Once upon a time, there was a university in one of the largest Polish towns. Among its many organizational units was Institute of Applied Physics (details altered and sanitized for confidentiality), headed by an internationally accomplished Polish professor who believed that scientists should spend most of their time and effort on science, and not on reporting. He made no secret of his views when he was appointed Director of the Institute, which must have come as a shock to many a seasoned bureaucrat in the university Head Office. These people were firm supporters and eager practitioners of the Parkinson’s observation that Officials make work for each other. Being good officials, they felt it was their duty to ensure that the professor and his fellow physicists received their fair share of useless and time-consuming paperwork to be done. Once filled, the lengthy report forms would be sent back to Head Office, like some kind of symbolic tribute paid by a vassal to his lord.
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Battling the red monster
There is some amount of bureaucracy in every large organization. This is not always a bad thing: bureaucratic regulations, if they are clearly stated, reasonable, limited, and consistently followed by all concerned, can be useful. They act as an enabler for a number of standard corporate processes, helping them run in a smooth and predictable way. More often than not, however, the scale of red tape in organizations tends to get out of control – the number of regulations (and mandatory tasks they generate) is continuously increasing, while benefits of complying with these rules are becoming more and more questionable. In a nutshell, what results is the tail wagging the dog.