The Cat is out of the Bag

If one hundred paint professionals work to complete a rather large project, what percentage will actually complete the most work? Will each tradesman produce equally? Many believe that the average craftsman produces a typical amount each day (if not, employees would get canned). Let’s consider most things being equal as far as experience and training goes, and the project tasks are uncomplicated; just walls and trim. The ideal would be that everyone completes a similar amount of work, which may indicate that the manager/owner knows what their doing. But have you ever experienced a passing, cloudy feeling that you are stuck doing more than a fair share of the production?

The hidden sun syndrome should not be from the concept that supervisors or foreman must be the most productive. Good project site organization, task sequencing, material management, efficient direction and clear goal setting are attributes that indicate capable employee leadership. Various managers/owners do not work with the tools, and must rely on others for job performance. Sometimes the hyper productive do not make the best crew chiefs. Other-times owners or supervisory personnel work in brief break neck speeds and declare that is the expectation; go faster and faster, but eventually that bossing method is ignored after the mess maker leaves the job. Competent professionals do not need to be pushed and most likely only the less skilled will put up with those antics for any length of time.

Regardless of job type, white or blue collar, field or management, there are noticeable work completion patterns. Take a random group of craftsmen with equal experience, some get more work done than others. If everyone produced equally, hiring or working alongside good painters would be the norm, but that is not reality. It is the same in every profession, carpenters, lawyers, food service, and auto mechanics or even in healthcare, many individuals may have similar training and/or credentials, but not every individual is equally competent or productive. Attentive observation and the facts show that work production is not shared evenly. Put another way, the norm is that a smaller percentage of workers complete more; production distribution is not spread equally among individuals.

This is not a new revelation, in 1906, the Italian economist, Pareto, developed a formula regarding uneven wealth distribution and subsequently this concept has become known as the 80/20 rule. The Pareto Principle essentially states that 20% of input results in 80% of result; as noted in a previous Painting Pro’s Perspective Chomping Along the 80/20 and related to business:

  • 80% of profits come from 20% of customers
  • 80% of complaints come from 20% of customers
  • 80% of profits come from 20% of time spent
  • 80% of sales come from 20% of products/services
  • 80% of sales are made by 20% of sales staff

Old Pareto used impressive mathematical evidence and groundbreaking reasoning to prove his point that most stuff is not distributed evenly. In the paint and coating profession, just look around the job and see if every craftsman completes the same amount of daily work. Over the years, more than a few have disagreed with the 80/20 concept, but there is substantial statistical data showing time and time again the observation’s validation. So does that mean that 80% of paint professionals should be fired? If the employee door is already somewhat revolving now, would the 80/20 make it rotate like a helicopter? That would be chaos, instead, consider using the rule to look at employees and coworkers in a new light.

Use the 80/20 as a guide, to identify key personnel and to recognize the need to develop clear written work performance standards. In addition, using 80/20 may help managers/owners to apply a fresh and more objective perspective to measure individual craftsman job performance, which may help keep an eye towards constant company improvement. Here are some examples of how Pareto’s observation may help companies improve overall production:

  • 20% of employees create 80% of employee grief
  • 20% of employees produce 80% of results
  • 20% of employees cause 80% of punch/fix-it time
  • 20% of employees make 80% of customers happy
  • 20% of mistakes take 80% of problem solving effort
  • 20% of employees set the correct example for 80% employees to follow

The cat has escaped, paint professionals, like other industries, do not work in some fictitious perfectly equal world. Avoid employee/coworker pandemonium, recognize and use the 80/20 rule to be successful or as Pareto may have said, be a 20 percenter.




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