The Peter Principle

The Peter Principle was first introduced by Canadian sociologist Laurence Johnston Peter in a humoristic book describing the pitfalls of bureaucratic organizations. The original principle states that "in a hierarchically structured administration, people tend to be promoted up to their level of incompetence." The principle is based on the observation that in such an organization new employees typically start in the lower ranks, but when they prove to be competent in the task to which they are assigned, they get promoted to a higher rank.


The net result is that most of the higher levels of a bureaucracy will be filled by incompetent people who got there because they were quite good at doing a different--and usually easier--task than the one they are expected to do.


The Peter Principle applies too well to software development organizations. Senior software developers who excel at designing and/or coding software get promoted to, you guessed it, a management position. However, a management role doesn't require you to be a technology whiz, but rather an expert at managing people and project schedules.


Not all developers turn out to be incompetent managers. As a matter of fact, I'd go as far as claiming that the best software development and project managers I've ever worked with previously held senior technical positions. Promoting technology …

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"There is not one wise man in 20 that will praise himself."

- William Shakespeare