CO - HR Innovation

Peter Principle - Are you a victim or Perpetrator?

Peter Principle - Are you a victim or Perpetrator?

The Peter Principle – Who do YOU Blame?

In my junior years of business, many times clients and peers referred to “the Peter Principle” in frustration of their employees whom they felt "let them down".

Few people actually know that Dr. Laurence J. Peter coined this phrase in his 1968 book, "The Peter Principle". He identified that an employee's failure to perform in a work role, which they had been promoted to, may not be due to incompetence on the part of that individual, but because the position actually required different abilities than those that the person concerned possessed. The "mistake? was the promotion of the role, not the "fault" fo the employee but that of the employer!

This nuance may have been forgotten, as the terminology is often used in the context of an inditement of the person who fails to perform as required.

The true message of Dr. Peter is so profound in the field of #Marketing. The profession has crumbled in the wake of too many executives who sit in a role that they are simply not well-trained enough to perform optimally.

Define "Marketing" (few can).

All too often people have spent two, five, seven, or even 10 years in a marketing department.

Over that time, they may have developed skills in handling advertising and promotional operational activities; such as getting ads done, checking copy, making sure price lists are right, organising trade shows, etc. Finally, they find themselves promoted to the position of Marketing Manager… without an understanding of the definition of the word, “marketing”, let alone the science behind pricing, distribution and logistics, process design, new product development, market research, segmentation, market assessment, brand portfolio management, etc.
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Consequently, they have been put in a position, as described by Dr. Peter, where they can't possibly perform with the skills to optimize the marketing mix: They simply don't have the skills.

This puts an unfair strain on the individual employee appointed to the role. It puts a “death-curse” on the company responsible, which relies on that executive for their marketing expertise. The “mission impossible” is that the marketing management cannot be optimal and therefore must be in part, if not significantly, unproductive, wasteful or even destructive.

What is the Commercial Cost?

A perfect example is a few years ago when senior advertising executive of a global advertising agency was poached to become the marketing director of her client’s company. This person, equipped with wonderful advertising skills but no qualifications in managing a marketing mix, went about pursuing an expensive investment into advertising.

The promotional effort taxed the resources of her employer and the result was a TV ad that in fact was banned because it did not actually meet a number of legal and compliance issues.

The co-dependent, integrated dynamics of the 8Ps of Marketing were beyond the understanding of this executive. The executive left the company in shame, probably never get a job again. The company suffered extraordinary direct and opportunity costs and the outcome was a lose-lose situation.

The company lost key, valuable marketing talent, as subordinates to this executive felt frustrated and appalled at the missing skills of their immediate superior… they disengaged and sought other roles.

The executive herself, confident of her talents when she assumed the role but (as events unfolded) harboured fears of “being discovered as a fraud” but did not know whom to turn to, or how to rescue the situation.

So, what do we learn from this?

The hierarchies of marketing model is an under-utilised and overwhelmingly important model for organisational management. The discipline of corporate strategic marketing is so different from operational know-how that there is a substantial amount of training necessary to bridge that gap.
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Executive teams need to understand and adopt the need for access to a balanced talent pool in all tiers of the hierarchies of marketing if they have a hope in hell of actually optimising their marketing mix. An unbalanced marketing a hierarchy will not deliver the best possible return on shareholders’ funds or satisfaction to employees, stakeholders, shareholders and trade partners.

The hierarchies of marketing model is a means to identify when there is a possible transition to a Peter principle scenario.

The hierarchies of marketing model identifies an outline for consideration in developing job specifications, job expectations, performance evaluation, KPI’s and KPR’s and helps identify the right prospective employee for the right marketing role.

The Voice of Experience?

Believers will be pleased to note that research of 214 businesses to test the Peter principle in 2018 by a team of economists found the promotion of employees was consistent with the Peter principle.

An executive of a global office equipment organization, whose responsibility was to build from scratch a brand new marketing department, once said about the hierarchies of marketing model, “if I had read the Four Faces of Marketing before I built the marketing department for my company, it would have saved me three years of stress, angst and frustration!”

  • Leigh Cowan
    Leigh Cowan
    CEO Leadership Empowerment

    Leigh brings MUCH more to a business-oriented delegate than a laugh and some research findings because he is one with his audience... sharing decades of war stories in commercial marketing, reaching CMO, Marketing Director & Board level. When Leigh shares those multiple world-record sales growth, launch and brand management achievements in FMCG (CPG), B2C and government product launches, audiences listen! Leigh's global successes and experience in categories as diverse as pet food, pharmaceutical, mining & banking are inspirational and motivational, as well as educational. Richly reinforced with his 13 years of tertiary study in Marketing at UNSW, Postgraduate Diploma in Strategic Planning (London City University), lecturing experience in the UNSW School of Marketing and UTS Graduate School of Business MBA degree course. His international standing as an author, speaker, facilitator, strategist, adviser, mentor and consultant appeal to potential delegates who want something "more" than a pre-packed presentation... they savour the originality, specificity, and tailored presentation that Leigh delivers that cuts to the heart of their problems and attacks the issues relevant and specific to them.

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