“What do you think the PTC is here?”

It’s the early 2000s and I’m working at a health-care data company in Philadelphia. One of the core programmers* asks me that as we’re walking to lunch.

I had no idea what they meant, and laughing, they took the time to explain it to me.

The PTC Score is a somewhat abusrd but horrifingly succinct and accurate way to describe the health and morale of a technical organization.

The question is presented somewhat along these lines: “What percentage of workers could be replaced with pie-throwing-clowns and have a net-zero impact upon morale.”

It seems simplistic, but there is some nuance to this scale. Pie-throwing-clowns, by their very nature are humorous. And that will cause a net lift in morale on it’s own. From that, one can deduce that it is very rare for an organization to have a PTC of 0%. Even the healthiest or organizations could use to lose a few people to being clowns.

You can’t just replace everyone with clowns though. The work-load would increase on the remaining non-clowns and drive morale down.

That’s why the “net-zero impact on morale” is what gives you the important number. A mertic such as per-worker workload doesn’t give you the description that PTC does. It tells you the health of the organization by how much of the actual work is being done and where. It represents a theoretically efficient orgainzational maximum within your own business and company parameters as they exist.

This makes it an effective descriptor of companies. If I told you a company had a PTC such as 50% or higher, you would know to avoid working there at all costs.

I used to think that extremely high PTC scores were merely hyperbole. But then again, a few years consulting introducted me to groups and organizaions who were easly 90%+ PTC.

So now, look around at work. Be honest and count heads on people who should be replaced by clowns tomorrow. What is your company score?

* I really really wish I could remember who it was that told me this concept. But alas, time has removed that knowledge.