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Archive for the ‘Management’ 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 »

SMALL BUSINESS OWNER CONCERNS

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 21, 2017

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– Are they any different than large companies?

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

I was recently at a gathering of independent consultants from around the Tampa Bay area and we got around to talking about the concerns of owners of small businesses. From this, we devised a list of concerns commanding the attention of small-to-medium sized business owners, to wit:

* Employees/Human Resources – staffing and allocations, payroll, benefits, and management.

* Work environment – facilities and equipment, corporate culture.

* Systems – implementing business processes productively, and staying abreast of technological developments for competitive advantage.

* Regulations – complying with rules as established by government and industrial concerns.

* Time Management – scheduling and devoting time to the proper set of priorities.

* Financial Resources – managing and planning cash flow and investments for optimal return on investment.

* General Planning & Strategy – both short term and long term, including an analysis of the market and competition.

At the end of this session, we discovered the concerns of small business owners are essentially no different than large corporations, except on a much smaller scale. The only difference was the small business owner has to move faster than his corporate counterparts simply due to the size of his operation. For example, he doesn’t have time to read voluminous business plans and financial statements. Instead, he requires summary reports which get to the point in a couple of pages. He needs good, sound supporting advice to make his life easier.

This got me thinking about the amount of time and money corporate executives invest in managing their company’s affairs. True, some things require considerable time and effort to investigate, such as researching new products/services and checking market conditions, but most of what is done is what I refer to as “meatball” type analysis which should be easy and relatively inexpensive to prepare. Let me give you an example; a couple of years ago I was working with a Fortune 500 company who had contracted with another firm to produce a Business Systems Plan. This took several months to perform and resulted in a substantial document over four feet thick (I kid you not) costing the company $1.5 million. I was asked to flip through the document and give an opinion. It only took me a couple of minutes to discover the authors had reused narrative from other client projects in the document and most of it was superfluous. The fact it was incredibly thick and printed on some pretty impressive looking paper gave the company the feeling they had gotten their money’s worth from the consultants. Interestingly, the company never acted on the information contained in the document simply because it was too voluminous and they couldn’t find their way through it. In reality, a ten page report could have satisfied the company’s needs, but I guess you cannot charge $1.5 million for a ten page document can you?

The point of all this is the size of a company really has no bearing on the concerns of those charged with running it. They are all essentially the same. In addition, the business owner doesn’t have the time or inclination to be devoured by detail. Although such detail may be important, summary reports are more effective for supporting the needs of business owners. They simply want accurate and reliable information to act on regardless of the form it takes, but preferably not four feet thick.

“Regardless of company size, the concerns of executive management are all essentially the same.”
– Bryce’s Law

First published: December 17, 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:  DEALING WITH OFFICE CLUTTER – The fundamentals are not as complicated as you might think.

LAST TIME:  LIFETIME WARRANTIES  – They make good business sense.

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 Management | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

ARE I.T. WORKERS BLUE COLLAR?

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 11, 2017

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– Good question. Do programmers act like professionals?

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

“Are I.T. Workers Blue Collar?” Interesting question. I was recently asked this by some executives who were concerned with improving the productivity of their I.T. departments. I asked them to explain why they thought this way. They contended their I.T. people (e.g., analysts and programmers) exhibit a lot of blue collar characteristics, e.g., repetition in types of work performed, they do not dress or act like professionals, and regularly punch in and out of work with little interest in going above and beyond the call of duty.

I countered there were two other aspects to consider: first, blue collar workers tend to perform manual labor, and; second, they are nonexempt workers who are paid an hourly wage. Also, they tended to be less educated than white collar workers.

They told me I was being naive; that blue collar workers can perform technical tasks as well as manual tasks, such as those found in manufacturing and assembly; and although they are classified as exempt workers paid a salary, they tend to behave like hourly workers instead. Further, there are plenty of blue collar workers who were just as educated, if not more so, than a lot of the programmers and analysts on their staffs. One executive even went so far as to tell me about a couple of craftsman machinists he had with MBA degrees.

Frankly, I had a hard time refuting their arguments. This is actually an old concept, one which I haven’t heard in quite some time, back to the 1980’s when there was talk of unionizing programmers. Nonetheless, it should cause us to pause and think how I.T. people are regarded in the board room. To me, it suggests a credibility gap between management and I.T. and helps explain why a lot of jobs are being outsourced.

In recent years I have met a lot of people who have abandoned corporate I.T. shops and have opted to become consultants instead. Its not that they didn’t like their companies, they simply became disenchanted with how I.T. departments were being run, read the writing on the wall, and figured it was time to bail out before they were outsourced. So who is at fault here, management or I.T.? If management truly perceives I.T. workers as blue collar, than there will be a great temptation to give the work to shops overseas at greatly reduced costs.

There are those in the I.T. field who believe unionization is the route to take. As far as I’m concerned, this would be the kiss of death to corporate I.T. shops as executives would rather outsource than be held hostage to a union.

Instead, I believe I.T. workers should do some soul searching and ask themselves how they can differentiate themselves from their foreign counterparts. Technical knowledge alone will not do it any longer. Outsourcers have already demonstrated their technical skills are on a par with ours. No, the answer is they must demonstrate how the I.T. department adds more value to the company than an outsider can. This means they have to become more serious about their work and produce better I.T. solutions more quickly, correctly, and less expensively. Anyone can apply quick and dirty Band-Aid solutions. What is needed is a higher caliber of professionalism and improved skills in management. The I.T. workers have to work both harder and smarter. In other words, job assignments have to be performed in a more professional and craftsman-like manner (methodically with a quality consciousness). This requires a more disciplined, organized, and professional attitude which is the exception as opposed to the rule in a lot of I.T. shops today.

If I.T. can demonstrate they behave more like white collar professionals, executives will become dependent on them and will be less likely to outsource their jobs. Ideally, you want to hear executives say, “I can’t live without these guys (the I.T. department).” But if executives perceive you, the I.T. worker, as nothing more than a blue collar worker, than your story is told.

Think I’m kidding? Consider this, I know of a large manufacturing company in the U.S. Midwest who had a pressing I.T. project not long ago. Knowing he was short on staff, the CIO appealed to the executive board for additional funding for more personnel. Basically, the board gave the CIO carte blanche to hire as many people he wanted at generous wages, with whatever job title the workers wanted. But the CIO was explicitly told, “When the project is over, fire them.” Do you think these executives had a high regard for I.T. people?

So, are I.T. workers “Blue Collar”? Look in the mirror and you tell me.

“How we look and act speaks volumes.”
– Bryce’s Law

First published: June 4, 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:  EMPTY NESTS – What happens when your children finally leave home.

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 Management, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 4 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 »

THE PERILS OF NEGATIVITY

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 2, 2017

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– Learn to avoid the whiners.

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

Like many of you, I belong to several civic and industrial nonprofit organizations. I always find it amusing to see the elders of such organizations criticize the current slate of officers. Inevitably, you hear, “That’s not how we did things in my day.” They then go on to berate the officers on their performance. Well, sometimes they’re right, but most of the time they are wrong. Dead wrong. If left unchecked, their negativity can consume an organization like a plague of locusts, to the point where the officers get frustrated and ultimately do nothing.

I can’t remember ever attending a nonprofit group where everybody was happy with everything and everybody. In fact, I think its a myth. If such an organization exists, I sure would like to see it. These nonprofit organizations are typically run by well meaning people with some time on their hands; and let us not forget it is a VOLUNTEER type of organization. Rarely, if ever, are the officers paid for their services. True, people will make mistakes and need guidance, but not at the price of having their name besmirched. As Winston Churchill wisely observed, “Any idiot can see what is wrong with something, but can you see what’s right?”

At a recent meeting of a nonprofit group I belong to, I heard one of the elder’s grouse, “Well, this is a rotten year and next year will be worse.” I looked at him and said, “No, it has been a good year and next year will be better.” I reminded him that the group had plenty of money in the bank and membership was on the rise. This caught him off guard and he recognized that I had the right attitude; that the glass was half-full, not half-empty.

No, the officers of such groups will not always be perfect, but then again, Who is? Its up to the group overall to pull things together, not just one or two officers.

The problem with negativity is that it can become infectious, and in the process, quite damaging. Fortunately, so can optimism, and people tend to gravitate to the positive as opposed to the negative.

For those who insist on whining about everything, I say, “Get over it.” I learned a long time ago in business not to complain unless I was prepared to suggest an alternative. However, to bitch simply for the sake of bitching is counterproductive and disrupts the harmony of such groups. If I have any suggestion in this regard, I would ask the members of such groups to turn something negative into something positive.

First published: June 5, 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:  YES MEN – In reality, such people contribute nothing worthwhile.

LAST TIME:  THE BENEFITS OF NETWORKING  – Instead of watching TV, attend a meeting.

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 Management | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

PARENTING MANAGEMENT

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 26, 2017

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– Like it or not, businesses must teach the young how to act.

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

“Most children are raised by amateurs, not professionals.”
– Bryce’s Law

Want to know what to expect of the work force in the years ahead? Look no farther than our schools or homes. Let me preface my remarks by saying that in addition to all of my other responsibilities, I was very active in my local Little League for a number of years where I served as coach, umpire, and on the local board of directors. Further, I have been very active locally in offering Masonic scholarships to High School students. In addition, my wife has been active in the local school system for the last ten years at the elementary, middle, and high school levels (this also included PTA and SAC). Although we probably won’t win an award as the world’s best parents, we made a point of becoming an important and influential part of our children’s lives. We didn’t take any special courses in parenting, we just got involved. But we are the exceptions as opposed to the rule.

Prior to World War II, the country was immersed in an economic depression which put a strain on families and disrupted our society. Everyone in a family was expected to pitch in and do their part in order to survive, this included going to school and their place of worship. Some families suffered severe hardships during this period causing children to drop out of school and go to work. They didn’t drop out as some form of rebellion or protest, but to simply earn money to help support the family. Consequently, many earned nothing higher than a Junior High diploma which was prized by many families. The point is, there was a sense of family back then and the people’s hunger built character. They understood the value of a dollar, worked hard and squandered nothing. It was this generation that got us through the war and propelled the country towards economic success in the latter part of the 20th century.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, as the country was experiencing an economic boom, a parent normally stayed at home to manage the family, usually the wife. If a child had a problem, a parent was always home to tend to their needs. Children no longer had to drop out of school to support the family and our High Schools and Colleges swelled with students. The “baby boomers” were considered well adjusted and readily adapted to the work force. This generation saw us through the space race and the technology revolution which changed the face of corporate America.

But in the last three decades, we began to lose faith in our economy and our standard of living. As a result, both parents began to work inordinate hours and a generation gap began to emerge. Exhausted by their work, the parents would return home where the last thing they wanted to hear was their child’s problems. Consequently, children became social outcasts in their own homes and often had to fend for themselves; they simply couldn’t relate with their parents. Sure, the parents would sign their kids up for Summer Camp, Little League and Soccer, but this was viewed more as baby-sitting services as opposed to taking a true interest in the child’s development. They would also give their kids television sets and video games to occupy their time.

Today, school teachers have become surrogate parents by default, something they weren’t trained for, nor inclined to accept. Talk to a teacher and you will hear stories of lack of respect for authority, poor manners, and dysfunctional social intercourse. Children today no longer learn their values from their parents but rather from Hollywood. As young adults entering the work force, their work ethic, values, and behavior are noticeably different than the prior generation. There is no longer a sense of quality, service, or craftsmanship; just put in your time and collect a paycheck. This is all having an adverse effect on how we conduct business and the corporate culture.

Now, let me give you a the scary figure: probably 20%, or less, of today’s graduating High School seniors are socially well adjusted.

Knowing this, what should you do as a manager?

In the past, if you were a new employee, it was assumed you knew how to manage your personal life and you were expected to adapt to the corporate culture. This is no longer true and presents a problem for managers. Younger employees today have problems managing money, dressing appropriately, and interpersonal relations and communications, not to mention alcohol, drugs, and sex. They are raw and rough. But are they salvageable? They better be, for your company’s sake, as they represent tomorrow’s work force.

Perhaps we can take a lesson from the military services here. The military is well aware they are not getting the “cream of the crop” when they take on new recruits. Many are social misfits coming from broken homes. As such, the military’s initial role is to break the individual of bad habits and impose a new system of discipline and work ethic. Individualism is replaced by teamwork and, in the process, a sense of belonging and family is imposed. This is either readily accepted by the new recruit or they are drummed out of the service. Discipline, organization, teamwork, and a strong work ethic can have a dramatic affect on a drifting soul. By doing so, it can bring order to lives and a sense of purpose, something that perhaps was neglected at home.

Today’s Drill Instructors and junior officers also find themselves as surrogate parents and are now instructed in counseling young soldiers. The boot camps of today are a lot different than what the country experienced during World War II, Korea, and Viet Nam. Yet, we are producing a fine class of soldiers which makes our country proud. In other words, they must be doing something right.

If we have learned anything from the military in this regard, it is that the times have changed and our employees today have different needs requiring a new type of manager who can adequately tend to them. And like today’s Drill Instructors and school teachers, managers are finding themselves in the role of surrogate parents, like it or not. Managers bristle at this notion. After all, they want to get on with their business and do not want to be regarded as a baby-sitter. But the fact remains, home parenting skills are at an all-time low and to overcome this problem, someone has to assume the duty to compensate for this inadequacy. Again, the military readily understands this and has adapted accordingly. But can business?

Understand this, corporate America’s “recruits” come predominantly from the colleges and universities whose purpose is not to teach social skills, but rather, to teach people how to learn. A college diploma most definitely does not mean the graduate is socially well-adjusted, but that he/she has learned to study and accept new ideas. If anything, the student’s extracurricular activities tell more about a person’s personality than the degree itself. For example, participation in team sports, club activities, or Greek life speaks volumes about a person’s personality and social skills.

In the past, new corporate recruits underwent special training programs to learn how the company conducts business. Sales people in particular had to undergo rigorous training to learn how to present products and care for the customers. Workmen underwent training to learn how to build quality products. However, such programs have been slashed in recent times as a means for cutting costs (and will be the subject of a future paper).

There was also a period where mentors were assigned to new employees to chaperone them on their journey through the corporate world. Mentors were basically a “Big Brother/Sister” program where senior employees would offer sage advice to neophytes on adapting to the corporate world. But like the training programs, mentoring is also being phased out.

Although mentoring and training programs were intended to develop the employee’s skills and effectiveness from a corporate perspective, neither dwelled on the personal problems of the employee.

Now that new employees are left to fend for themselves, a generation gap is emerging in business. Managers from just about every job segment are frustrated with new employees, and, likewise, new employees are frustrated with management. Whereas managers lament how little is accomplished by new employees, new employees complain how much time they are putting in at work. This highlights a significant difference between the generations: whereas the new employees are watching the clock, the managers are watching what is produced. The two are not synonymous, but nobody has taught the young employees this yet. To the “newbies,” their time is what is important, regardless if they produce anything worthwhile or not; to the manager, it is just the opposite. Also, young people believe calling in sick is an acceptable form of behavior. Where did they learn all this? On their own. It is a sad state of affairs when the media has more influence over the values of our children than parents do. But when adults abdicate parenting to the media, it is not entirely surprising.

So, what is needed? More training? Mentoring? Nope. Just some parenting. The sooner corporations realize this, the sooner they can begin to develop mature and responsible employees. Again, this is why the military now teaches its Drill Instructors basic counseling techniques, so they can help new recruits find their way through life and become a good soldier. It is most definitely not “baby-sitting” but, rather, a recognition that parents have dropped the ball in their child’s development and someone has to pick up the pieces in order for the newbie to realize their potential.

I do not claim to have a Ph.D. in parenting, but as I see it there are three primary duties a parent needs to inculcate:

* Role Model – first, a parent has to be a good role model with attributes their subordinates want to aspire to attain. Role models are respected for their authority and become a highly credible source of information and inspiration.

* Teacher – second, a parent has to be able to teach, not just academic lessons but those of life; e.g., morality, socialization, even finances (e.g., balancing a checkbook, life insurance, etc.). It is the teacher who establishes the rules and regulations of the classroom and, as such, is also the disciplinarian.

* Guidance Counselor – third, parenting includes guiding others on their path through life, explaining options and making recommendations.

Very important, a parent has to recognize they won’t have all of the answers, but should know how to point someone in the right direction to get the answers they need.

Above all else, a parent has to care about the welfare of their offspring. I am not suggesting corporate parents love their children like biological parents, but they need to invest time in the person, believe in the person, and motivate them accordingly, whether through kindness or a good swift kick in the rear. The corporate parent has to also know when their work is complete and allow the offspring to move on to the next stage of their corporate life.

The military has the advantage of written contracts and boot camps to indoctrinate new recruits. Perhaps a corporate boot camp could be devised and teach the same lessons as found in the military, such as:

* Cause and effect, e.g., if you make a mistake, you know you will be penalized accordingly.

* The value of good workmanship and its impact on others.

* How to give and take an order.

* Discipline and code of conduct.

* Teamwork.

CONCLUSION

Companies today are at a loss coping with the newest generation of workers. What they don’t realize is, it will get worse before it gets better. Since most biological parents are content with allowing others to teach their children the necessary values in life, teachers, the military and corporations are forced to pick up the slack, like it or not. The sooner we admit this, the sooner we can address how to remedy the situation. Whether this involves one-on-one counseling or a boot camp type of environment, something has to be done to teach our newest wave of workers the proper values to succeed in business and in life.

Let me leave you with a real-life story on parenting in the workplace. Some time ago I was visiting with a CIO in Columbus, Ohio who took me on a tour of his facility. Along the way, we happened upon a young programmer who was new to the company. Frankly, he looked a little wet behind the ears and had long hair over his collar. After the CIO introduced me to the young man, he instructed him to go get a haircut. The young programmer, shot back indignantly, “You can’t say that to me!”

The CIO turned calmly but deliberately to the programmer, and said, “Yes I can. Watch,” then pointing to his mouth, “Get a haircut. Now!”

The programmer backed down and, to his credit, dutifully got a haircut.

I had just witnessed a little “Parenting Management” in action. The CIO exercised his authority and had quickly instructed the newbie on one of the rules to be observed in the workplace. The programmer’s biological parents hadn’t instructed him properly, now it defaulted to his corporate parent.

“Parenting Management” – Just remember, you heard it here first.

First published: October 17, 2005

Keep the Faith!

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

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

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  THE DEATH OF COMMON COURTESY – A little sincerity can go a long way.

LAST TIME:  FIGHTING FIRE WITH FIRE  – What we can learn from Lincoln’s bid for election.

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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FAILING TO ACT

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 28, 2017

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– It goes well beyond insanity.

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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.

 

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GETTING FIRED

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 24, 2017

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– What to learn from the experience.

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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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THE 99% COMPLETE SYNDROME

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 19, 2017

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– You’re probably measuring the wrong thing if you keep asking for this figure.

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

It is an undocumented fact that the last 1% of anything takes longer than the other 99%. There are plenty of examples to support this argument, perhaps none quite as visible as the progress bars we see on computers. You know, those little bars telling you how you are progressing in the installation of software or the execution of a program. More often than not, such progress bars seem to race through the first 99% like a blazing track star, yet when we get to that last 1% it seems to slow down to a snail’s pace.

I have also witnessed this same phenomenon in project management situations. As we were building our office in Florida our contractor proudly proclaimed he was 99% complete and we should prepare ourselves to move in. Interestingly, that last 1% dragged on for days, weeks, and even a few months, thereby delaying inspections and prohibiting our move.

In the Information Technology field, it is difficult to get a realistic picture of how much work remains on a project. Programmers love to announce they are 99% complete in writing their programs, but somehow that last 1% never seems to come to conclusion. Either something was wrong in the design of their software they hadn’t anticipated, something had changed, or gremlins had compounded their best efforts. Regardless, the project never ends.

This phenomenon is related to our perspective on work, specifically, “Is the glass half empty or half filled?” Instead of focusing on the work completed, people should be more concerned with the amount of effort remaining. For example, instead of asking about percentages, workers should be constantly evaluating the amount of effort required to complete remaining tasks in hours. Only after this is known should we consider the application of percentages, not before. Unfortunately, that is not the mindset in most project environments. Instead, people tend to consider the amount of work expended against the original estimate, not the remaining effort. This is certainly not a realistic or reliable way of reporting progress. It is pure fantasy.

Surprisingly, there are still quite a few project management packages allowing people to post percentages as opposed to automatically calculating it based on the estimate of hours remaining on project tasks which is simply ludicrous.

So, next time you hear someone claim they are 99% complete with something, it means they still have a long way to go and the person hasn’t got a clue when it will be completed, but it’s close…maybe. Ask yourself this, when was the last time you saw the final two minutes of a football game finish within 120 seconds? I’ve never seen it either.

“The last 1% of a project can take as long as the first 99%.” – Bryce’s Law

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

LAST TIME:  WHAT WE LEARN IN SUPERMARKETS  – You can learn a lot from a supermarket, perhaps too much.

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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