The Pareto Principle and Its Application in Risk Management

The Pareto Principle and Its Application in Risk Management

The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, is a widely accepted observation that suggests that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This principle has been found to be applicable to a wide range of fields, including economics, business, and nature. 

In practical terms, the Pareto Principle implies that 80% of the results are generated by only 20% of the effort. This rule is not precise but can be used to estimate the time and resources required for a project. For instance, project managers have observed that 20% of work delays happen at the beginning and end of a project, which usually consume 80% of project time. Therefore, it is essential to focus more resources on that 20% of the project that produces 80% of the result. 

In the context of risk management, the Pareto Principle can be used to identify and prioritize risks based on their potential impact. By focusing on the 20% of risks that are likely to cause 80% of the damage, organizations can make the most efficient use of their risk management resources.

How to Apply the Pareto Principle to Risk Management

In risk management, the Pareto Principle can be used in various ways. One of the common approaches is to create a Pareto chart, which is a type of bar graph ranking items by their decreasing magnitude. For risk management purposes, a Pareto chart helps to rank risks based on their potential impact. Once the top 20% of the risks, which are likely to cause 80% of the damage, are identified, mitigation plans can be developed to reduce the likelihood or impact of a risk event. The purpose of these mitigation plans is to minimize the adverse effects of any risk.

Benefits of Using the Pareto Principle in Risk Management

Incorporating the Pareto Principle into risk management can bring about numerous benefits. One of the significant advantages is improved efficiency, as it allows organizations to prioritize the most critical risks and allocate their resources accordingly. By focusing on the 20% of risks that are responsible for 80% of the problems, businesses can avoid wasting their time and resources on minor issues.

Another benefit of the Pareto Principle is reduced risk exposure. By identifying and mitigating the most critical risks, organizations can protect themselves from potentially catastrophic consequences. This approach can help minimize the likelihood of loss and damage to the organization's assets, reputation, and operations.

Additionally, applying the Pareto Principle can lead to better decision-making. By focusing on the most critical risks and allocating resources appropriately, organizations can make informed decisions about how to manage risks. This approach ensures that the most significant risks receive the attention and resources they need, while minor risks receive less attention.

In summary, organizations can gain several benefits by using the Pareto Principle in risk management. Through improved efficiency, reduced risk exposure, and better decision-making, businesses can protect their assets, reputation, and operations. By focusing on the most critical risks, organizations can make the most efficient use of their resources and minimize the likelihood of loss and damage.

What measures can be taken to minimize the impact of losing key staff on a project?

Losing key staff during a project can have a significant impact on its progress and success. Therefore, organizations should implement various measures to ensure continuity and maintain momentum. Here are some effective strategies to consider:

1. Identify Key Personnel: The first step is to recognize the individuals who are critical to the project's success. These individuals possess unique skills, knowledge, or experience that are essential for the project's completion.

2. Cross-Train Employees: Cross-training involves teaching others to perform the tasks and responsibilities of key personnel. This creates a more versatile team and reduces reliance on a single individual.

3. Document Processes and Procedures: Clearly document all project processes and procedures, including decision-making workflows and technical specifications. This documentation serves as a valuable resource for others to understand and follow if a key person is unavailable.

4. Foster a Culture of Knowledge Sharing: Encourage open communication and knowledge sharing among team members. This creates a collaborative environment where expertise is readily accessible and can be easily transferred.

5. Implement Succession Planning: Develop a succession plan for key personnel, identifying potential replacements who can step in if necessary. This ensures a smooth transition and minimizes disruption.

6. Regularly Review and Update Plans: Regularly review and update project plans to reflect changes in personnel and ensure that the team is prepared for any potential contingencies.

7. Emphasize Employee Engagement and Retention: Invest in employee engagement and retention strategies to minimize the likelihood of key personnel leaving the project or the organization.

8. Utilize Technology and Automation: Leverage technology and automation tools to streamline tasks and reduce reliance on specific individuals. This can free up time for key personnel to focus on critical aspects of the project.

9. Seek External Expertise: If necessary, consider engaging external consultants or experts to supplement the team's expertise and provide support during critical phases of the project.

10. Communicate Effectively: Maintain open and transparent communication with all team members, including stakeholders. This helps to manage expectations, address concerns, and foster a sense of collective responsibility.

In addition to the above strategies, organizations can also consider the following:

- Distribute work evenly across the team in case of individual loss to avoid major delays.

- Overlap work/process with departments. For example, if a company manufactures machines, the work can be split into different contracting teams, and the work can be swapped across contractors from time to time, involving every member in all areas.

- Use perks and remunerations to keep the team engaged till the end of the project. Companies can also sign agreements with teams/contractors to ensure their involvement.

- Develop a proper system to run projects rather than relying on individuals irrespective of position. The company should run on a system instead of individuals to ensure smooth operations.

Considering the example of Airlines

After the German Wings Airbus plane crash in March 2015 which killed 150 people, airlines have agreed to new rules requiring two qualified pilots in the cockpit. This move was aimed at winning customers' confidence and has added some overheads to the airlines. The decision to have two crew members in the cockpit has had both positive and negative impacts on the industry.

On the positive side, having two qualified pilots has helped to relieve pilots from over-stress, which in turn helps to manage unexpected incidents. It has also minimized the risk of terrorist activities, which was considered as one of the possibilities. Furthermore, having two pilots in the cockpit allows for better decision-making in times of emergency. 

However, this decision has also added possible risks to the industry, including an increase in airlines' overheads during these competitive times, additional training programs, and more routine check-ups and maintenance. 

It is believed that in the coming times, more developed management programs will be put in place to address the challenges brought about by this new rule.


The Pareto Principle is a powerful tool that can be used to improve risk management effectiveness. By identifying and prioritizing the most critical risks, organizations can make the most efficient use of their resources and reduce their overall risk exposure.