Partha Principle – 1

When you see some of the shining Sultans and Begums of Corporate-dom, one does sometimes wonder how they got  to where they have…..And heres my tentative theory….

This is a principle that Peter missed.

It is called Partha Principle, and suggests that in some contexts, Peter was off the mark…Got it upside down, in fact….

Remember Peter Principle? It says “In a heirarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence”….

For eg. X is a great salesman…and over the years, he keeps getting promoted till he reaches the level of “Head of Sales” where he is a misfit. He is simply incapable of spreadsheet calisthenics and would much rather go do cold calls than manage a bunch of hot salesmen…He has arrived at his “level of incompetence”, long live Peter Principle.

Does this happen often? 

I am not too sure. If we look around, we find that most Corporate Honchos are doing a reasonably good job. Ok, once in a while there is an Enron kind of fiasco, but otherwise they are quite competent at their levels, and that would seem counter to Peter Principle…and thats where Partha Principle comes in….

Partha Principle says “In a heirarchy, incompetent employees tend to rise faster, and rise till they find their level of competence”….

Here is how it works….

Take Kassa Nova….He starts as a programmer in an IT company…He is no good in programming…He is scatterbrained and restless….He has been assigned to a high pressure software project…In next to no time he is a millstone around his Project Leader’s neck….He keeps raising all manners of issues, says that the ‘role assigned to him is not clear’, and has four reasons why his work is not on speed…..Recognize him?

He speaks confidently and at the drop of a hat….Just because he speaks like that doesn’t mean he speaks sense….But considering that not many people can spot the difference, he is not considered a bad egg….But he manages to waste the time of most of his team members, and is a general pain …He frequently meets senior managers in the company for some reason or the other, and is willing to share ‘inside info’ on the ‘bad state’ of the project…..Finally there is no option for the Project Leader but to let him go….He is benched….

The company is doing well, and the management always has use for ‘proactive’ people….There is this new project for which they don’t have a Project Leader. They assign Kassa…..

There he somehow gets a few deliverables out, although much behind schedule. In the process he creates a lot of noise, and makes several powerful presentations to his ‘senior management’ that the whole project was a nonstarter and was always heading South…He is so good with numbers (What does it matter if his numbers are all suspect in the first place)…..He juggles charts and shows whatever he wants to show…..He helps create a few skeletons and plants them in cupboards, and manages to get off from the project long before the first serious line of code is delivered….

He meets the CEO many times, because of the issues that he escalates….The company needs someone to head their new outpost in Asia-Pacific. The CEO thinks of him…Whether he delivers results or not, he manages to ‘buy’ a high profile slot for his CEO in a big industry event there, and gets the local Mayor to present the key of that city to his CEO…He gets him interviewed on TV, gets a local newspaper do a report and a sport a big photograph…Makes his CEO feel as if he is the statue of Liberty……

For all this buzz, there is not much business from that region, but of course the ‘pipelines are promising’….there is ‘great growth potential’….There is a lot of action….Kassa appoints some shady companies to commission local sales….

Fast a forward a few years.

Kassa Nova is moved in to Head Quarters, as Head of Operations….A role in which he gets to shuffle ten issues per second, which suits his scatterbrained approach rather nicely….

He loves the confusion….He is at ease….He does well….He has found his level of competence….

That is Partha Principle at work….

                                ………………….To be contd (hopefully)…..

3 Responses to “Partha Principle – 1”

  1. ashok Says:

    loved the post..am typing this painfully from my mobile phone …detailed comment later

  2. krishashok Says:

    A few variations I thought of :

    The Scorecard principle: where employees take up exactly as many responsibilities as there are goals in their goalsheet. Their enthusiasm and dedication to each responsibility is also a linear function of the goal weightage multiplied by the assigned difficulty.

    The Re-peter effect: where employees vociferously demand promotions if and only if one of their peers receives a promotion.

    Although, both the above remind me of Douglas Adams’ brilliant MISPWOSO from the hitchhiker’s guide. MISPWOSO was the galaxy’s premier research institution – Maximegalion Institute of Slowly and Painfully Working Out the Surprisingly Obvious

  3. Pavan Says:

    I like the Partha principle and honestly do believe it functions just as described especially in todays offshore IT world

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