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Archive for February, 2012

ERIC HOLDER VS. THE BAIL BOND INDUSTRY

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 28, 2012

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)

Sometimes we are cognizant of the changes occurring around us, such as the president’s controversial health care bill which was extensively covered by the media. Just about every adult in this country has heard of it; they may not understand it, but they are aware of it. Most of the changes affecting us though are not visible to the naked eye, yet they can have as profound effect on us as “Obamacare.” Such is Attorney General Eric Holder’s full court press against the Bail Bond Industry representing a premeditated attempt to expand government and suppress the free enterprise system. Like my recent article explaining how new government rules inhibit health care providers from tending to the business of patient care, this legislation will undeniably affect all of us. Let me explain.

The general public has long understood the concept of posting bail in order to be released from jail prior to trial. It is even referenced in the Eighth Amendment of the Bill of Rights whereby excessive bail is prohibited. The purpose of bail is two-fold: it assures the accused returns for trial, and he/she will behave properly and not pose a threat to the community while awaiting trial. The accused is either remanned into police custody or allowed to post bail as prescribed by a judge. Bondsmen, who operate independently from the government, offer bonds for posting. This is typically arranged through a family member, a close friend, or perhaps the accused’s employer, and a bond can normally be obtained at a percentage rate of the bail, such as 10%. Bail bondsmen are seasoned veterans who possess a good judge of character. They carefully analyze the accused, the person posting the security, and the risks involved with freeing the defendant. To the bondsman, this is a relatively straight-forward business transaction; he will obviously not post bail if he believes the accused to be a flight risk or will cause trouble. Few people realize the bail bond industry is heavily regulated and must comply to numerous laws, rules, and regulations.

What the public doesn’t understand is the pretrial release program which is advocated by the Attorney General. This is a program which has been evolving over the last three decades and seeks to relieve overcrowded jails by implementing a government implemented program to interview accused prisoners, determine those who are not a threat to their victims and community, and release them pending trial. Although this may sound fine on the surface for misdemeanor offenders, it also applies to certain felony cases, such as those accused of child pornography, theft, battery, and dozens of other crimes. Crimes of major violence or repeat offenders are normally not eligible to be considered under this program. If implemented in full, the pretrial programs will inevitably eliminate the need for bail bondsmen completely.

“Across the country, nearly two thirds of all inmates who crowd our county jails, at an annual cost of roughly nine billion taxpayer dollars, are defendants awaiting trial. Two thirds of all inmates are awaiting trial. Now, many of these individuals are nonviolent, non-felony offenders, charged with crimes ranging from petty theft to public drug use, and a disproportional number of them are poor.”
“Now, the reality is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Almost all of these individuals could be released and supervised in their communities and allowed to pursue or maintain employment, and participate in educational opportunities and their normal family lives, without any risk of endangering their fellow citizens or fleeing from justice.”

– Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General, US Department of Justice
National Symposium on Pretrial Justice
May 31, 2011

The impetus behind pretrial programs is overcrowded jails. Proponents of the program claim the current system costs $9 billion per year to operate. Their math is a bit fuzzy as they cannot demonstrate how the pretrial system will lower this number, nor do they take into consideration how bonded defendants are saving money for the taxpayers. In reality, studies show 12% of those defendants released through a pretrial program do not return for their trial appearance and, consequently, a bench warrant is issued to apprehend them. When the accused fails to appear at trial, court dates have to be rescheduled, which incurs costs associated with judges, lawyers and other courtroom personnel, not to mention law enforcement costs to apprehend the defendant. Further, there is the risk of the accused committing another crime thereby incurring even more costs. Currently, the rate ranges from 9% to 16%, with 12% committing violent offenses. Such variables are conveniently overlooked by the pretrial proponents. In contrast, under the bail bond system there are significantly less defendants failing to appear at trial and committing additional crimes. Taxpayers should question the wisdom of creating a program that actually increases crime as opposed to reducing it.

In our court system today there appears to be an emphasis on releasing offenders as opposed to imprisoning them to await trial, simply for the sake of saving a buck. The courts are littered with cases of defendants being released on their own recognizance (ROR) who have long rap sheets, facing serious charges such as battery, or both. Some ROR cases are unsupervised, including those involving felonies, and others requiring supervision. The question though is, who is to perform the supervision? There are also instances of ROR supervised release of defendants who live in another county. Again, who is to supervise them? As you study ROR cases, it becomes rather unsettling to discover it is easier to get out of jail than to get into it.

Let’s stop and consider why people do not post bail and allow a family member or friend to remain in jail. In many cases, the accused is unable to abide by any semblance of rules and regulations. More than anything, this is an indictment of our society’s deteriorating parental skills which seems to have trouble teaching responsibility, accountability, and discipline. Instead, a family would rather have their “deadbeat” left in jail where they might learn a lesson or two as opposed to being released on bail.

Whereas the rules and regulations for the bail bond industry have long been established, the policies and procedures for pretrial programs are still evolving. Some are fine, others lack any form of organization and enforcement. For example, the defendant should be properly interviewed prior to making a determination for their release. Quite often this is overlooked. Although there are standards to implement such programs, many are not accredited which means processing can be sloppy and inconsistent, the very stereotype of a government bureaucracy running amok. To illustrate, in Florida only five counties (out of 67) are accredited for Pretrial services (Source: Florida Accreditation). Obviously, this means people are being released who may potentially cause problems either by not appearing at trial, or causing other offenses.

Urban areas with substantial budgets are more inclined to establish a pretrial program than a rural area who cannot afford creating additional government overhead. Even the larger metropolitan areas are having a hard time justifying it during these troubled economic times where government budgets are being slashed. The point is, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to realize state-wide uniformity in pretrial programs. Whereas one county may offer a credible program, a neighboring county may not.

Pretrial advocates are moving quickly on this matter. If they have their way, bail bondsmen may go the way of the Dodo bird in as little as three years. So it becomes a matter of who the public believes can more effectively manage pretrial offenders, the government or the bail bond industry. Whereas one-side casts aspersions against bail bondsmen as more interested in a buck as opposed to the accused, the other side questions the ability of government to implement an important program to the same level of success as the bail bondsmen.

The real issue is which system can most effectively protect the public, assure defendants will make their court appearances, help reduce jail population, and do so all at reasonable costs. So far, bail bondmen have a better track record, particularly in the area of costs which are assumed by the bail bondsmen as opposed to the taxpayer. As to the pretrial system, it is still too new, still too experimental, still unproven, and will likely result in another government bureaucracy at considerable expense. Taxpayers should question the logic of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Is there room for compromise? Certainly, both programs have advantages and can peacefully co-exist but the pretrial zealots seem bent on eliminating the bail bond industry and county governments are being asked to choose sides as opposed to finding ways to work together.

“There is plenty of room for the two forms of release to coexist.”
– Sarasota Herald-Tribune
“Sensible, cost-effective justice”
February 16, 2012

How this issue has avoided the public spotlight is insidious. While the public is distracted, the government quietly tries to expand and push private enterprises out of the way. As obscure as the bail bond industry is, it makes you wonder what else they are trying to commandeer. Fortunately, this is an election year, making it an ideal time to ask candidates their position on this subject, particularly those running for sheriff. Bottom-line, do they believe government should expand at taxpayer expense or continue to utilize bail bondsmen, a heavily regulated industry with a proven track record. Your court date is November 6th, Election Day. Be there.

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.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Politics, Social Issues | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

IS SOFTWARE HARD?

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 26, 2012

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)

For something that is supposed to be “soft”, computer software exhibits some pretty “hard” characteristics. The original premise behind the COBOL programming language was to devise a language that could be easily ported to several computers. This never truly happened due to computer manufacturers who tweaked the language to suit their particular needs. What ran on an IBM machine, for example, didn’t necessarily run the same on Honeywell, UNIVAC, or the rest of the BUNCH. Consequently, software developers had to maintain different versions of source code to suit the particular needs of the various computer compilers. This plagued all third generation languages until Sun introduced JAVA in the 1990’s. The JAVA premise that a programmer should “write once, run everywhere” was the right idea and the language began to gain momentum, until it ran into Microsoft who didn’t want to turn the operating system into an inconsequential afterthought. JAVA lives on, but not to the extent it should have, and developers are back to managing separate versions of source code.

The point is, software does in fact exhibit some very “hard” characteristics as it is married to the host computer configuration which doesn’t make it very portable. As mentioned, this creates headaches for those of us, particularly commercial software vendors, in terms of maintaining consistency in the different versions of our products.

What to do?

Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s our company was faced with the dilemma of managing a single product on over a dozen different computer platforms. We quickly came to the realization we would go stark raving mad managing multiple versions of source code and came to the conclusion we had better come up with a solution pretty quick. Because of our experience in converting software, we became well versed in the nuances of the various compilers and devised a Repository (we called it a “filter program” at the time) which maintained the rules of the various compilers. We were also very disciplined in writing code to specific standards and embedded certain switches in the base source code. When we were ready to produce a new release of our product, we would feed the base code into our “filter program” which would then create the different versions of the source code ready for compilation. This saved us an incredible amount of time and brought consistency to all of the versions of the product. In other words, our programming staff worked with only one set of programming code (not multiple variations). The “filter program” then analyzed it and created the necessary permeation for a targeted platform. As compilers changed, we would update the “filter program” accordingly.

We also learned to maintain print maps, screen panels, messages and help text separate from the source code, which greatly enhanced our ability to create a new version of the product to suit a foreign language and culture; see “Creating Universal Systems.”

Let us take it a step further, for years we have touted there are logical and physical dimensions to Information Systems. We look upon Systems and Sub-Systems (business processes) as logical constructs, and Procedures and Programs as physical constructs. Further, data components such as inputs, outputs, files, records and data elements can be specified logically and implemented physically many different ways. Let me give you an example; back in the 1980’s one of our customers (a large Fortune 500 electronic conglomerate) bought into our logical/physical concept and decided to put it to the test. Working from their headquarters, they designed a complete Payroll System which they wanted to implement as the corporate standard across all of their divisions and subsidiaries. They completed the system with a recommended programming solution they wrote themselves (no packages were used) which I believe was an IBM MVS solution using COBOL. However, they recognized this implementation wouldn’t work across the board in the company. Consequently, they gave the system specifications to all of their divisions who would then program it themselves in-house. The project turned out to be a major success and the company ended up with multiple implementations of the same system under IBM MVS, VM, Honeywell GCOS, UNIVAC Exec, HP MPE, DEC VAX/VMS, and Prime; all working harmoniously together. Other customers experienced similar successes, particularly in Japan.

All of this drives home the point that systems are logical in nature, and that programming is physical. If systems are designed properly, there is no reason they shouldn’t behave identically on whatever computer platform you come up with. Better yet, it allows us to easily migrate our systems from one configuration to another. Uniformity and consistency in execution; and portability to boot. Imagine that.

“Systems are logical, programming is physical”
– 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.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Computers, Software, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

SOCIAL MEDIA – HOW MUCH ARE WE REVEALING?

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 23, 2012

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)

From modest beginnings, Social Media has blossomed into a worldwide phenomenon familiar to millions of people. It has been used to reconnect old friends, classmates and business acquaintances, to promote one’s products and services, and to discuss a variety of subjects and share files. As we should all know by now, it has been used to coordinate flash mobs, protests, and topple governments. Many people are addicted to it, others couldn’t care less, but we certainly cannot ignore it. The big question though is, if we are going to use it, how much of ourselves do we really want to reveal?

There are numerous services available for social media, both large and small. The more popular ones include FaceBook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, MySpace and many others. For all of these, a person can provide as much detail about themselves as they want. There is, of course, the usual profile identifiers, such as name, address, e-mail, birth date, etc. A user can also add a profile photo and biographical sketch. Above and beyond this, users can post their interests, thoughts, politics, religion or just about anything else they want which can be viewed by anyone connected to the person or possibly the world. We can also describe and discuss our “likes” representing our areas of interest.

Such background data represents a treasure trove of information to a variety of people. Marketeers use it to fine-tune advertising campaigns and pinpoint likely purchasers of their products. If you are being considered for a job, your profiles are being studied by Human Resource Departments. If you are arrested, the first place the police and media will go is your social media accounts and analyze anything and everything you have said, good or bad, and possibly draw conclusions from them. Sexual or criminal predators will also use this intelligence to their advantage (“Oh, so he’ll be out of town this weekend, eh? Hmm, sounds like a good time to check out his house.”) And in all likelihood, the government is monitoring postings in order to sniff out terrorist and troublemakers before they cause a problem. Social media is simply an invaluable part of detective work in the electronic age.

Do not take your postings lightly. Do you really want to swear or offer an obscene gesture on-line? I know of a young woman who was close to graduating from college. On a lark, she posted a Halloween photo of herself in a revealing “Cat Woman” leather outfit. Her college buddies may have gotten a kick out of it, but for some strange reason she couldn’t seem to get a job after graduation…until she took the photo down and cleaned up her profile. Coincidence? Hardly.

As for me, I only volunteer what I want the world to know, nothing more, nothing less. Although I can hardly be accused of being politically correct, I do not post anything that may cause me to blush or be used in a court of law. Even though I consider myself to be an honest person, I am mindful there are many others out there on the Internet who may not possess the same scruples as I do. I guess it all depends on how much you want the world to know about yourself. Just remember, before you open your kimono to the public, know what you are going to reveal and who you are going to reveal it to.

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.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Social Issues, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

ADVENTURES IN INFORMATION SYSTEMS

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 21, 2012

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)

When you have been in the systems business for as long as I have, you have been afforded the opportunity to see a lot of things. I’ve been fortunate to meet many interesting people with some rather forward-thinking business ideas, but I have also met more than my fair share of deadheads. When you witness several system snafus, you learn to appreciate those systems that were successful and made a dramatic impact on business. Here are a few such stories from my travels:

The most interesting strategic system I saw was from an automotive parts manufacturer in the U.S. Midwest who was interested in increasing market share. To do so, they studied the operations of their customers, specifically independent auto parts outlets. Their study found one of the biggest headaches for outlets was in managing inventory. The parts manufacturer thereby devised a plan whereby they provided a free turnkey inventory system for their customers, complete with computer hardware. This greatly streamlined inventory for the outlets as well as simplifying purchase transactions. More importantly, the parts manufacturer was able to monitor inventory levels of the outlets which automatically triggered reorders as inventory levels got low (as opposed to waiting for the outlet to reorder parts). Further, the parts manufacturer was able to monitor sales trends and forecast production schedules. When sales volume slowed, sales promotions and advertising would be triggered to encourage business. All of this created a “win-win” situation for both the parts manufacturer and their customers. The customer got an easy-to-use and reliable inventory system for free, and the parts manufacturer, in turn, gained wider market share as more and more outlets bought into the system. Smart. Very smart. Now here is the kicker, this was done back in the 1970’s, well before the general implementation of the Internet by business.

Contrast this with the introduction of bar-code scanners years ago to replace massive cash registers at checkout counters. As each item was scanned, you assumed inventory would be updated automatically and orders triggered when inventory levels became low. Perhaps today it is done in this manner but not so when scanners were first introduced. Instead of promoting a total order processing approach, computer manufacturers sold the scanners as nothing more than a time saver at the checkout counter. Scanners were considered revolutionary at the time, and the vendors didn’t want to overwhelm the retailer with such a massive change. As an aside, I knew quite a few cashiers who could outperform the scanners using registers, and probably could still do so today.

The biggest systems development effort I ever saw was Japan’s “BEST” project, which was sponsored by the Ministry of Finance and used our “PRIDE” products. As background, the ministry wanted to leapfrog the west in terms of banking systems. To do so, they assembled a team of over 200 analysts and programmers from four of the top trust banks in Japan. Through strong management, our methodologies, and some determined effort, over 70 major integrated systems were developed in less than three years. This resulted in a quantum improvement in banking service; for example, a customer could go into one bank and get a complete portfolio of all of his finances in all of the banks, not just one. Further, the customer could move money from one bank account to another in real-time. The systems devised back then became the foundation for future enhancements which are still implemented to this day. As a footnote, this project was implemented in the 1990’s and, because the consortium had control over their information resources, the much feared Y2K problem never materialized.

From time to time our firm is contracted to investigate dysfunctional systems, those where the developers are stymied as to why they will not work. Occasionally, the reason for the malfunction can be complicated and difficult to detect, but more often than not the problem can be easily solved simply by having a different set of eyes to look at the problem. In one particular instance, we were contracted by a large manufacturing company in the northeast who was having trouble implementing their new shop-floor control system. The system was state-of-the-art in terms of programming and DBMS technology, but they simply couldn’t get it to work no matter what they tried. Consequently, they called us out of frustration. Instead of studying source code, as the development staff had done, we began by mapping the overall system architecture. Inevitably, we came upon a sub-system whereby the computer displayed errors on the factory shop-floor requiring attention by the foreman. The foreman was to take the corrective action and respond to the computer accordingly. There was only one problem: nobody had told the foreman about any of this. We then wrote a simple administrative procedure (manual) for the foreman who then took the necessary actions and the system operated correctly thereafter (“miraculously” as our client said). This brings up an important point: systems will fail more for the lack of administrative procedures than for well programmed computer procedures. Although the manufacturing company had produced some rather elegant software, they had completely overlooked the man/machine interface.

In another situation, we were asked to perform a Project Audit for an insurance company in Wisconsin. Two system development projects were observed; Project “A” was executed smoothly and professionally. So much so, the project team wasn’t recognized for their accomplishment, thereby creating a morale problem. Project “B” was the antithesis of “A” and went out of control almost from its inception. Remarkably the Project Manager and team leaders of Project “B” were well recognized and often complimented for their ability to put out fires during the project. We made note of this in our Audit report but went on to say that the only problem with rewarding their “fire fighters” was they also happened to be the company’s chief arsonists. Whereas the “fire fighters” were recognized for screwing up, the Project “A” team went virtually unnoticed for doing a good job. In other words, our report revealed shortcomings in how people were rewarded in the company. The squeaky wheel was obviously getting more than its share of the oil, undeservedly so.

I am frequently asked what the secret to success is in building information systems. Is it a specific programming language or tool? The latest widget or gizmo? Perhaps some new technique promising instant results at significantly low costs? Frankly, it is none of this. It’s a simple matter of sticking to the basics: get organized, lay out a road map, demonstrate some leadership, and show some discipline and perseverance. I found all of the major systems that were successful exhibited some commonality: the developers all did their up-front work planning and designing their systems before programming, they maintained a good rapport with the people who would use the system, and they always considered the human element in their designs. In terms of system snafus, the common denominator was simply rushing off to programming before understanding the problem, just the antithesis of the successful companies.

Visiting companies around the world over the years has been a great adventure. It’s not exactly swashbuckling, but it sure has been an interesting ride.

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.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Management, Systems, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

THE TWO SIDES OF WORK MEASUREMENT: INPUTS & OUTPUTS

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 19, 2012

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)

Man has been measuring work as long as he has applied organized methods to building or manufacturing anything of substance. Henry Ford was, of course, sensitive to work measurement in order to produce an affordable automobile. Undoubtedly, the builders of the ancient pyramids of Egypt also measured work in order to calculate schedules and allocate the use of resources effectively. The work of W. Edwards Demming is legendary in how it helped revolutionize post-WWII Japan. The need to measure work should be obvious: to maximize productivity, minimize costs, and to seek new and improved methods to expedite development. It involves analyzing such things as development methodologies and tools, monitoring quality and costs, and the amount of effort required to perform a given task.

One of the most common mistakes made in work measurement though is to focus solely on the output of a process. For example, in the Information Technology field, there is concern with the process of entering data (aka, “data entry” or “data conversion”), which is typically implemented by keying or some other technique. Banks, insurance firms, and other companies are known to have large groups of data entry clerks, not to mention government. Here, emphasis is placed on such things as the number of keystrokes against time. This may be rather simple for computer vendors to record, but it fails to consider if the keystrokes were truly necessary or if they resulted in errors. Other people consider the simple recording of time as a means for studying productivity, particularly “Man Hours” (a common invalid concept for measuring time). Again, this may be easy to do but there is no consideration for the necessity of the task and if any errors were made. This is like running a race without a frame of measurement; is it 50 yards? 100 yards? A mile? We may have spent considerable time running, but we cannot know how fast we are trule going without knowing BOTH the starting and ending points. There is little point in measuring how fast workers shovel without knowing what they are shoveling (amount of dirt) and how they are doing it (good or bad).

As another example, distributors of parts and products must make timely shipments to customers. Quite often productivity is measured by the number of shipments in a day. However, the materials being shipped should also be considered; e.g., a small item will likely take less time to process than a larger item; quantity ordered also impacts shipments. If you are only measuring the number of shipments in a day, then you are mixing apples with oranges and will inevitably arrive at some false conclusions regarding the productivity of your shipping department. Here, we should consider the types and volume of items to be processed (the inputs), how they are stored, picked, packaged, boxed and labeled (the process), and the number of shipments (the outputs). By studying the entire process carefully, we may consider improved ways for storing and picking materials, packaging assembly (manual versus automated means), and delivery.

If we want to determine the speed of anything, we must know the distance between two points, and what route to take. This means studying everything from start to finish, which involves not only the end product of the work process (the output), but the materials going into the process as well (the input). In the data entry example, it is necessary to know the volume of input to be keyed, as well as the amount of time necessary to complete the task, and the number of errors made in the process (if any). Only when all of these variables are known can we determine work load capacity. This is a subtle but significant difference on measuring work. Although we are using data entry as an example here, this approach is applicable to any repetitive task.

One of the biggest benefits from this approach is the development of standards. Arbitrary standards for work load are simply not realistic and can be quickly dated. By measuring the input/output elements for each worker, it is possible to develop realistic standards, not just for an individual, but for a group of workers, thereby providing the means to analyze the performance of one worker against another, or an individual against the group. By summarizing the numbers of a group, it is possible to then analyze the performance between groups.

The ability to measure work is a relatively simple endeavor, but requires a total perspective on the problem, not just one part of the puzzle. Doing so will inevitably lead to erroneous conclusions. Knowing the amount of true effort required to build something leads to better estimates, better schedules, more effective use of resources, and may even lead to new development processes. Just make sure you are measuring the right things: both outputs AND inputs.

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.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Business, Management | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

MY ONE MILLIONTH READER – “Who’da thunk it!”

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 16, 2012

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)

I was recently reviewing the statistics on the various forums where my columns appear and was pleased to discover I have finally passed one million readers. I don’t know who the person was but “Thank You” as well as the rest of you who follow my work in one capacity or another. This certainly didn’t happen overnight. I have been writing for over thirty years now so I’m actually not surprised to have passed the million milestone. Although I primarily write for the American market, my work has appeared all over the world. They particularly seem to love me in Australia, India, the Philippines, and South Africa. Now if I can just get Florida to take notice.

I have written on a wide range of topics. Because of the nature of my consulting practice, I have primarily focused on issues pertaining to management, business, systems, and technology. It has been only in the last seven years where I have addressed such things as politics and the nuances of our ever changing world.

As a writer, you are never sure what article will press your readership’s hot-buttons. What you think will be an excellent article may very well turn out to be a dud, and vice versa. What works in one publishing venue doesn’t necessarily work in another; different forums, different types of audiences. When I publish an article, I do so through many different channels such as blogs, forums, print media, not to mention a bulk e-mail blast (drop me a line if you would like to be added to the list).

When studying the statistics, I was surprised to see what was popular and what wasn’t. The following are my top articles from different categories:

BUSINESS MANAGEMENT

“Personality Types” – this article alone has been read by over 60K people which surprised me as it was short and discussed a subject I presumed everyone knew. Evidently I was wrong.

“Common Courtesy” – this article has been read over 25K times and compliments the last article.

“Individualism vs. Teamwork” – this was my top article in various management related forums.

“Proactive vs. Reactive Management” – I was surprised to see this article rate so highly, perhaps because it is a subject which hits close to home with a lot of people.

“Craftsmanship: The Meaning of Life” – I was pleased this article rated so highly as I believe it to be an important subject.

OBSERVATIONS ON LIFE

“Pearl Harbor Day” – this piece was widely distributed and printed in several newspapers.

“A Graduation Toast” – this article also enjoyed wide circulation, probably by proud parents who felt the same way as I did.

“Bryce American History Quiz” – this was a fascinating compilation of American trivia pertaining to our government and history. The results were an eye-opener.

“Starting the Day” – this article’s popularity surprised me. I thought it was just a simple piece with a good lesson.

“In Praise of Slim Whitman” – I was particularly surprised by this piece which was posted in many places. I guess I underestimated Slim’s popularity.

POLITICS

“What Ever Happened to Obamacare?” – this became popular simply because people are very sensitive to this issue, particularly as we approach the election in November.

“Progressives: Liberals in Sheep’s Clothing” – this article, of course, set off the Left.

“The Missouri Compromise Parallel” – this was a particular favorite of mine as the similarities between then and now are remarkable.

“Is the Tea Party Losing Momentum?” – this too was widely distributed on the Internet and printed in newspapers.

“Obama’s Track Record – by the numbers” – reaction to this article didn’t surprise me as people are upset by the state of the country.

Most of the feedback I have received by the readers of my work, both pro and con, have been articulate, sincere and thoughtful. However, there is always a nut job ready to argue about something I have written, particularly when it comes to politics or religion. Such people are cowards who hide behind the anonymity of the Internet and typically use an anonymous name to mask their identity. Long ago I made it a rule not to engage in debate with such clods. Such debate only gives them undeserved recognition and emboldens their efforts. Frankly, they’re not worth it.

Whether you agree with my point of view or not is immaterial. If I made you stop and think about something you have perhaps overlooked or taken for granted, than I have done my job. I abhor apathy and people who are content to act like sheep.

As to my one millionth reader, I wish to extend a warm and sincere “thank you” for tuning in. Now on to the next million.

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.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Literature, Management, Politics, Social Issues | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

THE IMPORTANCE OF RECOGNITION

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 14, 2012

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)

For the last several years our Masonic lodge has been hosting an annual dinner to honor the county’s “Deputy of the Year.” Senior officers at the sheriff’s office select a person they believe deserves the honor and informs the Lodge as to why the individual merits the award. The Lodge then prepares a respectable plaque, schedules a dinner and invites the officer’s family, colleagues, and of course Lodge members. A lot of nice words are spoken on the deputy’s behalf, several photos are taken, and a small honorarium is presented to the officer who typically donates it to a local charity. The Lodge prepares a press release regarding the award and distributes it accordingly to the local press. It doesn’t really require a lot of work and it is the Lodge’s small way of expressing its gratitude not only for the job the deputy has performed, but for the sheriff’s office overall. It’s our way of saying “thank you” for their service. It is certainly not a lavish affair, but it is still greatly appreciated by the department for the recognition they receive. The honoree is flattered by the attention bestowed on him by the Lodge and his superiors, the family looks on proudly, and the public is informed of the good work performed by the sheriff’s office.

As human beings, we all crave some degree of recognition, some more than others. Entertainers gorge on it in a frenzy of media events, but most professions do not have such awards. Some people, who have confidence in their abilities, do not need such recognition and even avoid it, but many of us do, particularly in business where a kind word is rarely offered by anyone, including the boss. We may be quick to criticize, but we tend to be rather lethargic when it comes to issuing a compliment.

No, not everything requires a major media event to express gratitude, sometimes the best recognition is nothing more than a few kind words and a sincere handshake. A gift card, tickets, or some other small token of appreciation may be nice, but I tend to believe taking the person out for dinner or a drink, where you can personally thank the worker, is a nicer touch. To be even more personal, you might want to invite the person to your house for dinner. Such familiarity forms a bond between people and is a convenient way for building trust among workers. In this day and age of political correctness, such familiarity is often avoided as people worry they may offend the other party by saying something out of context and misinterpreted. Consequently, personal dinner parties, which used to be the norm in yesteryear, tend to be avoided in the business world these days. “Show me the cash,” tends to be the preferred alternative in today’s world which I consider somewhat unfortunate.

Regardless of the size of the award, be it a large prize or just a compliment, try to present it with a sense of finesse so the recipient understands it is a genuine and sincere token of appreciation on your part. Sometimes levity is useful for making a presentation, but there should generally be an air of professional courtesy when doling out such awards. If presented too lightly, the recipient may not take it seriously and even be insulted by the gesture.

We have cultivated a positive relationship with the sheriff’s office by presenting the “Deputy of the Year” award for several years now. The recipients appear to be genuinely touched by the sentiment, not to mention the families and co-workers. The award may not seem like much, but when it is presented by the master of our Lodge with a standing ovation from those in attendance, the deputy appreciates our thanks. It’s the little things in life that make it worth living. Saying “thank you” is one of them.

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.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

TURNING EVERYONE INTO DATA ENTRY CLERKS

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 12, 2012

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)

Last year you may recall me discussing the current effort by the government to create electronic medical records by physicians, hospitals, and other health care providers (see “My Dinner with the Doctor”). In a nutshell, the government is blackmailing doctors into automating all of their medical records. As a follow-up, I recently discussed this effort with my doctor friend to see how he was progressing, and a senior hospital administrator I also happen to know. Both claimed the effort was a nightmare and their time was being monopolized converting old records into an electronic format.

In theory, such an effort means a patient who travels away from home will be able to easily access his medical records which can greatly facility him/her receiving the proper treatment in the event of an emergency. Sounds good, right? Not so fast. I was horrified to discover the government never issued any standards by which data should be captured, stored, and shared in a secure manner. The only requirement was that the medical records were converted to electronic format, regardless of what that might be. As I was to learn, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of vendors selling computer software packages designed to manage patient records. Not surprising, each vendor took their own unique approach to designing their software which means there is an alarming number of incompatibilities between the different products. How one company stores patient data in a computer file is incompatible with another vendor. This means doctors and hospitals cannot share data as easily as was hoped. In other words, the government took a noble idea and botched it by failing to define any standards. Just because your primary physician has your medical records recorded one way, doesn’t mean another doctor can read it (unless, of course, the doctor happens to have the same medical records software). Despite the government’s initiative, doctors will still be dependent on faxes as opposed to a modern and secured data exchange. As an aside, my doctor friend received 18K faxes last year representing 50K pieces of paper (and that is just one doctor). The government’s new program does nothing to curtail this problem.

In order to meet government deadlines, doctors, nurses and other health care workers are swamped inputting data into their computers, a talent for which they are not necessarily suited. As a result, doctors are spending less time practicing medicine and more time as data entry clerks. Likewise, nurses are spending the lion’s share of their time inputting data and allowing their assistants to care for patients instead. As an old systems man, I asked the obvious question, “Although you are inputting a considerable amount of data, what are you getting OUT of the system in return? How is this helping you with patient care?”

Remarkably, the doctors didn’t see the system as a valuable tool, but more as a hindrance to serving their patients. This caused me to ask, “So who is going to use all of this data you are entering?” It was their guess it was intended for attorneys and government bureaucrats, certainly not for the patient or medical community. Only then did it occur to me the medical community was not alone in this regard. To illustrate, government regulations are becoming overbearing on educators who are having to spend more and more time inputting data and less time teaching. In other words, the medical and education professions are two prime examples of obnoxious government regulations having an adverse effect on the sheer nature of their work. There are likely many more examples, particularly in the law enforcement, military, and financial industries, institutions who are being greatly inhibited by obnoxious government red tape. It is one thing to insist on certain regulations, quite another to devise rational systems that enhances the volume and quality of work. My concern is we are turning our society into nothing but data entry clerks solely to feed the government’s insatiable hunger for superfluous data.

My doctor friend also happened to mention that in a few weeks his hospital will be going “paperless” with a new system that will also conform to the government electronic medical records initiative. So far, training for the new system has been abysmal, documentation is non-existent, and nobody trusts the new system. Yet, hospital officials are determined to switch to the new system all at once on a Sunday, not carefully implemented in planned stages. I asked my friend how he planned to participate in the system’s implementation. “Two things,” he said, “First, I plan on releasing all of my patients from the hospital on the day before the system is to go live.”

“And Second?” I asked.

“I plan to be on vacation that week. I don’t want to be anywhere near that hospital when it melts down.”

It kind of gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling of confidence, doesn’t it?

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.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Government, Systems | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

FUN WITH HAIR BLOWERS

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 9, 2012

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)

During this time of the year, when tourists are flocking to Florida, traffic can be quite congested on our highways, not to mention fast. Although the posted speed limit is 45mph for the highway in front of our office, motorists frequently exceed the limit (loudly I might add). Like any local government these days, our county has to tighten its belts, particularly the sheriff’s office which has been experiencing budget cuts. Not surprising, they tend to overlook speeding in certain areas, such as in front of my office. So I took it upon myself to devise a cost effective way to slow traffic.

I tried an interesting experiment whereby I wondered if I could get cars to slow down simply by holding an old broken hair blower which people might confuse for a radar gun. To make myself look somewhat official, I wore a light blue Columbia fishing shirt and navy blue trousers. I then went out to the side of the road, and pointed the hair blower to on-coming traffic. Lo and behold, cars began to slow down as soon as they saw me. So far, so good, but I wanted to make sure it was the hair blower and not my clothing that caused the motorists to slow down. I next tried it wearing a red shirt and experienced the same success. I then tried it dressed in shorts; then in a loud tee shirt; with a baseball cap on; wearing sandals; and many other combinations. Again and again, the motorists slowed down the moment they saw the hair blower. Finally, I tried it with a stuffed dummy sitting in a lawn chair with the hair blower prominently displayed. I tilted the head down so the motorists couldn’t see the dummy’s face. Remarkably, despite the hair blower in plain sight, people paid no attention to the dummy and sped along unabated. From this, I concluded it was necessary to have a human being present in order to sell the deception.

As I was disassembling the dummy, a homeless man happened to approach me walking down the side of the road and solicited a handout. I asked if he would rather earn a few bucks instead of accepting charity. He replied he would be delighted to do so. I then asked him to sit by the road with the hair blower for which, in turn I would give him some money. He was a little scruffy looking but I thought it would be an interesting test. To his credit, he sat near the highway for approximately three hours and during that time I observed traffic did, indeed, slow down as I suspected it would. I paid the man who then went cheerfully on his way.

It occurred to me there were several such people like the homeless man who would be glad to render such a service, but instead of canvassing for such people, why not ask those who are receiving unemployment benefits or food stamps to perform such a service. Surely, that is the least they could do for all the benefits they are receiving. Imagine this; people sitting along the side of every road in the county holding broken hair blowers. What could be more cost effective to slow traffic? Now and then, the sheriff’s office could even randomly assign a real radar gun in the field to keep motorists honest.

Imagine -
Price of a broken hair blower: $0
Cost of unemployed person to slow down traffic: $0
Slowing down speeding traffic by welfare/food stamp recipients: Priceless

Wow, talk about killing a few birds with a single stone. All that is needed are a few broken hair blowers and a little common sense.

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.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in humor, Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

WHO IS GOING TO RUN ON THE COATTAILS OF THE PRESIDENT?

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 7, 2012

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)

While the media and public have been focused on the presidential races, we must be cognizant there is more to the November 6th elections than just the White House, much more. There are 33 Senate seats up for grabs as well as all 435 seats in the House. Although we are currently paying little attention to these races, we must be mindful of their impact on the balance of power in the Capitol. Currently, the Democrats are in control of the Senate, and the Republicans of the House. Consequently, it is little wonder why we have gridlock in Washington which is something we all should have expected following the 2010 elections. Now we have a chance to change it.

There are many Democratic congressmen up for re-election and it will be interesting to see if they try to run on the coattails of a president with low approval ratings. Discussions about Obamacare and the president’s Stimulus packages are currently treated like poison. Yet, they didn’t get enacted by themselves, and certainly not by the Republicans in Congress. I’m betting the Democrats up for re-election will try to distant themselves from the president and disavow any knowledge of the role they played in the passage of his programs. It is up to the voter not to forget. In all likelihood, the president will not be asked to make too many personal appearances on behalf of Democrats. Basically, they are on their own.

In the Senate, Democrats are expected to have 23 seats up for election, including two independents who are aligned with the Democrats. Of these, seven are retiring, and 16 are seeking re-election, including:

Democrats/Independents retiring (7 seats)
– Joe Lieberman of Connecticut (Independent)
– Daniel Akaka of Hawaii
– Ben Nelson of Nebraska
– Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico
– Kent Conrad of North Dakota
– Jim Webb of Virginia
– Herb Kohl of Wisconsin

Democrats/Independents seeking re-election (16 seats)
– Dianne Feinstein of California
– Tom Carper of Delaware
– Bill Nelson of Florida
– Ben Cardin of Maryland
– Debbie Stabenow of Michigan
– Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
– Claire McCaskill of Missouri
– Jon Tester of Montana
– Bob Menendez of New Jersey
– Kirsten Gillibrand of New York
– Sherrod Brown of Ohio
– Bob Casey, Jr. of Pennsylvania
– Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island
– Bernie Sanders of Vermont (Independent)
– Maria Cantwell of Washington
– Joe Manchin of West Virginia

These all represent battleground elections which will be highly contested. In contrast, Republicans are expected to have only 10 seats up for election. Of these, two are retiring, and eight are seeking re-election, including:

Republicans retiring (2 seats)
– Jon Kyl of Arizona
– Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas

Republicans seeking re-election (8 seats)
– Richard Lugar of Indiana
– Olympia Snowe of Maine
– Scott Brown of Massachusetts
– Roger Wicker of Mississippi
– Dean Heller of Nevada
– Bob Corker of Tennessee
– Orrin Hatch of Utah
– John Barrasso of Wyoming

These too represent battleground elections.

Over in the House, all of the seats are up for grabs, thereby making every contest important. In particular, there are 19 Democratic seats becoming vacant due to retirement, including:

Democrats retiring (19 seats)
– AZ-8, Gabrielle Giffords
– AR-4, Mike Ross
– CA-6, Lynn Woolsey
– CA-18, Dennis Cardoza
– CA-51, Bob Filner – to run for Mayor of San Diego *
– CT-5, Chris Murphy – to run for the U.S. Senate *
– HA-2, Mazie Hirono – to run for the U.S. Senate *
– IL-12, Jerry Costello
– IN-2, Joe Donnelly – to run for the U.S. Senate *
– MA-1, John Oliver
– MA-4, Barney Frank
– MI-5, Dale Kildee
– NV-1, Shelley Berkley – to run for the U.S. Senate *
– NM-1, Martin Heinrich – to run for the U.S. Senate *
– NY-22, Maurice Hinchey
– OK-2, Dan Boren
– TX-20, Charlie Gonzalez
– WA-1, Jay Inslee – to run for Governor of Washington *
– WI-2, Tammy Baldwin – to run for the U.S. Senate *

* Voted for Obamacare

(Too bad we couldn’t get Nancy Pelosi on this list.)

Republicans retiring (13 seats)
– AZ-6, Jeff Flake – to run for the U.S. Senate
– CA-2, Wally Herger
– CA-24, Elton Gallegly
– CA-41, Jerry Lewis
– FL-14, Connie Mack, IV – to run for the U.S. Senate
– IN-6, Mike Pence – to run for Governor of Indiana
– KY-4, Geoff Davis
– MO-2, Todd Akin – to run for the U.S. Senate
– MT-at large, Denny Rehberg – to run for the U.S. Senate
– ND-at large, Rick Berg – to run for the U.S. Senate
– OH-7, Steve Austria
– PA-19, Todd Platts
– TX-14, Ron Paul – to run for President

Although all of the House races are important, those where members are retiring usually represent important struggles. If your state and/or district is listed above, and you care about the future of your country, now is the time to get involved. The presidential race is but one part of the puzzle, winning both the Senate and the House are equally important. Just don’t look for any of the Democrats to ride the coattails of the President to victory. If anything, the President will try to ride the coattails of the congressional candidates instead.

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.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

 
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