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Archive for June, 2009

THE ABSENCE OF ELECTRONICS

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 30, 2009

While I was driving home one night, I was stopped at a traffic light and began to imagine what life would be like without the many electronic conveniences we enjoy. Hmm…

As a Floridian, we are accustomed to losing power due to tropical storms and hurricanes, which tends to annoy us by living without such things as air conditioning and television, as well as the loss of food maintained in the refrigerator. Schools close in such situations and are often converted to shelters. Other than this, life basically goes on as usual, but what if it turned into a permanent condition? What if some sort of electronic virus infiltrated all of our computers, phones, and other electronic gadgetry, and somehow shut them all done?

Our first concern would be whether our military could continue to defend our country effectively, that our hospitals could properly function, and that we could feed the populace adequately. It would be like the premise used in the movie, “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” except it would be for an extended period of time. Assuming we could accommodate these situations though, what would life be like without electronics?

For starters, you might think that automobile traffic would snarl up as all of our traffic lights would be out of commission. Inevitably, traffic cops would have to be dispatched to key intersections and we would actually get some intelligent traffic control in place (better than the preprogrammed lights). For minor intersections, we would have to start practicing basic driving courtesy again and, God forbid, cooperate with and respect other drivers. I suspect traffic accidents and fatalities would actually go down.

So far, so good.

If televisions and computers were knocked out, people would be forced to read, write and speak again. Kids would have to come out of their caves and into the sunlight, pick up a ball and get a little exercise and socialize. We would all still be craving some form of entertainment and, because of this, you might see more picnics, concerts in the park, and other civic functions. Attendance at school functions, such as the PTA and SAC, would be stimulated, and parents would become actively involved in the welfare of their children again. Participation in other nonprofit groups would undoubtedly flourish as well. Basically, our socialization skills would improve and we would become more conscious of our civic duties.

As mentioned, food would be a problem; we would have to learn to shop more frequently and prepare meals differently, and we would have to learn the lost art of baking and cooking. No doubt, we would miss all of those highly nutritious microwave meals and snacks. “What, no more Hot Pockets??!”

We would become healthier as we would have more time for exercise and play games like tennis, golf, softball, or whatever without Wii. This should cause health insurance rates to go down.

Since computers would be out of commission, the unemployment rate would go down because we would need more clerical people for such things as filing, typing, preparing graphics, processing orders, etc.

Our personal debt would probably go away as we would be unable to process credit cards and, as such, we would be wiser in the use of our cash.

Our sex lives would improve as evidenced by the power outages of New York. The only downside is it would probably result in a population explosion if we don’t properly promote birth control.

Due to a change in our diet and having to be forced to improve our socialization skills, maybe we can finally get people off of drugs like Prozac, Xanax, and Valium.

And finally, the cost of living would go down as we are no longer having to pay for all of the electronic luxuries we are accustomed to.

All of this illustrates our addiction to electronics and their manipulative powers. Life would be cheaper, more healthy, and perhaps more industrious, but it would certainly not be as fast-paced or complicated than what we are familiar with, but then again, would this be a problem?

Maybe the rallying cry would be a variation of John Lennon’s song, “Imagine”“Imagine no cell phones, it’s easy if you try, no PC’s or TV’s, above us, only sky. Imagine all the people, living life in peace.”

Yes sir, the best thing that could happen to this country is to have a virus that knocked out our technology…

Then the light changed, I snapped out of it, and drove home.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is 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 a listing of Tim’s Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Download Tim’s new eBook (PDF), “Bryce’s Pet Peeve Anthology – Volume I” (free) DOWNLOAD).

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

THE PRICE OF ETHICS

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 12, 2009

We all want to believe that practicing good ethics in both our personal and professional lives is the right thing to do; that we should not wrong, cheat, or defraud others. The reality though is we have allowed unscrupulous ethical practices to creep into our lives like a vine that starts at the root and, if left unchecked, slowly climbs the tree and eventually strangles it. The current recession is indicative of how we are all having to pay a hefty price for ethical corruption, e.g.; companies are closing, people are out of work, houses have been foreclosed, retirement funds are depleted causing people to work longer and creating a crowded job market for young people to enter. Some would say the recession is a simple matter of economics and nothing else. Nonsense.

The recession was created by greed, which lead to bad lending and investment practices, followed by a shell game for hiding losses, along with lies and cover-ups. The problem became so massive that all the king’s horses, and all the king’s men, couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Actually, the recession has done us a favor by uncovering the truth about ethics in this country and hopefully it will be a wake-up call for reform. The lesson here is simple: It costs more to follow a path of unethical business practices than to be honest and do what is right. A “fast buck” is just that, a quick way of making money but it will inevitably cost business and reputations later on (ask a couple of lending institutions if you don’t believe me).

The Media and unsophisticated teaches us that unethical practices are socially acceptable, even “cool,” and by doing so they are sewing the seeds of our destruction. I don’t see myself as a religious fanatic, but it seems to me that we have lost our way and need to redefine our ethical values and teach them in the office, the classroom, and in the home. People will undoubtedly dismiss such a notion as ridiculous, that their values are just fine thank you, but are they? Do we truly preach such things as honesty, integrity, trust, etc.? Current indicators would suggest otherwise.

Some would suggest that you can only afford to practice ethics in a robust economy (when you have the time and resources to do so). I contend otherwise, that good ethical practices are required for rebuilding an economy. Ethics, quite simply, is good business; it represents satisfied customers, referrals, repeat business, and reduced operating costs. Unethical practices simply sets up a collision course with disaster, maybe not immediately, but inevitable nonetheless.

And God, No, don’t let the government get involved with teaching ethics. That would be like allowing the inmates to run the asylum.

TIM’S CRASH COURSE ON ETHICS 101

We all know what is right and wrong, but ethics requires a person with strength and character, something that is somewhat uncommon in this day and age. I’m not going to tell you to keep your word, or to be honest and lead an upright and respectable life; You should know this already. The question is, do you have the fortitude to do so?

Perhaps these simple guidelines will help:

1. Learn to say, “No.” It is an incredibly powerful word and something we do not say enough of. At times it may seem awkward and uncomfortable to say, but learn to say “No” nonetheless.

2. Avoid politics. The more entangled you become in them, the more your principles are compromised.

3. Go the extra mile, avoid the temptation to take the easy way out. Short cuts may seem nice, but following the right path is more rewarding in the long run.

4. Write a code of conduct defining how employees are to behave on the job.

5. Recognize and reward ethical behavior; Penalize bad behavior.

6. Report indiscretions, either internally within your company, or to external sources, such as the Better Business Bureau. As a tip, make sure it is well documented. Don’t want to report it? Then don’t complain or whine about it to others (shutup).

7. Participate in and promote discussions on ethics, either in the office, at home, in school, in civic groups, on the Internet, or wherever. Raise the consciousness on ethics.

8. Last but not least, lead by example. Become a role model for how you want others to behave.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is 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 a listing of Tim’s Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Download Tim’s new eBook (PDF), “Bryce’s Pet Peeve Anthology – Volume I” (free) DOWNLOAD).

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

HOW WE ARE JUDGED

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 9, 2009

Ever wonder why people treat you the way they do? A lot has to do with how you are perceived by others. Let me give you an example, years ago when I lived in Cincinnati, Ohio I would often drive up to Canada to visit customers along The King’s Highway 401 in lower Ontario. My point of entry and exit was Detroit and I would either take the Ambassador Bridge or Detroit–Windsor Tunnel to and from Canada. Regardless of the route I took, I noticed I would always be asked by the customs agents to pull my car over to the side where I would have to endure the hassle of a search. This went on for years until I realized it was probably my demeanor and expression on my face that caused me to be pulled over, which was tired and cranky looking. As an experiment, I approached the customs agents with a smile on my face, my window down, and was very chatty and approachable with them. Surprisingly, I was let through without any trouble, and I’ve never been pulled over again.

The point is, we primarily act on our perceptions, right or wrong, and regardless of the facts. How we are perceived by others is the basis by which others judge us, both in our personal and professional lives. It has been my experience that there are three attributes people use to judge each other:

1.  Social Stature – representing our pedigree and, consequently, our place in society. People naturally act differently around someone who is perceived to be cultured and refined versus someone viewed as “trailer trash.” Its kind of like the difference of how people act in church as opposed to in a saloon. This is also indicative of why we distinguish people by classes (high/medium/low) and how we delineate workers as blue collar/white collar. People like to know what the pecking order is, whether it is in their personal or professional lives, so they can act accordingly. It denotes such things as superior/subordinate/equal relationships, thereby defining who we can dominate, who we cannot, and who we must coexist with.

2.  Intelligence – this is an important factor in judging a person, particularly in the workplace where we are evaluated based on our knowledge, skill set and ability for taking instruction. We are either perceived as someone who can quickly grasp and implement concepts and techniques, versus someone who has trouble taking instruction and learning something.

3.  Character – beyond intelligence is the perceived character of the individual, consisting of his ethical makeup, dedication and drive, along with his record of actions and decisions made. This denotes the person’s integrity, reliability, and responsibility. Unlike intelligence which denotes what a person is capable of doing, character defines what the person will do in fact. Let me give you an example, I used to know a brilliant guy with a photographic memory in the engineering department of a manufacturing company. His IQ scores were always head and shoulders above everyone else’s, but he had trouble applying his intellect. Instead, he was used by the company as nothing more than a walking encyclopedia who could recite complicated formulas and algorithms at a moment’s notice, yet had no idea how to use this knowledge in practice.

It is these three attributes, used in concert, which we use to evaluate someone, personally or professionally. It is the determining factors we use to communicate with someone, socialize with them, invest trust in, and delegate responsibility to. Managers use these elements to determine what a worker is capable of doing and assigning pertinent responsibilities. It is also what we use to evaluate a new neighbor, or meet someone for the first time socially or professionally. In a nutshell, it is what we use to “size people up.”

We should all be cognizant of how we are perceived by others and adjust where required to fit into the corporate or local culture, but we should also be wary of people masking their weaknesses by appearing or acting as someone they are not. I used to have a gentleman who worked for me in Customer Services who dressed to the teeth, was sharp in social etiquette, and was a pretty smart guy. The only problem was he was a poor performer. He talked a good game, but could never produce anything on time or to the satisfaction of our customers. He was a past master of facade, not substance.

Again, the point here is that people are judged by perceptions first, facts second (ask the tabloid media if you don’t believe me). Appearances are important and should be cultivated, be it the workplace or in our private lives, but we should also know that looks can be deceiving and, as such, we should also cultivate a track record of performance and credibility. Just remember, we are judged by all three attributes mentioned, not just one or two. Appearances mean little if people can see through the disguise.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is 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 a listing of Tim’s Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Download Tim’s new eBook (PDF), “Bryce’s Pet Peeve Anthology – Volume I” (free) DOWNLOAD).

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

SHOW ME THE PROOF!

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 5, 2009

On more than one occasion you have heard me express my skepticism on the beneficial effects of technology on our culture. Proponents obviously claim it has a positive effect, and proudly point at the capacity, speed, and sizzle embedded in such things as computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices, but I’m still not convinced. For example:

  • We can communicate with anyone on the planet at any time from just about anywhere (and too often we do), yet we haven’t got anything useful to say or say it at the wrong time and place. Further, our command of the English language is slipping, newspapers and magazines are failing, and book publishing is sharply diminishing, thereby indicating a decline in reading.

  • We can now write beautiful documents, but our grammar and spelling seems to be degenerating. People may know how to send text messages, but have difficulty composing an effective business letter.

  • Our automobiles now offer abundant luxuries through electronics, but the cost to repair and maintain them has skyrocketed.

  • We can now purchase items and make travel reservations on-line, thereby displacing this function from trained travel agents and sales clerks with better skills and knowledge to process such things. Inevitably the customer purchases the wrong thing or makes an error in processing the order, which is difficult to correct (and very frustrating).

  • Technology may give us in edge in warfare; but you first have to have a well trained and determined soldier to pull the trigger.

  • Computers were supposed to be a boom for office productivity but consider how much time is lost tweaking and rebooting MS Windows alone. Further, computers were supposed to cut down on paper; but sales at the paper mills appears to be doing just fine, as well as robust sales of copiers, printers and cartridges.

If our technology is so good, it would make sense that we would see a noticeable leap in productivity in our country. However, if you study the statistics at the US Department of Labor, output has actually been declining over the last ten years in just about every industrial sector. Those sectors showing an upswing can hardly be described as “dramatic.”

If there is a statistic to show how technology improves productivity. the US Department of Labor certainly doesn’t have it, nor does anyone else for that matter, which is why I continue to say, “Show me the proof!” Frankly, you cannot because there is more to productivity than technology. To me, technology simply represents the tools we use at work and home, and like any tool we can either use it properly or improperly (like shooting ourselves in the foot). Even the finest tool in the wrong hands will produce inferior results. This implies there is more to productivity than the technology itself, that it depends on how the human being uses it. In other words, management is an integral part of the equation, and something that has been sorely lacking in recent times, as indicated by our current recession.

Consider this, number crunching has always been one of the prime benefits of computing. If this is true, then why does it take so long to compile a financial report or budget? After all, everything should be available at the push of a button, right? Unfortunately, corporations and government agencies, operate with poorly designed systems and data bases, thereby the reliability of data is doubtful, thus requiring rechecking.

Productivity should not be measured simply by how fast we perform a given task (efficiency), but the necessity of the task itself should also be examined (effectiveness). After all, there is nothing more unproductive than to build something efficiently that should never have been built at all.

Let me exemplify this another way; the general perception in this country is that America no longer knows how to build automobiles, that the quality is not good. I disagree. Americans know how to build good reliable products as demonstrated by the Americans working in Japanese automotive factories. The difference is in building the right products. Whereas American companies focused on luxury and gas-guzzling cars, the Japanese were busy building economical and fuel-efficient automobiles (as were other countries). Here, it is not a matter of how well we build a product, but is it the right product to build in the first place?

More than anything, technology is a reflection of our standard of living. We have always had technology, we will always have it, and it will constantly change and evolve with us. However, over the last thirty years we have witnessed an explosion in technology that has permeated our society and changed our culture. It was triggered by such things as the Cold War and other military interventions, space exploration, medical research, and global competition in business. Technology came at us so fast and furious that a lot of people had trouble assimilating it, thereby causing a noticeable frustration factor. In all likelihood we probably use only a small fraction of our technology properly (which would be another interesting statistic). For example, how intimate are you with all of the features of your cell phone, computer, TV, digital camera, or even your sprinkler system? Are you using them to their full potential? Probably not.

It has always been my argument that as technology increases, socialization skills decreases. The more we depend on technology to fulfill basic functions like mathematics, communications, spelling, etc., the lazier the human brain becomes. Technology may be fun to use and play with, and can indeed provide tremendous mechanical leverage for humans, but be wary of how it is used and avoid dependencies. Regardless of your pride and prowess with technology, please don’t tell me it improves productivity. The jury is still out.

“I don’t know a thing about computers and I’m the happiest guy on the Earth.”
– Louis Vavoularis, Palm Harbor, FL

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is 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 a listing of Tim’s Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Download Tim’s new eBook (PDF), “Bryce’s Pet Peeve Anthology – Volume I” (free) DOWNLOAD).

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

STATUS SYMBOLS

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 2, 2009

Have you ever heard the expression, “The guy who has the most toys, wins”? This was obviously invented by someone keenly aware of status symbols. It may sound clever, but I have to wonder what they “win”; the adoration of the vendors they bought everything from? It sounds rather shallow doesn’t it?

There are a lot of status symbols we use to impress others, both tangible and intangible. I’ve categorized them accordingly:

General appearance – an expensive “power suit” is used to denote your corporate status, whether worn by men or women. Your hair is also very important, not just how it is cut or styled, but who does it for you. Other things like glasses, jewelry, and watches are used more for effect as opposed to practicality. Breast augmentations fall under this category. Even our mannerisms, walk, and form of speech is used to send specific signals to others.

Trinkets – the latest technology always makes an impressive status symbol, be it a computer, a cell phone, a TV or camera, a game, etc. The only problem is technology changes at an astounding rate, thereby turning this into a nonstop game of one-upmanship. After all, what is “state-of-the-art” today, is a “has-been” tomorrow.

Automobiles – no other single product tells people your status better than the automobile you drive. Luxury car dealers have known this for years and have used it to their advantage in sales. Snob appeal is often more important than practicality.

Residences – there are two aspects to this: where you live, and what you live in; representing a symbiotic relationship. For example, if you have a magnificent house, yet live on the wrong side of the tracks, people will not care.

Recreation – this represents several things, boats, airplanes, swimming pools, RV’s, etc., but it also includes such things as travel (the more exotic, the better), venues (such as resorts and hotels), and attending events (such as galas, benefits, awards presentations, etc.).

Interpersonal relationships – representing who you know and how you know them, particularly celebrities. For men, it also includes marrying the perfect “trophy wife.” Even sexual conquests are considered status symbols.

Status symbols are a form of communications. It’s our attempt to try and tell others who we are and we’re all probably guilty of using such symbols at different points in our lives. It gets a bit disturbing though when we become obsessed with status symbols, such as “Keeping up with the Jones’.” In other words, it’s not what you have accomplished in your life, but who you think you are.

I tend to call the status seekers the “ST Generation” as they are consumed with having the faSTest, oldeST, neweST, beST, biggeST, smalleST, and moST expensive or powerful. In other words, they measure their social status by things like volume, grade, size, frequency, and age.

Like anybody, I like nice things, but I can’t say I’m easily impressed by status symbols anymore, as I tend to think they’re impractical and costly. Maybe it’s my Scotch blood showing. I tend to be more impressed by people whose actions speak louder than their symbols, such as finding a cure for a disease, an architect who designs a skyscraper, or the contractor who actually builds it. Looks may be important, but they can also be deceiving. As for me, I’ll take actions and accomplishments over status symbols any day of the week. Like I said, what do you “win” with status symbols?

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is 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 a listing of Tim’s Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Download Tim’s new eBook (PDF), “Bryce’s Pet Peeve Anthology – Volume I” (free) DOWNLOAD).

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

 
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