Dilbert Becomes the Boss, Sort Of

The Tables Turn for Dilbert’s Creator – New York Times

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, is a boss. He had long avoided having any employees, even in his Dilbert entertainment empire. But, as an investor in a restaurant, he has ended up managing a location, at the risk of becoming a pointy-haired boss himself. Instead of the cartoon boss who knows nothing about technology, Adams runs the risk of knowing nothing about restaurants. Here is Scott’s blog post and discussion about the article.

Scott says, in the Times article:

“Certainly I’m an example of the Dilbert Principle,” he said. “I can’t cook. I can’t remember customers’ orders. I can’t do most of the jobs I pay people to do.”

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But Adams is trying, he goes on to say:

In sizing up his own struggles as boss, he said: “The toughest thing is I have trouble being evil. I never punish mistakes, and it’s impossible for me to ask people to work harder. So my defense is to make sure people are happy about being here.”

Struggles? This whole notion of “we have to punish people for mistakes,” maybe that can be replaced with real systemic problem solving? It’s one thing if somebody is stealing from the register — no time to be understanding, but I wonder what other mistakes happen in a restaurant? And are they primarily caused by the system, as Deming always taught (and as we often see in factories and in hospitals). I’d assume that would be the case.

Anyway, good luck to Dilbert the Boss.

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Mike T says

    Obviously Adams would have to have that evil manager mentality, for as often as he’s bad-mouthed Lean and Six Sigma. If he tries to use Lean techniques, his book sales would drop dramatically as he would be viewed as hypocritical. :)

    I always loved the Dilbert cartoon, it is the thing most-often posted on the Union billboard. Whether you’re for Lean and/or Six Sigma or against, it’s still funny…and represents manufacturing floors or office areas dead-on.

    Good luck to the newest evil manager. Hopefully he will follow the “go see” mantra and become successful.

  2. Mark Graban says

    Good point, Mike. I didn’t mean to imply that Scott Adams was a Lean disciple or meant to use Lean practices in his restaurant operations. I just thought it is interesting to see how the ultimate critic of managers will do as one.

    Maybe we should send him “Lean for Dummies?”

  3. Mike T says

    I’d find a few dollars to donate toward the purchase/shipping!


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