Project Management Competence: Building Key Skills for Individuals, Teams, and Organizations

By J. Davidson Frame | Go to book overview

Chapter Three
Uncovering Organizational
Pathologies

The premise of this book is that competence pays and that competent workers will receive their just rewards—provided that they work in environments that are not fettered with strong organizational pathologies. This is a rather strong proviso. Regrettably there is no shortage of organizational pathologies in business and government enterprises.

Organizations, like people, can display pathological behavior. This was the central theme of one of the best-selling humor books in the mid-1990s: The Dilbert Principle (Adams, 1996). The author reminds us that in the past, capable people were promoted within their organizations until they reached their level of incompetence—this is the basic postulate of the Peter Principle (Peter and Hull, 1969). In recent times, Adams points out, what he calls the Dilbert Principle (named after the central character of a cartoon series he created) has replaced the Peter Principle. That is, “The incompetent workers are promoted directly to management without ever passing through the temporary competence stage” (p. 12).

Organizational pathological behavior can be defined as behavior rooted in an organization's culture or procedures that works against the best interests of the organization and its members. Organizations in which messengers who bear bad news are punished demonstrate this pathology. Similarly, pathological behavior is displayed in organizations that persistently apply yesterday's solutions to today's problems, that focus only on the bottom line, whose management philosophy is driven by the fad de jour, and that engage in deception and corrupt business practices. Consequences

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