Monday, June 26, 2017
Plan for Pareto effects

Plan for Pareto effects

Volume 1412, Number 13

Pareto’s Principle is correct 

Pareto’s Principle boils down to: 80 percent of the effects (good or bad) always come from 20 percent of the causes. It seems to apply in fields as diverse as economics, medicine and even home gardening.

Pareto’s Principle is validated during CM Council meetings: about 80% of the vitriol originates from about 20% of the commenters. They only quiet down while their handlers (e.g., a union officer or a blogging buffoon) are creating the “official view” that they are expected to spew.

Medical practitioners are advised to identify “which 20 %” is going to provide the most problems:

“For example, when I have sat on committees addressing problems such as readmissions, solutions are proposed which are all encompassing and don’t adequately target who we should be (targeting).

“If 80 percent of readmissions come from 20 percent or less of the same congestive heart failure patients, then we should understand the characteristics of these 20 percent before we put excess effort into stopping readmissions among the 80 percent of patients who are very unlikely to be readmitted in the first place.”*

Only after the “problem 20%” is identified and described is it worthwhile to try to find a solution.

We can apply Pareto’s Principle in Costa Mesa. Idea sharing with or among those who want solutions may be productive. However, seeking input from the 20% who complain about problems without being reasonably informed about them is counterproductive.

Appointing unwavering (and unthinking) opponents to help solve the problem can thwart a committee. One local example is the Charter Committee’s anemic results due to two absolutely-anti-charter members.

Committee and commission appointments could be seen as part of the “spoils of victory.” If that were all they were, most appointments would be spectacularly unsuccessful.

However, if they are appointments of folks whom the political winners have found to be effective—the 20% that accomplish something – the committee can be successful. That’s true even if they aren’t theoretically the very best candidates. If the appointments are based upon gender, ethnicity, or some misguided sense of “fairness” the committees are unlikely to be productive.

Further, appointments made “to be fair” to the minority members of the Council may well be perceived as signs of weakness and indecisiveness. The majority that sits in Costa Mesa at this time campaigned for effective government. Irresolute and ineffective appointments will alienate the supporters who elected them. That is, the minority wins:  it wins seats to help block progress, and wins the PR battle. (Regardless of the actual appointments, they will always cry “the majority didn’t share fairly.”)

It would be far better to accept the increased noise and help the City grow and improve than to suffer the increased noise for “not doing enough to be fair” and ultimately failing Costa Mesa.


*Suneel Dhand is an internal medicine physician and author of Thomas 
Jefferson: Lessons from a Secret Buddha.


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