The 95/5 Rule

As I have entered discussions on Linkedin and other business network sites, I am alarmed by the number of people that are focusing their energies on things like how to find employees that are nice vs. kind and whether a person’s past performance is a good predictor of future performance.  It gets to some of the fundamental problems in our thinking and/or believing that our emphasis on the individual will make an organization better.

Dr. Deming taught me that 95% of the performance of an organization is attributable to the system (processes, technology, work design, regulations, etc.) and 5% are attributable to the individual.  During his 4-day seminars he would use the analogy of an business needing to be run like an orchestra.  Where we can’t have a 200-piece group of prima donnas trying to play a solo.  To achieve great sound pleasing to the ear, each needs to understand the broader aim and system.  As opposed to a bowler that only needs to be concerned with himself or herself.

This fundamental change in thinking is crucial to be a systems thinking organization.  Organizational change management means moving to this type of system.  The management paradox here is that this not the way command and control thinkers think.  They spend an inordinate amount of time coming up with performance appraisals, incentive schemes, performance targets and the like that wind up making the system performance worse.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  He is focused on service design through culture and customer. Reach him on Twitter at and LinkedIn at

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