Monthly Archives: February 2013

Living by the Peter Principle

I LOVE the Peter Principle. I was first introduced to it early in my career.

The Peter Principle states that:

“In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence.”

I worked with a guy who’d quit a good job as a mechanical engineer with 3M to work at a asdf motorcycle repair shop (his TRUE passion). He quickly rose up the ladder and became parts department manager. He hated it, “I no longer got to burn my elbow on hot mufflers”. He wanted to repair bikes, not manage parts. So, he quit. They ended up giving him his old job back but alas, he ended up as the part time parts manager. He finally quit the place altogether.

The only reason he worked at the place I met him at was because we had a machine shop. Most mechanical engineers draw up their plans and give them to the machine shop to whittle out the part. No this guy – he’d wait for the machine shop guys to go home at 3:00 PM and then head out to the shop. He’s whittle out the parts the way he wanted them and them bring it back to his desk, measure it, and draw up the specs. He’s one of the best mechanical engineers I’ve ever worked with.

(Sorry for taking the long way around to the point.) This guy introduced me to the “Peter Principle.” He was using it proactively to avoid climbing up the ladder to where he’d be
ladderunhappy (and doing something he didn’t like). He intentionally dressed kind of strange (ties that didn’t match, etc) – although I don”t think it much of a stretch for him. He also had a great tip. Leave a desk drawer open at the end of the day when you go home. NOBODY does that – it makes management think you’re a little “off.”

He was good at what he did, but was certain to make sure that our boss didn’t see potential for any kind of management position.

So, not only is the Peter Principle great at explaining why the organizations we’re in are the way they are, we can use it to our advantage!

Ladder Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29233640@N07/ / CC BY 2.0

Teenager’s Jobs Outsourced?

As a software engineer, I’ve gotten used to the fact that some of what I do may get outsourced offshore to India or the Philippines. I”m not too worried any more because I’ve seen enough offshore outsourcing projects that turned ugly. Of course, I’ve seen my share of non-outsourced projects that turned ugly. It”s kind of the nature of software engineering. There”s always going to be a need for somebody here in the U.S. to write some code.

As somebody who”s job may get shipped away, I notice interesting outsourcing examples that have touched life. These come as a bigger surprise than the guy named “Bob” who answers the Dell customer support line with a distinctively Indian accent.

The first was a Tuesday morning at about 2:30 AM. A loved one and I were at a local emergency room. Impatient, an hour after my loved one”s CT scan, I asked when we might get some results. “We”re waiting for the radiologist to call,” the nurse said. It turns out that the four or five hospitals in the eastern part of the Twin Cities share an on-call radiologist that is offsite. I told myself that at least it was better than the job going to India, although there are now three or four radiologists who aren”t getting paid to be on-call for only one hospital. (Oh heck, radiologists make a lot of money – let a few of them get a good nights sleep.)

mcdonaldThe second was late on a Thursday afternoon on the way home from work. Sometimes, a guy just needs a McDonald”s ice cream cone. I”m a vegetarian so there isn”t much else I eat there. They”re cold, sweet, tasty and it”s easy to stash the wrapper so you don”t have to explain yourself. I pull up to the order board and order my vanilla cone. No, I don”t want an apple pie with it. “If you”re order is correct on the screen, please pull ahead,” the voice from the box replies. Pulling up to the window, I notice that the kid taking my money isn”t taking orders and sounds nothing like the voice from the box. So, I have to ask, “where”s the person taking the orders?” I expected an answer like, “over there…”.

“North Dakota”, he answered nonchalantly. (The order board at my McDonalds is at least 250 miles from North Dakota.)

I was amazed. I like technology. This is cool. Thomas Friedman was right, the world is flat. At least it wasn”t outsourced to a different country. I knew those right leaning friends of mine would appreciate that.

Then it hit me. It wasn”t my job that had been outsourced. This could have been my kids job.

My kid’s job has been outsourced to North Dakota.

That”s different somehow. It”s not a radiologist or somebody at the far end of a customer service call.

It strikes a little too close to home.

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/ / CC BY-SA 2.0