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Simple, Elastic & Agile

By Dale Reagan | November 19, 2013

Ok, something from 50+ years ago I encountered during my AM reading –  I stumbled across this item that relates well to keeping stuff ‘simple’ (i.e. short in duration…)

The context was actually a ‘biz’ article with something like, “For meetings, most results/work occur during the ~1st 20 minutes of the meeting – the ‘rest’ of the meeting tends to be non-productive…”

My take – It suggests that during meetings, each topic/item/problem may best be resolved if/when you can limit discussing them to short durations –  agile!]

Work is “elastic” – it stretches to fill the time allotted…

Which led to:’s_law

Quote from Wikipedia:

First articulated by Cyril Northcote Parkinson as part of the first sentence of a humorous essay published in The Economist in 1955,[1][2] it was later reprinted together with other essays in the book Parkinson’s Law: The Pursuit of Progress (London, John Murray, 1958). He derived the dictum from his extensive experience in the British Civil Service.

The current form of the law is not that which Parkinson refers to by that name in the article. Rather, he assigns to the term a mathematical equation describing the rate at which bureaucracies expand over time. Much of the essay is dedicated to a summary of purportedly scientific observations supporting his law, such as the increase in the number of employees at the Colonial Office while Great Britain’s overseas empire declined (indeed, he shows that the Colonial Office had its greatest number of staff at the point when it was folded into the Foreign Office because of a lack of colonies to administer). He explains this growth by two forces: (1) “An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals” and (2) “Officials make work for each other.” He notes in particular that the total of those employed inside a bureaucracy rose by 5–7% per year “irrespective of any variation in the amount of work (if any) to be done”.

In 1986, Alessandro Natta complained about the swelling bureaucracy in Italy. Mikhail Gorbachev responded that “Parkinson’s Law works everywhere”.[3]

Corollaries In time, however, the first-referenced meaning of the phrase has dominated, and sprouted several corollaries, the most well known being the Stock-Sanford Corollary to Parkinson’s Law:

If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute to do.[4]

Other corollaries include (relating to computers):

Data expands to fill the space available for storage. or Storage requirements will increase to meet storage capacity.

Generalization “Parkinson’s Law” could be generalized further still as:

The demand upon a resource tends to expand to match the supply of the resource.

An extension is often added to this, stating that:

The reverse is not true.

This generalization has become very similar to the economic law of demand; that the lower the price of a service or commodity, the greater the quantity demanded.

Some define Parkinson’s Law in regard to time as:

The amount of time which one has to perform a task is the amount of time it will take to complete the task.



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