Heera Training & Management Consultants

eNewsletter September 2006

Dear Everyone,
Hi! And how are you all? It is going to be a very busy month this September as most corporate organizations want to finish all their training before the Puasa month. That’s good for me too as it means I can have some time to rest come October during the Puasa month. Puasa is however not a good month for me in relation to my diet. Although I do not fast, most evenings will see me at the stalls buying my favorite kueh mueh and all those delicious ‘lauk’ (nangka masak lemak and ikan bakar are my favorites!!). Ah! But that’s life. When you do not have food, we complain, when we have choices we complain too. As it is Merdeka day today, I would like to express my sense of gratitude in that I live in a wonderful, peaceful country where I am able to participate in the culture and religious activities of others. And yes, eating the glorious food too!!!
This month, I want to talk to you about the Peter Principle. The Peter Principle concept was introduced by Dr. Laurence Johnston Peter in his book of the same title. The concept of this principle is that in organizations, new employees typically start in the lower ranks, but when they prove to be competent in their job, they get promoted to a higher rank and to a new job. This process goes on indefinitely, until the employee reaches a job where he or she is no longer competent! Although incompetent, they are kept in the job as it is very difficult to ‘demote’ someone. The net result is that most of the management levels of a bureaucracy can be filled by incompetent people, who got there because they were quite good at doing different work than the work they are currently expected to perform. 

As an example, it is usual for organizations to promote their best sales person to a management position. The nature of the new job however is totally different i.e. managing a sales force. The sales person may be very good at doing sales but falls short when it comes to managing people. Hence he has been promoted to a job that he is incompetent in, triggering the concept of the Peter Principle.
How many times have we seen this principle being demonstrated in organizations? How many times have we all some times wondered about how certain people got promoted to their present positions? Ironically they are there not because they are good at their present job, but because they were good at their past jobs. And the trouble with people like these is that they then carry on doing the tasks involved in ‘their past jobs’ because they cannot do their present ones well. How many times have we seen managers go on and on about the font and format of a report rather than the substance of it; How many times have we seen a sales manager trying to teach a sales person how to sell when his priority should be drawing up sales strategies for his sales force: How many times have we seen CEO’s getting involved in the administration of the annual dinner when the mission statements and strategies for the organization have yet to be drawn up. The list is endless.
There is no escaping this concept in organizations. However a good way to overcome this would be to ensure that whenever a person is promoted, it is ability in the future job that will play a critical role in the promotion process, and not ability in his present job. I must admit that this is easier said than done!

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I do hope I have in a small way added to your management knowledge and competency. Until my next newsletter, HAPPY MERDEKA and may god bless this wonderful country and each and every one of you. Take care.

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Heera Singh
Principal Consultant
HEERA Training and Management Consultancy
HP 0126083708