Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Five Percent Rule

It has long been heuristically suspected that in any population, only about 1 in 20 will actually achieve a performance that is at a level of 1 in 100 or better (i.e. better than 99% of the population's performances). This kind of supposition is not always true of all populations, but it is a good heuristic.

Look around you. Who is the best person in your class, group, set or other population for a given task? Is that person capable of beating 99% of all performances by your population? That person must be at the very worst a 1-in-20 phenomenon — in a group of 40, only 2 such are expected.

In a staff of say 300 people, this would mean not more than 15 are A-class. By this I mean using a measure of something like: A = top 1%, B = next 4-5%, C = next 10-15% and D = next 25% or so. Anyone after the top 45-50% should be considered a failure.

Why? Because in such populations, the people have already been selected for the job. If they can't do the job well, the question that should be asked is, "Why are they so bad?"

And this is one of the reasons that I believe all human resource executives and suchlike should be fired. They appear to serve no useful purpose at all and I am willing to think that basic filters plus luck-of-the-draw would do better.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Augustin said...

Apparently, already proven. Not sure whether you have heard of this study.

http://oldweb.ct.infn.it/cactus/peter_principle_sup_material.html

won the Ig Nobel Prize.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011 8:55:00 am  
Blogger Trebuchet said...

That's a computational solution based on heuristics, not a proof. And yes, I heard of this study while investigating competency levels in the Old Place. :D

Wednesday, October 05, 2011 9:07:00 pm  

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