- by Jason Roberts
In 1906, the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto noticed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. From this observation he began to develop a theory which came to be named after him: the Pareto principle, or the “80-20 rule.” 80% of the peas in his garden came from 20% of the pea pods. 80% of the people lived in the largest 20% of cities. The list goes on, and from a quick web search it seems to be a favorite topic of motivational speakers everywhere. “20% of your clients will be responsible for 80% of your sales,” they tell us, and likewise, “20% of your activities will be responsible for 80% of your happiness.” (How did they measure happiness I wonder?)
In any case, we’re all probably used to hearing about this in our workplaces. “80% of the work at this church is done by 20% of the membership,” the rector will say. And it’s very true – not that I’ve done a detailed study to find out if it’s really exactly 20% that is doing all the work, but it’s certainly a small group.
Is this true in our AGO chapter? Well, 20% of our membership
is 36 people. That’s roughly our attendance at the annual dinner, when we vote for our board members and determine the direction that we will take as an organization. These are the people who serve on commit- tees and attend our workshops and concerts: “the vital 20%” one motivational speaker calls them. They’re the stop-pullers and the piston pushers: no crescendo pedal for these folks.
Perhaps every organization is like this and always will be. One web result for my search for the “80-20 rule” was a guide on how to operate an efficient business. Apparently, 20% of your employees are often responsible for 80% of your profits: the writer pretty much suggested getting rid of the others and replacing them with 20% people (it seems, though, that it would just make for a more efficient 20% if the rule was to hold true- although the benefit is that your profits would increase.)
It’s not necessarily bad to be part of the 80%, however I think it’s true that the benefits of belonging to an organization like ours are proportional to the time and energy you put in. It may be the case that 20% of the membership will always do 80% of the work, but we can certainly increase the efficiency of our 20%- we can make the AGO better and hopefully inspire more people to be passionate about the organ. That is, in our business, the bottom line.