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A California Original

In tonight’s entry, I want to pay tribute to Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert and a California Original. (Though originally from New York, he has an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley.) Although I have never met Scott in person, he lives in the next city to the west. I was working tonight and noticed Scott’s book, “The Dilbert Principle” on the shelf over my desk. The book was purchased for me by a friend who was the Configuration Manager at a company where we both worked. The book was purchased at the bookstore of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, when Hei-ming and I were traveling on business for our company.

The Dilbert Principle is: “The most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage – MANAGEMENT.”

I have also heard a similar sentiment: “Those who can, DO! Those who can’t, MANAGE!” :-) (Teachers everywhere, feel free to use this….) :-)

The company for which Hei-ming and I worked at the time earned special recognition by Scott Adams in an article that he published in 1995 in the Wall Street Journal, in which he explained the principle. The article mentioned a short-lived “bug bounty” program in which both the QA folks who find bugs and the Development folks who fix bugs could earn bounties ($$$) for doing so (with the goal of reducing the number of bugs in the final software products). Scott pointed out that the Development folks actually *create* the bugs in the first place! :-) The bug bounty program was discontinued after one QA manager earned a small fortune in two weeks or, if not a small fortune, at least more than the company wanted to pay. Personally, I believe that all of the folks involved were honest, but the appearance of a possible “cash-generation cycle” earned special recognition by Scott, and rightly so!

I also feel close to Scott (as I am sure millions of workers do, all over the world), in part because the company for which he worked when he started to write Dilbert was one of the customers I managed, at one of my companies. Fortunately for Scott, people email him true stories all of the time, and truth is stranger than fiction. There is no shortage of new material in his chosen genre.

So Scott, thank you for all of the hours of entertainment for folks all over the world, even when the stories hit “close to home.” (When I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, I usually laugh!) Most importantly, Dilbert shines light into some corporate practices that need the scrutiny.

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo 

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