Promoting the people most competent at one job does not mean that they’ll be better at another, according to a new simulation of hierarchical organizations.
There’s a paradox at the heart of most Western organizations. The people who perform best at one level of an organization tend to be promoted on the premise that they will also be competent at another level within the organization. I imagine that most readers will have had personal experience at the way that this hypothesis fails in practice.
In 1969, a Canadian psychologist named Laurence Peter encapsulated this behavior in a rule that has since become known as Peter’s Principle: “All new members in a hierarchical organization climb the hierarchy until they reach their level of maximum incompetence.”
(...) They say that common sense tells us that a member who is competent at a given level will also be competent at a higher level of the hierarchy. So it may well seem a good idea to promote such an individual to the next level.
The problem is that common sense often fools us. It’s not so hard to see that a new position in an organization requires different skills, so the competent performance of one task may not correlate well with the ability to perform another task well. (…)
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