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Archive for the ‘Management’ Category

A HOME OWNERS ASSOCIATION TONG WAR

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 14, 2019

BRYCE ON NONPROFITS

– and a lesson for others.

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

My Home Owners Association (HOA) is currently involved in a dispute between the Board of Directors and the residents. It has become so nasty, it is starting to resemble a Tong War. Interestingly, this is not the first time this has happened. About 25 years ago the association built a substantial brick wall at the front of the neighborhood, but the Board refused to account for the money spent. This turned into an ugly donnybrook and caused a changeover in the board, and feelings were hurt. This is what caused me to get involved and help cleanup the association and restore confidence. Many years have passed since then and many new neighbors have moved in, none with a sense of what happened before, but it appears history is repeating itself.

Our HOA is relatively small, with 163 properties. Shortly after my reign, the board contracted with a management company to implement the administrative detail of the association. This is quite common these days as board members have become reluctant to do hands-on work, regardless of how simple it is. During my day, I built a data base for the group and was able to churn out customized letters, dues notices, and much more. I was fortunate to have a treasurer who was an accountant who used some basic PC financial software. Even though this was hardly rocket science, this was all dropped after the board changed and turned the administrative detail over to the management company.

As time passed, our HOA became overly dependent on the management company. Residents complained of the callous behavior of the company. It got to the point where it appeared the HOA worked for the management company as opposed to the other way around. A flash point occurred earlier this year when our new treasurer asked for a series of financial reports from the management company, none of which were forthcoming. This raised a red flag and caused the treasurer to resign from the Board and write a letter to residents explaining his reasons for his departure.

To me, this was deja vu all over again, as the cover-up of financials is what caused the friction 25 years earlier. Instead of publicly answering the former treasurer’s accusations, the president consulted the association’s attorneys which produced some fine gobbledygook to hide behind, thus arousing suspicions in the neighborhood. Had the president answered the treasurer properly, the issue would have been closed, but instead it escalated, fearing something was being hidden from the residents. So much so, the association called for a full audit of its financial activities by an independent firm, a very expensive proposition I might add. This vote to call for an audit essentially meant the board had lost the trust of the association.

As I mentioned, managing a nonprofit organization as small as this is not exactly rocket science. I have written about this in the past, “Managing a Nonprofit Organization.” In such groups, the board has a fiduciary responsibility to its membership. As such, finances, minutes, and governing docs must be transparent. In both instances, 25 years ago and today, this is the cause for the uproar.

As the board hides behind its lawyers, the association realizes they cannot fight city hall and the only thing to do is to fire the board at the end of the year, and start over again with new members (and hopefully without the management company). I am somewhat philosophical about this, as I have a sense of history with this association. It’s good to clear the air every so often. Like any organization, a lot of crud creeps into a nonprofit over time, and without strong management, it will continue to grow unabated (see Parkinson’s Law).

I have served on many board of directors over the years, for a variety of groups. I would have to say though that participating on a HOA board is the most thankless job around. It is essential to keep things simple, transparent, be well organized, and act professionally. In other words, learn Robert’s Rules of Order, print an agenda, get a gavel and give it to someone who knows how to use it. This will go a long way to simplifying work, communicating with your membership, and maintaining their trust. It is rather sad to see neighbors viscerally attack each other and hurt feelings in the process. This type of pettiness and drama is what discourages residents from participating in such associations. Further, this has an adverse effect on the spirit of the neighborhood and is actually detrimental to house values. After all, who wants to move into a neighborhood where everyone is at each other’s throats?

Hopefully, we can begin the mending process once the board has been voted out of office. The only positive effect of all this, is that people are beginning to ask to participate on the board. I’ve been asked, “Tim, why don’t you get involved again?” The answer is rather simple, after I cleaned it up last time, finally getting us to operate in the black for the first time, I stepped off the board, whereby new members changed it and turned everything over to the management company. I cleaned up one gigantic mess years ago, and they screwed it up. I certainly am not going to go through such madness a second time. What’s the old expression, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice…”?

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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HOW ABOUT SOME LOYALTY REWARDS?

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 4, 2019

BRYCE ON BUSINESS

– What freebies do we get for being a long-time member? ZIP.

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

On a recent visit to my gym, the manager had erected an inflatable air-dancer puppet by the front door along with a sign encouraging membership. Under the program, they waived the initial sign-up fee, as well as the first month’s membership fee. Added to this was two free sessions with a trainer and a t-shirt. Okay, fine, I get it, they want new members. What about those of us who have loyally paid their bills but didn’t receive any freebies? I paid all of the initial fees and have been a regular-paying member for three years now. What have I received? Zip.

I have seen this same phenomenon over the years, particularly with magazines. We used to regularly subscribe to a multitude of magazines, including news and sports. For many years we paid the full rate and received no “freebies.” Then, in the 1990’s, as printed magazines started to succumb to the Internet, they offered a myriad of gifts, such as clocks, radios, cameras, special edition publications, etc. Again, what did the long-term subscriber receive? Zip.

Credit cards typically allow you to earn points for such things as travel and gifts, but there is still no loyalty incentive. Not long ago, I had a minor problem I reported to one of my credit card companies. The agent I talked with on the phone pulled up my records on his computer and said, “Oh, Mr. Bryce, I see you’ve been a member of ours for over thirty years now; Wow!” His reaction led me to believe I had been a member longer than the agent had been alive.

I had called the company to make a simple correction to a payment I had made (something incredibly minor). The agent said he would have to have it reviewed with management before he could update the correct entry (even though he recognized I had been correct). When he said it would take a month or two to correct, I told them if they wanted to keep me for another thirty years, he better make the change in the next thirty seconds or I will cancel my membership. Instead of trying to correct the problem right then and there, he said there was nothing he could do. In other words, he called my bluff. Regrettably, I wasn’t bluffing and cancelled forthwith.

I was amazed they were willing to let a long-term customer go, but this is not the only time I have seen this occur. I have had to do similar actions with banks, trash collectors, phone companies, and cable companies (which I think are perhaps the worst). I have changed cable operators at least a dozen times over the years, going to a cable operator who was offering new members lower rates. I guess they count on the older customers to just grin and bear it. I do not.

Like I said, I understand the need for a “come-on” to engage new customers, but what is the benefit of remaining a loyal customer over a number of years? Zip. This is why it is becoming more common for people to quit a service, only to return to it later to get the new cheaper rates, and any “freebies” along the way. To me, this sounds like a “make work” scenario and is certainly not smart from a customer service and sales perspective.

There should be some sort of benefit for customer loyalty, maybe something simple at first, and something more pronounced later. As a company, imagine the cash flow from a loyal clientele, but people do not think long-term anymore, just “quick and dirty” (or is it “agile”?). I know this mindset disturbs managers and executives who hate to lose market share. Let me give you an example…

A few years ago, I had a manager from a cable company come to my neighborhood. He knocked on my door to ask why I had quit his company. I told him I recently saw an increase on my bill, and another cable company offering comparable service at a less-expensive rate. I talked with one of his company’s agents and asked if they could match the lower price. Of course, the agent said “No,” but perhaps worse, there was no concern for the possible loss of business. The manager shook his head in disbelief. “If I met the price right now, would you switch back to us?” he asked.

I told him, No, for two reasons; first, the installation of the new service had recently been completed and I was in no mood to change it again, and; second, I was offended by the disregard the company showed for their loyal customers. He thanked me for my time, but went away frustrated with his own company.

Interestingly, the same phenomenon happened with the new cable provider; rates increased progressively until I decided to go to a new cable provider. Again, the agent did nothing to retain my business.

If companies started to implement a true loyalty program based on length of service, fewer customers would drop service, meaning less maintenance costs, and improved profit-margin.

Then again, I am still a creature of the 20th century.

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

THE TROUBLE WITH JOB INTERVIEWS

Posted by Tim Bryce on May 21, 2019

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– How about some pertinent questions instead?

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

Something that really irritates me in the corporate world today is how companies interview candidates for a job. Instead of having you describe who you are, what you’ve done in your professional life, and what skills you possess, Human Resource types today ask questions like:

“Where do you want to be five years from now?”

“How do you handle pressure?”

“How do you deal with conflict?”

“Tell me something nobody knows about you.”

“Did you notice the receptionist outside had six fingers?”

“What is your favorite color?”

“If you were an animal, what would you be?”

Instead of getting to the meat and potatoes of what the person knows, interviewers are asking pseudo-psychological questions aimed at examining the personality of the candidate. It kind of reminds me of the asinine question Barbara Walters asked of movie stars years ago, “If you were a tree, what kind would you be?”

These questions are aimed at determining what your personality type is (such as A, B, C, D) and how you present yourself, e.g., how articulate you can present an argument, and how well you can fit in with the corporate culture.

Instead of dancing around the issue, and using amateur psychological techniques, why don’t they just ask for a psychological profile of the candidate instead, as prepared by accredited professionals? Somehow the interviewing questions asked today remind me of the neurotic Personnel Manager, Granville Sawyer, in the movie classic “Miracle on 34th Street.”

Another interviewing phenomenon I have trouble with is what is now called “speed interviewing,” which I’m told is derived from “speed dating,” whereby a number of people are interviewed briefly in a rotational format. It kind of reminds me of how people audition for a reality show and other entertainment contests. It might be nice for a first blush, but hardly a way of honestly getting to know someone.

The last thing I think is lacking in interviewing is professional courtesy. It used to be if you sent in a job application, you would get a written note acknowledging the company received it and what they intended do with it, which perhaps was nothing. Further, after an interview, the candidate would be sent a letter thanking him/her for their time and let them know what their status was. However, you don’t see such letters anymore, not even in this age of e-mail. To me, this says a lot about the professionalism of the employer, which is probably not very good.

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 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, Management | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

AMERICANS EMBRACE REACTIVE MANAGEMENT

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 9, 2019

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– Why we are inclined to accept disaster.

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

Planning is not natural to most Americans. We resist it because it requires some foresight, analysis, and change. In other words, work. Our history is littered with stories of snafus resulting from poor planning, both large and small; Pearl Harbor, 911, and Hurricane Katrina are legendary. In the case of Pearl Harbor, the Army’s Colonel Billy Mitchell studied the island’s defenses and wrote a report detailing how the island would be attacked with incredible accuracy. The report was written a full 17 years prior to December 7th, 1941. Instead of heeding his advice, the Army would eventually lose patience with Mitchell and run him out of the military.

In terms of Hurricane Katrina, civil engineers were acutely aware the weaknesses of the levee system protecting New Orleans was inadequate to withstand a Category 5 storm, as well as Category 4. Their warnings though, unfortunately, went unheeded.

Overseas, particularly in Asia, planning is more common. For example, it was incredibly important in the re-development of Japan following World War II. In business, Japanese companies spend much more time planning than Americans as they like to “look before they leap.” Americans, on the other hand tend to take the plunge before they know what they are jumping into. Even worse, they often take the wrong course of action when faced with disaster. Allow me to explain…

I know a Florida fraternal organization who, like a lot of nonprofits, is losing members. However, this is not new as they have been losing on the average of +1,500 members per year for the last 15 years. Everyone in the organization is cognizant of it, but the leadership has done nothing to stem the problem, hoping it is a temporary condition and will simply go away. Whereas there were in excess of 58K members in 2003, by 2017 there was approximately 35K. It was only this year that the leadership decided to take action by leveraging a hefty per capita tax on each member, which will inevitably drive more members away. Whereas they should have been studying the problem all along, they waited until the last minute to make a decision which will ultimately have an adverse effect on membership.

Similarly, New York State has one of the highest tax rates in the country. So much so, it is causing New Yorkers to flee the state as economic refugees seeking shelter in more tax-friendly states, such as Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. To compensate for their departure, the state recently added new taxes in New York City; a “congestion tax” to ride on city streets, and a “mansion tax” on expensive estates. This too will likely cause more New Yorkers to flee the state. Instead of cutting expenses and lowering taxes to make the state more inviting to live in, they continue to tax and spend madly. As an aside, according to a recent Mercatus Center study, New York State is ranked #41 of the fifty states in terms of fiscal health (Florida is #4, North Carolina is #9, Georgia is #18, and South Carolina is #20).

As in the Florida fraternal example, New York State waited too late until conditions worsened, failed to change their ways, and opted to burden the remaining people instead. Such “knee-jerk” reactions is typical of incompetent leadership.

Then we have the crisis of illegal immigrants at our southern border, a problem threatening our country’s sovereignty. While some claim the problem is “manufactured,” reports from the Department of Homeland Security are undeniable. The American people have known this to be a problem well before the 2016 elections. Remarkably, the Congress fails to address the problem, even to this day. Regardless of the party in power, if this is a legitimate problem, where is the House and Senate in terms of changing our laws? The fact they insist of ignoring the problem goes beyond simple dereliction of duty; it is pure negligence, if not treasonous.

These three incidents are typical of American planning, as they prefer waiting for disaster to strike before taking action. This, of course, is madness. The reason for it should be rather obvious, we feel comfortable operating in an auto-pilot mode and resist making hard decisions that might offend someone. Yet in the end, reactionary behavior ultimately hurts everyone.

Let me give you one last example, knowing our Fraternal Lodge was losing membership and money, and realizing the costs to maintain our building were escalating, I prepared a Feasibility Study which came to the conclusion the Lodge should sell the building and move in with a neighboring Lodge. Had we done so, we would have probably sold the building for $750K. Unfortunately, the members voted to stay and hoped the problem would alleviate itself. It did not. Consequently, 13 years later, the Lodge was finally forced to sell the building for $500K, a substantially lower number. In other words, they avoided the inevitable which ultimately cost them. Think about it, it is essentially no different than the Billy Mitchell story which cost the military dearly.

Planning requires foresight, keeping a pulse on changing conditions, the ability to adapt to change, and above all else, effective leadership. If the leaders are operating on auto-pilot, the group should not be surprised by the consequences when havoc strikes.

For more information on Reactive Management, click HERE.

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 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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MAYBE YES MEANS NO

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 4, 2019

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– There are some significant differences between Eastern and Western management.

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

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

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

* Japanese do not like to say “No” to someone as they do not want to offend the person. Instead, they tend to say, “Maybe Yes,” which, when translated, means “No.” This is similar in intent to the American habit of saying, “I’ll try to make it” (to a meeting or appointment), yet never do.

If the Japanese nod their heads in the affirmative, it only means they understand what you are saying but they don’t necessarily agree with you. Because of this, it is not uncommon for American businessmen to fool themselves into believing they are being successful when they make a presentation in Japan. In reality, the Japanese understood the presentation but need time to digest and discuss it among themselves. If an American asks them something like, “Was I correct in this regards?” If they answer, “Maybe Yes,” the American is in trouble.

* I have been in a few large offices in Japan where I have seen young employees suddenly jump up on their desks and give a five minute speech on why he/she is proud of his company and what a pleasure it is to work with their coworkers. When finished, the rest of the office politely applauds before returning to their work. I wish I could say I have seen this in the United States, but I’m afraid I cannot.

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

* It is still important for the Japanese to reach a consensus on any significant decision. This process may take some time to perform, but they want to emphasize team building and inclusion of employees in the decision making process. In other words, you do not see too much in the way of “micromanagement” over there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep the Faith!

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 Life, Management | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

WHY WE WORK

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 26, 2019

BRYCE ON LIFE

– For our mental well-being to begin with.

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

In this age of entitlement, some young people are wondering if they should be enjoying life as opposed to working as diligently as we do. This explains why Millennials do not seriously think about long-term employment. Studies indicate they would rather see the world now, not later, sample new delicacies, relax and play games as opposed to being attached to a career. From their perspective, they have two lives, personal and working, but they do not see them intertwined. This is the antithesis of preceding generations who worked hard, not just to survive, but to prosper.

As someone from the old school, I tend to believe we were put on this planet to work, e.g., to explore, to discover, to invent, to compose, to engineer, to basically leave the world better than how we found it. Of course, this represents evolution, to aspire for perfection, knowing we may never achieve it, but to improve it nonetheless.

Some do not see work in this light as their job may seem too mundane, such as pushing a broom or digging a ditch. However, I believe there is dignity in all forms of work and I, for one, certainly do not look down my nose at anyone regarding their form of employment, as long as they do it professionally. The work of common laborers may seem trivial, but as Michelangelo observed, “Trifles make perfection and perfection is no trifle.”

To illustrate, a janitor is typically responsible for cleaning, sweeping and tidying up. The cleanliness of the work place has a huge impact on the other workers as studies have shown people work more productively in a clean environment as opposed to a cluttered one. If the janitor doesn’t perform the job properly, it could very easily have an adverse effect on the output of the other employees.

I remember a time when I was working with a customer late at night in a large office. I happened to observe the janitor cleaning up as most of the staff had gone home. He noticed a framed picture was skewed ever so slightly. Where some people would skip over it, he stopped and straightened it. I asked him why, to which he replied, “It just wasn’t right.” In other words, he took his responsibilities seriously and developed a professional attitude which ultimately influenced the lives of others in the office.

To those who take on a professional attitude, there is no separation between personal and working lives, as they are merged into one. Our working life is an extension of our personal life. After all, there is only one you. Even when we are charged to perform a task at work we do not like, this is essentially no different than doing a difficult task in our personal life. The marriage of the two affects both sides; our skills and ethics on our personal side influences our decisions at work, and our working side teaches the personal side new lessons.

When a person decides to retire, it severs an important part of their life. Some people begin to deteriorate shortly thereafter as they have lost their sense of purpose and have difficulty finding a new endeavor to pursue. To illustrate, when American presidents leave office, it is not uncommon to see their health and mental acuity diminish. Lyndon Johnson is a good example. Here is a man who spent his life in government as a member of the House, the Senate, as Vice President, and finally as President. He was a man who stood at the helm during our Viet Nam War and oversaw the civil rights movement. Regardless of how you felt about LBJ, when his term of office was over, and he retired to his Texas ranch, his health declined rapidly and he died just five years later. This is why it is important to remain busy in some pursuit following retirement.

There are fundamentally three reasons why we work:

1. Survival – to put food on the table and secure the well-being of ourselves and loved ones.

2. Improve the human condition – to go above survival and endeavor to achieve greater things.

3. Spirituality – for our mental well-being and development as a person.

As to this last point, learning to work and mastering a craft gives the person a sense of purpose, structure, and sense of accomplishment (reward gratification). It also teaches us to learn the differences between right and wrong thereby affecting our sense of ethics. Bottom-line, work leads to the development of our character, our sense of worth and dignity.

This is why it is important to assume a professional attitude regardless of your job. If you are not happy with your current job or want to do something else, quit and move along, but while you are charged with a task, do it to the best of your ability if, for no other reason, your mental well-being.

Consider the adverse effects on a person who is unemployed. They become unstable and a burden on society. The old adage, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” comes to mind.

On the other hand, “if you find a job you love, you’ll never work again,” as you have found stimulation and fulfillment as a person.

While others want a free ride, there is something to be said about the satisfaction of earning something on your own, which can be very motivational to people and instills pride in our work. I am, therefore, a proponent of the benefits of gainful employment.

Finally, always try to remain positive and never embrace a defeatist attitude. As former President Theodore Roosevelt observed in a talk to schoolchildren in Oyster Bay, Christmas-time 1898:

“There are two things that I want you to make up your minds to: first, that you are going to have a good time as long as you live – I have no use for the sour-faced man – and next, that you are going to do something worthwhile, that you are going to work hard and do the things you set out to do.”

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

FIRST LESSONS IN JOINING THE WORK FORCE

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 26, 2019

BRYCE ON LIFE

– “Got to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues, and you know it don’t come easy.” – Ringo Starr

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

My book, “MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD – A Handbook for Entering the Work Force,” is designed to help young people make the transition from school, be it high school or college, into the work force.

In my introduction, I indoctrinate the young reader into the first basic truths we must all face as we enter adulthood:

* You are entitled to nothing. If you want something, you are going to have to go out and earn it.

* Nothing is free. Forget what the promotion says, people do not offer something without wanting something in return.

* Life is not fair. In fact it can be downright cruel and dehumanizing. Keep in mind, with rare exception, companies are not democracies; they are dictatorships. As such, they operate at the whims of the person in charge.

* Becoming an adult means assuming responsibility, be it on the personal or professional sides of our lives. Knowing this, put your best face on and act like a professional, someone you want others to respect.

* Becoming an adult also means making decisions. In theory, if you make 51% of your decisions correctly, you will be successful. Also, do not procrastinate; if you do not make a decision, the decision will be made for you (and probably not to your liking).

* If anything in life is constant, it is change. Some you will like, others will have trouble swallowing. Nonetheless learn to accommodate change. Learn and adapt.

* People act on their perceptions, regardless if they are valid or not. As an old systems man, I can tell you authoritatively, if the input is wrong, everything that follows will also be wrong. Don’t jump to conclusions; always seek the truth.

* The only good business relationship is when both parties benefit (aka “Win-Win” relationship). Avoid situations where one party benefits at the expense of the other (aka “Win-Lose” relationship).

* Everything begins with a sale. All of our efforts, regardless of how mundane they may seem, should be geared towards producing income for the company. Without sales, everything else will eventually come to a halt.

* There is only one problem with common sense, it is not very common. The obvious is not obvious to a lot of people. You will undoubtedly discover that decisions are based more on emotion as opposed to logic.

* Your personal and professional lives are one and the same. Some people like to separate the two, but the fact remains, there is only one you.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a thought from a good friend of mine who survived over thirty years of corporate politics:

“You cannot move to the top of the ladder by breaking rungs and breaking rules….
we all must move through the learnings, the little successes, the disappointments, to develop and grow.”

– Michael B. Snyder

Originally published: October 1, 2012

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 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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THE ELEMENTS OF A GOOD FEASIBILITY STUDY

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 21, 2019

BRYCE ON PLANNING

– Let us look before we leap.

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“Those who do not do their homework do not graduate.” – Bryce’s Law

In its simplest form, a Feasibility Study represents a definition of a problem or opportunity to be studied, an analysis of the current mode of operation, a definition of requirements, an evaluation of alternatives, and an agreed upon course of action. As such, the activities for preparing a Feasibility Study are generic in nature and can be applied to any type of project, be it for systems and software development, making an acquisition, or any other project. It is equally applicable in business, nonprofit institutions, and at all levels of government. Frankly, if you are going to do anything of substance, it is wise to perform a Feasibility Study. Instead of looking at it as a series of a regimented steps, it is a thinking process for specifying needs, assessing risk, and making an intelligent decision. Basically, it is nothing more than common sense.

There are basically six parts to any effective Feasibility Study:

1. The PROJECT SCOPE which is used to define the business problem and/or opportunity to be addressed. The old adage, “The problem well stated is half solved,” is very apropos. The Scope should be definitive and to the point; rambling narrative serves no purpose and can actually confuse project participants. It is also necessary to define the parts of the business affected either directly or indirectly, including project participants and end-user areas affected by the project. The project sponsor should be identified, particularly if he/she is footing the bill.

I have seen too many projects in the corporate world started without a well defined Project Scope. Consequently, projects have wandered in and out of their boundaries causing them to produce either far too much or far too little than what is truly needed.

2. The CURRENT ANALYSIS is used to define and understand the current method of implementation, such as a system, a product, etc. From this analysis, it is not uncommon to discover there is actually nothing wrong with the current system or product other than some misunderstandings regarding it or perhaps it needs some simple modifications as opposed to a major overhaul. Also, the strengths and weaknesses of the current approach are identified (pros and cons). In addition, there may very well be elements of the current system or product that may be used in its successor thus saving time and money later on. Without such analysis, this may never be discovered.

Analysts are cautioned to avoid the temptation to stop and correct any problems encountered in the current system at this time. Simply document your findings instead, otherwise you will spend more time unnecessarily in this stage (aka “Analysis Paralysis”).

3. REQUIREMENTS – how requirements are defined depends on the object of the project’s attention. For example, how requirements are specified for a product are substantially different than requirements for an edifice, a bridge, or an information system. Each exhibits totally different properties and, as such, are defined differently. How you define requirements for software is also substantially different than how you define them for systems. (See, “Understanding the Specifications Puzzle”).

4. The APPROACH represents the recommended solution or course of action to satisfy the requirements. Here, various alternatives are considered along with an explanation as to why the preferred solution was selected. In terms of design related projects, it is here where whole rough designs (e.g., “renderings”) are developed in order to determine viability. It is also at this point where the use of existing structures and commercial alternatives are considered (e.g., “build versus buy” decisions). The overriding considerations though are:

* Does the recommended approach satisfy the requirements?
* Is it also a practical and viable solution? (Will it “Play in Poughkeepsie?”)

A thorough analysis here is needed in order to perform the next step…

5. EVALUATION – examines the cost effectiveness of the Approach selected. This begins with an analysis of the estimated total cost of the project. In addition to the recommended solution, other alternatives are estimated in order to offer an economic comparison. For development projects, an estimate of labor and out-of-pocket expenses is assembled along with a project schedule showing the project path and start-and-end dates.

After the total cost of the project has been calculated, a cost and evaluation summary is prepared which includes such things as a cost/benefit analysis, return on investment, etc.

6. REVIEW – all of the preceding elements are then assembled into a Feasibility Study and a formal review is conducted with all parties involved. The review serves two purposes: to substantiate the thoroughness and accuracy of the Feasibility Study, and to make a project decision; either approve it, reject it, or ask that it be revised before making a final decision. If approved, it is very important that all parties sign the document which expresses their acceptance and commitment to it; it may be a seemingly small gesture, but signatures carry a lot of weight later on as the project progresses. If the Feasibility Study is rejected, the reasons for its rejection should be explained and attached to the document.

CONCLUSION

It should be remembered that a Feasibility Study is more of a way of thinking as opposed to a bureaucratic process. For example, what I have just described is essentially the same process we all follow when purchasing an automobile or a home. As the scope of the project grows, it becomes more important to document the Feasibility Study particularly if large amounts of money are involved and/or the criticality of delivery. Not only should the Feasibility Study contain sufficient detail to carry on to the next succeeding phase in the project, but it should also be used for comparative analysis when preparing the final Project Audit which analyzes what was delivered versus what was proposed in the Feasibility Study.

Feasibility Studies represent a commonsense approach to planning. Frankly, it is just plain good business to conduct them. However, I have read where some people, particularly government legislators and people in the I.T. field, consider Feasibility Studies to be a colossal waste of time. In their haste, they will sincerely claim, “We don’t have time to do things right.” Translation: “We have plenty of time to do things wrong.”

First published: March 20, 2008, updated in 2019.

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 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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CRAFTSMANSHIP IS A STATE OF MIND

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 14, 2019

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– It is also a universally applicable concept.

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I have been writing on the virtues of craftsmanship for many years now. I have also given presentations on the subject and discussed it at length with different types of companies. Surprisingly, I find few people truly understand the concept. Perhaps the biggest misconception is that it is reserved for certain types of work effort. Some believe craftsmen are limited to furniture makers, machinists, or watchmakers. And, No, we are most certainly not talking about a line of tools from Sears. People seem surprised when I explain it is a universal concept applicable to any job. My message is simple: “Craftsmanship is a state of mind.”

Years ago, Arnold Toynbee, the legendary historian and economist from the UK, made the observation, “The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.” Whereas some people like to separate their personal and professional lives, Toynbee rightfully makes the point there is physically only one person, and their personal and professional lives should be viewed as one and the same.

Craftsmanship is based on three rather simple principles:

First, in order to build self-esteem and give an individual a sense of purpose, we need to acknowledge, “Man must lead a worthy life.” This means people should be given meaningful work to perform, thereby creating the desire to master one’s craft. However, not everyone can be a wood worker, machinist, or watchmaker. Instead, they must find meaning in their chosen profession, which leads to our next principle…

Second, “There is dignity in all forms of work.” We should never look down our noses at anyone’s profession, assuming they are doing it competently and professionally. Regardless of the task, it is always a pleasure to be among people who know what they are doing, and perform it seemingly with little effort and a sense of class. In contrast, there are also workers who are apathetic, put forth minimal effort, and only watch the clock as opposed to the work product they are assigned to. Personally, it is difficult to respect such people.

Third, a simple recognition there are “right” and “wrong” ways for performing tasks. It takes discipline not to skip steps and put the work product in jeopardy. Understanding the differences between “right” and “wrong” is more than just training and experience, it also represents the morality of the worker. One reason craftsmanship is in decline is because of the eroding moral values of the country, such as the inclination to cheat.

These principles highlight the fact that craftsmanship is universally applicable. We can find it in any industry and any type of work, be it janitors, waitresses, programmers, managers, assembly line workers, hairdressers, teachers, engineers, athletes, musicians, the medical community, you name it. Craftsmanship is a state of mind. Think about it, who has impressed you not only by the job they did, but how they went about doing it? Inevitably, it is someone you respect, someone you will gladly give a reference to, someone you would like to emulate.

Craftsmanship requires more than just talent, it is a determination to be the best someone can be. Not surprising, there is a close relationship between craftsmen and the products they produce. Expressions such as “I built that” or “That was mine,” denote the pride they take in their work. Conversely, when someone makes a compliment about a product or service, the craftsman takes it as a personal compliment. The bond between craftsman and work product is so strong, the worker sees the product as tangible proof of their quality of work.

Years ago, people learned their craft through apprenticeship programs. Ben Franklin learned to be a printer at his older brother’s print shop. Likewise, young men learned a variety of crafts through such programs. Over the years though, we have drifted away from apprenticeships. Today, we rely on certification programs and college degrees, but this does not necessarily make someone a craftsman. It only denotes the student has learned something and passed tests and exams. Rarely does it give us insight into a person’s mastery of a craft, which cannot normally be evaluated until it is put into practice and studied over time.

In terms of skills, the craftsman must master several things:

* The resources used in the product. For example, a wood worker will know the differences between types of wood, their strengths and weaknesses, their suitability for the product, and how to work with it. Likewise, a machinist will understand the nature of the different metals he must use in his work.

* The methodologies to produce the product, representing the steps or processes of the project.

* The tools and techniques to be used in the development of the product, all of which may change over time. This means the craftsman is a student of his profession and possesses a sense of history to his craft.

Craftsmanship is something we have taken for granted for many years. Consequently, it has been fading from view. Interestingly, when I teach these concepts to students and business professionals, they are usually surprised by the simplicity of the concepts involved. I warn them though that craftsmanship requires a personality which includes such things as discipline, an intuitive mind, pride in workmanship, a willingness to be the best in your chosen profession, and some good old fashioned morality. Craftsmanship is not for everybody, but we should celebrate those willing to lead such an existence, for they are the people who create the products we admire and cherish.

For more information, see my earlier paper, “Craftsmanship: the Meaning of Life.”

If you want a presentation on craftsmanship, please do not hesitate to contact me.

First published: February 26, 2014

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 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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WHAT YOUNG PEOPLE WANT & NEED

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 17, 2019

BRYCE ON LIFE

– What parents do not give too much of these days.

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Not long ago, there was a ten part series on PBS entitled, “Carrier,” which provided a rare glimpse into life aboard an American aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz. There are approximately 5,000 people aboard this floating four acres of military weaponry, and although the ship and technology were interesting, it is the ship’s crew who were the real stars of the show.

Crewmen, both male and female, from all levels of the ship’s military hierarchy were profiled. Many were interviewed as to what their background was and why they joined the Navy. To me personally, I found the interviews with the younger members of the crew (ages 18-22) to be particularly enlightening. Many came from middle class broken homes where the other members of the family were socially dysfunctional, suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction, and consequently becoming pimps, prostitutes, thieves, and wife/child beaters.

Time and again, crewmen spoke of how the Navy gave them structure and a purpose in life. They found such things as discipline, organization, and accountability, to be some very powerful and beneficial concepts. They also thrived in an environment of teamwork where it was necessary to put aside differences and work towards the common good. As a result, they felt less like aloof individuals and more like a real family with a sense of belonging. They would frequently use the expression, “Work hard – play hard,” representing their philosophy towards teamwork. With this foundation in place, the crewmen found confidence in themselves, assumed responsibility for their actions, and confidently responded to challenges. Instead of drifting through life aimlessly, the Navy gave them the ability to chart a course in their personal lives, something their parents failed to instill in them. In other words, the military forced them to grow up by teaching them the meaning of adulthood.

Some time ago I discussed the need in business for “Parenting Management,” that due to a decline in parenting skills at home, teachers, coaches, and managers were being forced to play surrogate mothers and fathers. We may not like it, but unfortunately it has become a fact of life as many misfit parents have abdicated their responsibilities. Not surprising, I found “Carrier” to be an endorsement of my thesis that we have to do much more in the business world to help young people grow up and take their proper place in society. Since their biological parents have dropped the ball, it now defaults to the manager.

In a nutshell, the lessons from “Carrier” are simple; with rare exception, young people both want and need direction, organization, discipline, and accountability. Although they would never admit such going into the Navy, these simple parental skills are what the young crewmen actually respond positively to. By being treated as responsible professionals, they developed self-esteem, which led to pride in workmanship and a very tight ship.

In the final chapter of the show, the producers interviewed a young crewman who told a story of going back and visiting his recruiter following Boot Camp. “What did you get me into?” he asked the recruiter who, in turn, raised his hand and said “Where would you be right now if you weren’t in the Navy?” The crewman blurted out he would be hanging out with his friends getting high (“Did I just say that?” he said). He glanced back into the eyes of the recruiter who simply said, “You see?” And, of course, the crewman did.

Maybe there is something to the concept of having all young people serve in the military for a few years following high school.

First published: May 15, 2008. Updated 2019.

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 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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