Tuesday, September 12, 2006

 

Peter Principle

We all have a job to do. Adam had a job to do before God gave him Eve, he was told to tend the garden of eden. Our job is to lead people to faith in Christ. When I get up in the morning, my goal for the day is to find someone who will allow me access to their friends, and relatives. This automatically puts me in a leadership position. I am to lead them to faith in Christ.

In a recent article,, I read the following words:

After 30 years of observing engineers in various management positions, I have to agree that engineers are generally selected for management positions for the wrong reason, i.e., technical competence rather than managerial proficiency. Engineering managers are seldom educated and/or trained to understand themselves or the people around them and, sadly, many of them do not realize the value of such knowledge. Ignorance may be bliss, but in the business of engineering that ignorance lowers productivity and profits not to mentioned company morale.

The Peter Principle:

Mr. Neil E. Thornberry's article "Transforming the Engineer into a Manager: Avoiding the Peter Principle", Civil Engineering Practice, Fall 1989, provides the insight necessary to begin to understand what happens to technical professionals, including engineers, as they progress in their careers. Mr. Thornberry asserts that young engineers are judged on technical merit and accomplishment and promotions go to the technically proficient and verbally expressive engineers, while the less technically proficient and verbally expressive engineers wait their turn.

What makes a good engineer? For many managers the answer is simple: a good engineer follows directions, pays close attention to details, does error-free work, finishes on time, and personally does whatever it takes to get the job done. Young engineers receive recognition and rewards primarily through their own efforts by personally producing fast and accurate work and doing so over long hours when necessary.

The reward for the technically proficient and verbally expressive engineer is a promotion with a higher salary and more prestige. After more promotions based on the same criteria, i.e., technical proficiency, the reward for further outstanding performance is a promotion into management. There's the rub! The personality traits and work habits that are common in good engineers often cause them to become poor managers.

The preceding explains why so some executives are frustrated by their inability to improve their organizations. Managers, unlike young engineers, must know how to achieve their predetermined goals through the cooperative efforts of others—not by doing the work themselves. Managers must not focus on details all the time, but only when necessary. Managers must be cognizant of what motivates others to succeed and then allow them to achieve success. Where do engineering managers learn these skills? On the job from older engineers who learned on the job from even older engineers, etc. The pattern persists and competent engineers become incompetent managers—the Peter Principle.

The Peter principle is a principal set forth by Laurence Johnston Peter (1919-1990) stating that people rise individually through the employee ranks until they reach a level of where they are incompetent.
The article was written for a managerial problem found in a secular profession. Our work is eternal, our boss is the Lord, and as a result, maybe everything in the article will not apply to us and our situation. However, I feel that there are some principles that we can gain from this article and apply to our work as we compare what the author said and how Jesus lived, and how we relate to those who pay our paycheck. Personally, I am still trying to figure out how to be a missionary, I don't have time to worry about supervising my colleagues who have been here much longer than I have. I want to work with the nationals in such a way that they are effective in bringing about a CPM. I know that if it happens and by faith it will, it will be the work of the nationals who catch the vision and implement it, and not foreigners like us.

At any rate, here is how we can apply the article to our ministry:

1. If we are to be effective, we need to start by understanding ourselves and the people around us. -What great advice for anyone living in community

2. Could we also say that a good Missionary follows directions, pays close attention to details, does error-free work, finishes on time, and personally does whatever it takes to get the job done. We receive recognition and rewards primarily because of what God does through us, and not our own efforts or by personal manipulation, and emotional hype.

3. The reward for being proficient, for us is, more times than not, a need to accomplish more for the Kingdom of our Lord. I suppose that there are those that want to climb the political latter, but for at lest many of us, that's what we want to avoid.

4. Missionaries, unlike young engineers, must know how to achieve their predetermined goals through the cooperative efforts of others—not by doing the work themselves. Managers must not focus on details all the time, but only when necessary. Managers must be cognizant of what motivates others to succeed and then allow them to achieve success.

I am so thankful that the IMB has high goals, with steps of completion. We are to help the people to reach their family members and intimate friends for Jesus. The goal is to involve every believer in the great commission. We have the privilege of celebrating the victories. Why is it that so many times, we forget to celebrate the victories? We would much rather look at all the new things that we have tried, and didn't produce the intended outcome, or all the churches that we didn't plant that we become frustrated, work ourselves silly and loose our families in the process.

I am very comfortable with the care that the IMB provides for us. We have a job to do. Our job is spiritual in nature, and we are very incompetent to fulfill it. I suppose that we have all arrived at the Peter principle, but we are not alone. -pun intended!

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