New old saying: "90% of the work...."

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 12 05:31:15 UTC 2010

The cite below does not reach back the full 33 years of the sound
engineer at the BBC, but it provides evidence that 90-10 type rules
were comically twisted by 1980 or before which further corroborates
Mark Mandel's comment.

Citation: 1980, The Practical Guide to Structured Systems Design by
Meilir Page-Jones, Yourdon Press (Google Books snippet view).

Others are: 90 percent of the work is done by 10 percent of the
people; 90 percent of all programs spend 90 percent of their time 90
percent complete; 90 percent of the project is done in 90 percent of
the allotted time, and the remaining 10 percent is done in the
remaining 90 percent of the time. (The original 90-10 rule was
Vilfredo Pareto's Law: "90 percent or the wealth in Italy is in the
hands of 10 percent of its citizens.")

The quoted statement about Vilfredo Pareto above is inaccurate. The
Pareto principle is more commonly known as the 80-20 rule and not the
90-10 rule.

In 2001 the humorous version of the 90-10 rule is referred to as an
adage in the following work.

Citation: 2001, Maynard's Industrial Engineering Handbook by Harold
Bright Maynard and Kjell B. Zandin, McGraw-Hill Professional.

The most popular method of measuring performance is by percent
complete. This is subject to the adage, "It takes 90 percent of the
time available to complete 90 percent of the work and it takes another
90 percent of the time available to complete the last 10 percent of
the work."


On Mon, Jan 11, 2010 at 10:34 PM, Mark Mandel <thnidu at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Mark Mandel <thnidu at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: New old saying: "90% of the work...."
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I've heard this for many years in software. I think I first heard it at
> Honeywell in the 1980s.
> m a m
> On Fri, Jan 8, 2010 at 10:48 AM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at> wrote:
>> At 1/8/2010 10:06 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>> >Today at [
>> >
>> ]:
>> >
>> >"I spent 33 years as a sound engineer at the BBC. I know just how long it
>> >takes to do the simplest of things.
>> >"We had a saying.
>> >"90% of the work takes 90% of the time.
>> >"The other 10% takes the other 90% of the time."
>> It took me a second, but LOL.  The BBC sound engineer must have been
>> in the business of promotion (perhaps for recording artists), where
>> shares are legendarily sold totaling more than 100%.  (I've recently
>> seen a rerun of an episode of "The Rockford Files" that tells me so.)
>> Joel
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
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