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Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

BEWARE OF THE WHIZ KIDS

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 21, 2017

BRYCE ON BUSINESS

– Why you should keep a tight reign on your young Mustangs.

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

Back in the 1980’s a generation of young MBA’s were unleashed on the corporate world and turned it on its ear. These “whiz kids” slashed costs wherever possible, particularly in training programs, mentoring, and reduced administrative personnel. Although their tactics did indeed save money in the short run, they created long-term headaches down the road, such as creating morale problems which lead to a disconnect between workers and their employers, which ultimately lead to outsourcing many jobs overseas. Quality in manufactured goods and services also suffered as a result of less training. Whereas employees had previously been empowered to overcome problems under a spirit of teamwork, managers began to closely supervise workers which today is commonly referred to as “micromanagement.” The point is, the whiz kids of the day made a name for themselves simply by implementing short term changes which were highly visible on the next quarterly P&L statement. Although they could show short-term benefits rather quickly, their bean counter approach had devastating long-term effects on many businesses which haunted companies for years.

Today, a new generation of whiz kids have emerged in corporate America who are again charged with turning things around in their companies. Basically, management is hoping to groom their next generation of managers by allowing these “phenoms” to shake things up. Whoever is successful moves up the corporate ladder in much the same way as Donald Trump’s old show “The Apprentice.” Realizing they have only a limited time to make a difference, such as six months before they have to move on to their next assignment, they tend to slash costs as opposed to nurturing something new, and God help anyone who gets in their way.

Case in point, I have a friend who for several years has been a supplier to a local division of a Fortune 500 company. Over the years he has developed an excellent relationship with the company who trusts him in terms of securing quality industrial supplies for their manufacturing floor at affordable prices. My friend’s company developed a reputation for going above and beyond the call of duty to serve his client and keep the Fortune 500 division happy. It wasn’t cutthroat pricing that sustained the relationship, but competitive pricing coupled with excellent service and prompt delivery. Frankly, this was a classic example of a win-win relationship between two companies where everyone was satisfied until four whiz kids came to town and tried to make a name for themselves.

The company had allotted a sizable sum of money to refurbish the plant. Understandably, my friend’s company wanted to bid on a portion of it. A detailed proposal was prepared and submitted by my friend who was told by his inside contacts that his bid looked to be the best. Regrettably, my friend’s proposal was rejected by the whiz kids, not because it wasn’t competitively priced, not because he couldn’t deliver on time, and not because he was quoting inferior materials. Instead, the whiz kids explained to him that his company had won more than its fair share of bids with their company and, consequently, another vendor would be selected. This of course did not sit well with my friend, nor his inside contacts who knew the proposal was the best. Regardless, the whiz kids were bent on getting a lower bid thereby demonstrating their ability to cut costs regardless of whatever feathers they ruffled. After all, they knew they would be transferred somewhere to another division in a few months.

My friend was not going to take this rejection sitting down. Consequently, he arranged a meeting with the whiz kids, their superiors, and his inside contacts. During the course of the meeting, my friend provided a chronology of his company’s relationship with the division. He enumerated the many projects his company had worked on, what they had saved the client in terms of money and the services they provided on a gratis basis. The testimonies by his inside contacts added to his credibility. Bottom-line, he gave evidence his company had worked in good faith with the division to save them money and provide quality materials to the satisfaction of all concerned. Management thanked my friend for his presentation and years of service, and informed him they would notify him soon of their decision.

One can only speculate as to what happened next. Suffice it to say, the whiz kids were reprimanded for threatening to disrupt a healthy business relationship, and sent packing to their next assignment. Had it not been for my friend’s tenacity, not only would his company had lost considerable business, but the Fortune 500 division would have lost a trusted business partner.

The point is, whiz kids walk a dangerous tightrope. They cannot expect to simply come in and slash and burn existing programs and not expect someone to challenge them. True, large companies need to groom the next generation of managers but I question the wisdom of assigning people to such short term assignments where they may make some crippling decisions by mistake. In my friend’s case, he took them to task, but there are a lot of people who would not, hence the problems we experienced in the 1980’s. Perhaps the biggest problem I have with the whiz kids phenomenon is that it encourages quick and dirty thinking as opposed to long-range planning.

There is nothing wrong with having some young Mustangs running in the herd, they just need to be watched carefully or they’ll start a stampede in the wrong direction.

Also published in The Huffington Post.

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 © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  THE ABSENCE OF ELECTRONICS – “Imagine no cell phones, it’s easy if you try, no PC’s or TV’s, above us, only sky.”

LAST TIME:  MEDIA MONITORS: SPINNING THE SPIN  – Another reason why the press is not fair and balanced.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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

GETTING FIRED

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 24, 2017

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– What to learn from the experience.

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

People get fired from their jobs for a lot of reasons, such as a company struggling in today’s economy, poor job performance, corporate politics, or even petty jealousies. Being fired is a real shot to the ego regardless of the reason. The first question one asks is, “Why?” Unfortunately, we don’t always get the answer, maybe because companies are afraid of possible litigation resulting from the dismissal or they believe they are trying to let the worker down easily. Consequently, employees are dumbfounded as to why they were fired or are left with a fabricated excuse, which, to me, can be more damaging than the actual firing itself.

Years ago, my father had to fire someone who had risen above his level of competency (aka “The Peter Principle”). He pulled the man aside, explained what he had done wrong and let him go. Years later, my father bumped into the man who was now working at another company. My father wasn’t sure how the man would react to their meeting. Actually, the man was quite warm to my father and confided to him that getting fired was the best thing that happened to him as he realized he was on a collision course with disaster in his old job and my father’s advice helped point him in the right direction. In other words, the firing had ultimately benefited the man in the long run and proved the point that keeping a poor performer does a disservice to both the company and the person.

Aside from economic downturns, employees typically get fired for a variety of reasons: incompetence, inability to grow and assume responsibility, failure to adapt to the corporate culture, excessive tardiness and absenteeism, bad attitude towards work, illegal acts, etc. In this situation, it is about you, the employee, and highlights a character flaw you may or may not be conscious of. In this situation, you should resist the temptation to become bitter, and try to learn from it instead. It must be something you have done (or not done), or the perception of what you have done. Either way, try to find the truth. If it is something concrete, that’s easy, but if it is a problem of perception, try to determine what the cause of the perception is and try to correct it. For example, maybe you were the victim of gossip or something misreported. Then again, maybe there is something in your character that causes people to perceive you as something that you are not. In other words, it’s time for some retrospection and soul searching. Regardless, do not dismiss the firing as just the ravings of a nut job. Remember, it is either something you have done, or the perception of what you have done.

This is why I’m a big believer of regularly scheduled employee performance reviews, which many people avoid as they feel uncomfortable talking about a person’s character. These reviews should not be taken lightly by either the manager or the employee. They are invaluable for pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of the employee, clearing up misconceptions, and formulating a course of action to improve the employee. Some companies have a policy of performing such a review 30 days from the first day of work, others wait 60 or 90 days. They are then reviewed either on an annual or semiannual basis. The point is, don’t take your evaluation lightly, try to understand what the manager is telling you and ask questions. Otherwise you might find yourself totally surprised when the boss fires you.

Hopefully, the person doing the firing will do it professionally. I have seen too many people stumble clumsily through it thereby turning it into an ugly affair, benefiting no one. This is why I wrote the paper “Firing Employees isn’t for Sissies” some time ago.

Bottom-line: Don’t be bitter about firings and reviews. You might not like them, but you should definitely learn from them.

Also published in The Huffington Post.

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 © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  ARE AWARDS REALLY IMPORTANT? – or is it your job performance?

LAST TIME:  TRUMP’S “BIG AGENDA” (Book Review)  – Trump was vilified like no other presidential candidate in history, yet he still defeated the Democrats.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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

JOB ENTITLEMENTS

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 3, 2017

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– Who says you are entitled to it?

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

I was recently talking to a young man in a local I.T. company who was lamenting how he was overlooked for a promotion. He had been with the company for a year, thought he was doing a good job, and fully expected to be promoted to a job at a higher pay level. He didn’t get it. Somewhat miffed, he was considering jumping ship to look for another job elsewhere. In response, I asked him about the stability of the company and its future potential, which he admitted was good. I then asked what kind of assignments he had worked on over the last year and his success rate. Although he raved about his work effort, he admitted he had been late and over budget on some tasks, but was quick to proclaim, “I work my butt off in there; I put in 45 hours a week.” I replied that managers are more interested in results, not necessarily the amount of time going into it. Frankly, 45 hours doesn’t impress me and I told him so.

I guess it is not surprising to see an entitlement mentality evolve in the workplace. Young people learn this in school as they progress through grades annually. People now expect routine promotions and bonuses regardless if they earned it or not. They shouldn’t. A bonus is just that, a bonus; a little extra for outstanding service. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you do not. However, if the company had a bad year, it may not be able to afford a bonus and, as such, employees should not become dependent on them.

A person is given a job promotion when an opportunity arises and an individual has demonstrated he/she possesses the skills and ability to assume the responsibility. Promotions should not be rewarded by guess or by golly (or by politics for that matter), but for demonstrated ability, a track-record if you will. Even in school, we cannot progress to the next level without adequate grades. This of course means the progress of an employee should be evaluated routinely. Although most major companies have this well defined, there are still a lot of companies who avoid evaluating their employees on a routine basis. I am always surprised when I see companies evaluating employees verbally as opposed to documenting it with a form, thereby making it impossible to accurately remember or track an employee’s progress.

We have used an Employee Evaluation Form for a number of years and have always found it to be a useful means for developing a dialog between the employee and his superior. When it is time to evaluate an employee, we ask both the employee and his manager to prepare the form separately then compare the two side-by-side. This naturally results in an interesting discussion particularly when discrepancies occur. Whereas the employee may perceive his abilities one way, his superior may have an entirely different perspective. Bottom-line, the employee evaluation should be used to clear up such inconsistencies, plot both the strengths and weaknesses of the employee, and develop a plan to improve them. If you do not have a good Employee Evaluation Form, just drop me a line and I will e-mail you the one we use.

Without a defined process to evaluate the performance of employees, they will assume all is going well and therefore feel entitled to receive such things as bonuses and promotions. A constructive employee evaluation process improves communications between the employee and the boss, points the employee in the proper direction for improving his skills thereby making him a more productive and valuable worker, and shatters the problem of job entitlements. The employee has either earned the bonus or job promotion, or he hasn’t.

Also published in The Huffington Post.

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 © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  JOB ENTITLEMENTS – Who says you are entitled to it?

LAST TIME:  WHAT IS FAIR?  – Is it in the eye of the beholder?

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Business, Management | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

ESTIMATING – GETTING IT RIGHT

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 20, 2017

BRYCE ON PROJECT MANAGEMENT

– No Virginia, there is no magic in producing a project estimate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Specify and analyze requirements.

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

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

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

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

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

7. Review with the client for approval.

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

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&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 © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  IT IS TIME FOR THE REPUBLICANS TO FLEX THEIR MUSCLES – No more excuses; let’s roll!

LAST TIME:  MY TRIP TO THE GYM  – Things have changed over the years.

Listen to Tim on News Talk Florida (WWBA 820 AM), WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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

IN PRAISE OF MENTORING PROGRAMS

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 13, 2017

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– Once almost extinct, mentoring programs are making a comeback.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&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 © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  WHERE ARE THE ADULTS? – While liberals run amok, the Republicans are firmly in control.

LAST TIME:  CLEANING MY SOCK DRAWER  – What I found 25 years later or “How to upset the sock gods.”

Listen to Tim on News Talk Florida (WWBA 820 AM), WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TRAVEL EXPENSE REPORT?

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 1, 2017

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– Are your employees abusing travel expenses?

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

Recently, I have been hearing stories regarding the abuse of corporate travel expenses, not just in small businesses but in large Fortune 500 companies as well. For example, lavish dinners and libations are being charged during the course of non-sales related events; unauthorized gifts are being purchased for family members; employees being sent to seminars and meetings, only to blow-off the meeting to return home early; and several other indiscretions.

It used to be, managers would scrutinize travel expense reports carefully before approving them for payment, but this doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. The abuse of travel expenses is a serious matter as it can be costly to companies, yet some are treating it like a fringe benefit. If left unchecked, travel expenses can drive any company into the poor house.

Policies regarding travel expenses should be spelled out in a company manual of some kind, be it a policy manual, employee handbook, or something from Human Resources. Such a manual should clearly define what expenses the company will assume, and what they will not. This includes limits of daily costs for lodging, transportation, and meals. If the employee went over the prescribed limit, they were responsible for assuming the expense.

What worries me though, is that some managers are no longer checking the expense reports for excesses, and just rubber stamp them off their desk. To make matters worse, employees can become offended if you question them about an expense, particularly Millennials. It is like they are entitled to the expense for traveling on the company’s behalf.

One way of verifying expenses is to simply attach paperwork to the expense report, particularly receipts. To substantiate an employee’s participation at an event, it is wise to ask for a “trip report” detailing what the employee did at the event and what was learned. If the employee attended a workshop or class, proof of participation should be included, such as a certificate or letter of accomplishment. The point is, no paperwork, no reimbursement.

The one problem here is in the area of smart phones where purchases can be recorded on the fly without any printed receipts, including travel tickets, and hotel expenses. This may be convenient for purchasing such items, but the employee should still be held accountable for producing the necessary paperwork. Digital expense reports may be convenient for the employee to use, but they may not be adequate for recording all of the related documentation.

Thanks to the Internet and smart phones, employees are spending more time making their own travel plans. This does two things: it distracts them from their normal job, and; they do not necessarily find the best travel deals, thereby wasting more money. This is why a corporate travel planner is important, to get the best deals while saving time for the employee.

I guess what I do not understand is all of the hubbub regarding travel expense reports, which is actually quite simple to do. Managers have a fiduciary responsibility to manage such expenses, and implementing them should be a no-brainer. As much as you may want to empower employees, they should obviously not be given carte blanche to do whatever they want. This would be a recipe for disaster.

One last note, should an employee ask indignantly, “Why do you want this documentation, don’t you trust me?” I would make it clear to the person, “If you insist on wasting the company’s money, NO, I do not trust you.”

Also published with The Huffington Post.

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 © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  BASEBALL CARDS – Are they a commodity or a memento of our youth?

LAST TIME:  TECHNOLOGY CLAIMS ANOTHER VICTIM  – Farewell to the “Greatest Show on Earth.”

Listen to Tim on News Talk Florida (WWBA 820 AM), WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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FACING REALITY

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 27, 2017

BRYCE ON BUSINESS

– People plain and simply don’t want to know it.

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

Telling the truth has gotten me into a lot of trouble on more than one occasion over the years, both personally and professionally. So much so that I have come to the conclusion that people plain and simply don’t want to know it. For starters, it’s hard to know when someone is telling the truth. A lot depends on the integrity of the person telling us something, coupled with our ability to apply logic. Erroneous results occur when we are being misled and don’t use our heads which is why people act more on perceptions as opposed to reality (which is what politicians running for office count on).

Facing reality can be a daunting task as it can be rather unpleasant. As a result, people retreat into a make-believe world or yearn for a bygone era. Let me give you an example, not long ago I took some time off to do some fly fishing in the mountains of North Carolina. The area I visited seemed to be somewhat depressed and I discussed it with a friend who had moved to the area. At one time, the area was well known as a prominent furniture maker and tobacco grower. But as foreign competition proliferated in the 1980’s and 1990’s, at a fraction of the cost of what the North Carolinians offered, companies closed their doors. Since the passage of the Federal Tobacco Quota Buyout in October 2004, North Carolina’s tobacco industry has been in a “transition” period, meaning tobacco production has sharply diminished in the area, if not disappeared altogether. All of this has given rise to unemployment, government subsidies, and a general bewilderment by the populace as to what to do next.

There are those still yearning for furniture work, but cannot seem to come to grips with the fact that the ship has sailed. Because of the natural beauty of the area, including mountains, streams, hunting and fishing, and gemstones, some would like to develop the area for tourism. Alas, this is pooh-poohed by the locals who are easily alarmed by outsiders and their perceived sinful ways. Instead, the residents have elected to simply do nothing and allow themselves to stagnate in a state of analysis paralysis. You can readily see the effect it is having on the natives as there is no hustle, no service, no nothing, just a defeatist attitude, all because they refuse to face reality.

I’m sure we have all seen instances of this throughout the country, if not in our very neighborhoods; people who are simply unwilling to recognize the truth and deal with reality; people who are unwilling to upset the status quo even at the expense of its demise. There is a scene in the movie “Men in Black” which sums it up for me; in it, Will Smith’s character (“Jay”) questions why the world doesn’t know about aliens living on Earth, “People are smart, they can handle it.”

To which, Tommy Lee Jones (“Kay”) replies, “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”

Imagine where we’ll be if we don’t face reality; maybe somewhere in North Carolina.

Also published with The Huffington Post.

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 © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  TECHNOLOGY CLAIMS ANOTHER VICTIM – Farewell to the “Greatest Show on Earth.”

LAST TIME:  A SENSE OF BUSINESS OPTIMISM  – Is a go-go era in the offing?

Listen to Tim on News Talk Florida (WWBA 820 AM), WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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A SENSE OF BUSINESS OPTIMISM

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 25, 2017

BRYCE ON BUSINESS

– Is a go-go era in the offing?

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

During President-Elect Trump’s news conference held January 11th in New York, he made the observation there is a new sense of business optimism in the country. He pointed at the news regarding Fiat Chrysler and Ford building new plants here in the United States as opposed to Mexico. News reports regarding companies such as Carrier, who will remain in Indiana, is also welcomed as are other reports of companies returning home.

In all likelihood, Trump was pleased with the recent Bloomberg report, “U.S. Small-Business Optimism Index Surges by Most Since 1980.” The report notes a significant index jump as reported by The National Federation of Independent Business’s. The NFIB reported respondents to the survey expect better business conditions in the next six months as the Trump era begins.

The Bloomberg report is re-enforced by another study recently produced by Gallup reporting a new high in people optimistic about the potential for good jobs in the United States, the highest in 15 years of Gallop polling.

Most of this appears to be a result of the election of Donald Trump and his “Big Stick” approach encouraging businesses to stay in this country. Even before his election, he took steps to reach out to businesses and encourage them to stay while promising new economic policies are in the offing. It is no small wonder this is trickling down to the American people who are beginning to regain confidence in business.

Another area of change is in “Right to Work” legislation where Kentucky recently became the 27th state to adopt such legislation. Other states include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Because states such as Kentucky, Michigan, and Wisconsin recently enacted such legislation, it may very well influence other Midwest states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Missouri.

“Right-to-work” laws are highly controversial as they are perceived as a threat to labor unions. Back in 2012, when Michigan became the 24th state to adopt it, the “Wall Street Journal” claimed that “between 1980 and 2011, total employment in right-to-work states grew by 71%, while employment in non-right-to-work states grew 32%.” They went on to report, “Since 2001, right-to-work states added 3.5% more jobs, while other states decreased by 2.6%. Similarly, inflation-adjusted compensation grew 12% in right-to-work states, but just 3% in the others.”

It should therefore come as no surprise that “right-to-work” legislation is gaining momentum. A 2016 survey by Rasmussen reported, “One-in-three Americans say they have been a member of a labor union at some point in their lives. But while 44% view unions favorably, 45% share an unfavorable opinion of them.” They went on to report, “A sizable majority of voters believes labor leaders are out of touch with their rank-and-file membership. Fifty percent (50%) think labor unions have too much political influence.”

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump adopted the motto, “Buy American, Hire American,” and the message appears to be embraced by the country. Whereas it was originally thought Mr. Trump’s lack of political experience was a liability, now it appears his business acumen has become an important asset in reinvigorating the economy and jobs. He seems to be the first president in a long time who knows how to aggressively kick start the country’s economy, and in the process, the country is gaining confidence. If he is able to follow through with his promises on such things as trade and taxes, America could very well be on the verge of a go-go era in business and once again become a dynamo. At least, that is what the American people seem to believe.

Also published with The Huffington Post.

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 © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  FACING REALITY – People plain and simply don’t want to know it.

LAST TIME:  THINKING IN 360 DEGREES  – Getting the big picture.

Listen to Tim on News Talk Florida (WWBA 820 AM), WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

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THINKING IN 360 DEGREES

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 23, 2017

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

–  Getting the big picture.

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

My company has been doing business in Japan since the mid-1970’s. We have enjoyed the experience and have marveled at how Japanese businessmen act and think. For example, it is very important for the Japanese to reach a group consensus on major decisions (an inherent part of the concept of Theory Z). By doing so, they solicit the input from all of the workers before making a decision (a bottom-up type of approach). As an American, I found this to be radically different than the western world’s top-down micromanagement approach. The Japanese approach may make for a longer sales cycle, but it simplifies implementation (after all, everyone has agreed to the decision).

As the Japanese work through a problem they tend to look at it from every angle or as they refer to it as thinking in “360 degrees.” This is a much wider perspective than what you typically find in western companies. Whereas the Japanese tend to think in terms of 360 Degrees, Americans tend to suffer from tunnel-vision, meaning they become overly concerned with a single piece of the puzzle. Maybe this is because the western world is somewhat territorial in nature. We become so obsessed with our piece of the pie we tend to overlook the entire dish.

I think a lot of this has to do with our conditioning. Whereas the Japanese are taught at an early age the importance of teamwork and cooperation, Americans are taught to be individualistic and competitive. No wonder Japanese think of the bigger picture while Americans tend to build and fight over their little fiefdoms.

Over the years I have learned that larger and more complex projects require teamwork, communications and cooperation. Maybe it is because of our natural aversion to cooperate, and not to think in terms of 360 degrees, that we have difficulty conquering anything of substance in this country anymore. This may be a major factor why we no longer think big and are content doing small things.

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 © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  A SENSE OF BUSINESS OPTIMISM – Is a go-go era in the offing?

LAST TIME:  WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT THE PRESS  – Dealing with an irresponsible press.

Listen to Tim on News Talk Florida (WWBA 820 AM), WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

 

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PERFECTION REQUIRES PATIENCE

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 16, 2017

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– Sometimes it is simply not possible to achieve.

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

If you ever happen to see a craftsman at work, regardless of their field of endeavor, they are mindful of Michelangelo’s axiom, “Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.” This of course means perfection rarely occurs in quick and dirty situations. Instead, a methodical approach is preferred over trial and error, whereby careful consideration is given to all of the elements of planning, design, testing, and installation, where the development of each component in the product is carefully scrutinized for quality. In other words, perfection requires patience to achieve. We should, therefore, be mindful of the speed versus defect phenomenon, whereby the faster we go the more likely we are to experience defects in workmanship; the slower we go, the less likely.

Regardless of our best intentions, it is still possible to overlook a minuscule detail thereby hindering perfection. Sometimes perfection is simply impossible to achieve, which is when we have to become practical and change tactics.

To illustrate, years ago we were hired by a Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan to look over a new Claims Processing system they were building. The focal point of their problem centered on adjudicating claims whereby they wanted to devise an automated way to analyze a claim and determine the amount of money to be paid out. They had spent considerable time and money analyzing adjudication and were frustrated they couldn’t come up with a standard algorithm for computing all claims. We studied the problem and found that 90% of their claims were easy to analyze and calculate adjudication. For example, simple doctor visits, a broken bone, normal childbirths, etc. were easy to analyze and compute. However, unusual medical claims such as complications at childbirth, and accidents from a massive car accident, involved many more variables and, consequently, were difficult to compute based on standard algorithms. After studying the problem carefully, we reached the conclusion that trying to accurately calculate 100% of all claims was an impossibility. It was simply not practical to try to achieve this lofty goal and, as such, was a waste of time pursuing it. Instead, it was our advice they simply automate the 90% claims they could easily perform and segregate the remaining 10% for handling by a human adjuster. To their surprise, this worked remarkably well and saved them considerable money.

Too often in systems and software development people try to do the impossible and often run into a stumbling block when trying to achieve their goal. Do we continue to waste time and money on a problem that cannot be conquered or do we stop, lick our wounds, and move around? The problem is knowing when to stop.

This is ultimately based on the concept of the “80/20 Rule” (aka, “”Pareto’s Principle”). Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who observed in 1897 that 80 percent of the land in England was owned by 20 percent of the population. Pareto’s theory thereby relates to the ratio of input to output; e.g. twenty percent of your effort produces 80 percent of your results. From a time management perspective, it means 20 percent of the people are normally responsible for producing 80 percent of the work.

The concept of 80/20 can also be applied in other situations, as demonstrated by the above Claims Processing System. The point is, instead of continuing to beat your head against a wall, maybe it will be more practical to simply walk around it.

Also published with The Huffington Post.

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 © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  TRUMP’S INAUGURAL ADDRESS: WHAT WE NEED TO HEAR – What should his speech include?

LAST TIME:  TAKING THE SPORT OUT OF ATHLETICS  – Is the scientific approach dehumanizing sports?

Listen to Tim on News Talk Florida (WWBA 820 AM), WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; KIT-AM (1280) in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

 

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

 
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