June 6, 2007
The 80 Percent Rule (Not the 80/20 Rule)
I believe it was Ronald Reagan who said about the Republican Party that there are a lot of people in it with a lot of different views, but that as long he agreed 80% with someone, he was solidly “with them.” The older I get, the more I find this to be a great rule of thumb.
Certainly in politics, it must be true. In a two-party system that handles an infinite number of issues, you’re never going to agree 100% with someone. You just have to get close. That’s why it will be interesting to see how things like the candidacy of Giuliani works, with him running as a pro-choice Republican.
I also find it true in the non-profit fundraising world. I am currently raising a lot of money for Princeton from my classmates, and of course everyone has different opinions about what the University is doing today, in particular about some of their policies around admissions, expansion, and athletics. But in the end, the argument that “you’re never going to agree 100%…but are you at least at 80%?” seems to work well to persuade people to donate.
And of course, this 80% rule is very true in running a business as well. You can’t expect your employees to agree with 100% of your decisions. But your employees also realize that they will never agree with 100% of their company’s decisions. At about the 80% rule, with enough transparency around decision-making to make the missing 20% at least seem rational, you have a winning formula.