What is “80/20 Practitioners Make Better Communicators” about?

This, is a very interesting article in many ways. And this article is something that is not just based on the theories or the books, but based on the real life experiences and situations in the workplace. By focusing on more than just what you are good at (which is 80%), if we focus and learn on something that we don’t know yet (which is the remaining the 20%), the result could be different with each of the individuals focusing only on their specialties.

Katie Kovalcin has shown specific cases that she has worked on which are the pizza chain redesigning and the bike retailer redesigning. On the pizza chain case, Katie’s team has worked with various ideas and various designs. But the result was, it was not what they were thinking in their head. The designs and the formats had changed too much, eventually leading the whole project to be messed up, looking as if there was no progress from the beginning. Then what was the reason? The reason was because of the miscommunication. Miscommunication doesn’t mean only the literal miscommunication. The cause could be various. Too many specialists could try to put each of their voices into the project resulting the conflict between each other. Or generalization could mess up everything as there wouldn’t be any feedback or communication between the workers as there wouldn’t be any creativity in the project.

From the failure, Katie’s team have learned to try on a different way, which is obviously communicating before the failure is right next to them. And the key of this communication skill is called 80/20 practitioners. 80/20 is based on the 80% of strength and 20% of the weakness of each specialists. Interesting key here that, this 80/20 doesn’t require on specializing the 80% of skill. But focuses on the 20% weakness to be filled up for the future success of the team.

Most likely, specialists in each field will think, “I’m good at this skill A, and that person is good at skill B. Why would I learn skill B? It would be better on efficiency for that person to use skill B instead of me trying to learn B”. And this will lead to the miscommunication of the each individuals. As they wouldn’t know what each other are talking about and would need somebody who knows the both skill A and B. But if each individuals use 20% of their effort to fill in the weakness, it would mean one less person to be the mediator and faster, more accurate communication. Katie has shown, that by filling in those 20% of the weakness, she could have faster and more accurate feedbacks from the clients and having more participation in the project. Filling in 20% was not because she wanted to be a better designer, but for the better progress for the whole team.

Thanks to the diversified skills, Katie’s team could have consistent communication with each other, and even the project manager could work together on various situations. Developers and designers being able to do multiple parts were having more ideas as well. As both sides could understand the other part, ideas that were not able to come out on the stiff communication was over. And eventually, the miscommunication has slowly disappeared. Learning each others’ skills didn’t make the project to be easier. But it gave more focus and creativity with the understanding the each teammates that created synergy.

According to the article, this 80/20 way wouldn’t be easy for any organizations as each of the companies will have their own culture and ways to deal with the projects. Especially big corporations will need more process and patience as of the huge bureaucracy. But one experiment could possibly change all future projects. When the project manager understands the idea of 80/20, it will be better obviously as they have the power to command or move the whole team. Katie suggests that new projects might be the best time to try 80/20 way, as project that is already in progress would not be easy to change the existing way. And even if the existing organization doesn’t want to try the new way, Katie thinks it is good to try it yourself to see, feel, and experience the difference of the time when there wasn’t 80/20 way with the existence of 80/20 way.

Everyone knows and have the goal of becoming the specialist of one field. Mastering one thing can be good for the individual. But by the collaboration and learning each other’s skills, the result could be totally different. Sharing and co-working based on filling each individual’s weakness can make the results that nobody will ever imagine. 80/20 way will not only make each of the individual strong, but the team will become stronger as well.


2 thoughts on “What is “80/20 Practitioners Make Better Communicators” about?”

  1. Hey! I really liked your post. It’s really interesting the way the author looks at it because it is true that usually when it comes to projects, we always make people do what they know and have individuals focus in the 80% rather than the 20% and that we always want to work on what we are good/comfortable at. Also, I think the way it is explained makes total sense. I think it is all about learning and becoming better in any way possible to be able to communicate and understand each other. This is great!


  2. Hey Jung,
    I really enjoyed your review of this article. I started to review this one, but I wasn’t sure how to respond to it, so I’m glad you did. This article totally reminds me of one of the many lessons I’ve taken away from Professor Fulbright’s Intro to Business class! You were in there so I’m sure you remember the phrase…. “Hire Your Weaknesses”, which is the idea that the skills you lack when stating a business or project, you should seek to create a well rounded team by bringing on people who are exceptional at it. Personally, I know what I excel in and what I completely and utterly fail at. While it’s always good to increase your knowledge in areas you don’t fully understand I firmly believe if you don’t have to talent for it, don’t do it. If I were to start a business, I’d never make the mistake of managing my own financials, however I’d definitely make it a point to learn all of the important components I need to know so I’d never be in a position where someone is taking advantage of my company.

    Good review!


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