#162 – Time We Spend on Trivia And Parkinson’s Law.

I like to learn new laws. No Not the Legal legal Laws.
The Laws mostly Unwritten, yet everyone knows them OR Laws of the workplace which are Good to Know to MUST KNOW for Productivity or for Simple Survival :P.
I mostly find them on Wikipedia. Like the one I found below which is called Parkinson’s Law of Triviality.
Parkinson’s law of triviality,
  • It is also known as bikeshedding or the bicycle-shed example.
  • This law is about C. Northcote Parkinson‘s 1957 argument that organizations give disproportionate weight to trivial issues.
  • Parkinson illustrated this by suggesting that a committee would spend more time on a proposal to build a bike shed than on a proposal to build an “atomic reactor“.
  • The law has been applied to software development and other activities these days.
For most such laws Wikipedia also provides the Argument contributed by readers.
  • The concept was first presented as a corollary of his broader “Parkinson’s law” spoof of management.
  • He dramatized this “law of triviality” with the example of a committee’s deliberations on an atomic reactor, contrasting it to deliberations on a bicycle shed.
As he put it: “The time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum [of money] involved.”
  • A reactor is used because it is so vastly expensive and complicated that an average person cannot understand it, so one assumes that those that work on it understand it.
  • On the other hand, everyone can visualize a cheap, simple bicycle shed, so planning one can result in endless discussions because everyone involved wants to add a touch and show personal contribution.
  • When governance meetings devolve into two cent’s worth
In the third chapter, “High Finance, or the Point of Vanishing Interest”,Parkinson writes about a finance committee meeting with a three-item agenda.
  • The first is the signing of a £10 million contract to build a reactor, the second a proposal to build a £350 bicycle shed for the clerical staff, and the third proposes £21 a year to supply refreshments for the Joint Welfare Committee.
  • The £10 million number is too big and too technical, and it passes in two and a half minutes.
  • The bicycle shed is a subject understood by the board, and the amount within their life experience, so committee member 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 £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 £50. 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.”