Parkinson’s Law: you may have heard this term and today we break down what it means.
Parkinson’s Law is the concept that work expands to fill the time and resources available for its completion. In the business context, it’s an invisible adversary that breeds bureaucracy and stifles innovation.
At its core, Parkinson’s Law operates on the belief that work inflates to match the resources set aside for it – be it time, budget, or manpower.
Employees, given this surplus of resources, feel occupied but often get tangled in menial tasks that do little to contribute to their main objectives.
Let’s go through an example
Consider a practical scenario: you’re tasked with compiling a report with a week-long deadline. If you buckle down and concentrate, you might be able to complete the report in just five hours. However, knowing that you have a full week to work, you could end up stretching the task out.
You may take frequent breaks, get side-tracked by distractions, or even unnecessarily complicate the report with extraneous details. Your work expands and complicates simply because your schedule permits it.
This principle doesn’t just apply to individuals; it’s a widespread phenomenon within larger organizations as well. Each department is allocated a budget and timeframe to achieve its yearly goals.
According to Parkinson’s Law, departments will burn through their entire budget and allotted time, even when tasks could be expedited with efficiency. As resources inflate, departments tend to become more intricate and sluggish.
For instance, departments may introduce additional procedural steps, causing an influx of paperwork that bogs down the workflow. They may exhaust the budget on unnecessary personnel or equipment that do not significantly boost productivity.
Or, departments might blow their whole budget to guarantee a similar or even larger allocation for the next fiscal year – a practice known as “budget padding” or the “spend it or lose it” mentality.
As departments grow, they may also create redundant managerial roles, giving birth to layers of bureaucracy that stifle productivity and slow down decision-making. It becomes a vicious cycle: the bigger the team, the larger the budget, the longer the timeline, the lesser the output.
From my professional journey, I’ve observed this repetitive pattern in action. It’s intriguing to see how many tech companies will identify and rectify this issue.
Oftentimes, a period of prosperity and increasing revenues unwittingly open the doors for Parkinson’s Law, hindering optimal business efficiency.