Sunday, July 15, 2012

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: Rising to the highest level of Incompetence

Last week I wrote about how some pundits falsely equate a person's money with productivity. Since I know a lot of my readers are techies, they will want mathematical proof. Here it is:

The Peter Principle Proven
In case you've ever wondered why ignorance rises to the executive level, here is a simple explanation that is also a mathematical proof:
Knowledge is Power.
Time is Money.
And, as every actuary (with some physics training) knows:
---------- = Power
So, if
Knowledge = Power
Time = Money
then through simple substitutions,
---------- = Knowledge
Solving for Money, we get:
-------------- = Money
Thus, If Work is held constant as a positive number (no matter how small!) Money approaches infinity as Knowledge approaches zero.
What this means is:
All else being equal, the less you know, the more you make.
Source:Actuarial Review 

In business school we learn of a similar formula. The ratio of work vs. job justification. In the lower ranks of a company an employee spends most of their time working. They spend a few minutes a month justifying their job. “Hey, I do my work.”

As they rise the corporate ladder, they spend more time justifying their job. Having to pull up stats, “Since taking over this dept, we have risen, by less than the margin of error, in these areas. In the next quarter I will be concentrating on the areas where we fell by less than the margin of error.”

Basically the employees who are better skilled at justifying their jobs move into the positions where they determine who gets paid what. More successful managers are better at justifying their jobs. Sometimes a manager will be both good at doing their job and justifying it, but it's not necessary.

In college this is drilled home to students on the first visit to campus. Go to any college campus. Look at what they use to recruit students. Our professors have this, this, and this. Look at the classrooms and professor's offices. Now go to the Admin building. If you can't find it, look for the nicest one on campus, that's the one. It is easy to see the contrast. With a little digging you sometimes find the salaries of different positions. In most cases the admin staff makes more than the professors.

The places were the professors do make really good salaries are the colleges that make them justify their jobs through the publish or perish system. A professor doesn't have to be a good teacher, they just need be able to get papers like, "The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline" published.

In the corporate world they are better at hiding this imbalance, but it's there. At the very top a manager merely needs to say gibberish, but make it sound important. All a good manager need to do to keep their job is whenever asked for a decision say, “It is what it is. In order to minimize the disconnect, we need a game changer to reach out and leverage our cutting edge interface. By socializing we can value-add and circle back to make this thing go viral.”

When the waiter looks at them funny, they just need to add, “Think outside the box.”

Basically for someone to successfully rise through the corporate ladder they need to spend less and less time working and more time justifying their job. At the very top they spend their whole time “working” justifying their salary.

So again, I say to the people who call the highest paid, the most productive, “Shut-up Stupid, the corporate hierarchy isn't designed to reward the most productive. It has built in systems to make people less productive as they get paid more.”

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE

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