This law was expressed by professor Cyril Northcote Parkinson (1909-1993) in 1958 under the following shape:
“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
This law was established by a long observation of the British administration, and taking into account in particular the increase of the number of employees to the Office of the colonial affairs and it in spite of the decline of the Empire.
According to Parkinson, it’s due to two strengths:
- “A state employee intends to multiply his subordinates, not his rivals“: he has a natural tendency to recruit somebody more competent that he at least in a domain, but also to divide the work to avoid being questioned by one of his employees. He so creates needs for internal coordination, which pull an additional workload, then the hiring of additional employees. We so build a “autarkic” system which is going to consume, in a endogenous way, an increasing part of the available energy, leading to the second law:
- “The state employees build up mutually work“. The more there are of state employees, the more the requests of approval that they communicate themselves mutually, or comparable tasks, occupy them, so that the accomplished work of an outside point of view by the administration in general does not increase.
Application in the IT space…
The Parkinson’s law is diverted in touch with computers: “the data extend until fill the available space for their storage“; to acquire more memory encourages the use of greedy techniques in memory.
It was observed that between 1996 and 2006 the use of memory on evolutionary systems tends to double about every 18 months. The quantity of available memory for a given sum also tends to double every 18 months (Moore’s law).
Application in the IT time…
The Parkinson’s law involves that if one do not force to make something a given time, if we do not get organized (planning), a task which could last two hours can set as well two weeks.
The law of insignificance of Parkinson.
Also known under the name of “the example of the bikeshedding”, is an argumentation of 1957. According to this one organizations give a disproportionate importance for insignificant questions. Parkinson made this demonstration by setting the triviality of a project of bicycle shed against the complexity of a project of nuclear reactor. Later, Poul-Henning Kamp applied this law to the development of the computing software, and introduced the color of the bicycle shed, as proverb of a minor detail receiving a disproportionate attention.
And now, what?
It is very attractive, but what it means for a solitary, amateur developer or for a small team?
That the time is precious when we have little. Thus if we begin to spend useless weeks on tasks which could hold in a few hours, there is a problem (in any case if we want to finish something). It’s then important to find its own recipes “to force” to begin them, to finish them and to chain them in a reduced time (timer, schedule, division in small tasks, etc.). In each to look what suits him best. Some do not need it, others, it is according to moments.
As said Socrates: “be self-aware”.
See you soon for new adventures 😉