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Focus on Systems...Not Goals Insists the Creator of Dilbert

Most companies have it all backwards, says Cartoonist Scott Adams.

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director

Every day, for more than a decade, he's blasted (mis)management, IT fiascos and inept leadership. Now Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip, says businesses should focus on systems, not goals, to achieve success. Of course, Adams may have just been playing to his audience.

Speaking at a recent IBM Connect 2014 conference, Adams insisted that leaders should be focused on creating a system that regularly increases their knowledge in a way that adds to their personal value. In contrast, he said focusing on goals is like trying to hit a target with a single arrow in the fog while riding a horse.

He argued that in today's complex society, goals have become too limiting (tell that to a struggling company trying to make payroll). Systems, in contrast, are things that people should regularly do that increase the odds than an event ends up creating an experience that leads to an eventual success, even though that success might not be immediately apparent.

Of course, Adams didn't mention that for most systems builders, the goal is to create a system—and maintain their jobs—regardless of whether or not any goal is achieved.