Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

Home

www.google.co.uk


Recent Comments


Monthly Archives


Most recent entries


Search


Advanced Search


Other Blogs I write for

Brian Micklethwait's Education Blog

CNE Competition
CNE Intellectual Property
Samizdata
Transport Blog


Blogroll

2 Blowhards
6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adloyada
Adventures in Capitalism
Alan Little
Albion's Seedling
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Alex Singleton
AngloAustria
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
Biased BBC
Bishop Hill
BLDG BLOG
Bloggers Blog
Blognor Regis
Blowing Smoke
Boatang & Demetriou
Boing Boing
Boris Johnson
Brazen Careerist
Bryan Appleyard
Burning Our Money
Cafe Hayek
Cato@Liberty
Charlie's Diary
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
Chicago Boyz
China Law Blog
Cicero's Songs
City Comforts
Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog
Clay Shirky
Climate Resistance
Climate Skeptic
Coffee & Complexity
Coffee House
Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Contra Niche
Contrary Brin
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Скрипучая беседка
CrozierVision
Dave Barry
Davids Medienkritik
David Thompson
Deleted by tomorrow
deputydog
diamond geezer
Dilbert.Blog
Dizzy Thinks
Dodgeblogium
Don't Hold Your Breath
Douglas Carswell Blog
dropsafe
Dr Robert Lefever
Dr. Weevil
ecomyths
engadget
Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights
English Cut
English Russia
EU Referendum
Ezra Levant
Everything I Say is Right
Fat Man on a Keyboard
Ferraris for all
Flickr blog
Freeborn John
Freedom and Whisky
From The Barrel of a Gun
ft.com/maverecon
Fugitive Ink
Future Perfect
FuturePundit
Gaping Void
Garnerblog
Gates of Vienna
Gizmodo
Global Warming Politics
Greg Mankiw's Blog
Guido Fawkes' blog
HE&OS
Here Comes Everybody
Hit & Run
House of Dumb
Iain Dale's Diary
Ideas
Idiot Toys
IMAO
Indexed
India Uncut
Instapundit
Intermezzo
Jackie Danicki
James Delingpole
James Fallows
Jeffrey Archer's Official Blog
Jessica Duchen's classical music blog
Jihad Watch
Joanne Jacobs
Johan Norberg
John Redwood
Jonathan's Photoblog
Kristine Lowe
Laissez Faire Books
Languagehat
Last of the Few
Lessig Blog
Libertarian Alliance: Blog
Liberty Alone
Liberty Dad - a World Without Dictators
Lib on the United Kingdom
Little Man, What Now?
listen missy
Loic Le Meur Blog
L'Ombre de l'Olivier
London Daily Photo
Londonist
Mad Housewife
Mangan's Miscellany
Marginal Revolution
Mark Wadsworth
Media Influencer
Melanie Phillips
Metamagician and the Hellfire Club
Michael Jennings
Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal
Mick Hartley
More Than Mind Games
mr eugenides
Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism
My Boyfriend Is A Twat
My Other Stuff
Natalie Solent
Nation of Shopkeepers
Neatorama
neo-neocon
Never Trust a Hippy
NO2ID NewsBlog
Non Diet Weight Loss
Normblog
Nurses for Reform blog
Obnoxio The Clown
Oddity Central
Oliver Kamm
On an Overgrown Path
One Man & His Blog
Owlthoughts of a peripatetic pedant
Oxford Libertarian Society /blog
Patri's Peripatetic Peregrinations
phosita
Picking Losers
Pigeon Blog
Police Inspector Blog
PooterGeek
Power Line
Private Sector Development blog
Public Interest.co.uk
Publius Pundit
Quotulatiousness
Rachel Lucas
RealClimate
Remember I'm the Bloody Architect
Rob's Blog
Sandow
Scrappleface
Setting The World To Rights
Shane Greer
Shanghaiist
SimonHewittJones.com The Violin Blog
Sinclair's Musings
Slipped Disc
Sky Watching My World
Social Affairs Unit
Squander Two Blog
Stephen Fry
Stuff White People Like
Stumbling and Mumbling
Style Bubble
Sunset Gun
Survival Arts
Susan Hill
Teblog
Techdirt
Technology Liberation Front
The Adam Smith Institute Blog
The Agitator
The AntRant
The Becker-Posner Blog
The Belgravia Dispatch
The Belmont Club
The Big Blog Company
The Big Picture
the blog of dave cole
The Corridor of Uncertainty (a Cricket blog)
The Croydonian
The Daily Ablution
The Devil's Advocate
The Devil's Kitchen
The Dissident Frogman
The Distributed Republic
The Early Days of a Better Nation
The Examined Life
The Filter^
The Fly Bottle
The Freeway to Serfdom
The Future of Music
The Futurist
The Happiness Project
The Jarndyce Blog
The London Fog
The Long Tail
The Lumber Room
The Online Photographer
The Only Winning Move
The Policeman's Blog
The Road to Surfdom
The Sharpener
The Speculist
The Surfer
The Wedding Photography Blog
The Welfare State We're In
things magazine
TigerHawk
Tim Blair
Tim Harford
Tim Worstall
tomgpalmer.com
tompeters!
Transterrestrial Musings
UK Commentators - Laban Tall's Blog
UK Libertarian Party
Unqualified Offerings
Violins and Starships
Virginia Postrel
Vodkapundit
WebUrbanist
we make money not art
What Do I Know?
What's Up With That?
Where the grass is greener
White Sun of the Desert
Why Evolution Is True
Your Freedom and Ours


Websites


Mainstream Media

BBC
Guardian
Economist
Independent
MSNBC
Telegraph
The Sun
This is London
Times


Syndicate

RSS 1.0
RSS 2.0
Atom
Feedburner
Podcasts


Categories

Advertising
Africa
Anglosphere
Architecture
Art
Asia
Atheism
Australasia
Billion Monkeys
Bits from books
Bloggers and blogging
Books
Brian Micklethwait podcasts
Brians
Bridges
Business
Career counselling
Cartoons
Cats and kittens
China
Civil liberties
Classical music
Comedy
Comments
Computer graphics
Cranes
Crime
Current events
Democracy
Design
Digital photographers
Drones
Economics
Education
Emmanuel Todd
Environment
Europe
Expression Engine
Family
Food and drink
France
Friends
Getting old
Globalisation
Healthcare
History
How the mind works
India
Intellectual property
Japan
Kevin Dowd
Language
Latin America
Law
Libertarianism
Links
Literature
London
Media and journalism
Middle East and Islam
Movies
Music
My blog ruins
My photographs
Open Source
Opera
Other creatures
Painting
Photography
Podcasting
Poetry
Politics
Pop music
Propaganda
Quote unquote
Radio
Religion
Roof clutter
Russia
Scaffolding
Science
Science fiction
Sculpture
Signs and notices
Social Media
Society
Software
South America
Space
Sport
Technology
Television
The internet
The Micklethwait Clock
Theatre
This and that
This blog
Transport
Travel
USA
Video
War


Sunday December 27 2009

Incoming from Alex Singleton, saying he’s just found another example of the law that says that any company that moves into a swanky new building is about to hit a financial crisis.  Alex called it my law, which is very flattering but actually it is more accurate to call it the Other Parkinson’s Law.  (This law, on the other hand is, I believe, all mine.) I am fond of the law of custom-built headquarters, but was definitely not the first to observe it in action.  Also, it applies to public sector institutions, like the Home Office.

Alex’s example is the Hasselblad camera enterprise, and this is the building:

image

Yep.  There is just no way the top echelons of an enterprise can commission and then move into a snazzy erection like that, and still do their regular top echelon jobs properly.  Their jobs were to navigate their way through the switch from analogue cameras to digital cameras without disaster.  And they now stare disaster in the face.

This edifice reminds me of the Hadley Centre, of which I inserted a picture into this posting, and which actually is deeply involved in Climategate despite earlier lies to the contrary.

I think the reason Parkinson’s Law *tends* to work in the new HQ=disaster is that the senior managers spend time on things like changing their minds about the colours of the fish in the ornamental pool, or asking why it’s behind schedule and costing more than expected [because changing the colour of fish in ornamental pools takes time and money, stupid].

The reason the law doesn’t always apply may be when the new HQ was actually necessary (old one burned down) or where the move is part of a useful re-organisation: for example a football club that increases its stadium capacity to meet unsatisfied demand for season tickets (Old Trafford soccer ground, not the cricket one).

Provided the cost/benefit analysis isn’t completely screwy, adding 20,000 to Old Trafford’s seating capacity, if necessary by moving, is unlikely to lead to a disaster for Manchester United. More’s the pity.

A positive example, I believe is the Cato Institute. I recall when it moved to purpose-built offices, there were predictions of doom. So far, so good.

Posted by Antoine Clarke on 27 December 2009

Even rebuilding sports stadium capacity, especially in an architecturally grand manner, can do terrible things to sporting form.  See: Surrey.  For the last few years they have been (a) erecting one of the finest new stands ever to grace a cricket ground, and (b) losing cricket matches, a lot.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 27 December 2009

It all depends on how you are rebuilding the stadium, although Antoine more or less said this. If you are doing this on the basis that you could sell an extra ten thousand seats for every game if you had ten thousand more seats, then this is more akin to a business opening an extra factory because there is demand. If it is a matter of hiring Frank Gehry to build the most spectacular looking stadium in the world because it will be spectacular looking, this is akin to the Parkinson’s law situation. It is seldom if ever the new headquarters themselves that are the problem. It is the attitude of management that builds them.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 27 December 2009

It is seldom if ever the new headquarters themselves that are the problem. It is the attitude of management that builds them.

As they say in LiveJournal parlance:
+1000.

The public’ propensity to blame architect/designer for everything that’ll go wrong, including financial and managerial decisions of his clients, never ceases to amaze me. For some reason people never extend same strange logic to other professions or consultants. Nobody blames doctors, for instance; nobody proclaims there is a law of company going into decline if its CEO’s secretary goes through cosmetic breasts augmentation.
But architects are exemption from logic, we/them seem to be a favorite beating (even “kicking") boy.

I’m happy that some architectural firm still have work, that at least few people in design industry can find clients. I wish I had now, too -I’m dying to design a decent office serving people’s needs better.

Posted by Tatyana on 27 December 2009

Tatyana

I agree about it being the attitude of the clients, rather than the fault of the architects, whom I do not blame.  I also love distinguished architecture, such as the building in the picture appears to be.  But I note that the circumstances that give rise to these business disasters often cost the client more than they were expecting, in terms of diverted attention.  This happens far too often to be mere coincidence.  In querying my logic, do you query these facts?  Or merely who is to blame for them?

Does anything similar actually happen to companies whose CEO’s secretaries have cosmetic surgery?  I doubt it, but perhaps it does.  And if it does, then this would be another similar law, and yes, blame CEOs and their secretaries for their attitudes towards cosmetic surgery, rather than the surgeons.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 30 December 2009

Brian,

you call it facts, but there really no valid statistics. You notice instances that fit your hypothesis, but not those that don’t. Like Antoine’s example of CATO institute above, or hundreds of various companies I personally have designed new offices for.
But let’s not take it personally - look at any brick-n-mortar bank building: is it still owned by the same bank it was built for two hundred years ago? I can show you tens of examples of it in NY: monumental stone, goldleaf, carved friezes and statues of Wealth and Prosperity; built to client’s desire to emphasize solidity of their business. But...but… merges happen, bankruptcies, acquisitions - and only the buildings, the symbols of capitalism, are left here to stay. It’s normal; that’s how the world works.
And actually, I’m glad if the Co that commissioned new building might go under: that means someone else will buy the walls, and they’ll need a designer to renovate, repartition and refinish the interiors to suit the new owner. More work for me!

Posted by Tatyana on 30 December 2009
Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.