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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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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Great wisdom in a small package Jan. 3 2000
Parkinson's Law briefly stated is that 'work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.' If it doesn't seem that an entire book could be written about this thesis then you haven't encountered the imaginative genius and the stinging comic wit of C. Northcote Parkinson. He is able to use this little insight as an analytic tool to expose much of what is wrong with organizations and why much in both business and government seems at odds with common sense. For example, why the British Colonial Office has grown in number of employees as the actual number of colonies declined - so that it employed more people when the number of colonies had been reduced to zero than when they were at their highest number. Witty, brilliant and always right on the money, Parkinson can make what should be deadly dull - a description of bureaucracy - into a delightful excursion through the halls of pompus human folly. Really great stuff. This book is a classic and can be read and reread with great pleasure.
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By A Customer
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 among the inhabitants of the business world. Parkinson's examples of boardroom behavior and decision making, or lack thereof, are extraordinarily and frighteningly accurate. I found it amazingly funny, easy to read and retain, though a bit dated given the time which has elapsed since it was originally published. On a personal note, this was one of the first books that my father gave me to read in preparation for life. Also included in my father's reading list for life were The Peter Principle, Yes, Minister, and Aristotelian Ethics. I would recommend this book, despite the time that has passed since it was originally published, to those who wish a quick primer as to what awaits them as they climb the business ladder and a few hints on how not to miss a rung.
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By A Customer
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 organizations, whether they be in business or the public sector.
His basic premises that work expands to fill the time available, that the important decisions fall victim to the easily understood, and that bureaucratic organizations that grow too large no longer need any outside contact have been demonstrated to me over and over during a 30 year career in business.
The decade of downsizing we are witnessing demonstrates just how much fat there is in most organizations. Parkinson had it right over 30 years ago
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Classic
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! Read more
Published 9 months ago by Ruhi E. Tuzlak
5.0 out of 5 stars Do you understand the things or are you a moron?
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. Read more
Published on March 30 2003 by Piotr Blazewicz
5.0 out of 5 stars The sine qua non of rules that organizations live by!
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... Read more
Published on July 22 2002 by David S. Rose
Published on Dec 16 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Go to a Budget Meeting Before Reading Chapter 3
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. Read more
Published on Dec 9 2001
3.0 out of 5 stars Parkinson's Law
I thought this book was good for people going into business. It was kinda confusing because of the examples the author decided to use.
Published on Dec 2 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 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
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