>The Peter Principle and Enterprise Architecture

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The Peter Principle—Formulated by Laurence J. Peter, the Peter Principle states that “in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” More generally speaking, anything that works will be used in progressively challenging applications until it causes a disaster (i.e. ‘The Generalized Peter Principle’).”

How does the Peter Principle work?

“The Peter Principle’s practical application allows assessment of the potential of an employee for a promotion based on performance in the current job, i.e. members of a hierarchical organization eventually are promoted to their highest level of competence, after which further promotion raises them to incompetence. That level is the employee’s ‘level of incompetence’ where the employee has no chance of further promotion, thus reaching his or her career’s ceiling in an organization…One way that organizations attempt avoiding this effect is to refrain from promoting a worker until he or she shows the skills and work habits needed to succeed to the next higher job. Thus, a worker is not promoted to managing others if he or she does not already display management abilities.” (adapted from Wikipedia)

The Peter Principle demonstrates various human capital issues in the organization that range from performance management to leadership development. While there are no simple answers, there is clearly a need to focus on these issues and for them to be included as part of overall enterprise architecture planning and governance. Perhaps (a far-fetched idea, although one that the military successfully uses) promotions—like new IT systems, products or standards—would be managed through a human capital review board that would catch some of these faulty promotions before they turn into disasters for the employees and the organization.

Let’s add a Human Capital Perspective to the FEA:

To clarify, EA is not only a technology function but is a business function, and as part of the business function, I am calling for the addition of a human capital perspective to the Federal Enterprise Architecture!

Further, while some erroneously consider EA an information or documentation endeavor, it is much more than that—it is a planning and governance mechanism for the organization. And to effectively plan and govern (to execute on mission and achieve success), EA must include a human capital perspective, since people are our organization’s most valuable asset.

In User-centric EA, issues like how to mitigate negative effects of the Peter Principle could be addressed with the addition of a human capital perspective (see usercentricea.blogspot.com posting for 29 July 2007), which would deal with the many behavioral, cultural, and managerial issues regarding human capital facing the enterprise.

A Human Capital perspective to EA would include the following types of information:

  • Professional and management development
  • Leadership development
  • Succession planning
  • Performance management
  • Skills management
  • Training
  • Team building
  • Labor relations
  • Recruiting
  • Retention
  • Morale

I encourage and call for the adoption of a human capital perspective to the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA).

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