Parkinson's law and the student syndrome

One of the secrets to working effectively on any project, regardless of whether it is a school paper or a multi-million dollar project, is planning. Business managers are in high demand because their certification attests to the fact that they understand project planning and management. This ability to manage tasks represents money to business owners. Sometimes business managers and workers alike are faced with difficult choices. Not all tasks take the allotted amount of time to complete. Project managers are no different in this regard. It is not uncommon to gauge a task initially and determine that it will take x number of hours to focus on it and complete the work surrounding it; only to find that the task was less complicated than expected and it only required two-thirds of the time initially estimated. Our first inclination is to stretch the work out to make our estimate look more legitimate; however this is a highly inefficient response. This is where Parkinson's Law comes in.

Parkinson's Law
According to the Theory of Constraints we always have some limiting factor. In this case, it simply is not time required to accomplish the task. Parkinson's Law states that when a task is accomplished, stop working on it. Don’t stretch it out and attempt to make it last longer. Use that extra time to apply to the next task. If this occurs frequently, maybe it is time to reevaluate the method you are using to gauge time estimates.

The Student Syndrome
Most of us have suffered from Student Syndrome at some point in our life. This syndrome merely represents the propensity for people to not focus on deliverable items until right before they are due. This syndrome derives its name from students because this is very commonly seen in schools across our nation. Most students will wait until the last possible moment to focus on assignments, thereby turning in sub-standard products most of the time. The reality of the situation is that most times, the habits we develop when we are young follow us into our adult lives. From a Theory of Constraints perspective, the inability of large portions of the workforce to effectively manage their assignments will create a bottleneck with a focus on impacting the efficiency of those individuals to accomplish their work. So, if we are following the Project Management Institute’s best practices, we would identify Student Syndrome using the Theory of Constraints to evaluate the potential impact on the organization and identify a solution.

My personal experiences
Once Parkinson's law and the Student Syndrome have been identified in an organization, they needs to be dealt with and can only be overcome by deliberate retraining on the part of the individual and the organization. Empower your team to stop working when things are "good enough"; this will minimize gold plating and the negative influences of Parkinson's law. Start your work always directly after all of your predecessors have finished their jobs to avoid the Student Syndrome.

In one of the upcoming posts I will tell you how Parkinson's law and the Student Syndrome can be avoided in projecty using the so called Critical Chain Project Management.

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