Which policy should you write first?

2 min read

I teach participants in my workshops how to write great work policies. Once they learn the technique for doing so, the question that always follows is, “Attorney, where do I start? There’s so much to cover in my work, I’m getting overwhelmed!”

Here’s the thing. I went thru the same thing when I was first writing policies for our law office. So trust me when I say that I know how you feel because I was in the same boat.

The 80/20 Principle to the Rescue

What saved me eventually was something I read from Tim Ferriss in his book. It was a concept which taught me how to choose my targets for policy writing efficiently. This concept is called the Pareto Principle, more commonly known as the 80/20 rule.

This principle states that for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In the wikipedia entry for it, it gives the following examples:

  • 80% of problems can be attributed to 20% of causes.
  • 80% of a company’s profits come from 20% of its customers
  • 80% of a company’s complaints come from 20% of its customers
  • 80% of a company’s profits come from 20% of the time its staff spent
  • 80% of a company’s revenue comes from 20% of its products
  • 80% of a company’s sales are made by 20% of its sales staff

Here’s a quick youtube primer into the principle if you’re interested.

What this meant for me

What this means is that 80% of the issues I face at work comes from 20% of the events or tasks that happen at work. So, the most practical thing you can do when you’re looking for topics to make policies about is to check the 20% of incidents. If you follow this rule when picking out the subject for your first few policies, I guarantee you will feel lighter about your work.

In my case, I prioritized making policies about how we handle new clients for the law firm. I was having trouble onboarding new clients because we give out welcome kits, enrioll them into our helpdesk program, and on and on and on. Once I finally sat down and created a policy to welcome them, the day to day process for me became so much easier.

So, what 20% of your work gives off 80% of the tasks or issues you have to deal with? Is it dealing with clients? Is it with employee behaviors? Remember to use this principle to choose to give the biggest return on your investment of time making policies.

Policy Handbook Discipline