The Art of Productive Laziness

By Taylor, Peter | Industrial Management, July/August 2009 | Go to article overview

The Art of Productive Laziness


Taylor, Peter, Industrial Management


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Most results from any situation are determined by a small number of causes, at least according to the Pareto principle. The 80/20 rule speaks volumes in goal achievement and leads into another concept. Productive laziness is not about doing nothing. There is a science behind being focused. Adopting a more focused approach to project management saves time, money and the integrity of the team or company involved in the undertaking. With proper focus, project completion becomes inevitable.

American novelist Roben Hein lein said, "Progress isn't made by early risers. Its made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something."

By advocating being a "lazy" project manager, I do: not mean that we should all do absolutely nothing, nor ami implying. that we should all sit around drinking coffee, reading a good book and engaging in idle gossip while watching the project hours go by and the nondelivered project milestones disappear over the horizon. That would obviously result in an extremely short career in project management. There is a science behind being focused.

Lazy does not mean stupid. Project managers and fellow team players should adopt a more focused approach to project management and exercise efforts where it really matters, rather than rushing around like busy bees and involving their input in unimportant, nöncritical activities that others can better address or that do not need to be addressed at all.

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) states that for many phenomena, 80 percent of consequences stem from 20 percent of Lhe causes. The idea is not strictly accurate or reliable for every situation. It's also .cornrnpnly misused, for example, when stating that a solution to a problem "fits the 80/20 rule" just because it fits 80 percent ?G the cases; it must be implied that this solution requires only 20 percent of the resources needed to solve all cases.

The principle was in fact suggested by management thinker Joseph Juran and it was named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed that 80 percent of property in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the Italian population. The assumption is that most of the results in any situation are determined by a small number of causes. In essence, 20 percent of clients may be responsible for 80 percent of sales volume. This can be evaluated and is likely to be right. The fundamentals can be helpful in future decision making, The Pareto principle also applies to a variety of more mundane matters: one might guess thai we wear approximately 20 percent of our most favored clothes aboui 80 percent of the tune, and perhaps we spend 80 percent of the time with 20 percent of our acquaintances.

The Pareto principle should be used by evcty smart but lazy person in their daily lives. Thè value of this method for a project manager is that it reminds you to focus on the 20 percent that matters.

Woody Allen once said that "80 percent of success is showing up," bui I'm not so sure about that. I have witnessed projects in which a physical project manager stood On guard constantly but you would never have believed that while looking at the poor level of project progress. Instead, 1 choose to believe that of the things you do during your day only 20 percent of those items truly matter. That 20 percent produces 80 percent of your results. Identify and focus on those things during your working day.

Science behind being smart

Productive laziness requires a powerful and magical combination of laziness and intelligence. Smart lazy people have a real edge over others in society and are most suited io leadership roles in organizations. This theory has existed for many years and applied in a number of interesting ways. One of the most famous of these was in the Prussian Army.

Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke (1800 - 1891) was a German gene.ralfeldmarschall, or general field marshall. …

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