The Peter Principle Why Things Always Go Wrong

The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong


The Peter Principle is the universal law that applies to all organizations by Dr. Peter.

This law is very simple.

In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his own level of incompetence.

Namely, if you’re climbing up the hierarchical ladder,

you‘ll reach the last position which is higher than your competence.

The authors concluded the more mature organizations, the more incompetent the members are.

Do you think it applies to your organization, not only your company, but the any other you belong?


Even though you consider this principle itself isn’t right,

I think Peter’s analysis has values for reconsidering human organization.

When people get employed by a company,

they naturally try to master their assigned role and hope for promotion.

And, their boss respects for how they does it well when he judges their promotion.

But…, the skills required to get a higher job have nothing to do with the skills to manage the job.

So, even if the staffs and their boss agreed the promotion, it is not necessarily a right judgement.

Especially, it is often going wrong when people promote from staffs to managers.


Because Dr. Peter considered we can’t avoid this law,

his solutions to deal with this problem are something negative.

(Only one positive solution he offers is to hire a manager from outside on demand.)

For example, he recommended “Instead of carrying out the proper duties of his position

he substitutes for them some other set of duties, which he carries out to perfection.”

But, I think there are at least three positive solutions for this law.


The first is to refrain from promoting staffs until they show the skills needed at next rank.

People can’t be promoted if they have not already display management abilities.

In my consulting industry, if I want to promote, I need to show my manager

that I have already deserved of the promotion.

And, there is a culture called “Up or Out” that the staff who can’t promote within a few years

must be dropped out. These culture enable us to avoid the incompetence.


The second is to accept demotions and encourage staff to try to promote again.

For this solution, the culture which recognizes the challenge is important, even if failing.

Some organizations have an inertia or an unwritten law, not to accept any mistakes.

So at first, you need to change the culture of your organization, “mistakephobia“.


The last solution is to prepare the plural promotion courses.

Recently, some Japanese companies have applied the system that has two options.

One is to be a manager who administers his organization,

the other is to be a specialist who has high level expertise.

As the various employment statuses, there should be the various careers

to make the most of your human resources.

Could you come up with any other solutions?

This book offers a lot of examples and easy to read.

You must try to read it and find the solution

so that you and your organization make unstoppable progress.