Saturday, November 9, 2013

Focus on the "Critical Few" or "Vital Few" - Application of the 80/20 Rule

Your McKinsey boss might give you feedback to focus more of your effort on the "critical few" or "vital few". This is so you can achieve maximum impact for a given amount of work - it's another way of saying that your McKinsey boss wants you to apply the 80/20 rule to your work.  In this post I'll explain those terms...

First, it's helpful to understand the source of the concept of the critical or vital few.

What is the 80/20 rule?

The 80/20 rule is a rule of thumb that 20% of anything drive 80% outcomes.  I've covered this concept, examples, and what it means if you're asked to be more 80/20 in a previous post.

A common business example is that roughly 20% of any company's SKUs will drive over 80% of their sales.  A personal example might be that fewer than 20% of your acquaintances cause more than 80% of your headaches.  Now that you know about it, you'll probably start seeing it everywhere.

What are the Vital or Critical Few?

The terms "vital few" and "critical few" are just other names for that important 20%.  They are called that because to be successful in any endeavor, it is vital / critical to address those few sources of the greatest potential impact.  Effective McKinsey teams and consultants are able to identify the critical or vital few and focus their efforts and finite resources on them.

Why is it important to focus on the Vital or Critical Few?

Your McKinsey boss will expect you accomplish a lot at a high level of quality.  Unless you want to spend every waking hour working, it's important to learn how to focus your efforts on the most promising, impactful aspects of a workstream.  Your McKinsey boss is also counting on you for leverage - the more you can get done, the less your McKinsey boss has to do or worry about on your workstream(s).

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