Vilfredo’s Harvest

Vilfredo’s Harvest

Analyzing patterns of behavior to identify and solve issues

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Born into an exiled Genoese family, Vilfredo was harvesting peas in his garden when he noticed an interesting phenomenon. The majority of the peas he harvested came from only a small number of peapods. Vilfredo built upon this observation and, in 1896, applied it to the field of economics, specifically noting 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by just 20 percent of the population. Consultant, Joseph Juran, later applied this idea to business management and named it after the individual who first discovered it, Vilfredo Pareto.

The Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, has been applied to the worlds of software development, sports, engineering, and even health care. We can see this idea in our everyday lives. We repeatedly eat the same types of food, or at the same restaurants, despite there being an almost unlimited variety. We wear the same, favorite items of clothing regularly, even though we have closets full of outfits.

Despite the likely apocryphal nature of the story of Vilfredo harvesting peas, the Pareto principle is a concept with wide applicability, including to our own world of motor vehicle administration.  As professionals, we witness this phenomenon regularly, but may not always call it by its name. The majority of our day is consumed by a small number of recurring issues. It might be a piece of equipment that regularly breaks down, customers presenting similar, but difficult-to-resolve situations, or completing bothersome, time-consuming paperwork.

The Pareto principle helps us identify those things in our lives and workplaces where we spend a disproportionate amount of time. The challenge, however, is not only to identify them, but also to do something about them. Working in the public sector with a focus on customer service challenges us to not only identify and resolve the problems we face, but to do so from the perspective of our customers. Where are the problem areas customers face when interacting with our agencies? What business do they dread to do with us?

AAMVA recently published a report emphasizing the challenges young drivers face when seeking to reinstate a license. The report noted the obstacles and the potential impact of license suspension on their lives. With studies showing approximately 75 percent of all suspended drivers continue to drive, it is essential we, as motor vehicle administrators, play our vital role in informing drivers, and making it as painless a process as possible to be reinstated. Our goal needs to be to advise and educate the residents in our jurisdictions. To eliminate the 20 percent of interaction which, from our customers’ perspective, gives them 80 percent of their headaches.

Identifying our own blind spots and finding ways to resolve them is our constant challenge, and one which requires renewed vision and focus at the beginning of a new year. We must remember the 80/20 rule cuts both ways. We must develop solutions to those 20 percent of areas which cause the biggest problems for our customers, while doing the same for our teams. Much like Vilfredo taking stock of his crop, we too must pause to consider those patterns in our processes and behaviors, which prevent us from delivering our best.

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