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Archive for February, 2010

PALMETTO BUGS

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 26, 2010

I don’t think I would make a very good entomologist (someone who studies insects). We have more than our share of critters down here in Florida that I could do without, including a wide variety of spiders, beetles, man-eating mosquitoes, gnats, grubs, ravenous termites, no-see-ums (which are tiny yet very annoying flies that are hard to see until they swarm around your head), and palmetto bugs, which is an endearing name we have invented in the south for “cockroaches.”

I believe our palmetto bugs are a bit different than the common cockroaches found up north. For starters, they’re a lot bigger; most adults are bigger than your thumb. This, of course, means they have copped an attitude and are not easily intimidated by humans. The young ones may scamper away when you turn the lights on, but the big ones finish their cigarettes before they arm wrestle you.

They also have a voracious appetite for just about anything, be it food, grease, spilled drinks, wax, rubber, feces, spit, you name it. I have even seen them devour the binding glue to an entire set of encyclopedias at one sitting, as well as a lot of the paper for dessert. When you live in the south, you learn to put things away properly, and quickly, otherwise the dinner bell rings and the palmetto bugs gorge themselves like they were eating watermelons.

The palmetto bug can be rather evasive to capture. First, it has a Houdini-like ability to squeeze through the smallest crack or hole to escape. Second, it can move with the speed and agility of Seabiscut to avoid being whacked by a rolled-up magazine. It will also fly if challenged, much to the bewilderment of a lot of people not familiar with their battle tactics.

Aside from birds, reptiles and fish, there are only two things the palmetto bug dislikes, sunlight and cold, which means they are on the move at nighttime and are looking for a cozy place in your house when the temperature drops. Anyone who doesn’t take effective measures to prevent their entry into a building during this time is just asking for trouble. There aren’t too many things uglier than a roach infestation.

It’s no small wonder why insect control businesses flourish down here, and why you can find so many people spraying bug juice. It is hard not to pass a pest control truck on the road during the day. They’re so busy down here that Boeing Stratotankers circle the state refueling the trucks. The people who spray “the juice” all seem to have a strange catatonic glaze on their face. They don’t say too much as they spray your house or business but there seems to be quite a bit of mumbling involved with the job.

Whether you call them palmetto bugs or cockroaches is immaterial. They’re dirty little critters who serve a questionable purpose in life. Think about it, other than being a food source for other creatures, what purpose do they serve? Maybe they’re nothing more than the bottom of the food-chain.

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 © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

HOW ‘EFFECTIVE’ WERE YOU TODAY?

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 24, 2010

Okay, you believe you had a great day at work today; that you accomplished a lot. And maybe you did. Then again, maybe you didn’t do as much as you might think. A lot of people believe just because they are a model of efficiency, they are being highly productive. This is simply not true. We have discussed the concept of productivity on more than one occasion in this column, but some trends in the I.T. industry have spurred me to revisit it again.

Perhaps the biggest problem here is that people fallaciously equate efficiency with productivity. They are most definitely not synonymous. Efficiency is concerned with speed of delivery, reduced errors, and minimal costs or effort. In other words, how fast we can perform a given task, at reduced costs, without committing any substantial errors in the process. Consider this though, what if we are performing the wrong task at the wrong time? Obviously this would be counterproductive regardless how efficiently we performed the task. I always use the example of industrial robots on an assembly line, whereby they can perform tasks such as welding very efficiently. However, if they are welding the wrong thing at the wrong time, they are counterproductive.

This means there are two variables involved with productivity: efficiency and effectiveness. Whereas efficiency primarily deals with speed and “doing things right,” effectiveness is concerned with “doing the right things.” In other words, working on assignments in the right sequence. Sequence can be defined for a single project by its work breakdown structure (WBS) and precedent relationships, or for working on multiple projects based on priority.

ANALYZE THIS

To illustrate this point, let’s consider your work activity today (either perform this analysis at the end of the day, or for your last business day). Write this down on a piece of paper:

1. First, let’s define your EFFICIENCY rating for the day; as guidelines, use the following:

1.00 – I was a dynamo today; worked fast, no errors.

.75 – I did more than my share, not too many mistakes.

.50 – I did my fair share, average number of mistakes.

.25 – I was below average, some mistakes.

.00 – Had a bad day; too many mistakes, a lot of time lost.

Enter your EFFICIENCY rating here: __________ (enter any number from 1:00 High to .00 Low)

2. Make a list of your work assignments IN PRIORITY SEQUENCE; (list at least your top five assignments, regardless if it is within a single project or involving multiple projects; obviously you may have more assignments, but let’s limit it to five for the purpose of this exercise):

  1. __________________________________
  2. __________________________________
  3. __________________________________
  4. __________________________________
  5. __________________________________

3. Account for your time during the day using the following variables. Be honest.A. WHAT WERE YOUR “TOTAL HOURS IN DAY” (THD) (The total number of hours spent at work)

___________ hours

B. Of the THD, how much time was spent on interferences or activities not directly related to your work assignments (e.g., breaks, lunch, meetings, reading, surfing the web, e-mail, correspondence, telephone, travel between appointments, etc.)?

___________ hours

C. Enter the number of hours spent during the day on your top five priorities (enter “0″ if you didn’t work on something); then compute the extended number according to the equation shown:

HOURS                                     EXTENDED

#1 Priority    (___________  / THD) X 1.00 = ___________

#2 Priority    (___________  / THD) X  .90 = ___________

#3 Priority    (___________  / THD) X  .80 = ___________

#4 Priority    (___________  / THD) X  .70 = ___________

#5 Priority    (___________  / THD) X  .60 = ___________

Note: The hours reported here, coupled with the time recorded for interferences (“B”), must equal the Total Hours in Day (THD). Also, the rates used in the computation are based on priority (highest to lowest).4. Add the EXTENDED numbers of all five priorities: ___________ (This is your “Effectiveness” rating)

To illustrate this point, let’s consider your work activity today. To do so, let’s consider the following EXAMPLE:

A. WHAT WERE YOUR “TOTAL HOURS IN DAY” (THD):

8 HOURS

B. Of the THD, how much time was spent on interferences or activities not directly related to your work assignments (e.g., breaks, lunch, meetings, reading, surfing the web, e-mail, correspondence, telephone, travel between appointments, etc.)?

2 HOURS

C. Enter the number of hours spent during the day on your top five priorities (enter “0″ if you didn’t work on something); then compute the extended number according to the equation shown:

HOURS           EXTENDED

#1 Priority    (1 / THD) X 1.00 = .125

#2 Priority    (1 / THD) X   .90 = .1125

#3 Priority    (0 / THD) X   .80 = 0

#4 Priority    (0 / THD) X   .70 = 0

#5 Priority    (4 / THD) X  .60 = .3

(This is your “Effectiveness” rating)

PRODUCTIVITY = EFFECTIVENESS X EFFICIENCY

Let’s put it all together now and compute our Productivity. Let’s first start with our example; let’s assume we had a pretty good work day and our Efficiency rating (as defined in step #1) was .75. When we multiply it against our Effectiveness rate, we get .403125 .

Next, let’s compute YOUR numbers:

__________  EFFICIENCY (from #1)
X   __________  EFFECTIVENESS (from #4)
__________  PRODUCTIVITY

To calculate your own productivity rating, see our “MBA Daily Productivity Analyzer” on our web page:

http://www.phmainstreet.com/mba/mbaprod.htm

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

This is but a simple example. It is far from scientific (for example, the efficiency rating is crudely estimated without any level of precision). Nonetheless, the Productivity number highlights the differences between Efficiency and Effectiveness. Using the numbers in our example, if we were to use a perfect 1.00 Efficiency rating (as opposed to .75), the worker’s Productivity rating would not be any higher than .5375. This is because the worker spent time on interferences/distractions and worked on other priorities that perhaps he should not have.

I have seen companies who like to plot efficiency ratings on a graph, but as far as I am concerned the data is misleading as they only portray a glimpse of a much larger picture. Plotting the effectiveness rating is just as important as the efficiency rating and helps produce a realistic productivity rating.

CONCLUSION

Some workers, particularly craftsmen, understand the differences between efficiency and effectiveness. They appreciate the total process for building something and are acutely aware of the potential risk for cutting corners. Some simply don’t get it (and probably never will). For example, the I.T. industry commonly misunderstands this concept and is obsessed with efficiency. As evidence, consider the use of “Agile Methodologies” today which are quick and dirty approaches for writing a program. Here, a rudimentary program is developed, then radically refined over time until the client signs-off on it. Proponents consider Agile Methodologies to be a quantum leap forward in terms of productivity. I don’t. True, they can write code fast, but because they are not well structured, a lot of time is spent revising designs and rewriting code, not just once but several times. Instead of getting it right the first time, Agile Methodologies rely on the efficiency of their power programming tools to make them look good.

So what is a good productivity rating? First, let’s dispense with the notion of 100% productivity. This is purely a myth. This would mean that everyone in a company is being both highly effective and efficient around the clock. This is simply not possible. Our example herein shows a productivity rating of 40% which is probably closer to reality. In fact, 25% is considered a good rating and is typical for a lot of companies.

If this paper has done nothing more than raise your consciousness about the differences between effectiveness and efficiency, then it has served its purpose. Hopefully, it will cause you to refocus your efforts on “doing the right things” as opposed to just “doing things right.”

So, how “effective” were you today? Your answer will say a lot.

As a footnote; If you are familiar with my writings on “PRIDE” Project Management, you have heard me talk about “Effectiveness Rate” in differentiating the use of time. What I am describing herein is not the same thing; similar, but not quite. Under the Project Management scenario “effectiveness rate” is an availability rating which is used for estimating and scheduling, but not for calculating productivity.

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 © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

THE TOWER OF BABEL EFFECT

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 22, 2010

According to the Book of Genesis, the Tower of Babel was erected in Babylon as an attempt by the people to build a structure so immense that its top would reach into heaven. To do so, the people worked in a concerted manner by speaking a single language, thereby expediting the project. Displeased with the builders’ intent, God came down and confused their languages and scattered the people throughout the earth, thereby creating the many different tongues we know of today. This, of course, brought an abrupt halt to the project.

We see a similar Tower of Babel effect in just about every company who has an Information Technology (I.T.) department. Because the I.T. people work in a technical world, their jargon is laced with a lot of well meaning, yet very confusing gobbledygook. Their language abounds in seemingly strange acronyms, abbreviations and buzzwords. So much so, it has alienated non-I.T. people for many years. Sometimes this is done to deliberately lay down a smoke screen to confuse end-users, other times it is done as an attempt to baffle people with seeming brilliance, but most of the time it is done innocently as I.T. developers must cope with fast changing industry developments and vendor nuances.

What might come as a surprise to outsiders is to learn the I.T. staff has trouble communicating amongst themselves. It is not unusual for sharp disagreements to arise among the staff in terms of what something means and the best approach for implementing something. Ask ten I.T. developers what something means, and you may very well get ten different answers. Why? There are painfully few standards in the industry which means I.T. developers are forced to learn the peculiarities of each vendor’s hardware and software, and the incompatibilities between products, hence a Tower of Babel effect.

A Systems Analyst (or Business Analyst) is typically the intermediary between the business and I.T. people and, as such, acts as translator between the two groups. This means the analyst must be knowledgeable not only in the vernacular of the business world, but I.T. as well. A good analyst understands the business, the end-user’s wants and needs, develops an approach for solving the user’s problems, translates it into specifications the I.T. staff can understand and implement, and reviews their finished product to assure it satisfactorily solves the user’s requirements. Some people would argue an analyst is not necessary, that the I.T. staff can competently represent the users’ interests. I’m sorry, but the communication aspect alone prohibits this and requires the talents of a true analyst.

One of the best ways to hold any job hostage is to cloud what you’re doing and keep it so seemingly cryptic that your superiors are afraid to terminate your employment in fear your technology will go awry and nobody will be able to correct it. This typically happens when no standards are in place thereby encouraging the Tower of Babel effect. However, imagine the progress that could be made if I.T. developers operated according to a set of standards, that they spoke a common language and worked in a concerted manner. As long as they don’t try to build another tower to heaven, I doubt the Almighty would be displeased (or the executives of the company for that matter).

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 © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Computers, Society, Software, Systems | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

FLY FISHING AT ST. TIMOTHY’S

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 19, 2010

Most of the problems of the world can be solved with just a little fly fishing. Although I have fished most of my life in different locales, I took up fly fishing about twenty years ago. One of the first things I learned was that casting a fly rod was unlike any other rod and reel I had ever used. It wasn’t a matter of sheer strength but rather a lot of finesse. The rhythmic casting between ten o’clock and two o’clock in a constant manner represents a harmony between rod, reel, line, fly and fisherman. Consequently, there is a certain amount of grace and serenity in fly-fishing. Watching a fly fisherman who knows what he is doing is truly a work of art which is why they constantly cultivate their skills in search of perfection.


Deep sea fishing is fun as you can drink a few beers and chew the fat with your buddies. However, fly fishing requires you to be more independent. Even when you work a stream with a group of your friends, you are essentially on your own and must respect the space of other fishermen. There is a certain amount of protocol to be observed on the stream, a sort of gentleman’s agreement with the Golden Rule being, “I won’t spoil you’re water and you won’t spoil mine.”

More than any other type of fishing I have experienced, fly fishing teaches you patience, discipline, strategy, and how to relax. It’s not merely a matter of casting a hook, but rather making the proper presentation of the fly to the fish. The difference is analogous to eating at a fast food restaurant versus being served a meal by a waiter at a five star restaurant. Trout are notoriously picky eaters. This requires different types of flies and casting techniques in order to carefully present your offering to the fish. I’m sorry, but the brute-force approach simply doesn’t work here.

Fly fishing also requires concentration, particularly as you change flies, which, in a rushing river, can be a very challenging task requiring considerable patience and skill in tying the fly. Then there is the matter of being able to read the river and look for holes where fish may be waiting, or observing the types of live insects the fish are striking at, thereby causing you to select a suitable fly to use. There are countless things to consider as you work a stream which is why it is necessary for you to remain focused if you want to catch anything and avoid an accident. There is a serenity in such discipline, particularly in the outdoors where you commune with nature. The sounds of the river, birds and other wildlife only adds to the ambiance and you become acutely aware you are doing something rather extraordinary here.

Catch and release can be every bit as rewarding as catch and keep. However, there are few things better than cooking a trout on the grill immediately afterwards and joking with your friends about your mishaps in the stream. Sometimes we take a small propane gas grill and frying pan with us so we can cook our catch near the stream. You have to be careful though as you do not want to attract the attention of a hungry bear, but aside from this, freshwater trout cooked this way is simply marvelous.

I hope to continue to work the rivers and streams for several more years and do battle with the rainbows, cutthroats, brooks and brown trout. Even the little ones can cop an attitude and present an interesting challenge, but to land a big one in the wild, not in captivity, is like reaching a state of Nirvana.

Fly fishing is one of the best things I’ve learned to do, and I’m still learning as it is a never ending educational process. I may not be the best angler, but there is something magical about working a stream with your fly rod. As for me, I get to put away the phones and computers, put on my fishing vest, light a cigar, and quietly slip into the chilly waters in search of my adversary. Whether you catch anything or not is immaterial as far as I’m concerned. There is something about watching the sun squint through the trees, casting long shadows over the melodic rhythm of the river; something quite spiritual. Entering the stream causes you to put things into a different perspective and suddenly all of your problems become minuscule. The solitude of fly fishing offers the fisherman a place for peaceful introspection, far better than any church I have attended, which is why I often refer to the river as “St. Timothy’s.” You may not be able to solve all of your problems by fly fishing, but you sure can tame them.

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 © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

TELL THEM WHAT YOU NEED, NOT WHAT YOU WANT

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 17, 2010

When a person visits a doctor to complain about an ailment, it is not uncommon for the patient to try and diagnose the problem himself and prescribe a cure. The doctor listens politely but then asks a series of questions aimed at analyzing the patient’s symptoms, for example, “When and where did you first notice this?” “How often does this happen?” “What medication are you currently taking?,” etc. By analyzing the symptoms, the physician is trying to diagnose the problem. If he cannot ascertain the problem through questioning or a basic examination, he may order additional tests, such as an MRI, X-rays, a CAT scan, blood tests, urine samples, etc. The point is, the doctor is more interested in attacking the root cause, not just the symptoms.

We see this same type of phenomenon in Information Technology (I.T.) related projects where the end-user approaches the I.T. manager with a request for service whereby he sincerely believes he knows the right technical solution to solve his business problems. Two things may result from this request: either the I.T. department will treat the users symptoms, and give him what he wants, thereby not really solving his business problem correctly, or; the I.T. department will study the user’s problem more closely, possibly order some tests, and prescribe a solution that properly addresses his problems. Regrettably, this latter approach is rarely performed in companies anymore.

There is still a huge frustration factor between users and I.T. developers. On the one hand, users claim, “They (the I.T. people) don’t understand me,” and on the other hand, the I.T. people contend the users “don’t know what they want.” This void between the two groups is unhealthy and not conducive for solving the company’s problems. Frustrated, I.T. management tells developers not to ask questions, “Just give them what they want.” This scenario is obviously counterproductive, yet commonplace in the corporate world today.

When I am asked how to deal with this situation, I emphasize the doctor-patient analogy as mentioned above. First, the I.T. people have to learn to ask more questions and differentiate symptoms from problems. In other words, let’s not be in such a hurry to program a solution before we truly understand the problem. I.T. has a horrible track record in this regard. The idea of specifying user information requirements is the Achilles’ Heel of every development project. If it is performed superficially, the wrong solution will inevitably be delivered. Second, the user should play the role of a patient, meaning don’t try to prescribe a solution but concentrate on what you truly need and let the doctor (the I.T. department) prescribe a suitable solution. After all, who has more training in this regard, the doctor or the patient? Let the I.T. people do what they’re trained to do (and are paid for).

As long as we know our roles and do not try to do the other person’s job, we’ll get along just fine. Now turn your head and cough.

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 © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Business, Computers, Management, Software, Systems | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

NOT INVENTED HERE COMPLEX

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 15, 2010

A phenomenon I have run across on more than one occasion in my travels through the corporate world is what is commonly referred to as the “Not Invented Here” complex or simply “N.I.H.” I have encountered it in North America, Asia, Europe, and a little bit down-under in Australia. Basically, N.I.H. is a situation where an idea or invention is rebuffed simply because someone outside of the company thought of it first. The idea may be perfectly sound, but if it wasn’t invented internally, it is considered illegitimate.

The premise that something invented externally cannot be any good is a rather myopic and pigheaded point-of-view involving some rather large egos. Not surprising, larger companies are more inclined to adopt such an attitude as opposed to smaller ones. I don’t want to drop any corporate names here, but I have seen some rather large Fortune 500 companies say something to the effect, “Well, we’re the XYZ Company, the world’s largest manufacturer of widgets, and you’re just a small nobody; what makes you think you’re so smart?” Even after you carefully explain your idea and refute all of their objections, they still refuse to admit defeat. It is at this point when their superiority complex turns into a jealous rage. Now irritated, they reject the idea or invention and, instead, become hell-bent on reinventing it themselves. The only problem here is they have difficulty reproducing your invention and inevitably result in paying a lot more than you did. In other words, the people who believe in N.I.H. are the same people incurring exorbitant research and development costs. In all likelihood, they have as much of a chance of producing a better design of your invention, than you do of producing their widgets.

I find it interesting when pride clouds people’s minds in this regard. As for me, if someone has built a better mousetrap, I would much rather buy it than try to reinvent it myself at considerable expense. Basically, I want to just get on with the job.

Years ago we made a presentation to a large electronics company in California regarding our systems design methodology. The company politely listened to our pitch but afterwards made it clear they thought they could produce a better methodology themselves. After several months and a couple of million dollars trying to reinvent our wheel, they swallowed their pride and purchased our product. Costs had finally overtaken egos.

Plain and simply, N.I.H. is inflationary and a horrible price to pay for a pompous ego. I don’t care how big your company is, a good idea is a good idea, regardless of who invented it. Take the ego off the table and get the job done. I do not understand the compulsion by some people to reinvent the wheel.

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 © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

OLD SCHOOL

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 12, 2010

I am often accused of being “old school” which, I guess, means I’m out of step with the times. If it’s a matter of saying “please” and “thank you,” some basic manners such as holding a door open for someone, showing some consideration and respect for others, a sense of duty, or just trying to lead an honorable and meaningful life, then I guess I’m guilty as charged. I also think being “old school” means valuing a dollar earned and having the ability to do so. I get the uneasy feeling though that “new school” believes they are entitled to everything; be it a cell phone, an education, a job, health care, prosperity, or some other material possession. True, each generation tries to make life easier for the next, but I’m afraid there is no guarantee for success in life and entitlement is a myth embraced by the “new school.”

If the recession of 2008-2009 taught us anything, it’s that we are entitled to nothing; everything must be earned, regardless if it is money, a material object, a promotion, love, or respect, and as such should be valued dearly. If you did not earn it, you will not value it. Consider this: who appreciates an expensive wristwatch more; the person who worked hard and saved his money to buy it, or the person given it as one of a number of gifts showered upon him? Most likely, the former and not the latter.

Entitlement means we believe we have some God-given right to something. The reality though is that we live in a capitalistic society where we are given the rare opportunity to work for ourselves which isn’t always easy, but you are at least given a chance to prove yourself, hence the expression, “The land of opportunity.” It encourages you to innovate, invent, explore, design, build, think, compete, and sweat, and it allows visionaries and entrepreneurs to flourish. However, it comes at a price; that you are responsible for your own actions and you may very well succeed as well as fail (it is called “risk”). The only thing you are entitled to under capitalism is the right to try. There are no guarantees for success or failure, and I believe we have done the “new school” a disservice in not teaching this properly.

“Old school” also implies you are not in step with the latest fashions or trends in technology. This may be true, but I tend to believe “old school” is not easily impressed by glitz and facade and is more concerned with finding pragmatic solutions instead. After already witnessing many social trends in their lifetime, “old school” is more concerned with simplicity and practicality as opposed to complexity.

I had a friend from the UK recently tell me about the differences between the generations in his family. He was born in pre-World War II London and vividly remembers his family essentially had nothing, yet he and his sister found ways of entertaining themselves and generally recalls a rather happy childhood. As he got older and had a family of his own, his children benefited from the prosperity following the War and enjoyed such creature comforts as television, refrigerators, microwave ovens, washing machines, etc. He now has grandchildren who have just about every toy imaginable, cell phones, computers, etc. Despite all of their materialism though, he believes he had a better childhood. Why? Because it was a simpler time and he focused more on playing with his friends as opposed to being preoccupied with electronic devices. His story makes a compelling argument that added complexity doesn’t necessarily ensure happiness.

I guess the fundamental difference between “old school” and “new school” is that we have different values as a result of changing times. As for me, if I’m accused of being “old school,” I’ll take it as a compliment. I hope my children will do likewise when their turn comes.

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 © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

CERTIFICATION PROGRAMS

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 10, 2010

There are several types of professional certification programs in the world today, be it in engineering, construction, auto repair, medicine, etc. Basically, certification is saying the holder is proficient in a specific subject and should be recognized as a legitimate professional. To the holder, certification looks good on a resume and, thereby, is useful for generating more income. To the customer, certification instills confidence that the holder theoretically knows what he or she is doing. Such programs are supposed to define the level of competency needed to perform certain tasks and means the holder is intimate with specific methods, tools and techniques needed to perform the work. It is also not unusual for certifications to be renewed periodically to assure the holder is staying abreast of industrial developments.

However, not all certification programs are created equally and many are not worth the paper they are printed on. Two things bother me about certification: when it becomes too easy to obtain one, and if the certification is based on sheer humbug.

I’ve seen some programs where a person is awarded certification simply for signing the attendance roster for a class or seminar (and then quietly slips away for a round of golf). It shouldn’t be a matter of merely attending a class, but if you truly learned something which, of course, should mean passing a test of some kind. The validity of certification is dubious if it only requires signing your name and answering an open book test. All it means is that the holder knows how to read and write.

I have seen some certification programs based on plain quackery, particularly in the I.T. industry. It is one thing to demonstrate proficiency in a particular programming language or technology, quite another when it comes to theories of management, systems or any area lacking standardization. In other words, certification should be based on science, not art. The difference between an art and a science is subtle but significant. An art form is based on the intuitiveness of the person performing the work, something that is difficult, if not impossible, to pass on to another human being. For example, apprentices serving under an artist may try for years to emulate the master, but may never attain his level of skill and creativity. In contrast, a science is based on tried and proven concepts and facts and, as such, can be easily taught to others. Certification, therefore, should be based on science, not art. Any certification program Without a set of standard and proven principles is meaningless.

It should be no small wonder why I am skeptical of someone claiming to be certified in a particular field of endeavor. It might sound nice, but I still want to determine if the person is truly competent before they perform a service for me. I consider such things as: what they know, what experience they have, how rigorous was the testing for their certification, and the integrity of the institution issuing the certificate.

Just remember, certification programs are big business. True, there are legitimate certification programs out there, but there are also some that are nothing more than marketing ploys. Does all this mean I frown upon certification programs? Absolutely not. I’m just saying, “caveat emptor” and challenging the institutions to be less frivolous in how they are issued.

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 © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

DIVVYING UP THE CHECK

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 8, 2010

One of the most embarrassing customs we have in this country is fighting over the bill at a restaurant. It’s one thing for someone to pick up the check in its entirety, quite another when we start to fight over who should pay what. When someone picks up the whole check, it’s usually done for business purposes, a date, a celebration, or as a term of endearment (meaning, “I enjoy your company and it would be an honor if you would allow me to pay the bill”). Under this scenario, the other party will inevitably reciprocate the next time you go out. If they do not, it’s time to find another friend.

Aside from this, the real problem comes when we try to split hairs over the check. The bill should, of course, be reviewed for accuracy, but I have been with people who like to put everything under a microscope and fight with the waiter or waitress over every nickel, thereby turning a pleasant evening into an uncomfortable inquisition. It’s one thing to be frugal, quite another to be cheap (Jack Benny preferred the word “penurious”).

I never understood the logic of having one bill for a large group of people who are going to pay separately. Inevitably, someone appoints him/herself as the head bookkeeper and instructs everyone what they owe, rather loudly I might add. Everybody at the table then knows who the big spenders are, as well as the tightwads. Why not have separate checks and save everyone the embarrassment? It might be a headache for the waiter or waitress, but no more than having someone run a P & L statement on you over the PA system.

Most of the time, people will simply split the bill evenly, which is easy for the waiter to do, and provides an equitable solution for all of the parties involved, unless one of the parties is keeping a scorecard on who ate and drank what, thereby feeling cheated by a 50/50 split. In this situation, have the waiter split the check accordingly and avoid creating any ill-will.

The last thing that could potentially turn ugly when multiple parties are involved is calculating the tip. Under a 50/50 split, both parties should theoretically give the same amount (assuming they are both satisfied with the service provided). If one person gives more than another, than the waiter will most likely think one person is cheaper than the other (or more generous than the other depending on your perspective).

When we share a meal with others, the general idea is to relax and have a good time. Consequently, paying the bill should be handled with finesse and grace, not embarrassment. Perhaps the best way to develop indigestion is to fight over a lousy bill which would certainly defeat the purpose of going out together.

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 © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Family, Food | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

YOU’RE FROM WHERE?

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 5, 2010

As I was growing up my father moved the family around quite a bit due to the nature of his work (he was a pioneer in the systems and computer industry). My grade school years were predominantly spent in the Northeast (Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New York), except for a stint in California where we were told on more than one occasion we spoke with a distinct East Coast accent. I didn’t think much of it at first, but I started to keep track of the peculiarities of our language. When we moved to Chicago, again we were told of our East Coast affliction, but when we moved to Cincinnati, the “Gateway to the South,” we were told that we now had a hard Midwest accent. Eventually we moved our business down to Florida which is actually an amalgamation of many accents as people from just about everywhere move here. I suppose I now possess a “Heinz 57 Varieties” of American dialects.

Accents can be both charming and confusing at the same time. Aside from this, there are other expressions we use which distinguishes people from one geographical location to another. For example, the dialect of people from Boston is distinct and well known, but there is one word the computer people there use that I have not seen elsewhere; instead of the word “data” (pronounced “day-tah”) they will say “dater” (“day-ter”) which is a bit baffling and very unique to the area.

In Cincinnati (pronounced “sin-sin-at-ee”) natives are more inclined to say “Cincinnata” (“sin-sin-at-ah”), but the real distinguishable idiosyncrasy of people from the “Queen City” is their constant use of the word “please.” Instead of just using it to request something, it is commonly used when someone doesn’t understand something in a conversation; instead of “I beg your pardon” or “Could you repeat that?” or simply “Huh?” Cincinnatians will say “Please?” I have found this to be very unique to Cincinnati. No other city in Ohio, including nearby Dayton, uses “please” in this manner, making it a very distinct characteristic of Cincinnatians.

I don’t remember any particular expression in Chicago other than they commonly use the expression “Chicagoland” to refer to the general metropolitan area. I know of no other city that does this. You’ll hear “Chicagoland” primarily used in television and radio commercials, as well as print advertisements. As an outsider moving to Chicago, I thought it sounded rather pompous, making Chicago seem like it was a separate country or at least the Ponderosa.

Australia has a distinct accent and the natives are quick to point out the dissimilarities between an Australian accent, and those from the UK and South Africa. Most Americans cannot hear the differences at first, but if you listen carefully there are distinct differences. One word that caught my attention down-under is the use of the word “rubber”; whereas Americans tend to refer to this as a prophylactic, Australians use it to refer to an eraser, such as on a pencil. Note to male Australians visiting corporate offices in the United States: do not ask an American female for a rubber, you might be accused of sexual harassment.

I’ve been to Canada many times and there are several expressions unique to our neighbors in the north, primarily Ontario. “Eh?” is perhaps the most commonly used word in their vernacular and is shorthand for “Don’t you agree?” or “I beg your pardon?” Aside from this, words like “out” and “about” sound more like “ewt” and “a-boot.” If you are a project manager, it is not uncommon to say “shed-ule” and “pro-jecht” as opposed to “Schedule” and “project.”

Here in the South, natives will talk with long drawls, kind of like Huckleberry Hound, but just about everyone says “Y’all” (“You all”) including displaced Yankees who have migrated here (as well as yours truly). “Y’all” is so popular, I’m convinced it’s contagious.

I have only scratched the surface here of local idiosyncrasies. I’m sure you know many more. As I said, some of these expressions can be both charming and confusing. George Bernard Shaw said, “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.” I would take it further, “America is a country separated by a common language.” Between our regional dialects, expressions, and slang, it is no small wonder that English is the hardest language to learn, particularly for our own people.

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 © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

 
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