Thursday, December 9, 2010

Business Ethics Lecture Series - Part 20 - Why Things Always Go Wrong

Why Things Always Go Wrong
Book Review 
The Book: The Peter Principle
Authors: Dr. Laurence J. Peter & Raymond Hull
Published: 1969 William Morrow
I think there is a Chinese saying that it is a misfortune to read a good book too early in life.

I think I read ‘The Peter Principle’ too early in life.

And at that time, I being of an impressionable age, the book influenced me so much that I “rose” to my level of incompetence pretty fast, either unintentionally or by subconscious design.
I read ‘The Peter Principle’ in the early seventies, maybe sometime in 1972, when I was studying for my B. Tech. degree in Engineering, and even bought a personal copy of the book in 1974 (which I possess till this day) which, considering my financial status those days, was quite remarkable.
The book, written by Laurence J. Peter in collaboration with Raymond Hull, a management classic and masterpiece in the study of hierarchiology, is so fascinating, riveting and hilarious that once you start reading, it’s unputdownable.
In the first chapter itself, giving illustrative examples, the author establishes the Peter Principle: In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence and its corollary: In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent.
Dr. Peter writes in racy fictional style and as you read you experience a sense of verisimilitude and in your mind’s eye can see the Peter Principle operating in your very organization. That’s the way to savor the book, and imbibe its spirit – read an illustrative “case study” in the book and relate it to a parallel example in your organization.
He discusses cases which appear to be exceptions like percussive sublimation, lateral arabesque etc and demonstrates that the apparent exceptions are not exceptions. 

The Peter Principle applies in all hierarchies.
Discussing the comparative merits and demerits of applying ‘Pull’ versus ‘Push’ for getting promotion, Dr. Peter concludes: Never stand when you can sit; never walk when you can ride, never Push when you can Pull.
He then tells us how to recognize that one has reached one’s state of incompetence (final placement syndrome) and should one have already risen to one’s state of incompetence suggests ways of attaining health and happiness in this state at zero promotion quotient.
Towards the end of his book he illustrates how to avoid reaching the state of incompetence by practicing various techniques of Creative Incompetence. I probably practiced Creative Incompetence quite competently and hopefully I am still at my level of competence!
In conclusion Dr. Peter tries to briefly explore remedies to avoiding life-incompetence which he has elaborated in his follow up book ‘The Peter Prescription’ which is a must-read once you are hooked onto The Peter Principle.
The Peter Principle is a compelling book, written almost forty years ago, and with the flattening of hierarchy and advent of flexible organizational structures and HR practices, it would indeed be worthwhile for young and budding managers to read this book and see to what extent the Peter Principle applies and is relevant in today’s world.    

Dear Reader, read The Peter Principle, then look around you in your workplace - Do you see the principle in operation?

And next, you must read THE PETER PRESCRIPTION - do read the book review right here in my blog.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this book review.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

VIKRAM KARVE educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU, The Lawrence School Lovedale, and Bishop's School Pune, is an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession, a Human Resource Manager and Trainer by occupation, a Teacher by vocation, a Creative Writer by inclination and a Foodie by passion. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. His delicious foodie blogs have been compiled in a book "Appetite for a Stroll". Vikram lives in Pune with his family and pet Doberman girl Sherry, with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

Vikram Karve Creative Writing Blog -
Academic Journal Vikram Karve
Professional Profile of Vikram Karve -
Foodie Book: Appetite for a Stroll

© vikram karve., all rights reserved. 

1 comment:

a lost IITian said...

I fully agree with your comments particular in opening para as these are equally true for me . I also read the book around 1975 in 2nd year of B E & reached at level of incompetence quite fast & am still there .You are lucky that you are retired but i am still at level of my" Incompetence"