Saturday, May 27, 2006

Book Review: Peter Pan

Maybe I've grown too old, but I couldn't help thinking Peter was the bad guy in this book. It seemed full of nonsense and downright horrible thoughts (not happy thoughts at all), and I just don't get it.

I give it a 4. I'd rather read the peanut butter label.


Friday, May 26, 2006

Organizational Thoughts

In the 1960s, Dr. Laurence Peter formulated the Peter Principle, which states that in hierarchical organizations people are promoted to their level of incompetence. Basically, the principle means that people will do a good job at every level until they are eventually promoted to a position for which they are incompetent. It sounds funny – a Dilbert-like sentiment – but the idea has been the subject of serious research. Experts have proposed numerous reasons for the existence of the Peter Principle, many of them diving deeply into psychology and sociology.

Smart organizations build safety barriers to counter the effects of the Peter Principle. The higher the position, the more the firm will inflate the prerequisites for promotion into that position. The more the firm inflates the requirements, the less likely it is for the Peter Principle to take hold.

Personal observation tells me the Peter Principle is right on the money. I was thinking about it this morning, and I found a couple extensions to the Peter Principle. At first I thought they were exceptions to the rule, but now I realize they are just further validations of the Peter Principle.

First, the Peter Principle doesn’t account for people being promoted well beyond their level of incompetence. We all know someone who was incompetent from the moment they walked into the office, yet they find their way to the highest levels of the company. Maybe this could be termed the Brown Nose Effect, or maybe it's just poor judgment on the part of management. Either way, it’s simply a matter of those who are walking proof of the Peter Principle not being able to correctly evaluate the people they choose to promote.

Second (and this one might be worth studying), is that I think the Peter Principle is subject to itself. In other words, the Peter Principle has done its work so completely in an organization that people can no longer be promoted to their level of incompetence. The Principle itself becomes incompetent to carry out its effect. For example, a person is passed over for a promotion because they are deemed too valuable in their current position. In this case, management, probably with the intent of softening the blow by affirming a person’s importance, is really admitting that in order to be promoted you need to be incompetent in your current position. When management uses this reasoning, it is a sign either of insecurity on the part of the manager or of the fact that the Peter Principle has so saturated the organization with incompetence that the principle itself no longer works.

Either of these two instances, but particularly the second, may be a sign of rough roads ahead. Major reconstruction may be necessary to eradicate the workings of the Peter Principle.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Book Review: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood tells the story of the 1959 murders of four members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. Capote called the book "creative non-fiction" because, I think, he gets inside the minds of the characters and relays their thoughts to the reader. As far as I've been able to find out, Capote got all the facts straight.

I was somewhat disappointed in the book, mainly because I had very high expectations. For some reason I had the notion that Capote helped solve the crime, when in reality it was an inmate in the Kansas penitentiary who provided the information that put investigators on the right track. This is, of course, a fault with the reader (me), but it does show how our attitudes and assumptions can help ruin a book.

Not that In Cold Blood was a bad book. I enjoyed it, just not as much as anticipated. Capote does a nice job weaving the stories of the criminals and investigators together to give the book some degree of drama, even though you know what's going to happen. Certain parts, particularly after the arrests were made, were bogged down by detail. I had read that Capote was able to build sympathy for the murderers, but apparently I missed that part. The two killers came across as crass, unlikable, evil men, and I didn't have one bit of sympathy for them. I am moderately, but not completely, against the death penalty, but even when Capote narrated the hanging of the murderers, I still had no sympathy. Either I'm cold-hearted or Capote's ability to arouse compassion is over-rated.

Overall, I'd rate In Cold Blood a 7. If I wasn't in a good mood today, I'd rate it a 6.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Quote of the Day

I'm not a big fan of Thoreau. I haven't read any of his writings except for a few quotes. I wrote down one of his thoughts on government. I'm still thinking my way through it, and wondered if anyone else had any insight.

"Why does it (government) always crucify Christ, and excommunicate Copernicus and Luther, and pronounce Washington and Franklin rebels?"

At first I though it was great, and I think I still do...maybe. For some reason I've always been suspicious of Thoreau - I think it is because one of my Maine West High School English teachers thought he was soooo awesome, and I thought she was soooo annoying. Because I don't trust the guy, maybe I'm reading too much into it. Any thoughts??


Monday, May 15, 2006

My First Top Ten List

As a way to fill in some content on this blog, I will steal an idea from Jim's blog (Mathesonian Theorems) and post various top ten lists from time to time. Not that Jim invented top ten lists, but he's the guy who gave me the idea. I like lists, but I have a hard time making decisions sometimes, so my top ten lists may not be exactly ten. But I'll try to control myself.

I'll try to use the same category as Jim, so that we can compare notes. However, when he does something screwy like the top chess masters of all time, I'll try to do something similar. Which leads me to my current top ten list. I know enough chess masters to have a top three list, so I'll go with my ten favorite childhood sports figures.

1) Denis Savard - Michael Jordan on skates. When you mention his goal against Edmonton to a Blackhawks fan, they know exactly what you're talking about. Possibly the best individual play in hockey history.
2) Harold Baines
3) Doug Wilson
4) Chet Lemon
5) Emerson Fittipaldi - The only Indy 500 driver who waved back at me from the pits when I was at time trials in 1986. He was probably the only driver who saw me waving, but he did wave back, which was cool.
6) Lee Smith - When he was called into the knew who had time for a trip to the restroom.
7) Tony Esposito
8) Walter Payton
9) Ray Meyer
10) Craig Stadler - Gotta love somebody called the Walrus.

Honorable Mention: Steve Stone - Don't remember much about him as a player, but his color commentary on WGN was simply the best. Steve Schnur, Pat Fitzgerald, and Darnell Autry - Okay, I wasn't a kid in 1995, but they put the 'Cats into the Rose Bowl, so I have to get their names on here somehow.

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