Saturday, November 22, 2014

When is a problem not a problem? Words to live by from Dilbert's Pointy-Headed Boss


DILBERT     by Scott Adams

[Click to enlarge]

by Ken

As wonderful as today's Dilbert strip is -- I expect to get ample rest-of-lifetime use out of those words-to-live-by of Dilbert's PHB -- it's even wonderfuller when you think about it a little, because there are at least two issues going on here. (Possibly three, maybe more.)

Issue No. 1

I suppose Issue No. 1 has to be that sublime utterance of the PHB: "It isn't a problem if you can give it to someone else."

Issue No. 2 (or possible the actual Issue No. 1)

But that still leaves, as Issue No. 2, the actual original issue: Dilbert's dilemma in trying to figure out how to find some kind of meeting ground between: (a) their products and (b) the needs of the potential customer, which we've established aren't met by (a). The more I think about it, the more it seems to me a description of Our Modern World.

Example 1: Imagine there's a presidential candidate cobbling an RFP proposal from the electorate, which calls for Hope and Change, and his product -- which is to say himself -- doesn't do what they need. Should he give up and accept failure or lie about his features and transfer the problem to them?

Example 2: Imagine that a somewhat different segment of that same electorate grows surly about the government's unwillingness to wave a magic wand and make that surliness disappear, and issues an RFP which is answered by a smooth-talking foreign fella from Alberta whose feature set, which consists of pathological lies and crackpot demagoguery, again doesn't meet their needs. Does he give up and accept failure? (Is that the Albertan way?)

Issue No. 3

Then there's the issue, or perhaps constellation of issues, relating to the relationship between the PHB and his daddy -- the person who actually said, "It isn't a problem if you can give it to someone else.

Issue No. 4

And of course there's the issue, or perhaps constellation of issues, relating to the relationship between Dilbert and the PHB -- notably the PHB's utter indifference to Dilbert's input (on, well, practically anything) on the one hand, and on the other the not-exactly-subtle Dilbertian sarcasm that as usual goes over the PHB's head.

Issue No. 5

Finally, and I can't help thinking that this should really rank higher than No. 5, since it goes to the heart of both Dilbert's dilemma and the PHB's solutiion, because there's an issue with that proposed solution to the problem ("It isn't a problem if you can give it to someone else."), elegant as it is. Namely, does lying about the product features in the RFP proposal actually transfer the problem to the customer? Why would the customer buy the product without verifying that it actually meets the his/her/their needs? Or if the product is actually ordered and supplied, when the customer takes delivery and discovers that it doesn't meet his/her/their needs, won't he/she/they simply demand a refund or some other form of redress, thereby transferring the problem back to the supplier?

Oh wait, I just looked back at our Examples 1 and 2, and it appears that there really isn't an the problem-transfer problem. You'd think there would be, but there doesn't seem to be. Never mind.



At 11:18 AM, Anonymous mediabob said...

All good points, Ken. I believe, however, there are at least two more levels of analysis - the RFQ, and the Contract with T&C's. We, the electorate, usually never get input to those levels because, by then, the RFP is in the bottom of the birdcage.

At 5:29 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Well said, Bob, thanks!


At 2:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It isn't a problem if you can give it to someone else."

My employer hosted a series of seminars, open to all who desired to attend, under the group title of "Pass The Monkey". It was literally how to make any problem you discover belong to someone else. In fact, it was strongly encouraged for finding someone else to blame for any problem you encounter.

This destroyed any unit cohesiveness and team behavior we once had in abundance. It became a jungle, where the slickest backstabbers rose in influence, while those who actually got the work done were ignored and derided. Turnover rose dramatically, and to make up for the shortfall, outsourcing and contracting became the norm.

It is only a matter of time before some huge -and of course, "unforseen"- problem causes some serious issues. It won't cause the company to close, but it will hurt when the shareholders are denied a dividend - AGAIN!


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