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Archive for June, 2011

TRANSITION OF POWER

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 28, 2011

I have been actively involved with a wide variety of nonprofit volunteer organizations over the years, everything from professional trade groups, to local sports organizations, homeowner associations, and fraternal/civic organizations. There is one common denominator shared by such groups, namely, membership is dwindling. The idea of participating in a volunteer organization appears to be a foreign concept to young people. They are simply not joining in the numbers they did years ago. I’m not sure why this is, perhaps it is caused by time constraints or maybe just simple apathy. Consequently, such groups are either closing their doors or making do with less, much less.

Inevitably, as fewer younger people join, older members must stay in charge until someone can take their place. If the same people remain in control for too long, the nonprofit becomes prone to stagnation due to the lack of fresh ideas from new blood. Those few younger people who join feel somewhat intimidated by the old guard still in charge. They shouldn’t as the old guard, in most cases, is looking for some relief and are more than willing to pass the torch assuming the youngster is responsible and competent to fulfill the role. Such organizations need true workers, not just someone trying to make a name for himself. The young member, therefore, needs to prove him/herself in order to gain credibility and trust with the old guard. Assuming the young person can do this, the old guard should be wise enough to step aside and allow the young person to assume their duty.

Consider this though, what happens when the young person doesn’t demonstrate they are capable of doing the job, yet expect to move up the officer chain of command; should they move up? It depends. The obvious answer is, No, the person is not ready and shouldn’t advance. In reality, the young person has become dependent on letting the elders perform the work, and is content to let them do so. Under this scenario, if the elders can hold on until someone else can come forward with the right attitude, they should hang on until then. However, if the old guard is growing weary and it appears the youngsters are taking the elders for granted, you might just want to step aside and let the weight of the office fall squarely on their head of the youngster. In other words, they won’t take responsibility until they are forced to do so and when this happens, they will either sink or swim, and this is the danger of such an approach. If the person fails, the organization may very well suffer for it.

So, we basically have a Catch-22 whereby the younger people develop a general distrust of the elders and vice versa and the nonprofit suffers while everyone jockeys for position. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer to overcome this problem. Then again, maybe there is, namely “communications.” For any transfer of power there has to be some open communications between the old and the new. They should not be viewed as adversaries as much as allies who think of what is best for the organization overall. The elders should be ready and willing to train their replacements, review policies and procedures with them, along with the various tools and techniques used to fulfill their duties and responsibilities. In turn, the youngsters need to ask a lot of questions. They may very well modify and improve how the job is implemented, but they must first understand the existing system before implementing any changes. Although the elders should monitor the young worker’s activity, they should avoid the temptation of covering for the youngster’s mistakes, otherwise this will create a dependency that is difficult to break. Give the person instruction and advice, but let the younger worker perform the work. It’s not a bad idea to follow-up and review the person’s work as well.

The ideal situation is to appoint younger people as assistants to key officers, thereby learning the roles. After the young person has assumed the role, keep the elder on in an advisory capacity. In other words, one stint as assistant, one stint as the actual officer, and one stint as an advisor. This would greatly facility the transition of power and bring a satisfactory level of conformity to the job. Unfortunately, not enough nonprofit groups do this.

When you discuss the old guard versus the new in nonprofit groups, it can be described as the immovable object meets the irresistible force. The young people think the elders are maintaining a stranglehold on the organization, and the elders think the youngsters are reckless who will ultimately destroy the group. No organization can survive with such deadlock. The two groups must seek common ground for the betterment of the organization overall. One thing is for certain, the old guard cannot do the job forever. At some point they must relinquish control to the younger members who must acclimate into the organization’s culture and assume their responsibilities. If they do not, the organization will slowly grind to a halt. Bottom-line, it is a matter of building trust between young and old and this can only happen through an effective dialog of communications. Only by communicating can we come to understand the strengths and weaknesses of our people.

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, 7:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

THE DOCTOR/PATIENT ANALOGY FOR PROBLEM DEFINITION

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 26, 2011

Over the years I have noticed that we, as Americans, seem to possess a knack for attacking the wrong problems which I refer to as the “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” phenomenon. I see this not only in the corporate world, but in our private lives as well. Instead of addressing the correct problems, we tend to attack symptoms. This would be like taking an aspirin to alleviate a major head injury. Attacking symptoms is something we habitually do in this country.

If a problem is improperly defined from the outset, than everything that follows will be incorrect. In particular, this is the Achilles’ Heel in most Information Technology (I.T.) related projects. Instead of taking the time to diagnose a problem, there is a tendency to give the users what they want, not necessarily what they need. When I discuss this subject with I.T. people, I tell them they need to think in terms of a doctor/patient relationship instead. How many times have you gone to visit the doctor thinking you have a specific problem, but after diagnosing it, the doctor defines it as something entirely different? If you had attacked the symptom yourself, you may very well have not addressed the proper problem and, in all likelihood, may have made it worse.

I am reminded of the story of an IT Director at a Midwest shoe manufacturing company who received a call from a Sales Manager asking for some help on a pressing problem. The I.T. Director sent over one of his programmers to meet with the Sales Manager to discuss the problem. Basically, the manager wanted a printout of all shoe sales sorted by model, volume, type, color, etc. The programmer immediately knew how to access the necessary data and sorted it accordingly thereby producing a voluminous printout (three feet high) which he dutifully delivered to the user.

The I.T. Director stopped by the Sales Manager’s office a few days later to inquire if the programmer had adequately serviced the user. The sales manager afforded the programmer accolades on his performance and proudly pointed at the impressively thick printout sitting on his desk. The I.T. Director then asked how the manager used the printout. He explained he took it home over the weekend, slowly sifted through the data, and built a report from it showing sales trends.

“Did you explain to the programmer you were going to do this?” asked the IT Director.

“No,” replied the Sales Manager.

“Are you aware we could have produced the report for you and saved you a lot of time and effort?”

“No.”

This is a classic example of the blind leading the blind. The user did not know how to adequately describe the business problem, and the programmer asked the wrong questions. In other words, this is another instance where symptoms were attacked as opposed to the root problem. Instead, the programmer should have played the Doctor’s role and asked the types of questions the I.T. Director did, e.g., “If I produce this report, what will you do with it? What would actions and business decisions will you make?” In other words, try to diagnose exactly what the user needed. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen and the programmer gave the user what he wanted, right or wrong.

Unfortunately, “Give him what he wants” is the mantra in most I.T. organizations today which I consider a reckless form of behavior. Instead, it should be, “Give him what he needs.” This will only happen if I.T. people start acting more professionally and appreciate the need to properly specify a problem. The old adage, “The problem well stated is half solved,” is certainly true. Yet, diagnosing a problem is not considered the fun or glamorous part of most I.T. projects these days. Nonetheless, it is an essential part of any project, be it I.T. related or not. Again, if the problem is not properly defined, you will inevitably work on the wrong thing. And believe me, we have rearranged enough deck chairs, it’s time to fix the damn hole in the side of the ship instead.

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, 7:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

MANY HATS, MANY TITLES

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 23, 2011

Something I have wanted to write about for quite some time now is the many titles we assume describing who we are, our position in life and our relationship to others. I started to think about this after seeing a local news story on television where a tornado destroyed a mobile home. As the reporter was conducting his interview the name of the person was superimposed underneath his image along with the title, “Victim.” Although I sympathized with the person’s plight, I found it somewhat amusing someone might have an official job title of “Victim.” Kind of like, “What do you do for a living?” “Well, actually I’m a professional Victim. I’ve been a victim for twenty-two years now.”

In reality, we all wear many hats and many titles in our lifetime, perhaps more than we thought. It says a lot about who we are, what we are, what our interests are, and our relationship to others. As an experiment, I tried to list all of the titles and references I have assumed over the years and came up with a list of 127, to wit:

Account Holder, Administrator, Advisor, Alumnus, American, Analyst, Attendee, Author, Bachelor of Science, Boss, Brother, Brother-in-law, Caller, Capitalist, Card Holder, Certified Systems Professional, Christian, Cigar Aficionado, Citizen, Client, Coach, Conservative, Consultant, Consumer, Contributor, Cousin, Coworker, Customer, Delegate, Diner, Director, Division Director, Donor, Driver, Editor, Enterprise Engineer, Episcopalian, Fan, Father, Fisherman, Floridian, Friend, Founder, Freshman, Gardener, Graduate, Grandson, Groom, Heir, Homeowner, Host, Hunter, Husband, Instructor, Insured, Junior, Lecturer, Liaison, Lineman, Loser, Manager, Managing Director, Mason, Member, Mentor, Mortgage Holder, Neighbor, Nephew, Operator, Owner, Passenger, Past Master, Patient, Patron, Pitcher, Plaintiff, Player, Podcaster, Policy Holder, Poet, President, Producer, Project Administrator, Project Manager, Protestant, Publicist, Publisher, Purchaser, Reader, Recipient, Representative, Republican, Resident, Runner-up, Scorekeeper, Scot, Secretary, Senior, Shooter, Shopper, Son, Son-in-law, Sophomore, Speaker, Sponsor, Spouse, Specialist, Student, Subscriber, Systems Engineer, Teammate, Technical Writer, Tourist, Traveler, Umpire, Uncle, User, Vendor, Vice President, Victim, Viewer, Visitor, Voter, Webmaster, Winner, Worker, Writer.

Try to fit all that on a business card. Not all of the titles are good either, some are unfortunate like our “victim” friend mentioned earlier. If you analyze the list carefully you will get a good idea of who I am and what my interests are. It also spells out my responsibilities as a person. As the list implies, it is quite common for us to wear more than one hat at a time. Quite often, many hats.

I also observed the list gets longer as we get older, probably because our experiences grow with the passage of time. I have a theory whereby most people will have more than twice the number of titles as compared to their age. As for me, I easily beat that number, I suspect the same is true for others including yourself.

Of all my titles though, I am perhaps most fond of “Father” and “Husband,” two jobs I actively participated in by choice, not by chance. So, what’s in a title? Actually, quite a lot.

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, 7:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

WHY BUSINESS LEADERS SCARE PEOPLE

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 21, 2011

When it looked like Donald Trump was going to throw his hat into the presidential ring not long ago, it electrified everyone including his supporters, opponents, and the Main Street Media. His blunt talk was refreshing to his supporters and scared the hell out of everyone else. The Main Street Media went right to work undermining his bid as they started to believe he could take down the president. He was ridiculed for everything from his hair, to his clothes, to his talk. The fact remains though, Trump scared them to death. Now I am not here to defend Donald Trump or explain his exit from the political stage. I’m not even a fan of his popular television show, “The Celebrity Apprentice.” It is his image as a successful businessman who wanted to correct the ills of the country, and the reaction that ensued, which intrigues me. This is not so much about Trump as it is about any business leader who would want to be taken seriously on the political stage.

Aside from the Bushs, who had a relative smattering of business dealings, there hasn’t been a major business leader or industrialist who has served the country as president in a long time (if ever). Frankly, such people are not willing to take a pay cut; besides, they can probably do more for the country behind the scenes as opposed to in the public limelight.

The biggest problem with a businessman like Trump is his image as a fat cat capitalist tycoon who has little concern for the average Joe, at least that is the picture painted by the media as someone out of touch with the people. It is this image, right or wrong, that scares people to death and puts socialists on the warpath.

People tend to overlook the elements which make a business leader successful. His opponents will depict him as someone corrupt who will go to any unscrupulous length to get his way, that simple greed is his motivation. Capitalism certainly has no monopoly on greed and socialists are every bit as corrupt if not more so, but I digress. The unique elements making a business leader successful is threefold:

1. Is entrepreneurial in spirit, a visionary who knows how to recognize opportunity and capitalize on it and in the process is willing to assume risk. He/she is a gambler who knows how to calculate the odds.

2. Knows how to get things done. More than possessing academic knowledge, such a person usually possesses an unusual amount of practical “street smarts.”

3. Knows how to make hard decisions. A true business leader understands he is in the business of solving problems, not running from them. Yes, he will delegate some decisions and ask for advice from others, but he also understands the buck stops with him and will go to great lengths to see the business not only survives but prospers as well. Hopefully, he understands the best business deal is when all parties involved prosper.

It’s this last element which scares the public. Whereas others agonize over making a decision, the business leader knows how to define and weigh pros and cons, calculate the best solution to benefit the enterprise, and make a decision. It is called “business” and some people are simply jealous of those equipped with the faculties to take rather large and complex issues and make some rather commonsense decisions. It is not the fear of a ruthless dictator which scares people; rather, it is the envy of someone who knows how to consistently make a logical decision, not an emotional one which most people tend to embrace. Further, when a decision is made, business leaders do not necessarily sugar coat their rationale which tends to make them appear abrasive to others, thereby creating fodder for the Main Street Media.

Right now, the country has some rather massive problems we urgently need to address, particularly in the areas of economics and entitlements. Hard decisions need to be made which is the forte of a business leader to make, not a politician. Like it or not, our world is about to change, and I would much rather have a business leader at the helm steering the ship, as opposed to someone who doesn’t understand what it means to work for a living.

One last element that disturbs some people is that business leaders tend to be capitalists, not socialists. For obvious reasons, this scares the left, including the Main Stream Media. Make no mistake, this next election is about two extremes: capitalism versus socialism. Whereas the former defends the concept of the free enterprise system and smaller government, the latter is the antithesis.

I may not be an advocate of Donald Trump, but I am a proponent of electing government officials who have some business moxie about them. They certainly shouldn’t be feared as much as the political nincompoops who got us into this mess.

I am reminded of Calvin Coolidge who said, “The business of America is business.” As a capitalist, I would certainly like to see us turn back in this direction.

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, 7:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

IN PRAISE OF MENTORING PROGRAMS

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 19, 2011

Mentoring has been a part of the corporate world for many years. When a young person came on board, someone would be assigned to him/her to offer advice. Not just anyone could be a mentor either, they had to demonstrate knowledge and skills for a specific line of work. Most enjoyed being a mentor as they saw it as a sort of “Big Brother/Sister.” From a corporate perspective, it was hoped the senior person would also pass on such things as ethics and decorum, basically a lot of “do’s” and “don’ts” thereby expediting the young person’s maturation and acclimation into the corporate culture and groom the next generation of employees in a smooth and consistent manner. Unfortunately, things started to go awry by the 1990’s whereby mentoring not only disappeared from the corporate landscape, but generational warfare erupted pitting the older workers against their younger counterparts. You could blame this on a variety of things, such as the bean counters who eliminated mentoring and training programs in order to save a buck or two, or on radical changes in Information Technology whereby older workers understood mainframes and legacy systems, while the younger workers rebelled with PC’s and networking. Regardless, an adversarial relationship emerged by the latter part of the 20th century.

Interestingly, mentoring is making a comeback in the corporate world, but it’s not quite the same as before. True, the older employees are taking the younger people under their wings, but there isn’t the same trust between mentor and protégé as there was years ago. Due to changing socioeconomic conditions in our country, both sides are suspicious of the other. Older workers are concerned that the young “upstarts” are going to force them out to pasture. Younger workers are also cognizant the older workers can no longer afford to retire and, as such, are working longer thereby complicating an already overcrowded job market. In other words, the young apprentice of today may become tomorrow’s adversary which, in turn, puts into question the advice being given by the mentor and the young person’s reception to it.

The chemistry between the mentor and protégé is important. Minor incompatibilities are to be expected, particularly between generations, but major differences will cause the mentoring program to become counter productive. One party has to be willing to teach, and the other has to be willing to learn; one has to be credible and authoritative, and the other must possess an inquisitive mind. If there is a clash of personalities or the parties involved put forth minimal effort, the program will self-destruct. This of course means there should be some administrative control over the mentoring program, particularly in the assignment of people and monitoring progress.

I do not know which duty is more difficult, the mentor or the mentee (the protégé). Both carry different responsibilities:

As to the mentee, when you consider the level of competition in the world today, it is your duty as the apprentice or student to challenge your mentor or coach and exceed their expectations, to go beyond them and move to the next level of your personal development. Simply satisfying the status quo is not sufficient, you must strive to rise above it, otherwise your development will stagnate and you will disappoint your mentor.

The person selected to become mentor should be mature and understand the responsibility he/she is being asked to perform. If they cannot devote the necessary time to it or makes light of the responsibility, there is little hope for success. The mentor must grasp the significance of the job and push the protégé to grow beyond their current capabilities. As such, be careful not to give misleading advice. Know your limitations and encourage the protégé to find their next stage of development. If not with you, then another.

The mentor program has a lot of benefits, but like anything, it depends on how much effort is exerted to make it successful. A mentor in name only is not a reliable program. It must be carefully thought out and administered to assure it is working. Key to this is the match up of mentor and mentee. Again, not everybody possess the skills for being a mentor, and not every young person can accept advice and constructive criticism. Then again, the person’s ability to adapt to the company should have been a consideration as part of their hire.

Mentoring is more than just passing on important knowledge, it’s passing on the culture of the company, the history of the industry, and survival tips for life in general. If the mentor has done a good job, he should be thanked with some small token of appreciation, by both the mentee and the company. As a young person, you would be wise to remember all of the people who helped you on your journey through life. After all, you carry with you a little bit of each person who has guided you.

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, 7:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

TAKING THE SPORT OUT OF ATHLETICS

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 16, 2011

As charges of doping were brought against members of the US Bicycle Team, the investigation discovered the problem was much larger in scope than originally thought, not just here in America, but internationally as well. Americans should be familiar with the drug problem by now as just about every professional sport has had more than its share of incidents and scandal. Actually, we shouldn’t be surprised by the rise of doping today as athletics are less about sports and more about business, big business.

Gone are the days when athletes would play just for the love of the game, who would endure bus rides and uncomfortable hotel rooms. Gone are the days of the amateur status, even the Olympics is no longer a haven. Athletes now take a professional and highly scientific approach to sports. We measure every shot, stroke, basket, and swing, in terms of speed, distance, height and trajectory. The athletes themselves are carefully monitored in terms of age, calories consumed, pounds, inches, breath, heartbeats, and grams of fat. Nothing is overlooked. Everything is precisely scrutinized by packs of high-priced sports consultants. Got a hangnail? Stop the game and have it fixed by people specializing in sports medicine. Need a better bat, ball, or iron for your game? An army of vendors are at your disposal representing billions of dollars in merchandise. It’s not about the sport of the game anymore, it’s about business, and the precision by which we develop and market it is overwhelming. It’s no small wonder doping is the next inevitable stage in the evolution of athletics. Frankly, I’m surprised by all the hubbub surrounding drugs. Since we have radically altered what the athlete wears and the tools of his/her game, tampering with human physiology seems only natural.

All of this has changed the face and character of athletics. Today’s World Series champion would surely whip the “Murderer’s Row” of the 1920’s, the “Gas House Gang” of the 1930’s, and the “Big Red Machine” of the 1970’s, but they were certainly more interesting to watch as they had more character than science. The antics of people like Babe Ruth, Dizzy Dean, Mickey Mantle and many others were legendary. Fortunately, they were natural athletes who could overcome their hijinks with some rather brilliant play. “It ain’t braggin’ if ya can back it up,” said Dean to answer his critics and reflected the philosophy of such players.

Throughout the 20th century fans relished the colorful characters who became icons for the teams they played on. In baseball, you had players like Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Bench, Brooks Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Sandy Koufax, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, and Cal Ripken; inspirational “Iron Men” who played with quiet dignity and grace. Then there were the fierce competitors like Ty Cobb, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Pete Rose who played with seemingly reckless abandon. There were others who butchered the English language, causing sports writers to scratch their heads in bewilderment, like Yogi Berra, Satchel Page, Bob Uecker, Sparky Anderson, and Casey Stengle who said such things as, “Most ball games are lost, not won.” Their logic may have seemed convoluted, but they told you only what they wanted you to know, which quite often was a smokescreen to conceal what they were really thinking.

Players were often given friendly nicknames like “Pee Wee,” “Slick,” and “Charlie Hustle,” and were considered intricate parts of our community. They were our neighbors, our friends, our heroes, and possessed the same human frailties we all shared thereby making it easy to identify with them. At one point, baseball was 50% character and 50% skill. Today, it’s all about skill, and in the process the charm of the game is diminishing. Instead of being viewed as an average Joe with an uncanny ability to play their game, today our athletes are viewed as Supermen and Superwomen with Godlike abilities.

Baseball was not alone in terms of colorful characters. Football had players like Daryle “The Mad Bomber” Lamonica, “Slingin” Sammy Baugh, Norm Van Brocklin, Bart Starr, Kenny “The Snake” Stabler, Len Dawson, George “The Grand Old Man” Blanda, and of course, “Broadway” Joe Willie Namath. Aside from quarterbacks, there was Dick Butkus (whose last name alone would strike fear into his opponents), Alex Karras, Jim Brown, Bob Lilly, Merlin Olson, Chuck Howley, Ben Davidson, Ray Nitschke, Forrest Greg, Lou “The Toe” Groza, Anthony Munoz, Paul “The Golden Boy” Hornung, and Ted “The Mad Stork” Hendricks, players who made a name for themselves on and off the field.

Basketball had Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, Larry Bird, Jerry West, Oscar “The Big O” Robertson, Willis Reed, “Pistol Pete” Maravich, Magic Johnson, Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain, Walt “Clyde” Frazier, Bill Bradley, and Dave DeBusschere (who also pitched for the Chicago White Sox). Hockey had such luminaries as Wayne “The Great One” Gretzky, Bobby “The Golden Jet” Hull, Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, Mario Lemieux, Stan Makita, as well as Phil and Tony Esposito who were affectionately referred to as “Mr. Go” and “Mr. No.”

All of these men were not only talented, but possessed a character that people naturally gravitated towards. To them, it was about the love of the game which they played fiercely and competitively, and the fans loved them for it. Regardless of their achievements though, all of these heroes of yesteryear would probably be defeated by today’s scientific approach to sports which is sad by my estimation.

Has the scientific approach taken the fun and excitement out of the game? Maybe, but you cannot argue with such things as attendance and revenues, which is what it is all about today.

As much as we might like to see doping disappear from sports, it will undoubtedly continue. Beyond this, the next stage will be the genetic engineering of athletes of the future. As long as we remain obsessed with the economics of the game, athletics will lose its heart and soul. Frankly, I don’t think we will be satisfied until we’ve driven the human element completely from the game and create Robo-players. Then it will be nothing more than a race for the best technology which, in essence, it is already.

I for one, will miss the human character of players like Bob Uecker who said, “When I came up to bat with three men on and two outs in the ninth, I looked in the other team’s dugout and they were already in street clothes.”

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, 7:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

DEALING WITH ADVICE

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 14, 2011

Back when we were headquartered in Cincinnati, our corporate attorney was the same person who represented some of the members of the legendary Big Red Machine, including Johnny Bench, the famous Hall-of-Fame catcher. My father got to know Johnny over the years through our attorney’s holiday parties. Years later, after we moved to the Tampa Bay area, my father called our attorney on a day when Bench happened to be sitting in his office. Wanting to send his regards, my father asked to speak to Johnny on the phone and told him his grandson (my son) was playing catcher in Little League and asked Bench if he had any advice for him. He replied, “Yes, there are three things he must do; first, if you’re the catcher, you must catch the ball at all costs, that is your job; Second, when you make a throw to another base, point your opposite foot in the direction of the base, it will help guide you in the proper direction, and; Third, always wear a cup.” Although his last point was said in jest, it was not without merit. Over the years, as I coached several Little League teams, I always began my catcher clinic with this little anecdote. It was simple, humorous, and because it originated from someone highly respected in his trade, my players took it to heart.

Throughout our lives we are always seeking advice, be it from a parent, a mentor, a coach, a teacher, or whomever. The obvious is not always obvious and, as such, we find our way through life by the help and society of others. Although we may be seeking acceptance for our decisions, advice is primarily aimed at lighting the way to a destination we must travel alone. Consequently, the better the advice we obtain, the more confident we will be in our journey as it helps minimize the number of mistakes we may make.

If you are familiar with my work, you know several of my tutorials are aimed at offering advice to young people as they enter the work force, including my book, “Morphing into the Real World,” which is a handbook on how to develop their personal and professional lives. Recently, I asked some confidants what three pieces of advice they would offer young people, and although there was some commonality in their answers, there were also differences:

The “Great One” of Sarasota is a management consultant who worked in a Fortune 500 company for several years and is intimate with both Information Technology and corporate politics. His advice:

1. Stay hands on, be a subject matter expert, stay on top of the skills required for your profession.

2. Develop solid communication skills, written and verbal and use them often.

3. Embrace positive workplace ethics and treat others as you would want them to treat you.

Another friend is a much traveled writer from Michigan who frequently pens political articles:

1. Forget the current fashion trends: hide any tattoos and lose all piercings that show. Dress for success.

2. Brush up on your writing skills. The shorthand you’ve learned from texting leads to some rather bad habits which can make you look bad.

3. Research the company you are applying to so you can ask intelligent questions and establish a better rapport with your interviewers.

A friend from Texas has experience in both the military as well as research and development in the corporate sector:

1. Do your research. Make your career in a viable industry you like. No one does well in a job they hate.

2. Be honest with yourself and evaluate what you are bringing to the job. Jobs exist because there is a business need. How do your skills answer that need?

3. If you are going to work for a company, then put yourself into it. Take ownership, be accountable, work as if the success of the company depends on your performance alone.

Another friend is a radio personality from New York with a broad and well rounded experience in the business world:

1. When you first walk through the door, find someone you respect that will mentor you.

2. Find out everything you can about the field you have just entered, e.g., history, statistics, market share, potential, and know your product.

3. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have and remember that FILO means “First In, Last Out”; people will notice.

As for me, I offer the following:

1. Pay attention; learn as much as you can.

2. Tell the truth; do not fabricate an excuse or answer.

3. Consider someone other than yourself; thereby promoting teamwork and the concept of sacrifice for the common good. In other words, try to get along with your fellow workers.

You’ll notice, there is nothing magical or complicated in the advice given here, just some rather simple lessons which have proven beneficial over the years. Regardless of the advice given you, whether it is included herein or found elsewhere, you must always remember one important fact, it is only advice; nothing more, nothing less. Whether you believe the advice is valid or not, YOU are the person who must decide to make use of it, not your advisors. They are not the ones who will be held accountable for the ultimate decision, YOU are. As any attorney, accountant, or financial advisor worth his salt will tell you, they are paid to give you advice, but only YOU can make the decision. Let’s just hope you are getting good advice. As for me, if someone like Johnny Bench says my catcher should wear a cup, by God my catcher is going to wear a cup.

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, 7:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

ANOTHER MEGA-SYSTEM DISASTER

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 12, 2011

For more than 30 years I have had the pleasure of watching the development of some rather large and complex information systems, particularly for manufacturing, banking, insurance, and government. I have also had an opportunity to observe some rather massive system disasters in both the corporate and government sectors. It’s rather unsettling to see companies shoot themselves in the foot on such projects, but it seems to have become somewhat routine in the last decade where I have seen banking systems fail, transportation systems collapse, and medical systems die a slow agonizing death, at considerable expense, usually in the millions of dollars.

Recently, I was watching an episode of “60 Minutes” (The Espionage Act: Why Tom Drake was indicted – May 22) which discussed the prosecution of a whistle blower at the National Security Agency (NSA) regarding the development of a major system to be used in the War on Terror, code named “Trailblazer.” This system represented a massive effort to modernize the NSA and was started shortly after 9-11. Although the intentions of the developers may have been good, the project started to spiral out of control almost from the beginning.

Instead of using internal resources, Trailblazer was developed by major DoD contractors with some rather well known names and reputations. As it was a classified project, I obviously was not made privy to the details of the project. However, having read what is publicly available, and seen many other mega-snafus, I think I have a good idea what happened.

First, a rudimentary management infrastructure was created, where vendors vied for control over the project thereby leading to disagreement over the methodology to follow in developing the system. This is quite common even within a single company, but to have multiple companies involved, each jockeying for position, there was probably no agreement in terms of Who, was going to do What, When, Where, Why, or How. In all likelihood, there was no consensus as to what deliverables would be produced, the criteria for their acceptance, or review points before proceeding to the next step or stage of development. Without a defined road map to follow in such a colossal effort, developers undoubtedly began to lose their direction early on. Further, it is highly likely there was no consensus in terms of defining the requirements for the system and, instead, developers focused on technology issues. Without a proper set of requirements, the project was easily sidetracked. Inevitably, a technical solution was sought before truly understanding the problem. In other words, they tried to program their way to success without knowing what they were supposed to produce. This scenario is typical of all of the system snafus I’ve seen over the years. It’s a “Fire-Aim-Ready” approach to development as opposed to “Ready-Aim-Fire.”

Trailblazer eventually died a slow and painful death; even the NSA dubbed it “an expensive failure.” Unlike the other system snafus I’ve seen, ranging upwards to $100 million in costs, the project cost more than $1 billion to the taxpayers, the largest mega-system disaster I have ever known. The point is, it did not have to be such a tremendous waste of money, time and effort. Had the people in charge at NSA had a defined road map for the project, it could have easily been brought under control and they would not have had to leap before they looked, but because of their blind-faith in technology they pressed forward without properly doing their homework.

Again, Trailblazer was not unique in its failure. In fact, it typifies how major systems are botched in this country today, and why companies are skeptical of tackling such efforts. Instead, they are content to tackle minuscule programming assignments which they hope will be able to integrate into their systems. However, without a blueprint in place, the chances for success are slim to none. Yet, it is this “cut and fit” approach to systems development which is now the prevalent mode of operation in most companies today and, as a taxpayer, I am concerned Trailblazer will not be the last billion dollar systems disaster the government will produce.

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, 7:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

SUCK-UP 101

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 9, 2011

During our lifetime, we inevitably run into some rather unsavory characters who will wrong, cheat or defraud us. Maybe even worse are people who survive not because they are industrious, but because they are intuitively political. They are commonly referred to as “Suck-Ups,” “Brown Nosers,” “Ass Kissers,” “Yes Men,” and these are some of the kinder descriptors. We’ve seen such people in school, on the playing fields, at work, our places of worship, in our neighborhoods, as well as the volunteer nonprofit organizations we participate in. They’re everywhere and instead of earning their way through life like the rest of us, they’ve learned to develop alliances with those in a position to assist them in their career.

To illustrate, when I was in college years ago I took a class in English Composition. Each week we had to produce articles which would be reviewed by the instructor and the class. The professor was a nice guy who enjoyed a cigar and would smoke one at the head of the class as we reviewed our papers, and in the process it became his icon. You have to remember this was at a time when smoking was allowed indoors, including college campuses. It was a tough class as the professor demanded more and more from us and became sharper in his criticisms of our work which, in hindsight, improved the quality of our compositions. However, we had one classmate who was experiencing difficulties keeping up with the pace and output of the class. One autumn day, as the class began, the instructor lit up his cigar as had become his custom. Suddenly, our struggling classmate produced a cigar and lit it shortly after the instructor began smoking his own. This caught everyone by surprise, including the professor. It was all rather obvious he was trying to develop a connection with the instructor. As the semester went on, he went out of his way to help the professor anyway he could, including laughing at his jokes, and lighting his cigars. He thought he had developed quite a rapport with the professor, but his bubble was burst when the instructor surprised everyone by allowing the class to grade each other for the semester. Most of the class received fair grades, either “A’s” or “B’s” which everyone accepted. The “Suck Up” got an “F.”

Not all “Suck-Ups” receive such poetic justice. Many graduate through the ranks simply by hanging on the coattails of their superiors and live by the mantra, “It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know.” Such people have a tendency of creating problems with morale, particularly if they are rewarded for something they did not deserve.

In reality, you cannot blame the “Suck-Up” for his/her actions as the fault truly lies at the feet of the superior who allows or even encourages such conduct. In my college example, my professor gave the “Suck-Up” just enough rope to hang himself. Had he not taken the tactic he did, the professor would have lost the respect of the class and would surely have been reported to the ombudsman. Unfortunately, this story is now the exception as opposed to the rule in a lot of organizations where “Suck-Ups” graduate through the ranks faster than more industrious people, probably because a political machine of “Suck-Ups” has been established and only promote from within their own party. There is only three things you can do under such a frustrating scenario, either learn to become a “Suck-Up” yourself, stand and fight the establishment, which you will inevitably lose, or pick up your marbles and find a new game.

I do not have the time or tolerance for “Suck-Ups” or their superiors. They are detrimental to any organization, for profit or otherwise. By promoting only the same like-minded incompetent nincompoops, they accomplish nothing more than perpetuating their madness. As for me, I’ll take my marbles elsewhere.

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, 7:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

STAYING ON TOP OF THINGS

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 7, 2011

In this fast paced world where our finances can be deflated at any moment, where the business world can change overnight, and we cannot afford to miss a moment of political theater in fear it might adversely affect our lives (which seems to happen regularly these days), we can ill-afford to just mind our own business and do our jobs. Not long ago we could simply wake up, get dressed, go to work, do our job, and come home to play with the kids, never worrying about our careers, finances, or safety. Now we have to stay on top of things all the time. If we do not, we leave ourselves exposed to catastrophe. However, because our world is now so complex, staying on top of events can be a full time job which few of us can afford to do.

Back in the 20th century we received news and information primarily through the print media, such as newspapers and magazines, not to mention television or radio, but the Internet and the computer changed all of that. Now the print media is much too slow to be effective, and television and radio are unreliable sources of information as they tend to be more slanted than factual. Information is still vital for our survival but we are now experiencing a transition in how we access information. Anybody who still depends on print journalism or the main stream media for their news will always be looking over their shoulder, never forward. Yes, our world is changing that fast.

The Internet has replaced the others as the premier vehicle for accessing news in a timely manner, and at considerably less expense. E-mail blasts from powerful search engines can now deliver news as it occurs, be it on our personal computers or smart phones. We can also browse for news ourselves in both text and video formats, but this still implies a reactive form of news as opposed to anticipating developments before they occur. In order to be more proactive we must be mindful of calendars, forecasts, and plans, a lot of which can also be found on the Internet. Unfortunately most people are still unfamiliar with how to gather such information. The print and main stream media obviously has access to such information, but they are content to tell you what happened in the past as opposed to what is coming in the future. If they did otherwise, their news would lack the drama they depend on. In other words, we cannot passively wait for our news and information to arrive, we need to aggressively harvest it ourselves in order to gain the edge we desperately need to survive and prosper. This means there is a shift underfoot from reactive journalism to proactive reporting.

My “Bryce is Right!” daily podcast is but a small example of proactive news reporting. The first part of my program is aimed at preparing my listeners for the coming day. Through a rather substantial list of Internet calendars and other contacts I have developed, I report on such things as anticipated flight delays, special daily sales of office merchandise and travel, current economic indicators, business and government schedules, and other pertinent upcoming events. Basically, I’m trying to help my listeners make better decisions as opposed to finding out afterwards. I hope you will tune-in if you get a chance.

You can do likewise if you are so inclined, but I encourage you to explore three specific areas:

1. Professional contacts – specifically trade groups pertaining to your line of work, as well as key customers and vendors who are strategic to your business. Other areas might include unions, and government agencies who may affect such things as inspections, taxes, and incentives.

2. Personal contacts – which affects your finances, insurance, health, education, and the cost of living.

3. Contacts pertaining to Trends – in order to keep track of our changing times, such as general news, politics, fashion and entertainment, status symbols, and your surrounding community where local businesses may be opening or closing.

General web sites are important, but participation in discussion groups and social media are necessary for monitoring the pulse on specific subjects. Yes, the Internet is a vital source of information but do not overlook the power of participating in trade groups or nonprofit organizations where you can also network, monitor trends, and learn of opportunities.

The point is, the print media is passé, and television and radio are not far behind as they are not properly preparing their audiences for the future. Aside from the weather and traffic, their product is the past, not the future. Now it’s the Internet and face-to-face networking which is vital for you to harvest the intelligence you need to survive in today’s challenging world.

Somehow I am reminded of the late great baseball player Satchel Paige who advised, “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”

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, 7:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

 
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