Change Management and the Pareto Principle….The Vital Few and the Trivial Many

sujet: Vilfredo Pareto source: http://homepage...

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This blog has been looking at change implementation which is a skill you need to be a successful leader in nearly any arena. We have already explored the 8 Steps of Change Management, Overcoming Resistance to Change, and the first step: Identify the Improvement Area . Since there are often more opportunities for loss reduction than there are resources in today’s Food & Beverage manufacturing plants, the Pareto Principle is a powerful tool that will help you prioritize initiatives and will support your case that there is a need for change.[tweetmeme]

The Pareto Principle is also known as the 80-20 Rule. The 80-20 Rule is credited to the early 20th Century economist Vilfredo Pareto who observed that 80% of the wealth was owned by just 20% of the people. Dr. Joseph Juran coined the term the vital few and trivial many to describe this principle. The vital few and trivial many are illustrated very well by using a Pareto Chart which is a bar chart ranking the causes by the frequency of occurence.

The good news is that this principle applies to most situations and if used properly will help you to quickly determine your priorities. Let’s take for example the losses due to minor stops (downtime event of 10 minutes or less) on your line. You can make your Pareto Chart as follows:

1. Take the downtime data that you are probably already collecting and categorize the data as it makes sense for your business.
2. Graph the data with the biggest downtime category at the left of the graph.
3. The second largest would be next to the first and so on.
Note: It is important to list the downtime categories in this order for the full impact of the 80-20 distribution as you can see by following this link: Pareto Chart

In this example, the filler and capper represent the vital few causes which become your priority areas for improvement. You will find that there are several causes of downtime for these machines. You should apply the 80-20 rule to decide which issues to address on the filler and capper as well. You may find it helpful to make a Pareto Chart for the downtime causes on the filler and capper.

Using the 80-20 rule will help you to prioritize your projects and change initiatives. It can be applied to all types of losses in your manufacturing plant including quality defects, consumer complaints, and downtime, etc. Use this powerful tool to prioritize your time and to illustrate the need for change.


About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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17 Responses to Change Management and the Pareto Principle….The Vital Few and the Trivial Many

  1. Mina Joshi says:


    I found your article informative and interesting. Lots of organisations are going through change and in UK it’s happening in nearly every industry including the Government Organisations. Reading some of your tips makes me feel positive.

  2. shanegenziuk says:

    You are spot on Christian, and this can be applied to most things in business. I’ve been involved service desk delivery for close to a decade and a Pareto chart is one of the most effective ways to explain the tradeoff of effort for return. Too may times we get caught up in the small detail, the exceptions, when the value is in that 80%. Keep that rule in mind, and its actually difficult to stumble. Great article – will follow your blog via RSS.

    • Thanks for the feedback! It’s good to hear some testimony that the Pareto Principle applies in the service industry as well. Theoretically, it should work with anything that has a statistically normal distribution. Thus it should apply to manufacturing, service, economics, etc.

      All the best,

  3. Mary Sayler says:

    Sensible, intelligent, practical-minded info, Christian – thanks. If you ever turn to politics, let us know.

  4. Thanigaivel says:


    Very clear and direct use of pareto charts in real time and good explanation of 80-20% principle.

    • Thanks for your comments. The 80-20% rule has been very helpful for me through the years. It’s given me clarity on what to pursue and has been very helpful to get people on board when others were not using data to make their decisions.

      Chris Paulsen

  5. Frank Lange says:


    very interesting article, indeed! You pointed out very clear, that it’s important to concentrate on the main things to get things done. I’m applying Paretos rule for several years in my daily work for prioritizing and still very happy with it.



  6. Christian,

    We apply it all the time, and teach it on our courses as a fundamental principle to ensure people are focusing their energy and limited time on the right thing.
    Visualising data is such a great way of sharing insights.

    I always call it “ensuring you are getting the most bang for your buck”.

    And then once you have drawn the “before state” do the Pareto again, once you have made the improvement to see if the shape has changed, so you know what to focus on next.

    • Dennis,

      Getting the most bang for the buck is a great way to look at the Pareto Principle. Most people can understand and rally behind the concept. It sounds like you use this tool on an ongoing basis – a good example of PDCA. Doing the Pareto again will let you know what to do next and will help you see if your improvements making a difference. Thanks for you insight.


  7. Sure, that makes sense for reducing downtime, but not for change management. In fact, it often flies in the face of good change management. For example, the idea of getting small wins in order to generate both interest and learning quickly is directly counter to the Pareto. This concept has to be used carefully, and in the right places.

    • Jamie,

      Thanks for checking in and sharing your insight. The Pareto Principle should not be used in a vacuum. Quick wins have a lot of value as you note and other factors should be taken into consideration. Ease of implementation, cost of implementation, savings, impact on safety and quality, likelihood of success and other factors should be considered when choosing a specific project.

      Thanks again,

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