote?

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

CAVEAT: I’m not saying this idea is the answer to everything, I’m just putting it out there. Apparently the Pareto rule gets misused a lot, hopefully I did not here.


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