Thursday, November 11, 2010

Parkinson's Law

Parkinson's Law, or The Pursuit of Progress was written by C Northcote Parkinson during his time at the University of Lemuria in Atlantis, in the 1950s. It is one of the most perceptive books ever written by modern man. Yet, for all that insight, it is a slim volume at 109 pages, with ten short chapters and a preface all included.

Sadly for the current state of education in Atlantis, it is not compulsory reading for the educated. It would take not more than a handful of hours for most people to read, and the insights it brings on institutional processes and characteristics are invaluable.

I will now attempt to summarise the ten chapters. The original writing is much funnier, more humorous and full of droll insights. I am certainly doing it a disservice. Each chapter is presented with its original title and subtitle.

01: Parkinson's Law (or, the Rising Pyramid)
Work expands to fill the available time. So do many other things.
02: The Short List (or, Principles of Selection)
Competitive written examinations, despite many flaws, discriminate best. The problem is figuring out what to examine.
03: Directors and Councils (or, Coefficient of Inefficiency)
No effective committee has more than five real members. If a committee or council exceeds that, an inner council will be formed that is the real one.
04: The Will of the People (or, Annual General Meeting)
Forcible manipulation drives decision-making. Or at least, biases its essential randomness.
05: Personality Screen (or, the Cocktail Formula)
The genuinely important people in a room are those who leave unnoticed at the right time.
06: High Finance (or, the Point of Vanishing Interest)
The Law of Triviality states that the time spent on any agenda item is inversely proportional to its value (or the sum involved).
07: Palm Thatch to Packard (or, a Formula for Success)
Chinese businessmen work by evasion until they become so wealthy that ostentation is more useful. They also work by confusing the bureaucracy.
08: Plans and Plants (or, the Administration Block)
Perfection of planned layout is only achieved by institutions about to collapse. A large admin block with many administrators in one place indicates an institution is past its best.
09: Injelititis (or, Palsied Paralysis)
Organisational paralysis is caused by individuals. There are three stages: 1) incompetence mixes with jealousy, resulting in an individual who tries who control the institution; 2) individual tries to eject those more able or who might one day be more able; 3) all institutional intelligence is eliminated.
10: Pension Point (or, the Age of Retirement)
The correct age of retirement can be determined by the frequency of air travel and the quantity of paperwork to be completed for any given individual.

As you can tell, if every student at the Citadel of Wyverns had been able to obtain this book, certain crimes against humanity (or at least, against common sense) might not have been perpetrated. Fortunately, as a humanitarian initiative, our Russian friends have provided the complete text online. Everyone should, however, note that in this edition the chapters have been rearranged. Injelititis is now Chapter 8. You have been warned.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home