you think you are suited for your job?
By Nilooka Dissanayake
How suited are you for your job? If you are in business, how suited
are you for that business? Treat not this question lightly. If the
answer is no, the implications are serious: you and your organization
and business are just like everyone else's. If your answer is yes,
you still need to watch out.
Have you heard
of the Peter Principle? It simply says that in a hierarchy-like
your office or business - every employee tends to rise to his level
of incompetence. It does not end there. We can add two corollaries
to the Peter Principle. That is, in time every post will be occupied
by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties. It may
also mean that all the work is accomplished by those who are yet
to reach their level of incompetence.
I do not intend
to argue whether or not there's any truth in the Peter Principle
and its discomforting corollaries. Instead, let us see how far all
this is applicable to us as employees, managers, professionals,
entrepreneurs or business people. Recently, I came across an article
that really made me sit up. In my career, spanning now over a decade,
and the varied fields of accounting, consultancy, management, entrepreneurship
and journalism I have not come across such a useful and thought
in it is a mine waiting to blow up your delusions about yourself.
Each question leads you to rethink everything that you do. I recommend
it as regular reading for all managers regardless of the level.
It is a must for entrepreneurs. For an entrepreneur, the risks of
incompetence are higher and consequences more dangerous.
Study Questions for Managers," and included in Experiential
Organizational Behaviour by Theodore T. Herbert and Peter Lorenzi,
this piece touches on all aspects of how you work, react and communicate.
While not the object of the authors, it can help you determine whether
you are really competent or whether you are merely a result of the
of that before? Well, it states that 'circumstances can force a
generalized incompetent person - that could be you - to become competent
at least in a specialized field.' This may end up giving you and
everyone else a false sense of your competence. It can also tell
you very clearly if you are a believer in Parkinson's Fifth Law
which says that 'if there is a way to delay an important decision,
the good bureaucracy, public or private, will find it'.
And if you are
in business or dreaming of it, you are more in danger. Why? Because
you promoted yourself to the top; or your family did. You may have
reached your own level of incompetence in one short sweep without
the whole process it takes for a mere employee to reach his or her
level of incompetence. Scary, don't you think?
Those in high
positions also need to remember the Match's Maxim: 'A fool in a
high station is like a man on the top of a high mountain; everything
appears small to him and he appears small to everybody'. Also, remember
the Imhoff's Law: 'The organization of any bureaucracy is very much
like a septic tank - the really big chunks always rise to the top'.
Before we get onto the questions that will - if you have a conscience
- keep you awake tonight, there's one more thing. Make sure you
do not fall prey to Cornuelle's Law. It says that: 'Authority tends
to assign jobs to those least able to do them'.
Now for the
questions. Here is just a random sample of the questions. In what
areas is my knowledge weakest? Do I keep too much information to
myself because dissemination of it is time consuming or inconvenient?
Do I tend to act before information is in? Or do I wait so long
for all the information that opportunities pass me by and I become
a bottleneck in my organization?
Am I sufficiently
well informed to pass judgment on the proposals that my subordinates
make? Is it possible to leave final authorization for more of the
proposals with subordinates?
What is my vision
of direction for this organization? Are these plans primarily in
my own mind in loose form? Should I make them explicit in order
to guide the decisions of others in the organization better?
How do my subordinates
react to my managerial style? Am I sufficiently sensitive to the
powerful influence my actions have on them? Do I fully understand
their reactions to my action? Do I find an appropriate balance between
encouragement and pressure? Do I stifle their initiative?
Is there any
system to my time scheduling, or am I just reacting to the pressures
of the moment? Do I find the appropriate mix of activities, or do
I tend to concentrate on one particular function or one type of
problem just because I find it interesting? Am I more efficient
with particular kinds of work at special times of the day or week?
Does my schedule
reflect this? Do key problems receive the attention they deserve?
Should I spend more time reading and probing deeply into certain
issues? Could I be more reflective? Should I be?
Am I too detached
from the heart of my organization's activities, seeing things only
in an abstract way? If you have any comments or wish to receive
all the questions by email, you can contact on email@example.com
or on 075-552524
The writer is the Managing Editor of Athwela Vyaparika Sangarawa
(Athwela Business Journal), the only Sinhala management monthly
targeting the small and medium enterprises and its English version,
Small Business International magazine.