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Archive for December, 2009

THINGEES

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 27, 2009

Have you ever noticed how we tend to use certain words when we either don’t know the proper name for something or we simply forget what to call it? I don’t know about other languages, but the English language is full of such words, for example:

* Thingee – this is an expression typically used either by young children or older people too reserved to curse. People using this word typically point at the object of their attention when saying “thingee,” both young and old.

* Thingamajig – is an old expression you still hear every now and then. It’s normally used to ask for something; e.g., “Can you hand me that thingamajig?”

* Thingamabob – an even older variation.

* Whatchamacallit – I find this is used more in regards to a person’s title or profession; e.g., “Joe is a professional whatchamacallit.” (I always wondered what P.W. stood for).

* Whatsajig – I think this is a southern variance of whatchamacallit.

* Schravits – this is an unusual one. I first heard this from a friend of mine from the Midwest who primarily uses it to describe a tool or instrument; e.g., “Hand me the schravits will you?”

* Doohickie – although this can be applied to just about anything, it is more commonly used in connection with a blemish or insect bite; e.g., “Boy, that’s an ugly doohickie you have on your arm there.”

These are words that have existed for many years and I think we’re all guilty of using them now and then. This usually comes about when we are tired or lazy and don’t want to engage the brain. You also see it when we’re too preoccupied with something else and don’t want to waste time searching for the correct expression.

My father would use such words for years, particularly at the dinner table, where he would ask for this or that. As he got older though, I noticed he stopped trying to ask for anything verbally and, instead, would just point at it with his finger, which we would instinctively know what he wanted, almost telepathically. It was quite amusing to watch, a bit rude, but amusing nonetheless. There’s a word that describes this phenomenon, I believe it’s called a …..

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

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

A CURRICULUM FOR SOCIAL SKILLS

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 21, 2009

On more than one occasion you’ve heard me talk about the deterioration of social skills in the work place, primarily due to the heightened influence of technology. It is not uncommon to find people who have basic problems interacting with customers, vendors, or fellow employees. This fundamental flaw has an adverse effect on teamwork, customer service, and sales.

I recently had a reader call me to task on this and asked what kind of curriculum I would recommend to teach proper social skills to younger workers entering the work force. From my perspective, I can think of three prime areas to concentrate on:

* Communications – both written and oral. It’s not simply a matter of mastering the media to be used, but more importantly, the content. Text messaging and the Internet has basically destroyed civil discourse and how to write an effective business letter which, of course, is critical for customer service and sales. Beyond this, people need simple speaking skills, such as how to engage in conversation, the proper way of performing an introduction, how to make a presentation or conduct a meeting. This includes lessons in persuasion, negotiation, and rhetorical thought. In addition to writing and speaking, listening is equally important, after all, it takes two to Tango.

* Ethics – dictates our value system, and is a little more than what is right and what is wrong. It also includes respect for others as well as yourself (a “Do unto others…” philosophy). Ethics plays a significant role in terms of teaching such things as self-worth, dedication, integrity, ambition, and the value of a dollar. Ethics is an expression of the expected code of conduct for everyone to adhere to and abide by.

* Common Courtesy – represents basic manners and how to interact with others. It’s a little more than “please” and “thank you”, but that’s not a bad place to start. It includes how to invite someone to participate in something, how to thank someone for a service performed, and how to include others and make them feel welcome. This also includes how to dress, personal appearances, how to act and conduct themselves with others (“right” versus “wrong”), etiquette and protocol, even the importance of being punctual.

Come to think of it, isn’t this what parents are supposed to be teaching their children? Unfortunately, our youth are learning their socialization skills more from Hollywood, video games, and the Internet, as opposed to their parents, which, unfortunately, is doing a lousy job of raising our kids. Instead, I recommend some simple courses to teach these socialization skills, either as a group or, preferably, some one-on-one coaching such as in a mentoring program (of which I’m a big believer). And for God’s sake, don’t give them a DVD or video on this, have a human-being talk to them instead!

As an aside, something that might help in this regards is my book entitled, “Morphing into the Real World – The Handbook for Entering the Work Force,” which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life. (And makes for a great graduation present I might add).

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

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:

http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Business, Family, Society | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN EAST & WEST

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 18, 2009

I’ve been to Japan several times over the years on business and have had the privilege of seeing Japanese work habits first hand, which are noticeably different than in the United States. As a small example, the first time I visited, I noticed that in addition to having Coke and Pepsi machines on a street corner, there were also beer and whiskey machines. I discovered the Japanese were not worried about the youth getting alcohol from the machines as it would cause their families to “lose face” through embarrassment. If we had such machines in this country, they would probably be emptied by our youth faster than the vendors could stock them.

Aside from this though, there are a few other differences I observed in corporate Japan:

1. Japanese do not like to say “No” to someone as they do not want to offend the person. Instead, they tend to say, “Maybe Yes,” which, when translated, means “No.” If they nod their heads in the affirmative, it only means they understand what you are saying but they don’t necessarily agree with you. Because of this, it is not uncommon for American businessmen to fool themselves into believing they are being successful when they make a presentation in Japan. In reality, the Japanese understood the presentation but need time to digest and discuss it amongst themselves. If an American asks them something like, “Was I correct in this regards?” If they answer, “Maybe Yes,” the American is in trouble.

2. I’ve been in a few large offices in Japan where I have seen young employees suddenly jump up on their desks and give a five minute speech on why he is proud of his company and what a pleasure it is to work with his coworkers. When finished, the rest of the office politely applauds before returning to their work.

3. It is not proper for an employee to be insolent and openly criticize his superior. Knowing this may lead to pent up frustrations, some companies have small closet-sized rooms where the disgruntled employee can go into, close the door, and quietly beat an effigy of the boss with a bamboo stick. It may sound kind of silly, then again, you don’t hear of anyone going “postal” in Japan either.

4. It is still important for the Japanese to reach a consensus on any significant decision. This process may take some time to perform, but they want to emphasize team building and inclusion of employees in the decision making process.

5. When you join a major company in Japan it is common to first “pay your dues,” whereby you and your “class” (those who joined at the same time) are put on the same employment level and work for ten years, after which it is determined who the hard workers are and reward them with a major job promotion. If you didn’t work hard, the company won’t necessarily fire you, but your advancement in the company is arrested. Nonetheless, the emphasis here is on teamwork and creating a spirit of cooperation.

In the United States though, things are a little different…

1. Americans are not afraid of offending anyone. So much so, that “Hell No!” (or stronger) is a natural part of our vernacular. Unlike the Japanese who digest something before speaking, Americans do not hesitate to tell you whether they agree with you or not.

2. Rarely do you find an American employee who is steadfastly loyal to his company. Instead, it is more likely he will start an anonymous blog to bitch about his company and slander the character of the boss and his coworkers.

3. Americans tend to vent their frustrations more publicly than the Japanese. For example, you might get attacked in the company parking lot, or someone may pull a gun out and start shooting.

4. Instead of group decision making, Americans prefer rugged individualism whereby decisions tend to be made unilaterally as opposed to seeking the counsel of others. Consequently, employees tend to undermine any decision which is jammed down their throats.

5. When you join a major company in the United States, you are rewarded more for individual acts as opposed to team playing. This results in a never ending game of scratching and clawing your way up the corporate hierarchy. Obviously, this approach promotes interoffice politics and cutthroat tactics as opposed to a spirit of cooperation.

Why the substantial differences? Primarily because Japan is a homogeneous culture, and the American “melting pot” is heterogeneous which includes people of all races, faiths, and beliefs.

Although the differences between east and west are noticeable, things are slowly changing in Japan, whose youth have grown up with the Internet and are starting to emulate the work habits of their counterparts in the west. In other words, instead of observing courtesy, honor and respect, Japan is slowly becoming Westernized and I fear that some time in the not too distant future “Maybe Yes” will mean nothing more than that.

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

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:

http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

SHRINES OF EGO

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 15, 2009

Is bigger really better? Let me give you a scenario: a small church is started whereby the congregation and clergy tend to their faith and enjoy spiritual harmony. Inevitably, someone suggests constructing a bigger building to encourage membership. A mortgage is secured from a bank, construction begins, and indeed membership starts to grow. So much so, new facilities are added and modifications are made to the building until it becomes a landmark of the community. This, of course, forces the church to become more financially motivated to sustain their operations and recruiting campaigns are initiated to bring in more members. Suddenly, members begin to realize they are more consumed with the business of the church as opposed to practicing their faith, and membership begins to decline.

Feeling the effects of a financial squeeze, the church asks for more offerings from the congregation, which helps for a while, but membership continues to decline. Inevitably, the church can no longer sustain their operation and are forced to sell the property and move into more humble facilities.

Sound familiar? This scenario is played out every day not only in a multitude of churches and temples, but in fraternal organizations, nonprofit groups, and in small companies. The yearn to grow beyond their means is simply irresistible to some people. The problem is people tend to lose sight of their product, which, in the church’s case, is the spiritual well-being of the congregation. Any time you forget your mission, your product, you are inviting disaster.

So, is bigger truly better? Not necessarily. What we are seeing is a form of the Peter Principle whereby we grow our organizations beyond our level of competency to control. Personally, I tend to believe we build these huge edifices more for ego than for practicality. This puts us in a position of financially chasing our tail and losing sight of our original purpose. Next time someone suggests building something on a grand scale, instead of just asking, “What will it cost us?”, how about “Who is it going to really serve?”

Understand this, a week doesn’t go by where an ornate Masonic lodge isn’t put up for sale or demolished. If you find your leaders are more consumed about finances as opposed to the organization’s mission, the end is near.

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

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:

http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

HONEST DEBATE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 11, 2009

Like any other red-blooded American male on a Sunday afternoon, I like to exercise my right to surf the television channels using my remote control from the comfort of my easy chair. Years ago, when there was only four channels on TV, such a device wasn’t really needed, but now with the hundreds of available channels, it would be unimaginable to live without one. Nonetheless, I was flipping through the channels and started to notice something…

CLICK – a show describing the men and women serving in our military. The show highlights their spirit of teamwork and sacrifice for the betterment of all.

CLICK – a documentary describing the proliferation of street gangs and how people become territorial and find ways to beat the system for personal greed and vice.

CLICK – a Wall Street report on the virtues of the free enterprise system and how the entrepreneurial spirit of small companies promote job growth.

CLICK – a show describing the plight of the homeless and why it is necessary to redistribute the wealth in this country.

CLICK – a report on the Tea Party and 9.12 movements.

CLICK – a community talk show featuring a college professor discussing why conservative values are no longer valid in the world today.

CLICK – a variety of shows providing a forum to worship God.

CLICK – a program discussing the point of view of atheists and agnostics who want to have “In God we Trust” removed from American currency.

It struck me there were extreme opposites for just about everything in our society. The incompatibility between extremes is such, you start to wonder how this country survived for over 200 years. Then again, I guess it is not surprising as America’s melting pot represents a heterogeneous society, most definitely not homogeneous. This is nothing new and has been with us a long time. Also, think how boring our society would be if we all thought the same.

The only difference is we no longer practice tolerance and have forgotten how to engage in honest debate. For example, on the Internet, rarely is there any respect for other opinions and beliefs. Instead, people are inclined to viciously attack others and slander their character, a sort of “attack mode” of operating. I guess this is the price we must pay for becoming a technology based society.

French writer Voltaire is credited with saying, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” I don’t think people feel this way anymore. Instead of talking through a problem or issue, as all of the great civilizations have done before us, we have to suffer through spin and attack. Plain and simply, we no longer know how to practice the art of honest discourse, which I interpret as a sign of deterioration of our culture.

We may not always agree with each other, but we must find ways to work together, not apart. This requires tolerance, respect, and the need to be a heck of a lot more articulate than just saying, “Up yours!”

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

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:

http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

SYSTEM MISCONCEPTIONS

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 8, 2009

I’ve been writing about Information Systems for over three decades, mostly to I.S. professionals, and I’ve spent in inordinate amount of time trying to clarify our terminology and concepts, as well as dispel basic misconceptions about systems. For example, there are those who believe an Information System is a computer. Sorry but, No, that is a piece of equipment, a tool used within a system. Then there are those who think it is a computer program or collection of programs like what you find on an iPhone. As an aside, the word “app” (for “application”) is indicative of the sloppy thinking in the industry; an “application” of what? No, let’s call a spade, a spade; they’re not “apps,” they’re “programs,” but I digress.

Perhaps the biggest misconception regarding Information Systems is that you cannot have one without a computer. Sorry, but this is simply not so. The day a company goes into business, large or small, is the day when its Information Systems are born. For example, companies need to routinely manage their finances, pay employees, manufacture products, process customer orders, manage assets and inventory, schedule deliveries, etc. This has been going on well before the advent of the computer. The only difference is systems were implemented by manual processes as opposed to computer automation.

Perhaps the best way to think of an Information System is as an orderly arrangement or grouping of processes dedicated to producing information to support the actions and decisions of a business. Hundreds of years ago, systems were implemented using logs, journals, ledgers, spreadsheets, and filing cabinets. Over time, equipment was introduced in the form of such things as cash registers, typewriters, adding machines, and tabulating equipment, all of which eventually gave way to the computer. Incidentally, there are many manual processes still in our companies serving critical business functions, much more than you might think, most of which are not properly documented.

When I teach a basic class in this subject, I ask the students to design a totally manual system just to overcome the handicap of only thinking in terms of computers. For those imbued in programming, this exercise represents an epiphany and teaches them to think outside the box. Suddenly they realize writing a program is only a small part of a much larger puzzle.

The reason people have trouble understanding the difference between systems and programs is actually quite simple; a program is much more tangible than a system. You can touch and feel a program, particularly its screens, reports and source code; but a system is much less tangible as you are talking about several business processes that operate routinely, and are implemented by people and technology that will come and go over time.

This brings up an interesting point, the basic business processes of a system (aka “sub-systems”) are logical in nature and only change when information requirements change. They are implemented by manual procedures and computer programs that are physical in nature and change dynamically as technology changes, but the business process remains essentially the same. Consider this, for any company who has been implementing payroll for a number of years; Has the process of paying your employees really changed or was it the method of its implementation? If, years ago, you paid your employees on a weekly or monthly basis, you are probably still doing so. The only thing that has changed is physically how you have been doing it. Whereas you may have started out preparing payroll manually years ago, this was probably replaced by a commercial package to do the same thing, which has probably been updated or replaced several times; but your employees are still paid weekly or monthly aren’t they?

Next time someone promises you a womb to the tomb Information System on a computer, remind them that 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. …. and there wasn’t a computer within miles of it.

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

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

LIMITATIONS

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 4, 2009

One of my favorite lines from Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry movies was, “Man’s got to know his limitations.” This implies a person can get in trouble if he tries to go beyond his scope of expertise. For example, I have a good idea of how to structure and organize things in business, but I’m a lousy electrician and plumber, which is why I tend to leave such tasks to others as I can only do a mediocre job of them at best. Maybe it’s a left-brain, right-brain kind of thing, but I think it’s important we understand our strengths and weaknesses and live our lives accordingly.

It disturbs me though when I see someone who obviously does not grasp his limitations and tries to be something he is not, and you see a lot of this in all walks of life, both personally and professionally. For example, we’ve all seen people who have risen above their level of competency at work and end up screwing things up not only for themselves, but for others around him as well. There is nothing wrong with aspiring to rise above our station in life, but we have to be smart enough to know our limitations.

Some people refuse to acknowledge this and, instead, create a facade about them to act as a smoke screen to blur the truth about themselves. As a small example, men who lose hair will wear wigs or get hair transplants in order to look younger and more virile, not just to attract the opposite sex but to project a certain image at work. Hair coloring, breast augmentation, face lifts, and other cosmetic surgery is done more for facade than anything else, they certainly do not make you smarter or enrich your business skills. You are what you are, and sooner or later people will wise up to you. Facade only delays the inevitable discovery, which might just be enough time to accomplish your objective and move along to the next one. Nonetheless, people who rely on facade possess a deep-seated embarrassment about themselves and probably suffer from an inferiority complex.

Age alone doesn’t imbue us with any supplemental skills either, only education, training or experience does. Seniority is meaningless if the person has not enhanced their skill set. Yet, we often see people promoted at work simply because of age, not expertise. Age does not necessarily mean entitlement.

I may be far from perfect but I believe I know what my strengths and weaknesses are and have no problem walking around in my skin. It is beyond me how people not in touch with their limitations do it. Then again, maybe they know their limitations too well and draw upon facade to mask them. Somehow, Lincoln’s observation comes to mind, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

In other words, I know a lot of people who could use a dose of humility.

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

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:

http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

HUMAN RESOURCE DEPARTMENTS

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 1, 2009

Years ago, companies used to have what was called “Personnel” departments that basically took care of employee records, dealt with labor relations, and promoted jobs internally within a company. It wasn’t glamorous work, but it was necessary nonetheless. This function evolved and blossomed over the years to what is now referred to as the Human Resources Department. It went from basic record keeping to recruiting, training, benefits, career development, and much more. Yet, time and again, I hear from friends and contacts in corporate America who speak with disdain when the term “H.R.” is brought up. When asked why, they describe it as a huge and lethargic bureaucracy which is more of an impediment than an expediter for conducting business.

One area that is frequently criticized is recruiting which I have heard characterized as a “black box” whereby both candidates and department managers wait weeks or months for H.R. to make the necessary arrangements, and process paperwork. Candidates are frustrated and feel like they are left in limbo. Consequently, they start to look for work elsewhere and the company loses potentially good employees. Department managers are likewise frustrated as they are anxious to tackle pressing projects and assignments. Some have become so frustrated, they hire consultants as opposed to going through the arduous H.R. process of hiring employees. They simply want to get the job done and don’t have time for bureaucracy.

Understand this, H.R. would not be the behemoth it is today if we didn’t live in a litigious society where everything seems to end up in court. It is no small wonder they are often referred to as the “PC Watchdogs” (“Politically Correct”) as their mission, in part, is to keep the company out of court. From this perspective, perhaps the best way to think of H.R. is as a necessary evil.

The intent of H.R. is to bring standard and consistent practices in the use of Human Resources, which is good. However, if H.R. is perceived as a roadblock to progress, you have to wonder about its usefulness and question how it is organized. For example, should it be a centralized or decentralized function? Ideally, the H.R. department must remember it serves the rest of the company, not the other way around.

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

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:

http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

 
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