The Eponymous Principles of Management : The Peter Prescription

How To Make Things Go Right

During his research for the groundwork that led to establishment of Peter Principle, Dr, Laurence J Peter observed that every advancement that human being made during the growth of civilization ultimately caused some unhappiness of classifying the mankind into some or other kind of classes, which he calls as hierarchy.

His understanding of the adverse effect that universal existence of Peter Principle has created, led him to work on developing a set of prescriptions that “will lead to great personal fulfilment and the joy of real accomplishment”. He sincerely claims that purpose of these prescriptions was “achievement of happiness in all aspects of life. This is accomplished …  through fulfilling your best potential while avoiding the pitfalls of incompetence”. He also submits that true progress is achieved through moving forward, not through moving upward.

The copy of a summary page from the book, The Peter Prescription: How To Be Creative, Confident and Competent (as first published in 1972) is shows that book is presented in three parts.

Each chapter in these parts is arranged as:

1. Incompetence treadmill
Onward and upward
Sex and society
Hierarchal regression
The mediocracy
2. Protect your competence
Know thyself
Know thy hierarchy
Know thy direction
Know thy defences
3. Manage for competence
The competence objective
The rational process
The gift of prophecy
The compensation miracle
Au Revoir.

This new book is much more serious; it goes further, but also deeper than “The Peter Principle”. Yet it provides as much humour as one could wish for, and a practical program for anyone who wants to avoid incompetence, find happiness and work towards a better world.

The humour part of the book can best be appreciated and enjoyed if one reads the book itself.

The Part 2 of the book present 25 of Peter Prescriptions to help protect the competence.  The author quite affirmatively submits that the prescriptions are simple rules of life that one ought to apply in the life so as to attain maximum fulfilment of joy and peace of mind and life on his own terms, within given circumstances. Each of the prescription is well explained by appropriate case studies and speaking quotations. The prescriptions no. 23 to 25 are recommended to be used when the job or competence in jeopardy. However, the author, in the normal flow of his writing, very quietly states that The Law of Perversity of Nature should always be remembered.

The Part 3 presents ways in which to improve the management skills so that assistance to others also can be provided to avoid incompetence. These are also presented in the form of next set of 36 prescriptions. Again, the prescriptions appear more to be day-to-day common-sense issues. However, the fact that everyone tends to rise to one’s level of incompetence sometime in the life, we must be failing to use some of these common-sense prescriptions unconsciously. The book, therefore, is an alert to keep these on our conscious mind every time.

The book ends with The Peter Plan which looks at the Peter Prescriptions as the first step in reversing escalatory entrapment.

Ultimately it is means to the end to begin the reconstructive planning of the whole society.

The author, Dr. Laurence J Peter is motivated by the ‘modest’ ambition to save the mankind.

Every ‘common man’ may not have such ambitions. But it still makes lot of sense to know what one’s own (core) competence is, at a given level of hierarchy, in the given circumstances. That, in turn requires a person to be a life-long learner. (After all), Man cannot live by the incompetence alone.

I believe our journey into the awareness of The Peter Principle and the Related Eponymous Laws will kindle that spark in the reader to be the life-long learner.


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Note: The sketch and quotes used in the article are taken form the book “The Peter Prescription’.

The individually published article of ‘The Peter Principle and the related other eponymous principles of management’ can be read / downloaded as one file by clicking the hyperlink.