Too funny. Ever think your company was promoting without thought or reason, or promoting the worst people? It turns out the corporate HR/Management system has evolved to defeat the Peter Principle.
Ideally this study would have included this effect too.
And some fish can climb trees: https://www.thesprucepets.com/some-fish-can-climb-trees-3969...
(How Twain predicted Einstein to say this, I'll never know.)
The problem is viewing the company as hierarchical. Just because less managers are required doesn't mean it's a more important role.
What I was saying was that just OK engineers can get promoted to management and actually be quite good at it.
I believe most people here will agree with that statement; nonetheless the problem is the ludicrous situation some people view the world through and consider that "junior techie moves to senior manager" as a fact of life†.
There is real social pressure on that front and lots of belittling of tech. Basically every time I meet some new person and say that I'm a software engineer, I get asked "But you still code at your age? Surely you'd rather manage people! What have you even achieved in life?" or any variation thereof and have to explain, justify even, that designing, planning, architecting, maintaining, and developing software is a real expertise domain in and of itself. The situation extends even in the workplace, where it is mostly expected of you to raise to management positions, and you won't get any raise if you don't "move past" "coding", as coding is largely considered a menial task by many, a sort of weird heritage of/transposition from an industrial culture.
† This has a vicious side effect of creating an ecosystem with mostly zero-quality software, since somehow only juniors and unskilled seniors code, because either skilled coders raise up the management hierarchy to get some raises, just leave for places/countries with a better mindset, or are overwhelmed by their unskilled peers.
And there are also skills (or attributes) that makes you both better programmer and better manager: being organized, systematic, being responsible, willingness to do also boring tasks, understanding what people say when they talk to you, ability to explain yourself, good memory, etc.
But I also don't consider a product manager higher in the hierarchy, at least not explicitly. Does a PM get paid more than a mid-level engineer?
More thoughts on the semantics of mediocrity (the author was also referred in a sibling comment) https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2018/04/24/survival-of-the-medioc...
Left to his own devices, he had some horribly implemented ideas that really messed with our manufacturing floor. He was then moved to supervise a couple of manufacturing departments, which also resulted in disaster. He was moved to another facility shortly thereafter.
"Every new member in a hierarchical organization climbs the hierarchy
until he/she reaches his/her level of maximum incompetence"
Every new member moves down in the hierarchy? That doesn't happen in the real world.
As would be "every old member is demoted in the hierarchy until they reach a level in which they are competent".
As the war continued, attrition took its toll on the Army of Northern Virginia's officer corps, notably after Jackson's death at Chancelorsville. The two generals that replaced him, Ewell and A.P. Hill, were very good divisional commanders, but poor corps commanders. That tome is littered with other examples of officers excelling at one level of command, but being ill-equipped to perform at the next level.
My favourite reframing of team hierarchy is to change the language to make it horizontal or fully inverted.
In the horizontal case, promotion might be 'stepping back a rank to help co-ordinate'.
In the inverted case, promotion might be 'stepping down into a supporting role' (although that particular language bumps into confusing euphamisms left over by the pyramid framing).
I'm sure some better language can be found but you get the idea.
You can certainly have the latter kind without promoting e.g. the best programmers into mediocre managers.
The paper's suggestion to promote randomly or the worst is a bit silly. It only appears better than the alternative because they assume that there is no information about someone's competence at anything except their current job, and promoting someone is equivalent to firing them in favor of a fresh hire in their model.
Is that because many organizations tie together the concepts of higher pay/benefits and moving up in the managerial hierarchy?
Considering there is evidence that the Peter principle holds to a certain extent, that has always seemed odd to me. A person being best at one job is not a strong indicator that they'd be best at another. Personally, I have no desire to be promoted into roles that don't suit me.
And even if not - the folks higher in the chain also get to decide what gets to be worked on.
Making management the only option for having a "career" is the issue.
Another option to avoid the downsides of the Peter Principle is to test drive people in their new roles. Basically you slowly add responsibilities that look more like the post-promotion job, if they do well they get the promotion and they've already proven to be able to do these things. If at some point you notice it isn't working, well then you don't promote them, or promote them to a different position.
> The designation "skunk works" or "skunkworks" is widely used in business, engineering, and technical fields to describe a group within an organization given a high degree of autonomy and unhampered by bureaucracy, with the task of working on advanced or secret projects.
One of the key findings of the Skunk Works project is that you unlock potential, a company needs to be willing to pay individual contributors more than their managers.
The second is a promotion in office, where the job you do is fundamentally different, but you are paid more for it because your responsibilities are wider.
We get in trouble when we try to use the same mechanism for both. Promotions as incentive in the first case are fine. Promotions in the second are what this paper deals with, and are where the incentive aspect is more problematic.
I’d love to see a randomized trial of random vs “skill” based promotions for people management.
I’ve worked in civil service environments where promotions were driven by core management skills like reading/writing ability, analytical ability, and various management topics. In other positions there’s evaluation of project management ability, and others were appointed to positions by political process.
Although I didn’t study it, observationally, I saw no correlation between method of promotion/appointment and my ranking of them as a leader/manager.
Depending on role, even low skilled people can be excellent depending on EQ and circumstances.
But, worst performed (which is not same as normal average performer) is very likely to suck at leading the thing he or she was unable to learn. Or unwilling to learn. If it is latter, you can expect unwillingness to learn new position too.
Of course, revolutionary idea would be to identify traits that are necessary for new position and look for those.
Instead I work on a team and I act like it.
1. Promote from principal engineer to technical manager
2. 2 years later -> this person sucks at management but they were a great engineer
3. "Promote" from technical manager -> principal engineer level 2
HN discussion (2009): https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=881296