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Do you follow the 80/20 rule?

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A catch phrase that is often mentioned is the “80/20 rule” but rarely do people really spend time living it. This rule is phrased in different ways but most often means that 20% of your efforts result in 80% of the benefits. In a sales environment for example 20% of your clients result in 80% of revenue and the other 80% of your clients result in 20% of your revenue. Generally speaking the analogy goes is that those same 20% of clients result in using only 20% of your resources so they are way more profitable – 10x or more.

The 80/20 rule is geared at asking how do you identify and focus on those 20% of items that result in highest level of value and, in turn, minimize the 80% of things you do that result in lower value? This is easier said than done for sure.

In order to take advantage of the 80/20 rule you should take note of the following:

  • Know your 20’s and 80’s: Until you know the 20 that produces the 80 you are nowhere. Start by understanding your clients’ profitability, understanding your team’s effectiveness, and understanding all else you can. Many things you don’t realize you are spending time and resources on until you focus on identifying what is generating what. It is easy to lie to yourself here.

Ask yourself if the data you have is really capturing what is needed to make the determination on identifying what is generating what. For example, are you factoring all the costs that your whole team spends servicing your clients? If you have good data to work with then the analysis becomes easy.

  • Make hard decisions: Just because you identify your 20 that produces your 80 does not mean that you are willing to fire the 80% of clients that generate 20% of profits. However, following this analogy, this lets you ask questions of how you can get your 80% of clients more profitable. Some of these decisions will indeed be to fire clients. Other decisions will be to stop projects. Yet other decisions will be to cancel ongoing meetings. All of these are valid decisions. It will give you an opportunity to deploy those resources in a more effective manner.

Be careful of the 80 that eats up your resources and only gives you 20. If you know your 20’s and 80’s and make the hard decisions, you will be living the 80/20 rule and increasing the effectiveness of your organization, profitability of your clients, happiness of your employees, and much more.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

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About WorkLearnPlay: WorkLearnPlay.com is about helping information workers live better lives and supercharge their success in the workplace. Please let me know how I can continue to make this site better and help you and others supercharge your success.

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Solving problem solving

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The world is full of problems to be solved. If you are lucky your day is full of problems as an information worker. Some problems are more fun than others to solve but all problems require solutions – even if that solution is ignoring the problem.

While people generally consider themselves good problem solvers, they rarely are as good as they think. The better a person becomes at problem solving the quicker her career will progress.

While some aspects of being a problem solver are natural aptitudes, everyone can and must solve problems as an information worker and it is something you can and will get better at by following some simple rules:

  • Positive attitude: Start with a can do, positive attitude to every problem that is before you. It is amazing how problems get easier and ideas come quicker when you have a positive attitude. When your manager talks about a new problem needing to be solved say, “Yes, I will solve that”.
  • Ask questions: Finding solutions to problems requires a good understanding of the problem and its root cause. Asking questions and getting facts is a key part of solving problems.
  • Think long term, not short term: Often times the root cause of a problem is hard to determine but without finding it the problem will persist. People are often tempted to find the short-term solution but that often only results in another problem arising. Instead make sure to think long term and try to identify the root cause of problems and best way to resolve.
  • Learn from others: You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. But, you need to be able to ask for help and get advice from others. Many times others will have seen similar problems and have ideas to help.
  • Be creative: Creativity is something everyone is capable of but as we get older often we don’t focus on this important skill. When approaching a problem take a look at many angles and do the proverbial “out of the box” thinking. Not all solutions will be creative but often times the most challenging problems will mandate it.
  • Try, try, and try again: Hard problems are hard for a reason. Your first solution will not always be the cure. Just like a good scientist applies the scientific method and has a theory and tests it so to will an information worker solve a problem. There will be trail and error but in the end persistence and grit will lead to success.

Next time a difficult problem arises at work or home take it and apply the steps above and get better at solving problems. Just like most activities you can and will get better at problem solving with practice and applying the rules above.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

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Making meetings magic

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One of the most painful parts of a workday is a bad meeting. Meetings don’t have to be bad but too often they are done poorly. There are a variety of reasons why meetings go wrong. The meeting scheduled for an hour that goes an hour and 20 minutes with only two of the six people attending contributing to the discussion. Or, maybe the meeting where the first 10 minutes are spent trying to get the screen share going and everybody recalls a similar meeting that took place six months ago but people just don’t remember what was ever decided.

Here are some tips to making meetings successful as an organizer. A future post will talk about being a good meeting participant.

  1. Purpose: One of the most important things is to have a meeting purpose. If you can’t articulate the meeting purpose then the meeting should not be held.
  2. Format: Does the purpose of the meeting really need a meeting or is it something where an email, text, or discussion board would provide a better format? Not everything needs to be solved in meetings so ask yourself what the proper format should be before scheduling your next meeting.
  3. People: Do you have the right people in the meeting and only the right people? Too often meetings are either over inclusive and they include people as participants because they don’t want to be left out but don’t bring value to topic at hand. Or, meetings do not have all the necessary parties invited or attending. This means that another meeting needs to be held or bad meeting outcomes happen.
  4. Time: Meetings should only be as long as is needed to achieve the meeting purpose. People tend to fill meeting out because it was scheduled. So, it is best to estimate the time needed and only block that time. Instead of having your calendar by default setup 1-hour meetings, change it to 30-minute meetings.
  5. Technology: Good technology can make the meeting go smoothly whether that is conference line or screen sharing or projecting. Work to ensure that the right technology is in place to support the meeting format that has been put together to attain your meeting purpose.
  6. Punctuality: Meetings get blocked up together and many information workers’ days are just one long line of meetings. Accordingly, be respectful of people’s time and start the meeting on time and end the meeting on time.
  7. Preparation: Great meeting organizers spend time preparing for the meeting. This includes preparing documents or exhibits to make the meeting more effective and sharing them in advance.
  8. Record: Having a record of meetings helps ensure that what occurred is properly maintained and that later when recollections are foggy there is something to go back and review. Often times having a meeting record captured is best done by someone that is not an active participant in the meeting.
  9. Engagement: Great meetings allow all participants an opportunity to engage. This may include even going around the table in some instances to get each people’s input.

The tips individually above are not difficult but rarely do meeting organizers put them all together. Each item takes effort and some of them require real effort and time spent preparing for a meeting beforehand. I myself realize these items and while I do each of them sometimes – I rarely do all of them together. However, each new meeting is a new opportunity to make a great meeting – even if sometimes the best meeting is the meeting that does not happen because it is unneeded.

WLP Tip No. 6: Take the time to get feedback from others on how well you do on organizing and running your meetings and seek to improve. Review each of the areas above and assess yourself on how well you do on each and have several others do that same assessment. Then take your learnings and focus on making your meetings magic.

Remember that being a great meeting organizer will make you a more effective information worker and will build your brand no matter what you do. Take the opportunity today to put this meeting advice into practice.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

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The real correlation vs. causation difference

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No matter what your role as an information worker – data matters. Data helps us understand our customers, health, friends, family, profitability, employees and the list goes on and on. As the world continues to have more computers, cameras, and sensors we will continue to have more data and have a better opportunity to either improve the quality of life or the alternative.

At one time executives had to be sold into the value of data driven decisioning versus their gut. These days that is less of a problem. Now the challenge is to not get lost in the data and making the wrong interpretation. As we all know the phrase “lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

A common confusion is the difference between causation and correlation. Things are correlated if two things have a mutual relationship between them. This can be a positive or negative correlation. Something can be correlated but not caused by something else and this is often the case. An example could be decreased meat sales correlated to declining home prices. Instead an economic downturn negatively caused both of these.

Things are caused if one thing causes another thing to change in a positive or negative direction. For example, you increase product sales when you increase Facebook ad spends. If you understand one thing causes another then you can act on that one thing and be confident that the other thing will be impacted accordingly.

People are quick to think that because things are correlated that one thing causes the other. Making decisions on things that are correlated but not caused by can lead to bad results. However, it does give us a starting point where we can do testing whether it is A/B testing if software or other testing to determine if one thing is indeed caused by another thing or if they are merely correlated.

The other item to be aware about is that there are varying degrees of causation and correlation. Generally causation or correlation do not have a one-to-one relationship. Sometimes this relationship can be greater than one-to-one but often times it is less.

WLP Tip No. 5: Next time you read the results of a study or setup your own research study make sure you identify if the results represent causation or are merely correlation and additional research is needed to determine causation.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

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