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Archive for August, 2011

THE DARK SIDE OF FLASH MOBS

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 30, 2011

With the advent of social networking software, young people discovered they could stage group events, mostly for fun or some just plain silly, such as a dance or singing ensemble suddenly bursting into a well choreographed number at a public venue, such as a train station or shopping center. The trick was to get the crowd to quickly assemble, perform its “shtick” and then disappear by mingling back into the crowd. Although the original intent was to have fun, a dark side to flash mobs has emerged.

From the recent overthrow of governments in the Middle East to the recent wildings in Philadelphia, Maryland, and San Francisco, Americans are becoming aware of the power and danger of social networking. In the Middle East, Facebook and Twitter were generally regarded as the communication media of choice to orchestrate massive demonstrations protesting government policies. The application in this country though is different and much more criminal in intent. For example, in Philadelphia and Maryland social networking was recently used to queue crowds to enter and loot stores. The effect was chillingly effective, and would send shivers down the spine of any security officer. In San Francisco, it was used to stage an unlawful demonstration aimed at shutting down the BART rail system, thereby disrupting traffic during rush hour. Such incidents are becoming more commonplace and represent a genuine threat to our well being.

There is little doubt criminal flash mobs will affect our way of life. The best way to thwart such incidents is to block telephone and Internet service which can be done relatively easily. Not only will this disrupt the flash mob though, but other legitimate uses of communication devices as well, perhaps even life sustaining services, such as 911. This is the price we will inevitably have to pay for social media running amok. The use of telephone/Internet blockers will likely face a legal challenge from freedom of speech advocates, but this will probably fail as such freedom doesn’t apply in life-threatening situations, such as yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

Flash mobs will also be detrimental to downtown areas as stores will be closed early to avoid such wildings. Curfews will likely be imposed to maintain law and order, but such security measures will only hurt downtown merchants, hence another reason to abandon urban areas. In all likelihood we will also witness the end of 24/7 service such as provided by late night convenience stores and gas stations. Those stores with the fortitude to remain open will have to be refitted with new security measures, such as instant lock downs trapping the flash mob until authorities can arrive, and communication blockers. The police will also have to become more adept at social media technology so they can identify and apprehend flash mob ringleaders.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like social media and have used it for years. However, I realize there are others who have ulterior motives who wish to use it for criminal or political purposes. For those of you old enough to remember, can you imagine what impact this technology would have had at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago? As wild and as bloody Chicago was, it would have likely been made much worse by this technology. Some people find flash mobs rather humorous and regard it as nothing more than a passing fad. Make no mistake, there is nothing remotely amusing about criminal flash mobs as they are a genuine threat to our way of life. Ask any merchant or security guard who had the displeasure of facing one. Even sadder, such flash mobs ultimately represents a decline in our culture.

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.

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

THE ANT AND THE GRASSHOPPER

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 28, 2011

I think we’re all familiar with the Aesop fable regarding “The Ant and the Grasshopper.” I first heard it in kindergarten when the teacher tried to impress upon us the need for diligent work. As you will recall, the fable describes a grasshopper who spent the warm summer months singing and playing while the ant toiled in the fields in preparation for the cold winter. When it finally arrives, the grasshopper finds itself dying of hunger and begs the ant for food who is less than sympathetic as he remembered how the grasshopper wasted his time earlier.

Someone recently told me this was a parable describing the differences between capitalism and socialism, with the ant representing a capitalist, and the grasshopper as a socialist, but I’m not sure I buy the argument. After all, even socialists have to work now and then. Some would even suggest the ants are socialists as they are all working harmoniously together. I don’t think this is the case in this story as true socialists wouldn’t condemn the grasshopper but would cheerfully come to his relief. However, I don’t believe this is how the story was conveyed to me.

No, I think this is a simple lesson in capitalism whereby both the ant and the grasshopper were given the opportunity to work, one elected to do so and was successful, the other wasted his time and failed. This then leads us to the lesson of charity. Under socialism, the ant would be compelled to care for the grasshopper which would, inevitably, lead to problems in morale whereby other ants will question why they should work hard if deadbeats like the grasshopper will be taken care of regardless if they work or not. Under capitalism, the ant may come to the relief of the grasshopper if he is inclined to do so, not because it is mandatory. He may find it in his heart to help the grasshopper, then again, maybe not. It depends on his sense of duty to other insects; his religious training if you will.

When you think about all of the entitlements available in this country, such as welfare, unemployment, food stamps, Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, and now Obamacare, you are either a grasshopper singing and dancing or an ant wondering why you are working so hard. It sure seems the government has shifted the balance away from the ant and more in favor of the grasshopper. Just remember, if the ant ever discovers he is not allowed to keep what he has earned, he may very well give up in frustration and there won’t be anybody to take care of either the grasshopper or the recently unemployed ant.

Maybe “The Ant and the Grasshopper” is a parable of capitalism versus socialism after all. Hmm…

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, Social Issues, Society | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

YOUTH WILL HAVE ITS DAY

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 25, 2011

Have you been paying attention to the talent of our youth lately? Normally we hear nothing but the problems of youth, such as bad manners and attitudes, foul mouths, sex and drugs, cheating, stealing and deceit, car wrecks, and a general disregard of any form of authority; true rebels without a cause. This is why it was so refreshing to recently see some talented young people burst onto the entertainment scene, such as “Il Volo,” a trio of Italian pop-opera teenage singers, with incredible voices transcending their age. Their operatic mastery is such that you cannot help recognizing them as the legitimate heirs apparent to the The Three Tenors.

In Japan, there was the movie “Swing Girls” which was produced just a few years ago to critical acclaim. In the movie, a group of students, mostly female, form a jazz band specializing in swing music. The young actors actually played the instruments in the film and gave excellent renditions of such big band classics as “In the Mood,” “Moonlight Serenade,” and “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

Then there is Jackie Evancho, an eleven year old phenomenon who has mastered operatic and pop classics. Jackie was brought to national attention by the show, “America’s Got Talent.” When you watch her perform, you are struck not only by her remarkable voice, but by her poise, and ability to sing Italian, French, and other difficult pieces flawlessly. I recently watched her PBS special where she held her own in a special duet with Barbra Streisand (“Somewhere”), which is no easy task.

There are, of course, many others such as Melissa Venema, the 13 year old Dutch trumpet player who played under Andre Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra. In addition to these young entertainers, there are many new writers and artists who are producing an impressive body of work.

The talent of these young people is so profound, they often bring adults to tears. They are celebrated not just because of their specific talent, but because adults recognize the hard work and discipline required to master their skills, something we tend to believe young people are incapable of doing anymore. When we see it played out in front of us, we become dumbstruck. Adults simply cannot believe young people can achieve such a level of excellence and are, therefore, enraptured by their skills.

Obviously, not everyone can be entertainment “phenoms” like those mentioned, but this doesn’t mean adults cannot appreciate other talents of youth, such as in science, mathematics, medicine, mechanics, languages, military service, etc. all of which are important to the world. The difference is that someone discovered the hidden talents of the young artists, cultivated their skills through encouragement, and taught them a sense of work ethic, all of which we tend to overlook or take for granted by parents and school counselors. Whereas children often look for guidance from their elders, they frequently do not get it and are left to wander aimlessly on their own with little ambition. Imagine the tragic loss it would be if the “phenoms” had not received the proper guidance or learned their sense of work ethic. The same is true for any young life, it is a loss of unimaginable proportions. The future of our culture resides within our youth and, as such, it behooves us to invest the proper effort to help each child find his/her way.

In the High School I graduated from years ago, there was geat emphasis on going to college. There was no mention of the military or trade school. As should be obvious, college is not for everyone which is why I feel it is necessary we start studying the interests of our children at an earlier age and help guide them in the proper path, maybe it leads them to college, and then again, maybe it does not. Regardless, waiting until our children are 18 years old to guide them in their walk through life is simply too late.

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 Education, Social Issues, Society | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

THERE’S THAT UGLY WORD AGAIN: DEPRESSION

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 23, 2011

The country’s latest round of economic gymnastics has brought up an old concept that strikes fear in both politicians and the public: Depression. The Great Depression of the 20th century was triggered by the market crash of 1929 which led to a period of approximately ten years of high unemployment, poverty, low profits, deflation, and lost opportunities for economic growth. Basically, we lost confidence in ourselves and our economic future. FDR’s social programs of the “New Deal” did not pull us out of it, only war did, specifically WW2.

The comparisons between then and now are glaring. We are already experiencing a higher unemployment rate than just prior to the Great Depression; our Gross Domestic Product is at a snail’s pace; our debt continues to mount, and; nobody has confidence in our government’s ability to control the economy. Although we have been asked to accept “Change we can believe in,” most Americans recognize we have gone from bad to worse.

The recent debt ceiling debate was politicized and resulted in a superficial fix. Government financial institutions, specifically Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, which were at the epicenter of the financial disaster just four years ago, were bailed out and taken over by the federal government, yet their policies and business practices remain essentially unchanged. Although there were several recommendations for regulatory overhaul of the housing finance industry, nothing of substance ever came of it. Other stimulus bills and bailout programs did nothing to snap the economy out of its doldrums, and Obamacare is still perceived as an ominous threat to our financial well-being. Meanwhile, the country’s credit rating has dropped slightly, housing values still plummet, bankruptcies grow, exports decline, and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has flat lined. Our government officials, thereby, give the distinct impression they are incompetent of managing our economy. Frankly, if they couldn’t do it in 1929, why should we believe they can do it now, 82 years later? The reality is, they cannot. Only business can put the country back to work, but if they are inhibited by government policies and regulations, they are less likely to make bold moves.

Some might rationalize the actions in Washington, DC as “business as usual.” It’s not. This is a battle of ideologies, socialism versus capitalism, which will only be broken by the 2012 elections which historians will record as a referendum of the two incompatible economic systems. The elections will represent a game of chicken where voters will be asked to chose the system they prefer: big government versus smaller, a nanny state versus personal initiative and responsibility, excessive spending versus fiscal responsibility. Perhaps never before in our country’s history will the differences be so apparent and the stakes so high. It will be a costly election, both in terms of finances and emotions. Every seat up for election, large or small, will be fiercely contested. Wisconsin and the debt ceiling debate were glimpses into the future. The country will be forced to select one side or the other; a divided federal government, which we currently have, represents gridlock and certainly not an option as should be readily apparent by now.

One thing is for certain, the country is on a collision course politically and economically. Whichever side is the victor in 2012 will incur the wrath and scorn of the loser who will likely not go away quietly. It may even turn violent. Economics has a way of bringing out the worst in people, as anyone who survived the Great Depression can tell you. The only way to avert disaster is to create the proper incentives for business to accelerate production, put people back to work, accelerate the GDP, and curb our government’s finances. However, with only fifteen months remaining until the elections, that is probably too tall of an order to fill.

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: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

EMBRACING COMPLEXITY

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 22, 2011

For years in my youth, I was the “go to” guy for operating the family’s technical equipment, be it tape recorders, record players, or even our Super 8 movie projector. As I grew older, I eventually relinquished my title to my son who is adept at setting up our High Def TV, cable box, DVD/VHS player, cell/smart phones, and other such devices. It was only when I realized we were as dependent on my son, as my family was on me years ago, that I began to ask why.

It is a long accepted theory that younger people tend to embrace and adapt to technology faster than seniors. I am reminded of the story told by comedian Jay Leno where he purchased a remote control for his parents’ television set. On a return visit to their home in Boston, Jay couldn’t locate the device and asked his father of its whereabouts. The father informed Jay they kept it locked up in a nearby drawer as he considered it a complicated piece of equipment and wanted to be sure it “wouldn’t go off accidentally.” Despite Jay’s attempts to assure him it wasn’t a phaser that could burn the house down, the father was unmoved and kept the device safely locked up. Whereas we tend to accept complexity in our youth, we grow abrasive to it as we grow older under the mantra, “simplify, simplify, simplify.”

In our youth we are more inclined to accept complexity as we assume it is a natural part of the learning process. As we mature, we learn to handle more responsibilities and assignments much like a juggler takes on additional objects to be thrown into the air. We keep juggling more and more objects until we reach our capacity and discover our limitations. Our arms deftly spin for years and years juggling everything until we grow weary and can no longer embrace any more items. In fact, we start to slow down, prioritize what we are doing, and drop those tasks we no longer consider important thereby simplifying our lives. In the Jay Leno example, the father had grown to accept changing the television channel manually and felt the remote control was simply one more thing to complicate his life. Consequently, he avoided using it, even going to the extent of fabricating an excuse.

In youth we are eager to accept new challenges as we want to prove ourselves ready to assume our place in society. As we master the subjects that interest us, we begin to exercise our skills and express ourselves creatively. Typically, our window of peak creativity is no more than ten years. To illustrate, both the Beatles and the Beach Boys, two of the most successful Rock and Roll bands of all time, were at their zenith of their careers for no more than ten years, as is true for most bands. The members of the bands ranged in age from their late teens to late twenties. In their thirties, they slowed down and were never able to duplicate the creative output of their earlier years. This phenomenon is not only true in the arts, but in the sciences as well. Our tempo slows, we prioritize our efforts, and we begin to focus on fewer things. Whereas we were eager beavers in our youth, we become more cognizant of our limitations and more selective in our challenges.

One reason young people are gravitating towards the Information Technology field is because of their ability to embrace complexity. For example, the average computer program consists of approximately 100 components (such as data elements, records, files, modules, etc.), each requires a series of design decisions based on type (e.g., a data element’s length, precision, scale, label, validation rules, etc.). In total, there are approximately 2,000 such decisions to be made and controlled, which is quite a challenge for anyone to track. Whereas younger programmers are more inclined to simply write and compile the software iteratively until it is clean, their older counterparts are more likely to carefully plan and document the software to avoid forgetting or overlooking the components used and the design decisions associated with them.

Whereas youth is quick to tackle complex issues, often to the point of recklessness, this inevitably leads to mistakes and causes us to slow down and become more cautious. As we grow older, we don’t mind tackling complex issues, but we are leery of making mistakes and, consequently, become wiser in how we tackle such undertakings. As we approach retirement and beyond, we are less likely to tackle bold new ventures and, instead, are more inclined to “simplify, simplify, simplify.”

Actually, if programmers weren’t so bad at designing devices to be easy-to-use, we wouldn’t be so dependent on our youth to operate them for us, but that is another subject. As a teenager, there were only two buttons on my family’s television set, one for on/off and volume, and a tuning dial. Today, God only knows how many buttons I have on my High Def TV; I know there is one for power, three for color, two to adjust screen positioning, and one to automatically call 911 when I’ve finally lost my mind.

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

SOFTWARE UPDATES

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 11, 2011

Years ago, when I was working in the world of computer mainframes, upgrading software was a major event. Rarely were minor releases issued with small corrections. Instead, customers were advised months in advance what the upgrades consisted of and when to expect delivery of the release. This information was used to schedule the upgrades and prepare an in-house training schedule to properly educate users. As a software vendor ourselves, we went to great lengths to communicate our plans with our customers and make sure the software update executed smoothly. This all changed with the advent of the PC and the commercial use of the Internet.

At first, software upgrades for the PC were implemented using mainframe techniques. Upgrades came in the form of voluminous diskettes, then CD’s, but now they are distributed via the Internet. Although you can still check to see if a particular software product is in need of upgrading (usually under the “Help” action-bar-chocie), some software vendors now take Carte Blanche over your computer whenever they are in the mood, particularly Microsoft. I appreciate receiving upgrades from a vendor, but inevitably they always come at the most inopportune time for me to implement. For example, I tend to set things up on my computer at night so I can easily execute them first thing in the morning. Although this works most of the time, I can generally rely on Microsoft to reboot my computer at least once a week, thereby negating my preparations for the next day.

Microsoft is not alone in this regard, security software vendors are notorious for running upgrades and background scans of the hard drive which seems to execute for an inordinate amount of time. Even worse, they usually are executed at a point in time aimed at causing the most disruption for a person in the business day. Have you ever noticed your computer suddenly becoming lethargic during the day? Maybe it’s just me.

Instead of automatically executing software updates, I would much rather prefer to get a message informing me that an upgrade is available, a description of what it includes along with an indication of its importance (criticality), and ask me when to install it, either immediately or at another time more convenient for me, but I guess that’s asking too much of the software companies whose priorities take precedents over my own. There is nothing more arrogant than for a software company to force me to install new software and reboot a computer for a minor improvement. While they install their small widget, I must cool my heels and suspend my business activities. “Sorry, I can’t help you right now; the computer is running an upgrade. Call me back tomorrow.” Yea, right!

I believe this phenomenon is somewhat Murphy-esque whereby, “A software upgrade will always occur at the most inopportune time of the business day.” Not because you scheduled it to execute, but because the vendor did.

As a point of clarification, MS Windows does allow some customization of software upgrades; see:

For WinXP:
Start -> Control Panel -> Scheduled Tasks

For Windows 7:
Start -> Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> Scheduled Tasks

The problem is that 99% of the people using Windows probably does not know such a facility even exists and, consequently, never use it. The other 1% of the people know it exists but never bother with it as they have resigned themselves to the fact that Microsoft will do whatever it wants, whenever it wants.

By the way, regarding installation progress bars (you know, those bars that tell you are 99% complete but never seem to end) are actually designed to distract the user. It’s an old hypnotist trick designed to occupy your time by watching the bar move. You didn’t really think they worked did 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 Software, Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

PSEUDO-SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 9, 2011

Lately I seem to be receiving more than my fair share of e-mails. Among the spam I get daily, I can always count on some flyers on various management related workshops. Lately I have been studying these flyers more closely. It has been my observation the courses being offered seem to lack substance and tend to rely on facade. They seem to dance around the issues and, instead, offer classes aimed at making students feel good about themselves or how to be more politically correct. Even worse, they tend to offer some crackpot theory of management under the guise of being scientific, thereby trying to make them fashionable.

To illustrate, I recently received a training flyer which boldly stated in its headline, “Negativity costs the U.S. economy an estimated 3 billion dollars in lost productivity last year alone. What’s it costing you?” This originated from a vendor who specializes in combating negative attitudes in the workplace. I found the claim rather hallow. There is no doubt negative attitudes have an adverse affect in the workplace, but how can you substantiate such an estimate? I am not aware of any mood detectors that keep track of time. In other words, the claim is frivolous and without merit. Anyone can pick numbers out of thin air, but are they credible? Yet such claims are common in such classes.

This was part of a two day class entitled, “Workplace Conflict Training Camp” featuring a “Stop Your Drama Methodology” which is an “eight part empowerment process to increase clarity and improve productivity and personal effectiveness.” Having coined the term “methodology” in this industry back in 1971, and trained thousands of people around the world in it, I think you can safely assume we know a thing or two about methodologies. This is certainly not a methodology. Rather, it is a spin on the word to give the illusion it is based on some sort of scientific principle. I believe it is nothing more than some organized ideas for overcoming negativity in the workplace. In other words, it is a structured table of contents; but a “methodology?” Tut-tut.

I received another flyer touting a “Productivity Training Camp.” As in the other course, they boldly claim: “Distractions cost American companies time and money — approximately an hour a day and $10,790 a year per worker.” Again, I would challenge the vendor to substantiate the claim. As I read through the flyer, I found it was nothing more than a class on basic leadership and how to maximize your use of time. As a true course on productivity though, Tut-tut.

I have a great respect for the science of management and tend to believe such courses denigrate the science. Yet, they appear to be selling well. Maybe it’s because people are gullible about management or perhaps the subject matter is fashionable. For example, the Information Technology sector is particularly inclined to following any fad that comes along, good or bad, without question,

I tend to think of management as simply, “getting people to do what you want, when you want it, and how you want it.” If we lived in a perfect world, there would not be a need for managers; people would know what to do, and projects would be executed on time and within cost. However, as we all know, we live in an imperfect world. People make mistakes and problems arise, hence, the need for “managers”, people charged with assigning and directing the work of others. Managers are in the business of solving problems; people problems.

So, instead of singing “Kumbaya” together or learning Political Correctness 101, managers need to learn such things as cultivating and controlling the corporate culture, empowering people and managing from the bottom-up, defining true methodologies in the workplace and standards, improving discipline and accountability, communications, coaching and encouraging teamwork, promoting craftsmanship, and much more. To get an idea of what true management is, be sure to download a complimentary copy of my eBook, “THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! Empowering Managers in today’s Corporate Culture.”

I do not mean to dismiss the courses mentioned earlier completely out of hand, but I tend to consider them as doing nothing more than “making mountains out of mole hills.” They may have a couple of good ideas, but certainly nothing worth the amount they charge for such a course. Who knows, maybe they include in the price a signed copy of the lyrics to “Kumbaya” for each attendee.

I think we have enough pseudo-scientific approaches to management. How about we get to work 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 Business, Management | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

THE VALUE OF THE SYSTEM AUDIT

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 7, 2011

“Systems do not have a ‘life cycle.’ They may go on forever if kept viable with change. The only thing that has a ‘life cycle’ is a project which has a beginning for planning, a middle for execution, and an end for review.”

– Bryce’s Law

“Unless we learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.” Many I.T. organizations do not grasp the significance of System Audits and, as such, tend to regard such reviews as a waste of precious time and resources. Consequently, systems are installed without any type of follow-up. Because of this, many of the benefits of the system are never realized. For example, clerical savings may have been part of the justification for a new system, but operating management did not reduce or reallocate the staff to realize the benefits. Without a system review, “Parkinson’s Law” may occur where “work expands to fill the time available,” and the system savings are never realized.

As another example, a new management infrastructure, created as a result of organizational changes, may not be effectively utilizing the information provided by the system. They may be unaware of, or lack knowledge about the system. In order for management to have confidence in their systems organization and the systems installed, they should have tangible evidence their significant investments are producing the promised results.

The systems organization can realize many benefits from a System Audit. It is not just a platitudinous statement to say that “we learn from our mistakes”; It is a clear and established fact. A detailed audit provides systems and software personnel with an opportunity to review their estimating and design skills. This knowledge, along with historical data, can be gainfully applied to new systems and projects. As such, estimating guidelines can be updated.

A carefully executed audit can also add to the credibility of the systems organization by showing how well they performed and whether they were accountable for their actions. More importantly, the systems organization may find the new system is simply not functioning in spite of systems maintenance and revisions. In this event, the audit may indicate an entirely new approach should be taken as opposed to continually fighting the problem.

WHEN SHOULD YOU CONDUCT THE SYSTEM AUDIT?

The System Audit should be scheduled for execution after the system has operated for an adequate period of time. Typically, this will be between thirty (30) and ninety (90) days after implementation. In some instances, it may be necessary to conduct more than one audit, depending on the timing of implementation and execution of the various sub-systems within the system. For example, users may want a detailed accounting of project costs immediately after startup. The actual system evaluation can follow thereafter.

HOW SHOULD YOU PERFORM THE SYSTEM AUDIT?

Ideally, the audit should not be performed by the same individual(s) who developed the system. A neutral third party should be involved who can audit the system and project objectively.

The steps required to execute the System Audit are similar to:

* “Current Systems Analysis” – the intent of this activity is to study the existing system, sample work, and evaluate strengths and weaknesses. This same type of work is performed in the System Audit. Here, the Systems Analyst uses the systems documentation to walk through the system.

* “Prepare System Evaluation” – the intent of this activity is to estimate and schedule the remaining work effort, and perform a Cost/Benefit Analysis. During the System Audit, the Project Manager examines actual time reported, costs incurred and delivery dates. A final Cost/Benefit Analysis is calculated based on actual data (not estimated).

AUDIT CONSIDERATIONS

During the System Audit the Systems Analyst may identify errors, omissions and severe weaknesses in the new system. In this event, the analyst may initiate a Work Request to document a modification/improvement. This will then go through the normal process of evaluation and priority calculation.

A Project Management (PM) system can assemble all pertinent project data for analysis. This data can also be exported to other financial packages and spreadsheets for further analysis as required.

CONCLUSION

There are those who see System Audits as a waste of time and would rather scramble off to other assignments. As for me, I have always found the System Audit as an invaluable opportunity to fine tune the skills of the development staff and improve the standards and techniques used throughout the methodology. For example, after one System Audit we found it necessary to upgrade our programming standards to better promote consistency. We also found it necessary to obtain a prototyping tool to expedite the development of screens. This materially impacted subsequent projects which benefited from the System Audit.

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

EXPLAINING JACK BENNY

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 4, 2011

Recently, I attended a dinner in downtown St. Petersburg. I invited a young man I knew to accompany me to introduce him to some people for networking purposes. At age 25, he had already finished a hitch in the Army and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and was now starting his professional career. As we drove home, we discussed the after dinner speaker who had made a reference to Jack Benny, the legendary comedian of yesteryear. My young friend innocently asked, “Who is Jack Benny?”

Not thinking of his age, I said, “You remember, he had his own show for a number of years; had Rochester as his butler, Mel Blank, Dennis Day, Don Wilson, Phil Harris, and his wife, Mary Livingstone; he sold Jello; his car was a Maxwell; ‘Your money or your life’; his basement vault guarded by “Ed,” an ancient sentry; the Si-Sie-Sue bit, etc. Remember?”

“No sir, I’m afraid not,” and he looked at me blankly. It was only then when I realized how young my friend was and how much older I had become. I spent the remainder of our drive home trying to explain Jack Benny to him which I found rather difficult to someone unfamiliar with Jack’s gentle style. Today it is common for comics to be crude, vulgar, and “In your face.” Benny was certainly more refined and presented himself as a gentleman which is something young people have trouble relating to today. His good friend George Burns referred to him as a “Quiet Riot.”

Over the years, Jack cultivated an image as being a spendthrift (cheap), vain, and a pitiful violinist. So much so, his writers had to only suggest a situation and the audience would be conditioned to laugh immediately, as if a button had been pushed. His walk, his ability to stare down someone, and play the dupe for his guests, would naturally result in gales of laughter. It wasn’t “what” Jack said that was funny, it was his persona and his predictable reaction to certain situations, such as picking up a check at a restaurant, purchasing Christmas gifts, guessing his age, or receiving a compliment. To illustrate, Jack’s biggest laugh came on April 25, 1948 when Dorothy Kirsten was the guest on his show, a famous soprano opera star of the day. During the show, his announcer, Don Wilson, strikes up a conversation with Miss Kirsten regarding opera. Listening to them was Jack and Mary Livingstone who played his girlfriend (his wife in real life):

Don Wilson: “Oh, Miss Kirsten, I wanted to tell you that I saw you in “Madame Butterfly” Wednesday afternoon, and I thought your performance was simply magnificent.”

Dorothy Kirsten: “Well, thanks, awfully. It’s awfully nice and kind of you, Mr. Wilson. But, uh, who could help singing Puccini? It’s so expressive. And particularly in the last act, starting with the allegro vivacissimo.”

Don Wilson: “Well, now, that’s being very modest, Miss Kirsten. But not every singer has the necessary bel canto and flexibility or range to cope with the high tessitura of the first act.”

Dorothy Kirsten: “Thank you, Mr. Wilson. And don’t you think that in the aria, “Un bel dì vedremo”, that the strings played the con molto passione exceptionally fine and with great sostenuto?”

Jack Benny: “Well, I thought…”

Mary Livingstone (to Jack): “Oh, shut up!”

This resulted in a huge laugh from the audience, not because of what Jack said, but because the audience was sensitive to his character. During this operatic dissertation, the audience knows Jack has to somehow butt in and add his two cents, but they don’t know how he can possibly contribute to the pretentious conversation, which is why Mary shuts him down immediately. Youth has trouble comprehending this type of humor, probably because it doesn’t exist anymore. When you think about it, Jack is the straight man in this skit and the butt of the joke. By himself he wasn’t funny, but because of his persona, people find such a situation hilarious. Please keep in mind, this was all done on the radio, not on television, that’s how strong his persona was.

The Benny show was in the top ten for a number of years, both on radio and later on television. Jack’s genius was not so much his own personal comedy, but his ability to orchestrate an entire show. It was common for him to afford his guests more laughs than himself, even if he had to be the butt of the joke. He would always heap praise on his writers, his regulars, and everyone else. When asked why he was so generous, he said he didn’t want people to tune in just to see him personally, but rather they should tune in to see “The Benny Show.” He was very cognizant of the power of teamwork in the cutthroat entertainment industry. It wasn’t about him, it was about the show, and Benny laughed all the way to the bank as a result.

Benny had come up the hard way and paid his dues in the entertainment industry. He was one of the few people who had been successful in Vaudeville, radio, television, motion pictures, and the stage, not to mention his music which generated considerable amounts of money for charity.

Jack has been gone for over 36 years now and, without a doubt, comedy has changed considerably since his passing. I can appreciate bawdy humor, but I certainly do not want to be subjected to incessant expletives and vulgarity. There is nothing wrong with a little dignity and class which, frankly, I consider to be more cerebral. That was Jack Benny, a “Quiet Riot.”

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 »

WHERE HAVE ALL THE LIBERALS GONE?

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 2, 2011

Whereas conservatives have become more visible in recent times, it’s getting harder to find a liberal these days. For years, the left and the right sparred frequently and mercilessly. This was perhaps best illustrated by the legendary debate between William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal during ABC’s coverage of the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. Buckley, the conservative, and Gore, the liberal, both held their ground even if it potentially meant a round of fisticuffs. If you’ve never seen it, you should look it up on YouTube. I remember ABC anchorman Howard K. Smith had has hands full refereeing the brawl.

The liberals certainly haven’t disappeared, but they have gone into their respective closets. For example, I have plenty of friends who are clearly liberal, yet adamantly refuse to admit so. In a strange way, they seem to be ashamed of the label and, instead, insist on being called a moderate or, my favorite, “progressive” which was derived from the Progressive Party of the early 20th century. As an aside, the party was a spin-off from the Republican party. Regardless, a liberal by any other name is still a liberal.

The terms “liberal” and “conservative” or “left” and “right” are perceived as extremist positions which can be somewhat intimidating to the masses. Being “moderate” sounds more reasonable. Because of this, there is a concerted effort by the left to replace the moniker “liberal” with “moderate” in order to give the illusion their ideas are more mainstream with the public thereby cultivating mindshare (and inducing votes). This shift is becoming increasingly visible in the Main Stream Media. For example, following the Supreme Court decision regarding the sex discrimination case against Wal-Mart, which was rejected, Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsburg wrote the dissenting opinion. In reporting this story, the “New York Times,” which is regarded as an organ for the liberal media, referred to Ginsburg and her wing of the court as “moderate” as opposed to “liberal.” Interestingly, the media has no problems referring to the other judges as “conservative.”

On television, comedians such as Jon Stewart and Bill Maher steadfastly reject the “liberal” label and sincerely believe their opinions and editorials represent mainstream America. It is their contention that anyone who doesn’t agree with their point of view is intellectually inferior and therefore deserving of ridicule. This pseudo intellectual perception of themselves, their belief in their intellectual superiority over all others, particularly “conservatives,” is their Achilles’ heel as it gives them a false sense of superiority and arrogance which turns a lot of people off. Whereas they desperately want to convince the public their political positions are mainstream, the reality though is they are not.

While conservatives proudly proclaim and embrace their ideology, liberals are running away from theirs, preferring instead a covert operation of referring to themselves as anything but “liberal.” We saw this in Obama’s presidential run in 2008, the Congressional races of 2010, and it is becoming more glaringly obvious as we approach the 2012 elections. They are hoping to confuse voters by suggesting their choices will no longer be “conservative-moderate-liberal” but rather “conservative-moderate.” This is an intriguing political strategy by the Democrats, and it will be interesting to see if it is successful. Actually, I believe they are making the delineation between ideologies more apparent and, in the process, by eliminating moderate positions, they are forcing people to choose sides.

So, beware of people touting themselves as “moderate” or “progressive”; in reality, they are nothing but liberals in sheep’s clothing. If the product doesn’t sell, you repackage it.

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

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

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

 
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