Most of us are familiar with Parkinson’s Law, the one that says that work expands to fill the time available for its completion.
However, a TV news report last night, discussing one of the recent travails of Britain’s Home Office in front of its recently constructed and newly occupied headquarters reminded me of another Parkinson’s Law – same Parkinson but different law – which says that whenever an organisation moves into a new, custom-built headquarters, it is likely to be not just heading for disaster but already there. Parkinson’s Law of Custom Built Head Offices alludes to the way that the process, first of deciding about the new building and then of getting settled into it, takes the attention of the people who matter away from the real job that they are supposed to be doing, and towards their own, as it were, domestic arrangements. They are celebrating past successes instead of contriving further success.
Contrariwise, people who are busy doing important and productive work that they are determined to press ahead with have no time to be fussing excessively about furniture and fittings, and they make do with whatever they have or can easily obtain from a catalog.
Once again, this law would appear to vindicated, and I can only apologise for not noticing this sooner. I’ve long known of this law. I often walk past the new Home Office, designed by star architect Sir Terry Farrell, on my way from my home to Free Market Think Tank Land, which is just the other side of the new Home Office from me. The Home Office’s very public difficulties in recent months have not escaped me. But the penny did not drop until last night.
The new Home Office was moved into in the Spring of 2005.