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Archive for February, 2011

MY DINNER WITH THE DOCTOR

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 28, 2011

My wife and I went out for dinner the other night with our doctor and his wife. Actually, there was nothing unusual about this as we have known them for 25 years as good friends and neighbors. He practices Internal Medicine and I have always known him to be sincere about his work. I’ve met a lot of physicians over the years, several of whom are out for a quick buck, so it is refreshing to talk to one who is dedicated and takes his work seriously. Knowing of my background in systems and Information Technology he began to tell me about some recent changes in his practice that are affecting the very nature of his work. Frankly, I was disturbed with what I heard.

There are administrative changes underfoot in doctor offices that will ultimately affect us all. In a nutshell, the government is blackmailing doctors to provide extensive data about their patients. If they fail to provide it by certain deadlines, the government will withhold a percentage of their Medicare/Medicaid compensation which can be quite substantial. Even though the doctors realize this will be a burden to them, they also know resistance is futile.

Electronic records management is intended to improve patient health care simply due to the sharing of medical data on a national level. To illustrate, if a patient from Florida who suffers a problem away from home, such as in Ohio, local doctors can easily access the patient’s medical records and treat him more effectively. There is only one problem with this, patient records are voluminous thereby making it laborious and time consuming to input.

The new reporting procedures require the doctors to personally review the records of each of their patients and input the data themselves, not an office manager or clerk. When completed, the doctors will be required to continually update the records using computer software. Even after the initial setup of patient data, which is no small task, asking physicians to update the records on an ongoing basis is considered a huge imposition and a distraction tending to interfere with the treatment of their patients. The technology for input is not conducive for simplifying the process and primarily consists of keyboards and mouse pointing devices. Voice-to-text has been around for some time, but it is not nearly at the level of sophistication required by physicians to stay on top of the task.

Another aspect that should be of consideration to American consumers is that the government will now have access to their medical records. They already have access to criminal and financial records, not to mention employment, citizenship and personal possessions (such as automobiles, housing and real estate). Now add in medical history and there will be little else the government will not know about us. Wow, talk about “Big Brother” watching. This should make all citizens gravely concerned about privacy and security issues.

Doctors are already being squeezed by insurance companies and malpractice attorneys. Now the government is going to add another level of bureaucracy to complicate their lives. So incensed are a lot of physicians about this that it appears a whole generation of doctors will likely abandon their practices over the next five years thereby radically disrupting patient care in this country.

“So, how are things in your business?” my Doctor friend finally asked.

I replied, “Not nearly as bad as I thought.”

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 11:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Doctors, Life, Management | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

ANNIVERSARIES

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 23, 2011

This weekend marks the thirtieth wedding anniversary for my wife and I, which many consider quite a milestone, particularly in an age where 40-50% of first time marriages end in divorce. We’ve already had a lot of people congratulate my wife and myself on this achievement as if we had just swum across the English Channel. Frankly though, we don’t understand what the hubbub is all about. After all, this is what we signed up for and we’re in it for the long haul. As an aside, I tend to appreciate anniversaries more so than birthdays as I, at least, had something to say about getting married.

My wife is one of three sisters, all of whom have been married for over thirty years and I have always wondered why we’ve all stayed together for so long. Politically and religiously the families were all quite different, but this didn’t seem to impede our relationships. Although we all met and married in Cincinnati, our parents came from different parts of the country and had different interests. There were no professional similarities between the fathers either, as there are none between the brothers-in-law. Most of our parents all knew each other and socialized but were not considered intimate friends. No, the answer must be elsewhere.

All of the parents had been deeply committed to their spouses and were there until “death do us part.” Two sets of the parents even celebrated fifty years together, another major milestone. Come to think of it, most of our close friends have all been married for over thirty years as well. One might conclude that the concept of marriage as an institution was indelibly impressed on us by the examples set by our parents, and reinforced by the people we gravitated towards, a sort of a “birds of a feather” phenomenon.

The sisters are all uniquely different. They may have their highs and their lows, but they still remain committed to each other. Interestingly, their husbands all get along rather well and enjoy each other’s company. Whenever my wife and I return to Cincinnati we all get together and have a great time. While the girls get together and do their thing, the boys will sit down and share a cigar, a drink, and talk politics, work, kids, and whatever else is on our minds. We’ve developed quite a kinship.

If I were to attribute anything to the longevity of our marriages I would have to believe it has something to do with how we were all raised by our parents. My wife’s parents tried to instill proper ethics and discipline into their daughters, and I would like to believe their husbands’ parents did likewise. I see us all as being rather responsible people who pay their taxes, take their work seriously and try to lead honorable lives. But I think a lot of people would accuse us of possessing archaic beliefs and are now out of touch with the mainstream. This may be so, but what we’ve learned from our parents we will hopefully pass on to our offspring. I just hope our own kids can make it to 30 and beyond and, like us, beat the odds.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 11:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Life, Marriage | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

DISCIPLINE IS NOT EVIL

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 20, 2011

I recently attended a training session for a nonprofit organization whereby the intention was to teach new members the policies and procedures for the organization. I was there to assist. During the course of the program, the instructor explained the protocol for conducting meetings where the public may be in attendance. In addition to “Roberts Rules of Order,” the group had supplemental procedures for recognizing and answering questions from the floor. All of it seemed rather simple and straightforward, but there were a couple of young people in attendance, whom I judged to be in their mid-20’s, who seemed to be baffled by the instructor’s explanation. The teacher patiently repeated the procedure and demonstrated with some examples. This didn’t seem to help as the students were still at a loss as to what the instructor was saying. At this point, other students chimed in to support the teacher and tried to explain the concept to them. I even threw in my two cents. After much cajoling, they finally acquiesced and claimed they understood, but I wasn’t convinced they did.

As I was driving home that night I thought about the two young students and wondered why they were having a problem comprehending what appeared to be a simple concept. Aside from being younger than myself, I judged them to be relatively well educated. “Is it possible that I am more intelligent than they are?” I thought to myself. No, I like to believe I am well rounded, but certainly not in the category of being a genius. In all likelihood, we were probably comparable in terms of intelligence. So, what was causing the problem? Then it hit me, simple discipline.

Both tended to dress rather roughly to work and it wasn’t uncommon for them not to shave. Their speech and manners also hinted of the lack of social graces. Further, after observing their work habits, I found they had a reputation for bucking the system. They were far from stupid, but their nonconformist attitudes tended to get in their way of learning and adapting.

Not long ago I wrote an article entitled, “What’s wrong with a little discipline?,” which described the efforts of Caroline Haynes, a school principal in the United Kingdom, who was raising the test scores of her students by implementing strict discipline in the classroom.

More recently, Amy Chua, a Professor at Yale’s Law School in Connecticut raised some eyebrows with the publication of her new book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” which is a memoir of her experiences raising two daughters using strict parenting techniques. This resulted in considerable criticism in the media and by parents who claimed Ms. Chua was too hard on her own children. Maybe she was, but you cannot argue with the end result whereby her children, who are now entering their college years, are intelligent and socially well-adjusted, not to mention excellent musicians. They excelled not because they were inherently bright, but because their mother instilled a sense of discipline in them by challenging them to think and participate.

In an age of permissiveness, where parents tend to be lax in enforcing discipline, people like Caroline Haynes and Amy Chua clearly demonstrate that discipline is not evil, but rather quite beneficial. However, as both people have discovered, there is a general perception by the public that discipline stifles the expression of individuality and creativity. Consequently, parents tend to be intolerant of such things as school uniforms and corporal punishment in public schools.

Consider this, up until the 1960’s there were dress codes in public schools. For example, boys had to wear collared shirts, slacks, and proper shoes. Blue jeans, gym shoes, T-shirts, and shorts were a taboo. Further, there were hair codes which defined length and cut. If anything was out of place, you were sent home. Likewise, girls had similar codes. Dress lengths were checked regularly and there were certain ways you couldn’t wear your hair. Excessive use of makeup was also checked. This all changed in the 70’s when kids rebelled and parents began to insist their children be given certain freedoms which resulted in a “grunge” look that remains with us to this day. Is it any small coincidence that the rebellion of school dress codes in the 70’s led to a similar change in office dress codes in the 90’s? Hardly.

It is not my intention here to make a pitch for student dress codes or the re-implementation of corporal punishment, rather to point out the far-reaching effects from the lack of discipline by parents. As evidenced by the work of Haynes and Chua, there are benefits associated with discipline such as producing a trained mind that knows how to analyze, think, and take initiative to seek the proper answer (which would have certainly helped the two young students mentioned earlier). Discipline also forces the person to assume responsibility and gives them a sense of purpose. As such, it significantly contributes to their maturity. Further, it promotes teamwork by teaching uniformity and commitment. Discipline affects our thinking patterns, speech, common courtesy and decorum, all of which contributes to making a person more socially adjusted.

When it comes to discipline, nobody likes to be pushed, least of all myself, but I have learned to push myself when necessary. As a kid though, every once and awhile I needed a good swift kick in the rear end to get my attention and point me in the right direction. Even a nudge from a caring parent or mentor, given at the right time, can work wonders. That’s what parenting is all about. Unfortunately, not enough people are doing this. Maybe if everyone was required to serve a two year hitch in the military things would be different.

Some people perceive discipline as evil, that it does nothing more than “teaches trained seals how to perform” while sacrificing their creativity and spirit in the process. Such accusations are naive and misunderstand the purpose of discipline which is how to effectively channel skills and creative energies. Discipline represents a process whereby we learn there are consequences for our actions or inaction (“cause and effect”), that there are both right ways and wrong ways for doing things. No great or important object was ever built without some form of discipline. Ask any engineer, architect, musician, inventor, scientist, manufacturer or craftsman; they will all tell you that you cannot build anything of substance without discipline.

No, discipline is certainly not evil, but you have to wonder about the people who fail to instill it. Excuses abound to rationalize why they do not do so, such as they don’t have time, or they don’t want to inhibit their children. Some are plain and simply afraid to do so in fear of the legal system. When parents fail to teach discipline it defaults to teachers, coaches, and employers to do so, which is not necessarily their responsibility and may produce undesirable results. Understand this, for every person who fails to learn some form of discipline, they become a burden on society and, accumulatively, they represent a decline in our civilization.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 11:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Education | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

WHAT A CARD

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 17, 2011

We don’t play a game of cards much anymore, games like Bridge, Pinochle, Euchre, Gin Rummy, Hearts, Whist, even “Uno.” Today you mostly see Poker, Blackjack, and Solitaire (on our computers), but that’s about all. Finding someone who knows how to play the other games is few and far between. The playing of cards goes back centuries, but I find its passing into history an interesting sign of our changing times.

We played cards for a variety of reasons; to gamble, to socialize, to improve our mental alertness, or to simply pass the time of day. Both of my grandparents on my father’s side, who were Scottish, were regular card sharks. They competed and won several card tournaments, winning a variety of home related prizes in the process, such as washing machines, air conditioners, blenders, and a variety of other kitchen gadgets. They won so much that they kept their surplus winnings in the attic. When their daughter (my aunt) got married, they told her to help herself to whatever was in the attic, which was quite a bounty.

My parents were avid Bridge players and they participated in several Bridge clubs wherever we lived. Some communities had “Newcomer Clubs” to help people acclimate to their new community and playing Bridge was considered an important part of this process. In other words, people played Bridge more for social purposes than just about anything else. There was usually considerable food to enjoy and alcoholic beverages to imbibe. Couples would take turns hosting Bridge clubs and it became a convenient way to get to know your neighbors. This worked so well, my parents made lifelong friends from such clubs.

As for me, I played Poker in college, but my passion quickly became Pinochle which we played nonstop during exam weeks (when we weren’t studying). I lived in a large Greek fraternity house on campus and it was hard not to find a game of Pinochle going on somewhere in the house. I don’t know why we found the game fascinating other than it requires strategy and sharpens your mental acuity. To us, it was a pleasant distraction from our studies. I found it somewhat addictive; so much so, even today I think I would drop just about anything to play it. There’s only one problem though, not too many people know how to play Pinochle anymore as card playing is diminishing.

If you were to ask a young person today about such games, they would probably yawn and call it “old fashioned” and maybe they’re right, maybe it is not as action packed as “Grand Theft Auto” or “Call of Duty” but I tend to believe such games enhance our socialization skills as well as mental alertness, not to mention our communication skills. Whereas Poker and Blackjack are primarily played for gambling purposes, the other games are played for mental gymnastics and the sheer joy of enjoying the company of others. It makes you wonder which is better for you, a hand of cards with friends, or a quick game on the computer by yourself. Whereas the former encourages extroverted behavior, the latter is more introverted in nature. Bottom-line, this is another fine example of how technology is influencing our behavior.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 11:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Social Issues | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

WATCHING THE CLOCK

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 15, 2011

I don’t wear a wristwatch anymore and, frankly, don’t really miss it. I never really liked wearing one and now consider it more of a status symbol as opposed to something practical for me to wear. When I need to know the time, I can get it from a number of places, such as my computer, cell phone, or in the car. I still manage to make appointments and am considered rather punctual. Other than a scheduled meeting, I am not very cognizant of time during the day other than knowing it is either morning, afternoon or evening. I tend to be more consumed with what I am working on as opposed to watching the clock which I think runs contrary to a lot of people today.

When I joined the workforce, it was made clear to me to concentrate on getting the job done, regardless of how much time it took. True, there were established hours of work which, in our case, was 8:30am – 5:00pm, Monday through Friday, but I don’t ever remember working such hours. You came in early, you stayed late, and coming in to work over the weekend was never considered unusual. This was the price you paid for being an exempt employee. I found I was not alone or unique in this regard. The many companies I visited on consulting assignments, both near and far, also had people who worked the same as I did. Maybe it was a generational thing.

Recently, I overheard a young worker lament to a friend how he had worked 50 hours for the week and was upset his boss asked him to come in over the weekend to finish an assignment. He was quite outraged by all of this. I just chuckled as I cannot remember the last time I only worked 50 hours in a normal work week.

I tend to believe exempt workers in this country are now more concerned with the amount of time they spend at work as opposed to what they produce. This signals a shift in our priorities and values. I realize we should be cognizant of both time and our work products, particularly for project management purposes, but if it is a choice between watching the clock and putting my name on something I produce, I will concentrate on the latter and not the former, at least that’s how I was trained to think as I entered the workforce. Over the last few decades though we have sacrificed craftsmanship for bean counting, and our perspectives have changed as a result.

To me, watching the clock means someone is not truly interested in his job; it is laborious and uninteresting. Conversely, not watching the clock and putting in extra time means a person is committed to his craft. In other words, the employee is taking his work seriously and considers it a natural extension of his personality. This is where our personal lives and professional lives become blurred and indistinguishable. This is hard for those who exclaim “Thank God it’s Friday!” on Facebook to understand. Workers nowadays tend to carefully delineate their personal and professional lives and keep them separated. To me, they are indistinguishable. Then again, this is not the first time I’ve been accused of being old-fashioned, and certainly not the last.

I am not so much concerned about keeping the boss happy as I am about producing something of value and quality. It is called “pride in workmanship,” something we traded in for wristwatches and other such status symbols a few years ago.

“Don’t watch the clock, watch the product or service to be produced.”
- Bryce’s Law

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 11:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Business, Management | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

ELDER TRANSITION

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 13, 2011

When I was a freshman in High School, I thought the seniors were so wise and cool, particularly those on the football team which I played on. Maybe it was nothing more than the facial hair that gave them the illusion of maturity. More likely though, I think it was their sense of confidence and skills that impressed me. Nonetheless, I couldn’t wait to become a senior where I would be empowered with their wisdom. A few years later, when I finally became one, I discovered there was no magical metamorphosis imbuing me with special knowledge, yet I noticed the freshmen were now looking at me oddly in the same way I had done when I was their age. The same was true in college and, as I was to discover, throughout my life. We’re all simply dancing as fast as we can and hoping we make the right decisions along the way.

For many years, we looked to our parents and the elders of our family to offer wise counsel in times of crisis. When something went wrong, they all seemed to know intuitively what to do. As we grow older though, the elders die off and we come to the sudden realization that we are now the elders, and we are the ones now charged with making the important life-altering decisions.

We see this same scenario played out in business and the other institutions we participate in. One moment we’re the rookie or “The Kid,” but before too long we discover we’re now the elder of the group with nobody to advise us anymore. We’re on our own. This epiphany dawned on me last year while I was attending a meeting of one of the nonprofit associations I’ve been involved with over the last ten years. Afterwards, a group of us were sitting around having a drink and I suddenly became cognizant I was now the elder at the table; that everyone had joined after me and all of my predecessors had moved along. It was a strange feeling, but I suddenly felt a strong sense of responsibility to offer the best advice I could to these junior members.

Becoming an elder either in business or some other organization carries a great deal of responsibility. Hopefully we were paying attention in our journey through life and learned something along the way, something of value to pass on to others. More than just knowledge, we are required to offer comfort in times of crisis, to mentor by example, communicate lessons learned from past experiences and the wisdom resulting from these experiences. Leadership is perhaps the biggest challenge for all of us as it requires a moral responsibility to do what is right for all those who look up to us.

You do not become an elder simply because you survive the passage of time; anybody can do that. Instead, you have to have a proven track record demonstrating you possess the knowledge and experience that inspires confidence by others. Without such credentials, it is highly unlikely you will be taken seriously by anyone regardless of your age.

As we become the elder of any institution, there is a temptation not to relinquish control. This is done for two reasons, we either relish control or we do not have faith in the abilities of others to assume responsibility and do a competent job. Sometimes such control is warranted when the younger generation fails to step up to the plate and assume their responsibilities. However, if youth is properly prepared and ready to assume their duties, the elders should bow gracefully out of the way and not impede progress. This means an inherent part of being an elder is to foster an environment for succession.

If we do anything for an extended period of time, becoming an elder is a road we must all inevitably travel; it is a right of passage. It can be rather lonely too as there is nobody left to advise us anymore. Hopefully we’ll do the right thing and offer good advice, but we will occasionally make mistakes along the way which causes us to think longer and more cautiously about our decisions. We constantly question our abilities and hope we are up to the challenge as we realize a lot of people depend on us. If you still do not understand the importance of being an elder, next time you ride on an airplane, tell me you don’t want to see a little gray hair in the cockpit.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 11:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Life | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

BRYCE AMERICAN HISTORY QUIZ (PART 2 OF 2)

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 10, 2011

Last week I asked my readers to take a simple quiz regarding American government and history. I wanted to see just how well we knew some of the basics, such as our governing docs and some historical events. Nothing elaborate, I just wanted to take a pulse of our knowledge in general. 134 brave souls took the quiz for which I give my thanks. I didn’t want the quiz to be complicated which is why I tried to keep it as simple as possible. I could have asked for such things as age and political party affiliation, but I didn’t want to muddy the waters and turn people off.

Out of those who took the test, probably 25 people got a perfect score. I was not surprised by this as I didn’t try to invent a complicated quiz, just something that could give us some fundamental idea of what we know and what we don’t.

The quiz was far from scientific, yet I believe I can draw some conclusions from it based on the input. But first, let’s review the responses to each question. I’ll show both the number of responses and the percentage of the total, followed by my comments.

PLEASE ANSWER ALL 10 QUESTIONS – AMERICAN CITIZENS ONLY

1. Signed in 1620, it is the first governing document of Plymouth Colony as written by the colonists, later known to history as the Pilgrims. It was in essence a social contract in which the settlers consented to follow the document’s rules and regulations for the sake of survival.

22 – 17% – Magna Carta
92 – 69% – Mayflower Compact (CORRECT)
06 – 04% – Pilgrim Declaration
12 – 09% – Plymouth Compact
02 – 01% – Standish Consent and Decree

Comment: I considered this a tricky question as most people are unaware of any American history prior to 1776. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people got it right. Those that answered “Magna Carta” disappointed me; even though it is an important document that influenced others, it was still developed in England, not America. I consider it significant that people recognized its name though. By the way, the last three, Pilgrim Declaration, Plymouth Compact, and Standish Consent and Degree were figments of my imagination.

2. How many “separate but equal” branches are there in the U.S. Federal Government?

000 – 00% – 1
002 – 01% – 2
131 – 98% – 3 (CORRECT)
001 – 01% – 4
000 – 00% – 50

Comment: People may have gotten other parts of the quiz wrong, but somehow the concept of “three separate but equal branches of government” representing the checks and balances of government has been successfully stamped into our brains. Only three people missed this.

3. What is the following quote from?
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

27 – 20% – Bill of Rights
94 – 70% – Declaration of Independence (CORRECT)
06 – 05% – Gettysburg Address
00 – 00% – Oath of Office
07 – 05% – US Constitution

Comment: The lion’s share of answers went correctly to the Declaration of Independence, but I was surprised to see how many people picked the Bill of Rights. As an aside, many of us had to memorize this section of the Declaration in elementary school.

4. Which U.S. President was NOT impeached?

34 – 25% – Bill Clinton
20 – 15% – Andrew Johnson
80 – 60% – Richard Nixon (CORRECT)

Comment: I expected this kind of response to the question. Richard Nixon resigned before impeachment proceedings could begin. The other two were impeached, meaning to hold trial in the Senate, yet were found not guilty. No U.S. President has ever been forcibly removed from office through peaceful means (assassination is another matter altogether).

5. What is the following quote from?
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,…”

04 – 03% – Bill of Rights
32 – 24% – Declaration of Independence
02 – 01% – Gettysburg Address
00 – 00% – Oath of Office
96 – 72% – US Constitution (CORRECT)

Comment: Most people got this correct, but notice how many confused it for the Declaration of Independence. This particular quote is from the Preamble of the Constitution. Like the Declaration, many of us had to memorize this in grade school, but I don’t think they do so anymore.

6. What U.S. President served as commander-in-chief during World War I?

11 – 08% – Calvin Coolidge
07 – 05% – Warren Harding
18 – 13% – Theodore Roosevelt
03 – 03% – William Howard Taft
95 – 71% – Woodrow Wilson (CORRECT)

Comment: I expected this question to be a little tougher as a lot of us have forgotten the events of nearly 100 years ago. Baby boomers may still be familiar with World War II, but I thought they would surely have problems with the first war, “The War to end all Wars.” I wasn’t surprised that Teddy Roosevelt captured the number of responses that he did simply because of his strong name recognition. By the way, William Howard Taft was the only President who also became Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (and the first to throw out a baseball on opening day).

7. What is the following quote from?
“…and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

001 – 01% – Bill of Rights
000 – 00% – Declaration of Independence
000 – 00% – Gettysburg Address
127 – 95% – Oath of Office (CORRECT)
006 – 04% – US Constitution

Comment: I was flabbergasted that anyone got this wrong. The six who answered “US Constitution” should have read the question more carefully.

8. What is the following quote from?
“…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

005 – 04% – Bill of Rights
002 – 01% – Declaration of Independence
122 – 91% – Gettysburg Address (CORRECT)
000 – 00% – Oath of Office
005 – 04% – US Constitution

Comment: I was pleased to see most people remembered Lincoln’s speech. Interestingly, Lincoln was not the keynote speaker that day and, because of this, his words were almost overlooked by reporters in attendance. Thank God somebody was paying attention.

9. It stated that further efforts by European countries to colonize land or interfere with states in the Americas would be viewed as acts of aggression requiring U.S. intervention. It asserted that the Western Hemisphere was not to be further colonized by European countries but that the United States would neither interfere with existing European colonies nor meddle in the internal concerns of European countries.

009 – 07% – Emancipation Proclamation
002 – 01% – Kansas-Nebraska Act
000 – 00% – Kennedy Doctrine
116 – 87% – Monroe Doctrine (CORRECT)
007 – 05% – NATO Accord

Comment: I was pleasantly surprised by this one as I had assumed many people had forgotten about the Monroe doctrine, an important document which, to this day, is still in effect. I wonder if those who answered “Emancipation Proclamation” really understood the significance of that document. Probably not.

10. Which U.S. President was NOT directly involved with the Vietnam War?

81 – 60% – Dwight Eisenhower (CORRECT)
49 – 27% – Gerald Ford
01 – 01% – Lyndon Johnson
03 – 02% – John Kennedy
00 – 00% – Richard Nixon

Comment: This was perhaps my most controversial question as some of you argued that Eisenhower sent advisers to Viet Nam. True, but we send advisors to a lot of places. Viet Nam was Kennedy’s “line in the sand” to stop the proliferation of Communism. As to Ford, he inherited the Paris Peace talks from Nixon following his resignation and was in charge when we finally pulled out in 1975. Interestingly, I find younger people have no clue about this war whatsoever.

Conclusion

A few things occurred to me as I was compiling the results. First, the Gettysburg Address is better known than the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The Gettysburg Address is a moving speech but it certainly doesn’t bear the significance of our governing documents.

Second, it seemed to me that a lot of people cannot distinguish between the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. They view them as synonymous documents. For what it’s worth, the Declaration was used to sever Britain’s authority over its American colonies. The U.S. Constitution specifies how the government is to operate. The Bill of Rights is an attachment to the Constitution and specifies the basic rights of the citizens, specifically the first ten amendments. It was greatly influenced by such documents as the “Magna Carta.” All three documents, the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, are important reads that all citizens should be familiar with, not just students in grade school.

Finally, here are the number of correct answers versus incorrect answers submitted on the quiz:

1034 – 77% – Correct Answers
0306 – 23% – Incorrect Answers

In most schools, a 77% would represent a “C” which is probably not as bad as we think. Actually, this number is probably higher than the national average as I like to believe my readers are smarter than most.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 11:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Government, History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

IS THE TAIL WAGGING THE DOG?

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 8, 2011

Whenever I’m asked to discuss the subject of Information Systems in the corporate world, I am inevitably asked, “Where does the programmer fit in?” I think this is an odd question as I see programming as only a small part of the overall puzzle. People are startled when I mention this, particularly programmers, who tend to see themselves as the center of the systems universe. I counter by asking, “What exactly does a programmer do?” After much discussion, we end up with the same answer, “a programmer takes human understandable specifications and converts it to a machine executable program, either by writing and compiling source code or through some interpreter capable of generating the program.” This, in turn, leads to an interesting discussion as to what is meant by “requirements” (it seems everyone has their own spin on this). More importantly, it leads to a discussion as to what exactly a system is.

I like to follow this by posing the question, “How many programs make up a system? One? Two? Three? Is a suite of programs a system?” Again, after much discussion we conclude there is no finite number of programs in a system, it is as many as satisfies the system’s needs (and again we’re back to “requirements”).

I finally ask if a system can be implemented without computer assistance (without programs). The programmers typically balk at this one, but grudgingly admit an information system can be implemented manually or through the use of other equipment. Actually, information systems have been used for hundreds of years, well before the advent of the computer. As one of our more famous Bryce’s Laws points out, “The first on-line, real-time, interactive, data base system was double-entry bookkeeping which was developed by the merchants of Venice in 1200 A.D.” In other words, computer programming is but one way to implement an information system, but certainly not the only way. This premise implies information systems are much larger in scope than programming, and that systems have two dimensions, a logical side and a physical side. The logical side defines the various business processes comprising the system (aka, “sub-systems”). These processes can be implemented through manual processing, use of other equipment, with computer assistance, or combinations of all three. The physical processing changes more dynamically than the logical simply because technology changes.

To pull this all together requires a type of person more knowledgeable about the business than about computers. Historically, this type of function has been referred to as a “Systems Analyst” or more recently a “Business Analyst.” Regardless, the analyst is a precursor to the programmer. In the absence of an analyst, programmers must try to understand the overall system architecture, a talent they are not necessarily well versed in.

The day a company starts its business is the day when its systems are born. Even a company in name only requires systems support in order to report to the government on their activity (or inactivity). As businesses begin, a “natural” system is devised whereby work is distributed among employees, hopefully in a cohesive manner. Without orchestration though, there is a tendency for the natural system to develop inconsistencies and redundant work effort, particularly if the business blossoms. Data duplication is unavoidable thereby causing inconsistencies in information. If the information is “dirty” inferior business actions and decisions will ensue thereby causing an adverse affect on the company’s bottom-line.

The point is, no amount of elegant programming can solve a system problem without someone who understands the overall system architecture, someone who understands how the business works. Attacking systems development without such orchestration, such as one program at a time, will not produce the desired results. That would be like trying to build a bridge without a set of blueprints; it would probably be disjointed and one end would likely not connect with the other in the middle. I for one would not want to travel across such a bridge. Yet, this is precisely what is happening throughout corporate America today. If we built bridges the same way we build systems in this country, this would be a nation run by ferryboats. If you consider how counterproductive it would be to try and build a bridge without a set of blueprints, you get a good idea how counterproductive a lot of systems development organizations are. A lot of time and money is lost simply trying to deduce what is to be built in a concerted manner.

It is the Analyst’s job to understand the business, not the programmer’s.
It is the Analyst’s job to develop and maintain the system architecture, not the programmer’s.
It is the Analyst’s job to develop the specifications for programming, not the programmer’s.
It is the Analyst’s job to develop the data specifications for the Data Base Administrator, not the programmer’s.
And it is the Analyst’s job to test and install systems, not the programmer’s (although they should be performing unit and string tests of their software prior to system tests).

Programmers should be consulted to review the feasibility of a system design, but make no mistake, it is up to the Analyst to develop such plans. And if the Analyst performs his job properly, he will greatly simplify the life of the programmer, thereby making that person more productive. Regrettably, corporate management has little appreciation for the Analyst’s duties and responsibilities. Consequently, the Analyst is pressured to short stroke his work effort and turn it over to programming prematurely, thereby causing the programmers to act on poorly defined specifications which inevitably results in project delays and increased development costs.

So, is the tail wagging the dog in your company or the other way around? Do you have a sufficient number of Analysts to properly design systems before turning the specifications over to programming? Consider this, if done properly true programming should take no more than 15% of your development time and costs. If you are expending more than this, I suspect you do not have enough Analysts.

Remember this, anytime you have a systems development project involving multiple business processes, multiple people, and multiple programs, you damn well better design a system architecture first.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 11:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Business, Systems | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

HIGH-SPEED RAIL: MAKE-WORK PROJECTS?

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 6, 2011

In business, in order to keep people busy, “make-work” projects are devised to keep workers busy until they are needed for serious endeavors. Such projects were commonplace in Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” of the 1930’s to try and get the country back to work. We are also witnessing it as part of the Obama administration’s stimulus program. Here in Florida, the most visible example is the proposed high speed rail project (aka, “Bullet Train”) to go between downtown Tampa and the Orlando airport. Over time, it is envisioned it would also connect Orlando with Miami, but for now, Tampa-to-Orlando is the first step.

This is something Florida voters have been debating well before Obama took office, going back to 2000 when voters first approved the development of such a train. By 2004, voters had second thoughts and repealed the train after realizing the hefty price tag associated with such a project. Then in 2009 with President Obama now in office, the Federal Government offered billions of dollars to states for stimulus projects, particularly high speed rail. Florida enjoyed a head-start over others as they had already been surveying land and planning routes. So much so, Florida was the only state who had a “shovel ready” project ready to be executed. However, Florida’s legislators and governor are now weighing the pros and cons of such a project before agreeing to accept the stimulus money.

Railroads played a significant role in Florida’s development, both in terms of freight and passengers. They began to appear in the 1830’s. By 1888 the Orange Belt Railway arrived in St. Petersburg, and by 1910 the Tampa and Gulf Coast Railroad arrived in Tarpon Springs, all of which played a significant role in opening up the Tampa Bay metropolitan area where I live. We also had a trolley system in Tampa and I believe in St. Petersburg as well, both of which disappeared as the automobile emerged as the dominant mode of transportation. This scenario is similar to what other cities in the United States experienced. Except for major metropolitan areas, local passenger rail service was replaced by automobiles and buses.

Now the state is entertaining the idea of introducing a rapid transit system based on the rail with other states closely watching our progress. To me, this discussion is a non-issue as rail travel is questionable at best from an economic perspective and likely represents an obsolete technology for passenger transportation. I like trains as much as the next person, it is a nostalgic reminder of a bygone era. The reality though is if passenger rail transportation was so good, why did we abandon it? Simple, people wanted their independence and found the automobile a cost effective solution for their transportation needs, thus began our love affair with the automobile. There are, of course, storm clouds on the horizon as the cost of petroleum keeps rising and we have developed an undesirable dependence on foreign oil. The question though is whether rail transportation is the right technology to gamble on for the future. Other than bringing money and jobs to build the train today, I contend politicians have yet to build a compelling argument in favor of it from a long term perspective.

There are three aspects to consider: logistics, time savings, and costs. In terms of logistics, people in the Tampa Bay area question the wisdom of having high speed rail originate from downtown Tampa as opposed to its airport which is considered more accessible to the public and has ample parking. The estimated time savings between Orlando and Tampa is a mere 30 minutes, which is not substantial (plus you have greater independence by automobile). Development costs are significant and will undoubtedly result in jobs to build it, but what about afterwards to operate and maintain the rail system? It is my understanding the major rail systems in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC all rely on subsidies. In other words, the taxpayer foots the bill. In business, most companies avoid undertaking projects without a substantial return-on-investment (many require at least a 200% ROI). This is hardly the case in the proposed Tampa-to-Orlando connection.

Bottom-line, the high speed rail system proposed for Florida is an expensive proposition with negligible long term benefits and a questionable return-on-investment. So the question becomes, why should we entertain such a proposition? Some would answer, “To put people to work today.” True, but it would inevitably create a burden for the taxpayer tomorrow. High speed rail is a risky proposition no matter how you slice it which will affect us for years to come. Surely government officials will study it carefully before making a final decision. Ultimately, they must determine if high speed rail is the right transportation technology for our future and not just a link to our nostalgic past. As a Florida taxpayer, I want them to make the right decision, and not one that does nothing more than “make work.” Let’s do our bit to help the economy and allow the federal government to keep the stimulus money.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 11:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Politics, Transportation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

BRYCE AMERICAN HISTORY QUIZ (PART 1 OF 2)

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 3, 2011

I have found comedian Jay Leno’s “Jay-walking” segments entertaining particularly when he asks simple questions pertaining to the United States. The ignorance regarding how our government is organized and its history is brutally embarrassing. So much so, I wanted to find out for myself just how smart the American public really is when it comes to our history and government. Consequently, I devised the following little quiz to test your knowledge. Please take a moment to answer ten multiple choice questions.

PLEASE, this quiz is being implemented on the honor system; only U.S. citizens should respond. I don’t need your e-mail addresses, comments, or anything else. I just want to see if you personally know the answers to these questions without looking them up.

There are no winners or losers here. I’ll compile and summarize the results next week. You have until midnight on Monday, February 7th to respond. Any answers received following the deadline will be ignored.

Good luck. It should be interesting.

PLEASE ANSWER ALL 10 QUESTIONS – AMERICAN CITIZENS ONLY

1. Signed in 1620, it is the first governing document of Plymouth Colony as written by the colonists, later known to history as the Pilgrims. It was in essence a social contract in which the settlers consented to follow the document’s rules and regulations for the sake of survival.


__
1. Magna Carta
2. Mayflower Compact
3. Pilgrim Declaration
4. Plymouth Compact
5. Standish Consent and Decree

2. How many “separate but equal” branches are there in the U.S. Federal Government?


__
1
2
3
4
50

3. What is the following quote from?
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”


__
1. Bill of Rights
2. Declaration of Independence
3. Gettysburg Address
4. Oath of Office
5. US Constitution

4. Which U.S. President was NOT impeached?


__
1. Bill Clinton
2. Andrew Johnson
3. Richard Nixon

5. What is the following quote from?
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,…”


__
1. Bill of Rights
2. Declaration of Independence
3. Gettysburg Address
4. Oath of Office
5. US Constitution

6. What U.S. President served as commander-in-chief during World War I ?


__
1. Calvin Coolidge
2. Warren Harding
3. Theodore Roosevelt
4. William Howard Taft
5. Woodrow Wilson

7. What is the following quote from?
“…and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”


__
1. Bill of Rights
2. Declaration of Independence
3. Gettysburg Address
4. Oath of Office
5. US Constitution

8. What is the following quote from?
“…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”


__
1. Bill of Rights
2. Declaration of Independence
3. Gettysburg Address
4. Oath of Office
5. US Constitution

9. It stated that further efforts by European countries to colonize land or interfere with states in the Americas would be viewed as acts of aggression requiring U.S. intervention. It asserted that the Western Hemisphere was not to be further colonized by European countries but that the United States would neither interfere with existing European colonies nor meddle in the internal concerns of European countries.


__
1. Emancipation Proclamation
2. Kansas-Nebraska Act
3. Kennedy Doctrine
4. Monroe Doctrine
5. NATO Accord

10. Which U.S. President was NOT directly involved with the Vietnam War?


__
1. Dwight Eisenhower
2. Gerald Ford
3. Lyndon Johnson
4. John Kennedy
5. Richard Nixon

THANK YOU FOR YOUR PARTICIPATION!
Look for the results next week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 11:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Government, History | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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