I worked for many, many years in the Information Technology (IT) business. Throughout my checkered career (and there were many checkered moments), I encountered all sorts of problems and ways to solve them. There was never a shortage of either. What I found was that over-simplification and under-estimation were an essential part of almost any solution. A few well-known sayings addressed some, but not all, of the solutions posed and are well-known to anyone who has existed and survived (existence and survival being the keys) for any length of time in this business.
First and foremost is Murphy’s Law. Murphy’s Law says that anything that can go wrong will go wrong … with a corollary that it will go wrong at the worst possible moment. It is not so much a description as it is an expectation. Expect nothing and you won’t be disappointed. There are numerous sources but its current name is attributed to Capt. Edward A. Murphy, an engineer working on an Air Force project at Edwards Air Force Base in 1949.
Parkinson’s Law is an adage first stated by Cyril Northcote Parkinson as part of a humorous essay published in The Economist in 1955. Parkinson’s Law says that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. He derived the dictum from his extensive experience in the British Civil Service. Parkinson noted that the total of those employed inside a bureaucracy increased each year “irrespective of any variation in the amount of work (if any) to be done.”
The Peter Principle, formulated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in their 1969 book of the same name, states that “in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” The principle holds that in a hierarchy, members are promoted so long as they work competently. Eventually they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (their “level of incompetence”), and there they remain, being unable to earn further promotions.
All three rules – Murphy’s Law, Parkinson’s Law and The Peter Principle – have been bandied about for decades and properly cover part of the commonly expressed view of projects under most situations.
But have you ever heard of Finagle’s Creed? Probably not. And yet Finagle’s Creed correctly describes every information technology project that was ever worked on or will be worked on.
Finagle’s Creed states:
- The information you have is not the information you want;
- The information you want is not the information you need;
- The information you need is not the information you can get;
- And the information you can get costs more than you want to pay for it.
Those of you in or associated with the information technology business, regardless of how complicated or straightforward the project you encountered, can tell me if this does not cover every project that you have ever worked on.
Finagle’s Creed, you heard it here first. You’re welcome.
Do not be confused by Finagle’s Law: Science is truth – don’t be misled by facts.