The 80/20 rule in terms of team productivity

Discussion in 'Tech Heads' started by Utumno, Apr 25, 2019.

  1. Utumno

    Utumno Administrator Staff Member

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    Posting this in Tech Heads but tbh I'm also interested in any type of workplace.

    Having managed many teams (and worked with many more) now at this point in my career.... I'd have to say the most common distribution in terms of team productivity is very 80/20, with 80% of the work being done by 20% of the people.

    I have certainly seen exceptions to this, teams that were so high performing that any shitbags stood out and were fairly quickly removed, but it has been rare. I can recall maybe 3 teams I was either part of or worked closely with, that were 100% solid with equally high performers. I can recall dozens where this was not the case.. out of a team of 5-12ish people, it was always a handful that resulted in most of the productivity.

    What have your experiences been? I feel like I'm pretty jaded about it... I always felt as a manager you try to keep those top performers happy (and paid) and do your best to keep everyone happy with the situation, and you try to nudge things into more parity... but realistically you'll never move the needle more than 10% short of really lucky hires and getting rid of people who made everyone else miserable.
     
  2. Agrul

    Agrul TZT Neckbeard Lord

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    is there any actual evidence for the "80/20" rule in the workplace? iirc it's just a shitty heuristic description of the concentration propreties of heavy-tail distributions common in some domains (like counts of word or digits in books). i cant see why it would describe workplace productivity
     
  3. Utumno

    Utumno Administrator Staff Member

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    No. I mean certainly when I described it using the Paretto Ratio it's absolutely a lazy/shitty approximation on my part w/no hard data, and in general I always assume the Paretto Principle itself is much more an easy conceptual thing for human brains to grasp vs. any sort of actually useful metric.

    I've seen a few management articles talking about 80/20 productivity distributions, but again mostly fluff pieces vs. any actual studies that cite specific data.

    Regardless of what those actual percentages are, what I'm trying to figure out is, given one industry or another.... how disturbing/abnormal it is to see a small subset producing the majority of the work, vs. what people like to imagine actually happens (i.e. everyone contributing equally). You obviously can't make any sort of blanket statement w/any accuracy (for example there are areas where such a disparity would be painfully obvious immediately and would not easily exist... like a line of checkout clerks, or group of truck drivers or whatever).

    But for more ambiguous knowledge work (tech/development/etc.) - it seems much easier for this imbalance to exist. There's also the notion of the 10x programmer (not the same thing but sorta related) and a lot of people just accept that to be a fact as well.
     
  4. AgelessDrifter

    AgelessDrifter TZT Neckbeard Lord

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    I can tell you that 2% of the posters do 98% of the posting
     
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  5. Utumno

    Utumno Administrator Staff Member

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    It's probably more like .01% or something because the vast majority of accounts are inactive.
     
  6. Jackpanel

    Jackpanel TZT Abuser

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    I’m pretty lucky that my teams are fairly high performing overall. My teams (21 devs, 6 analysts) can be broken down into 3 main types:

    1) High performers - these people are technically skilled, dedicated workers and actively try to push for technical and process improvements. They’re also able to confidently juggle multiple projects and balance/prioritize properly. I’m lucky and have 8-10 of this type on my teams.

    2) Competent workers - I can trust the quality and timeliness of their work, but they are basically along for the ride. They do what they’re told and do good work, but don’t put much thought or passion into it. The majority of my teams are this type of worker. They’re only slightly less productive than the type 1 people, but they could do much better if they showed more passion and confidence.

    3) Low performers - these are guys that regularly slow down projects, and never seem to fully understand the products they’re working on, causing lots of bugs and defects (devs) or confusing devs, QA, and business (analysts). I have to micromanage these guys way more than I’d like. I have one dev and one analyst like this, with another dev that’s borderline #2/#3. I have to be careful how I use these guys, and add some padding to estimates for whatever they work on. Even with these guys though, it’s nothing like at 80/20 split. At worst, they’re maybe 50% less productive than type 2 people.
     
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  7. Chemosh

    Chemosh TZT Addict

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    Funny you brought this up. I was talking to one of the team leads and they have to remove me from metrics because of my productivity. I tend to trend their average numbers too high causing issues with the bottom half of team.

    I've never understood how people weren't so productive and they've asked to video what I do to mimic it. If they knew the amount of time I spent on YouTube, Facebook, getting showers in middle of day I'd fear for job
     
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  8. Harper

    Harper encrypted account, pls don't sniff my packet

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    funny you brought this up because your posting is too good and I think you should stop because of the metrics
     
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  9. Sear

    Sear TZT Neckbeard Lord

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    funny you bring this up because I was just talking to myself today about how superior I am to other humans

    if only they knew! ;)
     
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  10. Utumno

    Utumno Administrator Staff Member

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    This was great, thanks. Yeah I do think you're lucky (or I have been unlucky).

    If I broke down most of my experiences into 3 similar categories, 1 and 2 would be a pretty big gap, and 2 to 3 would be equally huge. 3 would be about 20% as productive as 2, and always on the verge of the chopping block.
     
  11. Utumno

    Utumno Administrator Staff Member

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    Any snarky cracks about Chemosh's posting aside - I can actually believe it... and I think it's because he's genuinely excited about this shit. Like I ask him some random question and he nerds out about ways to approach it + drinks so deeply of the AWS koolaid it's legit scary. That's kindof the guy you want working for you. He can fuck off a bunch of the time but when he dives into a project he dives in deep because he's a grade A turbonerd about the subject.
     
  12. AgelessDrifter

    AgelessDrifter TZT Neckbeard Lord

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    :laughing:
     
  13. Czer

    Czer I'm a poor person. The lambo is my cousin's.

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    I don't understand how you could make a basic assumption.

    I've worked in support, NOC teams, sys admin.

    I work in SaaS now in software development, completely different than how other tech places function, not even similar. The basic similarity is that they all require computers.

    We use I don't know how many programs to maintain metrics daily with Zendesk/Jira/Zoho/Hubspot, and all we do is focus on process
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2019