There is a rule of life that 90% of the cost of an activity will be incurred in performing 10% of the task. I first read this in a study from IBM many years ago that provided empirical evidence of the truth of this rule-of-thumb and it’s something I’ve observed all my life. I consider this rule one of the fundamental postulates of praxeology (the science of accomplishing things). I know that the 90-90 rule (as it’s sometimes called) is attributed to Tom Cargill but perhaps some smart person can direct me to the study that I’m thinking of. It’s lost somewhere in my library.
It’s closely related to Sturgeon’s Law.
In a slight digression one of the great geniuses of Microsoft is the creative application of this rule. By never completing more than 90% of any product and declaring the unfinished product production-worthy they avoid major costs in time and money.
This isn’t just a law of software development or engineering. It applies to staffing (90% of the work in a company is performed by 10% of the people) and just about everything else.
Including the war in Iraq.
I recall turning to my wife when President Bush announced the end of major military operations in Iraq two years ago and saying It’s just begun. That’s because of the 90% rule.
When I read this post at CenterField in which the author asks What is your personal tipping point on Iraq? i.e. what would make you change your mind about what’s going on there, and several people mentioned different kinds of ratcheting down there e.g. of deaths, attacks, etc., I thought these guys don’t understand the 90% rule. The violence and deaths in Iraq will continue at an unacceptable level. And then they’ll stop. Or diminish sharply. We’ll have accomplished that remaining, costly 10%.
Fellow Council-member Rick Moran of Right Wing Nut House calls the Senate Republicans nervous Nellies; Nitpicker seems upset that the Republicans are stealing the Democrats’ ideas (and, presumably their thunder). I think that Senators just don’t understand the 90% rule and asking Are we there yet? Are we there yet? like 6 year olds in the backseat won’t get us there (whereever there might be) a second sooner.
FWIW while I have no objections to publishing milestones for accomplishing our objectives in Iraq (which I think is long overdue), I think that looking for a timetable, schedule, or anything else that has dates and times rather than tasks on it is childish and stupid.