Laurence Peter (1919-1990)
Canadian management expert (pictured right) famous for the “Peter Principle” (see
The Peter Principle
The “Peter Principle” says that:
“In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence”
So effective work is only carried out by people who haven’t reached that level yet.
At their level of incompetence, people are not concerned about change and people’s good work but:
- preserving the organization’s rules, rituals and hierarchy.
This causes “Peter’s Inversion”:
“Internal consistency is valued more highly than efficient service”.
Incompetent employees keep happy, because they think they’re competent because of
“substitution” (replacing their job’s proper duties with useless
tasks they can do).
The best way to be happy is to avoid promotion by “creative incompetence” (appearing to be
incompetent by failing in things that don’t matter to your job e.g. dressing untidily).
Reinforce your aversion to promotion by thinking negatively about it.
Key quotes on selection and
In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties,
Peter’s Corollary, directly resulting from The Peter Principle.
Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.
Key quotes on
The power of negative thinking can help us avoid escalating ourselves to a level of life-incompetence.
Competence, like truth, beauty and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder.
The Peter Pyramid
The Peter Pyramid shows how hierarchical organizations (or bureaucracies) can rise to their level of
- making things unnecessarily complex.
- avoiding innovation and change.
- valuing internal order, not customer service.
- attracting bureaucrats who can’t lead or manage effectively.
Key quote on change
Bureaucracies defend the status quo long past the time the quo has lost its status.