Pareto; An Economist, Not A Gardener.

6 Probing questions for a dead gardener that might help you uncover the vital few productivity pitfalls in your business.

Pareto the Economist not A Gardener
Vilfredo Pareto; Economist

I’ve been pondering the state of affairs concerning Professor Vilfredo Pareto and his pea production. In fact, it disturbed me that his pea production was profoundly unproductive. He was an acclaimed economist from the 1800s, who’s famous pea garden observations gave rise to his 80/20 rule being applied to all manner of circumstance and phenomenon.

Pareto observed that 80% of his pea harvest came from only 20% of the peas he planted. The world took it from there and ran with it…but…

In terms of return on investment;

This is a disastrous result! If only the majority of his pea seeds had performed as well as the minority! Persons aiming for successful pea growth, or success in any project for that matter, would clearly desire a better outcome.

Pareto! What could have possibly gone wrong?

To investigate the cause of such a dismal failure, we need to dissect his gardening methodology, piece by laborious piece. The causal factors in this 80/20 dichotomy are traceable and therefore able to be remediated or eliminated entirely.

Let’s start at the end… The Return On Investment.

80% of the crop came from 20% of the peas. Conversely, 20% of the crop came from the remaining 80% of the seed. Here in lies our most important question….Why did 80% of the seeds fail to produce a reasonable harvest?

Probing Questions for Pareto

6 critical analysis questions for Pareto;

Plus some glaringly obvious, but often overlooked measures, to resolve a system breakdown.

Think about how you can also apply these questions not only to your pea garden, but in relation to your physical or digital products as well.



Q1. Did 100% of the seed peas come from the same source?(SOURCE/ SUPPLIERS/RESEARCH)

Yes; Go to question 2.

No; Which seed source supplied the highly productive 20%? Who supplied the underperforming stock?

Resolution; Cancel orders from supplier of nonviable seed. Increase purchase order of quality seed.


Q.2. Was 100% of seed stock stored securely? (STOCKS/ DATA/ CONTENT)

Yes; Go to question 3

No; Was the seed stock out of date, damaged, infested, mouldy, contaminated?

Resolution; Review all storage and handling procedures.


Q.3 Were 100% of the seed beds tended to equally? (OPERATIONS/SEO/ MEDIA RICH INFO)

Yes; Go to question 4.

No; Did the under producing seeds get the same amounts of water, nutrient and sunshine as the abundant producers?

Resolution; Review and improve irrigation plumbing and design, fertiliser dispersal systems and factors like trees and hedges that cause too much shade on seed beds.


Q.4 Is drainage of all seed beds equally adequate? (ENVIRONMENT/ SOCIAL NETWORKING)

Yes; Go to question 5.

No; Is soil moisture too high / too low in any sections.

Resolution; Investigate potential over or underwatering, is low land or high land causing soil moisture loss or retention, improve drainage. Return to resolution 3.


Q.5 Was pest control completed across all seed beds? (EQUIPMENT/ SITE HEALTH)

Yes; Go to question 6.

No; What caused lack of completion? Under supply? Faulty equipment? Inaccurate ingredients?

Resolution; Review product suitability and application procedures, ensure the correct tools for the job are on hand and functioning.


Q.6 Do the staff understand their jobs? (YOUR TEAM/ OUTSOURCED WORK/ AFFILIATES)

Yes; You have a perfect system!

No; Are staff qualified and inducted correctly?. Is staff performance and compliance monitored?

Resolution; Establish a clear system of tasks, reporting and reviews for all people involved in your pea production.

Pareto suggested that the 80/20 Principle is a phenomenon represented across economics, business and  day to day occurrences in life, like his pea garden. It’s true that we witness coincidental evidence of the 80/20 rule in generalised circumstances. The rider to this principle is that variations to the rule can be extreme, such as 90/10 or 70/30.

Commonly propounded examples of the basic 80/20 premise are;Pareto's Law

  • 80% of wealth is distributed amongst 20% of the population
  • 80% value comes from 20% effort
  • 80% of complaints come from 20% of your customers
  • 80% sales are attributable to 20% of your clients
  • 80% of output comes from 20% staff
  • 80% of corporate pollution comes from 20% of corporations
  • 80% of traffic accidents are caused by 20% of drivers
  • 80% of your socialising is done with 20% of your friends
  • 80% of absenteeism is attributed to 20% of staff
  • 80% of software problems are caused by 20% of bugs
  • 80% of cramming is done in 20% of allocated study time
  • 80% of health care services are used by 20% of population
  • 80% of traffic uses 20% of roads
  • 80% of the population live in 20% of land area
  • 80% of crime is committed by 20% of criminals

What To Do With The Law Of The Vital Few?

Pareto’s Principle, otherwise known as the Law of the Vital Few, challenges us to find and act upon the vital few causes which have the biggest impact on our project.

It’s not enough to quaintly pin an 80/20 philosophy on to each dilemma or success. We need to dig deep into the issue and evaluate every step of our procedures, thus exposing trouble spots and points of quality.

Evaluate, Eliminate and Leverage.

Screen each phase of your system for breakdowns.

Eliminate the dysfunctional and non effectual actions.

Leverage, replicate and support your best performers.

By examining your standard operating procedures at each level of SOURCES, HOLDINGS, OPERATIONS, EQUIPMENT, ENVIRONMENTS, CONTROLS, TEAM and KNOWLEDGE….you have the clearest picture of your strengths and weaknesses.

Remember the ‘Global Economic Crisis’?

Wordpress For Beginners

A hot topic of discussion back the was fiscal belt tightening. We examined our wasted resources and rectified sloppy procedures in the name of survival.

I wondered back then, why these reviews were not a standard business practice. ..instead of kneejerk rescue packages when a crisis arrives?

It makes good sense to regularly apply Pareto’s Principle from an investigative viewpoint. In fact it is the the key to having more time and success, by eliminating waste and doing less ineffective work.

Leveraging your strengths or your best performers is the key to scaling a long term recurring income online too. See where I  started out here.

I value your opinion and am happy to answer questions and comments. Please share this article with your best and vital few.

Go well from Janelle

Founder of The Cashed Up      Earn Your freedom Online.

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  1. Scott said:

    Hey Janelle – this is one of the most interesting things I have read on the internet in a long time. I quote the 80/20 rule all the time but I never had any idea about the origin of it. To think that the roots of it are in a story about a garden!
    I too have an online affiliate marketing business and there are some real take aways here. I am going to bookmark this post so that I can refer back to your flow chart from time to time! Great stuff!

    May 20, 2016
    • Janelle B.M. said:

      Scott I am so happy you got the points I was trying to make. It is a matter of finding your 80/20s and then digging around to see how to improve it.

      Thanks for stopping by and feel free to Pin the info graphic on your own site.

      May 22, 2016
    • Janelle B.M. said:

      Thank you for the compliment Scott. I was once a crop farmer so I know that when only 20% of seed produces 80% of the crop…then something is seriously wrong. Some business operators choose to ignore problems in their system because it seems too hard. I can tell you , once you get accustomed to regular system reviews, it actually gets easier, faster and more profitable. Win, win, win.

      May 25, 2016

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