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Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

INDIFFERENCE IN CUSTOMER SERVICE

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 21, 2020

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– Just “okay” is not okay.

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

Customer Service is generally regarded as the “front-line” for any business. It is their responsibility to service the customer, answer questions, expedite problems and keep the customer happy, thereby encouraging repeat business. It is intended to make money, not lose it. At least, in theory, that is what it is supposed to be.

Not long ago we decided to switch banks, which is no small decision for any company to make. We had grown weary of how our old bank was “nickel and diming” us to death on frivolous charges. Even though we would call to complain, they were slow to correct problems. Such incidents occurred so frequently we decided to take our business elsewhere, but before doing so we gave the bank one last chance by telling them if these trivial matters didn’t cease we would be forced to withdraw our account from their bank, to which the customer service rep said indifferently, “Okay.” We then exited stage right and opened a new account in another bank which we have been pleased with so far.

A few months after we moved, a manager from the old bank called to say he noticed we had moved our account and what they could do to get our business back. We politely told him it was too late, but he should look into getting some new customer service reps.

A similar incident happened with our garbage collection service. Their rates slowly rose to a point where we started to look for another less expensive service. We called our current service and talked to a customer service rep to ask what they could do about lowering their rates. She wouldn’t budge. We said we then had no alternative but to go with another service, to which she said “Okay” and hung up. Again, about a month after we canceled the service, a manager called to ask why we had left them. We explained the problem and the response from his customer service rep.

I have a friend who is a sales manager for a large distributor of industrial supplies. He primarily hustles around the area meeting new customers and checking on existing ones. After a customer is established, they can call in orders, large or small, to the main office who should promptly process and ship accordingly. One day, late on a Friday afternoon, a customer called in a small order for a box of tape. Since it was late in the day on the last day of the work week, the customer service rep figured the order could wait until Monday morning. He thought wrong. The box of tape, as innocuous as it seemed, was actually very much needed by the customer. When he didn’t get it in time, he became very upset and the company lost the customer forever. This did not sit well with my friend who had to discipline the customer service rep for the snafu.

Customers do not like to be taken for granted. They want to be assured their best interests are being maintained by their vendors. From this perspective, “Okay” is not okay. The only excuse for indifference in customer service is when the customer is becoming more trouble than he is worth. Even then, he may affect sales simply from a reference point of view. This also means maintaining the status quo will not suffice. Regardless of the policies and procedures in place, customer service reps need to go beyond the call of duty to keep the customer happy. It is what we used to call “hustle.” In other words, they cannot afford to go on automatic, but rather think and take charge of the situation.

Let me give you an example, a few years ago I was flying on American Airlines from Tampa to Seattle, with a connection in Dallas. This was an important business call as I had a sales presentation to make. Understandably, I became upset when the Tampa flight left unexpectedly late. As I arrived in Dallas, I realized I was going to miss my connecting flight. Consequently, I was instructed to get in line to talk to a customer service agent, a line which moved painfully slow and my temper began to rise noticeably. So much so, an older agent read the rage in my face and asked me to step out of line and over to the counter where she was working. Before I could give her a piece of my mind, she raised her hand calmly and said, “Stop. I will take care of you.” I explained my problem and, to her credit, she had me rerouted and solved my problem. I found it remarkable how she was able to read me and defused the situation. She did it professionally and, frankly, with a lot of class. So much so, she turned a hostile customer into a happy one. I think her maturity and experience had a lot to do with it, but “Okay” was not okay with her, nor was the status quo. The process didn’t solve the problem, it was her personality and socialization skills that saved the day.

Keep the Faith!

P.S. – Also, I have a NEW book, “Before You Vote: Know How Your Government Works”, What American youth should know about government, available in Printed, PDF and eBook form. DON’T FORGET GRADUATION DAY. This is the perfect gift!

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

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance 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 timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2020 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: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

THE POWER OF THE INVERTED TRIANGLE

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 19, 2020

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– For management, which triangle do you follow?

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

Whenever I teach a class in information systems design, I always stress the importance of up-front planning; e.g., study the business problem, specify requirements, develop the system architecture and logical data base, and define programming specs. I am not talking about something as simple as an “app,” but major systems, such as an inventory system, manufacturing, payroll, defense, health care, etc. By taking this approach, you eliminate the guesswork for programmers who will inevitably produce a superior system satisfying the end-User’s requirements, all because we spent more time planning. This approach is essentially no different than the design of any product or construction assignment where it is essential to do the up-front planning.

There is just one problem with this, most companies will not do it. Instead, analysts are encouraged to rush through the up-front planning before passing things over to the programmers. Under this scenario, programmers are given inconsistent and incomplete specs, thereby spending an inordinate time in programming second-guessing what is needed, not to mention rewriting software over and over again. If we built bridges the same way we build systems in this country, this would be a nation run by ferryboats.

This can visually be described through the use of triangles, both an inverted triangle (top heavy) and a normal pyramid (bottom heavy). The approach I endorse is the inverted triangle, which shows more time being spent up front in the planning stages (top half), thereby simplifying programming (as represented by the bottom half). The other approach can be represented using the pyramid whereby little time is spent studying the problem and planning (top half), and more time in programming (lower half). In fact, the foundation is open ended as such projects will continue onward by re-writing programs. Understand this, “No amount of elegant programming or technology will solve a problem if it is improperly specified or understood to begin with.” – (Bryce’s Law)

This perspective on triangles can be applied to other areas; as I mentioned, product development, construction, and particularly management. Here, the inverted triangle represents a “proactive” approach whereby considerable time is spent at the start of a project performing planning activities, such as network analysis, project estimating, scheduling, resource allocation, etc. By doing so, the manager is taking charge of the project’s destiny, thereby avoiding a crisis later on. The bottomless pyramid represents a “reactive” form of management that invites trouble to occur before taking action.

Interestingly, many people prefer working in a “reactive” mode, particularly people in Information Technology. Whereas some cultures, such as the Japanese, South Koreans, and Germans tend to worry about the big picture, Americans tend to be myopic, which explains why we have suffered from disasters over the years, e.g.; Pearl Harbor, Hurricane Katrina, 911, etc.

Hopefully, these triangles will cause you to reflect upon your organization’s approach to management; are you in a constant “firefighting” mode or are you in control of your destiny? Just remember, it’s Ready, Aim, Fire; any other sequence is counterproductive.

Keep the Faith!

P.S. – Also, I have a NEW book, “Before You Vote: Know How Your Government Works”, What American youth should know about government, available in Printed, PDF and eBook form. DON’T FORGET GRADUATION DAY. This is the perfect gift!

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

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance 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 timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2020 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 FIRST THING WE DO, LET’S KILL ALL THE BEAN COUNTERS

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 14, 2020

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– With apologies to William Shakespeare.

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

Nope, its not the lawyers; its the “bean counters” that are ruining business. Let me give you an example, I know of a large machine-tool operation in the Midwest who used to be heralded for producing quality products. To this end, the company established an in-house school who taught their machinists how to build products, not just any old way, the company’s way. The school was led by the senior craftsmen of the business who took pride in their workmanship and passed this on to the new employees. When an employee graduated from the school, a machinist not only knew his job, but took pride in his work and became loyal to the company due to its reputation. Even if an employee dropped out and went elsewhere, he would always recommend his former company’s products because he knew they were built with quality. This school went on for a number of years and became a part of the corporate culture. However, in the 1980’s the company hired a team of MBA’s to look over their operations and make recommendations for improvement. You must remember, this was a time when cost cutting was the norm. After looking over the financial statements of the business, the management consultants concluded the school represented a costly overhead and convinced the company to close it down.

Shortly after the school’s closure, the company started to experience a drop in morale, absenteeism and tardiness began to rise, and craftsmanship began to deteriorate. Product quality dropped significantly and the company began to lose customers, so much so, they eventually sold off their machine-tool operations and went into a totally new line of business. Keep in mind, prior to this the company was a leader in the machine-tool industry and generated substantial profits from it.

Obviously this story isn’t unique as we have witnessed several such changes in the corporate landscape during the 1980’s and 1990’s. The point is, the bean counters have taken charge of business which has triggered sweeping changes in how we deal with our customers, our vendors, and our employees.

LOSING THE PERSONAL TOUCH

Under the bean counter approach to business, numbers are all that matter. Of course, paying attention to the bottom-line is always important, but this should not result in a callous way of operating a business. To me, studying the numbers is analogous to watching the dials and gauges of a machine. It is like watching the speedometer of an automobile, but if I observe an emergency vehicle approaching or see a drunk driver nearby, I am going to ignore the gauge and do what is proper. I am going to make a human decision and do what is best for my passengers and myself, as well as the other surrounding vehicles. If I only did what the dials and gauges told me, I would probably harm others.

The bean counter approach to business represents a very mechanical way of operating. Let me give you an illustration. I have a friend here in Florida who is the state sales manager for a home health business (a lucrative business for a retirement state like Florida). The company was recently purchased and a new management team put into place run by bean counters. After studying sales figures, management found a salesman who wasn’t making his quota and, consequently, instructed my friend to terminate his employment. My friend knew the salesman in question and realized he was experiencing some personal problems. After considerable discussion with corporate management, he convinced them to let him (the Sales Manager) work with the salesman a while longer to see if he could help him. He pointed out to management, the alternative was to start the laborious and costly process of recruiting and teaching a replacement. Management acquiesced and granted the salesman a stay of execution. Over the next few weeks, the Sales Manager was able to work with the salesman, helped him overcome his personal problems and rebuilt his confidence. Since then, the salesman has gotten back on track and has been exceeding quota ever since.

Bean counters do not understand or appreciate the true business of a company. They make knee-jerk reactions based strictly on numbers, not on human intuition or social interaction. It is no small wonder the corporate world has become dehumanizing. I know of a medium sized semiconductor business in the Southeast who also experienced a similar phenomenon. The company was founded by a man with little formal education, but a lot of “street smarts.” He took a hands-on approach to the startup of the company which grew in leaps and bounds. As the company settled into maturity, the founder began to slow down and brought in a new management team to take over the reins. His new management team had some pretty slick business school credentials but, inevitably, they were nothing more than bean counters. Under their watch, corporate growth was arrested and the company’s stock diminished radically. Today, a company that was at one time a robust and thriving business with loyal customers and dedicated employees is a mere shadow of its old self.

Conducting business is more about our interpersonal relations with customers, vendors and employees, than it is about watching dials and gauges. As the famed W. Edwards Deming once said:

“Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your product or service, and that bring friends with them.”

Keep in mind, Deming understood the need for statistical analysis and watching the bottom-line, but he also realized they were nothing more than the dials and gauges of the business.

CONCLUSION

Under the bean counter approach we have lost the personal touch for conducting business. Companies have become cold and calculating, certainly not the types of businesses we want to work for or with. Always remember that bean counters believe conducting business is simply manipulating numbers, not in building products or servicing customers. Yet, for some unfathomable reason, we have put them on a pedestal and expect them to competently guide our companies, but the only thing I see them guiding is our foreign competitors who take over our market share.

To paraphrase William Shakespeare, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the bean counters.”

“Business is about people, not just numbers.”
– Bryce’s Law

Keep the Faith!

P.S. – Also, I have a NEW book, “Before You Vote: Know How Your Government Works”, What American youth should know about government, available in Printed, PDF and eBook form. DON’T FORGET GRADUATION DAY. This is the perfect gift!

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

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance 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 timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2020 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: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

TELL THEM WHAT YOU NEED, NOT WHAT YOU WANT

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 31, 2020

BRYCE ON BUSINESS

– Getting to the root of an I.T. problem.

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

When a person visits a doctor to complain about an ailment, it is not uncommon for the patient to try and diagnose the problem himself and prescribe a cure. The doctor listens politely but then asks a series of questions aimed at analyzing the patient’s symptoms, for example, “When and where did you first notice this?” “How often does this happen?” “What medication are you currently taking?,” etc. By analyzing the symptoms, the physician is trying to diagnose the problem. If he cannot ascertain the problem through questioning or a basic examination, he may order additional tests, such as an MRI, X-rays, a CAT scan, blood tests, urine samples, etc. The point is, the doctor is more interested in attacking the root cause, not just the symptoms.

We see this same type of phenomenon in Information Technology (I.T.) related projects where the end-user approaches the I.T. manager with a request for service whereby he sincerely believes he knows the right technical solution to solve his business problems. Two things may result from this request: either the I.T. department will treat the users symptoms, and give him what he wants, thereby not really solving his business problem correctly, or; the I.T. department will study the user’s problem more closely, possibly order some tests, and prescribe a solution that properly addresses his problems. Regrettably, this latter approach is rarely performed in companies anymore.

There is still a huge frustration factor between users and I.T. developers. On the one hand, users claim, “They (the I.T. people) don’t understand me,” and on the other hand, the I.T. people contend the users “don’t know what they want.” This void between the two groups is unhealthy and not conducive for solving the company’s problems. Frustrated, I.T. management tells developers not to ask questions, “Just give them what they want.” This scenario is obviously counterproductive, yet commonplace in the corporate world today.

When I am asked how to deal with this situation, I emphasize the doctor-patient analogy as mentioned above. First, the I.T. people have to learn to ask more questions and differentiate symptoms from problems. In other words, let’s not be in such a hurry to program a solution before we truly understand the problem. I.T. has a horrible track record in this regard. The idea of specifying user information requirements is the Achilles’ Heel of every development project. If it is performed superficially, the wrong solution will inevitably be delivered. Second, the user should play the role of a patient, meaning don’t try to prescribe a solution but concentrate on what you truly need and let the doctor (the I.T. department) prescribe a suitable solution. After all, who has more training in this regard, the doctor or the patient? Let the I.T. people do what they’re trained to do (and are paid for).

As long as we know our roles and do not try to do the other person’s job, we’ll get along just fine. Now turn your head and cough.

Keep the Faith!

P.S. – Also, I have a NEW book, “Before You Vote: Know How Your Government Works”, What American youth should know about government, available in Printed, PDF and eBook form. DON’T FORGET GRADUATION DAY. This is the perfect gift!

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

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance 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 timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2020 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 | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

THE PROBLEM WITH CERTIFICATION PROGRAMS

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 19, 2020

BRYCE ON BUSINESS

– They are not all created equally.

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

There are several types of professional certification programs in the world today, be it in engineering, construction, auto repair, medicine, etc. Basically, certification is saying the holder is proficient in a specific subject and should be recognized as a legitimate professional. To the holder, certification looks good on a resume and, thereby, is useful for generating more income. To the customer, certification instills confidence that the holder theoretically knows what he or she is doing. Such programs are supposed to define the level of competency needed to perform certain tasks and means the holder is intimate with specific methods, tools and techniques needed to perform the work. It is also not unusual for certifications to be renewed periodically to assure the holder is staying abreast of industrial developments.

However, not all certification programs are created equally and many are not worth the paper they are printed on. Two things bother me about certification: when it becomes too easy to obtain one, and if the certification is based on sheer humbug.

I’ve seen some programs where a person is awarded certification simply for signing the attendance roster for a class or seminar (and then quietly slips away for a round of golf). It shouldn’t be a matter of merely attending a class, but if you truly learned something which, of course, should mean passing a test of some kind. The validity of certification is dubious if it only requires signing your name and answering an open book test. All it means is that the holder knows how to read and write.

I have seen some certification programs based on plain quackery, particularly in the I.T. industry. It is one thing to demonstrate proficiency in a particular programming language or technology, quite another when it comes to theories of management, systems or any area lacking standardization. In other words, certification should be based on science, not art. The difference between an art and a science is subtle but significant. An art form is based on the intuitiveness of the person performing the work, something that is difficult, if not impossible, to pass on to another human being. For example, apprentices serving under an artist may try for years to emulate the master, but may never attain his level of skill and creativity. In contrast, a science is based on tried and proven concepts and facts and, as such, can be easily taught to others. Certification, therefore, should be based on science, not art. Any certification program Without a set of standards and proven principles is meaningless.

It should be no small wonder why I am skeptical of someone claiming to be certified in a particular field of endeavor. It might sound nice, but I still want to determine if the person is truly competent before they perform a service for me. I consider such things as: what they know, what experience they have, how rigorous was the testing for their certification, and the integrity of the institution issuing the certificate.

Just remember, certification programs are big business. True, there are legitimate certification programs out there, but there are also some that are nothing more than marketing ploys. Does all this mean I frown upon certification programs? Absolutely not. I’m just saying, “caveat emptor” and challenging the institutions to be less frivolous in how they are issued.

Keep the Faith!

P.S. – Also, I have a NEW book, “Before You Vote: Know How Your Government Works”, What American youth should know about government, available in Printed, PDF and eBook form. DON’T FORGET GRADUATION DAY. This is the perfect gift!

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

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance 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 timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2020 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 | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 17, 2020

BRYCE ON BUSINESS

– Why can’t we build anything of substance anymore?

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

Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium was opened in 1970. At the time, it was considered “state-of-the-art” and easily accommodated two professional teams as their home, the Cincinnati Reds (MLB) and Bengals (NFL). I lived in Cincinnati at the time and vividly recall the sales pitch presented the public. Not only would the stadium be large and spacious with ample parking, the structure would also be easy to maintain and modify to accommodate future considerations. For example, it was claimed the roof could be enclosed, thereby offering an indoor stadium safe from inclement weather. Guess what? The roof was never added, nor much of anything else. Although the stadium was structurally fine and in good shape, it was closed in 2002 and replaced by two separate stadiums, one for baseball and another for football, both at considerable expense to the taxpayer. Whereas Riverfront lasted just 32 years, its predecessor, Crosley Field, a stadium which was certainly no engineering marvel, lasted 58 years. The point is, Riverfront was an excellent example of planned obsolescence. Architects knew the stadium would be demolished and replaced before a nickel would ever be spent on its modification.

We see other examples of planned obsolescence just about everywhere: in our automobiles, where everything expires when the warranty times out; in our homes, which require constant upkeep, and; most noticeably in our electronic devices, particularly computers and cell phones which seem to be designed to self-destruct in about two years. Maybe we don’t know how to design things to last anymore, but I tend to believe the consumers have been conditioned to think with a disposable mentality. We no longer try to build anything for the future, just for the almighty buck. It’s no small wonder “quick and dirty” has replaced craftsmanship in the workplace.

Although we like to brag about our technology, I seriously doubt we could build anything as durable as the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the Great wall of China, Stonehenge, the Roman Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or the Taj Mahal of India. Even the great Hoover Dam, the Empire State Building, and the Golden Gate Bridge are under 90 years of age (the Brooklyn Bridge though is 136 years old). Is it because we lack the knowledge to build things to last? No, we simply lack the desire to do so as it is all about economics.

The classic 1951 comedy, “The Man in the White Suit,” starring Alec Guinness, drives this point forcefully home. Guiness plays a researcher at a textile mill who invents a new type of thread that is indestructible and repels dirt. When both the mill’s managers and the union workers realize Guiness’ invention would ultimately cost them money in the long run (as people would not need to constantly buy new clothing), they go out of their way to undermine his discovery and sabotage his work. It’s an excellent movie, and I particularly liked the ending.

Interestingly, even our movies are not meant to last as they are remade every few years; consider, for example, “Mutiny on the Bounty” which was made into motion pictures in 1916, 1933, 1935, 1962, and 1984. Even our movies and music are not meant to stand the test of time.

I don’t know about you, but it bothers me that we lack the ability to build anything of substance anymore. It sure doesn’t instill any confidence in our civilization. As an aside, wouldn’t it be funny if we learned that Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium and the Great American Ball Park, the two stadiums replacing Riverfront, were designed complete with places to plant dynamite charges to implode the structures at the end of their usefulness? I’m betting by 2030, the City of Cincinnati will pull the trigger on both stadiums. Boom! I guess it’s “easy come, easy go” (with the taxpayer picking up the tab).

Keep the Faith!

P.S. – Also do not forget my books, “How to Run a Nonprofit” and “Tim’s Senior Moments”, both available in Printed and eBook form.

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

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance 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 timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2020 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 | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN EAST & WEST

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 12, 2020

BRYCE ON BUSINESS

– Big differences in corporate culture.

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

I’ve been to Japan several times over the years on business and have had the privilege of seeing Japanese work habits first hand, which are noticeably different than in the United States. As a small example, the first time I visited, I noticed in addition to having Coke and Pepsi machines on a street corner, there were also beer and whiskey machines. I discovered the Japanese were not worried about the youth getting alcohol from the machines as it would cause their families to “lose face” through embarrassment. If we had such machines in this country, they would probably be emptied by our youth faster than the vendors could stock them.

Aside from this though, there are a few other differences I observed in corporate Japan:

1. Japanese do not like to say “No” to someone as they do not want to offend the person. Instead, they tend to say, “Maybe Yes,” which, when translated, means “No.” If they nod their heads in the affirmative, it only means they understand what you are saying but they don’t necessarily agree with you. Because of this, it is not uncommon for American businessmen to fool themselves into believing they are being successful when they make a presentation in Japan. In reality, the Japanese understood the presentation but need time to digest and discuss it among themselves. If an American asks them something like, “Was I correct in this regards?” If they answer, “Maybe Yes,” the American is in trouble.

2. I’ve been in a few large offices in Japan where I have seen young employees suddenly jump up on their desks and give a five minute speech on why he is proud of his company and what a pleasure it is to work with his coworkers. When finished, the rest of the office politely applauds before returning to their work.

3. It is not proper for an employee to be insolent and openly criticize his superior. Knowing this may lead to pent up frustrations, some companies have small closet-sized rooms where the disgruntled employee can go into, close the door, and quietly beat an effigy of the boss with a bamboo stick. It may sound kind of silly, then again, you don’t hear of anyone going “postal” in Japan either.

4. It is still important for the Japanese to reach a consensus on any significant decision. This process may take some time to perform, but they want to emphasize team building and inclusion of employees in the decision making process.

5. When you join a major company in Japan it is common to first “pay your dues,” whereby you and your “class” (those who joined at the same time) are put on the same employment level and work for ten years, after which it is determined who the hard workers are and reward them with a major job promotion. If you didn’t work hard, the company won’t necessarily fire you, but your advancement in the company is arrested. Nonetheless, the emphasis here is on teamwork and creating a spirit of cooperation.

In the United States though, things are a little different…

1. Americans are not afraid of offending anyone. So much so, that “Hell No!” (or stronger) is a natural part of our vernacular. Unlike the Japanese who digest something before speaking, Americans do not hesitate to tell you whether they agree with you or not.

2. Rarely do you find an American employee who is steadfastly loyal to his company. Instead, it is more likely he will start an anonymous blog to bitch about his company and slander the character of the boss and his coworkers.

3. Americans tend to vent their frustrations more publicly than the Japanese. For example, you might get attacked in the company parking lot, or someone may pull a gun out and start shooting.

4. Instead of group decision making, Americans prefer rugged individualism whereby decisions tend to be made unilaterally as opposed to seeking the counsel of others. Consequently, employees tend to undermine any decision which is jammed down their throats.

5. When you join a major company in the United States, you are rewarded more for individual acts as opposed to team playing. This results in a never ending game of scratching and clawing your way up the corporate hierarchy. Obviously, this approach promotes interoffice politics and cutthroat tactics as opposed to a spirit of cooperation.

Why the substantial differences? Primarily because Japan is a homogeneous culture, and the American “melting pot” is heterogeneous which includes people of all races, faiths, and beliefs.

Although the differences between east and west are noticeable, things are slowly changing in Japan, whose youth have grown up with the Internet and are starting to emulate the work habits of their counterparts in the west. In other words, instead of observing courtesy, honor and respect, Japan is slowly becoming Westernized and I fear that some time in the not too distant future “Maybe Yes” will mean nothing more than that.

Keep the Faith!

P.S. – Also do not forget my books, “How to Run a Nonprofit” and “Tim’s Senior Moments”, both available in Printed and eBook form.

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

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance 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 timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2020 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 | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

HUMAN RESOURCE DEPARTMENTS

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 28, 2020

BRYCE ON BUSINESS

– Is it out of control?

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

Years ago, companies had what was called “Personnel” departments that basically took care of employee records, dealt with labor relations, and promoted jobs internally within a company. It wasn’t glamorous work, but it was necessary nonetheless. This function evolved and blossomed over the years to what is now referred to as the Human Resources Department. It went from basic record keeping to recruiting, training, benefits, career development, and much more. Yet, time and again, I hear from friends and contacts in corporate America who speak with disdain when the term “H.R.” is brought up. When asked why, they describe it as a huge and lethargic bureaucracy which is more of an impediment than an expediter for conducting business.

One area that is frequently criticized is recruiting which I have heard characterized as a “black box” whereby both candidates and department managers wait weeks or months for H.R. to make the necessary arrangements, and process paperwork. Candidates are frustrated and feel like they are left in limbo. Consequently, they start to look for work elsewhere and the company loses potentially good employees. Department managers are likewise frustrated as they are anxious to tackle pressing projects and assignments. Some have become so frustrated, they hire consultants as opposed to going through the arduous H.R. process of hiring employees. They simply want to get the job done and don’t have time for bureaucracy.

Understand this, H.R. would not be the behemoth it is today if we didn’t live in a litigious society where everything seems to end up in court. It is no small wonder they are often referred to as the “PC Watchdogs” (“Politically Correct”) as their mission, in part, is to keep the company out of court. From this perspective, perhaps the best way to think of H.R. is as a necessary evil.

The intent of H.R. is to bring standard and consistent practices in the use of Human Resources, which is good. However, if H.R. is perceived as a roadblock to progress, you have to wonder about its usefulness and question how it is organized. For example, should it be a centralized or decentralized function? Ideally, the H.R. department must remember it serves the rest of the company, not the other way around.

Keep the Faith!

P.S. – Also do not forget my books, “How to Run a Nonprofit” and “Tim’s Senior Moments”, both available in Printed and eBook form.

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

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance 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 timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2020 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: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

“I SCREWED UP”

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 5, 2019

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– “The longer you delay admitting a mistake, the more expensive it will be to correct.” – Bryce’s Law

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

Nobody likes to admit making a mistake. We tend to believe it makes us look bad in the eyes of our coworkers, friends and particularly the boss. It’s a real test of our integrity. Some people like to cover-up mistakes so they go undetected or, even worse, let someone else take the blame for them. I find mistakes tend to fester and grow if left unchecked, thereby causing bigger headaches and costing a lot more money if we don’t catch them in time.

Every once in awhile you have to look your boss straight in the eye and say, “I screwed up.” It’s kind of like having a priest listen to your confession. Although the boss may be disappointed, he will be appreciative of the fact you came clean with him early on and brought the problem to his attention where it can be caught and corrected with minimal damage.

In this day and age of micromanagement you don’t see too many people willing to admit a mistake. They take on an assignment, get in over their head, and fail to yell for help in time. This does a disservice to the assignment, the people depending on you, and yourself. In business, it is not uncommon to see people rising above their level of competency (aka, “The Peter Principle”). In other words, they have been placed in a position where they are incapable of performing their job effectively. Keeping them in this position is a disservice to the company as well as to the person. Frankly, I think we have too many people in over their heads who refuse to ask for help, which I consider a pretty scary operating scenario.

We have all made mistakes we wish we could take back and correct, some small, others real beauts, but there is nobody out there without a blemish on their record, which is why we are all willing to forgive, provided the person comes clean with it early on.

There’s an old axiom in business that says, “If you make 51% of your decisions correctly, you will be a success.” I’m not suggesting we don’t strive for perfection, but we should all realize it is an impossibility. After all, the last guy who was perfect, they hung on a cross.

Originally published: July 15, 2008

Keep the Faith!

P.S. – Also do not forget my new books, “How to Run a Nonprofit” and “Tim’s Senior Moments”, both available in Printed and eBook form. Great holiday gifts!

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

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance 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 timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2019 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, Life, Management | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

THE USE OF TIME

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 3, 2019

BRYCE ON LIFE

– As opposed to what we produce.

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

I’m seeing a strange perspective emerging in business as it applies to productivity. Instead of considering the amount of output produced, people now seem only concerned with the amount of time served at work. I see this in I.T. organizations where programmers have said to me, “Wow, I spent twelve hours at work today.” I heard this same exact expression from a guy who was laying sod on my lawn. I answered them both the same way, “That’s nice, but what did you produce in that time?” Interestingly, they both were at a loss for words and vague in terms of what they produced. It appeared to me, they thought they were being productive simply by the number of hours attending work.

I contend it is not the hours in the day that is important, but rather what we produce. In a way, counting hours reminds me of how the military viewed performance during the Viet Nam War, whereby they counted bodies as opposed to geography won. Let us also not forget, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is measured by output, not hours worked.

Years ago in business, employees were taught to do what was necessary to get a job done. If it meant working evenings and weekends, so be it, and you didn’t complain as you knew the importance of the assignment and genuinely liked your work. Even if you didn’t, you possessed personal pride to see the job through to completion. Today though, there is more emphasis on personal time and vacations, so employees have become mindful of how much time they serve and how much they can relax, hence the emphasis on time.

When it comes to the nature of time, we have long promoted the concept of “Effectiveness Rate,” (ER) in Project Management. Unlike “Man Hours” which falsely assumes a person is 100% productive, ER considers time in terms of the amount spent on “Direct” assignments versus “Indirect” interferences. “Direct” means real work, it is what you were hired to do. “Indirect” represents those interruptions keeping us from doing our “Direct” assignments, such as breaks, bathroom visits, meetings, telephone calls, casual reading, social media, etc. The ratio between Directs and Indirects is what we refer to as “Effectiveness Rate.”

In the average office setting, the ER is typically 70%, e.g., in an eight hour business day, 5.6 hours are used for direct work, and 2.4 hours for indirect activities. Studies have shown construction workers are typically 25%. The point is, nobody can be 100% effective, there will be interferences which is a much more realistic perspective of time. Further, employees will have different rates based on their capabilities and experience. Also, please understand ER is NOT a measure of performance; it is simply an analysis of the use of time by workers. Just because one employee has a higher ER as opposed to another, simply means the person has fewer interferences. Whereas “Direct” time is the responsibility for the individual to manage, “Indirect” time is the responsibility for the manager to manage. If a manager observes an employee is experiencing too many interferences, he/she may take measures to minimize them.

To illustrate how ER is used in scheduling, let’s assume we have a person who has made an estimate of 100 “direct” hours (who also averages a 70% effectiveness rate), and there are eight (8) available hours in the business day. Under this scenario, 100 Direct Hours divided by .70 (ER) equals 142.85 elapsed hours. In turn, the 142.85 would be divided by 8 (available hours per day) to equal 17.85 elapsed days. The “man hour” approach mentioned earlier does not take the environmental influences into consideration and assumes an effectiveness rate of 100%. Under this approach, the sample schedule would be completed in 12.5 business day. In other words, ER is a more realistic and reliable approach for producing schedules.

So, going back to the programmers and sod layer mentioned in the beginning, when they claimed, “Wow, I spent twelve hours at work today.” I should have asked what their Effectiveness Rate was. I suspect 10%.

For more information on Effectiveness Rate, click HERE.

Keep the Faith!

P.S. – Also do not forget my new books, “How to Run a Nonprofit” and “Tim’s Senior Moments”, both available in Printed and eBook form. Great holiday gifts!

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

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance 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 timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2019 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, Life | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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