Industrial Disease and Parkinson’s Law

It was a beautiful weekend for working in the yard. Specifically, mowing the leaves as a way to mulch them and return nutrients back to the soil.  I was fortunate that I had an interesting  song playing in my head. Not one of those annoying ones that often can get stuck in your head and you cannot stop the recurring replay in your mind of a song that you could just barely stand to hear once.  In this case, I had a Dire Straits song, Industrial Disease off of the Love over Gold album playing in my head, a band and a song that I have always enjoyed.

I fancied myself a bassist when I was younger (still plunk around with my 70’s Fender P Bass). I listen to this song for the technical content, the complexity, the timing and even the lyrics to some lesser extent. I liked how the words fit together.  As a kid or young adult I knew very little of working life as the song rattles off the traumas and trials of working corporate / industrial life.  I could not begin to make much of a real world connection.  However, this weekend, decades into my work life, I really considered these lyrics.  I was particularly stuck with the line about Doctor Parkinson and wondered if this is the same Parkinson that gave us Parkinson’s Law.

The corollary of which is typically used in business, and is generally stated the time it takes to complete a task is the time available to complete the task.  For example, give somebody two weeks to complete, the task or objective will be me in two weeks.

The marriage of the song Industrial Disease, maybe, to a real doctor suddenly became very exciting.  I had thought this to be a mythical doctor – a rhyming contrivance, and now, perhaps there may be more significance to this song than I had given previously.

As the song continued to play through my mind, I began to ruminate on Parkinson’s Law or at least on the corollary that asserts the task will expand to the amount of time available. Meaning, if you estimate a task at two weeks, the task will take two weeks.  There are a few things that make me consider this law to be not so accurate.  I have seen many a project schedule dictated from on high that had duration for delivery that did not seem commensurate with the number and duration of tasks or objective. For example, testing of a complex network system that had more than 3,000 test cases and the time allotted was less than 2 weeks with given head count.  Even upon pairing down just those requirements that, if failed, could cause harm to the customer, the amount of time to perform would be much more than 2 weeks.

Perhaps this is just a song and there is not secret meaning. It is possible it is just great music, a great song, from in my opinion a great band.  Then again……

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