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Archive for July, 2011

TRAINING MULES

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 31, 2011

Over the years I have conducted numerous professional training programs, including: Project Management, Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Information Resource Management, etc. These courses are either held at the customer’s site or our own premises. Unlike a school setting with long semesters, a professional instructor has a limited amount of time to convey his points to the students, usually just a few days at most. This can be a daunting task if you happen to have a “mule” as a student. I use the term “mule” to refer to a person who stubbornly refuses to participate in a course for a variety of reasons, mostly arrogance. Such people ignore the instructor and either sleep during the class, work on something unrelated, or wants to frequently take breaks usually to call someone on the phone or disappear from class settings. “Mules” can have an adverse effect on the class by becoming a distraction, particularly if it is a senior person. Nonetheless, as instructor you are being paid to teach specific lessons to a whole group of people, not just a few.

To overcome the “mule” problem, there are a few things you can do. First, you want to avoid alienating the mule if possible. Instead, you want to get his/her support and participation. This is why introductions are so important to any class. A firm handshake and good eye contact can help establish a rapport between students and their instructor. I also ask each person to describe their title, background, and what they hope to learn from the course. This tips me off as to where their interests reside and who the potential mules might be. I also ask the students to turn off communication devices as I want to eliminate potential distractions. In addition, I tell the class what the schedule will be, how I will run the class, what kind of questions they can ask and when, and other introductory comments. I also prefer a classroom where the chairs are hard and the room is cold, thereby causing people to sit up and pay attention.

Aside from these basics, there are three ways to engage a “Mule” student:

1. Repetition – repeating key concepts, preferably with a catchy slogan and/or graphic, helps ingrain the concept in the person’s mind through association. School teachers have understood this technique for a long time, as well as political brain washers. By simply repeating something over and over again, and relating it to something simple they can associate with, a person is inclined to remember it, even the most stubborn of “Mules.”

2. Keep the “Mule” active in the course. In my courses I typically assign each student with a slide from my presentation. Near the end of the class, I have each student give a five minute presentation on the subject matter referred to on the slide and take questions from the class. I do this in a precise sequence so it will serve as a summary recap of the course. This also encourages students to ask questions where they might feel intimidated to ask the instructor. As for “Mules,” it forces them to pay attention as they know the other students will be critiquing their presentation. Basically, I am applying peer pressure on the “Mule.”

3. Openly challenge the “Mule” and put him/her on the spot. However, I only do this as a last resort. Here I will openly criticize the “Mule” for his/her behavior and try to shame them into participating. Such action may be drastic, and may invoke the hostility of the student, but sometimes you have to hit a mule over the head with a 2 X 4 just to get his attention. Some companies are actually hoping you, the outsider, will tackle this sticky problem for them. Some people will rise to the occasion only if you openly challenge them. There will be others who will feel threatened and become despondent if you go too far, which is why, as instructor, you have to be careful. Confronting a person privately during break time can also prove effective.

We commonly say a person is as “stubborn as a mule” when he will not listen to other people’s advice and change their way of doing things. In a professional training class, we are trying to introduce some new ideas and change some habits. The instructor is charged with indoctrinating the students with the concepts, but it will be up to management to follow-up to assure the students are implementing what they are taught. In other words, the instructor can only go so far.

One last piece of advice, in a professional training situation, instructors are not paid to be in a popularity contest. Instead, they must be resourceful and results oriented. Most of your students will follow you if you express confidence in the subject matter, but there will always be at least one “Mule” who will openly defy you. If left unchecked, their attitude can be detrimental to the class overall and you will fail in your mission. One thing is for certain, you cannot simply ignore the “Mule” as he/she will not go away. If you fail to address the problem properly, you will fail as an instructor.

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 Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

WHEN SWING WAS KING

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 28, 2011

Last month my wife and I went to a local auditorium with another couple to swing dance. We are scheduled to attend some social functions in the near future where dancing will be available and, as such, we wanted to brush up on our steps, plus it sounded like a lot of fun for a Saturday night. As a rocker from the sixties, I primarily associated the Big Band era with my parents’ generation. However, when I went off to college, I attended some parties where we played Big Band music as a departure from our usual Rock. Frankly, I was surprised by how the women reacted to it and we quickly learned how to cut a rug. I have been a devotee ever since.

There is something magical in Big Band music. Between the rhythm and orchestration, it makes for some of the best dance music around, particularly Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Gene Kruppa, and many others. My personal favorite is “Sing, Sing, Sing” by Bennie Goodman; a classic. True, I grew up with Rock and Roll, but there is something special about good swing music.

As part of our swing dancing on Saturday, the evening began with a one hour dance class for new initiates and for those needing a refresher course, such as yours truly. The instructor taught “east coast swing” which surprised me as I didn’t realize there was a difference between east coast or west coast. It was actually a simple step consisting of a six count, left-to-right with a drop step, and a spin of the lady. The instructor lined the men up on the dance floor in a large circle. Women would rotate from one man to the next to practice the step and see the differences in style. It was only then that I realized the women present outnumbered the men by at least two to one, maybe more. Consequently, I had more than my share of women to dance with, ranging in age from 19 to late 70’s. The young ones had a lot of energy but needed instruction. The older ones were more experienced, knew all the moves, thereby making dancing with them a pleasure. Sounds rather bawdy doesn’t it? In the meantime, my wife danced with all the men and described their nuances to me afterwards. Some were smooth and experienced, others had two left feet, maybe three.

After the one hour of instruction, the dance floor was opened and a live band began to play a variety of Big Band era tunes. This is when I realized the room no longer had just a couple dozen people as what we had started with, but had blossomed into a couple hundred people. While the rookies practiced the steps they had just learned, the more seasoned veterans were swinging and swaying on the floor. Women would ask men to dance, and vice versa. What I found interesting was to see an older man take a young lady on to the floor, and swung her with great precision. I could tell by the expression on her face she was enjoying it immensely. Her boyfriend, who was sitting on the sideline, knew he was out of his league. Sensing this, an older women took him on the dance floor and taught him a few steps.

Although I had expected to see mostly an older crowd at the dance, I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of young people there from ages 19 through 30. When I asked one of the youngsters why they came, they said they were curious about swing dancing and wanted to learn. They also commented they never received any dance instruction when they were in school, and enjoyed this experience tremendously. Further, they discovered Big Band Music wasn’t so bad after all and they enjoyed the beat, just as I had learned when I was in college.

True, there were a lot of women there looking for friendship and probably more, but they didn’t hesitate to jump on the dance floor and shake their booty. Inhibitions disappeared, and everyone just wanted to dance. In a way, it seemed like the old high school dances I remembered from many years ago. The music may have been different, but the ambiance and energy wasn’t. I realize ballroom dancing is the rage now, but as for me, Swing is King.

Note to singles: be sure to check out swing dancing. You may very well be surprised with who you will meet there.

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

A POLITICAL PANMUNJOM

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 26, 2011

Panmunjom is best remembered as the village where the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed in 1953 thereby marking the end of the Korean War. It is considered a visible reminder of the Cold War as the tensions between North and South have not abated and, as such, it has become iconic for the concept of “stalemate.” In fact, a peace treaty was never signed, only an armistice, a cease file. Both sides have distinctly different views of the world, each incompatible with the other. As I watch the histrionics of our government, I get the uneasy feeling that Panmunjom has come to Washington, DC.

It has been over eight months since we elected a new House of Representatives. As you will recall, the Congressmen were sent to Washington with a mandate to clean up the economy, the budget deficit, the federal debt, immigration, energy independence, and reverse Obamacare. So far, nothing of substance has happened; nada, zero, zip, and frankly, we shouldn’t be surprised as our government is stalled in hopeless gridlock which we anticipated when the Republicans won back only the House, leaving the Democrats in control of the Senate and White House.

To illustrate, Vice President Joe Biden recently held a round of talks at the White House to give the illusion the Obama administration was reaching out to the Republicans to find a bipartisan solution for solving the debt ceiling problem. When it became clear the Democrats were not budging on budget spending cuts, the Republicans understandably walked out. The point is, all of the country’s problems have been politicized and will not be settled until after the 2012 elections.

August 2nd represents the one chance of breaking the gridlock which is when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner believes the United States will no longer be able to pay its bills in full. In order to raise the debt ceiling, Republicans want major spending cuts in the budget, and the Democrats want tax increases. Now it’s a matter of who is going to blink first. If neither side budges, both will blame the other for the problem. This issue is so divisive I do not see any way of overcoming it, be it August 2nd of 2011 or August 2nd of 2012. Our government is playing a game of chicken and the taxpayers are helpless to do anything about it. We could call for a national referendum to settle the dispute by the people, but that is not how our country works. We are locked in a political Panmunjom.

As August 2nd comes and goes, the debt ceiling will likely not be raised and the members of our government will continue to argue and point fingers. Under this scenario, we will stop paying certain bills in full, and our national credit rating will likely drop. This, in turn, will have an adverse effect on the value of the U.S. Dollar (which is already perilously weak), the stock markets, as well as the GDP, exports, and unemployment. Regardless, we will continue to be grid locked until the November 2012 elections and possibly beyond if there is no change in the balance of power. This is why the 2012 elections are so important.

The approval ratings for Congress and the President are dropping to new lows. Watch them hit rock bottom after August 2nd when neither side budges and the economy begins its free fall. Nothing of substance is going to happen until after the elections.

In Panmunjom the border is clearly delineated and protected by guards on both sides. The north represents a communist dictatorship, the south is a freedom loving democracy, two distinctively different ideologies. As such, they find it impossible to cooperate on anything. Technically, they are still at war. Frankly, I fail to see how Panmunjom is any different than what is going on in our own government. Unless we can change the gridlock in Washington in November 2012, we will remain at war with ourselves.

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

TEXTING AND COMMON COURTESY

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 24, 2011

We all know how the shorthand used in texting is leading to some rather bad habits in terms of composition. some people find it difficult to string a few words together, but texting compounds the problem further by introducing bad habits in grammar and typographical errors. Recently though, I had a reader ask me about texting and common courtesy. She contended if you were in a meeting or having a lunch with someone, it would be rather rude to keep responding to text messages or taking phone calls. Her daughter argued it would be rude not to respond to the other person who sent the text message or called, and that the person at the meeting or luncheon should be more understanding.

This problem is a bit generational in nature. Baby Boomers and their elders tend to believe texting and cell phone calls during a meeting, particularly one-on-one, are rude. Generation Xers and Y don’t understand what the hubbub is all about. They have been trained to think in terms of multitasking, meaning to perform two or more activities in parallel. This may be fine for certain tasks on a computer, but bad if you need to perform something critical, such as driving. As an aside, the National Safety Council reported last December that 28% of traffic accidents occur when people talk on cell phones or send text messages (1.4 million annually are caused by cell phone conversations, and 200,000 are blamed on text messaging).

Aside from the dangers involved, texting or talking on a cell phone while in a meeting shows a lack of respect for the other person or persons present. It’s like saying, “This call or text message is more important than you are.” Young people may have been trained to accept it, older people do not. If you are going into an important meeting, such as a job interview, a performance appraisal, a sales presentation, or talking with a customer, it is wise to turn off the device and give the other person your complete attention. Conversely, if you are the other person and want the undivided attention of a person, ask them to turn off all communication devices for the duration of the meeting. If they are unwilling to do so, arrange another time to meet with them. They should get the hint rather quickly. I have also been in some meetings where people are warned they will be fined if they respond to a communication device during a meeting. Such is the price for learning common courtesy.

If you are waiting for an important call or message, something you cannot afford to miss, tell the other person in advance you are awaiting such a call and, if it comes during the meeting, to please excuse yourself as you do not mean any disrespect. Also, if the call or message does come, take it outside the meeting room. After all, nobody wants to listen to your business, regardless how important you think you are.

A couple of years ago I developed “The Cell Phone Pledge” which defines how I promised to use a cell phone. Basically, it is a pledge to myself stating I will not become subservient to technology, and that I refuse to acquiesce my social skills to it. So, is it rude to respond to a call or text message in a meeting? Well, if you are in a meeting with me, it is; but if you are in a meeting with other teenagers, probably not.

I suppose the next thing my readers will ask is if it is okay to text during sex. The answer is essentially no different than texting during a meeting; if you care about the other person, the answer is an emphatic “NO!” However, if you do not care about the other person, you are probably a hooker setting up your next appointment.

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 Communications, Society, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A VISIT TO THE CEMETERY

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 21, 2011

I visited the local cemetery on Fathers Day last month to pay my respects to my father who is interned there. I pass by the cemetery often, but I’ve made Fathers Day a day for a ritualistic visit. We interned his ashes at the cemetery so the family could have a place to visit and remember him. It’s a nice cemetery, very clean with places to intern people like my father, as well as normal grave sites with a variety of headstones. The grounds are well manicured and have some fine shade trees. It’s actually quite picturesque.

The cemetery is nondenominational which, I assume, includes people from all walks of life. My father happens to be interned next to a Jew, a Polish Catholic, and some other name I had trouble pronouncing, I suspect it’s Slavic in origin. There are also a lot of Italians nearby with some Germans as well. It’s quite a racial and religious potpourri. Realizing I was in the midst of such diversity, I wondered how all these people would get along if they were still alive. No doubt arguments would quickly erupt as to who was sitting next to who. I could imagine the sniping and name calling from the various groups represented there.

I wonder if the Catholics and Baptists know they are buried next to the Masonic section? I’m sure they would accuse them of being devil worshipers. I thought I heard the veterans grumbling about the draft dodgers buried nearby. No doubt the members of the Klan would have a few choice words for the blacks buried there, and vice versa. I found it interesting to see some members of the clergy buried near some crime bosses, it kind of makes you wonder if they are there as a sort of permanent confessional. As I looked around, all I could hear was a lot of name calling and finger pointing. Frankly, I was getting a headache from all the ill-tempered discourse.

Wanting to clear my head, I took a walk underneath a row of shade trees. Only then did I realize how peaceful and serene the cemetery was. Whatever arguments they may have had in life, they were all settled at the cemetery. Perhaps that is what we’re intended to do during life; to disagree, fight, and find new imaginative ways not to get along. There is plenty of fodder to argue about too, be it related to religion, race, social status, politics, property, economics, ethics and beliefs, or whatever we’re in the mood for. Yet, it seems a shame the only way we can settle our differences is by a trip to the cemetery, where all disagreements are settled once and for all.

Before turning to leave, I surveyed the grounds one last time and imagined the helter skelter that must play out each night around midnight as the ghosts rise up and begin to squabble over petty nonsense. No wonder the cemetery is closed at dusk. I don’t think anyone could stand the racket.

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

GOLDEN FLEECE AWARDS

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 19, 2011

From 1975 to 1988 Senator William Proxmire (D-WI) awarded his “Golden Fleece Award” to companies, institutions, and government officials wasting taxpayer money on frivolous projects, aka “pork.” The name, of course, was based on the slang expression for getting “fleeced” or “ripped-off” and the press loved reporting on spending indiscretions, particularly if it was closely tied to a politician they didn’t like. Not surprising, politicians were not keen to win these awards as it cost them precious points towards being reelected. As Proxmire retired from public service, his cause was picked up in 1995 by “Taxpayers for Common Sense,” whose mission statement is:

“Taxpayers for Common Sense is a 501(c)3 non-partisan budget watchdog serving as an independent voice for American taxpayers. Our mission is to achieve a government that spends taxpayer dollars responsibly and operates within its means. We work with individuals, policy makers, and the media to increase transparency, expose and eliminate wasteful and corrupt subsidies, earmarks, and corporate welfare, and hold decision makers accountable.”

There have been a lot of people offering ideas how to curb spending in the federal budget, such as political parties, the Office of Management and Budget, various Inspector General offices, and, more recently, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Of these groups, “Taxpayers for Common Sense,” offers a first step in the right direction by offering not just one, but two lists of solid budget cuts totaling over $350 billion; click HERE for details.

When you consider the national debt is in excess of $14.4 trillion, $350 billion sounds like a spit in the ocean. Nonetheless, “Taxpayers for Common Sense” may represent a logical first step towards major spending cuts. They propose serious cuts in Agriculture, Energy, Infrastructure, National Security, and Transportation. They also have suggestions for tax revenues. When you study their proposals carefully, they recommend the cutting of rotting programs that reflect a bygone era and are no longer in step with the times. They even point out the necessity of curbing spiraling costs in national defense, which has been a sacred cow up until now. Their point is, rightfully, nothing should be considered sacred anymore. If we are going to survive, we have to put everything on the table which scares the hell out of a lot of people, particularly politicians.

This brings up an important point, since politicians are unwilling to cut spending, perhaps it should be delegated to the American people as a national referendum, not just as one big “take it or leave it” package, but by subject area as defined by “Taxpayers for Common Sense”, e.g., Agriculture, Energy, Infrastructure, National Security, Transportation, etc. Yes, I am aware we live in a Republic where our officials are supposed to do this for us, but, as any poll will attest, their credibility with the American people is very low. The American people have no confidence the politicians will do what is necessary, which is why I believe a national referendum is a more practical solution.

As mentioned, the cuts suggested by “Taxpayers for Common Sense” would only be a small first step towards balancing the budget and reducing the national debt. However, such a vote would establish a precedence and clearly define, once and for all, what kind of country we really want, big government with a lot of entitlements we cannot afford, or one where we live within our means. In other words, don’t let the politicians decide, as we obviously do not trust them to do what is best. Let the people decide and maybe we won’t have to present any more Golden Fleece Awards.

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

ESTIMATING – GETTING IT RIGHT

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 17, 2011

It seems every now and then someone comes along with a new spin on how to estimate a project, either in its entirety or a portion of it. I have heard a lot of theories over the years, particularly in the Information Technology (I.T.) field where there is a tendency to pull numbers out of a hat, but I’ve long given up looking for panaceas. Actually, I have always regarded estimating as a relatively simple task and have taken my queue from the construction industry who has had to frequently produce reliable estimates over the years. As such, there are basically three variables involved:

* Methodology – defines the stages of work by which projects are completed, from beginning to end. Some portions of the project will be executed serially, others in parallel, either way, each stage should define precisely what work has to be accomplished to the types of components involved. Typically, components are identified, designed, tested, and installed in moderation which is commonly referred to as “stepwise refinement” (going from the general to the specific) as prescribed by the methodology.

* The components involved – in the construction field, it is the wood, stone, glass, nails, rivets, steel beams, etc. to be used to construct a building. In the I.T. field it is the data elements, records, files, input, outputs, programs, business processes, etc. The methodology dictates the sequence by which the components are implemented. A component assembled at the wrong time and place will likely prove disastrous, which is why the methodology is so important. To make this work, it is necessary to produce a rough design of the object in question. For construction, it would mean a complete rough design of a building, aka, “artist rendering.” In I.T., it would mean a complete rough design of a system or program. Only after the rough design has been completed can a listing of the components be identified.

Another consideration is the state of the components, how many are new versus how many can be reused from other projects. To illustrate, if there are already preexisting nuts and bolts to satisfy the product, they certainly can be reused; if not, new nuts and bolts have to be designed. Within a systems development project, if a data element such as “Customer Number” has already been invented and implemented, there is no point in introducing a redundant component; developers should simply reuse the existing data element. Such reusability of components not only expedites development time, but promotes integration of different products.

“Bill of Material Processors” (BOMP) are commonly used to keep track of components, be it in the construction field or I.T.

* The skill of the people charged with executing the project. A novice worker will obviously take longer to perform a given task than an experienced expert. This is also why it is preferable to have the people charged with the work participate in the estimating process as it becomes a reflection of their commitment. In a situation where project personnel are unknown, the Project Manager can still render an estimate based on “averages” defining the amount of time necessary to build a component for a given task. As projects are executed, the actual time expended to complete a component for a specific task should be captured so such averages can be refined based on historical data.

This approach to estimating is universally applicable to any product development based project. It is based on the recognition that most estimating errors are errors of omission, not commission. It is the forgotten or overlooked components that lead to most estimating errors. Again, this is why the rough design is so vital as it will overcome the problem of omissions. As in any construction project, a rough architectural design is required to effectively estimate the project to build it. The same is true in I.T. projects where the objective is to build a new system. To do so, a complete rough design of the system must first be prepared to effectively estimate the remainder of the project.

This approach also distinguishes the use of time as either “direct” or “indirect.” Whereas direct time represents whole work, indirect time represents interferences detracting from project execution. Estimates should be expressed in direct time, not indirect time, as we want to know the amount of pure effort needed to complete a component and task. This approach to time also implies estimating and scheduling are separate activities. Whereas, direct time is used to express estimates, indirect time is used to calculate schedules. For example, if an estimate for a project task is ten direct hours, and a worker is only able to spend four direct hours of work each day (with another four indirect hours spent elsewhere during the day), the task should be completed in 2.5 working days. Separating time into “direct” and “indirect” greatly improves precision in both estimates and schedules.

Here is a typical scenario for estimating a product related project, be it construction, I.T., manufacturing related, or whatever:

1. Specify and analyze requirements.

2. Prepare a rough design of a product to satisfy the requirements.

3. Prepare an itemized listing of components to be used in the product, aka, “Bill of Materials,” identifying which are new and which can be reused.

4. Based on the materials, define the remaining stages of work to develop the product (the methodology).

5. Estimate the amount of time necessary to complete the various stages. If project personnel are known, have them participate in the estimating process.

6. After the estimate has been defined, calculate the project schedule based on the methodology and use of time (direct vs. indirect).

7. Review with the client for approval.

This approach is certainly not new and has been used for many years in a variety of industries. Ultimately it represents a complete mental execution of the project in order to determine costs. This is essentially no different than what a professional golfer does before swinging his club on a drive; he visualizes everything from how he is to swing the club, the follow through, to where he wants the ball to land, and the ensuing strokes necessary to complete the hole. Preparing a rough design is no different. It is thinking the project through to completion by considering all of the components needed to satisfy the product. Will it be perfect? No, but it will be more accurate than making wild guesses based on some wild pseudo-scientific calculation. The only drawback to it though is it requires some hard work in upfront planning and design; it is certainly not a panacea, but then again, there never has been any magic in estimating that I know of.

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 Project Management | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

CLEANING MY SOCK DRAWER

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 14, 2011

I recently cleaned out my sock drawer. Guys typically don’t like to clean out such drawers and I am no exception. The reason for cleaning it was because I recently bought some new socks and discovered I had trouble stuffing them into the drawer. I believe the last time I did so was 25 years ago when we first bought the dresser.

It’s interesting what you find when cleaning out a sock draw, it is akin to an archaeological dig. I discovered I had over 40 different socks, none of which matched. This got me wondering where their mates were. Perhaps they were consumed by the washing machine or dryer as part of some demonic sacrificial rite. 40+ socks though is a lot and I cannot imagine who would want them or what they would do with them as individual oddities. I always considered my socks unique and do not believe they could be confused for those worn by my children. So there either must be a sock heaven or sock thief loose in the house.

As I picked through the socks in the drawer I was reminded of the many different types and colors I wore over the last quarter century. The oldest ones were long and came way up my shin, almost to the knee. They may seem awkward today but at the time they were comfortable and effective for covering any exposed flesh between the bottom of your trousers and your shoes. I had others with various bands of elastic to hold them up. Some had lost all elasticity and were rather droopy which is probably why I neglected them. By today’s standards, several socks looked rather strange and archaic. I suspect I would look like a spaz wearing them, and probably twenty years ago as well.

Most of the socks were either black, dark brown, or navy blue, but I also had some lighter colors which, in hindsight, probably made me look like a used car salesman. Fortunately, I didn’t have a white belt or shoes to accompany them. I learned my lesson wearing light colored socks and have stayed with darker colors in recent times.

I felt a little guilty cleaning out the drawer. My first inclination was to say, “But what if we finally find the mates?” I also had a fleeting notion they would make good dust rags, but my wife wanted no part of them. Finally, I came to my senses and purged all of the orphans into the garbage can thereby leaving only my new socks in the drawer all neatly paired up. I felt a sense of satisfaction for finally cleaning out something that was well overdue. My satisfaction was short lived though; about two weeks after cleaning out the drawer I happened to notice a new single sock sitting alone without its mate. My guess is that I had upset the sock Gods who demanded another sacrifice, either that or my wife is deliberately trying to drive me insane. Either way, I give up. It will be more than 25 years before I try to clean out a sock drawer again. Maybe some things are best left undone.

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

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Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 7:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

THE ROMNEY/BACHMANN TICKET OF 2012

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 12, 2011

Following the second Republican debate held June 13th in New Hampshire I was asked by some of my readers who I thought would be on the GOP’s ticket in 2012. Without batting an eye, I said Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann. Frankly, my answer surprised a lot of people but it seems only natural to me, let me explain why.

Let me preface my remarks by saying that I am not sold on Mitt Romney as a candidate, even if he is touted as the front runner. I think he has many weaknesses, such as “Romneycare” in Massachusetts, and his Mormon background will not sit well with the Christian Right. Nonetheless, his business persona and stints as governor and head of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah are some pretty impressive credentials as a manager. His stand on the issues will be welcomed by moderates who are still leery of conservative principles as embodied by Bachmann, a Tea Party favorite.

Bachmann on the other hand is an unapologetic conservative who has not only energized the Tea Party but the Republican race as well. Whereas the Main Stream Media tolerates moderates like Romney, they despise conservatives like Bachmann who will undoubtedly be targeted for attack.

A Romney/Bachmann ticket will be viewed by some as an unholy alliance who will keep each other in check. Individually they will be unable to defeat Obama. Together though, there is considerable synergy. Romney desperately needs conservative votes which Bachmann can deliver. Only with Michele on the ticket will conservatives believe Romney is committed to overturning Obamacare and the other socialistic policies of the president. In other words, Bachmann will give Romney conservative credibility. Likewise, Romney will stifle criticisms about Bachmann from moderates. And while the press will be distracted attacking Bachmann, Romney will be free to attack Obama and his programs. Although Romney will be portrayed as a Washington outsider, Bachmann is the insider who can run interference for him.

Together they will be a slick team. Very poised, very confident, and with considerable political moxie. The media will try to draw a comparison between Romney/Bachmann and the 2008 team of McCain/Palin. The difference here was that McCain was viewed as simply too old and Palin was an unknown quantity who, of course, has defined herself since the election. Both Romney and Bachmann are younger, polished, and well known. Frankly, Romney/Bachmann will make a rather formidable tag team, much stronger than the Obama/Biden ticket.

However, can the two work together? Do they even like or respect each other? Frankly, it doesn’t matter as they both realize the common goal is to oust the president which, as they both know, is the most important objective. Besides, politics always makes strange bedfellows.

To see if I’m right about the Romney/Bachmann ticket be sure to watch how the two address each other during the campaign, particularly in the remaining GOP debates. Bachmann’s star is on the rise, and the only thing that could possibly derail my prediction is if she eclipses Romney. If this happens, there will be pressure to add another conservative as her running mate. Unfortunately, this will not work. Face it, Bachmann needs Romney just as much as Romney needs Bachmann.

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

WHO SERVES WHO?

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 10, 2011

Probably the best way to differentiate between a commercial enterprise and a nonprofit organization is by asking, “Who serves who?” Whether it is a small business or a major corporation, the commercial enterprise is primarily concerned with serving its customers. In general, such companies will go to great lengths to keep their customers happy in order to promote repeat business and improve cash flow. They are also fully aware their customers have choices, if they are not satisfied with their product or service there is always someone else waiting to take the business away from them. It’s called the “free enterprise system.” A nonprofit organization is another beast altogether.

In theory, a nonprofit is supposed to provide a service or product for its constituents. Such people are pooled together primarily due to a common interest of some kind, be it a professional trade group, a homeowners association, a sports club, a fraternal/civic organization, a union, etc. Such organizations are usually legal entities operating under the sanctions of a state government and perhaps a parent organization. Normally, nonprofits are administered by a board of directors which include officers serving for a specific term of duty involving various responsibilities, such as a President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, Committee Chairman, etc. It is not uncommon for people to covet such titles as it looks impressive on a resume and is often used to climb a social ladder. Whereas the intent for the administration of the nonprofit is to serve its constituents, quite often the reverse is implemented whereby the membership is coerced into serving its officers thereby creating a monarchy where one should not exist. As trivial or petty such organizations may appear, there are certain types of people who become drunk with power, probably because they never accomplished anything of substance in their professional lives.

Ideally, in a nonprofit, the officers should be egoless and ever reminded that such groups are typically volunteer organizations and, as such, are under no obligation to follow orders. True, such groups will undoubtedly have governing documents defining specific duties and responsibilities; regardless, it is a volunteer organization where people participate as it suits them. The last thing a nonprofit needs is a bully or someone exerting his/her will to disrupt the harmony of the group.

Then we come to governmental bodies and agencies, be it at the municipal, county, state, or federal level. Like nonprofits, officers are elected from the constituency and, in theory, they are intended to represent the interests of the citizenry. As government bodies become too massive and complex we tend to become somewhat attached to our officials and less inclined to change them fearing it may hurt the system and services. This, of course, lends itself to the monarchy phenomenon and creates career politicians. If officials are left unchecked, a dictatorship begins to take root representing a genuine threat to freedom and democracy regardless of the institution.

So, what should we do when we find the constituents are serving the officials? Voting is obviously the first alternative that comes to mind, but people can be rather apathetic and behave like sheep, which officials count on to manage the flock. Brainwashing and information management (aka “spin”) are devices commonly used for such control. Term limits is another alternative, unless it is discovered a one party system has been implemented whereby cronies take turns running an operation for someone else behind the scenes.

Perhaps the best approach though is to privatize government or nonprofit organizations thereby causing administrators to truly work for the people. Such institutions are certainly not new. To illustrate, commercial management companies are proliferating throughout the country to serve homeowner associations (since the officials are too lazy to assume responsibility themselves). Although you have to pay for such service, you can change companies at a moment’s notice. Privatizing government and nonprofit organizations offers one important advantage; since they are run by commercial enterprises, who understand the need for properly serving their customers, we would at least know “who serves who.”

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 Government, Social Issues | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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