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Archive for November, 2010

THE “CAN DO” MENTALITY

Posted by Tim Bryce on November 30, 2010

What ever happened to the “Can Do” mentality of the United States? Let me give you an example; 1982 was a particularly profitable year for our company. We were flush with cash and like a lot of other companies in such a situation, wanted to spend it before the end of the year as opposed to letting the government tax us for it. At the time, we were in need of a new computer. PC’s were not in vogue yet, and mainframes were cost prohibitive. Instead, we were interested in a midrange computer that could suit both our development and administrative needs. After considerable investigation, we settled on a DEC VAX (an 11/750 with VMS) from Digital Equipment Company in Massachusetts, a fine machine with a good reputation for reliability and service. Keep in mind, such computers back then were high ticket items costing thousands of dollars.

There was just one problem with the computer; we couldn’t buy it. True, we had plenty of money, but we had difficulty finding a salesman to take our order. The last week of the year is always bad in terms of people taking time off between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, but a big company like DEC should have someone around, right? Wrong. We ended up speaking to a salesman who was more interested in the holiday break than in selling us a computer. When we realized he was incompetent, we asked for another salesman. The second rep said he could take the order and would begin the paperwork in terms of setting us up as a customer and performing a credit check on us, which would take several weeks to complete. This was unacceptable, so we had to make additional calls to find the right person, a sales manager.

We explained to the manager we had spoken to his underlings who didn’t seem to comprehend our situation. We said, “Look, it’s simple, you’ve got a computer on your docks which we want to purchase; we’ll send you a certified check by overnight mail, if you can process the contract and ship the product within 24 hours.” The salesman sensed the urgency of the matter and understood the necessity for acting promptly (as he didn’t want to lose the sale). “Can do, Sir,” was his response. We processed the check accordingly and promptly received the computer from DEC. All of the bureaucratic problems as described by the DEC underlings never materialized and everybody was happy with the transaction, all because the DEC sales manager knew how to take some initiative and conquered all of the obstacles in his way.

Three years later, in 1985, we were planning on moving our offices from Cincinnati, Ohio to our present location in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. Again, keep in mind, we were not dealing with PC’s that could be easily packed up and shipped accordingly. Instead, we would need a team of technicians from DEC to break the computer down and another team to set it up on the other end in Florida. Many people warned us it would take weeks to make the migration; “It can’t be done in a weekend,” we were told.

Fortunately, we had established a good relationship with DEC’s Customer Service group and knew some key managers who had a “Can Do” attitude. We met with them and explained our move and asked for their assistance. On the day of the move, on a Friday, we backed up the computer one last time before powering it down. The DEC team then came in and took it apart and packed it for shipping. The last thing loaded in the moving van was the computer with its many terminals and other peripherals. The time – 5:00pm.

Our company then moved by convoy down I-75 until we arrived at our new offices in Florida. At 8:00am on Monday, the DEC technicians arrived and helped us unload the computer and move it into its new room. By 9:00am, Monday morning, the computer was powered up with everything connected and our developers began to work. In other words, we didn’t miss a beat, all because of a little planning and a “Can Do” mentality.

You don’t see too much of “Can Do” anymore in business, it’s more of a “Can’t Do” attitude instead. I’m not sure why this is. Perhaps because we tend to overly micromanage people and, consequently, they no longer feel empowered to take action, waiting instead for authority to do so. Perhaps people are not properly motivated either. Regardless, I see this “Can’t Do” attitude permeating our society. It is very negative and to my way of thinking counterproductive.

I’m not going to be one of those old fuddy-duddies who says this is how we did something years ago, but there is definitely something to be said about someone with a “Can Do” mentality. It’s always a pleasure to work with anyone, regardless of their occupation, who knows what they are doing, and does it well. Some call it “confidence,” some call it “empowerment.” I call it, “Can Do!”

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and 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

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 11:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

ENTERPRISE ENGINEERING

Posted by Tim Bryce on November 29, 2010

“Enterprise Engineering” is a term we coined in 1988 to reflect the third and final part of our concept of Information Resource Management (IRM) representing a triad of methodologies to design, develop, and control all of the resources needed to support the information requirements of an enterprise, be it a commercial or nonprofit endeavor. Earlier we had produced organized methodologies for “Information Systems Engineering” and “Data Base Engineering,” but now our attention turned to producing an Enterprise Information Strategy, a plan for satisfying an enterprise’s information requirements based on business priorities.

We used the term “engineering” in all three of our methodologies to emphasize they possessed a solid conceptual foundation derived from engineering and, as such, could be applied and taught as a science. The three methodologies are complementary; whereas “Information Systems Engineering” was primarily implemented by Systems Analysts and Programmers, “Data Base Engineering” was implemented by Data Analysts, DBA’s, and Data Communications personnel. When we introduced “Enterprise Engineering” we invented the position of “Enterprise Engineer” to describe the type of person who would execute the methodology. What we described as “Enterprise Engineer” then is perhaps best exemplified by what is today called a “Business Analyst.”

Among the innovations we introduced with the “PRIDE”-Enterprise Engineering Methodology (EEM), were two techniques we called “Enterprise Decomposition,” and “Priority Modeling.” As to the former, companies were all familiar with drawing hierarchical organization charts depicting administrative reporting relationships. Such graphics represent physical relationships which tended to be rather volatile in nature. For example, it is not unusual for organization charts to change from one moment to the next. We also realized jobs are created to implement certain business functions, such as sales, customer service, manufacturing, etc. Business functions are much less dynamic than jobs and personnel relationships. Wanting to invent a stable model of the business, we devised the Enterprise Decomposition technique which basically said within any enterprise, there are three fundamental functions, “Produce Income” (which is typically referred to as “Marketing”), “Administer Resources” (such as human, financial, and equipment resources, etc.), and “Produce Product/Service” (representing the outcome of the business, be it Manufacturing and/or a particular service”). With these high-level functions defined, we subdivided them into a three level hierarchy. Level-1 represents the fundamental “Operations” of the business; Level-2 is a “Control” level to oversee operations and implement executive directives, and; Level-3 was the highest level where “Policy” decisions are made.

This simple “three-across and three-down” approach resulted in a hierarchy of logical business functions representing a stable model of the business. We tried this on several types of businesses and found it to be an effective approach for modeling an enterprise. We also discovered that companies with the same business mission were identical in terms of the logical business functions to be performed. For example, all automotive manufacturers were essentially the same, as were life insurance companies, banks, etc. The difference between companies of the same sort was physically how they were organized and the effectiveness of their information systems. Nonetheless, this resulted in a template approach for modeling businesses.

The second unique technique we introduced in “PRIDE”-EEM was “Priority Modeling.” At the time, one of the most fundamental flaws in planning was that plans were inflexible. After agonizing over the formulation of project plans, companies were hesitant to change them even though business conditions were changing due to such things as competition, economics, government regulations, and changing technology. No sooner were massive monolithic systems plans produced, they were already obsolete. This meant a company’s information systems were never synchronized with changing business conditions. It also explains why so many systems projects were simply abandoned as opposed to completed.

Using our logical business model, we defined the objects needed to run the business, be it something as tangible as a product, a part, an employee, etc., or as intangible as an event, such as a customer order, a shipment, or a billing. From this, we could define the information requirements needed to support each business function. Requirements were then grouped together into business objectives based on commonality. Business objectives were then grouped into projects. Using a weighting technique based on the value of the information requirements, we devised a means to calculate the priority rankings of business objectives which, in turn, drove the priority rankings of projects. If a business objective’s value changed, we could easily recalculate the priorities of all objectives and projects. This shuffling of priorities allowed executives and business analysts to play “what if” scenarios of corporate priorities, hence the expression “Priority Modeling.”

In addition to “Enterprise Decomposition” and “Priority Modeling,” “PRIDE”-EEM provided several byproducts, such as an organization analysis based on a comparison of the physical organization against the logical, defining the corporate culture, and producing a skills inventory.

“PRIDE”-EEM introduced a new and innovative way of looking at the enterprise, the objects and information requirements needed to run it, and provided a handy way of formulating an enterprise-wide information strategy under changing business conditions. As such, it is based on a simple concept, “If anything in life is constant, it is change.”

The concepts and terminology used in “PRIDE”-EEM are pragmatic and straightforward and, as such, can be easily taught to others. For more information, see:

“PRIDE” Methodologies for IRM eBook – from MBA Press

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and 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

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 11:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

CHILI RECIPES – IT’S PERSONAL

Posted by Tim Bryce on November 29, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I attended a Chili cookoff at a nearby town. For the uninformed, a “cookoff” is a cooking competition that concentrates on a particular dish, in this case, chili or “chili con carne” to be more precise, a spicy meat stew which is particularly popular in the South. There were a few dozen vendors in attendance and I took my time to sample all of them. I’ve tasted a lot of different interpretations of chili over the years, e.g., shredded beef versus ground beef, various types of chili peppers, textures, not to mention how served, such as on a bed of rice, on spaghetti, with corn bread, etc. Because of these many variations, I like to believe I have a pretty open mind when it comes to chili.

The competitors in the chili cookoff came from different backgrounds; everything from restaurants to mom and pop operations, to individuals who relished participating in such events. Usually when you go to a cookoff like this, you are likely to run across some commonality between entries. Interestingly, I didn’t find anything remotely similar between the various competitors. Although I thought when it came to chili I had seen everything, I of course didn’t as everyone seemed to have their own unique interpretation. Most had little or no spice whatsoever in it, which baffled me. Some were runny or soupy and others had more kidney beans than meat. I even found one with shrimp that could have easily passed for gumbo as opposed to chili (I think the guy was lost). There was also a vegetarian chili which I personally consider blasphemous. Regardless, each and every competitor was genuinely proud of their entry and boasted it was the best in the competition. Frankly, most of the entries could have been better used as fishing chum in the Gulf. I may not be a chili connoisseur, but this was bad and I think it would have offended everyone in the great state of Texas where chili is the official dish.

Regardless of the outcome, I discovered chili is a very personal dish and there are probably no two people who prepare it exactly the same. Even if people use prepackaged ingredients, I have found they like to add their own unique nuance to the recipe. When you ask someone to describe their version you usually get a contrived answer like, “It’s Spanish style,” or Cuban, Greek, Filipino or Ethiopian (huh?), not to mention Cincinnati-style with its “5 ways” of combining ingredients.

I have also found chili recipes are usually jealously guarded family secrets (sometimes even between family members). As to the cookoff competitors I experienced, I don’t think they have to worry about the misappropriation of any trade secret. They could paste their recipes on every telephone poll from Tampa to Fairbanks and I think it is safe to say their secrets will remain proprietary.

I guess I don’t see chili as a complicated dish. There is meat and there are spices. To me, it’s the spices that distinguishes the dish. When you are in the southwest, it’s usually a matter of red chilies versus green chilies, both have different tastes and degrees of heat. We could easily stop there but inevitably we do not as evidenced by the many different interpretations I experienced at the cookoff. But shrimp chili? Vegetarian chili? Turkey chili? Ethiopian chili? No, no, no, and Hell no. Just give me the beef and an interesting spice, two things I didn’t find at this year’s “chili cookoff.”

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and 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

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 11:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

WHO SHOULD CONTROL THE WORK ENVIRONMENT?

Posted by Tim Bryce on November 17, 2010

Good question. For years, controlling the work environment was considered management’s responsibility. After all, they were the ones charged with the task of implementing certain business functions. But the times have changed or have they really? Today, most young people expect the corporate culture to adapt to their life style and work habits, not the other way around. And there is some evidence to this effect. For example, suit and ties have been replaced by some rather avant-garde dress. Even “Casual Fridays” have been replaced by grungy appearances on a daily basis. This has manifested itself to the overall office appearance and organization. Further, most younger office workers are now plugged into iPods to avoid social interaction. One has to wonder if this new corporate culture has truly been conducive to completing assignments on time and within budget. If not, maybe a change is in order.

But the question remains, has management surrendered control over the work environment? Well, to a degree, Yes. Some things have admittedly changed over the last couple of decades, and management is less sensitive to adhering to corporate policies and procedures. Nonetheless, young employees must still conform to the corporate culture rather than their own.

Interestingly, a dichotomy has emerged in the work place; whereas employees are given more freedom to look and act as they so desire, micromanagement is on the rise. The two may or may not be related, but the two phenomenons are too noticeable to be considered nothing more than a coincidence. While employees want more participation in the decision making process, managers are more resistant to giving it to them. Is it possible that employee appearance and conduct doesn’t instill confidence in the manager? Not just maybe, but highly likely. If employees look and act unprofessional, the less likely management will trust their judgment.

Can a happy medium be found? Frankly, I think so, but it requires a reexamination of the corporate culture by management. Companies may balk at going back to suit and ties, but there are some fundamental changes that can be enacted to affect discipline, organization, and accountability; and this all begins with taking control of the work environment.

As I have described in the past, there are both logical and physical aspects to controlling the work environment. The physical attributes represent those things affecting human senses and the logical affects the human spirit. The physical work environment affects sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell, which of course influences our perceptions. This means management should be sensitive to lighting, temperature, colors, personal appearance, equipment, etc. The logical side refers to management style and reflects management’s values; e.g., ethics, conduct, dedication, professionalism, motivation, and social interaction. As such, both the logical and physical attributes are closely related.

The intuitive manager should spend more time on controlling the work environment and less time on supervising the smallest details (micromanagement). This means the manager needs to empower workers, delegate responsibility, hold people accountable, and get the heck out of the way. In other words, by treating people as professionals, it is not at all unreasonable to expect them to act as such in return. By doing so, the manager is promoting trust, and encouraging teamwork and loyalty by giving the employees a sense of ownership in the work products to be produced. Frankly, I believe employees prefer such an arrangement.

The military has long understood the need for an organized work environment. In addition to uniform appearance, you have three standing rules of operation: either you work on something, store it away properly, or throw it away. Clutter is avoided at all cost. True, there is a lot of personal supervision during boot camp and a soldier knows how to take an order, but when you are in the field, the officers do not have time to hold your hand.

But the reality in the corporate world is that management is spending more time on supervising, and less time worrying about the work environment, hence the decline of discipline and organization. I tend to describe this relationship using the game of football as an analogy. The Head Coach is responsible for checking on field conditions and preparing his players through practice (training) and devising a game plan (strategy), not by going out on the field and instructing the actions of every player. So, as you sit down to watch your favorite football game, ask yourself how the play of the team parallels your office. Just how much supervision is going on in the field and who controls the work environment?

“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 a writer and 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

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 11:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

THE 2010 SPLIT

Posted by Tim Bryce on November 15, 2010

To me, the most significant outcome of the past mid-term elections was how it split the country along ideological lines. There has always been substantial differences between the Democrats and the Republicans, but nothing as pronounced as what we are witnessing today. I remember the sharp differences of LBJ versus Goldwater in 1964, Nixon and Humphrey in 1968, and Reagan/Carter in 1980, but I do not remember a time in our our history where the people have been so bitterly divided in terms of how the country should be run. The differences between the two are often described as the “Haves versus the Have Nots” or “Givers versus Takers,” but more precisely, the two sides can be distinguished by the following attributes:

THE LEFT THE RIGHT
Wants big government representing totalitarian control whereby the state regulates everything, a sort of “Big Brother” mentality. Wants government flattened with less regulation thereby encouraging personal initiative and responsibility.
Sees themselves as intellectuals who openly contest the status quo, including socioeconomic policies, religion, morality and sexuality. Sees themselves as law abiding patriots who believe in the sanctity of the U.S. Constitution. They are more steeped in customs and morality with a deeper rooted belief in God.
Considered more politically correct and more permissive in nature. Considered more disciplined and unbending in principles.

Over the years, the pendulum has swung back and forth grudgingly, but for some reason it has turned quite bitter. I can only surmise it is because our political consciousness has risen to new heights as evidenced by the record voting turnout in this past mid-term election. The reason for the rise is twofold: first, because people have become more aware of how government impacts their personal lives (plus it also makes for good theater), and; second, enhanced and accelerated use of technology which now reaches every corner of our society. Regardless if we have an opinion or not, media spin doctors now have access to the public’s ears and is more than willing to tell them how to think and act.

Campaign discourse has become bitter and divisive. To illustrate, for all of Richard Nixon’s problems, the 1960 presidential contest was much more cordial than by today’s standards. I remember a Nixon interview years later when he discussed his relation with JFK. True, there were substantial differences between the two, but they both respected each other. So much so, it wasn’t unusual for Nixon and his wife Pat to have dinner at the White House with JFK and Jackie.

The ideological split today is so pronounced it is becoming much more difficult to find what was once called “moderates” who are now being forced to choose sides, left or right. As the two sides become larger and more confrontational, we run the risk of igniting a social tinderbox which could explode into anarchy. The resulting violence which would ensue could make the 1960’s seem mild by comparison.

The real battleground though is for the hearts and minds of our youth who, like always, determines our future. Whereas the Left makes extensive use of the media and our educational system to sway youth, the Right counts on family values and organized religion. Whoever captures the fancy of our youth will dictate which ideological side this country will embrace.

The country is so split, I do not see anyone on either side capable of holding the two together. Are we on a path of self-destruction? Let’s hope not. More likely though, the states will begin to flex their sovereignty as in the case of Arizona’s recent immigration bill which resulted in other states, particularly California, establishing an embargo on Arizona products and services thereby attempting to force them to revoke their legislation. Such tactics establish a dangerous precedence in the country. If such tactics become commonplace, watch for citizens to migrate to those states they relate to ideologically. What’s next, checkpoints on state borders? Don’t laugh. It is not as absurd a concept as you might think.

The point is, our country is split and if we are not careful we will cease to cooperate and function as a union and we will have become what is commonly called “Has Beens,” something all red-blooded Americans should find repulsive.

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and 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

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 11:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Politics, Social Issues, Society | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

THE TRUTH DOES NOT ALWAYS SET YOU FREE

Posted by Tim Bryce on November 14, 2010

My entire adult life has been spent trying to do what is right for all the people I’ve come in contact with, be it my customers who depend on me for advice, employees who wanted a comfortable and meaningful workplace, and constituents in the many nonprofit groups I have volunteered in over the years. You may not agree with my tactics now and then (I am most definitely not a politician) but I have always tried to be honest with the people I have come in contact with. You may not like what I have to say, but you know precisely where I stand on an issue. Throughout all of this, I have learned that telling the truth has cost me more than one friend over the years, but it is important to me personally to be able to look at myself in the mirror without blushing. As someone who has had to say “the Emperor has no clothes” on more than one occasion, I realize it requires some rather thick skin. Maybe this is why honesty is no longer in vogue anymore as it is easier and less painful to be so. It is a sad sign of our society when political correctness is more coveted than truth.

It doesn’t seem like it was too long ago when things were more black and white, that we had a clear idea of what was right and what was wrong. Now it seems we have too many shades of gray whereby common sense is no longer common, that right is wrong and wrong is right. This is resulting in a new psychosis of uncertainty and frustration. For example, my generation was brought up to believe that if you worked hard and kept your nose clean, everything would work out for you, that your company would look out for you, and you would be able to lead a comfortable existence, both personally and professionally. As we now know, this is certainly not the case and there are now long lines at the unemployment offices consisting of people who are in a state of shock. These are people who are worn out and no longer understand the world around them; a psychosis of uncertainty that is permeating our society.

Truth requires courage, not political correctness. Telling the truth and doing what is fair and honorable is actually more difficult to do, which is why people tend to avoid it, and why it should be cherished. It also says a lot about our egos. Most people will go to extremes to avoid confessing “I screwed up.” I have more respect for a person who admits a mistake and tries to correct it than someone who flaunts their contempt for you by lying. Yet our society for some reason accepts and prizes deceit over honesty. It’s kind of like saying, “Ha Ha Ha, see, he got away with it.”

Over the years I have learned telling the truth is better than being caught in a lie, and much less painful. The person who fabricates a lie must be prepared to defend it. For example, if a salesman in a company knowingly quotes an erroneous price or terms for delivery, and the customer discovers the salesman was deliberately misleading him, in all likelihood the company will lose not just the sale, but the customer as well. In contrast, an honest salesman that stands behind his product will have less trouble. Much less.

Discovering the truth is not always easy either. There are indeed two sides to every story, maybe more, which is why all sides should be given the opportunity to present their perspective. Quite often, it is nothing more than a misunderstanding that can be resolved amicably. Sometimes a third party judgment is required. Nonetheless, both sides must be allowed to have their day in court; any discrimination should be construed as intolerable. I have seen such discrimination on more than one occasion, and it appears to be becoming more pervasive due to political reasons. Consequently people are finding it more expeditious to say nothing instead of standing up for their beliefs. Not being allowed to tell one’s story is a form of intimidation and should not be tolerated.

My business requires me to tell the truth. I have to tell clients exactly what I see with no sugarcoating. Whereas some people like to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic (political correctness), I simply point out there is a hole in the side of the ship that we either need to repair or prepare to abandon ship.

I am reminded of the Hans Christian Anderson tale, whereby…

But among the crowds a little child suddenly gasped out, “But he hasn’t got anything on.” And the people began to whisper to one another what the child had said. “He hasn’t got anything on. There’s a little child saying he hasn’t got anything on.” Till everyone was saying, “But he hasn’t got anything on.” The Emperor himself had the uncomfortable feeling that what they were whispering was only too true. “But I will have to go through with the procession,” he said to himself. So he drew himself up and walked boldly on holding his head higher than before, and the courtiers held on to the train that wasn’t there at all.

Telling the truth isn’t for the faint of heart. It won’t make you popular, but at least you will be able to sleep soundly at night.

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and 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

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 11:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

A TRUE ELECTORAL COLLEGE

Posted by Tim Bryce on November 10, 2010

During the course of the past election it occurred to me that most of the candidates possess little formal education in how to govern or be an effective politician. Instead, they learn their craft on the job and through the guidance of a team of handlers, including media specialists. Even though I find the concept of career politicians distasteful, there are a lot of people who appear to be bent on becoming one. With this in mind, I have always been a proponent of establishing a true college environment for becoming a politician regardless if it at the municipal, state, or federal level. Most politicians take too much time to learn their job and make a series of mistakes along the way. Formal education and training could greatly alleviate this problem. Other professions require certification, why not politicians?

Assuming such an institution of higher learning existed, I tried to imagine what kind of curriculum the school would have. Ideally, it should have a series of three types of courses in:

* Business – covering subjects such as management, leadership, economics, finance, purchasing, business law, ethics, engineering and construction basics, information systems theory and practices, technology, etc. In particular I would like to see them teach classes in how to prepare a feasibility study and budget.

* Communications – including speech, writing, debate, socialization, body language, etiquette, interviewing, persuasion, public relations, conducting meetings, media relations, and technology.

* Other – American and world history, law enforcement and national defense, emergency services, foreign relations and statesmanship, fine arts appreciation, and sociology. In this area I would certainly include a review of the U.S. Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and governmental rules and regulations. Drafting legislation wouldn’t be a bad idea either

Teachers and professors should come not just from academia, but from the business world as well, building and construction, as well as retired politicians and statesmen, not to mention past presidents.

Such an institution would provide a priceless education and would provide an invaluable service for this country. Think about it, aside from college courses in political science, we have nothing like it. Instead, we have such things as: Mud Slinging 101, Character Assassination 102, Spin Doctoring 103, Brainwashing 104, Misdirection 105, Graft and Lobbyists 106, Good Ole Boys 107, and Political Correctness 108.

I think the country is ready for something like this new college I am proposing. Instead of opulent presidential libraries, money could be more wisely spent building such a school.

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and 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

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 11:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

WHEN DO WE BECOME OUR PARENTS?

Posted by Tim Bryce on November 9, 2010

Perhaps the most common joke at a high school reunion is when someone inevitably makes the observation, “Gee, when did we become our parents?” To me, the answer is simple: at age 40. Actually, a lot depends on when we were born as well as our offspring, but it is fair to say the transformation begins in our early 40’s. In our twenties, most of us are still learning to spread our wings and begin our careers. Love or lust typically raises its ugly head during this period, and along comes children. At this stage, I don’t think we’re our parents quite yet as we are still learning to find our way through the world and how to cope with the ankle-biters around us.

As the kids get older and enter grade school, we’re now in our thirties. At this stage we are still relatively active and fit. We are also coming into our own professionally. Both husband and wife remain active, be it developing a career or helping with the kids’ homework. Retirement is still a nebulous concept to us. No, we’re still not there yet.

As we enter our 40’s though, we start to observe several subtle changes around us. For example, we start to attend more weddings, showers and funerals. Oh God, the funerals. Long time friends and family members suddenly and mysteriously begin to pass away and we become conscious of our own mortality. We also start to observe and celebrate silver and golden anniversaries, not just our own, but of friends and relatives.

You notice that your parents are slowing down, their hair is getting whiter, and they are beginning to have trouble with their teeth and hearing, not to mention walking. In contrast, your children are now teenagers and abuzz with activity and chatter as they are discovering the world around them. Not surprising, it’s around this time when you become acutely aware of rising insurance bills and you start thinking about pending college tuitions, weddings and other substantial bills in the not too distant future. And this is where I believe we truly become our parents; as we find ourselves stuck between generations. It is this period when we come to the realization that we share the same worries and concerns our parents experienced and we are shocked by the ephiphany that we are no different than they were. We have the same interests, the same humor, the same type of friends and social activities. It is something we all must experience sooner or later.

I don’t wish to demean parenting in our 20’s or 30’s, but we really do not grasp the significance of it until we reach our 40’s. I see everything prior to it as nothing more than a learner’s permit, but it is our 40’s that defines us as parents and how we’ll be remembered as such. It is typically at this time when we go back for a high school reunion, look around at our old friends and notice they look and act remarkably like how we remembered our parents and their friends. It is then that you know with certainty that you have indeed become your parents. Don’t dismay though, consider it a right of passage. We all go through it.

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and 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

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 11:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

METHODOLOGY MADNESS

Posted by Tim Bryce on November 8, 2010

Friends, this particular column is simed at the I.T. sector. However, corporate managers should also find it of interest. With that said…

2011 marks our 40th anniversary in the methodology business with the advent of our “PRIDE” product, the first commercial methodology for designing and developing information systems. “PRIDE” was born out of the need to implement the massive Management Information Systems (MIS) of the 1960’s. As we began to market the product in 1971 people would inevitably ask, “What exactly is it?” Good question, as there had never been anything like it before. We thereby coined the expression “methodology” to refer to “PRIDE” as an organized process for building systems. The expression was considered somewhat avant-garde at the time and caught on. As the structured programming movement blossomed in the late 1970’s the term also came to be associated with specific techniques for software design.

Recently there has been renewed interest in methodologies and quite a few papers written about them. Frankly, I’ve been disappointed in their observations and conclusions and, through this article, I hope to set the record straight.

The reason we chose the word “methodology” is because we recognized there were essentially two ways of designing and building any product, either one at a time or standard and reusable processes. The “one at a time” approach means you have to define your methodology with each new project. The “reusable” approach is a recognition the same processes can be applied to building products of similar type. For example, there is a standard and reusable methodology for designing and constructing houses, bridges, ships, or skyscrapers, or for the design and development of products, such as electronics, automobiles, jet engines, etc. An assembly line, as found in manufacturing, is perhaps the most visible implementation of the methodology concept. It consists of a series of workstations where certain tasks are performed, and a deliverable is produced for review before proceeding to the next workstation. There are methodologies for just about every type of work effort. It would be rather arrogant to assume systems development would be any different. All I.T. organizations have such methodologies, whether they are cognizant of it or not; some are well defined and applied consistently in an organization, others are not.

The concept of “methodology,” as we implemented it in “PRIDE” in 1971, was to define the standard and reusable steps by which an information system was designed, developed, tested, installed, and reviewed. Again, we saw this as analogous to an assembly line in a factory where products are assembled in increments until a finished product rolls off the line, such as an automobile. This means a methodology operates independently from project management. If you do not care about time or costs, the “PRIDE” methodology could still be used to design and build a system. Many people believe project management is an inherent part of a methodology; it is not. A good methodology supports project management but it is certainly not dependent on it. Using the manufacturing analogy, an assembly line defines how a product is assembled. Only then can we apply production control to determine if the line is progressing on time and within costs. This means project management is analogous to production control in a manufacturing facility. It also means project management is dependent on a methodology, but not the reverse. Nonetheless, most people look to obtain a methodology for solving their project management problems, which it certainly can help, but that is only a byproduct and not its main focus.

Like an assembly line, we designed every phase, activity and task in the “PRIDE” methodology to produce a reviewable result, a “deliverable” of some kind which can be reviewed for completeness, thereby providing the means to build quality into the product during its development as opposed to inspecting it in afterwards. Deliverables can take many forms, be it a report, a file, a program, test data, etc. Regardless, “PRIDE” defines the 5W’s + H, “Who is supposed to do What, When, Where, Why, and How,” thereby everyone in the methodology is cognizant of what their duties and responsibilities are, including the work that precedes and succeeds them.

Methodologies can be defined for any form of work, be it I.T. related or otherwise. In “PRIDE”, for example, we devised three complementary methodologies – one to study a business and devise an enterprise wide information strategy (Enterprise Engineering Methodology), one to build systems (Information Systems Engineering Methodology), and a third to develop the corporate data base (Data Base Engineering Methodology). These are not “make work” methodologies as much as they are designed to define the assembly lines of an I.T. organization.

When it comes to systems methodologies, there tends to be two schools of thought: linear or spiral development. Linear methodologies refer to the classical approaches for systems development as fostered by academia, whereby there are typically five basic phases of work:

1. FEASIBILITY STUDY
2. DESIGN
3. PROGRAMMING
4. TESTING
5. INSTALL AND REVIEW

Variations of the classic linear approach abound and can be found in many different places, including consulting firms, universities, and packaged offerings. It is sometimes called the “waterfall” methodology or SDLC (Systems Development Life Cycle).

The spiral approach is based on the premise the development process is evolutionary in nature (which, in fact, it is). The concept is to initially design a program, then add additional phases of work to constantly revise the program to enhance its features. From a Project Management perspective, the problem with this approach is that the project never ends. What is today referred to as “Agile” falls under this category.

Interestingly, neither the linear or spiral philosophies take parallelism into account, as is commonly found in product related methodologies. This is because most system developers do not grasp the concept of associating a system with a product. In reality, an information system is a collection of business processes (aka, “sub-systems”) that can be depicted as a hierarchy of subassemblies and parts which is essentially no different than any other product structure. This philosophy thereby provides the means for the methodology to branch out to mirror the product structure. It also means sub-systems can be developed and delivered in parallel and concurrently, thereby allowing a system to implement its kernel components while the rest of the system is still under development.

I find it interesting that people in the industry still do not understand this simple concept of parallelism and insist on thinking linearly. Maybe it’s because this is how most programmers work, one step at a time. This may be fine for a single program, but a system is much more robust in size and scope. Working and thinking in a linear manner has been the cause of many development disasters over the years. It is simply not practical or necessary to do so.

Over the years, one of the major criticisms of methodologies is the idea of forcing a small system change through the rigors of a robust methodology, thereby being viewed as a bureaucratic nightmare. Again, going back to the assembly line analogy, suppose we had to modify or correct a small change to a television set, would it make sense to take it through the whole television assembly line or rather go to just those workstation(s) necessary to implement the modification? The latter obviously. The same is true in systems development, in the event of a change, it is necessary to identify and execute only those phases (workstations) necessary to implement it. Big changes, many phases; small changes, few phases. Again, this is only possible with a product perspective.

What distinguishes “PRIDE” from other methodologies in this area is that it is based on a simple concept: “A system is a product that can be engineered and manufactured like any other product.” If you buy into this concept, then it is possible to transform an I.T. department into an Information Factory. If you do not, you will probably continue to think linearly and complain about the bureaucracy of methodologies.

For more information on this subject, see:

“Standard System Structure”

“Methodologies versus Techniques and Tools”

“A Short History of Systems Development”

Finally, let me leave you with a definition which we use in connection to “PRIDE”:

Methodologyone or more phases of work to be executed in a prescribed manner. The methodology denotes a project’s sequence of execution or network. All projects have a structure; some are based on key events to be completed and others are based on the structure of a product to be built. All projects have a beginning for planning, a middle for execution and an end for review. The beginning phase of most projects is performed through some form of feasibility study. The ending phase is usually an evaluation phase. Each phase, activity and operational step within a methodology must produce a reviewable deliverable to substantiate adherence to the methodology.
(See Deliverable).

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and 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

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 11:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

WHAT IS “RIGHT” WITH AMERICA?

Posted by Tim Bryce on November 8, 2010

Now that we have survived the elections, where we were incessantly told what is wrong with America, perhaps it is time to reflect on what is right with it. I realize there are still hard feelings on both sides of the political spectrum, but we should shake it off and begin by thanking God we had a peaceful transition and not a bloody military coup like some countries experience. It proves the system works. We have had more than enough scurrilous rhetoric which shows how embarrassingly barbaric we can become, let’s try something more positive instead.

Many people see our cultural diversity as our weakness, particularly our opponents. Actually, it is our strength. First, it proves people of all religious, ethnic and racial types can live and work together. We may have disagreements because of our cultural backgrounds but it also brings a lot of ideas and innovations to the table. It is remarkable to see people of diversity work together be it in the classroom, playing field, workplace, or to defend their country. Frankly, this mystifies our enemies.

One American trait that is often overlooked or taken for granted is our philanthropy. When havoc strikes, people look to the United States first for help. We are generous to a fault and I believe this is again due to our cultural diversity. Not only do we contribute with our pocketbooks, but with our hearts and hands. How many times have you seen Americans drop what they are doing and rush to the aid of someone else? It is in our DNA. In 2010 alone we made substantial contributions in the Chilean miner rescue, the Haitian earthquake disaster, as well as the earthquake in Peru; all of this while we simultaneously cleaned up after the Gulf coast oil spill, and continued to fight the War on Terrorism.

We are a country with plenty of natural and man-made resources. Some would say we foolishly waste our resources, and they may very well be right. Our record for waste and pollution is well known, but so is our ability to overcome such problems and do what is right, not just for the United States, but the world overall.

We have some of the most intelligent, energetic, and creative people on the planet. Why? Because our free enterprise system encourages people to take risks, express themselves, and encourages innovation and exploration.

It all comes down to the U.S. Constitution, a brilliant document which defines how we are governed. Without this document, God knows where this country would be. In all likelihood, there would be no “checks and balances,” there would be no individual liberties, and no sense of empowerment in its citizens. Consequently, we would probably not be as philanthropic as we have been, nor would we be the defenders of freedom in the world.

As a country, we are certainly not perfect. For example, we are much too reactive as opposed to proactive for my liking; we still struggle between social classes, and; we are too tolerant of injustice, not to mention our social graces are lacking. Regardless, I have seen a lot of systems in other countries, and we look pretty darn good when you compare us to others.

What is right with America? Our freedoms and liberties, our people, and our system, thanks in large part to a little piece of paper called the U.S. Constitution. This is why all of us, not just our officials, must always be vigilant to preserve, protect and defend it.

Now if we could just do something about common sense…

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and 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

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 11:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

 
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