The term was coined as a metaphor to illuminate Parkinson’s Law of Triviality. Parkinson observed that a committee whose job is to approve plans for a nuclear power plant may spend the majority of its time on relatively unimportant but easy-to-grasp issues, such as what materials to use for the staff bikeshed, while neglecting the design of the power plant itself, which is far more important but also far more difficult to criticize constructively. It was popularized in the Berkeley Software Distribution community by Poul-Henning Kamp[1] and has spread from there to the software industry at large.

bikeshedding – Wiktionary

Parkinson’s law of triviality is an observation about the human tendency to devote a great deal of time to unimportant details while crucial matters go unattended. 

Parkinson’s law of triviality is not the principle known as Parkinson’s law, which is the familiar observation that work expands to use up the amount of time allocated for it. However, both principles were originally formulated by Cyril Northcote Parkinson, a British Naval historian and author. 

The act of wasting time on trivial details while important matters are inadequately attended is sometimes known as bikeshedding. That term originates from Parkinson’s observation of a committee organized to approve plans for a nuclear power plant. As Parkinson noted, the committee devoted a disproportionate amount of time to relatively unimportant details — such as the materials for a bicycle storage shed — which limited the time available to focus on the design of the nuclear plant. 

What is Parkinson’s law of triviality (bikeshedding)? – Definition from

Further reading,