The 80% Solution – Progress, Not Perfection

The 80% Solution – Progress, Not Perfection


In any situation, it’s possible to be stalled and unable to make a decision if we look for the “final answer” before taking action. The 80% solution is a way to break through and to make progress toward that final answer by acting on what amounts to 80% of the ultimate “perfect” solution.

In the process, you will learn what is working and what isn’t and will be in a better position to make decisions on the last 20%.


When there is a committee making a decision, the leader is hoping for buy-in to a proposal by offering the team an opportunity to add their suggestions.

Round one: The leader calls a meeting and informs the team that the company is going to begin a new program. He calls for suggestions, takes those suggestions back to the boss (or the supplier) and gets a proposal drafted for approval.

Round two: The proposal is tabled at the next team meeting and now team members have other ideas they want to add. The manager goes back to the boss (or supplier) with these suggestions, incorporates what can be incorporated and takes the altered proposal back to the table.

Round three: Repeat round two.  Meanwhile, nothing is happening except meetings and a lot of running around trying to get consensus.

The 80% Solution

On Round Two: The manager says that the ideas from round one have been incorporated and that the plan will be implemented as tabled to get a start on the program. The team is asked to get feedback from the stakeholders on the effects and to measure the results of the program. A date is set 3 or 6 months down the road where that feedback will be reviewed and based on their findings, adjustments will be made to the program at that time to enhance results and improve stakeholder satisfaction.

Phase two – three to six months later: using that feedback, program revisions are made and another 80% solution is implemented.

The Result – Progress, Not Perfection

Without decisions and implementation of those decisions, no progress is possible. The 80% Solution offers a way to be innovative, productive and profitable.

It stays open to suggestion but with a pre-defined process for deciding which suggestions are most viable.

Try it. You’ll like it.

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