Monday, January 19, 2009

Parkinson's Law

"No scene from prehistory is quite so vivid as that of the mortal struggles of great beasts in the tar pits. The fiercer the struggle, the more entangling the tar, and no beast is so strong or so skillful but that he ultimately sinks. " - Mythical Man Month, Fredrick P. Brooks, Jr.

"Parkinson's law", first published in an article of 1955, states: Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.

Assigning more programmers to a project running late makes it later.

and last but not least...

"In many creative activities the medium of execution is intractable. Lumber splits; paints smear; electrical circuits ring. These physical limitations of the medium constrain the ideas that may be expressed, and they also create unexpected difficulties in the implementation. [page 15]"

Whenever I read quotes like these, Brooks' Mythical Man Month masterwork inevitably comes to mind as it was the first book I ever read regarding tech and how complex it truly is. I feel this complexity extends to virtually ever aspect of creativity man does, especially regarding communication and the commonality of definition as successful execution of both are prerequisites to projects requiring the involvement of more than one person. I have quoted MMM many times in BRT because the conclusions Brooks arrives at virtually applies to everything I do as designer and writer.

Click here to get a mathematical take on Parkinson's Law and consider the following passage as to why the US is currently so adrift.

"A look around the globe today, courtesy of data collected by the US Central Intelligence Agency, indicates that Parkinson might have been onto something. The highest executive bodies of most countries have between 13 and 20 members. "Cabinets are commonly constituted with memberships close to Parkinson's limit," says Thurner, "but not above it." And that is not all, says Klimek: the size of the executive is also inversely correlated to measures of life expectancy, adult literacy, economic purchasing power and political stability. "The more members there are, the more likely a country is to be less stable politically, and less developed," he says."

Makes one think doesn't it.
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