Tag Archives: laws

Finagle’s Creed

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.

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Postscript:

Do not be confused by Finagle’s Law: Science is truth – don’t be misled by facts.

Fix it; Break it

I had to get one of the many and never ending house repairs done the other day.  It demonstrated one of the immutable laws of nature – the fix it, break it phenomenon also known as the conservation of repairs.  Newton’s third law states that for every action there is an equal but opposite reaction.  Inanimate objects follow this law with a perverse vengeance.    If you are foolish enough to attempt your own electrical, mechanical or plumbing repairs and succeed in saving a hundred bucks, the objects in your house will rise up en masse, failing in rapid succession until you have spent ten times that amount on repairs and repairmen.

I unwittingly fixed a leaking toilet one day only to find a nearly flooded basement two weeks later because my ejector pump broke.  After a panicked call, my plumber, Fast Eddy, shows up, explains how bad the problem is, fixes it and relieves me of enough cash so that I can stop worrying about my next car, my next vacation or newer underwear.  In fact, Fast Eddy said that he had a similar problem in one of his houses.  One of his houses?  My plumber has more houses than I do!  I fully expect him to show up the next time in a repair van that is a combination Hummer and pimpmobile wearing thousand-dollar Max Armani coveralls.

I am, suffice it to say, not mechanically inclined.  The chances of me successfully conducting a major repair to my house are about as great as a dog reading a book.  I feel that, if scientists can believe in black holes, dark matter and exploding galaxies, I can believe in the self-curative powers of inanimate objects by constant incantations, prayers and, in extreme circumstances, human sacrifice.  Is it too much to ask them to break down during weekday hours when repairmen cost less?  To wait until after all the guests at a party have departed?  To agree upon a breakdown schedule that will not drain me of my life’s savings or require a second mortgage?

If only it were so.  Inanimate objects have their own laws:

 

Newton

Inanimate Object

     
     
1 An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion. An object at rest breaks when you put it in motion; an object in motion breaks anyway.
2 The acceleration of an object is directly proportional to the magnitude of the net force.  The acceleration of an object’s break is directly proportional to your inability to pay for it.
3 For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  For every fix, there is at least one break.