Master or Slave? Dilbert, Dogbert and
the Scott Adams New Order at Work
By: John Shepler
Well, I've gone and done it. I've signed
up to become a member of Dogbert's New Ruling Class, the DNRC.
Oh, it started out innocently enough as a simple expedition on
the Internet to see what others were doing with electronic newsletters.
A couple of hours later, I found myself deeply mired in the wealth
of content that is the Dilbert site.
I catch the Dilbert cartoons in the paper every
once in awhile and even have a little Dogbert mascot on the dash
of my car. Dilbert and Dogbert are the 90's edition of the Peanuts
characters, Charlie Brown, Lucy and Linus, that we grew up with.
OK, so we still read Peanuts, too. The two comic strips are actually
complementary. Snoopy and Woodstock share a philosophy of life
based on home and school. Dilbert and the gang show us the humor
in everything we take so seriously at work.
Now what about this DNRC? It sounds
exclusive, either in the snobbish sense of carving out a little
niche of superiority, or the more sinister sense of gangs , cartels
and subversive political fringe groups. Or, maybe it's just some
nutty cult thing. The stated mission is that "when Dogbert
conquers the planet and becomes supreme ruler, everyone who subscribes
to the free Dilbert Newsletter will form the New Ruling Class
and have complete dominion over everyone else. The others (we
call them In-duh-viduals) will be our domestic servants. Don't
let that happen to you."
So, what's it going to be for you? Master
or Slave? I'm not sure I like the idea of either role. I thought
we were beyond that kind of repressive mentality and into an
era of equality, contributions through team spirit, and general
acceptance of all individuals. And what about these people who
are spelled in-duh-viduals? Are these people we know?
To find those answers, I researched
newsletter #17. I expected to find a piece that was, well, dog-matic.
No so. Dogbert is really more the editor than the author. The
contributions come from people all over the world who choose
to share vignettes of life among their co-workers and others
with whom they come into contact . There are a lot of little
stories to pick from, but I liked this one:
"I was visiting Windsor Castle,
outside of London, on vacation. Windsor Castle is directly in
the flight path of Gatwick International Airport. While standing
outside the castle admiring the elegant structure, a plane flew
overhead at a relatively low altitude making a tremendous amount
of noise. One particularly annoyed American tourist in-duh-vidual
standing next to me whined, "why did they build the castle
to close to the airport?""
Alright, yes, brotherhood of mankind
or no brotherhood of mankind, I'd like to distance myself from
these in-duh-viduals. My heart wants to be inclusive of everyone,
but at some point you just have to cut the cord and let some
of them go...for your own sanity.
Still, I'm not that much of a joiner,
and I really needed more of a reason to get involved in this
Dilbert-Dogbert movement to unite the enlightened technological
class. The clincher came when I discovered that they had a tool
in their domain. It's a tool that can save us countless hours
of needless frustration in our business transformations of reengineering
and reorganization into enterprises.
Let me set the stage. One of the most
difficult parts of creating any new organization is defining
the unique purpose of the enterprise, that which sets it apart
from all others and gives it a business imperative. Often, executives
tackle this monumental task over days or weeks of wrangling at
off-site hideaways. It's a crucial chore. The quality of the
result can make or break the fledgling operation. Amazingly,
the application of artificial intelligence (no doubt cyber-canine)
has taken all the stress and drudgery out of this responsibility.
All you need to do is to access the Dogbert "Mission Statement
Generator" software with nothing more sophisticated than
Netscape or Microsoft Internet Explorer. With the push of a button,
your purpose is displayed with an eloquence rarely seen in these
proclamations. Here's one I generated in no time for our engineering
"We seemlessly maintain quality
technology in order to enthusiastically enhance high-payoff content
to exceed customer expectations."
Even simpler, if you want something
for a business card: "Our mission is to synergistically
engineer competitive deliverables."
Incredible, eh? How about this for Information
Services: "It is our business to continually initiate performance-based
paradigms to allow us to collaboratively network scaleable deliverables
for 100% customer satisfaction."
Here's another that could easily improve
the world-class stature of the Human Resources organization:
"Our mission is to continue to completely leverage existing
principle-centered leadership skills and interactively facilitate
seven-habits-conforming intellectual capital while promoting
personal employee growth."
I'll not hoard the technology. You can
access it yourself to get your own organization empowered in
reengineered enlightenment (it's starting to rub off) by visiting one or more of the Dilbert sites listed below.
Books of Interest:
Conversations with Dogbert by Scott Adams
Dogbert's Top Secret Management Handbook by Scott Adams