Parkinson's law

From ArticleWorld

The concept of what has become known as Parkinson's Law actually was first expressed by its namesake, C. Northcote Parkinson. The Law, at its essence, states that work will expand to fill the time that is available for its completion. This concept actually originated during Parkinson's own observation of the British Civil Service in regard to the British Empire. He made the observation that as the number of Imperial holdings overseas declined, the number of employees within the various Colonial offices grew. The law grew from the idea that governmental employees of civil service personnel want to multiple their subordinates and those they make work for each other.

Parkinson spent a great deal of time observing, studying and analyzing the work habits and office systems of people in the British government. He spent the largest share of his time studying the work habits and patterns of those people associated with the various British Colonial offices. And, again, he did his research at the point in time when Britain was relinquishing many of its colonial holdings. The natural assumption at that time was that the number of people in the employ of the Colonial offices necessarily would decrease. In reality, the exact opposite did occur. The fewer colonial assets the British Empire possessed, the more employees that could be found working the various Colonial office.

Motivation for the law

Parkinson developed his law upon two basic principles or motivations. Each of these principles or motivations will be discussed and considered separately.

The first principle of Parkinson's Law -- that a governmental employee or civil servant wants to multiple his or her subordinates and not create more rivals -- is best explained by a statement in Parkinson's own book, "Parkinson's Law: The Pursuit of Progress."

He observed that when a civil servant believes that he or she is overworked, that person ultimately will try to obtain assistant or assistants. In many instances, this assistance then request aides or assistants, and so forth. In time, this dramatically multiplies the workforce for the same job tasks that initially were being performed by the one, solitary official.

In this regard, one can turn to the second prong of Parkinson's Law -- that officials make work for each other. While an organization might end up with multiple people doing the work that was once done by one individual, the addition of all of these additional people requires additional supervision and other time consuming duties. Thus, more work is generated in the process.

Other applications

Parkinson's Law has been expanded beyond its original application regarding employees, work duties and the workplace. Indeed, Parkinson's Law has been applied to computers. The statement that data will expand to fill the space available for storage is oftentimes quoted and a direct outgrowth from Parkinson's Law.

Parkinson's Law has also found an application in economics, being closely tied in with the concept or the law of cost, supply and demand.

In point of fact, one might surmise that the number of applications that might exist for Parkinson's Law might actually fill the space available for creating such hypothesis over time.