THE BRYCE IS RIGHT!

Software for the finest computer – The Mind

  • Tim’s YouTube Channel

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 902 other followers

  • Categories

  • Fan Page

  • Since 1971:
    "Software for the finest computer - The Mind"

    Follow me on Twitter: @timbryce

    hit counter

     

  • Subscribe

Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

HOW PRODUCTIVE ARE YOUR MEETINGS?

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 14, 2018

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– Some guidelines for making your meetings meaningful.

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

INTRODUCTION

As a businessman, one of my favorite movies is “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” featuring Steve Martin as an advertising executive trying to return to Chicago during the Thanksgiving holidays. The movie opens with Martin attending a meeting in New York City where he is pitching an ad campaign to the President of a large corporation, played by William Windom. The meeting is rather long and boring as Windom quietly agonizes over the layout of Martin’s proposed ads. All of the meeting attendees sit quietly and patiently as they wait for Windom to make a decision (which he never makes). As it is the holiday season, they all have other things they want to do (in Martin’s case, it is to return home to Chicago). Ultimately, the meeting is a colossal waste of time for all of the attendees.

We’ve all been involved with such meetings where the person running it is either insensitive to the needs of the attendees or the subject matter is painfully boring. It should come as no surprise that excessive or pointless meetings are probably the number one cause for decreased productivity in organizations, be it corporate or nonprofit (as Dilbert has pointed out to us time and again). Understand this, unless someone is looking for an excuse to duck a work assignment, nobody wants to attend an inconsequential meeting.

Remarkably, there are a lot of people who don’t understand the basics of running a productive meeting, hence the problem as exemplified by Martin’s movie. There is nothing magical about conducting a good meeting. It just requires a little preparation, along with some leadership and structure during its execution. Here are some simple guidelines to follow:

PREPARATION

First, determine the necessity of the meeting itself. Do you really have something important to discuss or do you just want to simply “chew the fat.” Meetings are nice but we should never forget they distract people from their work assignments. Therefore, we should only hold a meeting if it is going to benefit the attendees and assist them in their work effort. Let us not forget there are many other communication vehicles at our disposal: memos, e-mails, web pages (including blogs and discussion groups), posted notices, general broadcasts over a PA system, etc.

If you are convinced of the necessity of the meeting, you will need to know three things:

  • Your objective – Is the purpose of the meeting to communicate a particular message, develop a dialogue and reach consensus, educate/train people, or to offer a simple diversion for the attendees? People do not want to hear the boss pontificate on some trivial manner (a la Dilbert). Make sure you have a firm grasp of the purpose of the meeting and what you hope to accomplish. Ask yourself how the attendees will benefit from the meeting.
  • Your audience – Be sure to understand the targeted audience, their interests, their work assignments, and their attention span.
  • How the meeting should be conducted (this is critical). Should it be held on-site or off-site to minimize distractions? Who should lead the meeting? How should the meeting room be setup, such as required audio-video equipment, flipcharts/blackboards, computer equipment, podiums, and the setup of tables and chairs. A classroom setup is fine for lectures and presentations but not necessarily conducive if the participants are going to work in teams. For dialogs and strategy sessions, a roundtable or u-shaped layout is better. Even the chairs are important; everyone likes comfort but if you want to keep people’s attention, there is nothing wrong with hard chairs that force the participants to sit-up and take notice during the meeting.

Print up agendas in advance so everyone knows the meeting’s purpose, the items to be discussed, the timetable, and what is needed for preparation. It is not uncommon to also advise the dress code for the meeting. If possible, send agendas and any other items in advance for the attendees to adequately prepare themselves for the meeting. This will save considerable time during the meeting.

Post scheduled meetings to calendars and, whenever possible, send out reminders at least one day in advance.

EXECUTION

Having a strong and fair leader for the meeting is essential for its success. This may or may not be the main speaker. Nevertheless, the leader has to play the role of traffic cop so the meeting doesn’t get sidetracked and stays on schedule. Knowing when to defer peripheral discussions to a later time or place (such as after the meeting) is important to keep everyone focused on the main mission of the meeting. Being the traffic cop often requires skills in tact and diplomacy so the meeting doesn’t spin out of control.

Here are some other items to consider:

  • Stick to the agenda. Start and end on time and maintain order. Got a gavel? Do not hesitate to use it judiciously. Maintain civility and decorum. Allow people to have their say but know when issues are getting out of hand or sidetracked.
  • Follow the old military principle of: “Tell them what you are going to tell them; Tell them, and then; Tell them what you’ve told them.” Developing a punchlist of action items at the conclusion of the meeting can be very useful for certain situations.
  • Introductions are important so participants know the cast of characters involved and their interests, but do not waste an inordinate amount of time here. Also, name tags or name cards are useful to avoid the embarrassment of forgetting names and titles.
  • Make the meeting worthwhile. Keep it interesting and informative; Heck, make it fun if you can. Make it so the attendees feel they are not wasting their time.
  • Again, know your audience – speak in terms your audience will understand. An eloquent vocabulary might be impressive, but it may also intimidate and confuse the attendees (beware of the “verbosity of bullshit” phenomenon). Also, read the body language of the attendees to see if they are paying attention.
  • I am not a big fan of histrionics. Many lecturers like people to get up, stretch, shake hands with everyone or hold a group hug. This can be downright embarrassing to people. Get to the point and move on.

REVIEW

All meetings should be reviewed, either formally or informally, to determine the success of the meeting. Informal reviews are used for short meetings to determine action items to be followed up on. Formal reviews should be considered for all lengthy meetings. Standard critique sheets should be used for attendees and the leader to evaluate the meeting. Prepare a summary and evaluate the meeting’s success. More importantly, learn from the comments received. There is little point of going through the motions of a review if you have no intention of acting on it.

CONCLUSION

Mastering the execution of an effective meeting requires a little planning, a little organization, and a lot of management. Bottom-line, how do you know if your meeting was a success? People do not groan when you call the next one.

First published: January 23, 2006

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 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Advertisements

Posted in Business, Management | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

THE IMPACT OF APPEARANCES

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 2, 2018

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– On our impressions and productivity.

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

Personal Appearance

Your appearance says a lot about how you regard others. Someone who is well dressed and groomed will command more respect than someone who is not. Today, tattoos, body piercings and facial hair are very popular among younger people. Regardless of your attitude towards them, there are still many prejudices against them in the corporate world. Understand this, the higher you go up in the corporate ladder, the more you become a visible symbol of the company you represent. If your physical appearance doesn’t convey the right image, you won’t be going anywhere. So, if you happen to like that new nose ring you put in, don’t expect that big job promotion anytime soon. Like it or not, if you’ve got body art, do yourself a favor and keep it under cover. The same is true in regards to unkempt hair, facial or otherwise. If you’re going to wear it, at least keep it neat and trimmed.

If you have to wear a tie to work, make sure it is contemporary as well as conservative. Learn to tie a decent knot (people tend to giggle at clip-ons) and the length is somewhat important. For example, a tie resting well above your belt buckle implies inadequacies in the individual, and a tie resting below the belt buckle implies someone prone to excess. The tip of the end of the tie should rest on the top of the belt buckle.

One last thing in terms of dress, “business casual” certainly does not include wearing T-shirts, jeans, shorts, gym shoes or sandals. If you clean up your appearance you will be surprised how people treat you.

Office Appearance

Your desk and office space says a lot about your character. Because of this, you should make an effort to keep your physical surroundings as clean and up-to-date as possible. As an example, the military typically operates under a philosophy whereby you either work on something, store it away, or dispose of it. This forces people to be organized. There are those who would argue “A cluttered desk is the sign of a brilliant mind.” Nothing could be further from the truth. A cluttered desk represents laziness and disorganization. People, particularly customers, prefer an orderly workplace. Think about it next time you go to a grocery store.

The point is, our physical surroundings affect our attitudes towards work. For example, I know of a small print shop with a manager who insists on keeping it spotless. Their paper products are packaged and shipped promptly, inventory is well stocked and maintained, waste is disposed of immediately, and the machines are routinely cleaned and kept in pristine form. Further, the printers are dressed in uniform jumpsuits to keep ink and chemicals from soiling their clothes underneath. Contrast this with the typical print shop that is often cluttered with debris and the machines are infrequently cleaned. The printers of the “clean” shop have a much more positive and professional attitude regarding their work than other printers working in “dirty” shops. Further, absenteeism is not a problem in the “clean” shop and the printers are proud of the products they produce. Basically, they see their workplace as an extension of their home and treat it as such.

As a footnote, I asked the manager of the print shop why his printers kept the facility so clean when others were so dirty. He jokingly confided in me, “They don’t know any better.” In reality, the manager had set operating standards and routinely inspected the premises to assure they were adhered to. Over time, it became a natural part of the print shop’s culture and now he rarely has to inspect them.

Just remember, the appearance you elect to project sends subliminal messages to those around you who will treat you accordingly.

First published: September 24, 2007

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 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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

THE FIVE MINUTE MANAGEMENT LESSON

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 26, 2018

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– The basics for anyone starting out in management.

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

I have written and taught management and systems related topics for many years, always trying to offer pragmatic approaches. Recently though, I ran into a young man who was about to become a project manager for the first time and wanted some advice on tackling the assignment. He was being put in charge of a small team of workers, consisting of seven people, and wanted to know how to best manage the project.

As this was his first management assignment, I told him the three keys to success were organization, communications, and interpersonal relations. I cautioned him against trying to over-supervise his team, in other words, not to micromanage them.

Actually, it is all rather simple:

First define the methodology for the project to follow, including the work breakdown structure, benchmarks and deliverables, and review points. Be sure to include an initial phase for planning, and an ending phase for review. Although some projects are executed serially, others may split into parallel paths.

Second, understand the skills and knowledge required to implement the project, then examine those of your workers, including their proficiencies. Provide training where required.

Third, articulate the project assignment to the team. Define the allocation of human resources within the methodology, thereby defining Who, is to perform What, When, Where, Why, and How (the 5-W’s and H). When this is done, empower the team and let them get on with their business.

The team should report progress on a regular basis, such as weekly, but otherwise stay out of their way and only get involved if a problem arises. In other words, let the workers supervise themselves, freeing you to manage the overall project. The responsibilities of the manager, as I explained it, was to:

* Plan the project carefully.
* Train the workers appropriately.
* Communicate the project assignments effectively.
* Empower the staff.
* Monitor progress routinely.
* Look for trouble spots, and take corrective action. In other words, run interference for the team.
* Regularly communicate progress to your superiors.

The real key here is to treat the workers like professionals, thereby empowering them with a sense of responsibility and ownership. To do so, avoid the temptation to micromanage everything which will only cause problems with morale and slow the projects. Employees are much more inclined to attack projects zealously if they believe management trusts their judgement and is not breathing down their throat.

Finally, be sure to review the project at its conclusion, which many people tend to overlook as they do not see the wisdom for doing so. The review should include an analysis of estimate versus actual time and money spent, what went right during the project, what went wrong, and recommendations for future projects. Sometimes this is written by the Project Manager, but it is preferable to have a third person write it who is more objective. The final report should be reviewed by all members of the project team.

If you have performed your job properly as manager, your people will become more disciplined, more enthused about their work, and will develop a professional attitude, all of which benefits the company.

Thus ended my five minute lesson.

For some of my other tutorials on management, click HERE.

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 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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

CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 2, 2018

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– How to keep on top of your game at work.

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

Let me say from the outset that the burden of responsibility for improving your skills in your chosen profession rests with YOU, not your employer. Your company may offer supplemental training but more than anything YOU are responsible for your development, not anyone else. YOU must take the initiative. In most cases, your company will assist you in your development, but YOU must demonstrate your willingness to learn and improve.

Regardless of the type of job you have, you will observe changes over time in terms of how it is performed. This is because new methods, techniques and tools are introduced to expedite how your job is performed. Staying abreast of new technology, therefore, is an important part of your development. Continuous improvement is an inherent part of craftsmanship. You must either evolve and adapt, or be left behind.

There are numerous sources available to you for ongoing professional development:

1. Personal Observations – there is probably no better instructor than your own power of observation as you will be able to watch others succeed and fail in their assignments, their work habits and ethics, as well as their office politics. This requires an attention to detail, the ability to detect changes, and an inquisitive mind that constantly asks “Why?” As a new employee, pay particular attention to interoffice memos, not just for what they say, but why they were written.

When studying people, consider their strengths and weaknesses, what motivates them, their character, and their formulas for success or failure, e.g., what worked and what didn’t? Never hesitate to ask questions, particularly as a new employee.

2. News and Trade Journals – just about every industry has some form of publication, either printed or in some electronic format, to report news and discuss trends. Such periodicals are invaluable in order to stay abreast of developments in your field. Many such publications offer free subscriptions, others require a modest charge. It is not uncommon for companies to pay for such subscriptions as they want to help their employees stay sharp in their field. But if such is not the case and you have to pay for a subscription out of your own pocket, the IRS will typically allow you to report it as a deduction on your income taxes.

There will also be considerable information made freely available to you over the Internet, such as the trade publication web sites, along with pertinent blogs, discussion groups, news services, and podcasts.

The important point here is you should develop a habit of staying current in your chosen profession, and you should perform such research either at home or during off hours at work. Managers generally frown on employees reading periodicals during normal working hours.

3. Participation in Industry Groups & Trade Shows – like the trade press, just about every industry has one or more nonprofit organizations to provide a forum to discuss your specialty. Such groups typically offer its members monthly meetings to listen to guest speakers, workshops and seminars, and access to a library of research papers. More importantly, it provides a venue for its members to network and compare notes pertaining to their profession. Participation in such groups are normally encouraged by businesses to promote the employee’s continued education. However, some companies are leery about participation in trade groups as it is sometimes viewed as a vehicle for exchanging resumes and changing jobs. If you still want to participate in a trade group without the support of your company, again, the IRS will typically allow you to report your dues as a deduction on your income taxes.

Major conventions and trade shows are also useful for learning about the latest technology in your field. Here you will meet vendors, obtain literature, view presentations, and touch and feel the latest gizmo. Companies encourage attendance at such shows, but typically not during business hours. And if the trade show is being held out of town, it is unlikely your company will sponsor your trip as it may be perceived as a boondoggle. The only exceptions to this is when such a trip is being used as either a form of reward to the employee or for a special fact-finding mission.

Check with your employer about their policy on participating in such organizations.

4. Professional Training – there are numerous commercial training programs offered by experts in their field. Most are instructor-led seminars or workshops held either on the company’s premises or off-site, and vary in length anywhere from a couple of hours to a week. There are also many independent study programs available that are implemented by books, DVD, or over the Internet. Regardless, your concern is the quality of education provided, and does the venue suit your needs?

5. Certification Programs – many professions offer certification programs which authenticate your level of knowledge in a subject area. Such programs typically require the person to take a test or examination, which can be rather extensive. To prepare people for the exam, the sponsor of the certification program (which is normally a nonprofit trade group) will offer a study curriculum to prepare the applicant for the test.

As a new employee, you should pursue certification programs, especially if your company supports it and pays for it. Not only will you personally benefit from it, but it could mean an increase in pay to you as well.

It is one thing to earn a certification, quite another to maintain it. Most certification programs require people to renew it periodically, such as every three years. A lot can happen in three years, which is why you should constantly stay abreast of developments in your profession.

6. Supplemental Education – many companies encourage their employees to either complete their formal education or pursue a higher degree. To this end, companies may offer financial incentives for you to complete High School or College. And if you want to obtain a Masters or Doctoral degree, they may offer programs to help you pay for such degrees. Be sure to review the benefits policies of your employer.

7. Mentors – years ago there was a period where mentors were assigned to new employees to chaperone them on their journey through the corporate world. Mentors were basically a “Big Brother/Sister” program where senior employees would offer sage advice to neophytes on adapting to the corporate world. But this is a program that has slowly been phased out over the last few years. Nonetheless, if you find someone you respect in the company who is willing to act as your mentor, by all means listen to them carefully. A mentor has three primary duties to perform:

* Role Model – a mentor has attributes the subordinate wants to aspire to attain.

* Teacher – a mentor has to be able to teach, not just academic or technical lessons but also those pertaining to corporate life; e.g., policies and procedures, ethics, socialization, politics, etc.

* Guidance Counselor – to guide the subordinate on their path through life, explaining options and making recommendations.

Very important, both the mentor and the subordinate must realize the mentor will not have all of the answers, but should be able to point the subordinate in the right direction to get the answers they need. The mentor also has to know when their work is complete and allow the subordinate to move on to the next stage of their corporate life.

8. Other Vehicles – there is a variety of other ways for perpetuating professional development in your company:

* Employee-led training or roundtable discussions – held on a regularly scheduled basis to discuss pertinent subjects. In other words, your own in-house trade group. The only problems here are: having access to suitable company facilities to hold such meetings at off-hours (most companies do not have a problem with this), and getting people to participate (many of whom will not stay beyond quitting time). But if you can develop such a forum, it can become invaluable as a learning aid.

* Private Blog or Discussion Group – to use as a clearinghouse to discuss problems and solutions pertaining to your trade. Some companies frown on such electronic forums as they suspect it is used to plot against the company or management. But if such forums are properly administered, they can be beneficial in the exchange of professional job-related information.

* Corporate Boot Camps – representing off-site retreats for in-depth discussions or training.

If such vehicles do not presently exist in your company, you might be able to earn accolades from management and your coworkers for setting up such forums.

Again I remind you, your professional development is up to YOU, not your employer. In most cases, your employer will encourage and support you in your professional development, but they cannot spoon-feed you. YOU must show the initiative.

First published: August 27, 2007

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 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  SAYONARA HUFFINGTON POST – It was great while it lasted.

LAST TIME:  THIS IS WAR!  – Anyone expecting a peaceful mid-term election is taking it in the arm.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Business, Management | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

DEBRIEFING: A LESSON FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 29, 2018

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– What we must all go through when joining a new company, particularly newbies.

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

What you learned in school, of course, will be useful to you in your adult life, but more importantly, it means you possess the faculties to learn, that you can be taught; two important attributes employers are looking for. They are not so much interested in what you have learned in school as much as your ability to learn and adapt, which is what the diploma represents. Regardless of your degree, most employers are going to spend a period of time debriefing you and then teach you how to do things in the manner in which they want things done. This is an important first step in acclimating into the corporate culture. And just because you have graduated, don’t think this is the end of your education. You will be learning lessons for the rest of your life. Our schools and universities do nothing more than train your mind to learn. That is their mission.

I had a friend who graduated from a trade school in Cincinnati as a machinist. He was very bright and graduated at the top of his class, making him an ideal candidate for a local tool and die company who hired him. Although my friend knew a lot about being a machinist, the company first put him through their in-house school which taught him their approach to building machines. He later confided that although he was at first skeptical of what he was going to learn, that he thought he was already suitably trained, he said what he learned from the company was light years ahead of what he learned in school. The lesson here was twofold: never be too cocky to think you know everything, and; there is always room for improvement.

Regardless of the type of company you are joining, getting debriefed is a natural part of entering the work force. Do not be insulted and resist it, learn from it. Keep one thing in mind, you are still an unknown quantity to the company and, as such, they want to point you in the right direction in starting your job. Further, you can expect quite a lot of supervision in the early stages of your employment as the company wants to be sure you are doing your job properly.

Debriefing can take many forms, a formal school like my friend experienced, classroom “hands-on” training, or simply on-the-job training. Regardless, now is the time to pay attention to detail and take lots of notes.

Being the new kid on the block (aka “Newbie”) has its advantages and disadvantages. In terms of advantages, it’s hard to blame the Newbie for things they are not expected to know yet. This means you are allowed to make certain innocent mistakes for awhile, but don’t make a habit of it. You are also allowed to ask the naive “dumb question” which nobody else will ask. In fact, the veterans are expecting you to make certain slip-ups for which you will naturally be kidded about. Take this in stride and learn from it. The disadvantages are that you will be given mundane tasks to perform initially, many of which can be called “Gofor” work, e.g., “Go for this, go for that.” The point is, as a Newbie, you are being tested to see not only how well you can perform, but how you react to certain situations. You are going to be gauged in terms of your performance, patience, persistence, diplomacy, risk, teamwork, etc. Most, if not all, of the veterans have gone through these same assignments and in order to gain their approval and trust, you must demonstrate your willingness to accept and execute such assignments. You may rightfully believe some of your tasks are below your dignity. Regardless, the best way to rise above this is to simply tackle any job they give you, do it well, do it fast, and do not gripe about it. Ultimately, how you perform in the Newbie stage establishes you on the totem pole (your seniority). It is also wise to remember this experience as it will have a bearing on how you relate to the next Newbie who comes along.

First published: August 13, 2007

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 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  THIS IS WAR! – Anyone expecting a peaceful mid-term election is taking it in the arm.

LAST TIME:  PROACTIVE VERSUS REACTIVE MANAGEMENT  – “Beware of your ‘firefighters,’ they are probably your chief arsonists.” – Bryce’s Law

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Business, Management | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

PROACTIVE VERSUS REACTIVE MANAGEMENT

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 26, 2018

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– “Beware of your ‘firefighters,’ they are probably your chief arsonists.” – Bryce’s Law

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

I have been thinking a lot about micromanagement lately. It seems the corporate world is consumed with mini-dictators who are bent on directing the activities of others. I also see this in nonprofit organizations consisting of volunteers and managed by leaders who can be rather ruthless. Nonetheless, I have also noticed there appears to be an inclination for such managers to be reactive as opposed to proactive in their style of management, and I cannot help but think that micromanagement and reactive management are somehow related.

I have met a lot of reactive managers in my time. All exhibit the following characteristics:

* Seldom has time for interoffice planning/organization meetings.

* Has trouble effectively communicating with the staff, particularly articulating objectives and plans.

* Not interested in or doesn’t heed input from subordinates.

* Spends more time supervising than managing.

* Changes priorities on the fly.

* Rarely, if ever, produces priority lists (keeps it in his/her head).

* Bipolar – knows great enthusiasms and is easily depressed.

* Thrives on chaos – sees themselves as saviors. Likes to swoop in and solve problems.

As to this last point, we have encountered situations like this on more than one occasion, but in particular we were contracted by a large insurance company in the Midwest to audit the performance of two systems development groups in the company. One group appeared to be well organized and managed; they quietly went about their business and delivered their work products on time and within budget. Another group was just the antithesis of the other; systems were installed prematurely and never to the customer’s satisfaction, and assignments were routinely late and over budget. Nonetheless, the manager of this latter group was well respected for being able to put out fires at a moment’s notice.

When we finally presented our results to the board of directors, we made the observation that their head firefighter was also the cause of all of the problems he was correcting. Yet, whereas the manager of the group who quietly produced superior work products was unrecognized, the head firefighter was being amply rewarded for his efforts. Basically, he was taking advantage of the “squeaky wheel getting the oil” phenomenon. Frankly, the executives were surprised by our comments and that such a situation had arisen in their company.

There are two reasons for reactive management; either for political gain (as in the insurance example above), or because people simply do not know how to be proactive. One excuse commonly heard from reactive managers is, “We never have enough time to do things right.” Translation: “We have plenty of time to do things wrong.” True management is hard work, requiring skills in planning, analysis, organization, leadership, and communications. To some, it is easier to let problems come to them as opposed to trying to anticipate problems and take action before they occur. In other words, they resign themselves to a life of reactive management.

The proactive manager invests his time and money in planning and, consequently, spends less in implementation. In contrast, the reactive manager regards planning as a waste of time and is content spending an inordinate amount of time in implementation, thereby incurring more costs and, because of the ensuing chaos, needs to micromanage people.

Young people coming into the workforce tend to learn from their managers and emulate their style for years to come. If they see proactive management, they will believe this is the proper way of conducting business and perpetuate this style, but if they only see reactive management…

This leads me to believe we will be plagued by reactive management for quite some time to come.

First published: January 7, 2008

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 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  DEBRIEFING: A LESSON FOR YOUNG PEOPLE – What we must all go through when joining a new company, particularly newbies.

LAST TIME:  WHO HAS REALLY GOT THE MENTAL DISORDER, TRUMP OR THE DEMS?  – Let me give you a hint, it’s not the president.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Business, Management | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

RECOGNIZING THE PETER PRINCIPLE

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 22, 2018

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– “A man has got to know his limitations.” – Dirty Harry

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

The Peter Principle was introduced back in 1969 by Dr. Laurence J. Peter in his book of the same name. In a nutshell, the principle contends that in a hierarchical organization a person will rise to the level of their competency, and trouble arises if the person rises above it. Along with Parkinson’s Law, it is one of the most well known principles in the world of management. Unfortunately, young people are unfamiliar with the concept which is perhaps why we are seeing more people lately rising above their level of competency.

So what are the earmarks of the Peter Principle? Actually, three indicators come to mind:

1. Project estimates and schedules are routinely missed. The person doesn’t just miss assignments every now and then, but consistently misses them. This is indicative of the person’s ability to see projects through to successful completion or manage by objectives. If he cannot, he either lacks the proper skills and training to perform the work, or simply doesn’t care about being late or over budget.

2. The duties and responsibilities as defined in a job description are not being met. Again, this may be indicative of the lack of proper knowledge, skills and experience, or an attitude problem.

3. The person lacks the respect and confidence of the people working around him, not only his subordinates, but his superior and lateral relationships as well. Although this is difficult to quantify, it basically tells us, “Where there is smoke, there is fire.” In other words, the person either has bad social skills, or his peers already know what he is capable and incapable of doing.

Aside from dealing with someone who is in over his head, the real challenge is to hire the right person for the right job, which is not quite as easy as it may sound. Human resource departments may have a battery of tests to verify a person’s skills and general knowledge, but successful experience and attitudes are much harder to substantiate. Again, there are three areas to consider:

1. Ability to meet project estimates and schedules. This is difficult to demonstrate and management inevitably has to rely on the person’s word for their performance. Then again, if the person had been using a Project Management system at his last job, he may have access to documentation which reflects his performance.

2. Understands the job he is applying for. This is where a lot of people get into trouble as they do not really grasp the significance of the job they are applying for, but like the title. Regretfully, people too often chase titles as opposed to jobs. To test his knowledge, ask the person to articulate the job description and how he would satisfy the requirements for it. Further, has he performed a comparable job like this before?

3. Respect of the people he worked with. Again, this is difficult to substantiate as people are more reluctant to give references these days in fear of possible litigation for giving a bad reference. Nonetheless, references should be scrutinized as closely as possible.

The one question that is commonly overlooked is, “Why do you want this job?” The answers might surprise you, e.g.; “I need a job”, “I’m looking to advance myself and need a challenge,” “I’m the right person for the job”, etc. The one I particularly like is, “I want to make a difference,” which indicates to me the person’s confidence and ambition.

Hiring people without doing a thorough examination of the person’s background is courting the Peter Principle.

Allowing people to stay in a position where they are in over their head is just plain irresponsible on management’s part. It is a disservice not only to the company, but to the employee as well. When a person has risen above their level of competency, it will become obvious to others and may affect morale. Standard and routine performance appraisals should help overcome this problem, but if they are infrequently performed or done in an inconsistent manner, the Peter Principle will inevitably kick in. Management should either work with the person to get him back on track, or terminate his employment.

I guess what troubles me here is that people apply for jobs they knowingly are not qualified for, and remarkably, every now and then they slip through the cracks and get the job. In this event, management gets what they pay for.

First published: July 21, 2008

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 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  WHO HAS REALLY GOT THE MENTAL DISORDER, TRUMP OR THE DEMS? – Let me give you a hint, it’s not the president.

LAST TIME:  MANAGING CONSULTANTS  – How to manage them effectively.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Business, Management | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

MANAGING CONSULTANTS

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 19, 2018

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– How to manage them effectively.

The need for outside contract services is nothing new. IT-related consultants have been around since the computer was first introduced for commercial purposes. Today, all of the Fortune 1000 companies have consultants playing different roles in IT, either on-site or offshore. Many companies are satisfied with the work produced by their consultants, others are not. Some consultants are considered a necessary evil who tackle assignments in an unbridled manner and charge exorbitant rates. For this type of consultant, it is not uncommon for the customer to be left in the dark in terms of what the consultant has done, where they are going, and if and when they will ever complete their assignment. Understand this, the chaos brought on by such consultants are your own doing.

IT consultants offer three types of services:

1. Special expertise – representing skills and proficiencies your company is currently without, be it the knowledge of a particular product, industry, software, management techniques, special programming techniques and languages, computer hardware, etc.

2. Extra resources – for those assignments where in-house resource allocations are either unavailable or in short supply, it is often better to tap outside resources to perform the work.

3. Offer advice – to get a fresh perspective on a problem, it is sometimes beneficial to bring in an outsider to give an objective opinion on how to proceed. A different set of eyes can often see something we may have overlooked.

Whatever purpose we wish to use a consultant for, it is important to manage them even before they are hired. This means a company should know precisely what it wants before hiring a consultant.

ASSIGNMENT DEFINITION

Before we contact a consultant, let’s begin by defining the assignment as concisely and accurately as possible; frankly, it shouldn’t be much different than writing a job description for in-house employees. It should include:

1. Scope – specifying the boundaries of the work assignment and detailing what is to be produced. This should also include where the work is to be performed (on-site, off-site, both) and time frame for performing the work.

2. Duties and Responsibilities – specifying the types of work to be performed.

3. Required Skills and Proficiencies – specifying the knowledge or experience required to perform the work.

4. Administrative Relationships – specifying who the consultant is to report to and who they will work with (internal employees and other external consultants).

5. Methodology considerations – specifying the methodology, techniques and tools to be used, along with the deliverables to be produced and review points. This is a critical consideration in managing the consultant. However, if the consultant is to use his/her own methodology, the customer should understand how it works and the deliverables produced.

6. Miscellaneous in-house standards – depending on the company, it may be necessary to review applicable corporate policies, e.g., travel expenses, dress code, attendance, behavior, drug test, etc.

Many would say such an Assignment Definition is overkill. Far from it. How can we manage anyone if we do not establish the rules of the game first? Doing your homework now will pay dividends later when trying to manage the consultant. Assignment clarity benefits both the customer and the consultant alike. Such specificity eliminates vague areas and materially assists the consultant in quoting a price.

SELECTING A CONSULTANT

Armed with an Assignment Definition, we can now begin the process of selecting a consultant in essentially the same manner as selecting an in-house employee. Choosing the right consultant is as important a task as the work to be performed. As such, candidates must be able to demonstrate their expertise for the assignment. Certification and/or in-house testing are good ways for checking required skills and proficiencies. Also, reviewing prior consulting assignments (and checking references) is very helpful. Examining credentials is imperative in an industry lacking standards. For example, many consultants may have a fancy title and profess to be noted experts in their field but, in reality, may be nothing more than contract programmers. In other words, beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Ideally, a consultant should have both a business and technical background. True, technical expertise is needed to perform IT assignments, but a basic understanding of business (particularly your business) is also important for the consultant to adapt to your environment. This is needed even if you are using nothing more than contract programmers.

In terms of remuneration, you normally have two options: an hourly rate or a fixed price. For the former, be sure the work hours are specified, including on-site and off-site. Many clients are uncomfortable paying an hourly wage for an off-site consultant. Under this scenario, routine status reports should be required to itemize the work performed and the time spent. However, the lion’s share of consulting services are based on a fixed price contract. Here, the role of the methodology becomes rather important. Whether you are using “PRIDE” or another Brand X methodology, it is important the consultant and client both have a clear understanding of the project’s work breakdown structure, the deliverables to be produced, and the review points. From this, an effective dialog can be communicated in terms of managing the project. Further, the methodology becomes the basis for the preparation of estimates and schedules.

After examining your candidates, it now becomes necessary to balance the level of expertise against price. Sure, a senior person can probably get the job done in less time, but perhaps the costs may be too high for your budget. “Expertise” versus “expense” becomes a serious consideration at this point.

Whomever is selected, it is important that a written agreement be prepared and signed. The agreement should reference the Assignment Definition mentioned above and any other pertinent corporate verbiage. Very important: make sure it is clear that the work produced by the consultant becomes your exclusive property (not the consultant’s). Further, the consultant shouldn’t use misappropriated work from other assignments. Finally, add a clause pertaining to workmanship; that the consultant will correct at his/her expense any defects found; e.g., defective software, data base designs, etc.

MANAGING THE CONSULTANT

The two most obvious ways to manage consultants is by having them prepare routine status reports and project time reports. Such reports should be produced on a weekly basis and detail what the consultant has produced for the past week and detail his/her plans for the coming week. You, the client, should review and approve all such reports and file accordingly.

A methodology materially assists in tracking a consultant’s progress. As a roadmap for a project, the methodology takes the guesswork out of what is to be produced and when. Without such a roadmap, you are at the mercy of the consultant. Along these lines, I am reminded of a story of a large manufacturing company in the UK who used one of the large CPA firms to tackle a major system development assignment. The system was very important to the client, but lacking the necessary in-house resources to develop it, they turned to the CPA firm to design and develop it. Regrettably, the client didn’t take the time to define the methodology for the project and left it to the discretion of the CPA firm. The project began and the CPA firm brought on-site many junior staff members to perform the systems and programming work. So far, so good. However, considerable time went by before the client asked the senior partner about the status of the project (after several monthly invoices). The senior partner assured the client that all was well and the project was progressing smoothly. More time past (and more invoices paid) with still nothing to show for it. Becoming quite anxious, the client began to badger the consultant as to when the project would be completed. Finally, after several months of stalling, the consultant proudly proclaimed “Today we finished Phase 1….but now we have to move on to Phase 2.” And, as you can imagine, there were many more succeeding phases with no end in sight.

What is the lesson from this story? Without a methodology roadmap, it is next to impossible to effectively manage a consultant. The project will lose direction almost immediately and the project will go into a tailspin. The only person who wins in this regard is the consultant who is being paid regardless of what work is produced. Instead of vague generalities, you, the client, have to learn to manage by deliverables.

CONCLUSION

My single most important recommendation to anyone considering the use of outside consultants is simple: Get everything in writing! Clearly define the work assignment, get a signed agreement spelling out the terms of the assignment, and demand regular status reports.

I am always amazed how companies give consulting firms carte blanche to perform project work as they see fit. Abdicating total control to a consultant is not only irresponsible, it is highly suspicious and may represent collusion and kickbacks.

There is nothing magical in managing consultants. It requires nothing more than simple planning, organization, and control. If you are not willing to do this, then do not be surprised with the results produced. Failure to manage a consultant properly or to adequately inspect work in progress will produce inadequate results. So, do yourself (and your company) a favor, do your homework and create a win-win scenario for both the consultant and yourself.

First published: July 4, 2005

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 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  RECOGNIZING THE PETER PRINCIPLE – “A man has got to know his limitations.” – Dirty Harry

LAST TIME:  TELEVISION – PAYING MORE, GETTING LESS  – With the advent of cable, television hasn’t gotten any better.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Business, Management | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

THE FIVE ELEMENTS OF MASS PRODUCTION

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 15, 2018

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– It’s what keeps products and services affordable.

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

I was recently watching a PBS biography regarding Henry Ford, the famed automotive industrialist who revolutionized manufacturing to produce affordable transportation for Americans. His “Model T” was the first automobile to be mass produced on a grand scale. Between 1908–1927, Ford produced over 15 million such vehicles. Ford’s secret to success was in two areas: recognizing average Americans as his prime consumers, as opposed to developing cars for the rich, and; introducing the concept of the assembly line whereby the vehicle was assembled quickly in stages. Ford identified over 7,000 separate tasks to be performed in manufacturing his automobile. These tasks were broken down in such a way as common laborers could perform the work as opposed to skilled craftsmen. By doing so, he was able to produce 1,000 vehicles a day, a mind-boggling number at the time, all of which were snapped up by the masses.

I’m not sure if we are all cognizant of the five elements of mass production. I don’t think it is taught in the classroom anymore, but it is something we should all be aware of in the workplace as most companies make use of it.

The Five Basic Elements of Mass Production include:

1. Assembly Line – defines the progression and synchronization of work. The Ford example is typical of manufacturing, but you can find similar scenarios in the service industry, such as restaurants, banking, insurance, etc. where there is a specific sequence of events which must be followed in order to produce the desired work product in a timely manner.

2. Division of Labor – breaks the production process into separate tasks performed by specialists or craftsmen. Subdividing the process down into smaller increments provides the means to employ common workers as opposed to developing a dependence on highly skilled craftsmen which may add to the cost to the work product. The danger here is the tedium of repetitive work, as Ford discovered. There are many ways to overcome this, such as routine breaks with light exercise (popular in Japan), or rotation through the various stations in the assembly line, thereby challenging workers to learn all facets of the work product.

3. Precision Tooling – provides mechanical leverage in the assembly line. Even in Ford’s day, he understood the need for using the most technologically advanced tools, something requiring constant monitoring and upgrading.

4. Standardization of Parts – for interchangeability and assembly by unskilled and semi-skilled workers. Such standardization provides the means to share and reuse parts not just within a single product, but between many products. Imagine you are a manufacturer of lawn mowers, and you have fifteen different models for different applications, standardization of parts lowers production costs, simplifies product development, and promotes integration within product lines. This concept can be applied outside of manufacturing as well.

5. Mass Demand – the impetus for mass production. Without it, there is no need for the other four parts. In Ford’s case, it was his desire to sell his product to the multitudes, not just one group. He recognized the need for studying consumption which, of course, is now a responsibility of Marketing to perform.

An inherent part of the production process is the concept of productivity, whereby:

Productivity = Effectiveness X Efficiency

Most people fallaciously equate productivity with efficiency, which simply gauges how fast we can perform a given task. Effectiveness, on the other hand, validates the necessity of the task itself. There is nothing more unproductive than to do something efficiently that should not have been done at all. An industrial robot, for example, can efficiently perform tasks such as welding. However, if it welds the wrong thing or at the wrong time, then it is counterproductive. It therefore becomes important in the production of any product to define Who is to perform What work, When, Where, Why, and How (“5W+H”) which, of course, is the duty of an Industrial Engineer to perform.

The Five Elements of Mass Production affects everyone and is driven by the consumer who desires products and services at an affordable price. The five elements are obviously found in manufacturing, but it can also be applied to other areas, such as systems and software development where processes and programs can be developed in a factory-like production environment. It can also be found in construction where a developer builds multiple houses or condos in a neighborhood. Actually, it’s much more prevalent than most people realize.

Next time you ask for that $.99 hamburger, thank the five elements of mass production. It is what made that product affordable to you.

First published: February 11, 2013

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 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  TELEVISION – PAYING MORE, GETTING LESS – With the advent of cable, television hasn’t gotten any better.

LAST TIME:  CRAFTSMANSHIP: THE MEANING OF LIFE  – It is universally applicable to any line of work.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Business, Management | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

CRAFTSMANSHIP: THE MEANING OF LIFE

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 12, 2018

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– It is universally applicable to any line of work.

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

When I got into the work force back in the mid-1970’s it seemed everyone dressed in a suit and tie, drank black coffee, smoked their brains out, and worked their butts off. Today, golf shirts have replaced suits, herbal tea and bottled water have replaced coffee, nobody is allowed to smoke, and rarely does anyone work beyond 5:00pm. More importantly, we used to care about the work we produced; there was a sense of craftsmanship, regardless of the job.

My Brother-in-law in Cincinnati conducted me on a tour of his company’s machine-tool shop years ago and showed me how he could take a block of aluminum and convert it into a high-precision machine tool. It was a pleasure to watch him work, as it is to watch anyone who knows what they are doing, be it a waitress, a programmer, a laborer or a clerk.

Quality and service used to be considered paramount in this country. If it wasn’t just right, you were expected to do it over again until you got it right. We cared about what we produced because it was a reflection of our personal character and integrity. But somewhere along the line we lost our way and craftsmanship has fallen by the wayside. Why? Probably because we no longer care.

In today’s litigious society, employees are acutely aware that it is difficult to be fired due to poor performance. They know they will still get paid and receive benefits, regardless of the amount of effort they put forth. Consequently, there is little to encourage people to perform better. Money isn’t a motivating factor anymore. People now expect bonuses, raises and other perks to be paid out regardless of how well they perform during the year.

We’ve also become a nation content with doing small things. America used to be known as a powerhouse that could tackle large projects, such as building skyscrapers, designing innovative bridges and tunnels spanning substantial bodies of water, engineering transcontinental railroads and highway systems, conquering air and space travel, and defending freedom not just once but in two world wars. If you really wanted something done, you talked to the Americans and no one else. Now we get excited over iPods, cell phones, and other electronic trinkets.

Many believe Craftsmanship is in decline due to the general apathy found in today’s society. Maybe. I tend to believe it is due to an erosion of our moral values. Let me give you an example. Having a child in college, my interest was piqued recently by an article describing the pervasiveness of cheating and plagiarism in our schools. It is not my intent to make a political statement here but many of the students mentioned in the article rationalized their cheating on the fact that one of our past Presidents cheated and lied under oath, and got away with it. They figured if it is okay for the Commander-in-Chief to act this way, it was an acceptable form of behavior.

Arnold Toynbee, the famed English historian, observed, “Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.” If the moral fabric of our society dies, our story is told as evidenced by other great civilizations that long preceded us. Our perspective needs to be realigned: Our personal and professional lives must be viewed as one. As Toynbee remarked, “The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.” By doing so, we identify more closely with our work and assume a greater pride in workmanship. We do not need to hear this from our boss, but rather from within. As strange as it may sound, I see Craftsmanship as being patriotic in nature; doing a good quality job is part of leading a good and honorable life and builds on the individual’s esteem, the company he works for, and the country he lives in.

The biggest problem though is that we have forgotten how to manage people. The manager’s primary goal is to create the proper work environment for employees to produce the desired work products. This is different than a supervisory capacity that directs how each person performs the various tasks of a job. In fact, I encourage managers to manage more and supervise less. I cringe when I see a manager try to “micromanage” either a Fortune 500 company or a non-profit organization. Yes, people need to be trained in order to properly perform their work but following this, employees should be mature enough to supervise themselves. In the old days, management stressed discipline, accountability, and structure; three ugly words in today’s workplace.

Understanding Craftsmanship

Some might say craftsmanship is a simple concept that we should intuitively know. Not true; most people today have no comprehension as to what makes up a good craftsman; they have either forgotten or it has simply passed them by. Craftsmanship can be found in any field of endeavor imaginable, be it in the product sector or service industry. Craftsmanship, therefore, is universally applicable to any line of work.

Craftsmanship is not “workmanship”, nor is it synonymous with quality, although the three concepts are closely related. Let’s begin by giving “Craftsmanship” a definition: “The production and delivery of quality goods or services from highly skilled workmen.”

Quality relates to the absence of errors or defects in the finished product or service. In other words, finished goods operate according to their specifications (customers get precisely what they ordered). Such products are normally durable and require minimal maintenance. Craftsmanship produces quality products. In the absence of craftsmen, a rigorous methodology or assembly line process is required to produce quality goods using workers without the expertise of craftsmen. Such processes detail “Who” is to perform “What” work, “When”, “Where”, “Why” and “How” (5W+H), thereby assuring a quality product or service is produced. Such is the underlying rationale of the ISO 9000 certification as used by many companies today. The point is, quality is not the exclusive domain of the craftsman.

Craftsmanship is also a human trait. Some might argue a computer or industrial robot can produce quality products and are, therefore, craftsmen. However, we must remember these devices are programmed by human beings in accordance with the rules of the craftsman. As such, they are an extension or tool of the craftsman.

Craftsmanship can be found in either the overall work process or a section of it. For example, there are craftsmen who are intimate with all facets of building furniture, such as a table, a chair or desk, and can implement the product from start to finish. However, as products grow in complexity, it becomes difficult to find people suitably qualified to build them from the womb to the tomb. Consider military weapons alone, such as the complicated ships, tanks, and airplanes we now use, with thousands or millions of parts to assemble. Such complexity makes it impossible for a single person to have the expertise to build the whole product. The same is true in the service sector where different types of expertise and capabilities may be required. In other words, craftsmen have a specific scope of work. The scope of work may relate to other types of craftsmen through a chain of work dependencies, e.g., Craftsmen A, B and C concentrate on separate sub-assemblies which are eventually joined into a single product.

Attributes

So, what are the attributes of a craftsman? What makes a craftsman a craftsman? There are three basic attributes described herein:

1. Possesses the necessary knowledge and skills to perform the work.

The craftsman is an expert in his field of endeavor; so much so that he could easily serve as an instructor in the subject matter. But the craftsman is also smart enough to know that education is not a one time thing, that his world and field evolve as new tools and techniques are introduced. As such, the craftsman is a student of his profession and is constantly looking to improve himself. This is exercised through such things as continued education, routine certification, studying books and trade publications, and industrial groups. The craftsman willingly participates in trade groups, often at his own expense, in order to network with his peers.

It is Important to note that the craftsman does not need to be told he needs periodic training to sharpen his skills. Instead, he takes the personal initiative to stay on top of his game. Further, the craftsman has no problem with a periodic job review; in fact, he welcomes it for it might bring out a weakness in a skill he needs to sharpen.

2. Attention to detail.

The craftsman understands and respects the process of building/delivering a product or service and is acutely aware of the penalties for cutting corners. Earlier we discussed the need for a methodology that specifies 5W+H. The craftsman is intimate with all details of his scope of work, so much so, he could probably write the methodology himself. Further, his intimacy of the work process means he can produce a reliable estimate of time and costs to perform the work.

Although many of the craftsman’s tasks may be repetitive, it doesn’t mean he easily falls into a rut. Instead, he is constantly looking for new tools and techniques to improve the work process. As such, he plays the role of Industrial Engineer who is normally charged with such a task.

The craftsman’s attention to detail also means that he demonstrates patience in his work effort. Again, wary of cutting corners, the craftsman must possess such patience in order to produce the product the right way.

3. Views professional life as an extension of his personal life.

The craftsman identifies with the end product which is where pride in workmanship comes from. In his mind, the craftsman has been charged with the responsibility of producing something, and wanting to satisfy the customer, puts forth his best effort to produce it. In other words, craftsmen take their work personally. This is a difficult trait to teach particularly in today’s society where the focus is more on financial compensation than on the work product itself. It may sound naive, but the craftsman believes he will be suitably compensated for producing superior results.

Years ago, Dick Butkus of the Chicago Bears (NFL) confounded sports writers who could never understand why Butkus played as hard as he did year after year for a losing football team. True, Dick loved the game, but beyond that, the sports writers didn’t understand one thing about the seven time All-Pro linebacker: Butkus took his job personally. It was important to him that his opponents know that they had been tackled by the best player; as he said, “When they get up from the ground I want them to say ‘it must have been Butkus that got me’.” Dick Butkus was a craftsman.

The craftsman has a burning desire to produce a superior product/service because he sees it as a reflection of himself. As such, the lines delineating their personal life and professional life are blurred. This is a significant characteristic that clearly separates a craftsman from the average worker. The craftsman’s work is his life. He does not shirk responsibility, but rather embraces it with confidence and embosses his name on the finished product. Conversely, making a work related mistake of any kind pains a true craftsman.

Job titles are normally inconsequential to the craftsman who is more interested in delivering a quality product/service enjoyed by the customer. Instead, the craftsman takes pleasure in being touted as the best in his craft. He appreciates recognition; when someone makes a compliment about a product, the craftsman views it as a personal compliment. This too runs contrary to today’s corporate world where people desperately seek recognition through simple job titles. Want someone with an inflated ego? Give them a title. Want something done right? Call a craftsman.

Productivity

“Dependable”, “professional”, and “resourceful” are adjectives that aptly describe the craftsman. He is not one who fabricates excuses but, rather, always finds a way to get the job done. The craftsman is typically your most productive employee. He is mindful of the concept of productivity that we have touted for years:

Productivity = Effectiveness X Efficiency

Most people fallaciously equate productivity with efficiency, which simply gauges how fast we can perform a given task. Effectiveness, on the other hand, validates the necessity of the task itself. There is nothing more unproductive than to do something efficiently that should not have been done at all. An industrial robot, for example, can efficiently perform such tasks as welding. But if you are welding the wrong thing, then it is counterproductive. Going back to our description of a methodology, effectiveness defines “Who/What/When/Where/Why”, efficiency defines “How.” The craftsman is well aware of the difference between the two and knows how to apply both. As such, the craftsman is in tune with his work environment and corporate culture.

So how do we make craftsmen?

Not easily. Because of the human dynamics involved with the craftsman, you will need to be a pretty intuitive manager or industrial psychologist to make it happen. Selecting suitable candidates is the logical first step. Devise an aptitude test to determine the candidate’s suitability to become a craftsman. After all, “you cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.” Aside from specific knowledge and experience in a given field (e.g., programming, woodworking, construction, accounting, etc.), here are some other important traits to look for:

* Fertility of mind – judge his ability to learn, to adapt to changing conditions, and to look beyond his scope of work. Evaluate his professional curiosity.

* Confidence – judge how well the candidate knows himself, particularly how well he knows his own limitations. He should admit his deficiencies and not fabricate excuses.

* Dedication – judge his loyalty and determination to accomplish something. What is his attendance record? What outside clubs and organizations does he belong to and how active is he in them?

* Entrepreneurial spirit – judge his personal initiative. Is he driven to succeed (but not to the point of reckless abandon)? Does he have a problem with accountability? This says a lot about assuming responsibility.

* Attention to detail – judge his ability to focus on a subject. Does he have a problem with discipline or organization? A person’s dress, mannerisms, and speech says a lot about a person.

* Reliability – judge his ability to assume responsibility and carry a task through to completion.

* Resourcefulness – judge his ability to adapt to changing conditions and persevere to see a task through to completion. The candidate cannot be inflexible; he must be able to find solutions to solve problems.

* Socialization skills – does he work better alone or as a team player? His position may depend on his answer.

When you have selected suitable candidates, here are three areas to concentrate on:

1. Develop their skills and knowledge by allowing such things as: participation in trade groups, outside certification and on-going training, subscriptions to trade journals, continued education, etc. Some companies even go as far as to develop an in-house school to teach the company’s way of doing things. If the in-house school is good, it will promote confidence through consistency. Even if people leave the company, they will recommend your company because they know the quality of the work produced. Supporting the education needs of our workers is not only smart, it is good business.

2. Teach them the need for producing quality work; they should become intimate with all aspects of their work process (5W+H). Further, instill discipline and patience in their work effort.

3. Change their attitude towards development so they become more focused on delivering a quality end-product. This is perhaps the most difficult element to teach. However, it can be realized by having them become intimate with the needs of the customer (have them visit or work with a customer for awhile – “let them walk in the customer’s shoes”). It may also be necessary to change their form of remuneration by going to a reward system for work produced (as opposed to guaranteed income regardless of what is produced). Changing the mode of financial compensation is highly controversial in today’s business world. But, as an example, can you imagine the change of attitude of today’s professional athletes if they were paid based on their accomplishments (e.g., runs or points scored, hits, rebounds, etc.) rather than having a guaranteed income? Their motivation and attitude towards their profession and team would change radically.

Candidates must learn to respect their institution, the process by which they work, fellow human beings, and themselves. They must also learn not to be afraid to TRY; that they must put their best foot forward, win or lose. Bottom-line: they must learn that their work has meaning and worth. If they don’t enjoy their work, they shouldn’t be doing it.

“There are two things that I want you to make up your minds to: first, that you are going to have a good time as long as you live – I have no use for the sour-faced man – and next, that you are going to do something worthwhile, that you are going to work hard and do the things you set out to do.”
– President Theodore Roosevelt
Talk to schoolchildren in Oyster Bay, Christmas-time 1898

Certification

Teaching the elements listed above probably cannot be done in one fell swoop. Further, companies simply don’t have the time or money to wait for the craftsman to be produced. Instead, they must understand the human spirit needs to be cultivated and be allowed to grow over time. Because of this, it is strongly recommended that an in-house certification program be devised specifying what the candidate should know and what skills and talents he should demonstrate. This should be divided into classes of progressive expertise; e.g., apprentice, intermediary, and craftsman. The ancient builders in Egypt, Rome, and Greece understood this concept and devised such classes of workmen. Other disciplines and schools follow similar tactics (the various degrees or belts in martial arts for example). Each degree is based on specific prerequisites to master before moving on to the next level.

An in-house certification program has the added nuance of making people feel special which greatly enhances their self esteem. If they are made to feel like a vital part of the company, regardless if their work of a large magnitude or trivial, they will strive to do what is best for the company overall, not just themselves. Consequently, their work adds meaning to their life.

There is one pitfall to all of this; today’s “go-go” management style fails to see how craftsmanship adds value to the company. In fact, there were companies back in the 1980’s that shut down such programs simply to reduce costs. As a result, quality suffered, repeat business was lost, products were more in need of repair, absenteeism on the job escalated, etc. Want value? How does a loyal customer base who has confidence in your products or services sound? And what effect would employee harmony have, particularly if they believed in the work they were producing? It would be mind-boggling, all because we had faith in the human spirit to produce superior results.

A final note: craftsmanship is not a one time thing. After it has been instilled in people, it has to be cultivated and perpetuated. If a manager slips even for a moment, it will go right out the window and it will take time to bring it back to life. As for me, I like to post motivational reminders kind of like the one recently spotted in the Hickey Freeman manufacturing facility in New York, “Excellence is Tolerated.”

“Manage more, supervise less.”
– Bryce’s Law

First published: January 10, 2005

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 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  THE FIVE ELEMENTS OF MASS PRODUCTION – It’s what keeps products and services affordable.

LAST TIME:  THE UGLY TRUTH ABOUT AMERICA  – What most of us already know, but don’t want to admit.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Business, Management | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
%d bloggers like this: