Parkinson’s Law of Triviality, also known as “bikeshedding,” is a phenomenon that occurs in organizations when a group of people spend a disproportionate amount of time discussing and making decisions about minor or insignificant details, while neglecting more important issues.
The term “bikeshedding” comes from the idea that if a group of people were discussing the construction of a nuclear power plant, they would likely spend a lot of time discussing the design of the bike shed that would be built next to it, rather than focusing on the much more important issue of the nuclear power plant itself.
The concept of Parkinson’s Law of Triviality was first introduced by British naval historian and management consultant C. Northcote Parkinson in his book “Parkinson’s Law: The Pursuit of Progress” in 1958. Parkinson observed that in organizations, the time and resources spent on a task are not necessarily proportional to the importance or complexity of the task. Instead, he found that the amount of time and resources spent on a task is often determined by the level of interest or expertise of the people involved in the discussion.
One of the key factors that contribute to bikeshedding is the phenomenon of “social loafing.” Social loafing occurs when individuals in a group feel less accountable for their actions and contributions because they believe that others will pick up the slack. This can lead to a lack of motivation and engagement, which can result in a group spending more time discussing minor or insignificant details rather than focusing on the more important issues at hand.
Another factor that can contribute to bikeshedding is the presence of “groupthink.” Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when group members conform to the opinions and decisions of the group, rather than thinking independently. Groupthink can lead to a lack of critical thinking and a reluctance to challenge the status quo, which can result in the group spending more time discussing minor or insignificant details rather than focusing on the more important issues at hand.
In business, this principle can be applied in several ways:
Prioritization: By recognizing Parkinson’s law of triviality, managers can help their teams prioritize important issues over trivial ones, ensuring that time and resources are allocated effectively.
Meeting efficiency: Meetings that focus on trivial issues can be a waste of time and resources. Managers can use Parkinson’s law of triviality to identify these types of issues and eliminate them from the agenda.
Decision-making: Parkinson’s law of triviality can cause delays in decision-making. By recognizing this principle, managers can take steps to expedite the decision-making process and ensure that important decisions are made in a timely manner.
Resource allocation: Parkinson’s law of triviality can lead to an over-allocation of resources to minor issues. Managers can use this principle to ensure that resources are allocated in a balanced and effective manner, with a focus on important issues.
Overall, recognizing and understanding Parkinson’s law of triviality can help managers and teams make better decisions, allocate resources more effectively, and improve the overall performance of their organization.
- “What Parkinson’s law can teach companies about productivity” by Timely
- “Parkinson’s law of triviality (bikeshedding)” by Amanda Hetler