Bikeshedding is the common term for, and the verbing of, Parkinson's law of triviality. While this law exists in many minor variations, the original statement of the law was "The time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the sum involved." This is more commonly paraphrased as "the more trivial the issue, the more time spent talking about it."

Cyril Northcote Parkinson wrote a spoof management book entitled Parkinson's Law, or the Pursuit of Progress (1958), in which he enumerated a number of 'laws', in much the same spirit of Murphy's law. One of these was his law of triviality, which he illustrated with an example of a fictitious committee meeting to discuss budget items for a large company, including a ten million pound contract to build a nuclear reactor, and a proposal to build a £350 bicycle shed for the clerical staff.

Most committee members do not have the technical knowledge or the confidence to speak for or against a major expense on a complex project, so the reactor proposal passes with minimal discussion. However, many members feel that they have valid, knowledgeable, and safe opinions on the bike shed, so discussion drags on... and on.

Many people have had experiences of coworkers (or themselves) getting bogged down in side issues and trivialities, and while "Parkinson's law of triviality" is a bit clumsy, bikeshedding is both more pithy, and is a verb, so is optimal for describing an action.

Bikeshedding is closely related to yak shaving and Sayre's law, along with a whole slew of other Parkinson's Laws. Bikeshedding is also known as coke machine syndrome.

Iron Noder

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