Daily Archives: January 19, 2012

Costa Concordia: Chicken of the Sea Meets the Peter Principle

You don’t hear or read much about the Peter Principle these days. And I suspect that’s because the notion that “everyone in a hierarchy—from the office intern to the CEO, from the low-level civil servant to a nation’s president—will inevitably rise to his or her level of incompetence” has been proven to be true for decades.

C’mon. If you are at work, take a look around and see if you can argue with the thesis that Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull first advanced in 1969. And thank God Wikipedia is back today. Here’s the skinny:

The principle holds that in a hierarchy, members are promoted so long as they work competently. Eventually they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (their “level of incompetence”), and there they remain, being unable to earn further promotions. Peter’s Corollary states that “in time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out their duties” and adds that “work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.” “Managing upward” is the concept of a subordinate finding ways to subtly “manage” superiors in order to limit the damage that they end up doing.

Enter Francesco Schettino, the disgraced skipper of the Costa Concordia which did a belly flop in water off the coast of Italy after apparently ramming a rock while being a little too close to shore. This disaster killed 21 passengers, with 21 still missing. And in coming weeks, watch as thousands of gallons of diesel fuel begin treading water in what is essentially a marine sanctuary.

While this debacle unfolded, Schettino claims he tripped into a lifeboat and sailed away to safety. LOL

And the New York Post, which dubbed the skipper “Chicken of the Sea” in a front-page headline, had this story, “Cowardly captain says he tripped into a lifeboat and then watched ship sink from land“:

The Italian daily La Repubblica reported today that Schettino told investigators he tripped, fell overboard and ended up in a rescue boat.

Schettino was quoted by the newspaper as saying, “The passengers were pouring onto the decks, taking the lifeboats by assault. I didn’t even have a life jacket because I had given it to one of the passengers.

“I was trying to get people to get into the boats in an orderly fashion. Suddenly, since the ship was at a 60 to 70 degree angle, I tripped and I ended up in one of the boats. That’s how I found myself there.”

OK. In an attempt to be fair and balanced here, let’s give the dude the benefit of the doubt. It was dark. He tripped and fell into a lifeboat while the passengers were trying out for their nation’s Olympic team in the combined high-diving and freestyle swimming events.
But once on terra firma, the skipper didn’t appear overly enthusiastic about heading back to the luxury liner. Here’s from USA Today, “Recording suggests captain tried to abandon ship“:
ROME – The captain of a cruise ship that capsized off the coast of Italy was heaped with scorn Tuesday by the media and Italians as damning details came out about his abandoning of frantic passengers so he could escape in a lifeboat.

Italian newspapers reported that Capt. Francesco Schettino had steered the vessel too close to the island of Giglio to give a thrill to the islanders and had once told a magazine he enjoyed diverting from standard procedures.

But the revelation that generated the most contempt was the recording released Tuesday of a conversation between Schettino and a coast guard officer who demanded the captain return to his ship to oversee the rescue.

“What are you doing? Are you abandoning the rescue?” shouted Capt. Gregorio De Falco of the Italian coast guard in Livorno. “Get back on board now for (expletive) sake! That’s an order! Don’t make any more excuses!”

Wow. Note to Captain Schettino: Wouldn’t advise asking De Falco for a recommendation for your next gig. Just sayin’.

And here’s the point. Again from the USA Today article:

“This is a typical case of an incompetent person in an important position, and now the consequences are clear for everyone to see,” said Lorenzo Piermatteo, 36, a restaurant and bar manager. “It’s a typical Italian tragedy.”

Chicken of the Sea meets the Peter Principle.
And if you doubt the veracity of the Peter Principle, watch the Republican presidential candidates debate tonight on CNN.
Too bad David Gregory won’t be there asking questions.