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Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

THE THREE TENETS OF MANAGEMENT

Posted by Tim Bryce on September 8, 2020

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– Is there any real management going on anymore?

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

I have a friend who contends there is no real management going on in business anymore. She argues people are just playing with numbers and not trying to manage their way to success. To illustrate, I have another friend who is a manager of a popular restaurant franchise. I asked him how he manages his people. Interestingly, it is based on such things as sales volume, tips, and satisfaction surveys, which play a major role. From this, a score is computed and the waiters and waitresses are ranked accordingly. These scores ultimately dictate who will be assigned the best serving rotations in the restaurant. Other than this, he does little else in terms of managing his people, and it appears that’s how corporate likes it. Interestingly, he also commented to me there was a lack of team spirit by his people; “Nobody watches the back of another,” he said with dismay.

“No small wonder,” I thought to myself. True, the mechanics of waiting on tables has long been established, but there is a certain degree of finesse required to assure customer satisfaction, and that includes having people work together.

Numbers are useful, but management requires certain people skills in order to maximize work effort. We’ve always defined it as, “getting people to do what you want, when you want it, and how you want it.”

The three tenets of management have historically been: discipline, organization, and accountability. Let’s examine each individually:

* Discipline in itself implies standardization, building things or performing services in a uniform manner, hopefully to a high degree of craftsmanship. Communication and leadership skills are thereby required.

* Organization implies structure and the definition of Who, is going to do What, When, Where, Why, and How. In other words, a definition of the methodologies, techniques and tools to be used in the work effort.

* Accountability refers to assuming personal responsibility for the execution of a given assignment.

All three tenets require a certain level of standardization and enforcement. In fact, you cannot effectively implement any of these without some form of uniformity and coercion. How a manager elects to implement the three tenets ultimately defines the corporate culture and the quality of products produced or services rendered.

The reality though is that the three tenets are considered “not cool” by the freewheeling X-Y-Z Generations who adamantly resist structure, control, and responsibility. To them, Discipline, Accountability, and Organization is just that, DOA – Dead On Arrival. I recently read an article by a management consultant who openly opposes the three tenets. He fundamentally argues it is old and tired and should give way to new techniques. Frankly, I see this as a reckless form of behavior. I would agree that classic bureaucracies impede progress and should be flattened, but we still need the three tenets if we want to produce quality products in a uniform manner. In other words, his contention of throwing the baby out with the bath water doesn’t hold up with me. Instead, management needs to reexamine the three tenets and the levels they want to conform to.

Instead of trying to take control of the work environment and working with people, management seems more inclined to play with numbers and just hire and fire people (or outsource them). It’s no small wonder workers feel blind sided when they get booted from their job.

Maybe my friend is right. Maybe there isn’t any management going on anymore; that managers are doing nothing more than just playing with numbers. If she is correct, I’m reminded of the old expression, “Nobody’s driving officer, we’re all in the back seat.” Reckless, very reckless. Let’s hope my friend is wrong.

Keep the Faith!

P.S. – Also, I have a NEW book, “Before You Vote: Know How Your Government Works”, What American youth should know about government, available in Printed, PDF and eBook form. This is the perfect gift for youth!

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

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2020 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

 

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THE NEED FOR CRITICAL THINKING

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 16, 2020

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– You get things done through people.

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

A few years ago I was managing a “crunch time” project involving a staff of eight programmers. The system design was well documented and very thorough (of course, we used “PRIDE”). Nonetheless, I found it important to start the day with a brief meeting where each person reviewed their progress and what kind of technical problems and interferences they were facing. From this, I developed a punchlist of action items to be resolved, and took the necessary steps to solve them. The meetings started at 8:00am and took no more than 30 minutes. It was brief, to the point and a good way to wake the staff up and put them to work for the day. It also allowed the staff to speak their minds, brainstorm, and share ideas. From this, they developed an esprit de corps and conquered a mammoth project on time. As the manager, I also saw it as a convenient vehicle to release stress and put the programmers in the proper frame of mind.

This story runs contrary to today’s Theory X world of management where the opinions and ideas of subordinates are considered inconsequential. As for me, I saw it as a vital means to get everyone on the same wave length and solicit their support. What I learned from this experience was that if you are going to empower people, you must let them speak.

As an aside, even though this was a “state of the art” project involving new technology, we found there was no technical problem we could not overcome simply by putting the problem on the table and discussing it in a rational manner. Please keep in mind that I hardly consider myself a technical guru and, instead, allowed the staff to think aloud and explore alternatives. But such openness in today’s corporate world is the exception as opposed to the rule. Many managers feel threatened by allowing their subordinates to think and, as such, suppress such discourse. Inevitably, this results in considerable frustration by employees who feel restrained by management.

PURPOSE

Aside from a means to release pressure, open critical thinking in the workplace provides several benefits:

1. Fertility of Mind – Due to the repetition of the workplace, workers often fall victim to complacency. By forcing them to perform mental gymnastics, they must stay sharp and on top of their game. Open discourse actually becomes challenging and results in friendly competitive debate.

2. Commitment – By creating a think tank environment, the employee realizes their voice is heard by management and, consequently, enhances their commitment to the company and the project. It also helps to thwart apathy and promotes participation. As an employee is allowed to speak more, they develop a sense of ownership of a project and a greater pride in workmanship. As such, it has a positive effect on staff morale.

3. Teamwork – Open communications promotes teamwork by forcing people to realize they are working towards common goals and raises awareness of their dependencies on each other.

4. Problem Identification – In terms of problems, nobody likes surprises. The sooner a problem can be identified, the sooner it can be addressed and solved. Establishing a punchlist of problems allows a manager to preemptively strike a problem before it festers and worsens. Get the problems on the table as soon as possible and chart a course of action to solve them.

5. Communications – An open dialog provides a manager with the means to dispel rumors and misconceptions and keep the staff on track. Open discourse also allows the manager to easily spot a disgruntled employee.

Permitting critical thinking in the work place is a wise investment in your staff and provides for their continuing education. However, if you do not care what they think, you won’t be permitting such debate. But then again, the staff will be talking regardless if you grant them permission or not. Then why not channel this discourse and turn something negative into something positive?

IMPLEMENTATION

Establishing the proper forum for the exchange of ideas is important. Although there is a tendency today to implement such a forum through Internet Discussion Groups and Blogs, there is nothing better than face-to-face discussions. And because of the varied egos, interests, knowledge and levels of experience involved, it is necessary to establish certain operating rules regardless of the selected venue. Here are some suggestions:

* Keep the discussions positive and constructive. As Winston Churchill said, “Any idiot can see what’s wrong with something, but can you see what’s right?” Do not open Pandora’s Box by allowing this to turn into a general bitch session. Further, a professional decorum should be observed. Do not allow personalities and politics to creep into the discussion. Members should respect all opinions, regardless who gives them. Because of this…

* The discussion must be moderated by someone who will fairly and honestly control the discourse. The one thing you want to avoid here though is full censorship which tends to alienate people. Be forceful in respecting the rules of discussion, but do not censor a person simply because you do not agree with him.

* Welcome all ideas, regardless if they are unorthodox or a bit avant-garde. Further, all ideas should be permitted without fear of ridicule or retribution. In other words, you do not want to inhibit participation. Even if someone is in the minority, allow them to take an opposing position but insist they adequately defend it (this inevitably results in some of the most stimulating debate of all).

* All persons must be identified, no anonymous feedback (this is particularly needed for blogs and discussion groups). You are looking for the participants to take a responsible role in the discussions.

* What is said here, stays here. This is a think tank for your group only. Their comments may be misunderstood by others. As such, privacy is critical.

Finally, if problems are identified and not addressed with no apparent reason, problems will inevitably ensue. If no action is taken based on their input, the staff will quickly realize that this is nothing more than a colossal waste of time.

CONCLUSION

I learned early in my business career that you get things done through people; that a single person cannot do everything. As such, it is necessary to respect the human spirit and allow it to flourish. I also learned that we enjoy life through the help and society of others. I have not yet met that person on this earth who knows everything and, as such, it is vital to exchange ideas, form consensus opinion, and evolve. By allowing employees to discuss pertinent issues, we promote communications and teamwork, establish trust, and conquer the pressing problems of the day. But to make this all happen, critical thinking must be channeled in a structured and positive way.

“I have never encountered a technical problem that couldn’t be conquered with a little imagination, some concentrated effort, and a lot of good old-fashioned management.”
– Bryce’s Law

Keep the Faith!

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

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

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2020 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

 

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

INDIFFERENCE IN CUSTOMER SERVICE

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 21, 2020

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– Just “okay” is not okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep the Faith!

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

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

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2020 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

 

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

THE POWER OF THE INVERTED TRIANGLE

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 19, 2020

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– For management, which triangle do you follow?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep the Faith!

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

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

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2020 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

 

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

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 14, 2020

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– With apologies to William Shakespeare.

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

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

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

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

LOSING THE PERSONAL TOUCH

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

Keep the Faith!

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

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

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2020 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

 

Posted in Business, Management | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

A TALE OF TWO PROJECTS

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 21, 2020

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– Does this story of systems development sound familiar?

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

The following is a true story; a vintage “Dilbertism.” Because of this, the names have been changed to protect the innocent (as well as the guilty). Interestingly, I do not believe this story to be unique and similar stories can be found in countless IT shops around the world.

Our story begins just a couple of years ago in a large manufacturing company in the American Midwest. At the time, the company was interested in replacing two aging, yet important, systems; an Accounts Payable System (“AP”) and an Accounts Receivable System (“AR”). The IT Director selected two of his most seasoned veterans to manage the projects, we’ll call them “Steve” and “Bob.” Both project managers were charged with their responsibilities on the same day: Steve to build the AP system, and Bob to build the AR system. Both were given approximately the same amount of human and machine resources to accomplish the work.

Steve was a very organized and disciplined manager. He found it essential to organize and train his staff upfront so everyone understood the development process, the deliverables to be produced, and their assigned responsibilities. Recognizing the large scope of his project, Steve felt it important to methodically attack his system and meticulously worked out a plan and schedule to implement it. In Phase 1 he spent what appeared to be an inordinate amount of time studying the business problem, specifying information requirements, and developing a rough design of the system solution. Steve’s people actively participated in this early phase and thought the problem through carefully before proceeding with the project. Following the Phase 1, Steve’s team finalized details of the overall AP system architecture, and divided his group into teams to tackle the various sub-systems in parallel. To complement this effort, his data base people oversaw the logical data base design to accommodate the needs of the whole system, not just any one portion of it.

Steve also recruited the support of the AP Department and had key personnel from this area participate in the development of the system. The input from these users was vital not only in Phase 1, but also in succeeding phases where the business processes were designed.

By concentrating on the overall system architecture and then by gradually refining the design over succeeding phases, the Software Engineers were given detailed specifications which were easy to follow and implement. Consequently, the programming phases went smoothly, including testing.

The core sub-systems satisfying the operational needs of AP were on schedule and being installed with great support from the user community.

While Steve’s project was coming along smoothly, Bob was facing chaos with the AR system. Instead of studying the problem upfront, Bob’s group began by building a core data base. Shortly thereafter he set his programmers to work building some basic input screens and some rather simple outputs. In no time, Bob had something to demonstrate to the user community (and his boss) to prove progress was indeed being made.

But Bob’s group had not done their homework. The AR community was not consulted and requirements were not defined. As a result, programmers were left second-guessing what the users really needed which started a long round of “cut-and-fitting” the code. Further, the integrity of the data base came into question. False assumptions were made about calculated data elements which cascaded throughout the program code. In addition, data validation rules were not established. This forced the programmers to invent their own rules and formulas for calculations in each of their programs which led to data redundancy issues and even bigger headaches for the development staff. As users were given glimpses of the programs by Bob, data integrity issues became an issue and the users didn’t trust the information being produced by the system (e.g., calculations were computed differently by the various programs). Bob’s group touted the AR system as “state-of-the-art,” but the users were not convinced it was reliable or intuitive to use.

All of this lead to a redesign of the data base and programs, not just once but several times. Consequently, the project schedule started to slip and costs exceeded budget. To overcome this problem, Bob and his staff worked overtime to play catch-up with the schedule (which he never realized). Regardless, the IT Director began to take notice of the long hours Bob and his team were putting into the project and complimented them on their dedication.

Bob finally delivered a portion of the project to the AR department, but in testing it the users found it fraught with errors. To overcome this problem, Bob’s group was ever ready to jump in and modify the code as required. Even though the users found the programs buggy, they commended Bob for how quickly his group would be able to fix them.

The difference between Steve and Bob’s groups were like night and day. While Bob operated under a “helter-skelter” mode of operation, Steve’s group operated quietly and began to deliver the system on time and within budget, much to the user department’s satisfaction.

Steve understood the enormity of the system and its importance to the company, and, as such, took the time to organize and train his group accordingly. Bob also understood the importance of his application but took the tact of producing something management and the user community could “touch and feel” thereby demonstrating something was happening in his department, right or wrong. Further, his SWAT team approach to putting out fires made him a favorite with corporate management. As a result, Bob enjoyed a high profile in the company while Steve was a relative unknown.

Unfortunately, Bob’s project ran amok, unbearably so. Recognizing he had to do something radical in order to get Bob’s project back on track, the IT Director made an unusual move; he swapped Steve and Bob as project managers. Steve was charged with cleaning up Bob’s mess, and Bob was charged with finishing Steve’s project. Offhand it sounded like a shrewd move. Steve had proven to the IT Director he could get things done, regardless of the application size. And the IT Director figured Bob could simply close-out the AP project. The IT Director figured wrong. While Steve started the arduous task of bringing organization and discipline to the AR system, Bob quickly dismantled Steve’s organization and brought chaos to the AP system. This did not sit well with a lot of people, particularly Steve’s former project team who felt they had grasped defeat from the jaws of victory. Steve was also growing disenchanted as he had almost completed one system and was now charged with cleaning up his predecessor’s mess. To add insult to injury, because of Bob’s high profile status, he was given an increase in pay and job promotion, and Steve didn’t receive likewise.

Steve got the AR system back on track and finally implemented it much to the satisfaction of all concerned. Bob lost control of the AP system almost immediately and it spun out of control until Steve was finally called back in to finish it. Not knowing what to do with high-profile Bob, the IT Director made the classic move of promoting Bob and transferring him to another area where he could do no harm.

LESSONS LEARNED

Is there a happy ending to this true story? Not for Steve. Although he cleaned up the mess and ultimately managed both projects to a successful conclusion, he became disenchanted with how he had been treated by the company. Subsequently, he left and started his own consulting firm who was ultimately hired by his old company to develop new systems (at substantially higher rates). As for Bob, he enjoyed the perks and pay resulting from his new position for quite some time. Eventually, he got the hint and moved on to another company where he made a similar name for himself.

Although Bob was a fine example of the “Peter Principle” (rising above your level of competence) he recognized results were not necessary on the road to success but rather, image was everything. He learned early on that “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.”

As I mentioned at the outset, this is not a random incident, but one that could probably be told by a multitude of corporations who have “promoted the guilty, and prosecuted the innocent.”

Have you got a similar story? Please do not hesitate to send them to me.

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

Keep the Faith!

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

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

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2020 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

 

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HUMAN RESOURCE DEPARTMENTS

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 28, 2020

BRYCE ON BUSINESS

– Is it out of control?

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

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

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

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

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

Keep the Faith!

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

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

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2020 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

 

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“I SCREWED UP”

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 5, 2019

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published: July 15, 2008

Keep the Faith!

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

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

Tim Bryce is an author, freelance writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2019 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

 

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

DEALING WITH MANAGEMENT FADS

Posted by Tim Bryce on July 9, 2019

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– It is when we forget about people that we get into trouble.

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When it comes to management, businesses are too often seduced by the latest gimmick and gizmo. For example, I have been recently reading about the latest corporate fads for management, such as: voting for the boss; reinventing the budget committee; setting up Wikis for the customer; predictive analytics; global team building; agile programming; “holacracy” (management by democracy); knowledge transfer; and the list goes on and on. Now, I will admit there are a couple of good ideas scattered throughout this mumbo jumbo, but I tend to believe we go overboard on the absurd and overlook the obvious. For some reason, people find the allure of smoke and mirrors more irresistible than common sense. Perhaps they confuse “quackery” with the “state of the art.”

Unfortunately, the one concept commonly overlooked is that management is a people oriented function, not a technical or administrative function; it’s about people. Management is about getting people to do what you want them to do, when you want them to do it, and how you want it done. Face it, we get things done through people, not through machines which are nothing more than mechanical leverage in our work effort. Like it or not, business is about people. Management, therefore, should be less concerned with the latest gadget or slight of hand, and more with mastering people skills.

When companies become consumed by fads, I think they tend to overlook the fundamentals of management; for example:

* Interpersonal communications/relations skills – speaking, writing, persuasion, negotiating, interviewing, diplomacy, etc.

* Instituting discipline and organization, (as opposed to free-spirited mavericks that are stubbornly independent).

* If you want teamwork, you should first learn about coaching and leadership.

* How to control the corporate culture, including decorum, protocol, ethics, as well as the effect of physical surroundings. This includes professional courtesy extended to workers, customers, vendors, and prospective clients.

* Establishing and managing priorities and deadlines. This includes how to become less reactive and more proactive in planning processes.

* Promoting pride in workmanship (craftsmanship); this includes defining methodologies (assembly lines) and properly equipping and training workers thereby creating a sense of belonging and ownership of the work product.

* How to fairly and equitably evaluate, compensate and discipline worker performance.

* How to empower people by delegating responsibility, motivating them, and holding them accountable for their actions. In other words, teach the workers to assume more responsibility and supervise themselves.

It is these skills that move mountains, not the latest wrinkle from Microsoft, Apple, smart phones, or some other harebrained scheme. Management is actually quite simple and goes back to the moral values we were all taught as kids, but, unfortunately, the human being for some reason tries to make things more complicated than they need to be. Basic management may lack flash and sizzle, it may not be couched in esoteric concepts and terminology, but you know what? It works.

No Virginia, there is no panacea.

Keep the Faith!

P.S. – Don’t forget my new book, “Tim’s Senior Moments” now available in Printed and eBook form.

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 timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2019 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

 

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WHY ARE NONPROFITS FAILING?

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 27, 2019

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– Because we are not dedicated “for the good of the order.”

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

Shortly after I wrote a recent article regarding the problems my home owners association was experiencing, I received several notes regarding the problems in other nonprofit groups in my area. This includes fraternal, political, religious, club sports and other home owner groups. I know many of them as I have actively participated in them over the years, but today they all seem to be struggling to keep their heads above water. It appears most, if not all, are in a self-destruct mode, which caused me to wonder why.

Let’s put our cards on the table; the biggest problem with most nonprofits is they are run by nice people, who mean well, but haven’t a clue as to what they are doing. Many of these offices come with a fancy title, but offer little in terms of insight for performing the work. Very few provide training in how to run a nonprofit effectively. There are some state courses describing pertinent rules and regulations to be observed, but none to my knowledge in terms of how to actually lead and manage. Consequently, nonprofits flounder due to ineffective leadership, causing meetings to become chaotic, financial reports to be prepared with errors, and the attitude of the general membership suffers, causing a decline, all because it is well known management is incompetent. Even worse, stories of embezzlement and gross negligence have become common.

People who serve on the Board of Directors for nonprofits should only do so “for the good of the order,” meaning it has more to do with the overall group and less about the individual. In the early days of our country, the Congress consisted of representatives from farms and other businesses who took turns serving, and at the end of their term, were anxious to return home and tend to their farm or business. There was no thought of lifetime service as there is today. They came, they performed the nation’s business “for the good of the order,” and returned home. This simply is not so anymore.

Today we have people who serve only to fuel their ego or career. There are those who take on a position to give themselves visibility to promote their products and/or services. Of course, the membership has no interest in this, yet the individual persists in his/her agenda. Then there are others who look to add a feather in their cap which will look good on a resume. In Freemasonry, we call this “chasing aprons,” meaning they are actively pursuing fancy Masonic aprons and titles. Most of these people never accomplished much in life and thrive on the adulation associated with such recognition. I have always been of the opinion that such people should be given their apron, then get them out of the way so they do not impede progress.

Such conduct results in what today is called an “Ineptocracy,” an incompetent ruling government where the least capable are elected to positions of authority. Quite often, this is done not because the person has exhibited any special talent, but rather there is nobody willing to serve or, perhaps worse, “it’s his/her turn” to preside. Not surprising, people quite often rise above their level of competency (aka, “The Peter Principle”). This does a disservice to both the organization and the person as well. When a person has risen above their level of competency, it will become obvious to others and will likely affect morale.

Working “for the good of the order,” means you believe in the virtues of the group, that it serves a useful purpose, and that you possess something to help the group, be it a specific talent or you are willing to work in any capacity. This is an important point. If you are unwilling to get your hands dirty, you should not be serving on a Board of Directors. It is like the old saying, “talk is cheap.” The effort of ALL members of the board are required in order to be successful. It is one thing to offer advice, quite another to see it through to completion.

There is one other cause for failure, that people believe management is not “cool.” Translation: a person lacks the discipline, organization, and structure to effectively lead people and hold them accountable. This normally results in either one person doing all the work so others are not burdened, but more likely, everything falls through the cracks and chaos ensues.

Whoever leads a nonprofit, must set the proper tone from the beginning, including the “5-W’s and H,” meaning “Who” is assigned to “What” work, “When” and “Where” it must be performed and “Why.” As to “How,” there may be standard protocols, tools and techniques to be followed, but it may be time to upgrade them. This should be followed by a prioritized list of objectives for the nonprofit to pursue in the operating year.

This brings up an important point, I am a strong proponent of “Managing from the Bottom-Up,” meaning assign responsibility, train accordingly, and get out of their way. Unless there are specific time constraints requiring urgency, it is not necessary to micromanage everything. Most nonprofits are volunteer organizations, and as such, people typically want to go about their jobs without Attila the Hun breathing down their necks.

“Managing from the bottom-up” also includes the formation and empowerment of committees to perform specific functions, such as reviewing finances, planning social affairs, membership and programming, property maintenance, or special projects. By building legitimate committees, you are cultivating people to succeed to the Board over time. This is why they must be allowed to speak and think for themselves.

As I have said repetitively over the years, running a nonprofit organization doesn’t require rocket science. Actually, in most cases, it is quite simple. You need simple and responsible management; someone who knows the governing docs, Robert’s Rules of Order, and knows how to write an agenda and use a gavel. It is not necessary for the leader to have all the answers, but how to formulate the answers with the rest of the board.

One last responsibility the leader must master is to “do yourself out of a job.” Your tenure is typically brief, such as a year or two. Before you leave though, it is essential you have taught the Board to carry on without you. This is actually an on-going process beginning on the first day of your tenure. Take plenty of notes, perhaps a log of your activities, but also create or update checklists, job descriptions, governing docs (e.g., bylaws), and technical “how to” procedures.

The chaos within nonprofit groups these days has gotten worse because the leaders have either forgotten the basics of management or were never trained to begin with, or maybe worse, they’re in it for the wrong reasons, such as accolades. It is like they have come down with a bad case of “The Stupids.” All of this is so unnecessary. We must always remember, we are there to serve for “the good of the order,” and no other reason.

Maybe I should give a class “for the good of the order.” Let me know if you are interested.

Keep the Faith!

P.S. – Don’t forget my new book, “Tim’s Senior Moments” now available in Printed and eBook form.

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 timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2019 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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

 

Posted in Management, Social Issues | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

 
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