Law Of Triviality

How can we stop wasting time on unimportant details? To answer this, we have to identify why we get bogged down in the trivial. 

Parkinson’s Law of Triviality, states that the amount of time spent discussing an issue in an organization is inversely correlated to its actual importance in the scheme of things. Major issues get the least discussion while simpler ones get the most.

To illustrate this, imagine a financial committee meeting to discuss 3 proposals.
1. $10M nuclear power plant
2. $350K bike shed
3. $21K annual coffee budget

What happens? The committee runs through the power plant proposal in little time because it’s too advanced for anyone to dig into the details, and most of the members don’t know much about the topic.

Next, the bike shed. The committee members feel more comfortable voicing their opinions. Several members begin an animated debate over what might enable modest savings. They discuss this longer than the power plant.

Finally, the coffee budget. Here, everyone’s an expert. They discuss the coffee budget longer than the power plant and bike shed combined. The committee runs out of time and decides to meet again to complete their analysis. Everyone walks away feeling satisfied, having contributed to the conversation.

Avoid descending into unproductive triviality by having clear goals for your meeting and getting the best people to the table to have a productive, constructive discussion.

Source: FS Blog – The Bikeshed Effect |Photo: Arjun Rajagopalan – Publish