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How You're Falling for Parkinson's Law Without Even Realizing

Authors
  • avatar
    Name
    Nico Prananta
    Twitter
    @2co_p

Cyril Northcote Parkinson

Parkinson's Law, a concept often quoted in management circles, states, "Work expands to fill the time available for its completion." I've seen firsthand how this principle plays out in the world of programming. It manifests in a fascinating way. When a development team is given a generous timeline for a project, the scope and complexity of the work often inflate to fill that timeline. This isn't necessarily due to laziness or inefficiency; rather, it's a byproduct of certain inherent tendencies in software development.

Developers, given ample time, might fall into the trap of perfectionism. The pursuit of the perfect code, architecture, or design can lead to endless refinements. While striving for excellence is commendable, it often leads to diminishing returns. Furthermore, a longer timeline can inadvertently encourage feature creep – the gradual expansion of a project's scope beyond its original intentions, often complicating the project unnecessarily.

So, how do we counteract this natural tendency? The key lies in intentional project and time management strategies.

  1. Embrace Lean Principles: One approach is to adopt lean methodologies. By focusing on delivering value in the shortest sustainable lead time, you encourage efficiency and clarity in the development process. This means prioritizing essential features and functionality over unnecessary enhancements.

  2. Implement Agile Practices: Agile methodologies, like Scrum or Kanban, can also be powerful tools. They focus on breaking down work into smaller, manageable increments. This approach not only helps in delivering value faster but also in maintaining a clear focus on the project's goals.

  3. Focus on MVPs (Minimum Viable Products): Encourage your team to focus on building MVPs. This approach is about finding the balance between what is 'necessary and sufficient' and what is 'nice to have'. It helps in avoiding the pitfall of over-engineering and ensures that the team remains aligned with the project's objectives.

  4. Cultivate a Culture of Feedback: Regular feedback loops, be it through code reviews, stand-ups, or retrospectives, can keep a check on the project's scope and direction. Feedback is essential for iterative improvement and for keeping the work aligned with the user's needs and business goals.

Parkinson's Law is not just a quirky observation but a real phenomenon that can significantly impact software development projects. By recognizing and strategically planning around this law, you can lead your teams to more efficient and effective outcomes. It's about striking the right balance between quality and efficiency, and about being mindful of the way we allocate time and resources in our projects.


By the way, I'm making a book about Pull Requests Best Practices. Check it out!