Very few writers ever acclaim the status of Cyril Northcote Parkinson. Born in 1909 and died in 1993, he befriended most of the great literary and military persons of the British Empire, wrote both Naval and Political treaties that remain best sellers today. He is often compared to Arnold Toynbee, the great Professor at Cambridge who wrote the 12 volume ‘Study of History’ in evaluating the rise and fall of civilizations. Both men seem to inhabit a similar orbit in perceiving the maxim that any person or institution that seeks stability must maintain the posture of change. This did not fit into the parochial mentality governing most of London’s intractable institutions of government, education or military policy or caste. His famous ‘Parkinson’s Law’ (1957) is something both Orwell and Churchill both understood as profoundly irritating: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” This is the foundation for Unions in the West. It is also the primary force in the demise of military institutions and education in that both become enamored with past success and never adjust to the social impact of emerging technologies. He wrote ‘Parkinson’s Law’ with deadpan humor. Its origin was the British in Malaysia, Burma and India. For those who love a great laugh at management, this is a primary source of comfort.
I witnessed a maxim of his recently as I passed by the new Goldman Sachs ‘state-of-the-art’ building in New York. Its a Versailles meant to emulate imminent failure. For those familiar with either Toynbee, Peter Drucker or Parkinson’s writings can see how the ‘perfect becomes the enemy of the good’; for in emulating perfection basking as history, neither institution nor person is capable of anticipating the change required for growth. By admiring themselves they forfeit initiative required to change. Its a old theme pursued along the lines in Greek tragedy. Toynbee wrote extensively on such topic under ‘The Nemesis of Creativity’ as did Marshall McLuhan.
Those interested in reading such topics are encouraged to read my posts categorized in ‘The Perils of Specialization’.
What does Golman Sachs building have to do with Cyril Northcote Parkinson law of imminent demise? According to Parkinson: “Perfection of planning is a symptom of decay. During a period of exciting discovery or progress, there is no time to plan the perfect headquarters.” Their is much to quarry here regarding how intractable institutions devise confusing opaque specialists financial instruments for the purpose of generating fees. By pursuing ‘rent seeking’ they hope to ensnare an unknowing public into dependency.
Read Cyril Northcote Parkinson and get educated on learning how to discover the imminent demise of intractable institutions.