Fixing Dilbert LO17383

Dennis Keibler (
Wed, 11 Mar 1998 15:58:05 -0500

In Reference To LO17373:

The quotes from Scott (Thank you Scott) do a good job of describing much
of the business environment today.

Scott Simmerman wrote:

> "Put a good person in a bad system and the bad system wins, no contest."

After all these years, bad (destructive?) systems are still with us.

> "It's relatively simple. If we're not getting more, better faster than
> they are getting more, better faster, than we're getting less better
> or more worse."
> Tom Peters

They exist even though we, as managers, employees, and owners try to fix
the bad' systems.

> "How long can we go mean and lean before we become gaunt and dead."

Some fixes have done wonders for treating the symptoms of a failing

> "Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex intelligent
> behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple stupid
> behavior.
> Dee Hock

But eventually, the fixes themselves become problems.

> "A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world."
> adapted from John Le Carre

So if someone can't fix something without causing more problems to appear,
without doing more harm, what are they to do?
Maybe they should stop what they're doing, look at the whole system, and
learn the interactions. Well, this seems obvious. But if it is so obvious,
then why do bad systems' continue to exist? We recognize something as a
problem and we attempt to fix it. But eventually, we often end up making
matters worse and feeding the cycle. At this point we (hopefully) will
start examining our assumptions. Why is a system described as bad? What
standards are being used for comparison? How do we define a "fix?" And
these types of questions continue on, leading us down that renown road of
continuous improvement.

Scott sent letters to the President in order to:

> 2) To provide the most senior person with a detailed report of a
> customer's shopping experience, with sufficient information for corrective
> action.

He was assuming that the President cared about a customer's experience,
and that "corrective action" was in order.

While I may feel empathy for Scott's injustice, I am hesitant to assume
the company will "compare themselves to outside organizations" and ...
"begin to see their performance levels as a long-term problem for them."
Perhaps they need to focus on serving a fewer number of customers -
letting some customers go to their new competitors? Perhaps in their
corporate culture being hash and unyielding is a desirable quality? I
certainly don't know? How do they define a problem?

It is very frustrating when someone feels they have a solution, but no one
steps up to claim the problem. No one neither sees the "better" way the
solution provider is offering, nor do they show appreciation. For Scott,
who can see systems so clearly, this must be especially frustrating. But
the lesson for one person to learn is not always the same lesson for
another. And it is often a challenge to know when to speak and when to
wait - to speak with wisdom.

The "Dilbert environment" prevails. Let us remember our assumptions
before we set about to 'fix' Dilbert.


Dennis Keibler

.-'~~~-. .'o oOOOo`. :~~~-.oOo o`. `. \ ~-. oOOo. `.; / ~. OO: .' ;-- `.o.' ,' ; ~~--'~ "The opposite of a correct statement is a false ; ; statement. But the opposite of a profound truth _\\;_\\//_ may well be another profound truth." -Niels Bohr

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