I am a great fan of Scott Adams. He created Dilbert, the comic strip corporate bloke who seems to know how to go around the maze of corporate world. So borrowing from Scott, I use the term, Dilbert mood, situation, or trap.
What it means is that when one is in a Dilbert mood the person is deliberately doing things to throw people off track, go chasing a wild goose, or getting things done in a devious way, you know, playing the corporate cat and mouse game.
A Dilbert situation or a trap is when you are cornered to take a decision which may not be in the best interest of your organisation. You need to be aware of the corporate games people play.
A typical showing of the Dilbert mood is the use of technology. With the fast advent of computers in the office, a savvy user can lay claim to knowledge and skills that makes you vulnerable to his whims and caprices. Oh I need another person to help me out otherwise I cannot do this. Since you are not that well versed with software or information technology, you are soon taken for the ride.
And before you realize it, you have a full fledged department sprouting in the organisation.
When you are at a high level position, you need to wade through corporate life carefully. You are not even allowed to joke with your associates. The joke will be taken seriously and instead of spontaneous laughter, you will get back masqueraded and measured ones, uncertain of how hearty it should be and whether it is loud enough to please you.
Not only jokes, your words can be taken, measure for measure. I have had several instances when I have said, you know, may be we should do this. Sooner than later, the may be turns out to be done, and attached herewith is the bill for doing so! This has made me reticent and measured of what I say in public.
How do you make sure you are not trapped into a Dilbert situation? You need to enlighten yourself so that your associates know that they cannot get away trying to fool you. You need to keep abreast of developments in the major areas of your business and the industry as a whole. The higher you go, the saying goes, the more you need to see the business holistically. Very much so. And do not ever forget to press for details.
I have made the mistake of taking management literature seriously that propounds, once you reach the top you focus on strategy, have a hands off policy and let operational matters be run by people down the line. Delegate responsibility, by all means. You are not here to micro-manage the business. However you need to develop a sixth sense of how the business is operating, and that you can, by keeping your fingers on its pulse. Because of this hands off policy and not looking into details, I have been trapped into situations which has cost us dearly.
If you have a chance to see a Dilbert comic strip, you will see him in the typical cubicle that spawn across open office space. I don't know why but I find cubicles claustrophobic. Let us look at home. If you study or work at home, is that done in a cubicle? Chances are you have a study table in your bedroom and the more affluent, perhaps a separate study room.
I usually sneak into one of my children's room to get my work done as our youngest two year old son goes around the house to find out where I am. Once he finds me, I have to interrupt what ever I am doing so that he can tap the keyboard and say “baba, compukar”. After he has had his fun, off he goes, seeking to play with his sister. But of course, no cubicles.
Fortunately, our office is designed with an open layout that gives you a sense of space, which makes you feel relaxed as you work through your daily chores. We have adjusted to the concept and this openness adds a lot of value in terms of easy communication, access to colleagues and quick decision making. When we mooted this idea, top managers at that time came up with excuses like, how can we think creatively in such an open space? You could see them cringe with uncomfortable looks on their faces as they adjusted to sitting in the open with their associates. Like any new idea, there will be resistant to change and you need to push through with your agenda for change. Being democratic will not work.
So how do you make sure you do not fall in a Dilbert trap? Read, read and read. Keep yourself abreast with the latest developments in your industry and beyond. Do not make yourself obsolete otherwise you will have your own Dilbert waiting for you, around the corner.