3 min read | 25 January, 2016 By Jonathan Richards
The hardest part about being a manager is trying to understand what's going on in your team and understanding why things don't go as planned. Over the years the scientific community has occasionally ventured into this area and a number of 'laws' have been penned to help the beleaguered manager.
This one is not new as it was first made public in 1955 in an Economist Articks. In brief it states that 'work expands so as to fill up the time available for its completion'. We've all been there - you give a member of your team a task to do that should take an hour but for some reason it's reached the end of the day and only come together in the last hour. They seem to have been working on it solidly so the only possible cause can be that you failed to set a clear deadline. It's why students pull all nighters in the week leading up to exams and arguably whey government departments bloat to the size of the budget not the task.
How to beat Parkinson's Law?
A number of corollaries have sprung from Parkinson's law including:
The Losada line
A decade of extensive research on high and low performing teams by psychologist Marcial Losada came up with the number 2.9013. This represents the ratio of positive to negative interactions required to make a team successful. It takes roughly 3 positive comments, experiences or expressions to offset the languishing effects of just one negative.
This explains why it's so difficult to lift employees out of a bad mood when something has gone wrong. It could also explain why an underperforming sales team goes on a downward spiral - there's just not enough good new around.
How to work with the Losada Line
The Peter Principle
This is a piece of management theory that suggests candidates are selected for a position based on the performance in their current role rather than their abilitiy to do the new role. If this happens then employees will only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively - "managers rise to the level of their incompetence".
How many times have you seen a great sales person being wasted by promotion to sales management. Just because someone can sell doesn't mean they can manage the sales function.
The Dilbert Principle is a variation on Peter Principle that states companies tend to promote their least- competent employees into management in order to limit the amount of damage they are capable of doing.
Avoiding the Peter Principle
Let me know if there are any other laws of business that need to be held up for scrutiny so that we can all become better managers.
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