Hacker Laws

The Law of Triviality

The Law of Triviality on Wikipedia

This law suggests that groups will give far more time and attention to trivial or cosmetic issues rather than serious and substantial ones.

The common fictional example used is that of a committee approving plans for nuclear power plant, who spend the majority of their time discussing the structure of the bike shed, rather than the far more important design for the power plant itself. It can be difficult to give valuable input on discussions about very large, complex topics without a high degree of subject matter expertise or preparation. However, people want to be seen to be contributing valuable input. Hence a tendency to focus too much time on small details, which can be reasoned about easily, but are not necessarily of particular importance.

The fictional example above led to the usage of the term 'Bike Shedding' as an expression for wasting time on trivial details. A related term is 'Yak Shaving,' which connotes a seemingly irrelevant activity that is part of a long chain of prerequisites to the main task.