The subject of a book of the same name by Scott Adams. The basic idea is that idiots are promoted to management in companies, where they can do the least damage. Unfortunately, this tends to happen before they've acquired any actual skills, so instead of being managed by an idiot who was at least once good at someting, you end up just being managed by an idiot.

Compare: The Peter Principle.

Book review

The Dilbert Principle is, frankly, an amazing work. Quite how Scott manages to be so repeatedly funny is beyond me, and every single page is littered with comics, witty analogies and gags. This is no small achievement for a book so large - many aspects of the corporate world are covered, including teamwork, ISO 9000, managers and the habits of those strange creatures - the scientist and the engineer.

If you're a fan of Scott's unique brand of humor, don't give this a miss.

This writeup describes both the idea of the D.P. and the book of the same title.

The Dilbert Principle (idea)
The Dilbert principle was unearthed by Scott Adams when he found (from the first annual Dilbert Survey) that the thing that pissed off hapless workers the most was "idiots being promoted to management". Upon discovering this, Adams formulated the Dilbert principle:

Ineffective workers in a hierarchical organisation are systematically promoted to where they can cause the least damage: management.

A corollary of this is that the more incompetent a worker is, the higher up the chain of command they usually go, since these positions often have the least impact. An example? Well, the people who actually designed and constructed the Space Shuttle had more influence over whether or not it worked than the head honcho of NASA, who probably just told them to build something that looked like and worked like a rocket.

Why following the Dilbert Principle is bad
Scott Adams, on the subject of the Dilbert Principle, quips "This has not proved to be the winning strategy you might think." The main reason for this is that under the Peter Principle, bosses at least had to undergo stages of temporary competence in their jobs; this meant that although they were ineffective leaders, they were at least able to understand what their subordinates were doing. Under the Dilbert Principle, incompetent workers are immediately promoted to management without first becoming competent. This means that they cannot understand what their subordinates are doing, and must make uninformed decisions on everything. This is bad.

The Dilbert Principle (book)
The subtitle for this book should be "Why Thing Always Go Wrong Even More Frequently Than The Peter Principle Says It Does", but it isn't. The subtitle is in fact "A Cubicle's Eye-View of Bosses, Meetings, Management Fads & Other Workplace Afflictions".
I can't understand why no one takes this book as seriously as Dr. Laurence's book, since Adams has some serious points to make, despite his occasional usage of swearing.

Here is the list of contents of the book, with some quotes from the first few chapters to convince you to buy the book.

  1. The Dilbert Principle
    "When I entered the workforce in 1979, the Peter Principle described management pretty well. Now I think we'd all like to return to those Golden Years when you had a boss who was once good at something."
  2. Humiliation
    "Hoteling sends an important message to the employee: 'Your employment is temporary. Keep your photos of your ugly family in the trunk of your car so we don't have to look at them.'"
  3. Business Communication
    "Any business school professor will tell you that the objective of business communication is the clear transfer of information. That's why professors rarely succeed in business."
  4. Great Lies of Management
    "Is it likely that your boss is a visionary who can predict the future even though he can't operate the computer on his desk?"
  5. Machiavellian Methods
    "Your advice has to shound plausible, no matter how destructive and self-serving it really is."
  6. Employee Strategies
    "No project is so risk-free that your company lawyer can't kill it."
  7. Performance Reviews
    "If all you did this year was sit in your cubicle and masturbate, dress it up with the latest buzzwords."
  8. Pretending To Work
  9. Swearing: The Key to Success for Women
  10. How to Get Your Way
  11. Marketing & Communications
  12. Management Consultants
  13. Business Plans
  14. Engineers, Scientists, Programmers, and Other Odd People
  15. Change
  16. Budgeting
  17. Sales
  18. Meetings
  19. Projects
  20. ISO 9000
    "If your company is not involved in 'ISO 9000' you probably have no idea what it is. If your company is involved in 'ISO 9000' then you definitely have no idea what it is."
  21. Downsizing
  22. How to Tell If Your Company Is Doomed
  23. Reengineering
  24. Team-Building Exercises
  25. Leaders
  26. New Company Model: OA5

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