THE BRYCE IS RIGHT!

Software for the finest computer – the Mind

  • Tim’s YouTube Channel

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 2,106 other followers


  • "BRYCE's UNCOMMON SENSE SERIES"
    4 New Printed Books & eBooks from Tim on:
    Change/Technology, Management, Politics, and the American Scene
    Click HERE.

  • Categories

  • Fan Page

  • Since 1971:
    "Software for the finest computer - The Mind"

    Follow me on Twitter: @timbryce

    hit counter

     

  • Subscribe

Archive for April, 2010

WHAT WE DRIVE IS HOW WE DRIVE

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 30, 2010

I have always found the relationship between humans and their automobiles interesting. I contend what we drive greatly impacts how we drive. To illustrate, I believe there are basically three distinctively different classes of people who drive: those who just want a basic form of transportation, those who use it as a status symbol, and those who have a love affair with their vehicle, a sort of connoisseur. Each group sees the automobile differently and, as such, treats it differently.

BASIC TRANSPORTATION

Those who just want a basic form of transportation are more impressed by the functionality of the vehicle as opposed to aesthetics. Price, reliability, gas mileage, maintenance, and safety are more important than contoured lines, paint, and leather bucket seats. To them, the automobile is a necessary evil; it is nothing more than a tool to move them from point A to point B. As such, it is essentially no different than the role the horse played in the 1800’s. You feed it, you give it basic grooming, and you ride the heck out of it.

I find these types of people do not establish any emotional ties to their vehicles yet tend to hold on to them a lot longer than most as they wish to get their money’s worth out of it. If the car is to be used for nothing more than transportation, they typically buy small to mid-sized cars. However, they are more inclined to buy something bigger if they have to transport samples and paper work, such as what salesmen do, or children. Construction workers are more inclined to buy trucks.

The “basic” people represent the lion’s share of drivers on the road. As such, you must remember they are only interested in reaching their destination. Some will be overly conservative, particularly our seniors, some will go with the flow, some will be hell-bent on reaching their objective, and others will be preoccupied on the phone, shaving, reading, applying makeup or fixing their hair as they consider driving a horrendous waste of time. It is this last group that is the most dangerous as they are more interested in their distraction than driving the car.

STATUS SYMBOLS

Those who see their vehicle as a status symbol are trying to make a statement of some kind; either they are “sporty”, filthy rich, or use it as a means of attracting the opposite sex thereby acting as a phallic symbol. Unlike the “basic” people, looks are of paramount importance. Consequently, they either buy the fastest gas guzzlers, the most opulent luxury vehicles, or something in-between. Electronic trinkets are important here as the vehicle is considered more as a toy than anything else.

The status people have emotional ties to their vehicles only until the next model comes out whereby they trade-up at every opportunity. In other words, owning a car for one year is considered an eternity.

On the road, the “status” people have two different driving personalities: they are either fast and reckless, thereby giving the impression they are eccentric and have plenty of money to burn, or they drive rather conservatively, conscious of their investment.

CONNOISSEURS

Those who truly love cars possess an in-depth understanding of automobiles and a deep seeded appreciation for the design and engineering of the vehicle. Guys like Jay Leno come to mind, as well as people who participate in the many classic car shows across the country. They buy rare cars for several reasons; to remind them of a bygone era, the sheer love of automotive engineering, and as an investment. They drive their car not because they have to, but because they want to as they truly appreciate the automobile as a remarkable engineering achievement.

The “connoisseurs” are passionate about their vehicles and develop strong attachments to them. However, most will reluctantly part with them if the price is right, and will buy something else to work on. They spend their idle time scouring eBay looking for spare parts, visiting auto auctions, and carefully inspecting different vehicles at car shows. To them, it is a serious hobby, requiring them to possess an in-depth knowledge regarding their subject and a close attention to detail.

Those that fall into this category are perhaps the best drivers on the road. They are acutely aware of the capabilities and limitations of their vehicles and drive defensively in order to protect them. They are typically the safest drivers on the road.

DIFFERENCES

The basic difference between the three schools of thought is how the human being perceives the automobile, either as nothing more than a tool or commodity, an expression of one’s personality, or as a prized investment. These perspectives ultimately dictate our driving habits and how we treat the vehicle. We either see it as nothing more than a mule or workhorse, a stallion out to stud, or a fine quarter horse suitable for racing.

These distinctively different perspectives present an interesting dilemma for automotive manufacturers in terms of what types of cars they should be building. Do they develop something for the masses whereby what they lack in profit-margin can be made up for in volume? Or do they develop a line of luxury cars which will feature a much higher price tag? Or do they try to design a “classic” which will stand the test or time? I guess it ultimately depends on who you want to sell to: basic people, the status seekers, or the investors. Each has a different perspective and each wants something different.

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.

Advertisements

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

1ST LESSONS IN JOINING THE WORK FORCE

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 28, 2010

We recently released our popular “MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD – A Handbook for Entering the Work Force” as an eBook (PDF format). The book represents a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life. It includes chapters to describe how a young person should organize themselves, how to adapt to the corporate culture, develop their career, and improve themselves professionally and socially. Basically, its 208 pages of good sound advice to jump start the young person into the work force.

In the Introduction, I prefaced the book by describing some of life’s hard lessons a young reader should expect upon entering the adult world. There is nothing magical here, yet you won’t find these lessons in the business schools, only in the school of hard knocks, to wit…

There are several lessons to be learned in order to make the transition from school into the work force, but none more important than these first basic truths you should always be mindful of:

* You are entitled to nothing. If you want something, you are going to have to go out and earn it.

* Nothing is free. Forget what the promotion says, people do not offer something without wanting something in return.

* Life is not fair. In fact it can be downright cruel and dehumanizing. Keep in mind, with rare exception, companies are not democracies; they are dictatorships. As such, they operate at the whims of the person in charge.

* Becoming an adult means assuming responsibility, be it on the personal or professional sides of our lives. Knowing this, put your best face on and act like a professional, someone you want others to respect.

* Becoming an adult also means making decisions. In theory, if you make 51% of your decisions correctly, you will be successful. Also, do not procrastinate; if you do not make a decision, the decision will be made for you (and probably not to your liking).

* If anything in life is constant, it is change. Some you will like, others you will have trouble swallowing. Nonetheless learn to accommodate change. Learn and adapt.

* People act on their perceptions, regardless if they are valid or not. As an old systems man, I can tell you authoritatively, if the input is wrong, everything that follows will also be wrong. Don’t jump to conclusions; always seek the truth.

* The only good business relationship is when both parties benefit (aka “Win-Win” relationship). Avoid situations where one party benefits at the expense of the other (aka “Win-Lose” relationship).

* Everything begins with a sale. All of our efforts, regardless of how mundane they may seem, should be geared towards producing income for the company. Without sales, everything else will eventually come to a halt.

* There is only one problem with common sense, it is not very common. The obvious is not obvious to a lot of people. You will undoubtedly discover that decisions are based more on emotion as opposed to logic.

* Your personal and professional lives are one and the same. Some people like to separate the two, but the fact remains, there is only one you.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a thought from a good friend of mine who survived over thirty years of corporate politics:

“You cannot move to the top of the ladder by breaking rungs and breaking rules….we all must move through the learnings, the little successes, the disappointments, to develop and grow.”
– Michael B. Snyder

I have had several parents tell me they appreciate this section out of the book as they have experienced this themselves and found it to be valid rules to live by.

For more information on the book, both the eBook and paper versions, see MBA Press at: http://www.phmainstreet.com/mba/mbapress.htm

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 Books, Business, Management, Social Issues | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

OUR LEGACY

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 26, 2010

Something just about all of us consider at some point in our lives is our legacy, be it on a small scale such as a job or project, or our life’s work. Nagging questions linger, “How will I be remembered?”, “Did I do a good job?” or “Was my life well spent?” Some people believe we are judged by physical objects such as a building we constructed, the development of some object, or perhaps an invention. Others consider our impact on productivity and prosperity through such things as leadership, organization, and systems. The fallacy here is that buildings and products inevitably deteriorate, processes and inventions evolve and are replaced, so notoriety for such things is fleeting. To compound the problem, we have no real sense of history and quickly forget who did what years ago.

I contend we are not measured by inanimate objects, but by animate ones instead. It is how we influence others that is perhaps most important, be it our relatives, our coworkers, our customers or whatever. If we can set an example or motivate someone to excel beyond their capabilities, to grow and evolve, then we have accomplished something rather monumental. This is probably what motivates teachers. For example, Helen Keller’s work positively impacted people with disabilities around the world, yet had it not been for her teacher, Anne Sullivan, it would never have happened. Thomas Edison is well remembered not only for the inventions he created, but the companies he founded, including General Electric which does business around the world. All of this may never have happened without the influence of his mother, Nancy, who encouraged and home schooled him. Let us also not forget Aristotle’s influence on Alexander the Great who significantly influenced the cultures of Europe, Asia and Africa.

We are ultimately defined by the decisions we make and actions we take, both good and bad. It is the consistency by which we apply these actions and decisions that defines our character. Greatness is measured by a person’s ability to move the masses towards a major goal. There are several fine examples strewn throughout history, such as the ancient Greeks (e.g., Plato, Socrates, etc.); political leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, King Henry VIII, Joan of Arc, Winston Churchill, and Emperor Meiji of Japan, and; religious figures such as Jesus, Confucius, and Mohammed. Interestingly, all were effective communicators.

The point is, we all have a profound effect on others, be it in a positive or negative light. It is when we can get others to aspire and achieve that we have really written our own legacy.

As to my own personal legacy, I believe I have done some good things in terms of information systems theory, and have helped clean up a lot of messes for customers who I have consulted with over the years, as well as the organizations I have participated in. This is all well and good, but beyond this I hope I will be remembered as someone who…

* Challenged people to use their brains, to think, and not to go on autopilot.

* Encouraged people to try new ideas, to think outside of the box.

* Warned people of the dangers of complacency and apathy.

* Admonished others to appreciate their heritage yet grow, evolve, and adapt.

* Preached leading an honorable and worthwhile life.

If I have done this, than I feel my time was well spent.

Our legacy is what we give of ourselves. We can give money, we can volunteer our time, we can invent and design new things, but I believe we really affect people when we shape their perspectives and thinking processes. Thereby our legacy is whatever we want it to be; we write it ourselves, either by doing nothing or helping others find their way.

I’ve told you what I hope my legacy will be; what’s yours?

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 Social Issues, Society, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

SHOPPING

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 23, 2010

When I go shopping, I’m one of those guys who doesn’t like to dicker over price. I want to go in, buy what I want and move along. To me, shopping over the Internet was a godsend as I can browse at my leisure, compare prices, and order what I want without the hassle of talking to a sales clerk. I don’t like to barter, but I know a lot of people who do. My father was a past master of the trade, particularly when it came to cars. When negotiating with a salesman, he treated it like a game as to who could outdo each other. I knew a lot of guys from his generation who liked to shop for cars the way he did. Plain and simply, it was the love of the joust they relished. Although my father would get the price down, I couldn’t help but believe in the end, the salesman had the last laugh. As for me, such shenanigans are a waste of time.

“Horse trading,” as we still refer to it, is still a lively pastime. I’ve got friends who actively engage in it and their goal is to always “trade up” for something better. For example, I have seen them start with a bicycle, trade it up for a chain saw, to a scooter, to a motorcycle, to a camper, to a car, and finally to a boat. It takes them a bit of time to go through the process and requires them to fix and cleanup the current commodity du jour, but they thoroughly enjoy the game. True, they’re ultimately making some money in the end, but they’re also spending money cleaning and fixing up the merchandise as well as devoting considerable time to their hobby. The one thing I’ve learned about these people is they do not form any attachments to their property. They will wheel and deal in all of their material possessions, even pets and livestock. I don’t know if these people are to be envied or pitied for their obsession, but they certainly seem to enjoy it.

I am also not one of those guys who longs to go shopping at a mall for an afternoon. Frankly, I think I would rather have a prostate examination instead. I marvel at how people can do this as much as they do, particularly before Christmas. Women shoppers amaze me as they methodically go in and out of stores, examining merchandise, trying on clothes, and buying nothing. It’s kind of like watching an ant canvass an area scrounging for food.

I have a female friend who I would classify as a professional shopper. She knows where virtually everything is in the city she lives, and makes routine rounds around town in a constant search for the lowest prices and latest sales. She has done this so often, all of the sales clerks in town know her on a first name basis. Each time she goes out, she is compelled to buy something. If you were to visit her home you would find racks of clothes which still have the price tags on them. Interestingly, just about everything she buys is returned. As an aside, her monthly credit card statements read like “War and Peace” with numerous pages of debits and credits, yet the monthly balance always ends up at zero. You would think such shopping madness would get tiresome. Surprisingly, it does not. It is the love of the hunt that drives her just as much as “horse trading” does for my other friends.

I have heard the act of shopping called everything from a hobby to an obsession, to a disease or some form of addiction. For those obsessed with it, Psychiatrists have a name for it, Compulsive Buying Disorder (CBD) which can be treated by medication and support groups. Interestingly, CBD is found in approximately 6% of the American populace, 80% of which are female.

Aside from CBD, I think what drives shoppers more than anything is the incentive of financial rewards. Other than this, I cannot see any enjoyment in shopping for its own sake, regardless of how the store is decorated or its friendly service. If you are shopping just to occupy your time, you must be a glutton for punishment.

As for me, while everyone else is at the mall, I’ll be sitting at the beach quietly reading a good book. It sure beats a prostate examination (or shopping).

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

THE TIMES WE LIVE IN

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 21, 2010

By occupation I am a management consultant specializing in the area of information systems. This has afforded me the rare opportunity to see quite a bit of the world and meet with all kinds of people in just about every field of endeavor imaginable. I do not get paid to tell people what they want to hear but rather, I make my living telling people the truth which, in this day and age of political correctness and spin, doesn’t always ingratiate me to my audience. In a way, I often feel like the child in the Hans Christian Andersen tale who points out the peculiarities of the Emperor’s new clothes. Although he naively spoke the truth, the observation made people nervous and squirm, particularly those in power. One of the things I learned early on is that the obvious is not always obvious, or politically correct, but we would make little progress if we didn’t look at ourselves in the mirror once and awhile, warts and all.

As a writer, I discuss things we take for granted, often overlook, or refuse to acknowledge as we feel comfortable with the status quo and do not want to make waves. When we look back on our childhood, we fondly think of a simpler time, the “Good old Days,” and wish they were still within our grasp. But if anything is constant, it is change. We have all witnessed considerable changes in the world in terms of sociology, economics, technology, politics, etc.

Today, we now expect to communicate instantaneously with just about anyone on the planet. As for me, I miss the days when we could become “out of touch.” Now, no place is sacred from instant communications.

Our weaponry has become so sophisticated, it would be the envy of Buck Rogers.

In terms of medicine, we now expect to recover from life threatening problems quickly so we can get back out on the golf course.

We now plan to travel to distant locations in a matter of hours or a few scant days, not weeks or months. Even a trip to space is taken for granted.

We now carry the latest movies and games in our pocket; we look up scores, pay bills, check our stocks, as well as weather and traffic reports.

When you think about it, we now take a lot for granted; things that simply did not exist a few scant decades ago. This means we are now experiencing new freedoms in how we communicate, express ourselves, move about the planet, and socialize. All of this was made possible by advancements in our technology.

This also resulted in new tactics and strategies in how we manage and compete in business and govern ourselves. As an example, consider the concept of “outsourcing” which would not have been possible without the electronic communications we enjoy today. This has caused us to move a lot of our manufacturing jobs offshore to cheaper labor pools, like India, China, even Viet Nam. The result: We are no longer the #1 exporter in the world, and we have shifted from manufacturing and construction to a predominantly service oriented society.

The people who lost their jobs in this country have had to learn new skills for new types of jobs, but are they truly better than their previous jobs?

Let me give you an example, the area just east of Asheville, North Carolina, right along the Blue Ridge Parkway, used to be known for some of the finest furniture makers in the country as well as their rich tobacco crops. Unfortunately, cheap Chinese labor ultimately decimated North Carolina’s furniture business; they simply couldn’t compete and were forced to close their factories. Since the passage of the Federal Tobacco Quota Buyout in October 2004, North Carolina’s tobacco industry has been in a “transition” period, meaning tobacco production has sharply diminished in the area, if not disappeared altogether. All of this has given rise to unemployment, government subsidies, and a general bewilderment by the populace as to what to do next.

There are those still yearning for furniture work, but cannot seem to come to grips with the fact that the ship has sailed. Because of the natural beauty of the area, including mountains, streams, hunting and fishing, and gemstones, some would like to develop the area for tourism. Alas, this is pooh-poohed by the locals who are easily alarmed by outsiders and their perceived sinful ways. Instead, the residents have elected to simply do nothing and allow themselves to stagnate in a state of analysis paralysis. You can readily see the effect it is having on the natives as there is no hustle, no service, no nothing, just a defeatist attitude, all because they refuse to face reality.

All of this means that change comes at a cost, namely substantial modifications to our culture and standard of living. To illustrate, “texting” has had an adverse affect on basic grammar and how business letters and reports are written, which affects sales and customer service.

Make no mistake, our children and grandchildren will live in a much more complicated world than we can imagine. Added complexity means we have to embrace new ideas and abandon older ones. In other words, added complexity means change.

The question remains though, is our quality of life improved; are we truly better off? A U.N. report suggests our standard of living continues to decline (we’re now 10th in the world with countries such as Norway, Iceland, Australia, and Canada ahead of us). A reduction in our standard of living represents sacrifices for all of us, both personally and professionally, something that will test the American character.

Our language is cruder, common courtesy is no longer common, there is polarity in our politics, we possess no sense of history, common sense is uncommon, and you could make a compelling argument that our moral values are deteriorating at an alarming rate.

We tolerate a decline in our morality and socialization skills, yet we are intolerant when it comes to politics and religion. Perhaps these should be reversed.

Now more than ever we need true leaders to lead, but we have to quit handcuffing them to political correctness. In a republic, our leaders are elected by the people to serve the people. It seems to me though, we have the cart before the horse. We have created monarchies not only in our government, but in nonprofit volunteer organizations as well. We need leadership, not a power-hungry ideologue. We need leaders who can pull a group of people together and move them in a direction towards solving true problems, not symptoms. A lot of what we do today I refer to as “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic”; we simply have our priorities wrong. We’ve got to stop promising people the world, and learn to live within our means. This may not be good for getting elected, but it is a harsh reality we all have to learn.

Years ago, Gerald Ford went before the American people in a State of the Union address and said in effect, “My fellow Americans, I’m afraid the state of the union is not very good…” It was honest, it was truthful, it was forthright; but it also cost him the 1976 Presidential election as it was something the American public didn’t want to hear. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and it is us.”

As I admonish young people entering the work force, “It is time to grow up.” Now is not the time to go with the flow, now is the time to challenge the status quo, to seek new ideas and ways to survive and improve our station in life. As far as I’m concerned, there are no sacred cows. Everything needs to be challenged and reevaluated. When you hear expressions like, “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it,” that’s a telltale sign you have allowed yourselves to stagnate out of apathy. Has anyone considered that perhaps you have been doing things wrong so long that you believe it is right? That there may very well be new and improved ways for changing the status quo?

Years ago, Laurence M. Gould, the President Emeritus of Carleton College said in a commencement address, “I do not believe the greatest threat to our future is from bombs or guided missiles. I don’t think our civilization will die that way. I think it will die when we no longer care. Arnold Toynbee has pointed out that 19 of 21 civilizations have died from within and not from without. There were no bands playing and flags waving when these civilizations decayed. It happened slowly, in the quiet and the dark when no one was aware.”

I would like to leave you on a positive note, but that is going to be difficult to do. The title of this paper is “The Times We Live In” which I believe history will record as an extraordinary period for all of us. I had hoped that as I approached the autumn of my life, I could slow down and take it easy. Unfortunately, I do not see this happening any time soon for any of us. And that’s just the point: It is all up to us. We can either sit back and do nothing or stand up and be counted in everything we do, be it politics, our companies, our schools, our neighborhoods, and all of the other institutions we participate in. “It is all up to us.”

Think about your own local institutions. Is membership flourishing? Is it prosperous? Is it financially sound? Is it meaningful? How is this not a microcosm of what is happening on a national or world stage? If we truly believe in the institutions we participate in, it will be necessary to redouble our efforts to maintain them.

I am reminded of what Winston Churchill said before his country entered World War II, “Nothing can save England if she will not save herself. If we lose faith in ourselves, in our capacity to guide and govern, if we lose our will to live, then indeed our story is told.”

So, the next time someone says, “The Emperor has no clothes,” will we continue to avert our eyes and keep quiet, or will we have the fortitude to speak up and deal with the problem?

This could be our greatest hour, or our worst. “It is all up to us.”

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 Politics, Social Issues | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

THE WAR ON TERROR

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 19, 2010

In the wake of the 9-11 disaster, I remember driving around with my son who was, at the time, still in middle school. I wanted to engage him in conversation to get him to think about what had just happened and what it meant to the United States. It was clear to me a new era of warfare had been born as a result of the tragedy, a type of warfare Americans still have trouble comprehending. As a nation, our perception of warfare is still of land, sea and air engagements a la the 20th century; e.g., the two world wars, Korea and Viet Nam. We have become rather proficient in traditional military maneuvers as demonstrated by how we brushed aside the Iraqi army, not just once, but twice.

The War on Terror though is unlike any other war we have fought. It has little to do with soldier versus soldier in the traditional sense. Our enemies know they would easily be annihilated in such a confrontation and, instead, have chosen to form a shadow army to fight behind the scenes by not only sniping at Americans but also trying to undermine their very existence. Some would say their actions are those of a coward. Maybe so, then again what alternative do they have as they are without the means to achieve a military victory.

More than anything, the War on Terror is an intelligence war. Whereas our enemies can easily find out what they need to know through the general media and Internet, our intelligence people need to dig deeper and harder to learn what our opposition is doing. This means the CIA is really our front-line, an often maligned agency of our government who a lot of people would like to see dismantled. Nothing could be more foolish. Prior to World War II, the United States had no organized intelligence body. It wasn’t until after we were bombed at Pearl Harbor and found ourselves embroiled in a world war that we finally determined the need for such an agency, hence the birth of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in 1942, the forerunner of the CIA. Perhaps if we had an effective intelligence agency before then we could have averted the catastrophe that befell us on December 7th, 1941, but such is hindsight.

Our enemies in the War on Terror are funded by such things as drugs, oil, and religious zealots. Simple economics can be just as powerful a weapon as anything we have in our military arsenal. By curbing drug traffic, you are fighting the War on Terror. By curbing our dependence on foreign oil and developing our internal energy resources, you are fighting the War on Terror. By disseminating positive information about the United States overseas, be it factual or propaganda, you are fighting the War on Terror. And the development of intelligence resources is, of course, a prerequisite for fighting the War on Terror.

Such a war doesn’t necessarily produce battle victories or body counts, which is how we have traditionally measured military success. These are tangible elements. Instead, the War on Terror deals primarily in intangibles. As such, it cannot be fought based on public opinion polls as the American public is not aware of how the war is being waged. This also means the public shouldn’t expect any formal surrender ceremonies on battleships. The War on Terror is an ongoing conflict we will be embroiled in throughout our lifetimes. It’s not that it is a no-win contest, it is simply a recognition that terrorism is the only form of warfare our enemies can engage in.

The next question should be rather obvious; how can each citizen help? Actually, we are already a part of it, whether we like it or not, as we are pawns in developing the mindshare of America. We need to fight drugs, thereby eliminating the cash flow to our enemies; we need to make our communities safe from crime, thereby causing funds to be channeled where they are really needed; we need to develop our moral character, thereby setting an example for the world to emulate, and; we need to make sure our government is working properly and operating under the right set of priorities. In other words, we need to practice basic citizenship again. We should not be so foolish as to believe our actions have no consequence, they do; we are all foot soldiers in the War on Terror whether we realize it or not. During World War II, Americans were all expected to pitch in and do their part. Now it is our turn, our time.

Remember this, one of the main reasons why the British lost in our Revolutionary War is not because they didn’t have a superior army (they did), but because they couldn’t adapt to a different form of warfare. Since we are all in this War of Terror together, we must all adapt or perish.

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 Politics, Terrorism | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

BASEBALL: THE LOVE OF THE GAME

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 16, 2010

I have always had a fondness for the game of baseball. As a kid, I played Little League but also carried my glove and bat with me just about everywhere for a quick pickup game whether it was before or after school, or during recess. Growing up in Connecticut, I followed the early 1960’s Yankees and vividly remember when the Mets were introduced. As we moved around the country I became a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Chicago Cubs, and finally watched the emergence of the Big Red Machine in Cincinnati. Frankly, I do not believe we will ever see another team as good as the 1976 Reds. They were very special.

I played in coed softball leagues as I got older. When I became a parent, I coached boys baseball, girls softball, served on the local Little League board of directors, and umpired to boot. My signature as a coach was to line my kids up on the infield foul line before a game and pledged allegiance to the flag. After all, it is America’s game. Curiously, there were some coaches who adamantly opposed me doing this, but I see citizenship as an inherent part of the game.

I suffered under no illusion my kids were going to be superstars and, as such, I concentrated on teaching the basics (hitting, fielding, and pitching), teamwork, and hopefully, the love of the game. There is something magical about the game of baseball; the smell of the grass, the heat of the sun on your back, the taste of the leather string on your cowhide mitt, the crack of the bat, and the excitement of the play. You relish the camaraderie of your teammates, the precision of a perfect bunt, the tenacity of a runner stealing a base, and the grace of an infielder flawlessly throwing out a runner or executing a double play.

Baseball is a game of nuances and you really cannot appreciate it if you have never played it. As you approach home plate to bat, you see how the fielders are setting up to play you, either deep, in close, or to a particular field. You take your sign from the third base coach, check the eyes of the pitcher, hear the cheering of the parents, and all along your mind is constantly calculating all of the variables involved. Your hands grip the bat as you position yourself in the batter’s box. Your body language tells the other team whether or not you can be intimidated. Finally, just before the pitcher makes his wind-up, you spit. Translation, “Bring it on!”

There is also a lot of communications in a baseball game, both vocal and silent. The vocal is rather obvious, the silent communications is a lot more interesting. We’re all aware of the third base coach making strange gyrations with his hands in order to call the play, but there are also a lot of subliminal signs not so apparent, such as a manager turning up his collar or crossing his legs. The communications between pitcher and catcher is also well known. The great Willie Mays was notorious for his ability to study and steal the signs of the opposing team. It just takes a little concentration and attention to detail.

When I coached Little League, and my kids were batting with one or more runners on base, I would suddenly yell from the dugout, “Red-22, Red-22.” Actually, it was nothing more than a smoke screen as it meant absolutely nothing, but it put the other team on edge as they thought some trick play was about to be executed. My kids thought it was a riot.

As a Little League coach, you realize you are having an impact on your young players when they start asking you more questions about the game, such as the meaning of the infield fly rule, how to keep a scorecard, how a batting average is calculated or ERA, the number of ways a runner can advance to first base (eight) or the number of ways to make an out (14), etc. It’s no small wonder baseball is a great game for trivia buffs as there are so many facets to it. Casual spectators do not truly appreciate baseball as much as students of the game.

You know you have a love of the game when you collect baseball cards, not as a commodity, but simply to have them; that you keep a prized baseball signed by your teammates many years ago; that you cannot bring yourself to throw away an old baseball bat or glove years after you have stopped using them, or; you completely understood what Pete Rose meant when he said, “I’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball.”

It is a great game.

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 Baseball, Sports | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A TALE OF TWO PROJECTS

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 14, 2010

The following is a true story; a vintage “Dilbertism.” Because of this, the names have been changed to protect the innocent (as well as the guilty). Interestingly, I do not believe this story to be unique and similar stories can be found in countless IT shops around the world.

Our story begins just a couple of years ago in a large manufacturing company in the American Midwest. At the time, the company was interested in replacing two aging, yet important, systems; an Accounts Payable System (“AP”) and an Accounts Receivable System (“AR”). The IT Director selected two of his most seasoned veterans to manage the projects, we’ll call them “Steve” and “Bob.” Both project managers were charged with their responsibilities on the same day: Steve to build the AP system, and Bob to build the AR system. Both were given approximately the same amount of human and machine resources to accomplish the work.

Steve was a very organized and disciplined manager. He found it essential to organize and train his staff upfront so everyone understood the development process, the deliverables to be produced, and their assigned responsibilities. Recognizing the large scope of his project, Steve felt it important to methodically attack his system and meticulously worked out a plan and schedule to implement it. In Phase 1 he spent what appeared to be an inordinate amount of time studying the business problem, specifying information requirements, and developing a rough design of the system solution. Steve’s people actively participated in this early phase and thought the problem through carefully before proceeding with the project. Following the Phase 1, Steve’s team finalized details of the overall AP system architecture, and divided his group into teams to tackle the various sub-systems in parallel. To complement this effort, his data base people oversaw the logical data base design to accommodate the needs of the whole system, not just any one portion of it.

Steve also recruited the support of the AP Department and had key personnel from this area participate in the development of the system. The input from these users was vital not only in Phase 1, but also in succeeding phases where the business processes were designed.

By concentrating on the overall system architecture and then by gradually refining the design over succeeding phases, the Software Engineers were given detailed specifications which were easy to follow and implement. Consequently, the programming phases went smoothly, including testing.

The core sub-systems satisfying the operational needs of AP were on schedule and being installed with great support from the user community.

While Steve’s project was coming along smoothly, Bob was facing chaos with the AR system. Instead of studying the problem upfront, Bob’s group began by building a core data base. Shortly thereafter he set his programmers to work building some basic input screens and some rather simple outputs. In no time, Bob had something to demonstrate to the user community (and his boss) to prove progress was indeed being made.

But Bob’s group had not done their homework. The AR community was not consulted and requirements were not defined. As a result, programmers were left second-guessing what the users really needed which started a long round of “cut-and-fitting” the code. Further, the integrity of the data base came into question. False assumptions were made about calculated data elements which cascaded throughout the program code. In addition, data validation rules were not established. This forced the programmers to invent their own rules and formulas for calculations in each of their programs which led to data redundancy issues and even bigger headaches for the development staff. As users were given glimpses of the programs by Bob, data integrity issues became an issue and the users didn’t trust the information being produced by the system (e.g., calculations were computed differently by the various programs). Bob’s group touted the AR system as “state-of-the-art,” but the users were not convinced it was reliable or intuitive to use.

All of this lead to a redesign of the data base and programs, not just once but several times. Consequently, the project schedule started to slip and costs exceeded budget. To overcome this problem, Bob and his staff worked overtime to play catch-up with the schedule (which he never realized). Regardless, the IT Director began to take notice of the long hours Bob and his team were putting into the project and complimented them on their dedication.

Bob finally delivered a portion of the project to the AR department, but in testing it the users found it fraught with errors. To overcome this problem, Bob’s group was ever ready to jump in and modify the code as required. Even though the users found the programs buggy, they commended Bob for how quickly his group would be able to fix them.

The difference between Steve and Bob’s groups were like night and day. While Bob operated under a “helter-skelter” mode of operation, Steve’s group operated quietly and began to deliver the system on time and within budget, much to the user department’s satisfaction.

Steve understood the enormity of the system and its importance to the company, and, as such, took the time to organize and train his group accordingly. Bob also understood the importance of his application but took the tact of producing something management and the user community could “touch and feel” thereby demonstrating something was happening in his department, right or wrong. Further, his SWAT team approach to putting out fires made him a favorite with corporate management. As a result, Bob enjoyed a high profile in the company while Steve was a relative unknown.

Unfortunately, Bob’s project ran amok, unbearably so. Recognizing he had to do something radical in order to get Bob’s project back on track, the IT Director made an unusual move; he swapped Steve and Bob as project managers. Steve was charged with cleaning up Bob’s mess, and Bob was charged with finishing Steve’s project. Offhand it sounded like a shrewd move. Steve had proven to the IT Director he could get things done, regardless of the application size. And the IT Director figured Bob could simply close-out the AP project. The IT Director figured wrong. While Steve started the arduous task of bringing organization and discipline to the AR system, Bob quickly dismantled Steve’s organization and brought chaos to the AP system. This did not sit well with a lot of people, particularly Steve’s former project team who felt they had grasped defeat from the jaws of victory. Steve was also growing disenchanted as he had almost completed one system and was now charged with cleaning up his predecessor’s mess. To add insult to injury, because of Bob’s high profile status, he was given an increase in pay and job promotion, and Steve didn’t receive likewise.

Steve got the AR system back on track and finally implemented it much to the satisfaction of all concerned. Bob lost control of the AP system almost immediately and it spun out of control until Steve was finally called back in to finish it. Not knowing what to do with high-profile Bob, the IT Director made the classic move of promoting Bob and transferring him to another area where he could do no harm.

LESSONS LEARNED

Is there a happy ending to this true story? Not for Steve. Although he cleaned up the mess and ultimately managed both projects to a successful conclusion, he became disenchanted with how he had been treated by the company. Subsequently, he left and started his own consulting firm who was ultimately hired by his old company to develop new systems (at substantially higher rates). As for Bob, he enjoyed the perks and pay resulting from his new position for quite some time. Eventually, he got the hint and moved on to another company where he made a similar name for himself.

Although Bob was a fine example of the “Peter Principle” (rising above your level of competence) he recognized results were not necessary on the road to success but rather, image was everything. He learned early on that “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.”

As I mentioned at the outset, this is not a random incident, but one that could probably be told by a multitude of corporations who have “promoted the guilty, and prosecuted the innocent.”

Have you got a similar story? Please do not hesitate to send them to me.

“Beware of your firefighters; they are probably your chief arsonists.”
– Bryce’s Law

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 »

DRIVING CIRCLES AROUND DISNEY

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 12, 2010

I recently attended a meeting at the Disney World complex near Orlando. Actually, it was held at a Hilton Hotel, a non-Disney property operating in the complex. Although I’ve been to Orlando many times, I haven’t been to Disney since the kids were little. I don’t have a GPS in my car, so, to make sure I knew where I was going, I printed a map from the Internet which I assumed was accurate and the directions looked familiar to me. Normally, it takes me about an hour and a half to drive from Tampa to Disney, but on this particular evening it took over three hours. No, there weren’t any accidents, no heavy traffic, no construction, no obnoxious drivers to follow; just Disney.

According to the map, I was to turn off I-4 west at the main Disney interchange (World Center Drive which becomes Epcot Center Drive) which leads you to Epcot and the Hilton which I was led to believe was close to Epcot. Okay, fine, got it, no problem, let’s go. As I made the proper turnoff from I-4, I began my trek down Epcot Center Drive, which is a well sculpted boulevard featuring all kinds of Disney eye-candy. Traffic control appears to be a big concern with the Disney people and they had numerous signs guiding motorists to the various Disney properties. I was hoping I might see a billboard or some sign to direct me to the Hilton, but alas, nothing but Disney signs which started to become irritating.

Before I knew it, I found myself approaching the Epcot resort which allegedly was near my hotel, so I felt a glimmer of hope. I thought I would stop and ask someone at the parking gates for directions. Unfortunately, I discovered that after 7:00pm, the gates are wide open and there wasn’t an attendant to be found. Okay, I’m near Epcot, the map says I’m not far away, but for some reason I couldn’t find any of the roads on the map. My male stubbornness began to surface as I told myself to keep pushing on, there has got to be someone around here who can help me. As I was to discover, there wasn’t. By now, I was starting to get a great behind-the-scenes tour of Disney as I found myself traversing the many access roads around the park (Epcot Center Road was well behind me by this time). In addition to the big parks and main resorts, I drove by the Tower of Terror, the monorail maintenance depot, several emergency areas, a secluded golf course, a dog kennel, and tons of parking. Actually, I saw more of Disney that evening than I did with my kids years ago. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a single human being to talk to. There was nothing but bus and tram operators dropping off guests to pick up their cars in the parking lots, everything else was automated. The whole place was on autopilot and I got the unsettling feeling that the only human being controlling all of this was in Teaneck, New Jersey. Heck, I would have even settled for Goofy to give me directions, but I think he had already turned in for the night (probably at the Hilton).

Around and around I went with nothing but Disney signs directing me to their next resort. Somehow I broke out of the vicious circle and found myself in a daze heading towards Tampa on I-4. Okay, I told myself not to panic but to turn around at the next exit which, unfortunately, was something called the Osceola Parkway, a toll road which did nothing to improve my personality. Nonetheless, I persevered and pressed on. Now desperate, I pulled the car off to the side of the road and called the hotel who was finally able to talk me down like an airplane landing at a fog covered runway. Interestingly, my Internet map had gotten it completely wrong. More disturbing to me though, was the absence of any sign to a non-Disney property, and the lack of human-beings to help point me in the right direction. I would have even welcomed a private radio network like you see at airports which offer driving instructions. No, the Disney folks were content to have me circle the complex over and over again like I was in the Daytona 500.

I found this experience nightmarish and it certainly didn’t endear me to Disney. Not surprising, I discovered several other motorists caught in the same trap I was in and are probably still circling around the complex.

If you talk to a Disney employee, he or she will proudly proclaim they work for “The Mouse.” This may be so, but someone needs to tell the Disney people that there is a rat in the traffic department.

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 humor, Life | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

CIGARS 101 – IT’S PERSONAL

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 9, 2010

I have always been of the opinion that you shouldn’t trust anyone who doesn’t have at least one known vice, be it swearing, drinking, smoking, or whatever. If they appear to be overly virtuous, then they are probably hiding something much more malicious. I remember one fellow from Toledo who went to great lengths to project a Lilly-white image. He regularly attended church, could quote chapter and verse from the Bible, and condemned anyone for any form of indiscretion. You would have believed such a person would be trustworthy, honest and forthright. Frankly, I found him to be one of the most ruthless and unscrupulous businessmen I ever had the displeasure to meet, not to mention an extreme bore. I have challenged this rule about vice over the years and found it to hold true time and again.

As for me, my passion has always been cigars, something I learned to smoke when I was thirteen years old behind my friend’s house in Chicago (a White Owl Classic if memory serves me correctly). I am not advocating smoking or trying to encourage others to imbibe, just to describe someone’s choice in life. I do not promote or advocate smoking cigars, but I have found it to be a small personal pleasure. I guess I am at the stage where I am no longer impressed by mansions, fast sports cars, boats, or any other “boys toys” to find happiness. To me it’s the little things that makes life pleasurable, such as a fine woman, good company and conversation, perhaps a drink, and a really good cigar.

I never acquired a taste for cigarettes or chewing tobacco and found them to be simply a waste of time (and money), but that’s me. Occasionally I’ll pick up a pipe, but frankly, I get more enjoyment out of a cigar. In addition to recreation, I enjoy smoking a cigar while I’m writing as it allows me to pause and concentrate on the subject at hand. It also helps me pass the time when performing the tedium of mowing my lawn.

Cigars come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, colors and tastes and one of the biggest misconceptions I would like to clear up is there is no such thing as a bad one, unless of course it has dried out, been soiled, or somehow been damaged. Actually, it’s a matter of matching the right person to the right cigar. There are some cigars I simply wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, such as a green-leafed natural, something soaked in liquor, or twisted to look like a rope. I have enjoyed tobacco from Cuba, the Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, the Philippines, and many other locations. My tastes have evolved over the years whereby I prefer a large cigar with a generous ring size and wrapped in a dark Maduro leaf. But again, that’s me. Cigars are a personal thing. What one smoker may enjoy, another may despise. That’s why it is a matter of trying different cigars until you find what you like. Novice cigar aficionados should seek the expertise of a mentor to provide the proper tutelage. The worst thing you can do is try to smoke a type of cigar to impress someone else, not yourself. Further, a cigar should not be forced on you as it is a conscious decision you must personally make.

I cannot possibly teach you everything you need to know about selecting a cigar herein, there are simply too many variables involved, everything from its origin and manufacturer, to the wrapper, the filler, or even how it should be cut and lit. Outsiders may be surprised to learn the best cigar wrappers do not come from the Caribbean, but rather Connecticut, right here in the good old U.S.A. There is evidently something in the Connecticut soil conducive for growing the right leaves for wrapping a cigar. As Stengel would have said, “Who da thunk it.”

I was always envious of Winston Churchill, the famous Prime Minister of England, who was an iconic figure for the cigar. I have read books on Churchill and had the pleasure of visiting his Chartwell home in England. Interestingly, when Churchill was alive there was always at least 10,000 cigars in his home. It seems he received truckloads of them from various heads of state, grateful constituents, and various manufacturers who hoped he would endorse their product. Imagine what a learning experience it would have been to sample the various cigars under his roof.

Yes, I have had my fair share of detractors over the years condemn me for my passion, and I make an effort not to let it interfere with others, but the taunting by the anti-smoking establishment gets rather tiresome. They just do not understand the pleasure of a good cigar. A few years ago when I was still coaching and umpiring in Little League, I went down to the local ball fields one night to see a friend’s son play. I was comfortably sitting away from others in the outfield and had just lit a cigar when another coach spotted me and, lacking an umpire for his game, begged me to call the game for him. I reluctantly accepted and entered the field with my cigar in tow. Some of the parents jeered me for the cigar but I assured them not to worry and I put it out and stuck it in the backstop fence so I could smoke it later. The game went on for several innings. When it was over, I returned to retrieve the cigar and found it had fallen out of the fence and on to the red clay of the field, much to the amusement of the parents who chided me earlier. Unfazed, I simply rubbed the red clay off and re-lit it, much to the amazement of the parents. “Sorry,” I said, “but there is nothing like a good cigar.”

It’s personal.

P.S. – The term “Stogie” comes from Conestoga, a village of southeast Pennsylvania which, in its heyday, manufactured cigars.

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 Cigars, Social Issues | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: