Safety Leadership - Pareto, The Vital Few

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February 22, 2023
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Patrick J. Karol,

Who is Pareto, and what does he have to do with safety leadership? You have probably developed a Pareto chart or diagram but didn’t know it by that name. We more commonly know it as the 80/20 rule. The Pareto Principle is named for Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, and sociologist who determined that 80% of the wealth belonged to 20% of the people. The Pareto Principle states that roughly 80% of the outcomes or consequences come from 20%of the causes. As a front-line supervisor, I thought 80% of my problems came from 20% of my team members. The principle has been shown to roughly hold for customer complaints (20% of products produce 80% of complaints, and profit (80%of profits come from 20% of goods/services.

Pareto Diagram

Because a Pareto diagram is a visual depiction of a problem area (or success), it is a valuable tool that should be in our toolbox. For budgeting purposes, it illustrates where monies can be directed or for influencing decisions at the leadership level. A Pareto diagram can influence a decision if you are meeting roadblocks in your efforts to push a specific safety initiative, especially at the executive level. Use a Pareto diagram to prioritize your to-do list. Identifying the tasks that have the highest impact increases your productivity.

See our ASP and CSP exam materials for learning more about management principles and leadership techniques.