Management Selection

Don’s Diary

At the outset of our masonic journey, the advantage of education to render us fit members of a well-organised society is stressed. Similarly, we are charged to devote a portion of our leisure hours to the study of such of the liberal arts and sciences as we can grasp.

The purpose of the liberal arts is to develop rational thought and intellectual capabilities and they were first defined by Martianus Capella in the 5th Cent AD. The contemporary liberal arts comprise literature, languages, philosophy, history, mathematics and science. Science is based on scientific method; the need for measurement and replication and this should underpin modern management science.

Good national and organisational management requires good senior appointments. We have been blessed in Lodge Devotion to have a Master who has brought some years of recovery to a new height and placed us in an enviable position. We have a very worthy master elect who has already proved his leadership as a military commander and capability in another lodge. Other organisations in current times have not been so fortunate.

Some might say that some of our national leaders and a recently resigned Police Commissioner have not been good choices. It could be that The Peter Principle (the 1969 humorous treatise by Dr Lawrence J Peter and Raymond Hull) has been ignored: “in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to the level of their incompetence.” It could explain how somebody who could break the Melbourne crime wars did not sit easily in the Commissioner’s chair. It could explain why successful Ministers of the Crown or a senior union lawyer struggle to hold higher office? In our situation, we need to ask whether the Peter Principle will apply if somebody has been a successful warden, principle deacon or even a grand master of ceremonies and is promoted. The tongue-in-cheek Dilbert Principle could be an explanation: it attempts to explain how a person who has never been competent at anything at any time is promoted to senior management. What can we do?

The way to avoid, hopefully, too much damage to an organisation as a result selections without regard to either the Peter or the Dilbert Principles is to have short, prescribed terms of office but it could still mean that we are in limbo with the wrong leadership. Another is to ensure that the applicant has actually demonstrated the higher order skills and attributes in either the organisation or elsewhere before they are appointed. The Dunning-Kruger effect should not have occurred, that is where an incompetent candidate has overestimated his own level of skill, the genuine skill levels of others is not being recognised. We need to ensure that “negative selection” protocols, common in rigid hierarchies and dictatorships, do not purge competent applicants using scientifically unsupportable restrictive rules. The potential for “negative selection”, and its adverse effects, is of particular concern in organisations where members in the higher echelons are effectively members of a club: where it is necessary occasionally to “feed the chooks” but otherwise ordinary members are of little importance. Using the politically correct euphemism, it amounts to “positive discrimination” or “Affirmative Action” (would Freemasonry do that?).

There is more to the duty of making recommendations for high office than the clerical function of processing applications. It is incumbent upon outgoing managers to have groomed a panel of potential successors and in the lodge, we do this by the appointment of two Wardens and having suitable Past Masters. It is also incumbent upon a selection group to declare if there is no candidate of the highest and suitable calibre, and to search for and encourage more applications to form a suitable panel for consideration. Reopen applications if necessary! If this is not done the selectors are either lazy, incompetent or too constrained by a culture of “negative selection”. We will not be well served.

Yours fraternally

Don Paterson