Thursday, June 15, 2006


Parkinson's Law

Parkinson's Law states that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."

According to wiki:

It was first articulated by C. Northcote Parkinson in the book Parkinson's Law: The Pursuit of Progress, (London, John Murray, 1958) based on extensive experience in the British Civil Service. The scientific observations which contributed to the law's development included noting that as Britain's overseas empire declined in importance, the number of employees at the Colonial Office increased.

According to Parkinson, this is motivated by two forces: (1) "An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals" and (2) "Officials make work for each other." He also noted 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".

"Parkinson's Law" could be more generalized still as: "The demand upon a resource always expands to match the supply of the resource." Brian Tracy put forth an interpretation of this in his course The 21 Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires, noting that "expenses rise to meet income", as a corollary of the law.

It is interesting to note that this generalization has become very similar to the economics law of cost and demand; that the lower the cost of a service or commodity, the greater the demand.

Parkinson also proposed a rule about the efficiency of administrative councils. He defines a coefficient of inefficiency with the number of members as the main explaining variable.

Here is an interesting application in North Carolina.

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