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Parkinson's Law [Hardcover]

C. Northcote Parkinson
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 1 1993
Parkinson's Law states that 'work expands to fill the time available'. While strenuously denied by management consultants, bureaucrats and efficiency experts, the law is borne out by disinterested observation of any organization. The book goes far beyond its famous theorem, though. The author goes on to explain how to meet the most important people at a social gathering and why, as a matter of mathematical certainty, the time spent debating an issue is inversely proportional to its objective importance. Justly famous for more than forty years, Parkinson's Law is at once a bracingly cynical primer on the reality of human organization, and an innoculation against the wilful optimism to which we as a species are prone.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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About the Author

C. N. Parkinson had a varied career as a writer. He is best known as the author of Parkinson's Law, but among other books he also wrote a biography of Horatio Hornblower, a series of naval novels and several history books (including Britannia Rules and The Rise of Big Business). --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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WORK EXPANDS so as to fill the time available for its completion. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Parkinson Isn't The Enemy After All May 24 2003
I've always considered Parkinson's Law to be the chief weapon of inept managers who "schedule aggressively" in an attempt to squeeze blood from stones, and thus compromise their project's effeciency, morale, and the like. After reading this book I've discovered that Parkinson's Law is *not* the often misquoted "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion" but (paraphrasing:) "the number of administrators in an organization will grow at a steady rate irrespective of the amount of work that organization needs to do." Not only does Parkinson never suggest that we should "schedule aggressively" (he never suggests that work can contract indefinitely no matter how little time is made available), he ridiculues nice offices, large meetings, top-heavy management, insecure leadership, penny-wiseness and pound-foolishness, typical hiring practices, and more.
While reading most of this book I had a wry grin on my face, and I laughed loud belly laughs at a couple of points. My only complaints stem from the last two chapters, which indulged in both racism and ageism, respectively. I only skimmed those. Still, an enjoyable and motivational read, and useful knowledge when confronted by a manager who thinks of themself as Parkinsonian but hasn't actually read (or understood) Parkinson.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Classic Dec 9 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What can I say? If anyone in the whole wide world has NOT read this wonderful book, he/she must go to the closest book-store and get it --or order it electronically-- right now! Every section of this classic work of art is witty, humorous, and brilliant. The best part is the fact that Mr. Parkinson's observations, evaluations, and comments will NEVER be out of date. Everything is timely and fresh. As one reads the book, he/she can easily see the individuals and the events described by Mr. Parkinson in his or her life.

They are all around us; and they will always be with us.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Do you understand the things or are you a moron? March 30 2003
This is one of the best and most valuable books (with balls) I ever read, about the only things that matters in the live of the adult - I mean your freedom.
Learn how government evolves to the killing machine (I experience that) or why you must fight with the all nonsense bureaucracy.
It just shows the fundamental mechanisms and threats you found and will find in your contacts with bureaucratics machine.
Not only worth of reading - read it and advertise to all you care about...
Like even more fun? (and rage) - read "The adventures of Jonathan Gullible" by Ken Schoolland. Then we'll can talk ;-)
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This is one of more seminal books ever written. Once you read it you will NEVER again look at time management, the British Admiralty, a Board Meeting or a cocktail party in the same way. "Work expands to fill the time allotted to its completion" is the first and most famous rule, but the others (and the stories that illustrate them) are just as hilarious and dead on. Run, don't walk, to get this book, and you will be quoting and remembering it for the rest of your life.
While you're at it (and if you have a really dry, British and warped sense of humor), don't forget to check out "Gamesmanship" and "Lifemanship" by Stephen Potter.
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By A Customer
Parkinson succinctly explains why governmental committies can spend hours on the budget for a bicycle rack and minutes on the approval for a nuclear power plant. I'm an elected public official (retired hi-tech exec) and would have gone mad by now without C. Northcote's advice. His wise and humorous explication of the public process may not make it saner (unless every elected and appointed official reads and understands him) but at least those who know him will be amused during the next interminable public debate by identifying his characters in today's cast. Does nothing ever change?
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3.0 out of 5 stars Parkinson's Law Dec 2 2001
By A Customer
I thought this book was good for people going into business. It was kinda confusing because of the examples the author decided to use.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Glittering Generalities and Subtle Humor Nov. 21 2001
By A Customer
"Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." Another way of saying "people spend what they can afford". That statement makes certain simplifying assumptions in describing the action. Parkinson claims that Administrator A will, when overworked, call for subordinates C and D. And each of these, when overworked, call for two subordinates. Perhaps only a third subordinate E is more likely to be hired? Unless its a monopoly running on a "cost plus" economy.
The increase in Admiralty officials may be due to political decisions that reflect the feudal system and its pride in larger numbers. This increase from 1914 to 1928 may reflect the rise needed for The Great War, and a reluctance to cut back afterwards.
The author notes the growth in the Colonial Office from 1935 to 1954, while the size of the Empire decreased. But it assumes there was no longer any involvement in the colonies, and no new work assigned to them. Perhaps a need for political appointees?
In Chapter Four the author discusses the optimal number of members in a committee: somewhere between 3 and 21. Assume a committee meets to do work, not to make work. There is a limited number of hours in a day; if each member speaks for 15 minutes, then 12 will take up half a work day. Time constraints will limit the number who will speak; those who only listen can be given a printed report. Somebody must control the topics and meeting.
Chapter Five answers the question: why are students of the "Liberal Arts" generally considered for top positions? The answer is the adoption of the Chinese system for competitive examinations. Those with a Classics background were perceived as fittest to rule; those with a scientific background were perceived as followers.
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Most recent customer reviews
Published on Dec 16 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Management for dummies
Ever wondered why there are never 8 people on a committee ?
Have you ever seen big stupid decision go smoothly and small obvious ones get bogged down in a quagmire until... Read more
Published on Nov. 1 2001 by Poul-Henning Kamp
5.0 out of 5 stars Great wisdom in a small package
Parkinson's Law briefly stated is that 'work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2000 by Doug Vaughn
5.0 out of 5 stars An indispensible and humorous guide to business behavior.
Parkinson's Law gives, in synopsis form, an extremely practical guide to the rationales, realtime actions and quirks of human behavior that all too often manifest themselves only... Read more
Published on Oct. 10 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Business and behavior rules one should never forget!
When my brother, who read this first, said that this was the best book my dad ever had, I didn't believe him. Now, I do! Read more
Published on Aug. 18 1999 by indbid@yahoo.com
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite simply, the best business book ever written.
As Peter Drucker was beginning his interminable series of texts on the details of business strategy, Parkinson wrote a book that describes how it really works in most big... Read more
Published on May 3 1999
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