Parkinson’s Law is the adage that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Imagine allocating ten days for a seven-day task. You’ll probably spend the whole ten days working on it with hours filled with excess research, analysis, and even stress! The interesting thing is it works the opposite way, too! That means that if you take that same seven-day task and allocate four days to it, chances are you’re going to get it done on time. As a manager, you might want to consider setting shorter timetables as this shows that looming deadlines are motivating. In this episode, Ken Courtright shares how you can make use of Parkinson’s Law to counter procrastination and counterproductive tendencies and hit your targets constantly.
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Use Of Parkinson’s Law
This is the podcast where I live life and if I see smell or feel a topic that moved a business owner to make more money or moved an entrepreneur to save money or moved an organization in any way, shape or form to be more efficient, I make some notes and try to get to the podcast station as fast as I can. It took a while to get this into the cycle of podcasting. The title of this one is called Parkinson’s Law. Parkinson’s Law has nothing to do with the disease. Parkinson’s Law is the adage that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. It’s sometimes applied to the growth of bureaucracy in an organization, bureaucracy standing for inefficiency.
The way the gentleman that explained the definition to me explained it if you have a team of three people and you have a project that you think can get done in ten days, if you give them seven days, they will complete it in seven days. If you give them seventeen days, they will complete it in seventeen days. If you give them 40 days, they will complete it in 40 days. I have tested this over the last few months a number of times and it has proven to be true, I believe 100% of the time. I also know historically in my life I’ve been given tasks in which there were dates forever out there. I waited until the last minute to start it. There were also cases where somebody needed something virtually 48 hours. I ironically finished it in 48 hours.
Here’s a question for you. Where have you seen this in your past? Take a second introspectively, look at your current organization. Look at what you do for a living, maybe you’re going to school. Where in the last 90 days have you seen evidence of this? Where did you either jump on a task and move everything off of your plate and jump on something immediately and get it done faster than you thought you could? Where did you give somebody a project and you realize, “I told him six weeks, I should have told him two weeks.” Where have you seen this?Everybody has an income barometer. We make exactly what we think our self-image is worth. Click To Tweet
Here’s a good one. Have you also seen the opposite of this? The opposite where instead of things taking forever to get done and you know in your gut they should’ve been sooner. Have you seen the exact opposite? A good example of Parkinson’s Law is when professors in high school and college throw in an additional assignment with almost virtually no timetable to get it done. After some initial grumbling, it’s funny how pretty much everybody in the class gets it done on time.
I want to slip in, pun intended, a very slippery cousin to this Parkinson’s Law. I call it Ring and Rest. This one is a little bit more dangerous financially than Parkinson’s Law because Parkinson’s Law has predetermined timetable set by someone that they think is logical. The recipient fills in the gap of the supposedly logical timetable. The point of pointing out Parkinson’s Law is that the manager might want to consider setting shorter timetables. There is an extreme opposite cousin that I have seen in place since the early ’90s. As a matter of fact, it was much more prominent to me in the early ’90s than it is now because of technology.
I call it Ring and Rest. I remember Brian Tracy telling a story centered around an income barometer. He says, “Everybody has an income barometer. We make exactly what we think our self-image is worth.” If we think we’re worth $50,000 a year, we make $50,000. If we think we’re worth a millionaire, we make $1 million. If we think we’re billionaires, we become billionaires.” He has spent a lifetime proving that. The exact opposite of Parkinson’s Law is Ring and Rest. He did a study, 300 people, five different industries, all commission-only salespeople, all with annual financial targets.
What is interesting when given an annual target, if come July or August, that commission-only sales rep hits their annual target and there is almost virtually no more financial incentive to continue, they pretty much stop working. They’ve made their money. They’ve hit their target. They’ve hit their income barometer of what they think they’re personally worth and subconsciously they shut down. Their body shuts themselves down. The question is, if this is true, which I believe is to be true, how do we combat both Parkinson’s Law and Ring and Rest? How do we stop that? First, when it’s to Parkinson’s Law, we get to know our employees, our partners, our vendors and we get to know their true capabilities. How hard can we push them and quite frankly, still remain friends?
Once you do that, they can produce X units, everybody produces a unit of something, they can produce X units in X timeframe. I challenge you to set a goal with a logical reason of why, with a bonus of some kind that says if you complete 30% more in the same timeframe, you get X. You are going to be so shocked by two-thirds of the time that not only do they complete it 30% more in the same timeframe, but they also blow it away. I could have pushed them even harder. The first one is to find out what you think you can push them and set a 30% goal. 30% is not too obnoxious where they can absorb it. Even the slower-paced thinkers can absorb that. If you double it, it becomes tough. I’m talking politically inside an office.
What you get to do the next challenge is increase that one 30% and you can buy a compounded nature figure the individuals, the groups, the teams and the high-performance teams what you can push and how hard. On the flip side of Ring and Rest, clearly you don’t want to give an annual goal. You want to take the annual goal and simply break it into monthly chunks divided by the annual goal by twelve. The way you do an additional annual bonus is based on how many months of the twelve months were hit. You do an annual bonus on some type of a sliding scale of six of the twelve months were hit. You get this. If nine were hit, you get this. If twelve are hit, you get this. Your real high performers will blow it out twelve out of twelve months. You’ll get way more production out of that individual because you understood the Ring and Rest motivational factor of hitting somebody’s income barometer for the year, for the quarter, for the month. I believe this one makes sense. I hope you implement it for growth. Take care.
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