Parkinson’s Law in Project Management

I believe in Parkinson’s Law and its applicability in my work and personal life.

Andrew Crabtree
6 min readAug 1, 2022

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What is Parkinson’s Law?

Derived from the first sentence in an article published by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in The Economist in November 1955, Parkinson’s Law has become a well-known saying.

The article was a humorous essay about the rate at which bureaucracy expands over time. However, the first sentence is what has been the subject of many further thoughts and works.

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

The first-referenced meaning of the Law has dominated and sprouted several works, the best known being the Stock–Sanford summary of Parkinson’s Law:

“If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute to do.”

Other summaries include Horstman’s view of Parkinson’s Law:

“Work contracts to fit in the time we give it.”

And Asimov paraphrased Parkinson’s Law as:

“In ten hours a day you have time to fall twice as far behind your commitments as in five hours a day.”

There are also many summaries relating to computers, such as:

“Data expands to fill the space available for storage.”

In summary, when considering Parkinson’s Law in Project Management, it is fair to assume that if a task has a 12 months duration, it will take at least a year.

If you have six months, then it will take six months. Due next week? It’ll be done next week. A deadline of tomorrow, it’ll be done tomorrow.

I think you get the point.

Applicability to Project Management

How I translate Parkinson’s Law into project management is to use an interpretation of “work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion”.

I think we can all resonate with the above statement, particularly in the role of a project manager.

Almost every project — whether a small task or a large project — tends to be delivered just in time.

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Andrew Crabtree

I write about what I'm currently geeking-out over. What I read, watch and listen to, as well as my experiences as a Dad, Husband and Nuclear Energy Consultant.