What to Do Next - Leadership Time Challenge

As managers/ leaders we have all come across situations where we are beset with lots of problems and on the face of it they all need tackling now.

Ideally you need to focus your attention on fixing the most important problems. This makes absolute
sense but how do you decide which you need to deal with first? Are some problems caused by the same underlying issue?

This is where the Pareto Analysis provides a technique for prioritising possible changes by identifying the problems that will be resolved by making these changes. By using the Pareto approach you can prioritise the individual changes that will most improve the situation.

Not surprisingly the Pareto Analysis uses the Pareto Principle – the 80/20 rule to most of us. This principle is simply the idea that 20 percent of causes generate 80 percent of results. By using the
principle in an analysis situation we're finding the 20 percent of work that will generate 80 percent of the results that doing all of the work would deliver. The 80/20 aspect is merely an illustration of course and is simply a way of illustrating the lack of symmetry that often appears between work put in and the results gained. It depends on your business of course and 13% of work might deliver 87% of results or 30% might deliver 70% etc.

Developing a Pareto Analysis

There are a number of very simple steps to follow:-

  • Identify then list all of the problems
  • Identify the cause of each problem
  • Score problems
  • Group problems by cause
  • Add up scores by group
  • Take necessary action

Identify then list all of the problems

Write a list of all of the problems that you need to resolve. Where possible, talk to clients and team members to get their input, and draw on surveys, helpdesk logs and suchlike, where these are available.

Identify the cause of each problem

For each problem, identify its fundamental cause. There are a number of ways that you can approach this and we prefer the brainstorming route. The key here is to get a team with ‘know how’ brainstorming – this provides an experienced and practical forum.

Score problems

You now need to score each problem. The scoring method you use depends on the sort of problem you're trying to solve. For example, if you're trying to improve profits, you might score problems on the basis of how much they are costing you or if fixed how much they might EARN you. If you're trying to improve customer satisfaction, you might score them on the basis of the number of complaints you could eliminate by solving the problem.

Group problems by cause

Now group the problems together by cause. For example, if three of your problems are caused by lack of staff, put these in the same group.

Add up scores by group

You can now add up the scores for each cause group. The group with the top score is your highest priority, and the group with the lowest score is your lowest priority.

Take necessary action

Now you need to deal with the causes of your problems, dealing with your top-priority problem, or group of problems, first. Keep in mind that low scoring problems may not even be worth bothering with - solving these problems may cost you more than the solutions are worth. Do take action – no point doing all of this analysis if you don’t and make sure you tackle the CAUSE of the problem and not just the symptoms!


This is a simple and effective way of determining how to prioritise tasks in relation to the most important cause to deal with. Other factors such as the cost of fixing these problems also need to be taken into account if and only if costs are significant. Many fixes don’t involve much cost but rather a different approach or thought process.

Time management is one of the biggest leadership challenges we face and one that we see a lot in our clients’ businesses. Having a process and sensible approach to prioritising work will fix the most important issues and by definition therefore help in improving business productivity.

For more help on this subject and other Leadership challenges contact us at: or on 0116 232 5231 

Alternatively contact me personally at the points below.

David Turner

Managing Director

07747 023610

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