Categories
QAspire.com

The Eponymous Principles of Management – The Gervais Principle

The Gervais Principle[1], named after Ricky Gervais, the creator of The Office, and coined by Venkatesh Rao, of  Ribbonfarm, recognises the The MacLeod Model of Hierarchy wherein at the top of any organization are sociopaths, at the bottom are losers, and in the middle are the clueless.  

Venkatesh Rao has spelt in detail his views on The Gervais Principle, Or The Office According to “The Office” in  his well-laid out series on his blog, which can be accessed at Series Home | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | ebook. It’s a primer that explains theories of office politics beginning with William Whyte’s The Organization Man in the 50s, then The Peter Principle in 1969, then Dilbert Principle and finally his own theory drawn from The Office which he dubs as The Gervais Principle.

I have picked up the key points from Part I here:

Ventkatesh Rao watched the US version of the show The Office obsessively, but would keep wondering what made that show so devastatingly effective, and elevates it so far above the likes of Dilbert and Office Space. He figures out that it is a fully realized theory of management that falsifies 83.8% of the business section of the bookstore.  The theory begins with Hugh MacLeod’s well-known cartoon, Company Hierarchy, and its cornerstone is something Venkatesh Rao will call The Gervais Principle, which supersedes both the Peter Principle and its successor, The Dilbert Principle. Outside of the comic aisle, the only major and significant works consistent with the Gervais Principle are The Organization Man and Images of Organization.

Idealized organizations are not perfect. They are perfectly pathological.  So, while most management literature is about striving relentlessly towards an ideal by executing organization theories completely, this school, which Venatesh Rao calls the Whyte school, would recommend that you do the bare minimum organizing to prevent chaos, and then stop. Let a natural, if declawed, individualist Darwinism operate beyond that point. The result is the MacLeod hierarchy. It may be horrible, but like democracy, it is the best you can do.

The Sociopath (capitalized) layer comprises the Darwinian/Protestant Ethic will-to-power types who drive an organization to function despite itself. The Clueless layer is what Whyte called the “Organization Man” but the archetype inhabiting the middle has evolved a good deal since Whyte wrote his book (in the fifties).  The Losers are not social losers (as in the opposite of “cool”), but people who have struck bad bargains economically – giving up capitalist striving for steady paychecks. Consider this passage from William Whyte’s The Organization Man in the 1950s –

Of all organization men, the true executive is the one who remains most suspicious of The Organization. If there is one thing that characterizes him, it is a fierce desire to control his own destiny and, deep down, he resents yielding that control to The Organization, no matter how velvety its grip… he wants to dominate, not be dominated…Many people from the great reaches of middle management can become true believers in The Organization…But the most able are not vouchsafed this solace.

Today, any time an organization grows too brittle, bureaucratic, and disconnected from reality, it is simply killed, torn apart and cannibalized, rather than reformed. The result is the modern creative-destructive life cycle of the firm, which Venkatesh Rao calls the MacLeod Life Cycle.

A Sociopath with an idea recruits just enough Losers to kick off the cycle. As it grows it requires a Clueless layer to turn it into a controlled reaction rather than a runaway explosion. Eventually, as value hits diminishing returns, both the Sociopaths and Losers make their exits, and the Clueless start to dominate. Finally, the hollow brittle shell collapses on itself and anything of value is recycled by the sociopaths according to meta-firm logic.

Which brings us to our main idea. How both the pyramid and its lifecycle are animated. The dynamics are governed by the Newton’s Law of organizations: the Gervais Principle, which is –

Sociopaths, in their own best interests, knowingly promote over-performing losers into middle-management, groom under-performing losers into sociopaths, and leave the average bare-minimum-effort losers to fend for themselves.

The Gervais principle differs from the Peter Principle, which it superficially resembles. The Peter Principle states that all people are promoted to the level of their incompetence. It assumes that future promotions are based on past performance. The Peter Principle is wrong for the simple reason that executives aren’t that stupid, and because there isn’t that much room in an upward-narrowing pyramid. They know what it takes for a promotion candidate to perform at the top level. So, if they are promoting people beyond their competence anyway, under conditions of opportunity scarcity, there must be a good reason.

Scott Adams, seeing a different flaw in the Peter Principle, proposed the Dilbert Principle: that companies tend to systematically promote their least-competent employees to middle management to limit the damage they can do. This again is untrue. The Gervais principle predicts the exact opposite: that the most competent ones will be promoted to middle management. The least competent employees (but not all of them — only certain enlightened incompetents) will be promoted not to middle management but fast-tracked through to senior management. To the Sociopath level.

And in case you are wondering, the unenlightened under-performers get fired.

Venkatesh Rao states that – “This is where Gervais has broken new ground, primarily because as an artist, he is interested in the subjective experience of being Clueless (most sitcoms are about Losers). For your everyday Sociopath, it is sufficient to label someone clueless and manipulate them. What Gervais managed to create is a very compelling portrait of the Clueless, a work of art with real business value.”

Venkatesh Rao is so much enamoured by the Gervais’s point of view that he feels that Gervais deserves Nobel prizes in both literature and economics.


[1] The Gervais principle – Venkatesh Rao talks at the Economist

Categories
The Eponymous Principles of Management

The Eponymous Principles of Management – Putt’s Law

The Putt’s Law, formulated by Archibald Putt, in 1981, apparently can be seen as applicable to the technology world. But if one can see beyond the obvious, it is as universally applicable as two other laws – The Peter Principle and The Dilbert Principle- that we have looked into in so far as the issue competence (or incompetence) is concerned! Like such laws and the books that contain these full-grown discussions on the concerned eponymous management principles, the first reading is a matter of sheer joy of a reading humorous satirical book. However, more of what is written sinks in, one starts feeling more serene, as one starts realizing that what is being discussed there is right here, all around, each one of us.

Archibald Putt himself is an accomplished technocrat in a high-technology company. During his work, he has got opportunity to closely analyze the hierarchical intricacies of the high-technology or R& D or advance project management fields. In the first of a series of papers[1] published in Research & Development journal, in 1976, his tenet was that only way to avoid Peter’s level of incompetence syndrome was to create creative incompetence – a high level of incompetence in some area that does not affect one’s present performance but does assure there will be no further offers of promotion. Unlike hierarchies in other fields, creative incompetence is the rule rather than the exception in hierarchies in science and technology. As a result, many low-level positions remain staffed by competent persons who never reach their level of incompetence. However, as is the case in general, successful technocrat would not like to be chained down by the limited ambitions and vision. Any normal (successful) person would aspire for the position of eminence in a technical hierarchy.

The matter is further compounded by the real-life situations when frequently there is no way to judge whether individual is competent or incompetent to hold a given position. In other words, there is no adequate competence criterion for technical managers. In complex technological projects, the outcome of the project is most strongly affected by preexisting but unknown technological factors over which the project manager has no control. In many a case, the goals or objectives are set even before a manager is chosen.

The lack of an adequate competence criterion combined with the frequent practice of creative incompetence in technical hierarchies results in a competence inversion, with the most competent people remaining near the bottom while persons of lesser talent rise to the top. It also provides the basis for Putt’s Law, which can be stated in an intuitive and non-mathematical form as follows:

Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand.

Archibald Putt put his observation in these papers in more detailed and organised form in a book ‘Putt’s Law and the Successful Technocrats’ in the year 1981.  The book presented more than one law and more than one corollary to each law. The book was revised in 2006 as ‘Putt’s Law and the Successful Technocrats – How to Win in the Information Age [ISBN: 978-0-471-78893-5; February 2006; Wiley-IEEE Press; 184 Pages].  Since all the laws and the ensuing corollaries were still valid, none these was dropped in the new addition. However there several more additions. The most significant additions relate to advances in information technologies that have changed forever the way people work and interact with each other. New analyses, first revealed in this edition, will be valuable to all who aspire to win in the Information Age. The new revision also includes recently developed Method of Rational Exuberance, which practically guarantees a rapid rise in management. The revised edition also answers the often-asked question, “Can Putt’s Law be broken?”

The book is divided into five parts[2]

  • Part One, “Putt’s Primer,” is an introduction to the guidelines needed to succeed in technological hierarchies.
  • Part Two, “The Successful Technocrat,” consists of 11 chapters that present the tale of I. M. Sharp, who went from being an average high school student to being a successful technocrat.
  • Part Three, “Basic Putt,” consists of seven chapters that introduce a methodology that technologists can use in the management of high technology projects.
  • Part Four, “Advanced Topics,” consists of six chapters that explain how to select projects, evaluate ideas, and thrive in a technological organization.
  • Part Five, “Putt’s Canon,” consists of three chapters that summarize all the laws, corollaries, rules, and precepts presented in the book, serving as an excellent reference.

The author also states in his Preface to the book that ‘some scholarly types have suggested that the writings in this book should be viewed merely as humorous satire. Holding that view can inhibit the success of an otherwise competent technocrat. It is not the view of many successful technocrats who studied and used the lessons of the book. While winning the game, they laughed just as often as others, especially on the way to the bank.’

As we end this discourse, it would be interesting to note that ‘Archibald Putt’ is a pseudonym, whose actual identity is still not revealed. He has served on government advisory committees, managed basic and applied research, and held executive positions in a large multinational corporation. He received his PhD degree from a leading institute of technology and has served as president of an international technical society.

+                  +                  +                  +

For such a talented person, we cannot expect that he has adopted this pseudonym without any purpose. Therefore, some more search is called for.

The Archibald of Archibald Putt can be seen to yield different meanings. The dictionary meaning of Archibald is ‘distinguished and bold.’ And Putt is a gentle stroke that hits a golf ball across the green towards the hole. So, one meaning of Archibald Putt is a gentle push by a distinguished and bold noble man! It is clearly redundant to say that such a gentle push by distinguished and bold person can resonate many times more effectively than any amount of roof-top shouting.

References in English Language and Usage give more interesting insights[3] :

The Online Etymology Dictionary explains: – British World War I military slang for “German anti-aircraft fire” (1915) supposedly is from black humor of airmen dodging hostile fire and thinking of the refrain of a popular music hall song, “Archibald, certainly not!

This source quotes Ernest Weekly’s An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English (1921) with an alternative explanation: – “It was at once noticed at Brooklands [where much aviation development and testing was carried out prior to 1914, and portrayed in the film Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines] that in the vicinity of, or over, water or damp ground, there were disturbances in the air causing bumps or drops to these early pioneers. Some of these ‘remous’ were found to be permanent, one over the Wey river, and another at the corner of the aerodrome next to the sewage-farm. Youth being fond of giving proper names to inanimate objects, the bump near the sewage-farm was called by them Archibald. As subsequently, when war broke out, the effect of having shell bursting near an aeroplane was to produce a ‘remous’ reminding the Brookland trained pilots of their old friend Archibald, they called being shelled ‘being Archied’ for short. Any flying-man who trained at Brooklands before the war will confirm the above statement”.

Aside: If interested in this matter more, please read “Archibald, Certainly Not!”:  Words and Weapons no.4

If we take this background of ‘Archibald’ then, Archibald Putt would mean a gentle push by an anti-aircraft gun, which is marvelous tongue-in-cheek oxymoron. In the present case, it serves the purpose of the author who also putts the fire power of his tenets like the famed accuracy of German anti-aircraft fire.

[1] ‘The Successful Technocrat’ – a series of papers by Archibald Putt in Research and Development journal in 1976

[2] Putt’s Law – A book review

[3] Why is German anti-aircraft fire called “Archibald”?

Categories
The Eponymous Principles of Management

The Eponymous Principles of Management – The Dilbert Principle

Scott Adams launched his Dilbert comic strips in 1989 in a handful newspapers. The immediate fad of ‘downsizing’ fueled the success of the strip. As result, Scott Adams left his job and took up Dilbert comic strip as his full-time cartoonist occupation. Dilbert is that beloved engineer in Scott Adam’s wry observations, of managerial blunders, oversights, and plain weird behaviour. at the modern workplace in his comic strip of the same name. Dilbert is a typical, trapped in a cubicle cog, working for an unnamed tech company. Dilbert and his coterie of co-workers are tormented by the bottom-line blindness of accounting, the cruelty of human resources, the vacuity of marketing, and, above all, the clueless whims of management, personified by a nameless “pointy-haired” boss.

With such an unflattering view of business, Adams is often deemed an “anti-management guru.” But he has struck a powerful chord in the business world.

In the Dilbert strip of February 5, 1995, Dogbert states that “leadership is nature’s way of removing morons from the productive flow”. This is the cornerstone of Scott Adams Dilbert Principle, which is derived from the huge fan-mail emanating from the real-life experiences of his large fan-following.

Scott Adams explained his principle in a 1995 Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article[1]. Scott Adams then expanded his study of the Dilbert principle in the form of a book,  Dilbert Principle, The: A Cubicle’s-Eye View of Bosses, Meetings, Management Fads & Other Workplace Afflictions.[2]

The principle is stated as “companies tend to systematically promote their least-competent employees to management (generally middle management), in order to limit the amount of damage they are capable of doing.”

The Dilbert Principle is related to the Peter Principle. In the case of Peter Principle, Peters promoted because of their competence in the present roles, find themselves, ultimately, in a situation where they are no more competent in the new role. Instead, the Dilbert Principle seems to promote incompetent employees (though it works toward the employees’ detriment), to a position where they are no longer blocking the productive workflow of the company.

In effect, The Dilbert Principle assumes that “the majority of real, productive work in a company is done by people lower in the power ladder”. In the WSJ article referred here before, Scott Adams remarks that “Your heart surgeons and your computer programmers—your smart people—aren’t in management. …That principle was literally happening everywhere.” (😐)

The Peter Principle realizes that someone particularly competent in one role may not necessarily be s competent in another role, particularly at higher positions. Fully recognising that requirements for each role is extremely specific, one can not be expected to have natural or previously acquired skills to be competent in the new role. The Dilbert Principle seems to recognise such situations and seeks to move such ‘incompetent’ people to a place where they can do the least possible harm to the organization’s interests. In other words, rather than ‘promoting’ them as a reward for the meritorious work, they are quietly placed in the least damaging roles. An earlier formulation of this effect was known as Putt’s Law (which we take up next).

Fortunately, all organizations are not necessarily similar to the Dilbert-workplace, as can be seen in the case of one documented exception of Malden Mills[3]. However, we do not want to enter into a debate whether ‘modern’ workplaces indeed reflect these “laws” truly. But the as one reads these books, whatever be his (or her) position, one does identify oneself with (good or bad or ugly) effects of these ‘laws’.

On the whole, these book(s) have always turned out be good reading, and quite insightful (if you can see through beyond the veil of satire).

[1] Reprinted without permission from The Wall Street Journal, 5/22/95@ The Humor Library

[2] Book Review – The Dilbert Principle by The Amateur Financier

[3] They Call Their Boss a Hero

Categories
The Eponymous Principles of Management

The Eponymous Principles of Management – The MacLeod Model of Hierarchy

The hierarchy is one of the oldest social institution of the civilized world. More capable, and more fortunate, – All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others – people ultimately have more control over the available resources. This enables them to exercise influence over the ones who have less resources (under their control). This influence gained the form of power over the time.

In 2004 car­too­nist Hugh Mac­Leod published a very simple cartoon entitled “Company Hierarchy”.

On the face of it appears to be one more jargonistic model. So, first we take help of another article[1] wherein these terms have been explained–

Corporate Sociopath (noun) – A person whose professional behavior lacks morality, and whose actions use manipulation and game-planning in order to achieve money, power, and prestige.

The Sociopath is like an athlete on performance enhancing drugs, determined to win at any cost – and willing to do whatever it takes.  The Sociopath is willing to use manipulation and undermining techniques to gain control and is persistent with his intents. He considers himself larger than the cause – the organization – he is working for.

Corporate Loser (noun) – A person who is competent with their work and shows professional morality and integrity and is aware of the lacking morality in corporate leadership (Corporate Sociopaths). Corporate losers do not have loyalty to their company since they are aware of how disloyal the company is to them, however they rarely leave soul-crushing employment because of self-instilled fear, laziness, or lack of creativity.

No wonder they slog at the bottom the pyramid. However, the real world this does not continue for ever. About that, a little later…

Corporate Clueless (noun) – A person who is loyal to their company, completely unaware of how disloyal the company is to them. The corporate clueless person will always follow management directions, honoured to even get the attention of their sociopathic leadership. The Clueless create a communication and hierarchical gap between the sociopaths and the losers, and also can be easily manipulated to be the fall guy for the sociopath when things go wrong.

The Corporate Clueless are enablers for the sociopaths on two fronts:

First, as the loyal ones, they are easy scapegoats.  They allow the sociopaths to take risks for the business while incurring no personal risk because they have a corporate clueless person to act as the fall guy.

Second, the Corporate Clueless create an important shield between the Losers and the Sociopaths. The Sociopaths always want more (e.g. ideas, designs, efficiency, hours logged, etc) for less. The Losers are aware of this, and it makes them angry The Losers are angry, but all they can do is complain to the Clueless – who the Losers know to be incompetent.  And how long the Losers remain angry at someone who is doing their best but is inherently clueless. Thus, they will simply keep absorbing the pressures. They will keep doing the thankless job of calming up the losers, but rarely communicate the real situation to the sociopaths.

By the way, if we want to do away with remembering these negative-sounding jargons, we can replace these three terms with “confident leader”, “extreme loyalist”, and “moral hard worker” respectively. 

MacLeod’s company hierarchy is mostly true, despite it being such a sad and hopeless picture.  But, there is an alternative and it starts with people who are willing to escape the unconsciousness of the three positions within the hierarchy and transcend into Consciousness.

Corporate Conscious (noun) – A person capable of leadership and ingenuity, capable of taking risks with the awareness and acceptance of the potential failure, compassionate towards superiors, peers, and underlings. This person is aware and conscious of the business and politics of the world around them, and capable of using this awareness when the outcome is profitable and moral. Most important, this person is conscious of the fact that the company needs him (or her) more than he (or she) needs the company.

Daniel Miessler[2] calls these terms as Kings, Sages and the Cogs.

In the real life, if one has enough competence to generate the required escape velocity, one can move up the layers. However, those who dot have such velocities of continuing competence, the inevitable force of gravity of incompetence will usually lead to the lower layer.

If you are in the leadership position or aspire to be in the one, you need to be what famous British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, says, be a good butcher while becoming good empathetic person to the people as well.[3] Seems to be a task as impossible as riding two horses. task, isn’t it? That is why the position at the top is very ‘lonely’. There, you are like that trapeze artists who is trundling along a sizzling hot tope, delicately balancing between being ‘transcendental people leader’ and the non-emotional goal-oriented slave driver.

As can be expected, the MacLeod Model of Hierarchy too has inspired a lot of meaningful, or academically worthwhile and of course, humorous discussions..

[1] MacLeod’s Company Hierarchy And The Corporate Conscious

[2] Three Types of Employees

[3] Who are you, anyway?

Categories
The Eponymous Principles of Management

The Eponymous Principles of Management – Realities at The Other End of The Peter Principle Spectrum

The major impact of publication of the Peter Principle, in the form of a book and it subsequent wider acceptance, was that people started looking at the individual behaviour at a job and the related competence paradigm in very different light.

If there are legions of people who have risen to their level of ‘incompetence’ on one end of the Peter Principle spectrum, at the other end there are as many people who have been stuck in their present groove because they are ‘too competent’.

We will first take up the typical cases which are the outcomes of either the criteria for advancement – laterally or vertically – in a typical organization or the way human ambition tends to satisfy his higher needs of recognition or self-actualization.

  • Some are afflicted by the fear – either of senior management or of the peers – that promoting them vertically or transferring laterally will cause an ‘irreplaceable’ loss of the required competence to handle the complexities of the job. No one would like a ‘necessarily and important’ task to be mishandled by someone who may a be a novice for that job.
  • There could be some who may have chosen to get stuck there, because of their disinclination to leave their comfort zone. Here too, there are different flavours. Some may have become very proficient in handling the tasks and now are not inclined to let go the perquisite of being fortunate to have a job which has now either all ‘known knowns’, or a few ‘known unknowns’.
  • There could be some others whose need for being regarded as ‘such an important person’ would cause them to create situations(s) where they can maintain the status quo. Or, there could be situations wherein the peers or seniors would so strongly feel these persons to be ‘so important’ that they would ensure these persons remain ensconced in their present positions. The people in the older generation may remember the case of great thespian Dilip Kumar, who was ‘typecast’ by the film industry as ‘tragedy king. Playing the tragic role day in and day out in the reel life led to a state of depression in his real life. He was medically advised to ‘plan’ for a mix of ‘light’ films, which then had resulted in the films like Azad (1955) or Kohinoor (1960) or Ram Aur Shyam (1967).

These ‘irreplaceable ones’, or ‘comfort zone seekers’ or ‘very important’ persons would continue to get rewarded (since they do contribute value in that position) till a point is reached where they become ‘too costly’ for the worth of that position in the overall value chain of the business process. That is the time when the luckier ones may be offered an honourable ‘golden handshake (by way of premature ‘voluntary retirement’) and the unluckier ones may get the axe of the downsizing. In the previous century, the external factor that caused such downsizing was the increasing level of automation and now it is the digital technology that has made fast inroads into the (so called) repetitive jobs.

  • There are people who have consciously chosen to remain in certain position. There is one class of people are well aware of their strengths, and weaknesses. They know well what kind of job they will not be able to handle competently. However, there also people who get promoted because of their competence in the present position and immediately being placed in the higher position realize that this was not their cup of tea. The luckier ones can get back to the positions they can competently handle. Remember the case of the ‘great master blaster’ Sachin Tendulkar, who voluntarily relinquished the captainship of the Indian cricket team and chose to concentrate on his strength, the batting. And as is it said, the rest is history.
  • There are people who move from a level of incompetence to a level of competence. These are the people who are chosen for their qualifications and /or experience as a specialist. However, for various reasons, they seem not live up to the expectations. So, they are moved, either laterally or vertically up to a different position. If this movement is by a conscious design where person’s strengths and weaknesses have been objectively analysed with reference to the requirements of the new incumbent position, the person not only performs at a level of competence, but he is also satisfied with his job. I recall here the case of Mike Brearley, the captain of England team from 1977 to 1981.He captained England in 31 tests, with 18 wins and 4 losses. However, his record as a batsman was (rather) modest, having averaged 22.88 in 66 Test innings, without a century.
  • Many a times it is observed that people move from a level where their incompetence is glaring to one where it is not so obvious. It is more difficult to prove a generalist wrong than a detail man [sic][1]. If you need to be convinced on this scenario, please recall ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, a famous story by Hans Christian Anderson.

Another situation is related to the way the organization structure functions ‘when it comes to task delegation of managerial leadership. Here, typically, mangers delegate tasks that they themselves should be completing. In real terms, the managers pass on the task down the hierarchy until it cannot be completed by the person in the last pass off the delegation ladder. This has led to the coining of (so called) Reverse Peter Principle, which postulated as “within a hierarchy tasks tend to be delegated until they have descended to the employees level of incompetence”.[2]

[1] The Inverse Peter PrincipleJohn E

[2] Reverse Peter Principle: within a hierarchy tasks tend to be delegated until they have descended to the employees’ level of incompetence.

Categories
The Eponymous Principles of Management

The Eponymous Principles of Management – The Peter’s Principle

Foreword

An eponym is a person, place, or thing after whom or which someone or something is, or is believed to be, named. The adjectives derived from eponym include eponymous and eponymic.

One of the most famous eponyms in Literature is ‘Yahoos’. In Book IV of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, the hero Gulliver encounters uncouth and degraded people who he calls ‘Yahoos’. Today one meaning of ‘Yahoo’ still remains ignorant, uncouth or brutish people. However, Americans used it as exclamation of happiness or happiness, which is adopted by the internet company ‘Yahoo!’

Eponym is like an allusion that refers to a famous person. Therefore, it develops a ‘Fevicol-bond’ – one more classic example of a eponym – link between a reference and the thing being referred to, and through this connection, readers can understand the idea easily.

One such case of strong bond with a name its connection with the relevant context is the case of THE famous villain of Hindi films – Pran (a.k.a. Pran Krishan Sikand – B: 12 February 1920 – De: 12 July 2013). A thorough gentleman to the core in his real life, his image as a villain had so strong influence that mothers would not agree to name their sons Pran.

One can find many historical or scientific terms. To name a few like:

  • Fahrenheit (the measure of temperature) – Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit
  • Diesel (Now the common fuel for automobiles)- Rudolf Diesel
  • America (the American continent) – Amerigo Vespucci
  • Gandhism – Mahtma Gandhi or

Reganomics – Ronald Regan or

Thatcherism – Margaret Thatcher or

Modinomics – Narendra Modi

This list of eponymous laws provides links to articles on laws, principles, adages, and other succinct observations or predictions named after a person. In some cases the person named has coined the law – such as Parkinson’s law. In others, the work or publications of the individual have led to the law being so named – as is the case with Moore’s law. There are also laws ascribed to individuals by others, such as Murphy’s law; or given eponymous names despite the absence of the named person.

+                      +                      +                      +

We plan to take up in the present series various known and less-known eponymous principles relating to the field of management.


The Peter Principle

The Peter Principle should be one of the most known principles to find place in most of the academic work of the management schools over the world, even though it has not been conceived for the academic purposes. The principle is published in the form of a book – “The Peter Principle, Why Things Always Go Wrong”, by Dr Peter J Laurence and Raymond Hull,1969 – in the basic premises made in the book remain valid a good fifty years now and, in all probabilities will remain valid fifty years from now. The popularity of the book can be judged by the fact that BBC One aired a 1 pilot + 2 series of 6 episodes each show The Peter Principle between 1995 to 2000.

The Peter Principle is stated as – “In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”

One of the most common reason for such a phenomenon to occur is that more often than not people were promoted based on their current performance. This measure of competence does not guarantee that that person will necessarily be true for the competence required for the job in the higher position. consideration of their capacity to take on greater responsibility. The result is that that person works out to be less good for the higher job than the previous job.

Moreover, the way hierarchical mind set of the persons at higher levels is also more likely to be similarly conditioned.

In a typical organization, before the real situation becomes known, the person is likely to get, at least,  a couple of more climbs up the organizational stair. This leads to the situation narrated in the Peter’s Corollary: In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties.

Another reason why the degree of incompetence remains hidden is that Work is accomplished by those employees (normally at the lower, or the actual operative levels)who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.

Since the aim here is not present the whole book or all the relevant related research and treatises, it would be opportune to note that the book, even now, remains a good reading – purely as a work of satirical fiction or a real introduction to the ways of hierarchiology- the study of hierarchies.

It is even more interesting to note that the applicability of The Peter Principle does not simply is limited to the hierarchies in an organization. The same logic applies to other situations caused ether by the nature or by the man, in situations other than the organizational hierarchy. The form and effect may appear to be somewhat different than that in the case of organizational hierarchy. In the real-life situations, in essence, the competence can be perceived as the inability to cope with the given situation effectively.

In nature, only fittest survive the inevitable cycles of change. Those who cannot adapt to the new set of circumstances are destined to be become fossils. Man is susceptible to become incompetent either because of the circumstances of his own creation or those created by the external forces. For example – The most competent archer of his time Arjun suddenly found himself wanting to take on the fight on the first day when he sees his elders, brothers and friends pitted against him on the opposite camp. Or, Bjorn Borg found his motivation lacking to continue his non-stop title winning spree at the Wimbledon when he started finding opponents who were not able to extend his prowess to the newer limits. A great player like Borg had one black dot on his records book  he had never won a US open title.

One may argue that artists or creative people should not be compared with more mundane people in the fields of industry / business or such other professional works. Beginning with Phase 1.0 of the Industrial revolution, the world of the economic activities has been undergoing its own steady-rate changes, each set of the major and related minor changes have posed challenges to the mankind to remain fit enough to survive in the new set of circumstances. At every stage of the Industrial Revolution, the nature changes have been becoming more and more complex and rate of such changes have been more rapid. ‘Change is the only constant’ dictum that was prevalent by the end of previous century is now no more valid. In the present VUCA era, where change is THE destructively dynamic fluid state, “Best Practice was yesterday, Best Thinking is in demand today and tomorrow.”

On a lighter note –

Even before you may get to read the book and several other excellent treatises on how to overcome the Peter Principle, it would be desirable to be forewarned that the reading will only intensify the feeling of what is being said henceforth – it is water-tight fait accompli that everyone reaches to some level of incompetence at some stage of one’s life. Persons who scrape through with less degree of incompetence either have learnt from their lessons consciously or have learnt them by the force of some external stimuli.

Yes, underlined, in capital bold, letters, the message is that if you can remain a learning person- or a learning organization – you have fair chance to maintain your level of competence.

+                      +                      +                      +

The Peter Principle trail does not end here. There is An Opposite of Peter Principle, a Dilbert Principle which is more a cause of worry to ‘the management’ and of course there is Gervais Principle and then there is Coase’s Ceiling……

Categories
Cartoons Management System Standards

A Cartoonist’s perspective of ISO Management System Certification Standards

The standard, in its most common form, is defined as norm, convention, requirements. In essence, these are mutually agreed way(s) of doing something. As such, the standards would cover any activity under the sun, provided the concerned interested parties agree to a way of doing that thing.

The standards can be categorized into 4 major types:

    1. Fundamental standards – which concern terminology, conventions, signs and symbols, etc.;
    2. Test methods and analysis standards – which measure characteristics such as temperature and chemical composition;
    3. Specification standards – which define characteristics of a product (product standards), or a service (service activities standards) and their performance thresholds such as fitness for use, interface and interoperability, health and safety, environmental protection, etc.;
    4. Organization standards – which describe the functions and relationships of a company, as well as elements such as quality management and assurance, maintenance, value analysis, logistics, project or system management, production management, etc.

For the subject of today’s article, we have confined our discussions to the technical standards, in general, and Management System Certification (MSC) standards published by ISO, in particular. We have also consciously stayed away from explaining the subject specific terminology, since we intend to address the article to non-ISO–MSC- standards practicing people as well.

The trigger for compiling the cartoons on ISO MSC is the  World Standards Day  – Each year on 14 October, the members of the IEC, ISO and ITU celebrate World Standards Day, which is a means of paying tribute to the collaborative efforts of thousands of experts worldwide who develop the voluntary technical agreements that are published as International Standards.

Every year a very relevant theme is selected around which the celebrations of Day are planned.  The theme for World Standards Day 2019 is Video standards create a global stage – The video compression algorithms standardized in collaboration by IEC, ISO and ITU have been honored with two Primetime Emmy Awards, recognizing that these standards are central to industry’s ability to meet rising demand for video, one of the most bandwidth-intensive applications running over global networks.

International Standards meet industry demand for powerful compression capabilities. They also enable smooth transitions to the next generation of video compression technology, helping industry to maximize return on each wave of investment.

Having standards recognized and respected all over the world means that video encoded on one device can be decoded by another, regardless of the device being used. This introduces economies of scale that help to grow the market, giving innovators the confidence to invest in new video applications and services.

To create the innovations of today and tomorrow we have to work together, but first we need to understand each other. To exchange knowledge, to make things compatible, ISO standards are the solid base, the common language that humanity can rely on. (EN, ES, FR, DA subtitles)[1]

ISO has published around 22812 International Standards on wide ranging industries and subjects.

With so much of the background information, we will now gradually switch over to our core topic.

Cartoon, being a medium to communicate in a humorously graphical art form, this tool is now very systematically and highly professionally is used to promote and popularize ISO standards .

 

One of the cartoonists who do such graphics for ISO, Cartoonist Alexane. Rosa, tells: “With a little imagination and humour, the human dimension of technical standards can usually be communicated through cartoons and colourful graphics.”

The cartoon graphics are also very effectively used as training aids for easily explaining the contents of the standard as well as an aid-de-memory for maintain that understanding for a longer time.

Source credit: ISO Training Institute

These graphical curation-oriented tools are also used to convey the practical benefits of implementing the ISO standards in the organization.

The following graphic is used to covey the concept – “New standards become new ideas”. It graphically conveys what is textually conveyed as “Once we have found new ways of doing things, we incorporate them in our Quality Systems. ISO 9001 was the foundation, now we start to build the house.’

Source credit © Richard Duszczak

And now we take up the cartons that inherently have a satire embedded into the message it conveys. The message may be a soft satire or a pithy punch, but in the ultimate analysis, it tells ISO-MSC practicing professionals what to-do and, generally, what not-to-do.

+    +    +     +    +

Here a famous fable of an elephant and five blind man is used as a metaphor. This picture is used to convey that different people will look at the standard in their own -subjective-way. It is also used convey that different people in an organization will have different perceptions of risks and opportunities that organization needs to address at any given time.

+    +    +     +    +

As is the general prevailing practice, every country has its own standard, and some times several industries, and several organizations in an industry will have their own standards.

Source credit: https://xkcd.com/927/

This is the genesis of ISO coming into existence, to act as a central, international confederation that builds and publishes common, universally applicable, international, standards.

+    +    +     +    +

Many professionals (mistakenly, of course) treat the standard as a gospel!

Source credit: ISO Standards – The backlash Martin Wakeman

+    +    +     +    +

One major intent of the way the international standards are written is to present the content of the standard in as easy as possible manner to understand, leave the minimum possible room for too many possible alternative interpretations. But, by the time that gets explained and / or and implemented by The Experts, it becomes more and more garbled.

Source credit: Summarized ISO Standards = Levi Roundy

+    +    +     +    +

The most telling satirist commentary comes from the Dilbert (which incidentally is a subject that can be taken up for an independent, full-scale, discussion). The following strips are self-explained punches:

source: http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1996-10-04/)

+    +    +     +    +

As the years of implementation of the standard build on, the practice of application of the core principals of the standard become more cliched, which then (so unfortunately) gets demonstrated as the ‘Philosophy of BIG corporations’.

Source credit: gnurf

+    +    +     +    +

The organizations associated with practice of implementing, auditing or certifying the management system standards must keep questioning about the outcomes of application of management systems – . “Is certification benefiting the operation of business operators?” “Isn’t certification processes obstructing the real ISO mission? …In other words, unless it is a system to improve and create sustained success for your business, management system is worthless.

This positive attitude, performance oriented and people centric guideline sparked the revised design of new structure of the ISO standards to come up for revision or being published first time after 2012. The new High Level Structure now seeks to make the standards proactive, responsive and wider-eyed than was the case of the standards designed before.

Before 2012:

Expected post-2012

Source credit: https://www.enms-doc.com/index31.html

+    +    +     +    +

As we reach the celebrations of Deepawali, I take this opportunity to wish a bon voyage to the ISO MSC fraternity in their search for the sustained success of the organization by implementing the standards in their true spirit….

[1] Dare to dream BIG: Standards empower innovators

 

Categories
Carnival of Quality Management Articles and Blogs Management System Standards

Carnival of Quality Management Articles and Blogs, December 2018

Welcome to December, 2018 edition of Carnival of Quality Management Articles and Blogs.

This is the last issue of 6th annual period of our blog carnival of quality management articles and blogs. We have taken up Sustained Success of an Organization as our key topic for discussion.

ISO 9004: 2018 goes on to state that “Factors affecting an organization’s success continually emerge, evolve, increase or diminish over the years, and adapting to these changes is important for sustained success. Examples include social responsibility, environmental and cultural factors, in addition to those that might have been previously considered, such as efficiency, quality and agility; taken together, these factors are part of the organization’s context.”

We will pick three different articles that individually links up efficiency, quality and agility respectively with the sustained success.

Efficiency and Sustained Success:

Building Efficient Organizations – An efficiency mindset is the key to long-term gains. – Ryan Morrissey, Peter Guarraia, Véronique Pauwels and Sudarshan Sampathkumar – There is no fixed blueprint for embedding efficiency in an organization’s DNA. In our experience, however, successful companies share a common overarching approach: They make sure their efficiency effort spans five critical areas: strategy, metrics, commitment, behaviors and culture. Tenacity and a sustained investment in these areas create the best chance of success.

There is an interesting white paper – Capturing Operational Efficiency and Sustainable Value through Claims – by Capegemini and Guidewire,which studies the business case for claims transformation and paying specific attention to the critical factors that generate benefits, insurers can capture substantial operational efficiency and sustainable value for the insurance companies..

Quality and Sustained Success

ISO 9004 goes beyond product quality concept of consistently meeting the requirements of customer and stresses on two key concepts for of an Organization:

  • focus on the concept of “quality of an organization”;
  • focus of the concept of “identity of an organization”

The relationship between efficiency, effectiveness, sustained success and the quality of management in terms of immediate and final results.

The Figure here above shows a diagram describing the company’s hierarchy. It includes the company’s embedded resources, processes, immediate results (produced goods and services), as well as final results and impact (strategic effect). Immediate results should be presented in vector form

Agility and Sustained Success:

The leaders of organization design at McKinsey, principals Wouter Aghina and Aaron De Smet, explain what agility means and how organizations can evolve to thrive in an environment that demands constant change in the article, The keys to organization agility. Agility is when you thrive on change and get stronger and it becomes a source of real competitive advantage. (For more on the importance of being both agile and stable, see “Agility: It rhymes with stability.”)

There are a few more, general, articles which helps in understanding how to build sustained success:

  • Dorie Clark, in her article, The Secret to Sustained Success draws on Chris Zook, co-head of Bain & Company’s Global Strategy Practice to state that the best companies focus on identifying and leveraging their core strengths, rather than chasing random new acquisitions and opportunities. (See her previous article on “Why You Should Kill Your Ideas.”)
  • A winning culture …can be the catalyst that ignites an organization into truly becoming a “best place to work!”. The article offers 5 keys:
    • Establish a corporate set of core values that highlights being a champion for doing the right thing and taking care of people.
    • Communicate the values through the behavior and actions of the management.
    • Hire people who fit your values – Invest the resources – time, money, energy – to determine if a candidate fits with your values.
    • Enhance employee sense of ownershipThis ownership is derived from opportunities that enable employees to know their leaders, to being informed on the success of the company, to know who their customers are, and future plans for the company.
    • Assess employee passion and satisfaction – and act on results.
  • How to Create Sustained Success is a rapid-fire summary of Jim Collins’ famous first book, ‘Built to Last‘.

Recognizing the limitation of what can be covered in an article like ours, one can find good deal of highly useful literature on the subject.

We will now turn to our regular sections:

For the present episode we have picked up William Cohen, Ph.D.’s article The Focus on the Customer and What the Customer Values @ Effective Management topic of Management Matters Network….At the strategic level this could mean an important differential advantage in positioning against competitors to win customers.

We now watch two videos of the ASQ TV, one of which is related to quality improvement and other one containing the year-end message:

  • Enhancing Quality through Improved Quality Reports : Gregory (Grisha) Gorodetsky, Safety, Environmental & Quality Manager, Wipro Givon, discusses the importance for organizations to format all documents, such as quality reports, in an identical way.
  • 2018 Year-End Message: Elmer Corbin, ASQ Chair : In his year-end video message, ASQ Board of Directors Chair Elmer Corbin highlights significant accomplishments in 2018 and acknowledges contributions of the Board, GCC, TCC, member leaders, members, and staff.

Jim L. Smith’s Jim’s Gems posting for November, 2018 is:

  • Success makes us feel good, but failures teach us valuable lessons – Certainly, negative results are never fun, but they shouldn’t become demoralizing. What innovative people realize is that negative results are signaling that something different and new needs to be done…It is easier to understand the concept of productive mistakes when the situation is reversed…When the project is successful. In this situation, your assumptions were correct, you most likely took the standard approach to getting the tasks done and did a good job managing the project…While completing a successful project is something to feel good about, there may have been a missed opportunity to get breakthrough improvements from the project. Was it your objective to simply get the job done, or was it your goal to take some risks that could take the business to a new level of performance?.. Think about this for a moment to consider how you can adjust your mindset. Most likely you won’t become another Thomas Edison, but there’s no doubt you can find ways to make your life more productive.
  • Personal GPS – May be you’ve never thought of your roadmap for success being like a personal Goal Projection System (GPS) but it is much the same. Let’s see if we can connect the dots…Ask yourself, what would you like the outcomes to be for yourself at the end of one, five, ten and twenty years? Once you have that outcome, what will you see? What will you hear? What will you feel? Be as specific as possible, as you write the answers down…After this is done which as much honesty as possible, examine current reality…This process isn’t easy and will take some time but stay with it. You also should revisit this on occasion to ensure you’re staying on tract. Once you have everything recorded, you’ll have a roadmap you can use to guide you to a very personal kind of success.

On that note I take your leave for the year.

Trust you had had a great year and wish that your 2019 also is more productive, more successful, and above a thoroughly enjoyable year of your personal and career life journeys.

 

Note: The images depicted here above are through courtesy of respective websites who have the copyrights for the respective images.

 

P.S. All episodes for the year 2018 of this quality blog carnival can be accessed at  / downloaded from Carnival of Quality Management Articles and Blogs, 2018.

Categories
Carnival of Quality Management Articles and Blogs Management System Standards

Carnival of Quality Management Articles and Blogs – November, 2018

Welcome to November, 2018 edition of Carnival of Quality Management Articles and Blogs.

Let us recollect from our August, 2018 issue that two of the three key changes that characterize ISO 9004: 2018 are:

  • focus on the concept of “quality of an organization”;
  • focus of the concept of “identity of an organization”

We will expand the concept of Identity of an Organization in this November, 2018 issue.

Organizational Identity is not a new subject to the world of management academics and the practicing professionals. However with the introduction of the concept into the body of the revised ISO 9004:2018 standard, the subject opens up a very interesting dimension to the quality professionals too.

Organizational identity is a field of study in organizational theory that seeks the answer to the question: “who are we as an organization?” ..According to Whetten (2006) the attributes of an organizational identity are central, enduring, and distinctive/distinguishing (CED).

  • Central attributes are ones that have changed the history of the company; if these attribute were missing, the history of the organization would have been different.
  • Enduring attributes are ones deeply ingrained in the organization, often explicitly considered sacrosanct or embedded in the organizational history.
  • Distinguishing attributes are ones used by the organization to separate itself from other similar organizations, but can also set minimum standards and norms for that type of organization.

Organizational Identity = Purpose + Philosophy – As a unit, the Purpose and the Philosophy are the central attributes of the Organizational Identity that have defined the character of the organization and the cause that it has served over the years. These elements of Organizational Identity serve as the basis for all aspects of the business.

Organizational Identity- From ‘Why we are’ to ‘Who we are – Organizational Identity also helps define the organization to Who Are We? And Why Are We?. Very few organizations actually know the answer to these questions – ’Who are we as an organization?’ ’What are we doing?’ ’What do we want to be in the future?’ An organization’s identity affects its actions, interpretation, and decision-making by its members and the management. This identity also has a huge impact on organizational change processes.

Is your identity given or created? | Marcus Lyon | TEDxExeter : Using Somos Brasil (We are Brazil), a multimedia photography, sound and DNA project, Marcus Lyon brings us images, stories and ancestral DNA to examine modern Brazilian identity. In turn he asks us to consider what drives us and what we can become.

IKEA is known as one organization that is strongly identified for the alignment of its organizational identity with its brand. For IKEA, its vision of creating a better everyday life for the many people also means making a difference for the people and communities where they work. The film – The IKEA Group – The Story of How We Work – lets you know more about how.

Finally, here is a Management system model to achieve sustained success

We will now turn to our regular sections:

For the present episode we have picked up Joshua Spodek’s article The 20/80 Rule, Integrity, and the Opposite of the 80/20 Rule @ Leadership Step By Step column of Management Matters Network….Vince Lombardi says that paying attention to details always pays, i.e. paying attention to the last few percent. When you care about the 1 percent that others don’t, people look to you to lead. It is more important to get every detail right than getting it right most of the time.

We now watch one of the latest ASQ TV  episodes:

  • Risk Intelligence for the Organization – Sanjeev Koshe, Vice President, Management Assurance Group, Tata Housing Development Company Limited, explains how to go beyond brainstorming identify risk, measuring it, and how best to deliver a risk report.
  • Big Data – discusses Big data, data analytics, and predictive modeling, and how organizations and quality professionals can use all three. Additional reference – The Deal With Big Data

Jim L. Smith’s Jim’s Gems posting for October, 2018 is:

  • Pursuit of Excellence – Like the old story of the race between the tortoise and the hare, it’s the slow, steady and continuous pursuit of excellence that wins the race, not the flashy sprint that can’t be sustained. Experience has taught me to believe that sustainable improvement requires an organizational culture change. Continuous improvement is more about rigor and discipline than technique. It is about the pursuit of excellence.

I look forward to your inputs / criticisms/ observations to enhance the utility of our Quality Management Blog Carnival.

Note: The images depicted here above are through courtesy of respective websites who have the copyrights for the respective images.

Categories
Carnival of Quality Management Articles and Blogs Management System Standards

Carnival of Quality Management Articles and Blogs – October, 2018

Welcome to October, 2018 edition of Carnival of Quality Management Articles and Blogs.

Let us recollect from our August, 2018 issue that two of the three key changes that characterize ISO 9004: 2018 are:

  • focus on the concept of “quality of an organization”;
  • focus of the concept of “identity of an organization”

In our present October, 2018 issue, we will expand the concept of Quality of an Organization.

ISO 9004: 2018 draws upon the definition of quality form ISO 9000:2015 and states that, ‘The quality of the organization is the degree to which the inherent characteristics of the organization fulfil the needs and expectations of its customers and other interested parties, in order to achieve sustained success’…In short, Quality of an Organization is equated with its ability to achieve sustained success.

Sustained success in a complex, demanding and ever-changing environment is not to be taken for granted. For example, the 2018 Corporate Longevity Forecast predicted that by 2027, organizations represented in the Standard & Poor’s 500 would be listed in this index for an average of 12 years. New technologies, economic shocks, disruptive competitors and eventually the inability to identify and address future challenges are the main reasons for conditional sustainability.

If we correlate this with the contents of ISO 9001: 2015, then this translates into the culture and organizational knowledge about how the organization approaches Understanding the Context of the Organization and the Needs and Expectations of the Interested Parties. Additionally, the quality of the organization can be judged from the maturity of its systemic performance w.r.t. its intended outcomes in so far as effectiveness of organization’s actions to address the risks and opportunities.

In his article, The Top 10 Characteristics of a Healthy Organization, Rose Johnson describes characteristics ingrained in company culture, recognizing and understanding which helps in identifying potential problems and taking appropriate corrective actions to help remain afloat.

The article also refers to a good amount of additional material on the subject:

We will now turn to our regular sections:

For the present episode we have picked up Jim Champy’s article When a Company Goes Astray @ Essential Management for Doers, Doubters and Darers column of Management Matters Network….while narrating some recent case studies, the author re-emphasizes the fundamental need for asking a right question.  More so when company has gone astray. He suggests four such questions:

  • Does the Company’s Management Team Have the Skills and Appetite for Change?
  • How Well do the Company’s Products or Services Respond to Market Needs?
  • Has the Company Gone Far Enough with Digital?
  • How Operationally Sound is the Company?

We now watch one of the latest ASQ TV  episodes:

Jim L. Smith’s Jim’s Gems posting for September, 2018 is:

  • Soft Skills are Underrated – Quality professionals need strong interpersonal skills. – Proficiency with the various quality tools and techniques is paramount for the quality professional to lead their organization to performance excellence. In the current environment, that’s just not enough to be truly successful…Professionals with poor interpersonal skills are generally not considered team players…Within the workplace, quality professionals with good interpersonal skills are likely to be more productive because they typically project a positive “can do” attitude, creatively uncover solutions to problems and proactively help others succeed. .. There are a host of interpersonal skills. For the sake of brevity I’ll list the ones some experts believe are among the more important: collaborative, dependable, tactful, friendly, empathetic, sensitivity, respectful, honest, trustful, helpful, communicative (verbal, written, non-verbal, listening), open-minded, positive and considerate…Reinventing oneself is possible through an awareness of how one interacts with others, but it does take a high degree of commitment and a lot of practice.
  • Impulse Decisions – An impulse is nothing more than an urge to do something. It’s a suggestion from your subconscious that suddenly surfaces in your conscious mind, and as such, it deserves to be considered…Being impulsive is generally considered a negative trait. Impulsive people tend not to consider the consequences of their actions, think things through, or finish things they’ve started…However, it might sound strange but carrying impulses into action can be a good way to become goal-oriented…Don’t ignore all impulse decisions. Some will be game-changes, but pick and choose carefully.

I look forward to your inputs / criticisms/ observations to enhance the utility of our Quality Management Blog Carnival.

Note: The images depicted here above are through courtesy of respective websites who have the copyrights for the respective images.