by Hugh Rawson. Castle Books, 2002


1) ACTON'S LAW --- "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." (p1-2)

2) AESOP'S ADAGES --- Slow and steady wins the race! --- from The Hare and the Tortoise. (p4-5)

3) ARISTOTLE'S OBSERVATION --- "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts." (p13)

4) PETER PRINCIPLE --- "In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence." (p64-93)

    This insight is the key to the science of hierarchiology --- that is the study of hierarchies --- introduced to the world in 1969 by Dr. Laurence J. Peter in The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong (with Raymond Hull).

    Pursuing this principle, Dr. Peter made the depressing discovery that:

      "In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out his duties."

    Dr. Peter also offered several other insights into the workings of hierarchies, the first two of which class as corollaries and the third as prescription for action!

      [1] Incompetence knows no barriers of time or place!

      [2] Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of their incompetence!

      [3] If at first you do not succeed, try something else!

    Dr. Peter called his basic concept a "principle" rather than a "law" because it describes a tnedency rather than a universal, immutable progression. As exceptions, he noted that on occasion a good teacher will choose to remain a good "teacher" instead of becoming a poor "administrator," a successful sales representative may decline a promotion to sales manager, a competent mayor may decide not to run for governor or president, and so on.

    In general, though, the principle holds, and exceptions to it are more apparent than real. Among the apparent exceptions:

      [1] The "Percussive Sublimation" = Being kicked upstairs --- which is NOT, as might first appear --- a move from a position of incompetence to one of competence, but a pseudo-promotion from one unproductive job to another!

      [2] The 'Lateral Arabesque" = Another pseudo-promotion in which the incompetent person is NOT really raised in rank (an perhpas not in pay either) but is given a longer title and a new office in a remote part of the building!

      The larger the organization (hierarchy), the easier the "Lateral Arabesque," where an employee is "banished" from a comfortable job of competence. (p188)

      [3] The "Eichmann Exception" or "Peter's Invert" or the "Professional Automaton" = The "exceptional" supervisor who shows obsessive concern with filling out forms correctly and permits no deviations from established routine and has little or no capacity for independent judgment! This person ALWAYS obeys, and NEVER, NEVER decides!

      It is clear to the "professional automaton" that means are more important than ends! In other words, the paperwork is MORE IMPORTANT than the PURPOSE for which it was originally designed!

      The "automaton" no longer sees herself or himself as existing to serve the public, but rather sees the public as the raw material that serves to maintain her or him, the forms, the rituals, and the hierarcy!

      Unfortunately for the public, the "automaton" appears to be compretent from the hierarchy's point of view! As a result, she or he remains eligible for promotion until --- by some mischance, she or he is elevated into a position where she or he absolutely has to make a decision. It is at that point that she or he reaches her or his level of incompetence!

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