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Putt's Law: Technology is dominated b...

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Comment#  ·   Fair (97 ratings)  ·  submitted 1997  ·  4 comments

Putt's Law: Technology is dominated by two types of people: Those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand.

Unknown, in Success and Failure

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CommentPutt's Law  ·  posted 2003 by DK

Putt's laws and their corollaries were published in a series of articles in Research/Development magazine in 1976-1977. The articles were credited to Archibald Putt, but an editor's note says that it is a pseudonym.

The law says "Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand." This was not just a quip, it was logically derived, thus: The only way to avoid the Peter Principle is creative incompetence. Putt says technology is an anomaly because creative incompetence is common. He cites several examples, including Albert Einstein, who was unkempt and never wore socks. Einstein never had an adminstrative job and spent his career doing theoretical physics. The second anomaly is the lack of a competence criterion for technical managers. He cites a manger in a commercial lab who was supposed to be developing nonfading dyes and instead discovers an insect repellant. Is this success or failure? These two anomalies cause a competence inversion, hence Putt's Law.

Subsequent articles develop a series of corollaries, all of them funny and clever and fiendishly true. Some others: "The maximum rate of promotion is achived at a level of crises only slightly less that that which will result in dismissal." "The value of an idea is measured less by its content than by the structure of the heirarchy in which it is pronounced." "The correct advice to give is the advice that is desired. The desired advice is revealed by the structure of the hierarchy, not by the structure of the technology." "A successful consultant never gives as much information to his clients as he gets in return." "Decisions are justified by benefits to the organization: decisions are made by considering benefits to the decision-makers." "Organizational stagnation occurs when the punishment for success is as large as for failure."

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