Browse Definitions :
Definition

Parkinson's law

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Parkinson's law is the tendency for the amount of work required for something to increase so that it consumes any amount of time that may be allotted to it. The concept is often generalized to refer to the tendency for any available capacity in a given system to be used. 

The implication is that no matter how extensive your resources, the demands on them will grow to ensure they're depleted. Parkinson's law has implications for many areas of business, including project management, time management, resource allocation, storage capacity planning and requirements analysis.

Cyril Northcote Parkinson, a British Naval historian and author, observed that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion," based on his experience in the British Civil Service. Parkinson's law first appeared in a 1955 essay published in The Economist. Parkinson expanded on his principle in two books, Parkinson's Law And Other Studies in Administration and Parkinson's Law: Or The Pursuit of Progress,both published in 1957.

Here are a few examples of Parkinson's law in various contexts:

  • Applications will usually consume all available bandwidth.
  • The volume of data tends to grow to fill storage capacity.
  • Project requirements typically increase to the extent that resources are fully used up.
  • Software expands to use up system memory.
  • Financial outlay will increase to exhaust any usable budget. 

Horstman's corollary to Parkinson's law maintains the converse, the less commonly observed phenomenon that work contracts to fit within the time allocated for it. Another less familiar principle, Parkinson's law of triviality, refers to people's tendency to devote a large amount of time to unimportant details while essential tasks are not getting the time they require. 

See a brief tutorial on using Parkinson's law to increase your productivity:

This was last updated in April 2015

Continue Reading About Parkinson's law

Join the conversation

1 comment

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

I've never heard of this. It's an interesting concept. In my observations, it does seem to be true. However, I can't think of hardly any cases of having seen work expand to fit capacity. Our resources (thinking mostly in regards to time, people, money) are so limited, it is more like the work contracts to fit the limited capacity.

That can be a good thing at times, because it forces stakeholders to prioritize. I don't know of any company in the position to do EVERYTHING that they want. But what I see a lot is that people tend to cut corners because there is so much demand for work and so few resources. I'm guilty of this, too.
Cancel

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

Powered by:

SearchCompliance

  • compliance audit

    A compliance audit is a comprehensive review of an organization's adherence to regulatory guidelines.

  • regulatory compliance

    Regulatory compliance is an organization's adherence to laws, regulations, guidelines and specifications relevant to its business...

  • Whistleblower Protection Act

    The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is a law that protects federal government employees in the United States from ...

SearchSecurity

  • Transport Layer Security (TLS)

    Transport Layer Security (TLS) is a protocol that provides authentication, privacy, and data integrity between two communicating ...

  • van Eck phreaking

    Van Eck phreaking is a form of electronic eavesdropping that reverse engineers the electromagnetic fields (EM fields) produced by...

  • zero-trust model (zero trust network)

    The zero trust model is a security model used by IT professionals that requires strict identity and device verification ...

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • cloud insurance

    Cloud insurance is any type of financial or data protection obtained by a cloud service provider. 

  • business continuity software

    Business continuity software is an application or suite designed to make business continuity planning/business continuity ...

  • business continuity policy

    Business continuity policy is the set of standards and guidelines an organization enforces to ensure resilience and proper risk ...

SearchStorage

  • solid-state storage

    Solid-state storage (SSS) is a type of computer storage media made from silicon microchips. SSS stores data electronically ...

  • persistent storage

    Persistent storage is any data storage device that retains data after power to that device is shut off. It is also sometimes ...

  • computational storage

    Computational storage is an information technology (IT) architecture in which data is processed at the storage device level to ...

Close