The “Dogged Principle” (10/20/30/40) of individual competency

The “Peter Principle” basically claims that individuals tend to rise until they reach the level of their own incompetence.  The “Dogged Principle” is a guide to what the various levels of competency actually look like and how many individuals reside at each level. Honestly examine an office, a construction site, your local school, the post office or any collection of politicians and you will see remarkably consistent layers of competency. Every group or profession would like to believe they are all the best of the best but the truth is very few are. Abilities vary, motivation is not a given, character matters and in general life is not fair.

Top Dogs – 10% – These are the superstars! To use a sports metaphor; they see the whole field and the game flows slowly for them … they are never overwhelmed and rarely outmaneuvered. These are people whose overall production and value far exceeds their cost to the organization. They readily accept responsibility and function on a proactive rather than reactive level.  The one negative; Top Dogs are the ones most likely to leave and become dangerous competitors … often when you least expect it.

Lead Dogs – 20% – This group, while not self starting, can be motivated. Solid, dependable, productive … these people are quietly the backbone of any organization. As long as they are recognized and appreciated they will tirelessly support the company line while picking up the slack where needed. Ignore them at your own peril as once they feel taken advantage of, Lead Dogs can be very disruptive.

The Strays – 30% – Whether the result of inadequate training, lack of guidance or just plain poor attitude; strays see no connection between what they cost and what they produce. Any attempt to rationalize how a Stray attained their position or how they manage to keep it is doomed to failure. Every personality quirk and poor work habit resides here. This is truly a group that would probably enhance overall productivity by their mere absence.

The Pack – 40% – This is the ebb and flow group. Interest in the task at hand as well as productivity fluctuates constantly. As a group they contribute regularly but as individuals they can easily be sidetracked (or totally derailed) by personal and other issues. Their individual value over any period of time is on par with their cost to the organization but they rarely show bursts of exceptional effort. Members of the Pack are the most likely to “game” the system by obsessively managing time off, taking full advantage of benefit programs and testing the limits of work rules. This is a diverse group, some of whom are very valuable to the organization in their own hard to quantify way. Taking the budget axe to the Pack without individual evaluation could have severe unintended consequences.

Caution … Beware of Mutts – Even though the traits and percentages at the heart of the “Dogged Principle” cover most situations, you will inevitably encounter mutts. These are individuals that possess characteristics from more than one category. A common example is the disgraced political figure. These people tend to be top dogs in their profession but they can’t resist being strays in terms of character, honesty and their personal life. The combinations are endless, the percentages are small and the results are not always negative.   

Leaders and business owners are not exempt:  Keep in mind that the competency level breakdowns citing in the “Dogged Rule” apply equally well to business and political leaders. Simply attaining a certain level of wealth and power in society does not eliminate ones personal shortcomings. Character flaws, levels of competency, integrity and downright quirkiness are just as obvious in the group that makes the decisions as they are in the ones that live with those decisions.

 James A. Krause … The Dogged One … 2009