Parkinson’s Law of Triviality

If you doesn’t know it already, then let me introduce it to you. This law was propounded by C. Northcote Parkinson and it argues that organizations give disproportionate weight to trivial issues. Parkinson demonstrated this by contrasting the triviality of the cost of building a bike shed in contrast to an “atomic reactor“.

An interesting note from the Parkinson’s Law – And Other studies in Administration by C. Northcote Parkinson, as quoted from Wikipedia article,

In the 3rd chapter - High Finance or The Point of Vanishing Interest - Parkinson writes about a finance committee meeting. In it three items are on the agenda. The first is the signing of a $10 million (1957 dollars) contract to build “an atomic reactor” [sic], the second a proposal to build a $2,350 bicycle shed for the clerical staff and the third proposes $57 a year to supply refreshments for the Joint Welfare Committee. The $10 million number is too big and too technical, and it passes in 2.5 minutes. The bicycle shed is a subject understood by the board, and the dollar amount within their life experience, so Mr. Softleigh says that an aluminium roof is too expensive and they should use asbestos. Mr. Holdfast wants galvanized iron. Mr. Daring questions the need for the shed at all. Mr. Holdfast disagrees. Parkinson then writes “The debate is fairly launched. A sum of $2,350 is well within everybody’s comprehension. Everyone can visualize a bicycle shed. Discussion goes on, therefore, for forty-five minutes, with the possible result of saving some $300. Members at length sit back with a feeling of accomplishment.” Parkinson then described the third agenda item, writing “There may be members of the committee who might fail to distinguish between asbestos and galvanized iron, but every man there knows about coffee – what it is, how it should be made, where it should be bought – and whether indeed it should be bought at all. This item on the agenda will occupy the members for an hour and a quarter, and they will end by asking the Secretary to procure further information, leaving the matter to be decided at the next meeting.

You can find it to be right in every setting specially true in Software. Want details? Read this!!

I somehow like these kind of observations. I have read many such while reading books on Public Administration. If you know any laws of the kind then leave a comment with link where I can read about it. :D

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