NES MBA: Welcome to the Warp Zone!
You may remember that in Super Mario Bros., there are a few hidden areas in the game that let you catch a ride to a later level. They are called warp zones. In total, there are three: one located in World 1-2 and two in World 4-2. The first warp zone gives you the choice to jump to World 2, World 3 or World 4. In World 4-2, reaching the zone behind the final pipe (before the flagpole) leads to World 5. If you are lucky, you can find a secret beanstalk that leads you to a warp zone for World 6, World 7 or World 8, the last levels in the game.
Now, there are some gamers who think that by skipping past game content (by using a cheat or warp zone), you miss the value of gaming: seeing the great content, having fun, and overcoming the challenge of beating a game without "assistance" from the computer. The value is in the experience, and as you play the game, you become a more adapt gamer.
What is the business warp zone?
Some organizations attract business-people who believe they are ready to jump to the highest paying positions. Sometimes they are right. On the other hand, some employees are extremely good at knowing all the details of the game. Yet, in many companies, there is a cultural pressure to promote employees based on factors that don't correlate to how they add value to the business. Does the best sales agent need to become the sales manager if they're doing an amazing job where they are? Shouldn't businesses encourage people to pursue their strengths and reward them when, because of their talent, deep value is added to the business? Welcome to the Peter Principle.
The Peter of the who what now?
"The Peter Principle is a concept in management theory in which the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate's performance in their current role rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role" (Wikipedia). Have you been promoted to your highest level of incompetence? Are you about to send one of your employees through the warp zone?
Beating the Peter Principle
Here are a number of things managers can do to curb the Peter Principle from taking over their business.
- Regularly ask employees to share a strategic plan or list of goals that look forward into the future (at least 12 months).
- Affirm their ability to help the business with the work they do every day.
- Reward them for outstanding performance.
- Encourage employees to use their strengths!
So, here's the question that summarizes the Peter Principle: do you think Mario really would have been able to save the princess if he'd been promoted to head of sales instead of honing his skills as a plumber? Who else is better qualified to squash Goombas and navigate a series of green pipes?