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Archive for March, 2011

MBA’S 40TH ANNIVERSARY

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 31, 2011

On April 1, 2011, we will be celebrating our 40th anniversary in business. M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) was founded on April Fool’s day because, as my father was fond of saying, it would be our joke on the industry. Whereas a lot of companies have trouble surviving a single year, we’re still trucking 40 years later. As such, we must have been doing something right. I think a lot of this could be credited to simple perseverance and determination. A lot of people wanted to see us go away, but we hung in there through sheer tenacity. When we were down, we invested in research and development. When others cut spending, we invested in ourselves.

We trained and consulted with thousands of people and hundreds of companies in all sizes and shapes over the years. If I had to point at our single biggest contribution to the industry though it would have to be how we proved you could move the design and development of systems from an art to a science. Sure, we introduced a lot of concepts and techniques, such as Information Driven Design, Standard Systems Structure, IRM, Chronological Decomposition, and the whole methodology marketplace, but it was our insistence that systems development is a teachable science that should not be mired in hocus pocus or gobbledygook. While we have seen a lot of snake oil salesmen over the years, it was always important for us to be intellectually honest about our products, which is why we went to great lengths to define our terminology and explain our concepts. There has always been too much mumbo jumbo associated with systems and the computer industry, thereby detracting from its professional credibility, and as such, we certainly did not want to contribute to it. While others invented a whole new vocabulary to sell books, we went out of our way to keep it simple so others could learn and apply our intellectual property.

In terms of our original “PRIDE” methodology, which was also introduced in 1971, I am proud of the major systems our customers built with it. “PRIDE” revolutionized the banking systems of Japan, manufacturing and financial systems throughout the world, numerous insurance systems, and a wide variety of government systems. We were particularly proud when the State of Minnesota passed legislation mandating the use of “PRIDE” on all state system projects. While others panicked over the Y2K problem (Year 2000), “PRIDE” customers calmly entered the new millennia without a hitch.

The point is, during the heyday of “PRIDE”, which was the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, companies were thinking big. They had big challenges to conquer, such as building major enterprise-wide systems with integrated data bases. The executives and managers at the time were all of the “greatest generation” who had lived through World War II and the Great Depression. They therefore were not intimidated by challenges and understood the necessity of such things as discipline, organization and accountability to attack such endeavors. Maybe it was their sense of the military and the war that gave them this. Whatever it was, I doubt we will ever see such a generation of determined and resourceful people with an entrepreneurial spirit again.

What have we learned as a company over the last 40 years? Perhaps the biggest lesson was that our culture has changed dramatically, thereby affecting our work ethic and priorities. People tend to think smaller and are content putting forth just enough effort to get by. For example, designing major systems is now considered a futile effort as so many projects have failed over the years primarily because people threw too much technology at a problem and not enough management. Time and again, we’ve seen this backfire on companies. Now, companies are content with building nothing more than “apps.” In other words, companies have resigned themselves to doing smaller things as they believe larger projects will only meet with disaster. This, of course, is a defeatist attitude, and something our early customers certainly wouldn’t tolerate.

There is also a strong sense of entitlement imbued in our society whereby people believe they have certain unalienable rights to such things as income and personal property. People not only feel they deserve everything, but want it all now, today, instantaneously, which would suggest people no longer think long-term and are more inclined to be self centered and less likely to make personal sacrifices for our families, friends, companies, or whomever. This perspective also causes people to think in terms of time spent as opposed to work products produced, whereby some are more focused on the clock and not what they should be working on. In reality, the only right we truly have is the right to try and either succeed or fail. Regardless of what politicians tell us, there are no guarantees for success. Reneging on our right to fail isn’t natural and discourages risk and evolution.

Not surprisingly, I have met a lot of people in my travels over the years. Among them, I have met only a handful of true geniuses in the computer field. I’ve also met a lot of hard workers with common sense, but not many geniuses. Unfortunately I’ve also seen far too many slackers who try to pass themselves off as free-spirited artists who somehow find a way to get away with murder. However, I tend to blame management who falls for the ruse rather than the charlatan. Most I.T. workers create the illusion their work is overly complicated and, as such, they should not be inhibited with such things as discipline, organization, and accountability. I have seen far too many managers become a sucker in this regard.

I wish I could say I was more optimistic, but I cannot. I see a lot of fine young people coming into the field with unbridled enthusiasm, but too few are getting the discipline and proper instruction they need to channel their energies. When I attend industry conferences, I see no significant original thinking being applied, just new technology. I tend to refer to this as “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

It is terribly frustrating to possess a strong sense of history whereby you truly understand what is possible, but you’re grounded by the realization of what is inevitable. As a country, we could have achieved a lot more over the years than we did, but we are our own worst enemy and have grasped defeat from the jaws of victory time and again. As a small example, today our systems pale in comparison to others overseas, particularly in banking.

Since 1971, our slogan has been, “Software for the finest computer – the Mind,” for in the final analysis no technology can compare to the brilliance of the human brain. Over the years we have endeavored to serve our clients honorably and reputably. Our honesty and brutal frankness has served our customers well, but it has also earned us a number of detractors who were burned by our forthrightness. I guess we have always seen ourselves as the child who exclaims, “The emperor has no clothes,” and I cannot possibly think how we could be otherwise.

Happy 40th anniversary MBA. No joke!

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 © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Business, Systems, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

THE WAR OF 2012

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 29, 2011

Regardless of who is elected president in 2012, be it a Democrat or a Republican, that person will have the unenviable task of trying to heal the country. If the Democrats win, the Republicans will undoubtedly fight back, and vice versa. No matter how you slice it, it’s a no-win proposition for whoever is elected as the country is irreparably split along ideological lines. In a way, the president will feel a lot like Lincoln did watching the Union crumble before his eyes.

On MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show film maker Michael Moore declared war on March 9th, following the budget battle in Madison, Wisconsin, the Fort Sumter of this war. This was long in coming but unavoidable as this is a contest over socioeconomic conditions and diametrically opposing opinions of how to solve it, specifically capitalism versus socialism. Similar budget battles will ensue in the coming months thereby keeping this in the limelight.

On one end of the spectrum is the Tea Party and on the other is organized labor, minority groups, and the radical left. As we approach the 2012 presidential elections the rhetoric will be turned up loudly by both sides, but that is only a small part of the tactics to be used. We are entering an era of bitter strikes (which will result in employee layoffs and terminations), walk outs, and demonstrations that will make the 1960’s look pale by comparison. There will also be legal gymnastics the likes of which we have never seen before and will clog the courts. Budget bills will be challenged as will be cost-cutting measures. For example, after Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott vetoed the high speed rail line project, his opponents challenged his right to veto the project in court, an act viewed as incomprehensible and desperate (his right to veto was, of course, upheld). Regardless, Scott’s opponents continue to seek legal loopholes to overturn his decision.

The battle of Wisconsin also reintroduced the concept of recalling politicians for their decisions. Members on both sides of the aisle in Wisconsin are now facing recalls. In Miami, Mayor Carlos Alvarez was recently ousted by voters angry over a property tax rate increase and salary raise for county employees in a county struggling to recover from the recession. Recalls will become a natural part of the political landscape for the next two years. Not only is this process costly and will tie up the courts, it will also scare away people from public service, leaving only extremists running for office and further polarizing the country.

Both sides will require funding, and not just a few million dollars, but rather billions. The ante for running for president or Congress just went up substantially with the media licking their chops for their share like jackals. It will be a matter of playing chicken as to which side can outspend the other. Whichever side loses will be financially crippled and will have trouble replenishing their treasury and, as such, will be severely hurt politically. So much so, we will be dangerously close to becoming a one party system and that is just one step away from autocratic rule, which is highly undesirable. The minority will continue to voice their discontent but at some point they will become desperate, rebel, and create underground movements aimed at taking over the country by force. And that’s when it will become really dirty. Nobody wants to see an armed insurrection, but when you consider how desperate and passionate both sides are, I don’t see how it is avoidable.

Make no mistake, a war is underway in this country, a new type of war that will be fought using different tactics. It will either break us, or cause us to clean up our act. I believe it will take us to the brink before we finally decide to implement massive political reforms. Hopefully, we can survive but one thing is for certain, we will never be the same again.

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 © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

MEGA FOOD STORES

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 24, 2011

I often marvel at the mega food stores scattered around the country, be it a Super Walmart, Publix, Kroger, or whatever. They’re a lot different than the corner grocery markets I used to frequent when I was a kid. Back then “the corner store” had everything the people in the neighborhood needed. Why? Because the shopkeepers knew their neighbors and catered to their needs. It’s substantially different today as you enter stores that could easily serve as a hangar for a Boeing 747 with massive parking lots that Disney would be proud of.

Behind the store, trucks and railroad cars deliver merchandise around the clock for eager consumers who quickly whisk them away. The charm of the neighborhood store has been sacrificed for an abundant inventory which helps to drive prices down. Now, instead of buying just one or two roles of Bounty paper towels, we now purchase a case at a time. We’ve gone from six-packs to 18-packs or cases, all in a perpetual chase to realize the nirvana of cost savings. Instead of a couple of shopping bags, we now think in terms of the maximum cargo capacity of our automobiles, all of which encourages a gluttonous form of behavior.

The weekends represent the busiest time to visit the mega stores, particularly in the northern snow belt where a visit turns into an all-day outing. Such stores go well beyond mere groceries. Today there is a pharmacy, a food court or restaurant, banking, dentistry, gasoline, beauticians, jewelry, furniture, even automobiles. All of this seems rather excessive when all you really wanted was nothing more than a loaf of bread or a half gallon of milk.

I’m not convinced people truly like going to these stores. It’s more of “I have to go” as opposed to “I want to go” type of attitude. In particular, women worry about their looks as they will undoubtedly run into someone from their neighborhood or school. Men tend to be in awe of such establishments and wander aimlessly around the store looking at all the eye-candy (both merchandise and women). They tend to wear a dazed zombie-like expression on their face as they push their carts aimlessly around the store bumping into whatever gets in their way. Their distraction leads them to buy two of everything. It’s all rather amusing.

I must confess I am not a big fan of the mega stores and go there only if I absolutely have to, preferring smaller stores if I can find them. If I must go, I try to go at an offbeat hour to avoid the throngs of people. I have found early in the morning is a good time, such as 6:00am. My wife and I have also gone on a Friday or Saturday night when everyone else is out for dinner or a movie. Actually, I have found a lot of middle-aged people like this time as it is much less hectic. I always thought the stores were missing out on a golden opportunity by not catering to this class of people. For example, they could hire a DJ and play music from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s which would put shoppers in a good mood and encourage them to shop more. I can see it now, people dressing up and explaining to their offspring, “We’re off to boogie at Publix.”

Most of the time though, I just need some basic groceries, such as bread, milk, juice, eggs, or cereal. If I have to go to a mega store for this, I plan an Entebbe-like raid where I have a driver circling the parking lot while I try to get in and out of there as fast as possible. I inevitably get slowed down in the “10 items or less” checkout line where a clod mistakenly unloads a full cart. Maybe this only happens to me.

What I would really prefer is a simple “drive thru” store which has all of the basics. I wouldn’t have to even get out of my car as the attendant could load it in my trunk. Up north, there are “drive thrus” for beer and wine which I always thought was a brilliant idea. Even pharmacies have picked up the idea and successfully implemented it. So why not groceries as well? Since the mega stores have crushed the neighborhood stores, why not add a “drive thru” lane to at least make it convenient. Heck, they could even wash and gas-up your car for you while they’re at it. It’s the very least they could do for us.

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 © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

MICHAEL MOORE’S UBER-RICH

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 22, 2011

I have heard a lot of whoppers over the years, but nothing like film maker Michael Moore who recently threw his support behind the Wisconsin unions. His remarks, which were reported in the Wall Street Journal, focused on the country’s state of the economy, to wit:

“America is not broke.

Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you’ll give up your pension, cut your wages, and settle for the life your great-grandparents had, America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just that it’s not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich.

Today just 400 Americans have the same wealth as half of all Americans combined.

Let me say that again. 400 obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer ‘bailout’ of 2008, now have as much loot, stock and property as the assets of 155 million Americans combined. If you can’t bring yourself to call that a financial coup d’état, then you are simply not being honest about what you know in your heart to be true.”
(click for MORE)

Moore’s comments are, of course, designed to be inflammatory. What I find disturbing about all this is how he makes accusations that cannot be substantiated, rather conveniently I might add. He is asking others to accept his position based on blind faith. Such accusations remind me of people who claim to have seen Big Foot, UFO’s, the Loch Ness monster, and other such unexplained phenomenon.

Reports vary about the number of millionaires in the United States, ranging from 2.8 to 16.6 million, with a substantial number of retirees. In terms of billionaires, there is probably in the neighborhood of 500 in North America. Interestingly, Moore vilifies everyone in this category across the board, which would include such people as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Donald Trump, Warren Buffet, the Walton family, etc. He adamantly contends such people do not pay their fair share and their fortunes should be redistributed to others less fortunate.

Moore’s con game is an old one whereby he uses fear and innuendo to sway his audience. He plays to the people who genuinely believe the rich are manipulating them, and in a way they are, as they are providing the means for a lot of people to earn a living. To illustrate, consider these employment numbers of the companies associated with the people above:

89,000

   

Microsoft (Gates)

49,400

   

Apple (Jobs)

105,000

   

Oracle (Ellison)

22,450

   

Trump

260,519

   

Berkshire Hathaway (Buffet)

2,100,000

   

Wal-Mart

That is 2,626,369 people who are gainfully employed as a direct result of the “Uber-Rich” as Moore refers to them, and this does not include all of the other companies in which they have purchased stocks for their portfolio. They could have simply invested their money in commodities such as oil, silver or gold, but they invested in people instead. Let us also not forget their philanthropic donations which is sizeable, yet too often overlooked by the likes of Moore. For example, it was recently reported that Gates gave away more than a third of his wealth to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which focuses on global health and development and U.S. education. Likewise, Buffett has also pledged almost all of his fortune to the Gates Foundation and has given $8 billion to the organization since 2006. Keep in mind, they were not required to make such generous donations.

Moore’s rhetoric is an attempt to establish an adversarial relationship, thereby creating an “Us” versus “Them” mentality, the “Have’s” versus the “Have Not’s,” which gullible people are openly receptive to. His objective is rather clear, a redistribution of the wealth, and the demise of capitalism, a concept which served this country well for over two hundred years.

In Moore’s eyes, capitalism breeds greed, a point driven home by such Hollywood films as Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street” (“Greed is good…”). Greed, of course, is a human frailty and just as applicable in socialism as it is in capitalism, but somehow this is never mentioned. However, I’m not sure which is worse, greed or distorting the truth to suit your political agenda. To me, the rantings of Michael Moore are nothing more than a desperate plea for socialism, a concept many believe to be a genuine threat to America’s free enterprise system and our way of life, including me.

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 © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

MANAGEMENT 101 (Part III of III)

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 21, 2011

This is part three of a three part series which describes the fundamentals of management and should be of particular interest to young people entering the work force or as a refesher for managers. It is an excerpt from my book, “MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD – A Handbook for Entering the Work Force” which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life. The book is available from MBA Press through our web site.

Over the last few shows I described the Three Prime Duties of a Manager, organizational structures, The Five Basic Elements of Mass Production, and Understanding Productivity. Next, I’ll describe a set of management related laws and rules you will undoubtedly hear about in the workplace. As such, you should become familiar with these concepts and how to use them to good effect.

Peter Principle

Introduced by Dr. Laurence J. Peter in his 1968 book of the same name, the Peter Principle relates to how people move up and down the corporate hierarchy, specifically how they rise to their level of competency. A problem occurs though when a person rises above his level of competency, whereby he becomes ineffective in performing his job function. Keeping people at such a level is a disservice not only to the company, but to the worker as well. When a person has risen above their level of competency, it will become obvious to others and may affect morale. Standard and routine performance appraisals should help overcome this problem, but if they are infrequently performed or done in an inconsistent manner, the Peter Principle will inevitably kick in. Management will either work with the person to get him back on track, or terminate his employment.

Parkinson’s Law

“Parkinson’s Law” was devised by C. Northcote Parkinson, noted British historian and author. His original book, “Parkinson’s Law: The Pursuit of Progress,” was introduced in 1958 and was a top-selling management book for a number of years (it is still sold today). The book was based on his experience with the British Civil Service. Among his key observation’s was that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Basically, he suggests people make work in order to rationalize their employment. Consequently, managers create bureaucracies and superfluous work to justify their existence, not because it is really needed (aka, the “making mountains our of mole hills” phenomenon). As an aside, CEO’s clearly understood Parkinson’s Law, which became the driving force behind the flattening of corporations during the 1990’s.

80/20 Rule (Pareto’s Principle)

I have often been asked why it seems only a handful of people always carry the workload. This is not uncommon and is found in everyday life as well. It is commonly referred to as the “80/20 Rule” or “Pareto’s Principle.” Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who observed in 1897 that 80 percent of the land in England was owned by 20 percent of the population. Pareto’s theory thereby relates to the ratio of input to output; e.g. twenty percent of your effort produces 80 percent of your results. From a time management perspective, it means 20 percent of the people are normally responsible for producing 80 percent of the work.

As a manager it thereby becomes important to recognize your core 20 percent workers and concentrate your attention on them. It also becomes important to devise new means to squeeze out the remaining 20 percent of the work from the 80 percent who do not actively participate. This is not to suggest the 80 percent do not care about their work, they just may not be as talented, experienced or as motivated as your 20 percent workers.

One dangerous byproduct of the 80/20 Rule is petty jealousy. Since the 20 percent performs the work, they are thereby deserving of the accolades for performing it. Inevitably, it is not uncommon for small minded individuals from the 80 percent group to feel slighted and jealous of those doing the work and receiving the recognition. Such petty jealously should be overlooked and the person forgiven, unless something more malicious is involved, such as character assassination of which there is no excuse. The manager must carefully squash this behavior before it has an adverse effect on your 20 percent. If not, the 20 percent worker will question why he is working so hard if he is only going to be the object of ridicule and humiliation. The 80/20 Rule is an interesting phenomenon every manager must be cognizant of to get the most out of their workers.

As an aside, I am not a proponent of “Employee of the Month” programs as they tend to encourage individual achievement as opposed to teamwork. The concept of “Employee of the Month” programs is to recognize and reward an employee for outstanding effort and, hopefully, inspire other employees to work as diligently. Instead, such programs tend to generate petty jealousies and disrupt the harmony of the workplace.

W. Edwards Deming (Win/Win)

W. Edwards Deming pioneered quality control principles through statistical analysis in the early part of the 20th century. Unfortunately, his early work was unappreciated in America and, consequently, he applied his talents to help rebuild the industrial complex of postwar Japan. It was only late in life did he receive the recognition of his work in the United States (after Japan became an economic powerhouse). The Deming Award for quality is still coveted in Japan. One of his most famous quotes is, “Quality is everyone’s responsibility.”

To me personally, one of Deming’s biggest contributions was his philosophy of creating “Win/Win” situations in business. Instead of competition, he preached cooperation; instead of rugged individualism, he preached the need for teamwork. Deming observed people too often create “Win/Lose” situations, whereby one person can only win at the expense of the other party losing. Instead, he recommended the creation of “Win/Win” situations whereby both parties cooperate towards success. To illustrate, he would describe how “Nylon” was created by DuPont, which was actually based on a joint research project between offices in New York and London, hence the name “NYLON.”

Deming’s philosophy in this regard is very much compatible with our own Bryce’s Law stating, “The only good business relationship is where both parties benefit.” Instead of promoting cutthroat tactics promoting individualism, what is wrong with achieving success through cooperation?

Catch 22

The term “Catch 22” was derived from Joseph Heller’s book of the same name about World War II. It is commonly used in the business world and represents a no-win situation, e.g., no matter what how you attack a problem, you cannot conquer it. In the course of your personal and professional life you will inevitably run into a Catch 22 along the way.

Murphy’s Laws

Murphy’s Laws originated in the 1940’s from the American military and consists of a series of amusing axioms relating to real world experiences. For example, perhaps the best known law is, “If anything can go wrong, it will.” This expression rightfully admonishes us to always prepare for the unexpected. There are many other amusing Murphy’s Laws, but none as profound as this simple expression.

Murphy’s Laws was also the inspiration that led to the development of Bryce’s Laws.

CONCLUSION

When describing the duties and responsibilities of management, I often use the analogy that management is like driving a car. Too often managers become more obsessed with reading the dials and gauges than actually driving the car. True, the dials and gauges are important and tell us how fast or slow we are going, but they are no substitute for actually driving the car to where we want to go. Management is about leading people in the right direction, creating a suitable work environment for them to perform their work, and having the tenacity to see the job through to completion.

As is mentioned frequently throughout my new book, how we elect to manage others or how we elect to be managed is based on human perceptions, right or wrong. These perceptions dictate the necessity for improving our social skills in the workplace, both the manager and the worker.

Management is about people. And because of this, it’s about effectively communicating, developing trust, and learning to socialize with others.

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 © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

MANAGEMENT 101 (Part II of III)

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 20, 2011

This is part two of a three part series which describes the fundamentals of management and should be of particular interest to young people entering the work force or as a refesher for managers. It is an excerpt from my book, “MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD – A Handbook for Entering the Work Force” which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life. The book is available from MBA Press through our web site.

TYPES OF ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURES

Within any organization, be it commercial or nonprofit, there is always a chain of command that dictates how the organization will be governed. To this end, there are basically three types of organizational structures:

Hierarchical – representing a classic tree structure (top-down) defining administrative relationships between people. The hierarchical organization, as depicted by an organization chart, expresses superior, subordinate, and lateral relationships within an organization. It also suggests the scope of activities within an organization.

Matrix – represents a pool of people serving different capacities in an organization. For example, on one business function a person may represent the leader, on others he may be a follower. Under the matrix approach, one person may serve more than one leader.

Project Team – is similar to the Matrix except as performed on a project-to-project basis. In other words, a person’s tasks are prescribed by the project for which he is assigned. He will serve in this capacity until the conclusion of the assignment, after which he will be assigned to another project in perhaps another capacity.

Regardless of how companies organize themselves, either in a multi-tiered hierarchy or in a flat organization, there is always a superior/subordinate relationship between personnel for administrative purposes. The notion that an organization runs as a pure democracy is a myth. There will always be a need for leaders and followers.

THE FIVE BASIC ELEMENTS OF MASS PRODUCTION

There is basically two ways of producing any product, either one at a time or in mass production. Mass production affords us the ability to produce more products at reduced costs. As such, industrial engineers have long known that in situations involving voluminous work products of the same type, an organization needs to observe the five basic elements of mass production:

1. Division of Labor – to break the production process into separate tasks performed by workers with different skills.

2. Assembly Line – defining the progression and synchronization of work.

3. Precision Tooling – for mechanical leverage in the assembly line.

4. Standardization of Parts – for inter changeability and assembly by unskilled and semiskilled workers.

5. Mass Demand – the impetus for mass production.

You will find these five elements in every company who offers repetitious work products, be it an automotive manufacturer, a restaurant, a bank or insurance company, an engineering firm, etc. Actually, more organizations operate in accordance with these five elements than those who do not.

These five elements lead to the need of standard and reusable methodologies representing the business processes needed to perform the work. Such methodologies define Who is to perform What work, When, Where, Why, and How (I refer to this as “5W+H”).

UNDERSTANDING PRODUCTIVITY

Productivity = Effectiveness X Efficiency

Too often people fallaciously equate productivity with efficiency. Efficiency simply represents how fast we can perform a given task. For example, an industrial robot on an assembly line can perform a task such as welding very precisely and quickly. But if the weld is being performed at the wrong time or wrong place, then it is counterproductive, regardless of how efficiently it performs the task. Effectiveness, on the other hands, is concerned with the necessity of the task itself or as I like to say, “Do the right things.” Under this scenario, the manager should consider effectiveness first, and efficiency second. By being conscious of both effectiveness and efficiency, the manager can avoid the “Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the Titanic” phenomenon whereby people work on the wrong things at the wrong time.

Undoubtedly, you will meet salesmen who will offer products promising improvements in efficiency. But if they cannot be implemented into your operation effectively, it will be counterproductive.

Just remember, 100% efficiency multiplied by 0% effectiveness equals zero productivity.

In terms of delivering a quality work product, the manager should understand the relationship of quality to the time necessary to produce the goods.

The faster the product is produced, the more likely it will contain defects in workmanship; conversely, the more time allowed in production, the greater the chances for producing a high-quality product. Although everyone stresses the need for quality, the reality is the manager must be able to balance development time against defects in workmanship and that a suitable development time needs to be devised to match the level of quality desired. This also means the level of precision in production is proportional to the level of quality desired, all of which will greatly influence a manager’s style of management. For example, in a high pressure situation, the manager may exercise more supervision and a little friendly bullying in order to get the job done. Under less pressure, the manager will allow more worker freedom and participation in developing decisions.

NEXT TIME: We will conclude this three part series with a review of some important Laws and Rules to observe in the workplace.

In the meantime, if you would like to discuss this with me, please drop me a line at timb001@phmainstreet.com

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 © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

MANAGEMENT 101 (Part I of III)

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 17, 2011

This is part one of a three part series which describes the fundamentals of management and should be of particular interest to young people entering the work force or as a refesher for managers. It is an excerpt from my book, “MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD – A Handbook for Entering the Work Force” which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life. The book is available from MBA Press through our web site.

Management 101

In order to effectively work within a company, it is necessary to understand some basic management principles so employees understand what is going on in the minds of their superiors. The better the employee understands the manager, and vice versa, the better they will be able to work together in harmony. This section, therefore, covers basic management concepts you will undoubtedly come across in business. If you comprehend these principles and are able to assimilate them in your work effort, this will have also served as a primer for your advancement.

INTRODUCTION

There is an old joke whereby a new manager had been hired by a company to take over an operation. As the new manager was moving into his office he happened to bump into his predecessor who was preparing to leave. The new manager asked if there was any advice the former manager could offer on assuming his duties. The former manager said he had written down advice for his successor and placed them in three envelopes in the desk marked “1,” “2,” and “3”, and they should only be opened in the event of an emergency. The new manager laughed, shrugged it off, and went about his business thinking nothing about the envelopes.

The manager’s reign started off fine but inevitably ran into a problem for which he had no solution. Desperate, he happened to remember the three envelopes and opened Number 1 which offered the following advice: “Blame your predecessor.” The manager thought this was a clever way to get himself off the hook and used it to good effect.

Time went by until the manager was faced with another seemingly impossible hurdle. Not knowing what to do, he turned to envelope Number 2 containing a note that read simply: “Reorganize.” The manager thought this was a sound idea and set about reorganizing his operation. Organization charts were redrawn, job descriptions modified, and new office furniture and equipment obtained.

The reorganization overcame the manager’s problem but he eventually ran into a crisis taxing his abilities as a manager. At a total loss as to what to do, the manager turned in desperation to envelope Number 3 which included a note that read simply, “Prepare three envelopes.”

Laugh as we might to this anecdote, there is a bit of truth in it. Too often people rise above their level of competency to take on the job of manager. Being a manager is substantially different than the duties and responsibilities of the worker. Some people have the fortitude for it, others do not. While I have personally seen some very good managers who have excelled in their jobs, I have also seen people become physically ill from being elevated to a position of management. Being a manager, most assuredly, is not for everyone.

Management is not about numbers or technology, it is about getting people to perform specific work in the most productive means possible. Monitoring numbers and implementing technology to assist in our work effort is important, but we should never lose sight of the fact that projects and work assignments are performed by human beings who possess emotions and different levels of intelligence and interests. As such, the human dynamics of management is much more challenging than most people realize. There is a countless number of books on the subject of management alone. But for our purposes, perhaps the best way to think of “management” is simply, “Getting people to do what you want, when you want it, and how you want it.”

The Three Prime Duties of a Manager

A manager has three primary duties to perform: Provide Leadership, Establish the proper work Environment, and Produce/Deliver products or services.

1. Leadership

As the field general for his department, the manager should be able to articulate the objectives of his area, and the strategy for conquering them. In other words, he has to have a vision and be able to effectively communicate it to his subordinates in order to instill confidence and provide a sense of direction. People like to know where they are going and appreciate some direction in their lives. As social creatures, we take comfort in knowing we are working in a concerted manner towards common objectives we deem important. As such, not only does a manager need a vision, he must be able to convince his workers of its necessity. If the workers believe in the manager’s vision and are confident in his ability to lead them, they will gladly follow him.

Following this, the manager must be able to develop practical project plans for the staff to follow. These project plans should be explained to the staff along with their rationale. By doing so, workers cannot claim they didn’t know the plan or what their role was in it. Think of the game of football where plays are called for the eleven players on the field; all are given assignments to perform towards a common objective. If any one player doesn’t know the plan, in all likelihood he will make a wrong move and cause the team to lose yardage. As my football coach was fond of saying, “A team is as strong as its weakest player.” Planning requires communications which ultimately leads to teamwork and harmony. To this end, managers should keep their project plans and calendars up-to-date and visible to everyone in the department.

In order for the manager to instill a sense of confidence in the staff, he must not only be able to demonstrate he knows what he is talking about, he must also express a high level of moral conduct. The manager’s word should be considered his bond. If he is caught in a lie, cheating, defrauding, back stabbing, or some other misconduct, this will be noticed by the staff who will no longer trust him. A true manager is a person of integrity.

Finally, beware of “reactionary” managers whereby they simply go from one problem to another as they occur. Under this scenario, the manager is not in control of his department’s destiny and has to dance to the tune of someone else’s fiddle. Some reactionary management will inevitably be necessary, but managers should take control over their environment and practice more “proactive” management as opposed to “reactive” management. Too often people are lulled into a reactive mode of operation or as I refer to it, a “fire fighting mode” of operating. As a manager, you are cautioned to beware of your chief firefighters, they are probably your chief arsonists as well. Also remember the old adage, “If you do not make the decision, the decision will be made for you.”

2. Environment

The astute manager will appreciate the need for cultivating the proper work environment. If a worker feels comfortable in his environment, he will feel amenable to working and will take a more positive view of his job. But if a “sweat shop” environment is provided, the worker will dread coming to work and put forth minimal effort to accomplish his assignments.

There are two dimensions for creating a work environment: logical and physical. The physical aspect is somewhat easier to explain and involves the facilities and equipment used in the business, both of which impact morale and attitudes towards work. How people behave in a clean and contemporary facility is noticeably different than those working under dingy and antiquated conditions. Whereas the former supports a professional attitude, the latter promotes a lackadaisical attitude. Basically, a clean and contemporary work place is saying to the employees, “I care about you and am willing to invest in you.” However, the economic reality may be the manager cannot afford the latest “state-of-the-art” facilities or equipment. Nonetheless, the manager should make an effort to keep the physical surroundings as clean and up-to-date as possible.

Whereas the physical aspects of the work environment are tangible and easy to assimilate, the logical aspects are intangible and perhaps harder to manipulate for it involves dealing with human perceptions, attitudes and emotions. Along these lines, there are three considerations:

A. The Corporate Culture.

B. Management Style – micromanagement versus worker empowerment.

C. Continuous Improvement – to constantly seek new and improved ways for producing superior work products.

3. Produce/Deliver

Equal to Leadership and creating the proper Environment, is the manager’s duty of being able to produce the products or services he is charged to deliver. Even if you have the best plans and environment, if you fail to deliver your products or services, you have failed as a manager. To illustrate, one of President Lincoln’s first commanders of the Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War was General George B. McClellan, an extraordinary engineer and organizer, but a complete failure at execution. If you as a manager are convinced of a specific course of action, do not procrastinate, act. An opportunity rarely presents itself twice.

NEXT TIME: We will discuss types of organizational structures, The Five Basic Elements of Mass Production, and Understanding Productivity.

In the meantime, if you would like to discuss this with me, please drop me a line at timb001@phmainstreet.com

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 © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

HAVE YOU DONE YOUR GOOD DD FOR THE DAY?

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 15, 2011

In a perfect world, people who develop systems and software for companies would define data elements in a standard and consistent manner, particularly key primary elements such as “Customer Number” and “Product Number,” and calculated items like “Net Pay,” and “Gross Sales.” Unfortunately, this is not always the case. For example, I had a systems manager in a western state government agency tell me he conservatively estimated that “Employee Number” was defined over 150 different ways in his agency alone. Standardization of Data Definitions (DD) provides the means to reuse such items over and over again thereby saving time during development and providing the means to integrate systems and software. Without DD uniformity though data redundancy and erroneous calculations are not only possible it is highly likely thereby causing maintenance headaches as well as incurring skepticism in the integrity of the resulting information (aka, “dirty” information), thereby triggering additional rework of programs and business processes. Reusability simplifies maintenance and enhancements, expedites development efforts and promotes the concept of a true data base environment to integrate all of a company’s systems and software. The benefits far outweigh the negatives which is nothing more than to simply take the time to properly document a data element. When it is done though, it is done and can be reused by everyone, not just one person.

There is an abundance of tools and techniques to assist in data definition. In fact, such devices have been around since the early 1970’s, most notably data dictionaries and data taxonomies. Yet, such tools have fallen into neglect by most programmers who tend to view them as impediments to getting the job done. Data Base Management Systems (DBMS) are certainly not new and have been around since the 1960’s. Yet this is a technology that is still abused by developers who treat it as nothing more than an elegant access method, thereby thwarting the intent of the DBMS which is to share and reuse data, not to mention integrate systems and software.

Since most “agile” developers are in a rush they tend to avoid defining and reusing data elements preferring instead to define data within the confines of their own single program, usually with cryptic programming labels thereby preventing others from understanding the program and causing a rewrite when the programmer has moved along to another job. There is little or no consideration for how the data may be used in other programs or processes, just their own.

I’m not sure why programmers tend to resist the standardization of data other than it requires a type of organization and discipline that is still the exception as opposed to the rule in most development organizations today.

The point is, development can be greatly expedited simply by standardizing and reusing data definitions, not to mention implementing changes and integrating systems thereby producing “clean” information. It just requires a conscious effort to manage data like any other resource, such as managing and reusing the parts in a manufacturing facility. Unfortunately, the reality is that we live in an imperfect world where common sense in not very common.

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 © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Systems, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

NEW YORKER TOUGHNESS

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 13, 2011

My wife and I recently made a pilgrimage to New York City to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. As usual, we enjoyed outstanding dining, listened to some superb jazz in the Village, and of course, checked on the weirdos in Times Square. Best of all, we got to visit with our daughter who works in the city. At the time it was just between winter and spring. It was still cold, but you could visibly see signs of spring starting to appear. Late one afternoon, I craved a cigar and decided to go out in front of my daughter’s apartment building to smoke one. It was still cold outside but it was a beautiful day nonetheless. As I stood outdoors, I looked around my daughter’s neighborhood and studied the local architecture, which I judged to be built well before World War II. As it was a nice day and I was enjoying my cigar, I was in somewhat of a jovial mood. As people passed by me on the sidewalk I would try to be pleasant and say something like, “Beautiful day isn’t it?” or simply “Good afternoon” or “Hello.” Unfortunately, the sentiment was not reciprocated by the passersby who all kept looking forward in mute silence. At first I thought maybe there was a problem with myself, that perhaps I looked too menacing (cigars tend to do that) or perhaps they didn’t understand my language; after all, New York City is the melting pot of the United States with many cultures residing within it. I decided, No, it was nothing more than the mental toughness of New Yorkers.

New Yorkers live in a rather complicated and hectic world. Eight and a half million people live within just 468.9 acres, which means there are approximately eighteen thousand people per square mile which is some pretty tight living quarters by anyone’s estimation. Because of the odds, a New Yorker has to become rather competitive in order to survive. As a result, they develop a hustle about them where they are always looking for an opportunity on which to capitalize. This also means they develop an acute case of “street smarts” that most outsiders cannot comprehend. Having lived there now for the last few years, my daughter now understands it and has acclimated to the environment.

New Yorkers possess a zeal for competition in both work and play. When they win, they applaud, but quickly move along to the next challenge. To illustrate, back in the mid-1970’s I watched Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” win back-to-back World Series baseball championships. Understandably, Cincinnatians rejoiced. In October 1977 though, I happened to be in New York on business. I went over to a Manhattan landmark, Toots Shor’s Restaurant, to watch the last game of the World Series pitting the New York Yankees against the Los Angeles Dodgers (representing a very old rivalry). Keep in mind, it had been fifteen years since the Yankees had won the fall classic, an eternity by New York standards. Having just witnessed the celebration in Cincinnati, surely the “Big Apple” would celebrate a World Series victory more boisterously than the “Queen City,” or so I thought. As the last out of the ball game was made, thereby giving the Yankees the championship, the bar exploded into applause with some scattered cheers. Following this, I hoped there would be a more raucous celebration. Unfortunately, none was forthcoming. After the applause diminished the New Yorkers began talking about what the team needed to do next year. Shortly thereafter, I stood nearly alone in the saloon. The lesson here was that competition never takes a break even when things are going your way. If New Yorkers lose, they immediately start to scheme a way for conquering or bypassing the problem. They are quite tenacious in this regard. New Yorkers always find a way to overcome adversity. It make take time, but they always find a way.

The competitiveness and sense of survivorship of New Yorkers creates an esprit de corps, a kinship. For example, on this recent trip I observed a one-eyed panhandler, wearing a patch, who was holding the door for customers going in and out of a drug store. In a feeble voice he would mumble, “Spare change?” and it appeared business was going well for him. As it happened, another beggar walked by pushing a grocery cart containing his worldly belongings. He was dressed flamboyantly in a dirty purple cape and wearing a crown; it was rather amusing to say the least. His face was haggard and dirty though. Interestingly, as the caped crusader passed the eye patch, the latter called out to him in a clear resonant voice, “Hey Nate! My man, how’s it going?” And they briefly exchanged pleasantries. As his majesty departed, the eye patch didn’t miss a beat, he quickly returned to his duty of holding the door where he looked pitifully at the next patron and in a feeble voice squeaked out, “Spare change?” As I said, New Yorkers have mastered the art of the hustle.

Outsiders typically mistake New Yorkers as pompous and arrogant. They’re not. It’s a toughness which is instilled in them the moment you start to live there. New Yorkers may not be the biggest, the strongest, or the fastest, but you’ll never meet anyone as determined or persistent as New Yorkers. It’s bred into them. If you positively have to get something done, regardless of how dirty a job it may be, you get a New Yorker to do it, but understand this, it won’t be cheap.

No, New York is not for everyone. If you do not enjoy the pace, you will not survive, nor will you enjoy visiting it. However, there are people who are invigorated by it. Here in Florida, for example, retired or transplanted New Yorkers are quick to tell you that although they love the weather down here, they miss the hustle of the city. So, getting back to my observation of people failing to acknowledge you on the sidewalk, it’s not that New Yorkers are heartless as much as they are hardened.

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 © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

APPRECIATING SALESMANSHIP

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 10, 2011

Not long ago you heard me talk about how things seem to come in threes, such as accidents, deaths, or other forms of misfortune. This recently happened to me unexpectedly when my laundry dryer died, along with my outside weed trimmer, and leaf blower. I guess I should have anticipated them breaking down as they were all getting old, but for some reason they all decided to stop working on the same day. Kaput! This, of course, forced me to purchase replacements, something I didn’t relish as I seem to have developed a knack for selecting the wrong product. In the past, I would go to a super hardware store (I won’t mention any names here, but you know who I mean) where I had plenty to chose from at bargain prices, but nobody to talk to about the product. If by chance you were able to tackle a sales clerk, they of course knew nothing about the products. This approach resulted in me purchasing a long line of lousy products that didn’t last long, particularly weed trimmers.

This time though I decided to do something different and visit smaller retailers. I bought the dryer at “Famous Tates” and the trimmer and blower at a local Ace Hardware store. I am pleased to report both trips turned into enjoyable experiences. First, even though “Famous Tates” isn’t a mega store, they are still a major appliance retailer in our area with a good reputation. My wife and I walked into their showroom on a Thursday night and twenty minutes later walked out with our receipt in hand. First, we knew what we wanted to get, but more importantly, we had a good salesman who knew his product inside and out, explained our options, and in the process, made us feel comfortable with our purchasing decision.

The Ace Hardware experience was similar in that I had a salesman who knew his products, how they worked, their warranty, etc. He even fueled the machines and tested them for me before I purchased them. Needless to say, I was pleased. The products were good, but it was a little old-fashioned salesmanship that swayed me. Whereas the “bottom-basement prices” of the mega stores were enticing, the products at Ace were sold by people who understood customer service. I may have paid a little more for the products, but it was worth it.

The salesmen at both Famous Tates and Ace were not hucksters trying to make a quick buck, nor were they “crazy” about making outrageous deals. No, they were very much in control of their faculties and knew what they were doing. Frankly, I appreciated their professionalism. Then again, I have always admired someone who knows what they are doing, regardless of their profession. The two retailers may have sold their products that day, but more importantly they earned the respect of a dedicated customer, one who will return.

Now I wonder what will be the next three things to die on me. Probably the washing machine, chain saw and hedge trimmer. Don’t forget, everything comes in threes.

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 © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

 
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