November 09, 2004 - Scott Adams, Agile Pioneer

The combination of my blog entry yesterday and my drive home made me realize that the Agile pantheon is missing an important entry: Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert.

The reason this occurred to me on my drive is that I was listening to The Dilbert Principle. Right off in the introduction Adams provides a question/answer that dove-tails nicely with yesterday's lesson:

Why does business seem so absurd? Because we are all idiots.

He's very clear that this idiocy is situational and transient, but that people who are generally capable will, at certain times, make mistakes that in retrospect seem, well, idiotic. That certainly would explain why "human error is an inevitable input"; because the odds are overwhelming that some reasonably smart person is eventually going to do something stupid.

Paired with this general explaination is the further clarification about the business environment. We aren't any more or less idiotic at work, but our expectations are different. We expect the work environment to be rational, logical and predictable, and when it isn't then it stands out like a sore thumb. In Agile/XP discussions the equivalent is that person (I'm tempted to say 'manager') who will arrive at an airport 2 hours before departure for a personal vacation -- in case something unexpected happens -- but in his work life believes that the schedule created in January will be a reliable guide come August.

But I'll admit "we're all idiots" isn't enough to elevate someone to pantheon status. For that I'll point to the final chapter of The Dilbert Principle, "Chapter 26, New Company Model: OA5".

Some of the ideas of OA5 (Out At 5) should sound familiar to people who are up on their Agile literature:

So buy or borrow a copy of The Dilbert Prinicple and read about OA5. And when you find yourself thinking of The Agile Manifesto or XP Explained just remember, Scott got there first.

Posted by Jeffrey Fredrick at November 9, 2004 01:30 PM

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Re: "there is a limit to how happy you can be at work, so any really big advances in happiness will come by leaving work earlier"

I'm not so sure that this statement is accurate or perhaps I'm concerned that it may be misleading. Work tends to be the main forum for people to achieve flow. Assuming that he's referring to leaving work to engage in more pleasurable activities... well that's more likely to be a path to depression than happiness.

This is not to say that all work allows for flow or purpose, or that all non-work is just about pleasure.

Posted by: Jason Yip on December 28, 2005 12:00 AM

People of my father's generation used to achieve flow away from work by pursuing hobbies and sports. My dad's maybe a special case as he was self-employed all my life, so he was generally only working at things he enjoyed anyway, but I find if I'm not in a job I enjoy, or in a good situation at work where I can be left alone to get into a flow state, I can compensate by going home and doing my own stuff on my computers. Work tends to be a place where flow ought to happen, but there's often too many people who will disrupt it. At home, once the kids are in bed, you're your own master.

Posted by: Matt Moran on February 14, 2006 02:03 AM

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