Parkinson's law, Work complicates to fill the available time

March 06, 2024

My thoughts

I was reminded of this law from

James wrote:

without tight time constraints, the scope of a team’s project will expand to fill the time available.

I have seen so many different teams falling in that trap: Teams tackling every edge cases even if not required by any users, newly found edge cases requiring a rewrite of a feature not yet shipped, teams burning the midnight oil on an ever expanding project scope…

These teams are often the brightest people burning out without enough business guidance. Sometimes, it is even tricky for managers to recognize their team is in that tough state, their team being in a rut even if working like never before.

I have always approached this problem with an incremental delivery approach and with a project scope discussion. The Parkinson’s law provides another higher level approach to prevent that issue: ensuring complex projects have a deadline. Maybe multiple deadlines around internal milestones to force an incremental thinking and allow managing unknowns better.

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