I recognize that unless the scope of a project includes process or product redesign most teams are unlikely to have the need to use Pareto charts, but what concerns me is that the underlying Pareto principle is applicable on a broader basis.
Had the Pareto principle been defined early in the Guide, it could have been referenced subsequently in a number of key processes including Qualitative Risk Analysis, Direct and Manage Project Work, Manage Quality and Plan Stakeholder Engagement. With all of these processes, a project team needs to identify the “vital few” elements where they should spend valuable time while keeping the “trivial many” on watch lists for occasional monitoring.
The Pareto principle can also apply to Manage Project Knowledge, which is one of the new processes added within the Integration Management chapter in the Sixth Edition. When coming up with lessons which might be applicable to current or future projects, after the team has used techniques such as brainstorming to identify a large set of candidate ideas, the Pareto principle can be used to filter those down to a handful by considering which will deliver the greatest productivity or quality improvement.
The Pareto principle also applies when we are tailoring our approach to the needs of a given project. Project management methodologies and standards are usually very comprehensive but a competent project manager needs to be able to apply good judgment in deciding exactly which practices, tools and techniques will deliver the greatest benefit.
Finally, if we acknowledge that “It depends” is the safest answer to most project management questions, then the Pareto principle is a valuable tool to help narrow our focus to where our efforts might be best spent.