More on Murphy and Friends

By Charles Waldo

New Insights On Why Things Go Rwong

In the Oct/Nov, 2014 HCBM I reported on research that has been done  to help us better understand some of the many forces at work delivering the fundamental Murphy’s Law (“If anything can go wrong, it will”) to both the general population and, especially, to those persons engaged in the world of business and organizations of all types.  Seventeen “red flags” to help recognize various aspects of Murphy’s Law at work were described.

During the last five years, an extraordinary amount of new research was done that uncovered, literally, hundreds of additional Murphy-like or Murphy related phenomenon.  In some cases totally new and original theories and rules were identified….the foundations for many a doctoral dissertation.   In other cases, older theories and observations were honed and refined.

From this vast warehouse of knowledge I selected twenty-three “gems” that will, hopefully, assist you in better navigating the twists and turns of business life caused by Murphy and friends.   As you go through them, why not make note of the ones you have encountered?  You might be unpleasantly surprised.

First, several Corollaries to the basic Murphy’s Law have been identified: 1)  Nothing is as easy to do as it looks on the surface; 2)  Everything  takes longer than originally thought;  3)  If  there is a possibility of several things going wrong,  the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go bad first. wrong first; 4)  If you perceive there are four possible ways for a procedure or project to go wrong and you find a way to circumvent them,  a new, fifth way to go wrong will promptly develop; 5)  Left to themselves things usually go from bad to worse;  6)  Whenever you set out to do something,  something else must be done first -- and it usually goes wrong;  7)  Every potential solution breeds its own unique problems;  8) It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so numerous and ingenious; and 9) Nature always sides with the hidden flaw.


The Expanded Murphy

Here are recent findings that can expand your understanding of the original Murphy and its sub-laws:

  • Addendum to Murphy’s Law and the original Corollaries:   In precise mathematical terms, 1 + 1 = 2, where “=” is a symbol meaning “seldom if ever.”
  • Tussman’s Law:  Nothing is as inevitable and avoidable as a mistake whose time has come.
  • Perrussel’s Law:  There is no job so simple and straightforward that it cannot be done wrong – and, usually, in a number of ingenious ways.
  • Hane’s Observation:  There is no limit to how bad things can get if you try really hard.
  • Allen’s Law:  Almost anything is easier to get into than out of.
  • Young’s Law of Inanimate Mobility:  All inanimate objects can move just enough to get in your way and foul up your project.
  • Hoare’s Law of Large Problems:  Inside every large problem is at least one small problem struggling to get out.
  • Roman’s Rule: The one who says it cannot be done should never interrupt the one who is doing it.
  • Blair’s Observation: The best laid plans of mice and men are usually about equal.
  • Ruckert’s Law:  There is nothing so small that it can’t be totally blown out of proportion.
  • McGee’s First Law:  It’s amazing how long it takes to complete something when you aren’t the person working on it.
  • Owen’s Theory of Organizational Deviance:  Every organization has an allotted number of positions to be filled by misfits.  Although these positions and occupants will not be shown on an organization chart, they are well known to fellow employees.
  • Corollary:  Once a misfit leaves, another must be quickly recruited so as to not lose that slot.
  • The Lippman Lemma:   People unconsciously tend to specialize in their area of greatest weakness.
  • Finnigan’s Law:  The farther away the future is, the more inviting and positive it usually looks.  That is why long-range plans seldom work out.
  • Christie Davies’ Theorem:   If your facts are wrong but your logic is perfect, then your conclusions are inevitably false. Therefore, by making mistakes in your logic, you have at least a random chance of coming to a correct conclusion.
  • Hiram’s Law:   If you hire enough consultants and pay them well, you can get just about any opinion confirmed.
  • Bralek’s Rule for Success:  Trust only those who stand to lose as much as you when things go wrong.
  • Mayne’s Observation about Design:  Nobody notices the big errors until the damage has been done.
  • Bitton’s Postulate on State-of-the-Art Electronics:   If you understand it, it’s probably obsolete.
  • Shapiro’s Law of Reward:  The one who does the least amount of work makes the fewest mistakes; therefore will get the most credit.
  • Stenderup’s Law: The sooner you fall behind, the more time you will have to catch up. Make mistakes early.
  • Olivier’s Law:  Experience is something you don’t get until just after you need it.
  • A Yogi Berra Observation:  “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
  • And another Yogiism::  “If you don’t want them to hit it, don’t throw it.”
  • From Lefty Gomez, a former Yankee pitcher:  “Generally speaking, I’ve found it’s better to be lucky than good.”

Good luck on your ongoing battle with Murphy.  It’s not easy.