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Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

DEALING WITH OFFICE CLUTTER

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 23, 2017

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– The fundamentals are not as complicated as you might think.

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

I cringe when I hear someone say, “A cluttered desk is the sign of a brilliant mind.” I don’t know who invented this little gem, some claim Albert Einstein, but I can’t seem to find any record of it. More likely, it was some slob who got called up on the carpet by his boss for running a pigpen.

It has always been tough to run an organized and efficient office, but this seems to have been compounded in recent times when PC’s started to pop-up all over and we allowed employees to eat at their desks. Now it is not uncommon to see a number of wires running everywhere, overloaded electrical sockets, and empty fast food bags and cups laying around. We used to complain about ashtrays, but this appears to be a thing of the past. Instead, we find cigarette butts on the ground just outside of the office or outdoor ashtrays overflowing with them. Very professional.

Since I believe our work is an extension of our personal lives, I tend to think of the office as our home away from home. This makes me wonder what we might find if we visited some employee homes. Are they as big a slobs at home as they are at work? If not, why do they find it necessary to trash their office as opposed to their homes?

Office clutter is indicative of management’s organization and a part of the corporate culture. Some believe the sloppier they look, the more they give the appearance they are hard at work. Not necessarily. More likely, sloppiness is indicative the person is trying to hide something and is actually quite lazy.

The military understands the need for organization and keeps their facilities spotless; you are expected to either work on something, file it, or throw it away. If you need new file cabinets, buy them. Your work is obviously not important if you keep the same clutter on your desk all of the time. In fact, such clutter will grow over time. For example, have you ever seen someone with a plastic tray on their desk? Theoretically, such trays are used for work in progress, but you’ll notice the trays never empty and, if anything, the paperwork grows. Every now and then you have to simply throw the contents in the plastic tray into the garbage can.

Programmers typically like to keep a cluttered desk. To overcome this problem we warned our programmers to clean them up or they might find the debris in the trash. At first, they thought this was a hallow warning. They found we were serious when they came in one day and found their desks spotless (and their paperwork in the garbage). We didn’t have a problem with office clutter after doing this a couple of times. Some programmers are aghast when I tell this story, but following our cleanup of the office we actually experienced an increase in productivity simply by enforcing a little discipline in the workplace. This required the programmers to organize themselves better and they were able to focus on the problem at hand as opposed to wading through the mess on their desks. I guess I see programming as a profession in the same sense as I see engineers, architects, and accountants as professions. They also require discipline in order to productively perform their work.

Office clutter is a reflection of a person’s professionalism and, as mentioned, a part of the corporate culture. It can be remedied if management is so inclined to do so. I admire an office that is well run and organized. It tells me the people are serious about their work and a company I want to do business with. Just remember, a cluttered desk is the sign of a lazy mind, not a brilliant one.

First published: February 4, 2008

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  OFFICE GOSSIP – Does your business promote or squelch idle gossip?

LAST TIME:  SMALL BUSINESS OWNER CONCERNS  – Are they any different than large companies?

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: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

LIFETIME WARRANTIES

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 18, 2017

BRYCE ON BUSINESS

– They make good business sense.

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

Let me begin by saying I genuinely believe Zippo Lighters and Cross Pen and Pencils are the best products of their kind in the world today. I know there are more expensive products out there with more elegant designs, but for my money it’s Zippo and Cross. Now let me explain why. I’ve enjoyed these products for over thirty years now and in that time I’ve learned that as good and durable as these products are, they will inevitably experience normal wear and tear, thereby requiring maintenance. In this era of disposable products, our first inclination might be to simply throw such products away and purchase new ones, but both companies offer lifetime warranties which they stand behind. And I have taken them up on their offer to repair products on more than one occasion with no questions asked. Each time I send in my lighters and pen and pencil sets, they come back like new, and the only thing I paid for was postage to ship the products to them.

It is comforting to know there are still companies out there who stand behind their products through thick and thin, a rarity in today’s disposable society. Some people think that such warranties are no longer practical to implement anymore, that it is cheaper just to buy a new lighter or pen. What these people fail to realize is that lifetime warranties mean lifetime customers; that consumers such as myself develop loyalties to the products, not just because of how they look and work, but because they know the vendor is prepared to maintain their products. This instills a sense of confidence in the consumer which leads to loyalty and repeat business. Not only are lifetime warranties good business, I can’t imagine why there aren’t more companies with comparable products offering such support.

Understand this, Zippo and Cross are also playing the odds. If everyone were to send back their lighters and pens for repair they might swamp the companies and cost them millions. But they realize most people tend to dispose of such products and buy new ones instead. So, although they generously offer a fine lifetime warranty, they recognize that only a fraction of their customers will actually take them up on their offer. Nonetheless, the lifetime warranty stands out in the consumer’s mind and causes repetitive business.

It’s nice to know there are still companies in the United States who understand what customer service means and the effect it can have on the bottom-line of a company. So, next time you are checking out that fancy new lighter and pen and pencil set, do yourself a favor, go and take a look at what Zippo and Cross have to offer. They stand behind their products. Do their competitors?

First published: December 10, 2007

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  LIFETIME WARRANTIES – They make good business sense.

LAST TIME:  SMALL BUSINESS OWNER CONCERNS  – Are they any different than large companies?

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: , , , , | 2 Comments »

WHAT PRICE QUALITY?

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 9, 2017

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– And who is responsible for its implementation?

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

We now live in a fast paced society where we expect products and services to be delivered rapidly, cheaply, and with a high degree of quality. This is particularly true in the systems and software industry. If we lived in a perfect world, systems and software would be developed rapidly and inexpensively, they would effectively satisfy business needs, and would be easy to maintain and modify. There is only one problem with this scenario: it is a fantasy. In reality, we live in a “disposable” world where systems and software are slapped together in the hopes everything will hold together and will pacify the end-user for the moment. Some people believe striving for a Utopian world is an impossibility and, as such, resign themselves to rewriting systems and software time and again as opposed to designing them to be industrial strength.

Improving speed in the development process is relatively simple to accomplish; e.g., the plethora of programming tools available, but adding quality into a product is something entirely different. From the outset we must recognize quality doesn’t come naturally to people anymore. Back when there was a sense of craftsmanship, quality was rarely a problem. This is back when people identified with their work products, and strove to seek perfection as it was a reflection of their character. Corners were not cut and products were made to last. Unfortunately, we no longer live in such times and people tend to disassociate their work from their personal lives. Further, the speed and sophistication of our tools leads us to believe we are producing quality products. The reality is that our tools are only as good as the people using them, not the other way around.

A PERFECT WORLD

How one person perceives quality may be entirely different than another’s. This is because we tend to have different perspectives in how to build something, e.g., whereas one person may build a product one way, another may build it using an entirely different approach. This means products are commonly built using inconsistent methods. Let me give you some examples:

* If we lived in a perfect world, we would have a standardized approach for defining requirements, thereby everyone would be operating with a standard approach for scrutinizing requirements, but the reality is our approach to requirements definition is redefined with each development project, thereby making it impossible to validate requirements with any consistency.

* If we lived in a perfect world, programs would be designed in a standardized manner so they may be easily modified or maintained by any other programmer at a later date, but the reality is programs are written based on the personal nuances of the programmer, making it next to impossible to maintain or modify by another person. Consequently programs are discarded and rewritten.

* If we lived in a perfect world, developers would adhere to a standard and consistent approach (methodology) whereby uniform work products could be produced and reviewed, thereby improving communications among the staff and allowing for the interchangeability of workers in the development process, but the reality is, the development process is defined on a project-by-project basis, thereby uniformity and interchangeability is defeated.

The reality is we live in an imperfect world. What would appear to be obvious approaches to development seldom occurs in most systems and software shops. It is simply unnatural to developers who prefer to operate independently as opposed to adopting a shop standard. This of course means development organizations tend to “reinvent the wheel” with each project.

Because of such inconsistencies, the only option for improving quality is to try to inspect the product after it has been built, not during development. Under this approach, inspection is complicated as each person has designed the product according to their own personal interpretation of development, not as a standard body of work.

BUILDING QUALITY INTO THE PRODUCT

It is obviously cheaper and more sensible to arrest a product defect early during development as opposed to trying to catch it afterwards. To do so, the development process has to be subdivided into defined units of work specifying what is to be produced (work products, aka “deliverables”), how it should be produced (using accepted tools and techniques), and its acceptance criteria (including review points). Such a work environment is in sharp contrast to “The Black Hole” approach used by most organizations today; e.g., requirements are fed into an unknown development environment and the resultant product is inspected afterwards. This approach concentrates only on the final deliverable and not on the overall process by which the product is to be developed. By the time the final product is produced, it may be unrecognizable to the user and the project may have exceeded estimated cost and schedule. Even worse, the product may have to be redesigned and rewritten over and over again. Interestingly, this is the approach advocated by today’s “Agile” proponents.

In other manufacturing practices, the definition of the work environment is the responsibility of an Industrial Engineer who defines the units of work in the development of a product (assembly line), the standard tools and techniques to be used, the work products, and the acceptance criteria. Although the concept of Industrial Engineering is applicable to systems and software, few development organizations are familiar with the concept.

THE PRICE OF QUALITY

Regardless of what you call it, Industrial Engineering or Quality Assurance, quality requires a dedicated group of people to define the overall development process, monitor progress, and constantly research new ways to improve it (tools and techniques). This does not mean quality is the sole responsibility of such a group. It is not. Quality is the responsibility of every person involved in the development process. The group simply provides leadership in this regards.

In terms of costs, the truth is that quality is free (as the likes of Philip Crosby have pointed out to us). True, it requires an outlay of money upfront to embark on a quality assurance program, but this will be offset by reduced costs later on in terms of reduced development time and fewer defects requiring rework. By having everyone working according to defined processes and work products, errors are caught and corrected early in the development process. Further, work products are easier to maintain and modify later on, this specifically includes systems and software. Such a program, therefore, does not add overhead to the development process, it reduces it.

To make this work though requires commitment from management and herein lies the rub. As I mentioned earlier, we live in fast-paced times. Implementing an effective quality assurance program takes time to cultivate, it cannot be installed overnight. There is more to it than mechanics; standards have to be devised, attitudes have to be adjusted, consciousness’ raised, etc. In other words, it is the people-side of quality that takes time to mature and become ingrained in the corporate culture. As such, a quality assurance program requires management vision and long-term commitment to see it come to fruition. This is difficult to sell to managers who have trouble thinking past the next financial statement, but if executives understand that a company truly runs on systems and software, then they will be more amenable to investing in industrial strength applications.

CONCLUSION

Its interesting, the systems and software industry is one of the few industries that resists standardization as opposed to embracing it. Standardization is an inherent part of any quality program. It means devising and applying craftsman-like rules in the development of a product or service. Such rules substantiates completion of work in a prescribed sequence and is measurable. Remarkably, it is this kind of accountability developers resist.

Some developers even go so far as to question the necessity of a quality assurance program since many companies rewrite their systems and software year after year. Maybe they are right, but I tend to see this as a defeatist attitude, that we can do nothing more than produce mass mediocrity. I believe we can do better, but to do so, we need to invest in ourselves and our future. Remember, you must first plant the seeds in order to harvest the crop. Unfortunately, most companies tend to eat the seeds and then there is no crop to harvest. Somehow I am reminded of the old expression, “You can pay me now or pay me later, but you’re going to pay me.”

First published: May 28, 2007

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  ARE I.T. WORKERS BLUE COLLAR? – Good question. Do programmers act like professionals?

LAST TIME:  BEWARE OF BAITING  – Do not allow yourself to be baited in debate.

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: , , , , | 2 Comments »

YES MEN

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 4, 2017

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– In reality, such people contribute nothing worthwhile.

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

We’ve all seen instances where subordinates mindlessly agree with everything the boss has to say; we call these people “Yes Men.” I’m not really sure why we have such people. Maybe its because the boss wants to surround himself with clods to bolster his self-esteem. Maybe its because people are afraid of disagreeing with the boss in fear of losing their job. Or maybe its as simple as people no longer know how to engage their brains and allows others to make decisions for them. I tend to think its the latter.

Let me ask you something, what is wrong with a little critical thinking? I get involved with a lot of discussion groups on the Internet, both professional and nonprofit groups and am not afraid to put in my two cents. I’m not always looking for everyone to agree with me; many do not. Instead, I thrive on the discourse and find such discussions as fruitful for bringing forth new ideas and finding solutions for problems. Some people are scared to participate in such groups and either remain quiet or simply maintain the party line. I call these types of people “cowards” or “sheep.”

One of my favorite movies is “Twelve Angry Men,” an old black-and-white courtroom story starring Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Jack Klugman, and others. The story centers on the dynamics of a jury who must decide the fate of a teenager in the murder of his father. At first, the jury consists of mostly “Yes Men” who simply want to prosecute the teenager and move on with their lives. Fonda wants to discuss the case in more detail before making a snap decision, and is castigated by the others for slowing them down. By discussing the evidence in more detail, the jurors, one by one, determine the teenager is not guilty. In particular, there is an interesting scene where one of the jurors changes his vote from guilty to innocent more as a whim as opposed to any specific evidence. This infuriates another jurist who challenges the other to explain why he changed his vote. This is an excellent example of how “Yes Men” can get into trouble, simply because they refuse to engage their brain.

What we need in business today are fewer “Yes Men” and more people who can use their heads, but I guess that requires work.

First published: August 21, 2006

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  BEWARE OF BAITING – Do not allow yourself to be baited in debate.

LAST TIME:  THE PERILS OF NEGATIVITY  – Learn to avoid the whiners.

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: , , , , | 2 Comments »

FAILING TO ACT

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 28, 2017

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– It goes well beyond insanity.

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

One of my favorite quotes from Albert Einstein is his definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I’m afraid we see this too often, be it in companies, government or the general public. In other words, there is a tendency for people to maintain the status quo even if it doesn’t produce beneficial results, or even if it is counter productive.

In Europe, following a terrorist attack, we commonly see a government official say afterwards what a hideous crime this was, that security levels are being heightened, and the public should remain calm and not pass judgement on any cultural group. It has become a common script, but for some reason it doesn’t seem to deter terrorists. In other words, nothing changes.

Like so many nonprofit organizations these days, I know of a local group who year after year has been losing membership at a rate of about 1,500 members a year. Over the last fifteen years, it has declined a whopping 37%. Members are seeking answers to reverse this, but the leadership of the group has yet to properly address the problem. Instead, they keep asking for more money from its dwindling membership. Again, nothing changes.

In the world of Information Technology, companies commonly rush off to program a solution before they even understand the business systems problem. Consequently, developers devise a quick and dirty solution to the wrong problem, projects are late and over budget, and end-users lose confidence in I.T. If we built bridges the same way we build systems in this country, this would be a nation run by ferryboats. Interestingly, developers are aware this approach doesn’t work but lament, “We never have enough time to do things right.” Translation: “We have plenty of time to do things wrong.” Once again, nothing changes.

I’m sure we can all think of some similar scenarios from our walks through life, be it in school, on the ball fields, our place of work, in stores, in our neighborhoods, just about everywhere.

I tend to believe a lot of this occurs simply because we have trouble focusing on the proper problem, that it is less painful to take the easiest way out. Instead of going for a touchdown, we settle for a field goal instead.

Repeating the same mistake in the face of reality confirms Einstein’s definition. It’s more than insanity though, it is reckless and irresponsible behavior on the part of management. Changing the status quo is a difficult task, something that should only be charged to someone sensitive to problems and realize it is time to change. What is needed is political courage to make the hard decision, which will likely be unpopular until proven successful. I am certainly not someone who believes in change for the sake of change, but if there is undeniable evidence the status quo is not producing positive results, by God, somebody better get off their duff and do something about it before it results in irreparable harm.

Somehow I am reminded of another quote I am fond of, this from President Andrew Jackson, “Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.”

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 MYTH OF EQUALITY – More than anything, equality is about ego.

LAST TIME:  IS WAR INEVITABLE?  – Will the Union survive?

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: , , , , | 3 Comments »

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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