Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Why So Much INCOMPETENCE ? - The Peter Principle - Book Review

Why Things Always Go Wrong
Book Review 

The Book:The Peter Principle 
Authors: Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull
Published: 1969 William Morrow (Latest Edition 2009 Harper Business)
Availability: In Bookstores and on FLIPKART
ISBN: 0061699063
ISBN-13: 9780061699061, 978-0061699061

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 to truly understand and imbibe the spirit of The Peter Principle  read an illustrative “case study” in the book and relate it to a parallel example in your organization.

The authors discuss 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 to 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

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 to their workplaces and organizations and examine whether The Peter Principle is relevant in today’s world.    

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

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

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2012
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.
Did you like this article?
Why don't you read my recently published anthology of Short Fiction COCKTAIL - Stories About Relationships. 
I am sure you will like all the 27 stories in COCKTAIL
To order your COCKTAIL please click any of the links below:
If you prefer reading ebooks on Kindle or your ebook reader, please order Cocktail E-book by clicking the links below:

About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories, creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional research papers in journals and edited in-house journals for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

Vikram Karve Academic and Creative Writing Journal:
Professional Profile Vikram Karve:
Vikram Karve Facebook Page:
Vikram Karve Creative Writing Blog:

© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

1 comment:

Sunbyanyname said...

You brought it out very rightly that books that we read very early in life come back to us to haunt us. I had never thought I would be fascinated to read a review of Peter Principle after all these years. I am convinced, now that you remind me, that both the books are a must-read for young executives. Thank you for the reminder and a lovely review.