Monday, January 25, 2010

A smile for Monday morning

I don’t seem to be keeping my current reading list up to date. I was leafing through my old copy of Systemantics recently, because it still amuses me, and I work with ‘’complex systems’ of course.

One that I came across online recently was a corollary to Parkinson’s Law.

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

According to Wikipedia, there are several modern corollories like:

Data expands to fill the space available for storage.

But Berglas’s Corollary amounts to:

No amount of computer automation will reduce the size of a bureaucracy
Sir Humphrey from Yes Minister
And whether you see these rueful laws (mostly invented by scientists) as pure jokes, or containing a grain of truth, you might want to compare them to real life.

When I joined the library service the department was part of Leisure, Libraries and Parks (LLP). We then changed to Leisure and Lifelong Learning (LLL), before becoming Culture, Leisure and Parks (CL&P).

Guess what? We now belong in Citizen Services.

Oh, and I haven’t worked for libraries as man and boy. I have only been here 12 years!

I don’t intend to single out our authority for this, and am aware that a certain amount of re-arranging of management hierarchies must prove necessary in different economic and political climates (quite apart from management fashions).

I only mention it because of the inevitable complications that arise from such reshuffles. Trashing a load of headed notepaper is not the only problem these days.

Because we use complex computer systems, containing folders and cross-references, files and documents with embedded links, etc., it means that all kinds of things can go wrong if one folder gets renamed. I find people whose email address still carries the LLL listing, files and lists that you need to search with LLP, etc. I guess the less said about the unfortunate acronym CLaP the better.

Berglas's Corollary (the complete article)

[excerpt] Conclusion

We have provided empirical proof of Berglas's Corollary, and clearly shown that software does not improve real productivity. Further, we have shown why it is essential that most software projects fail. No one need ever again be embarrassed by participation in a failed software project. Rather they should be proud to have spared society from yet another burden of complexity.

Some may misinterpret this article as satire. Surely it is not really desirable for software projects to fail. But the facts speak for themselves.

NB: The wonderful clock image was found at litemind/parkinson's law

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