The Dilbert Principle In Education

We’ve all seen it haven’t we?

You know, the colleagues who somehow occupy a senior position even though they are a) dreadful b) incompetent c) dreadfully incompetent.

Schools are rammed with personnel doing a damn fine job. They are also rammed with managers and leaders who can’t manage or lead.

The Dilbert Principle states that, generally speaking, incompetent workers will be promoted above competent workers to managerial positions, thus removing them from the actual work and minimising the damage they can do. This happens in the NHS and schools all the time.

In other words, people who least deserve promotion (or most deserve to be fired) are actually promoted instead of the competent.

Why? They have loud voices and can sound like they know what they are doing when in fact they don’t have a clue. These people tend to be Seagull Managers – a manager who flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps over everything and then leaves.

Why? They need to be moved on because they act as block to the smooth running of the coalface and frontline.

In the business world the incompetent get to the top because of good, old-fashioned cronyism or they might just end in a position of authority because of something superficial like their appearance.

In schools, there are Dilberts who end up as Deputy Heads and even Heads because of fate. In one of my first inspections, a maths coordinator with four years teaching experience was ‘promoted’ to Deputy Head after the Deputy Head filled in for the Head who went off with stress. When this temporary Head then went off sick, the maths coordinator then jumped up to the Head’s role because there was no one else who wanted it. It’s the stuff of fairytales.

The principle is named after the comic-strip Dilbert and was named by Dilbert creator Scott Adams who identified this trend as common in businesses. In the Dilbert strip of February 5, 1995, Dogbert says that “leadership is nature’s way of removing morons from the productive flow”.

He wrote a book describing the principle in detail.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: