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MANAGING COMPLEXITY

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 2, 2013

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– Are we juggling too many balls?

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Recently, while I was pumping gasoline at the local station, a 1967 GTO pulled up on the opposite side of the pump. She was in mint condition, and painted a dark blue with a black top, typical for the period. It reminded me of my brother-in-law’s car which he drove in college, right down to the color and super stock tires. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t resist the temptation to strike up a conversation with the owner. When I complimented him, he flashed a big grin. He claimed the GTO was something he always wanted since he was a teenager. I asked if I could take a peek under the hood and he was glad to oblige. In addition to being spotless, it was a marvel of simplicity. There, within easy reach, was the battery, the radiator, the air filter, the carburetor, and, of course, the engine. The owner claimed he maintained the GTO himself. Years ago, I worked on such cars at a SOHIO station in Cincinnati and well remember how easy it was to work on them. Changing the oil
and filter took no longer than five minutes. Changing tires and tune ups were also a breeze. Today though, it is much different as you have to be one part mechanic and one part programmer. Tasks that used to take minutes, now take hours at more expensive rates.

As we parted, I watched the muscle car pull away from the gas station and listened to the roar of its dual exhaust. I envied the man and marveled at the simplicity of the machine. It caused me to think how complicated our lives have become, not just our machines, but how we communicate and socialize with each other. Does life really need to be so complicated?

We’ve put computer chips in just about anything that moves. In addition to automobiles, you find them in airplanes, boats and ships, trains, our pets, and we’re now embedding them in ourselves. You can also find them in a variety of cards, be it credit, debit, greeting, business or otherwise. Motion pictures can no longer be made without computer generated graphics of some kind. The intent is to make them more visually stimulating to human senses. In fact, most computer extensions today are designed to enhance human senses, and compensate for physical limitations, and intellectual weaknesses. It is merging into our very existence. So much so, it is becoming difficult to discern where true human strengths exist as opposed to technological assistance.

This is affecting how we communicate. For example, we are doing less verbalization and more texting, e-mail, and tweeting. This, in turn, affects our sense of etiquette and common courtesy. By doing so, it alters our behavior and how we work with others. Even our sense of focus is challenged as we are expected to multitask like our technology. Our frenetic pace tests our powers of concentration, patience, learning, and simple ability to get things done.

To illustrate, when we recently decided to move our office, we wanted to eliminate our land lines and replace it with a wireless solution. Consequently, I visited a local Verizon Wireless store and was greeted by a young man who was eager to assist me. I selected a solution based on his recommendation. It was actually a simple solution which could satisfy all of our needs. So far, so good. However, the salesman took an inordinate amount of time processing the order. I watched as he worked deftly between his tablet computer, his smart phone, and the store’s desktop computer. In other words, there wasn’t a single screen for him to enter the order. Although he appeared to know what he was doing, it was a real test of his ability to multitask on multiple devices. The net result was that a process that should have taken no more than five minutes to perform, took 45 minutes instead. This was certainly not a demonstration of improved productivity, regardless of the glitzy technology. As an aside, our corporate number remains unchanged as Verizon was able to roll it over to our new system.

The fact remains, the more complexity we add, the more balls we have to juggle, and the more complicated our lives become. Younger people are more adept at managing such complexity than older people who are more familiar with technology from another era. Today, we see people responding more readily to the ring or ding of their smart phone as opposed to a conversation with family, friends, and business associates. People now walk, jog, bike, and exercise while plugged into their music, totally devoid of the world around them. They’ve tuned in, turned on, and dropped out. Such attitudes are leading to a narcissistic society where even our sense of right and wrong is being altered.

With new technology comes new laws, rules, and regulations. For example, with the introduction of seat belts came new laws to enforce their use. The same is true with bicycle helmets. Texting and telephone technology has also created new “rights” and “wrongs,” which we must add to our juggling list.

I understand the need for our technology, but I am also weary of its addictive powers and effect on human behavior. This is why I relish such things as beautiful outdoor vistas, such as in the mountains or by the beach, or a cold stream to catch trout, a candid conversation with some friends at nightfall, perhaps with a glass of good drink or aromatic cigar. Or a 1967 GTO. It is the little things that matter in life, and we should be mastering them before technology masters us.

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) 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:
timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  PROBLEMS WITH THE PRETRIAL SYSTEM – Career criminals are slipping through the cracks.

LAST TIME:  A THANKSGIVING MOMENT – A simple grace.

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7 Responses to “MANAGING COMPLEXITY”

  1. Kevin Schachter said

    Preach it Tim!

    Like

  2. Tim Bryce said

    A W.A. of the Dominican Republic wrote…

    “Great article today, Tim. Even here in the DR, it seems the poorest people have cell phones that even I don’t want to spend that kind of money. If you want to see complexity, imagine in your mind a husband, wife and 2 children on a motor bike (not a motorcycle) driving down the road and the husband is texting while driving with his family. We see this kind of thing all the time here. I think the world has gone crazy due to these modern technological devices.”

    Like

  3. janismith said

    This is excellent, Tim. Growing up in a family of car guys, I’ve heard their frustration with the increasing complexity of doing repairs compared to the good old days. I agree that simple is better. The days of ON/OFF, HIGH/LOW and RIGHT/WRONG seem to be gone forever, except in our memories, like the GTO.

    Like

    • Tim Bryce said

      Funny you should mention it Jan, we had a 1964 Plymouth Valiant years ago. To control the air temperature, you would simply slide a bar; to the left was heat, to the right was cold air. You don’t have to be a programmer to use it.

      All the Best,
      Tim

      Like

  4. Tim Bryce said

    A B.A. of Connecticut wrote…

    “in 2003 I purchased a Chevy Trailblazer with a straight six thinking that I could perform the basic maintenance. As noble as that notion might have been, it couldn’t have been further from the truth…. “

    Like

  5. […] MANAGING COMPLEXITY […]

    Like

  6. Tim Bryce said

    An M.T. of Chicago, Illinois wrote…

    “Being a low tech person, I agree with many of the points you made. I barely use my computer; have wireless phones and one cell phone that only is used to make calls and receive them. Plus it has a list of people and their phone numbers. That is it. My husband used to play a game on his computer so very much that I had to make him stop and sit down and have a conversation with him. Technology, uncontrolled, can take over our lives.”

    Like

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