Upcoming Event: Taking 80/20 Thinking into Another Dimension

Tim and I are speaking next week at the monthly North Shore Interest Group of the Harvard Business School Club of Chicago. Here are the details:

HBS Club of Chicago: “NSIG: North Shore Special Interest Group: March Meeting Announcement

NSIG Breakfast Thursday, March 13, 2014 7:30-9:00 am Max & Bennys, Northbrook

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 Taking 80/20 Thinking into Another Dimension: Tim Nelson and Jim McGee (HBS 1980) 

Vilfredo Pareto formulated the 80/20 principle in 1906. Quality consultant Joe Juran brought it to management’s attention in the 1940s. Business schools teach it. Most managers pay it lip service or ignore it for the latest ‘bright, shiny, object.’ For our March breakfast meeting, hear authors Tim Nelson and Jim McGee (HBS 1980) discuss their new book Think Inside the Box: Discover the Exceptional Business Inside Your Organization (WCG Press, 2013). They’ll make the case that there’s plenty of mileage left in the 80/20 principle and that there is even more power in expanding 80/20 to two dimensions.

Plan for a highly interactive discussion with Nelson and McGee on:

  • Why 80/20 thinking matters more than ever in a complex world
  • The power of 80/20 squared; combining 80/20 analysis of products and customers
  • Why simple analysis bridges organizational silos
  • Why organizations should learn to do this analysis for themselves


Headshot JimMcGee 2012 07 04

Tim Nelson founded Midwest Industrial Packaging in 1987 and sold it to Illinois Tool Works in 2000. From 2000 to 2008, he served as Vice President and General Manager for ITW in several divisions. Tim divides his time between developing and applying the ideas behind Think Inside the Box with multiple businesses and founding  and growing Encore Packaging of Lake Bluff. Tim has an undergraduate degree in Finance from San Diego State University and an MBA in Operations and Accounting from the University of Chicago.

Jim McGee was a founder of Diamond Management & Technology Consultants (now part of Price Waterhouse Coopers) helping it grow from 25 employees in 1994 to over 1,000 consultants and $260 million in revenue in 2000. Jim divides his time between writing, teaching, and consulting. Jim has an undergraduate degree in Statistics from Princeton and an MBA and Doctorate from Harvard Business School.

EVENT DETAILS: DATE: Thursday, March 13, 2014 TIME: 7:30-9:00 am LOCATION: Max & Benny’s (Brookside Shopping Center), 461 Waukegan Road, Northbrook COST: Please prepay now through the club website HBSCC members and their guests (with prepaid reservation): $20.00 HBSCC members (without prepaid reservation): $30.00 HBSCC Patron and Patron Plus Guest Pass members: FREE! Non-members of HBSCC (with prepaid reservation): $30.00

Reservation deadline: Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Click here to buy tickets!!!

How our collaboration began

The collaboration that produced this book began with a conversation at a Christmas party. A mutual friend suggested that we meet to investigate the overlap in our backgrounds and interests. Our lives had already intersected in several ways in the community where we live. In the mid-1990s, I coached Tim’s son in AYSO soccer. Our wives both play in the Handbell Choir at our church. What we hadn’t previously done was compare notes on our professional backgrounds and experiences.

Tim was flying between Chicago and North Carolina where he was working with a client. He used the flights to mine his experiences using the tools and practices he had learned during his time at ITW and was refining with his client. He produced an early version of the manuscript that evolved into Think Inside the Box. The approach always produced excellent results when properly implemented. Tim was trying to answer three questions:

  • Why weren’t more organizations routinely doing 80/20 analysis?
  • Why were organizations reluctant to implement the seemingly simple changes needed to reap clear rewards?
  • Why were the straightforward tools and techniques he had learned not taught, while more esoteric concepts with limited application filled classes, seminars, workshops, and journals?

Meanwhile, I had wandered across the boundary between practice and theory again. I was teaching a newly designed graduate course on organizational change. I was looking at a related set of questions:

  • How is the practice of organizational change evolving when change is the norm rather than the exception in today’s competitive, dynamic, and global, economy?
  • Why are organizations slow to adopt new knowledge about using data and information to make more effective decisions?
  • How do you connect insights to sustained, effective, action in complex organizations?

Our mix of interests and experience led us to tackle these questions from a pragmatic perspective. The changing economics of data processing and software technology make the tools for this work affordable and accessible to organizations of virtually any scale. And the essence of connecting insight to action depends on effectively engaging those with the power to implement change in the process of developing insights from the evidence. 

We think the ideas here are pretty straightforward. They aren’t always explained as clearly as they might and they aren’t generally pulled together in one place. The book is our effort to do both. This blog and the web give us a place to close the loop with others interested in the same issues, continue the conversation, and make it even simpler.