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Your Level of Incompetence

February 18, 2011

Your Level of Incompetence

Have you reached for the stars and found that they were just a set of old Christmas lights. Have you started a grand march into the future merely to stumble in the bog? Do you harbor great ambition but find every single one beyond your reach? If you have given up trying to be better and more focused, if you are satisfied to wallow away counting the days till retirement and perhaps even death, then perhaps you have reached your level of incompetence.

The level of incompetence of every individual is the highest level to a person can reach and do the most damage. Scott Adams created another similar principle called the Dilbert Principle where incompetent employees in a company are promoted to limit the damage they are doing at a lower level. As such we find managers that know nothing about managing, CEO that know nothing and CFO’s that have no knowledge of numbers. A person can be promoted very high before they reach their ultimate level of incompetence but a person will never exceed their level of incompetence. Everyone is aware of the incompetent individual but the only way to remove the problem is to promote the person higher. Sacking the person is not an option because the person who would sack such a person is usually the person who gave such a glowing report to give them the promotion. Hence you may often hear a manager complain, “I wish I never promoted that fool, now I can’t get rid of him.”

Some people remain at lower levels in a company acting as supervisors, junior mangers and HR staff when they find their level of incompetence. The maximum damage that they can do is limited because people are aware of the dangers of letting them go higher. Yet others can reach for the highest heights before it is obvious to all that they have reached their level of incompetence. They can be CEO’s, Prime Ministers or even Presidents of the Free World before everyone realizes that some terrible mistake has been made and now it is too late to fix it. The maximum damage will be all the greater the higher the person is placed.

Some examples of people reaching their level of incompetence can be seen in the world. Hitler was suited to being a ruthless dictator but as commander in chief of the army he incompetent; so incompetent that the allies decided not to assassinate him to speed up the war effort. Stalin’s planned a final purge of all the Doctors in Russia was only prevented when he died suddenly. Maybe some one should have sent for a doctor? A certain President of a Certain Free World (hint, hint) seems to be obsessed with starting wars over false pretexts and instead of looking for a way out, looks for another war.

How do recognize the signs of someone having reached their level of incompetence? One clear sign is that number of damaging mistakes a person does. If the damage is minor or temporary then it is possible that the person is yet to reach their level of incompetence yet. If the damage is lasting, passed onto another generation and huge it is clear that this person has reached or is close to reaching their Level of Incompetence. The 100 years war must have taken a monumental effort and teams of people who had reached their level of incompetence. Another sign is the amount of meaningless jargon and weasel words a person uses. Jargon is used to fill in the gaps in a person’s life where thoughts may occur. If in doubt over any subject, jargonize it and you will sound smart with out actually being all that smart: “Meaningful dialogue” instead of having a talk about something; “Paradigm Shift” instead of a change; “Unilateral Warfare” instead of they killed themselves; “Downsizing,” sacking staff; “Rightsizing,” sacking even more staff; “Labor Crisis,” we sacked too many staff but want them back on lower pay. “Globalized Workplace,” Who else can we sack?

The level of incompetence can also reflect it self collectively, such as: A board of directors caught robbing the company’s money or even government departments. Here is an example from a Centrelink brochure ‘If you cannot read, this brochure tells you where to get lessons.’ And this, ‘It’s not an identity card … it’s an access card that’s used to authenticate identity.

What is important to know is that everyone has a level of incompetence that they can strive for but few ever achieve their full potential. I encourage people to take that as a challenge, push the envelope and one day you too can achieve you proper Level of Incompetence.

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