Batuhan: A prophet of our time-A A +A
Saturday, October 26, 2013
LOOK up the word “prophet” in Google today, and the following definitions come up.
Prophet: (1) A person regarded as an inspired teacher or proclaimer of the will of God (“The Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah”); (2) a person who advocates or speaks in a visionary way about a new cause or theory (“He is repeatedly hailed as a prophet of modernism”); and (3) a person who predicts what will happen in the future (“The prime minister ignored the prophets of doom”).
Though mainly religious in use, prophet, in a lay context, can also mean those persons who found a new way of thinking, especially thinking about the future.
It is in this vein that I consider Scott Adams to be one such person. Scott who?
That’s the question many of you may be asking? What has he done? Has he made iPhones like Steve Jobs, or designed software like Bill Gates? Well, in a word, no. But he has made an impact so profound in today’s corporate world. He has called it for what it is—which is nothing more than an extension of human organization anywhere.
Which means it has its share of human faults, frailties, mistakes and stupidity.
And the way he puts it across—as humorous, now iconic Dilbert cartoon strips—always manages to put a smile and a bit of humility on every stern-looking executive’s face.
Consider this dialogue in one of his comic strips on functional organizations (vertically organized and narrowly-focused management structures with many layers of decision-making):
Wally: It takes an average of five people to approve any action in this company, and at any given time, three are on vacation.
Wally: Should I violate our company-culture of consensus building, or just sit around and do nothing?
Pointy-haired boss: Did I mention flailing around in futility?
Wally: I was hoping you forgot that option.
Meditate on this funny exchange for a bit, and you discover that Scott Adams speaks the truth through Dilbert. Many companies, especially ones trumpeting themselves as “global” and “functionally-aligned” all the way to the top, seem to think that they are saving costs, managing more effectively, or just really being a generally better company all-around. Adams calls their bluff and exposes the organizational structure for what it is—a labyrinthine mess under which no one—however great his sin may have been—should ever be forced to operate under.
Think about it for a second. Suppose you were playing a game of chess somewhere in Luneta. Now for every move you make, you need to consult someone in New York, who has no sight of your chessboard. Worse, he may not even really know the game of chess very well. Your opponent is of the same predicament. Only his moves need to be consulted from London. How complicated and time-consuming do you think your game of chess will become?
Now, would it not be better, if the New York and London folks are really the experts, to just give you the rules of the game, instruct you to always play by the rules, and then leave you to enjoy the game? Which scenario would you say any sane, rational and right-thinking human being would prefer?
I don’t know about you, but I know which one the prophet will choose.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 27, 2013.