"Colour of the Bike Shed" – Parkinson's law of triviality

Parkinson’s Law of Triviality (also known as the bicycle shed example, and by the expression colour of the bikeshed) is C. Northcote Parkinson’s 1957 argument that organisations give disproportionate weight to trivial issues.

The concept is presented in C. Northcote Parkinson’s spoof of management, Parkinson’s Law (1957).[1] Parkinson dramatises his Law of Triviality with a committee’s deliberations on a nuclear power plant, compared to deliberation on a bicycle shed. While discussing the bikeshed, debate emerges over whether the best choice of roofing is aluminium, asbestos or galvanised iron, then over whether the shed is a good idea or not. The committee then moves on to coffee purchasing, a discussion that results in the biggest waste of time and the most acrimony.

A nuclear reactor is so vastly expensive and complicated that people cannot understand it, so they assume that those working on it understand it. Even those with strong opinions might withhold them for fear of being shown to be insufficiently informed. On the other hand, everyone understands a bicycle shed (or thinks he does), so building one can result in endless discussions: everyone involved wants to add his touch and show that he is there.

Wikipedia, 10/9/2008

So, in conclusion, a 5 minute discussion on whether a block of text should be aligned to the left or to the right is a little excessive, to say the least 😉

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