Software for the finest computer – The Mind

Archive for May, 2010


Posted by Tim Bryce on May 30, 2010

Back in the 1960’s my father took a job as MIS Director with the Quaker Oats Company in Chicago. Wanting to know as much about the company as possible, he visited all of their divisions and took a crash course in how the company made cereal, cookies, etc. One of Quaker’s divisions at the time was Ken-L Ration, which was a popular dog food (Anybody remember the jingle, “My dog’s faster than your dog…”?). My father learned firsthand how the product was made, which mainly consisted of horse meat. It was a very efficient operation and the company took great pride in how quickly and sanitary the process was to slaughter the animal and process it into dog food. So much so, Ken-L Ration was one of the few dog foods fit for human consumption. I won’t go into detail as to how the animals were killed, but suffice it to say it was done very methodically and almost instantaneously so as not to cause the animal prolonged pain. The slaughterhouses have it down to a science and, in a way, they are much more humane than a lot of pet owners out there.

Man’s relationship with animals is rather interesting. They have served us as companions, and as invaluable assistants in everything from hunting and transportation, to construction and menial tasks. We have used them for entertainment and sport, but more than anything we like to simply have them as pets. Dogs and cats predominantly take center stage when it comes to house pets, but it is not unusual to see caged mice, rats, gerbils, hamsters, fish, parrots and canaries. Then, of course, there are the exotic animals creeping into homes, such as lizards and snakes, large cats, insects, monkeys, even bears. Many of the exotic animals can be dangerous if improperly handled and require considerable commitment to maintain them properly. I don’t understand why people need such animals; I can only suspect it is primarily used to somehow attract attention. For example, why in the world would someone want to own a komodo dragon?

Last year, there was an incident reported here in Florida where a husband’s pet python somehow escaped its cage and strangled his two year old infant in its bed. We also have a major problem down in the Everglades where people let their pets escape after they become tired or bored with them. As a result, we now have pythons and Boa constrictors challenging alligators for domination of the area.

It’s bad enough that people want such pets, but who are the knuckle heads allowing this? Don’t we have some heavy fines or penalties for owning such animals? If not, does anyone check to see if the owner has suitable facilities for maintaining the animal, or if they have proper training? It’s a bit disconcerting to know there are fewer rules and regulations for obtaining a deadly animal as opposed to a gun. At least a gun doesn’t have a mind of its own and doesn’t require constant care and feeding.

Then we have the people who are either “hoarders” of animals or treat them as nothing more than a commodity. The “hoarders” are those who have dozens of cats or dogs running amok in their house. I guess the smell of feces and urine doesn’t seem to bother some people, but it does promote the spreading of disease and attraction of vermin. Those who see pets as nothing more than a commodity are totally insensitive to animals as living organisms. These are the people who treat animals the most callously.

I don’t know why we find it necessary to mistreat, abuse or neglect animals, but I think it says a lot about our sense of humanity. I have always been of the opinion there is a personal responsibility associated with having or working with animals. If we have a pet to comfort us, we should love and respect it, not abuse it. If we have an animal to work for us, we have to give it the same care and attention as we would give any piece of equipment, be it a tractor or truck. It’s not smart to starve or abuse your workers, be they two legged or four. It just doesn’t make sense.

There are laws to protect animals against cruelty and abuse throughout the United States. If you have got a concern about an animal being abused, contact local law enforcement officials. You may also want to report it to:

ASPCA – American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals



These groups also accept donations which assists them in their work to protect animals.

If you are sincerely concerned about the mistreatment of animals, the worse thing you can do is to do nothing. In this instance, where the victims cannot speak for themselves, turning away from a known problem makes you just as guilty as the person committing the act.

As a footnote to my father’s visit to the Kel-L Ration slautherhouse, as efficient as the company’s operation was to kill and butcher the animals, it was a bit much for someone unfamiliar with such work. When my father called home that afternoon, he asked my mother what she had planned for dinner. For some strange reason, the idea of a “roast beef” didn’t exactly sit well with him.

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

For Tim’s columns, see:

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


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Posted by Tim Bryce on May 28, 2010

Years ago, the Firesign Theater comedy troupe recorded an album entitled “Everything You Know is Wrong” (Yes, I am a fan and still have the original LP). This particular album was a satire of New Age beliefs whereby they contend everything we have learned is absolutely wrong and we are all being intentionally misled. Large or small, everything we know is wrong; e.g., that the south won the Civil War, that the Aztecs invented the vacation, etc. It’s a very entertaining album which Firesign fans know well.

As I grow older I get the uneasy feeling everything I’ve learned to date is wrong. It’s hard to describe, but it is a very frustrating feeling and leaves you somewhat bewildered. Let me give you some examples…

I was brought up to believe if you worked hard, and kept your nose clean, everything would work out for you; that your company would keep your best interests at heart and, in the long run, you’ll do just fine. As we all know, there is no such thing as corporate loyalty anymore and, in this dog-eat-dog world, trouble somehow seems to find us, regardless of how honest and forthright we try to lead our lives. Further, it seems unscrupulous cheating and dishonesty is rewarded as opposed to punished. “Quick and dirty” solutions also seem to be preferred over craftsmanship and quality. Instead of getting to the root of a problem, we only address its symptoms for the sake of brevity. In other words, facade is preferred over substance.

I was also taught you should pay your bills on time, and avoid incurring debt which would be difficult to pay back. Now it seems “take the money and run” is the modus operandi of a lot of people, businesses, and government. Between our lenient bankruptcy laws and our inclination to spend, people are taught not to pay their bills. After all, someone else will take care of it for you, right? This also gives me the uneasy feeling that perhaps my money is not my own, even though I worked hard to earn it.

As I was growing up I was taught everyone should be treated fairly; to give each person the benefit of a doubt until proven otherwise; that it was also important to be responsible, and your word was your bond. However, it seems morality is not currently in vogue and notions such as honor and principles are politically incorrect.

Finally, in grade school I was taught the United States was a great country we should all take pride in, and that government was a servant of the people, not the other way around. Boy, I guess I really got this one wrong.

It’s a bit disheartening to realize what you thought was right is wrong, and vice versa. That two plus two no longer equals four anymore. It’s all very confusing. Then again, perhaps it’s not my age that caused this epiphany, but maybe I’m sensing nothing more than changes in our culture. If, in fact, everything I learned is wrong, I sure hope I come down with a bad case of Alzheimer’s Disease soon so I can blot all of this out.

It is disturbing to discover the world described in Firesign Theater’s album makes more sense than the real world.

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

For Tim’s columns, see:

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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Posted by Tim Bryce on May 26, 2010

When I got into the work force back in the mid-1970’s it seemed everyone dressed in a suit and tie, drank black coffee, smoked their brains out, and worked their butts off. Today, golf shirts have replaced suits, herbal tea and bottled water have replaced coffee, nobody is allowed to smoke, and rarely does anyone work beyond 5:00pm. More importantly, we used to care about the work we produced; there was a sense of craftsmanship, regardless of the job.

My Brother-in-law in Cincinnati conducted me on a tour of his company’s machine-tool shop years ago and showed me how he could take a block of aluminum and convert it into a high-precision machine tool. It was a pleasure to watch him work, as it is to watch anyone who knows what they are doing, be it a waitress, a programmer, a laborer or a clerk.

Quality and service used to be considered paramount in this country. If it wasn’t just right, you were expected to do it over again until you got it right. We cared about what we produced because it was a reflection of our personal character and integrity. But somewhere along the line we lost our way and craftsmanship has fallen by the wayside. Why? Probably because we no longer care.

In today’s litigious society, employees are acutely aware that it is difficult to be fired due to poor performance. They know they will still get paid and receive benefits, regardless of the amount of effort they put forth. Consequently, there is little to encourage people to perform better. Money isn’t a motivating factor anymore. People now expect bonuses, raises and other perks to be paid out regardless of how well they perform during the year.

We’ve also become a nation content with doing small things. America used to be known as a powerhouse that could tackle large projects, such as building skyscrapers, designing innovative bridges and tunnels spanning substantial bodies of water, engineering transcontinental railroads and highway systems, conquering air and space travel, and defending freedom not just once but in two world wars. If you really wanted something done, you talked to the Americans and no one else. Now we get excited over iPods, cell phones, and other electronic trinkets.

Many believe Craftsmanship is in decline due to the general apathy found in today’s society. Maybe. I tend to believe it is due to an erosion of our moral values. Let me give you an example. Having a child in college, my interest was piqued recently by an article describing the pervasiveness of cheating and plagiarism in our schools. It is not my intent to make a political statement here but many of the students mentioned in the article rationalized their cheating on the fact that one of our past Presidents cheated and lied under oath, and got away with it. They figured if it is okay for the Commander-in-Chief to act this way, it was an acceptable form of behavior.

Arnold Toynbee, the famed English historian, observed, “Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.” If the moral fabric of our society dies, our story is told as evidenced by other great civilizations that long preceded us. Our perspective needs to be realigned: Our personal and professional lives must be viewed as one. As Toynbee remarked, “The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.” By doing so, we identify more closely with our work and assume a greater pride in workmanship. We do not need to hear this from our boss, but rather from within. As strange as it may sound, I see Craftsmanship as being patriotic in nature; doing a good quality job is part of leading a good and honorable life and builds on the individual’s esteem, the company he works for, and the country he lives in.

The biggest problem though is that we have forgotten how to manage people. The manager’s primary goal is to create the proper work environment for employees to produce the desired work products. This is different than a supervisory capacity that directs how each person performs the various tasks of a job. In fact, I encourage managers to manage more and supervise less. I cringe when I see a manager try to “micromanage” either a Fortune 500 company or a non-profit organization. Yes, people need to be trained in order to properly perform their work but following this, employees should be mature enough to supervise themselves. In the old days, management stressed discipline, accountability, and structure; three ugly words in today’s workplace.

Understanding Craftsmanship

Some might say craftsmanship is a simple concept that we should intuitively know. Not true; most people today have no comprehension as to what makes up a good craftsman; they have either forgotten or it has simply passed them by. Craftsmanship can be found in any field of endeavor imaginable, be it in the product sector or service industry. Craftsmanship, therefore, is universally applicable to any line of work.

Craftsmanship is not “workmanship”, nor is it synonymous with quality, although the three concepts are closely related. Let’s begin by giving “Craftsmanship” a definition: “The production and delivery of quality goods or services from highly skilled workmen.”
Quality relates to the absence of errors or defects in the finished product or service. In other words, finished goods operate according to their specifications (customers get precisely what they ordered). Such products are normally durable and require minimal maintenance. Craftsmanship produces quality products. In the absence of craftsmen, a rigorous methodology or assembly line process is required to produce quality goods using workers without the expertise of craftsmen. Such processes detail “Who” is to perform “What” work, “When”, “Where”, “Why” and “How” (5W+H), thereby assuring a quality product or service is produced. Such is the underlying rationale of the ISO 9000 certification as used by many companies today. The point is, quality is not the exclusive domain of the craftsman.

Craftsmanship is also a human trait. Some might argue a computer or industrial robot can produce quality products and are, therefore, craftsmen. However, we must remember these devices are programmed by human beings in accordance with the rules of the craftsman. As such, they are an extension or tool of the craftsman.

Craftsmanship can be found in either the overall work process or a section of it. For example, there are craftsmen who are intimate with all facets of building furniture, such as a table, a chair or desk, and can implement the product from start to finish. However, as products grow in complexity, it becomes difficult to find people suitably qualified to build them from the womb to the tomb. Consider military weapons alone, such as the complicated ships, tanks, and airplanes we now use, with thousands or millions of parts to assemble. Such complexity makes it impossible for a single person to have the expertise to build the whole product. The same is true in the service sector where different types of expertise and capabilities may be required. In other words, craftsmen have a specific scope of work. The scope of work may relate to other types of craftsmen through a chain of work dependencies, e.g., Craftsmen A, B and C concentrate on separate sub-assemblies which are eventually joined into a single product.


So, what are the attributes of a craftsman? What makes a craftsman a craftsman? There are three basic attributes described herein:

1. Possesses the necessary knowledge and skills to perform the work.

The craftsman is an expert in his field of endeavor; so much so that he could easily serve as an instructor in the subject matter. But the craftsman is also smart enough to know that education is not a one time thing, that his world and field evolve as new tools and techniques are introduced. As such, the craftsman is a student of his profession and is constantly looking to improve himself. This is exercised through such things as continued education, routine certification, studying books and trade publications, and industrial groups. The craftsman willingly participates in trade groups, often at his own expense, in order to network with his peers.

It is Important to note that the craftsman does not need to be told he needs periodic training to sharpen his skills. Instead, he takes the personal initiative to stay on top of his game. Further, the craftsman has no problem with a periodic job review; in fact, he welcomes it for it might bring out a weakness in a skill he needs to sharpen.

2. Attention to detail.

The craftsman understands and respects the process of building/delivering a product or service and is acutely aware of the penalties for cutting corners. Earlier we discussed the need for a methodology that specifies 5W+H. The craftsman is intimate with all details of his scope of work, so much so, he could probably write the methodology himself. Further, his intimacy of the work process means he can produce a reliable estimate of time and costs to perform the work.

Although many of the craftsman’s tasks may be repetitive, it doesn’t mean he easily falls into a rut. Instead, he is constantly looking for new tools and techniques to improve the work process. As such, he plays the role of Industrial Engineer who is normally charged with such a task.

The craftsman’s attention to detail also means that he demonstrates patience in his work effort. Again, wary of cutting corners, the craftsman must possess such patience in order to produce the product the right way.

3. Views professional life as an extension of his personal life.

The craftsman identifies with the end product which is where pride in workmanship comes from. In his mind, the craftsman has been charged with the responsibility of producing something, and wanting to satisfy the customer, puts forth his best effort to produce it. In other words, craftsmen take their work personally. This is a difficult trait to teach particularly in today’s society where the focus is more on financial compensation than on the work product itself. It may sound naive, but the craftsman believes he will be suitably compensated for producing superior results.

Years ago, Dick Butkus of the Chicago Bears (NFL) confounded sports writers who could never understand why Butkus played as hard as he did year after year for a losing football team. True, Dick loved the game, but beyond that, the sports writers didn’t understand one thing about the seven time All-Pro linebacker: Butkus took his job personally. It was important to him that his opponents know that they had been tackled by the best player; as he said, “When they get up from the ground I want them to say ‘it must have been Butkus that got me’.” Dick Butkus was a craftsman.

The craftsman has a burning desire to produce a superior product/service because he sees it as a reflection of himself. As such, the lines delineating their personal life and professional life are blurred. This is a significant characteristic that clearly separates a craftsman from the average worker. The craftsman’s work is his life. He does not shirk responsibility, but rather embraces it with confidence and embosses his name on the finished product. Conversely, making a work related mistake of any kind pains a true craftsman.

Job titles are normally inconsequential to the craftsman who is more interested in delivering a quality product/service enjoyed by the customer. Instead, the craftsman takes pleasure in being touted as the best in his craft. He appreciates recognition; when someone makes a compliment about a product, the craftsman views it as a personal compliment. This too runs contrary to today’s corporate world where people desperately seek recognition through simple job titles. Want someone with an inflated ego? Give them a title. Want something done right? Call a craftsman.


“Dependable”, “professional”, and “resourceful” are adjectives that aptly describe the craftsman. He is not one who fabricates excuses but, rather, always finds a way to get the job done. The craftsman is typically your most productive employee. He is mindful of the concept of productivity that we have touted for years:

Productivity = Effectiveness X Efficiency

Most people fallaciously equate productivity with efficiency, which simply gauges how fast we can perform a given task. Effectiveness, on the other hand, validates the necessity of the task itself. There is nothing more unproductive than to do something efficiently that should not have been done at all. An industrial robot, for example, can efficiently perform such tasks as welding. But if you are welding the wrong thing, then it is counterproductive. Going back to our description of a methodology, effectiveness defines “Who/What/When/Where/Why”, efficiency defines “How.” The craftsman is well aware of the difference between the two and knows how to apply both. As such, the craftsman is in tune with his work environment and corporate culture.

So how do we make craftsmen?

Not easily. Because of the human dynamics involved with the craftsman, you will need to be a pretty intuitive manager or industrial psychologist to make it happen. Selecting suitable candidates is the logical first step. Devise an aptitude test to determine the candidate’s suitability to become a craftsman. After all, “you cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.” Aside from specific knowledge and experience in a given field (e.g., programming, woodworking, construction, accounting, etc.), here are some other important traits to look for:

* Fertility of mind – judge his ability to learn, to adapt to changing conditions, and to look beyond his scope of work. Evaluate his professional curiosity.

* Confidence – judge how well the candidate knows himself, particularly how well he knows his own limitations. He should admit his deficiencies and not fabricate excuses.

* Dedication – judge his loyalty and determination to accomplish something. What is his attendance record? What outside clubs and organizations does he belong to and how active is he in them?

* Entrepreneurial spirit – judge his personal initiative. Is he driven to succeed (but not to the point of reckless abandon)? Does he have a problem with accountability? This says a lot about assuming responsibility.

* Attention to detail – judge his ability to focus on a subject. Does he have a problem with discipline or organization? A person’s dress, mannerisms, and speech says a lot about a person.

* Reliability – judge his ability to assume responsibility and carry a task through to completion.

* Resourcefulness – judge his ability to adapt to changing conditions and persevere to see a task through to completion. The candidate cannot be inflexible; he must be able to find solutions to solve problems.

* Socialization skills – does he work better alone or as a team player? His position may depend on his answer.

When you have selected suitable candidates, here are three areas to concentrate on:

1. Develop their skills and knowledge by allowing such things as: participation in trade groups, outside certification and on-going training, subscriptions to trade journals, continued education, etc. Some companies even go as far as to develop an in-house school to teach the company’s way of doing things. If the in-house school is good, it will promote confidence through consistency. Even if people leave the company, they will recommend your company because they know the quality of the work produced. Supporting the education needs of our workers is not only smart, it is good business.

2. Teach them the need for producing quality work; they should become intimate with all aspects of their work process (5W+H). Further, instill discipline and patience in their work effort.

3. Change their attitude towards development so they become more focused on delivering a quality end-product. This is perhaps the most difficult element to teach. However, it can be realized by having them become intimate with the needs of the customer (have them visit or work with a customer for awhile – “let them walk in the customer’s shoes”). It may also be necessary to change their form of remuneration by going to a reward system for work produced (as opposed to guaranteed income regardless of what is produced). Changing the mode of financial compensation is highly controversial in today’s business world. But, as an example, can you imagine the change of attitude of today’s professional athletes if they were paid based on their accomplishments (e.g., runs or points scored, hits, rebounds, etc.) rather than having a guaranteed income? Their motivation and attitude towards their profession and team would change radically.

Candidates must learn to respect their institution, the process by which they work, fellow human beings, and themselves. They must also learn not to be afraid to TRY; that they must put their best foot forward, win or lose. Bottom-line: they must learn that their work has meaning and worth. If they don’t enjoy their work, they shouldn’t be doing it.

“There are two things that I want you to make up your minds to: first, that you are going to have a good time as long as you live – I have no use for the sour-faced man – and next, that you are going to do something worthwhile, that you are going to work hard and do the things you set out to do.”

– President Theodore Roosevelt
Talk to schoolchildren in Oyster Bay, Christmas-time 1898


Teaching the elements listed above probably cannot be done in one fell swoop. Further, companies simply don’t have the time or money to wait for the craftsman to be produced. Instead, they must understand the human spirit needs to be cultivated and be allowed to grow over time. Because of this, it is strongly recommended that an in-house certification program be devised specifying what the candidate should know and what skills and talents he should demonstrate. This should be divided into classes of progressive expertise; e.g., apprentice, intermediary, and craftsman. The ancient builders in Egypt, Rome, and Greece understood this concept and devised such classes of workmen. Other disciplines and schools follow similar tactics (the various degrees or belts in martial arts for example). Each degree is based on specific prerequisites to master before moving on to the next level.

An in-house certification program has the added nuance of making people feel special which greatly enhances their self esteem. If they are made to feel like a vital part of the company, regardless if their work of a large magnitude or trivial, they will strive to do what is best for the company overall, not just themselves. Consequently, their work adds meaning to their life.

There is one pitfall to all of this; today’s “go-go” management style fails to see how craftsmanship adds value to the company. In fact, there were companies back in the 1980’s that shut down such programs simply to reduce costs. As a result, quality suffered, repeat business was lost, products were more in need of repair, absenteeism on the job escalated, etc. Want value? How does a loyal customer base who has confidence in your products or services sound? And what effect would employee harmony have, particularly if they believed in the work they were producing? It would be mind-boggling, all because we had faith in the human spirit to produce superior results.

A final note: craftsmanship is not a one time thing. After it has been instilled in people, it has to be cultivated and perpetuated. If a manager slips even for a moment, it will go right out the window and it will take time to bring it back to life. As for me, I like to post motivational reminders kind of like the one recently spotted in the Hickey Freeman manufacturing facility in New York, “Excellence is Tolerated.”

“Manage more, supervise less.”
– 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

For Tim’s columns, see:

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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Posted by Tim Bryce on May 24, 2010

Customer Service is generally regarded as the “front-line” for any business. It is their responsibility to service the customer, answer questions, expedite problems and keep the customer happy, thereby encouraging repeat business. It is intended to make money, not lose it. At least, in theory, that is what it is supposed to be.

Not long ago we decided to switch banks, which is no small decision for any company to make. We had grown weary of how our old bank was “nickel and diming” us to death on frivolous charges. Even though we would call to complain, they were slow to correct problems. Such incidents occurred so frequently we decided to take our business elsewhere, but before doing so we gave the bank one last chance by telling them if these trivial matters didn’t cease we would be forced to withdraw our account from their bank, to which the customer service rep said indifferently, “Okay.” We then exited stage right and opened a new account in another bank which we have been pleased with so far.

A few months after we moved, a manager from the old bank called to say he noticed we had moved our account and what they could do to get our business back. We politely told him it was too late, but he should look into getting some new customer service reps.

A similar incident happened with our garbage collection service. Their rates slowly rose to a point where we started to look for another less expensive service. We called our current service and talked to a customer service rep to ask what they could do about lowering their rates. She wouldn’t budge. We said we then had no alternative but to go with another service, to which she said “Okay” and hung up. Again, about a month after we canceled the service, a manager called to ask why we had left them. We explained the problem and the response from his customer service rep.

I have a friend who is a sales manager for a large distributor of industrial supplies. He primarily hustles around the area meeting new customers and checking on existing ones. After a customer is established, they can call in orders, large or small, to the main office who should promptly process and ship accordingly. One day, late on a Friday afternoon, a customer called in a small order for a box of tape. Since it was late in the day on the last day of the work week, the customer service rep figured the order could wait until Monday morning. He thought wrong. The box of tape, as innocuous as it seemed, was actually very much needed by the customer. When he didn’t get it in time, he became very upset and the company lost the customer forever. This did not sit well with my friend who had to discipline the customer service rep for the snafu.

Customers do not like to be taken for granted. They want to be assured their best interests are being maintained by their vendors. From this perspective, “Okay” is not okay. The only excuse for indifference in customer service is when the customer is becoming more trouble than he is worth. Even then, he may affect sales simply from a reference point of view. This also means maintaining the status quo will not suffice. Regardless of the policies and procedures in place, customer service reps need to go beyond the call of duty to keep the customer happy. It is what we used to call “hustle.” In other words, they cannot afford to go on automatic, but rather think and take charge of the situation.

Let me give you an example, a few years ago I was flying on American Airlines from Tampa to Seattle, with a connection in Dallas. This was an important business call as I had a sales presentation to make. Understandably, I became upset when the Tampa flight left unexpectedly late. As I arrived in Dallas, I realized I was going to miss my connecting flight. Consequently, I was instructed to get in line to talk to a customer service agent, a line which moved painfully slow and my temper began to rise noticeably. So much so, an older agent read the rage in my face and asked me to step out of line and over to the counter where she was working. Before I could give her a piece of my mind, she raised her hand calmly and said, “Stop. I will take care of you.” I explained my problem and, to her credit, she had me rerouted and solved my problem. I found it remarkable how she was able to read me and defused the situation. She did it professionally and, frankly, with a lot of class. So much so, she turned a hostile customer into a happy one. I think her maturity and experience had a lot to do with it, but “Okay” was not okay with her, nor was the status quo. The process didn’t solve the problem, it was her personality and socialization skills that saved the day.

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

For Tim’s columns, see:

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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


Posted by Tim Bryce on May 21, 2010

Years ago, actors and actresses used to say they were making “pictures” as opposed to movies. It wasn’t so much an art form to them as much as it was about telling an interesting story. I used to love to go to the movies, but I tend to balk at today’s comic book style computer generated reruns. True, I like the older films, but there are three pictures in particular I never get tired of watching:

Anatomy of a Murder (1959) – was directed by Otto Preminger and featured James Stewart as a defense attorney representing Ben Gazzara, an Army officer charged in the death of a saloon keeper who raped his wife (Lee Remmick). Stewart is assisted by Arthur O’Connell, a broken-down “has-been” attorney, and his secretary, played by Eve Arden. It was an interesting story which Preminger brilliantly directed. There were three things that stood out for me; first, Duke Ellington’s score of the movie (he also made a cameo appearance in it); second, a young George C. Scott did an excellent job as one of the prosecuting attorneys (it was one of Scott’s earliest film roles), and; third, Jimmy Stewart playing the piano while the jury was out which gave me a totally new perspective of Stewart.

In Harm’s Way (1965) – this was another Otto Preminger project and featured John Wayne as a newly appointed World War II admiral charged with stopping the Japanese advance in the South Pacific. He is assisted by Kirk Douglas, Burgess Meredith, as well as several other notable character actors. What I found interesting was Wayne’s relationship with his nurse, who was played superbly by Patricia Neal; Wayne’s complicated relationship with his son, Brandon De Wilde, and; Kirk Douglas showing a dark-side rarely seen in his film career. Although the movie has plenty of action, it is the dynamics between the characters that makes it interesting, which was all played convincingly by the cast. I think Preminger brought the best out of the actors as they portrayed human frailties you don’t normally see from people like Wayne and Douglas. To me, this is the definitive John Wayne movie, not what Howard Hawks created.

12 Angry Men (1957) – was directed by Sidney Lumet and featured an impressive cast including Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, E.G. Marshall, Martin Balsam and more. The story revolves around the deliberations of a jury hearing the trial of a teenager charged with the murder of his father. It had a powerful script and, to me, captured the sense of the times back then. Again, it is the dynamics between the jurors which makes this a fascinating story.

All three films were nominated for Academy Awards, but none took home the prize. Regardless, there is something about these films that fascinates me. Perhaps it was because they were all shot in black and white which added a sense of realism to me, someone who vividly remembers television before the advent of color. More importantly though, I believe these films had excellent scripts and dialogue, intelligent stories, believable characters and situations, and good acting and directing.

Maybe I am dating myself by these selections, but I will take these classic “pictures” any day of the week over the “movies” of today.

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

For Tim’s columns, see:

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Entertainment | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Tim Bryce on May 19, 2010

Nope, its not the lawyers; its the “bean counters” that are ruining business. Let me give you an example, I know of a large machine-tool operation in the Midwest who used to be heralded for producing quality products. To this end, the company established an in-house school who taught their machinists how to build products, not just any old way, the company’s way. The school was led by the senior craftsmen of the business who took pride in their workmanship and passed this on to the new employees. When an employee graduated from the school, a machinist not only knew his job, but took pride in his work and became loyal to the company due to its reputation. Even if an employee dropped out and went elsewhere, he would always recommend his former company’s products because he knew they were built with quality. This school went on for a number of years and became a part of the corporate culture. However, in the 1980’s the company hired a team of MBA’s to look over their operations and make recommendations for improvement. You must remember, this was a time when cost cutting was the norm. After looking over the financial statements of the business, the management consultants concluded the school represented a costly overhead and convinced the company to close it down.

Shortly after the school’s closure, the company started to experience a drop in morale, absenteeism and tardiness began to rise, and craftsmanship began to deteriorate. Product quality dropped significantly and the company began to lose customers, so much so, they eventually sold off their machine-tool operations and went into a totally new line of business. Keep in mind, prior to this the company was a leader in the machine-tool industry and generated substantial profits from it.

Obviously this story isn’t unique as we have witnessed several such changes in the corporate landscape during the 1980’s and 1990’s. The point is, the bean counters have taken charge of business which has triggered sweeping changes in how we deal with our customers, our vendors, and our employees.


Under the bean counter approach to business, numbers are all that matter. Of course, paying attention to the bottom-line is always important, but this should not result in a callous way of operating a business. To me, studying the numbers is analogous to watching the dials and gauges of a machine. It is like watching the speedometer of an automobile. But if I observe an emergency vehicle approaching or see a drunk driver nearby, I am going to ignore the gauge and do what is proper. I am going to make a human decision and do what is best for my passengers and myself, as well as the other surrounding vehicles. If I only did what the dials and gauges told me, I would probably harm others.

The bean counter approach to business represents a very mechanical way of operating. Let me give you an illustration. I have a friend here in Florida who is the state sales manager for a home health business (a lucrative business for a retirement state like Florida). The company was recently purchased and a new management team put into place run by bean counters. After studying sales figures, management found a salesman who wasn’t making his quota and, consequently, instructed my friend to terminate his employment. My friend knew the salesman in question and realized he was experiencing some personal problems. After considerable discussion with corporate management, he convinced them to let him (the Sales Manager) work with the salesman a while longer to see if he could help him. He pointed out to management, the alternative was to start the laborious and costly process of recruiting and teaching a replacement. Management acquiesced and granted the salesman a stay of execution. Over the next few weeks, the Sales Manager was able to work with the salesman, helped him overcome his personal problems and rebuilt his confidence. Since then, the salesman has gotten back on track and has been exceeding quota ever since.

Bean counters do not understand or appreciate the true business of a company. They make knee-jerk reactions based strictly on numbers, not on human intuition or social interaction. It is no small wonder the corporate world has become dehumanizing. I know of a medium sized semiconductor business in the Southeast who also experienced a similar phenomenon. The company was founded by a man with little formal education, but a lot of “street smarts.” He took a hands-on approach to the startup of the company which grew in leaps and bounds. As the company settled into maturity, the founder began to slow down and brought in a new management team to take over the reins. His new management team had some pretty slick business school credentials but, inevitably, they were nothing more than bean counters. Under their watch, corporate growth was arrested and the company’s stock diminished radically. Today, a company that was at one time a robust and thriving business with loyal customers and dedicated employees is a mere shadow of its old self.

Conducting business is more about our interpersonal relations with customers, vendors and employees, than it is about watching dials and gauges. As the famed W. Edwards Deming once said:

“Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them.”

Keep in mind, Deming understood the need for statistical analysis and watching the bottom-line, but he also realized they were nothing more than the dials and gauges of the business.


Under the bean counter approach we have lost the personal touch for conducting business. Companies have become cold and calculating, certainly not the types of businesses we want to work for or with. Always remember that bean counters believe conducting business is simply manipulating numbers, not in building products or servicing customers. Yet, for some unfathomable reason, we have put them on a pedestal and expect them to competently guide our companies. But the only thing I see them guiding is our foreign competitors who take over our market share.

To paraphrase William Shakespeare, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the bean counters.”

“Business is about people, not just numbers.”
– 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

For Tim’s columns, see:

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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


Posted by Tim Bryce on May 17, 2010

Something you don’t hear much about anymore in American classrooms is “Civics” which was intended to teach the basic duties and responsibilities of citizens. Sometimes the class was called “American Government” as well. Regardless, the intent was to teach the mechanics of our government and citizenship. Unfortunately, you don’t hear too much about Civics anymore, which is a pity as I believe there are a lot of people operating without even a basic understanding of what is going on in this country. This is why I believe everyone should be certified to be a citizen rather than just by birth right.

In my Civics class, we discussed the various branches and levels of government, how legislation was processed, serving on juries, and of course the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. The Declaration is a pretty impressive document, but to me, the Constitution is one of the most brilliant inventions ever devised by man, particularly when you consider the political climate of the time when it was written. Its three branches of government, with its checks and balances, was a bold experiment, yet, when you read it, you are struck by the simple common sense embodied within it.

James Madison is generally regarded as the “Father of the Constitution” as he took the lead in its development. Madison’s education concentrated on such subjects as languages, philosophy, and speech. His studies also included a few law classes, but he never gained admission to the bar. So, here you have the principal author of our government’s most important document who is more skilled in communications than in law. This is in sharp contrast to today’s Congressmen who are more likely to be lawyers as opposed to any other occupation. Consider this, the original U.S. Constitution was written on just four pages, less the Bill of Rights which was handled separately. Admittedly, these were rather large pages by today’s standards, but it was still four pages in length. Compare this to the recent Health Insurance Reform Bill which was over 2,000 pages long; even the summary was 121 pages. It kind of makes you wonder what today’s Congress would have produced had they been charged with Madison’s responsibility. I can’t help but believe I would prefer the simplicity and directness of Madison’s version instead.

As an aside, I find it rather strange the Constitution has become an icon associated with conservatism in this country. It should be a symbol for all of us.

One of the most important lessons stressed in my Civics class was the need for people to become active and responsible citizens. It didn’t preach disobedience, treachery or anarchy, although this was certainly described. Instead, it discussed the duties of the citizens such as enacting changes through peaceful means, e.g., the ballot box. When I go to my polling station today, I get the uneasy feeling that a lot of people do not know what they’re doing there and what they should be voting for or against. To me, this is downright scary.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, people take their civic responsibilities too lightly. Most are uneducated. In the absence of a bona fide Civics class, people should be required to at least pass the citizenship test as published by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

More than anything, our Civics class taught us that citizenship is something to be prized, and not taken for granted. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s this way anymore, which is why we have a general flippant attitude towards government and a belief that “someone else is pulling the strings.” Interestingly, it is the American public that still pulls the strings, but with the passing of such things as Civic classes, we’ve forgotten how to do it.

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

For Tim’s columns, see:

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Government, Politics, Social Issues | 1 Comment »


Posted by Tim Bryce on May 14, 2010

We have an expression we use around the office whenever we discuss a new idea and someone impulsively acts on it without first thinking it through, we call it “backing up the truck.” This came about several years ago when we were discussing a publicity idea to promote our I.T. related products. Basically, we were thinking of writing a series of white papers on various subjects and mailing them to our customers and key contacts in the industry (e-mail was still in its infancy). At the time, everyone at the meeting agreed it was a good idea but we should sleep on it over the weekend. However, one of our guys took the initiative of calling a paper supplier and, lo and behold, on Monday morning a delivery truck backed up to our offices with a couple of skids of paper. We were all bewildered why the person ordered the paper before a decision had actually been made, hence the expression.

“Backing up the truck” obviously represents a “leap before you look” type of impulsive behavior and, unfortunately, we see too much of it in the corporate world. I think it might be caused by the highly competitive nature of corporate politics whereby people try to scratch and claw their way to the top and seize on any opportunity for recognition. Yes, it is necessary to respond in a timely manner to the pressures of business, but companies can ill-afford a knee-jerk reaction to every problem or opportunity.

Another reason for it may be that we have raised a generation of people who only understand instant gratification and cannot plan their lives beyond 5:00pm. This would suggest they have learned to operate in a constant “fire fighting” mode of operation whereby they react as opposed to plan. In other words, “backing up the truck” is a natural part of their corporate culture.

If the wrong decisions are made, a “backing up the truck” form of behavior can be both costly and destructive. If you are a one-man operation and have supreme confidence in your judgment, than it might be a suitable form of behavior. As for me, I like to think things through. For example, rarely do I ever write and publish an article on the same day, regardless of the easy-to-use publishing tools now available. I have made it a policy to sit on an article for at least 24 hours (including this column), to give me a chance to think about it over night and look at it with a fresh perspective on the following day. I can’t think of a time when I didn’t make a modification to an article as a result of this process, be it large or small. I am therefore more confident in what I am presenting to my readership.

When I fly, I like to see a pilot with a little gray hair. It’s not that I have anything against younger officers, I just feel more comfortable knowing there’s someone in the cockpit who has been around the block a few times, and has the experience to consider all of the alternatives before making a decision, such as Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger. There’s no substitute for experience.

By the way, in our “backing up the truck” example, cooler heads prevailed and the skids of paper were returned to the vendor the next day.

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

For Tim’s columns, see:

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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


Posted by Tim Bryce on May 12, 2010

In all of my travels, I often run into companies who ask the same question, “Why can’t we get our act together? Why does Project Management routinely fail in our company?”

I don’t believe a company’s overall problems in Project Management can be attributed to a specific tool or technique (although some certainly do not help matters). Instead, I believe it is based on how important a company considers Project Management to be. If they believe it to be a vital part of the company’s overall performance, it will be more successful than a company who considers it irrelevant. In other words, I view Project Management as an integral part of the corporate culture.

Let’s consider the indicators of how a company values Project Management:

* LACK OF KNOWLEDGE – employees simply lack the basic knowledge of the mechanics of Project Management. I don’t run into too many companies anymore with a total absence of knowledge in this regard. The conceptual foundation of Project Management has been around for a number of years. There is a multitude of training programs in Project Management, both at the college and commercial level. There are also several discussion groups on the Internet and professional associations dealing with this subject (e.g., the Project Management Institute of Newtown Square, PA). Hiring or contracting people with absolutely no knowledge of basic Project Management concepts is becoming a rarity.

* LACK OF ORGANIZATIONAL POLICY – the company has not adopted a formal policy for managing projects. Consequently, informal and inconsistent approaches to project management are used with mixed results. This is a much more common occurrence than finding a company devoid of knowledge in Project Management.

* LACK OF ENFORCEMENT OF POLICY AND PROCEDURES – even though a policy has been established, it is not enforced. As a result, inconsistent results emerge. If a standard and consistent approach to Project Management is devised by a company, it must be routinely policed in order to assure accuracy and uniform results. It is one thing to enact legislation, quite another to enforce it.

* LACK OF CONSIDERATION FOR THE MAGNITUDE AND COMPLEXITIES OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND ATTACK IT IN PIECE MEAL – People seem to naturally underestimate the magnitude of project management. For example, project planning involves defining work breakdown structures and dependencies which is a precursor to estimating, scheduling, reporting and control; estimating is a prerequisite to scheduling; time reporting impacts project estimates and schedules; resource allocation is based on availability of qualified people (skills inventory) and current project schedules; etc. There is an overwhelming number of software packages on the market attacking various aspects of Project Management, but very few addressing it as an integrated whole.

It must be remembered that project management is first and foremost a philosophy of management, not an elaborate set of tools and techniques, nor is it an administrative function. Rather, it is concerned with managing human beings towards the accomplishment of work (it is a “people management” function). As such, project management will only be as effective as the people who use it.

Ultimately, project management represents DISCIPLINE, ORGANIZATION, and ACCOUNTABILITY; which are three areas people seem to have a natural aversion to these days.


DISCIPLINE – In the western world, people tend to resist discipline because some believe it inhibits creativity and personal freedom. As a result, teamwork is often sacrificed in favor of rugged individualism.

ORGANIZATION – Pursuant to discipline is the problem of organization. Again, in the western world, people prefer to maintain their own identity and organize themselves to meet their needs as opposed to the needs of the organization. There are also those who claim, “A cluttered desk is the sign of a brilliant mind.” Hogwash. In contrast, I am a believer of the Navy’s regimen whereby you either work on something, file it, or throw it away. This forces people to get organized. If we need more files, let’s get them. A cluttered desk is a sign of a disorganized person. Shape up, or ship out.

ACCOUNTABILITY is an area people tend to rebel against the most. The approach to project management, as advocated by “PRIDE,” ultimately represents visibility and responsibility to produce according to plan. Unfortunately, some people shun commitments and, instead, prefer to hide their activity, thereby they cannot be measured and evaluated. This is typically the reaction of people who are insecure. People who are confident in their abilities have no problem with the accountability issue.


The old adage, “If you do not make the decision, the decision will be made for you,” is valid. This also sums up the difference between an active and a reactive manager. True Project Management requires an “active” manager, not “reactive.” The active manager takes care of the problems before they happen. They plan on the future. The reactive manager deals with yesterday and waits until problems occur, then tries to take care of them. Today, more and more IT organizations find themselves in a constant “firefighting” mode of operation. Why? Because of a “reactive” management style. The “reactive” manager never seems to get ahead, yet probably enjoys the highest visibility in the company. As an aside, beware of your “firefighters,” they are probably your chief arsonists.

Managers don’t wait for things to happen, they make things happen.


Can the philosophies of project management be adopted and implemented by a single group of people for a single project? Yes. A department or division? Certainly. The entire company? Definitely. In fact, as the scope grows, communications improves and the philosophy is more consistently applied.

The scope of project management affects many people:

* The individual worker will prepare estimates and schedules, perform project work, and report on activities.

* The project manager will plan and direct the use of resources on projects, and solve problems.

* Department managers will administer resources and control projects within an area.

* Executive management will establish project priorities and monitor project progress.

Obviously, project management should not be restricted to a handful of people or projects. Dozens of projects may be active at any one time, involving hundreds of workers across departmental boundaries. Synchronization of the work effort is required to maximize effect and minimize confusion. Project management, therefore, should be viewed as a corporate philosophy as opposed to a technique used by a select few. Only when a standard and consistent approach to Project Management is adopted by a company will it become an integral part of the corporate culture. We will then hear less about why Project Management fails, and more of how the company is prospering.

“It is one thing to enact legislation, quite another to enforce it.”
– 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

For Tim’s columns, see:

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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


Posted by Tim Bryce on May 10, 2010

Glenn Beck of the Fox News Channel has attracted considerable attention lately, not necessarily for what he has said, but for the advertising boycott of his show. Apple CEO Steve Jobs was the latest to sign his company up for the boycott. Whether it has truly had an adverse affect on Beck and Fox from a financial point of view is yet to be seen, but the boycott seems to have had little effect on their ratings which remains strong. It even seems the greater the outcry against Beck, the greater his numbers rise as more people tune in just out of curiosity as to what all the hubbub is about. This makes you wonder if boycotting truly works or if it can backfire on you.

In some cases, boycotting can indeed have a significant impact on a company. If it is generally believed a company is unfair, then, Yes, a boycott will undoubtedly succeed and force a company to change its policies. However, as in the Beck case, the motivation of those calling for the boycott is highly questionable. Here, it is NOT generally accepted the Beck program is unfair, but rather the opinion of his political opponents. And herein lies the Achilles’ Heel of this particular boycott and why it will backfire in the face of the organizers. Both sides, left and right, recognize this as nothing more than a political scheme to discredit Beck. If anything, the boycott is causing him to gain strength and people to rethink their allegiance to those companies opposed to Beck. From this perspective, the decision to boycott Beck is going to cost the advertisers more than they had envisioned.

As for me, I am not a fan of Keith Overman, Chris Mathews, Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart, or Bill Maher. Consequently, I elect to simply not watch their shows. If someone else wants to watch them, fine, but I don’t threaten their advertisers with a boycott. My protest here is simply my viewership, and it seems this is the tactic Beck’s opponents should have taken as opposed to a boycott that grows uglier for the organizers with each passing day. Evidently, I am not alone as Fox’s viewership easily outpaces MSNBC, CNBC, CNN and HLN, especially during prime time. As the boycotters have not learned yet, viewership drives advertising, not the other way around. This makes me question the wisdom of companies advertising on shows with far fewer viewers than the Beck program.

You have to wonder what Beck’s critics are trying to accomplish; to muzzle him or get him thrown off the air? If so, they have failed miserably. Since they couldn’t affect Beck’s viewership, they went after his advertisers instead, which is only going to cost the advertisers in the long run, not Beck. It will be interesting to see when they finally return, which will probably be done as quietly as possible. Until then, sorry Steve, I’m going to boycott the boycotters.

I guess what I’m getting at is there are two ways to subdue a barking dog; you can either beat him with a stick, at which time you run the risk of making it angrier and biting you, or you can leave him alone and attract less attention to the problem.

So, does boycotting work? Ask Glenn Beck; it works for him.

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

For Tim’s columns, see:

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

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