The Peter Pyramid by Dr Laurence J. Peter
The subtext of the book says WHY WE ARE VICITIMS OF LARGE-SCALE INCOMPETENCE? There is a prequel to this book called The Peter Principle, which I have not read, but apparently what the Peter Principle said for individuals is what Peter Pyramid says for organizations, specially the government organizations. The book was written some 23 years ago, but is a relevant today as it must have been then, irrespective of all the technological and communication advancements since then.
Dr Peter picks up the examples from every day life, examples that any common person who has ever dealt with an organization or bureaucracy would have faced, and tries to point out the lack of common sense. He explains how the organizational systems are simple in the beginning and how the few people who handle the organization understand the purpose and relevance of organization, but as the system grows, more and more people get added and the system adds complexity and specialization to itself, leading to gross inefficiencies. And how everyone just knows about the job they are supposed to do and loose sense of the very existence of organizations.
He takes simple example of you getting an apple from the tree, which can be a simple of process of either you or the farmer going and plucking the apple for you and you eating it. What happens in reality today is the complete system of logistics ports apples from all over the place to central warehouses, which in turn re-distribute the apples to all the retail stores from where the consumers pick them up and consume. There are thousand people, regulations, laws, logistics and resources involved in porting an apple from the farmer to the consumer. The question is, is there is real need for such complexity. These complexities arise when organizations or a group of people think only about themselves and fail to see the system as a whole.
He also looks at the top heavy systems, where there are more people managing a little group of workers who do the actual work. Needless to say, that so many people at the top are not needed and only add to the red tape and related delay in all processes.
What I really liked about this book is its brevity and simplicity, a point that can be made in 4-5 sentences is made in only so many words and there is no beating around the bush like most books. Once the point is made, the author moves on to the next point. It’s a small book, with lots of quotations, illustrations and humorous cartoons to drive the point. It makes a quick, easy and interesting reading while leaving you thinking about how to use common sense more commonly.
Sharing a very interesting and intriguing quote from the book:
We are a strange people. We spend our lives doing things we detest, to make money to buy things we do not need, to impress people we do not like. We never want to be doing what we are doing. When we eat, we read; when we watch TV, we eat; when we drive, we listen to music; when we listen to music, we work around the house. When we want to be with friends, we go to the noisy restaurant; when we want to party, we spend the evening trying to converse.
Read it and you would probably start questioning lot of complexity around you and may work towards simplifying systems around you.