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Parkinson's Law Hardcover – December 1, 1996

4.6 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Hardcover, December 1, 1996
$202.44 $39.96
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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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 the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Buccaneer Books (December 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568490151
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568490151
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.8 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #731,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Doug Vaughn HALL OF FAME on January 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
I first received a copy of "Parkinson's Law" from a retired three-star general. Since that time, I've seen copies on the shelves of almost every powerful person I know, from professors and deans to lawyers and businesspeople. Based on this wide-spread popularity, I can safely conclude that C. Northcote Parkinson has written something that transcends his time and profession to become a true classic. He has written, in short, the definitive work on bureaucracy.

Chapter one contains the titular law, which is frequently misquoted. The actual law gives a mathematical formula for how fast an office will grow, simply by observing that every bureaucrat will demand two subordinates at certain times. Parkinson backs this up with analysis of various British government bodies. The Colonial Office, for instance, more than doubled in size even as the number of colonies was shrinking. This is a rock-solid rule, as far as I can tell, and particularly relevant to an America where we somehow spend $728 billion despite having fewer actual soldiers than at any time in the past sixty years.

Chapter three famously looks at budget meetings. The conclusion is that up to a certain point, committees will spend more time on items that cost less. Some trivially small item, such as coffee, is easily understood, so every committee member has an opinion about it. On the other hand, nobody really understands expensive items such as reactors, so nobody has much to say about them. This is a phenomenon which I've seen arising in real life time and time again.

Chapter four is perhaps the most fascinating and devastatingly accurate one in the book. The hypothesis is that whenever an organization builds a fancy new headquarters, its time is up.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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