Apple retail’s Ron Johnson and John Browett have proved the Peter Principle is alive and well

“The Peter Principle is a principle articulated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter in which in an organization where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit, that organization’s members will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability,” Saibus Research writes for Seeking Alpha. “The principle is commonly phrased, ’employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence.’ In more formal parlance, the effect could be stated as: employees tend to be given more authority until they cannot continue to work competently.”

“Peter’s Corollary states that ‘In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties’ and adds that ‘work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence,'” Saibus Research writes. “We can see that the bosses of Apple Retail (AAPL) (Ron Johnson (2000-2011) and John Browett (2012)) have proven that the Peter Principle is alive and well in the 21st century retailing marketplace.”

Saibus Research writes, “We’re hoping that Apple Retail’s next boss is someone who is motivated to take it to the next level but isn’t motivated to use his experience at Apple Retail as a launching pad for his next position. Our research here reinforces our long position in Apple because we believe it was a learning experience for Tim Cook as well as the next head of Apple Retail.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We’re not ready to give up on Ron Johnson just yet.

Browett, of course, can go pound sand.


  1. Wait that’s bullshit !
    Who hired those men ?
    Who approved the tactics ?
    If Tim Cook did not then he’s just a puppet.

    Ask the Apple Employees who worked long and thru good and bad times what is wrong …
    Pushing products without giving due to the hard workers who still want to please the customers despite the manengment push for sales sales sales…
    Apple has always take pride in its customers elation of its great and amazing design.
    It workforce that cares for its products and Aid customers to no end !
    Where is the Apple that would try to help one and all when there is a calamity ?

    Opening the New York outlets got IPad mini opening is just crass after just a day of Sandy .. That’s just mean ..

      1. Read the link above.
        Apple cared when Steve was around.
        During the japan earthquake, Apple paid for all the expenses for its workers And they still got paid.
        That was a CLASSY move by apple.
        Recognizing that money is well and good but its workers and customer are far more important.
        It would be a CRASS move for Apple to not pay its worker who were Sandy victims, who are traumatized by the devastation to their house / home and loved one.
        Tell me are Americans less important than the Japanese?
        Or are you saying that Apple should not care cause it is a company?

        1. Making a mountain out of a molehill. What do you say to the hundreds who lined up outside? Do you call the customers CRASS as well? if Apple had opened and no-one came because of Sandy then that would be one thing. To portray that as the same thing, even when hundreds lined up, is FUD indeed.

          Go zulfucki yourself.

        2. I get the feeling you hammered out your first post while still apoplectic about … well I’m not sure, as that post was bullshit! and subsequent ones didn’t improve.

          Slow down, enter the correct characters and words with care.

          ” … Apple cared when Steve was around” well that’s a load of crap! and possibly back to front.

          You have NO insight into who motivated Apple’s reaction to the Japanese disaster.

          People regularly talk about history – without any facts but lots of assumption. – What’s the point.

          I’ve been an Apple user since ’88, I’ve never owned a “PC” and yet I can’t remember the halcyon days that you speak of, you seem to exist within an arcadian dream? Ponies, unicorns, rainbows and Steve Jobs acting like Mother Teresa.
          As I remember it, that’s not the narrative re the principal player, who was driving the greatest business disturbance as it unfolded over the last two decades.

          Steve was as pertinacious as he was philosophical, that, we have learnt.

          Apple donated $2.5 million dollars to the Red Cross appeal.

          With respect of those killed and affected by Hurricane Sandy, the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami were of a different distinction.

          Events of different scales, invoke different reactions, the practice of “Business as usual” can seem abhorrent to some people at the time, however to other people it is important that a sense of normality continues to structure their daily life in/during times of unrest and duress.

          Besides if you truly think that Apple was purely after $’s re sales of the iPad mini, then you are delusional.

          Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.

          16,000 killed.

          6,114 injured.

          3,000 missing.

          340,000 people displaced.

          Fukushima Nuclear Power station – Level 7 meltdown.

          $122 billion in damages.

  2. Don’t say we Brits didn’t warn you about Bowkett.

    Nice $65,000,000 work if you can get it, though, eh?

    As an Apple shareholder, I wonder if anyone worries they just blew so much of my dosh on a muppet?

    1. As a fanatic of organizational behavior, I’d enjoy reading through a transcript of Browett’s hiring interviews.

      We know Tim Cook is learning on the job. But that’s a good thing because he really is LEARNING on the job. He reversed a massive blunder. Kind of reminds me of the hell Steve jobs went through during his first half with Apple. Jobs readily listed out his biggest blunders. Half of being a ‘genius’ is leaping into solving one’s failures.

  3. I’m glad Browett is gone. Obviously. I wish Ron Johnson was still with Apple. Obviously. I still have to wonder if it was Browett or someone above him guiding him through those errors in judgment? He did have people above him so maybe it wasn’t all his fault as I have thought it was all along? It’s difficult for me to believe that if he had those thoughts when he came to Apple that he would’ve been hired. Did he really make those blunders on his own? Was he really given that much leeway? Who is responsible for hiring him? Who was his boss? Why didn’t they know what he was doing? It’s difficult to believe that they didn’t know what he was doing. Could be other heads will roll eventually? But at least Browett is gone. Gone before he could do too much damage. As for Ron Johnson, he just bit off more than he could chew at JC Penny. It’s literally apples and oranges. His plan may look good on paper but JCPenney doesn’t have enough money to make it work. You think Apple has dropped, check out JCPenney! Too bad he couldn’t come back to Apple. But that will never happen. He wouldn’t and they wouldn’t. I guess it looked like the ultimate challenge for Ron Johnson, and it has proven to be more than that. That’s too bad. But I guess he will at least be compensated well. Although I don’t think that’s why he left Apple. I wish him luck and I wish Browett a nice trip. Wouldn’t Browett look good at Mr. softy?

  4. What they’re saying about Ron Johnson being over his head at JCP is bullshit. When he got there he said it would take two years for his plans to bear fruit, and he’s not done yet.

    The fact is, without Ron, JCP would be gone by now. He showed up with $40M of his own money that he invested in the company.


    1. It was $52 million, and it was “funny money” anyway. Purely a gesture.

      He may have said it would take two years, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t done a terrible job. He has. JCP was struggling, but still selling stuff and making a profit. Now they are almost out of money and sales are way, way down. He’s going to destroy the company.

      (Ex-JCP Employee here, FWIW)

  5. The problem with JC Penny is that it’s largely an unnecessary retailer.

    It’s not a cheapo bargain bin like Wal-Mart.
    It’s not a discount outlet like Stein Mart.
    It’s not a club like CostCo.
    It’s not high end like Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom.
    It’s not an off brand retailer like Dollar General or Family Dollar.

    So WTF is it’s market?

    1. I’ve wondered the same thing, but Ron Johnson must believe there is a market opportunity that can be addressed. In my book, Mr. Johnson is one of the best minds in American retail – before Apple, he was a star at Target where he was responsible for differentiating that chain from its competitors, including Walmart. He is no stranger to the low end of the market and as others have pointed out, his plan for JCP was always going to take more than a couple quarters. For what it is worth, I hadn’t darkened the door of a JCP in at least two decades until this year; I’ve recently made several purchases there and would generally rate the experience as a good one.

      1. His ideas are sound, but JCPenney is not a good fit for them. If he had started a new company with his vision, I believe it would take off, but it’s not going to succeed as a makeover for JCP.

        It also doesn’t help that his internal hirings have been terrible and he’s surrounded himself with incompetence.

      2. Defining Target is easy. It is a slightly less sleazy version of Wal-Mart.

        JC Penny is the answer to a question nobody is asking. The customers they already have hate the changes and those he would like avoid JCP like the plague.

  6. Johnson knew when he took over JCP that it would be a long term change. If you have listened to his plan you would know it is to bring in technology into the store. You will not have to go to checkout counters, employes can do it on the spot; or even self checkout. This could not be done with the old coupon system. Also JCP has a 100+ years in data on customers. He knows how to mine it to get better customers. He is looking at a long term change.

    1. “Also JCP has a 100+ years in data on customers.”

      Not even close to true. They have useful customer metrics from the last few years, maybe. The infrastructure at JCP is beyond laughable. As a company, it has historically been very anti-technology. They were the last major retailer to accept credit cards. They wrote up receipts by hand in some stores into the 1970s.

  7. Looks like most comments got off the subject, but back to the subject:
    I whole heartedly agree with the article and the principle. There is so much emphasis on advancing to make you successful that just doing a good job at the level your at and staying at that level isn’t recognized or rewarded. It is always “move up the ladder.” The school of experience means less and less while more and more emphasis is put on education and degrees. There are some things that education can’t teach as well as the school of hard knocks.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.