This got me thinking. I specialise in helping technical people move into management and they bring this perfection thinking into management with disastrous consequences. Decisions do not get made, people get demotivated and workloads increase. I learned the 80/20 principle a long time ago. It is based on an observation by Italian economist Vifredo Pareto that 80% of the peas in his garden came from 20% of the pods and that 80% of the wealth in Italy was owned by 20% of the people. Applying this non-linear cause-effect ratio changed my life at the time. I started looking for those few companies that generated the majority of the revenue, and by focussing on them, got an exponential return on my investment in time. In 20% of the time, you can get enough information to make fast decisions. By prioritising those 20% of customers, the customer management issues simplifies dramatically. By deliberately not going for perfection but extracting 80% of the value, a manager’s life can be transformed overnight.
So was the perfection driven CEO wrong? The answer is no! Apple didn’t get the i-product success through applying the 80/20 principle to quality. Steve Jobs was famous for caring about the inside of the product that only technicians would see. In engineering, perfection is king. Just sit in a German luxury car to feel the over engineering and attention to detail that creates that emotional attachment to the car. But in management, where speed of a decision is often more important than a perfect decision, the 80/20 principle is, and should be, alive and well.