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Posts Tagged ‘Proof’

SHOW ME THE PROOF!

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 5, 2009

On more than one occasion you have heard me express my skepticism on the beneficial effects of technology on our culture. Proponents obviously claim it has a positive effect, and proudly point at the capacity, speed, and sizzle embedded in such things as computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices, but I’m still not convinced. For example:

  • We can communicate with anyone on the planet at any time from just about anywhere (and too often we do), yet we haven’t got anything useful to say or say it at the wrong time and place. Further, our command of the English language is slipping, newspapers and magazines are failing, and book publishing is sharply diminishing, thereby indicating a decline in reading.

  • We can now write beautiful documents, but our grammar and spelling seems to be degenerating. People may know how to send text messages, but have difficulty composing an effective business letter.

  • Our automobiles now offer abundant luxuries through electronics, but the cost to repair and maintain them has skyrocketed.

  • We can now purchase items and make travel reservations on-line, thereby displacing this function from trained travel agents and sales clerks with better skills and knowledge to process such things. Inevitably the customer purchases the wrong thing or makes an error in processing the order, which is difficult to correct (and very frustrating).

  • Technology may give us in edge in warfare; but you first have to have a well trained and determined soldier to pull the trigger.

  • Computers were supposed to be a boom for office productivity but consider how much time is lost tweaking and rebooting MS Windows alone. Further, computers were supposed to cut down on paper; but sales at the paper mills appears to be doing just fine, as well as robust sales of copiers, printers and cartridges.

If our technology is so good, it would make sense that we would see a noticeable leap in productivity in our country. However, if you study the statistics at the US Department of Labor, output has actually been declining over the last ten years in just about every industrial sector. Those sectors showing an upswing can hardly be described as “dramatic.”

If there is a statistic to show how technology improves productivity. the US Department of Labor certainly doesn’t have it, nor does anyone else for that matter, which is why I continue to say, “Show me the proof!” Frankly, you cannot because there is more to productivity than technology. To me, technology simply represents the tools we use at work and home, and like any tool we can either use it properly or improperly (like shooting ourselves in the foot). Even the finest tool in the wrong hands will produce inferior results. This implies there is more to productivity than the technology itself, that it depends on how the human being uses it. In other words, management is an integral part of the equation, and something that has been sorely lacking in recent times, as indicated by our current recession.

Consider this, number crunching has always been one of the prime benefits of computing. If this is true, then why does it take so long to compile a financial report or budget? After all, everything should be available at the push of a button, right? Unfortunately, corporations and government agencies, operate with poorly designed systems and data bases, thereby the reliability of data is doubtful, thus requiring rechecking.

Productivity should not be measured simply by how fast we perform a given task (efficiency), but the necessity of the task itself should also be examined (effectiveness). After all, there is nothing more unproductive than to build something efficiently that should never have been built at all.

Let me exemplify this another way; the general perception in this country is that America no longer knows how to build automobiles, that the quality is not good. I disagree. Americans know how to build good reliable products as demonstrated by the Americans working in Japanese automotive factories. The difference is in building the right products. Whereas American companies focused on luxury and gas-guzzling cars, the Japanese were busy building economical and fuel-efficient automobiles (as were other countries). Here, it is not a matter of how well we build a product, but is it the right product to build in the first place?

More than anything, technology is a reflection of our standard of living. We have always had technology, we will always have it, and it will constantly change and evolve with us. However, over the last thirty years we have witnessed an explosion in technology that has permeated our society and changed our culture. It was triggered by such things as the Cold War and other military interventions, space exploration, medical research, and global competition in business. Technology came at us so fast and furious that a lot of people had trouble assimilating it, thereby causing a noticeable frustration factor. In all likelihood we probably use only a small fraction of our technology properly (which would be another interesting statistic). For example, how intimate are you with all of the features of your cell phone, computer, TV, digital camera, or even your sprinkler system? Are you using them to their full potential? Probably not.

It has always been my argument that as technology increases, socialization skills decreases. The more we depend on technology to fulfill basic functions like mathematics, communications, spelling, etc., the lazier the human brain becomes. Technology may be fun to use and play with, and can indeed provide tremendous mechanical leverage for humans, but be wary of how it is used and avoid dependencies. Regardless of your pride and prowess with technology, please don’t tell me it improves productivity. The jury is still out.

“I don’t know a thing about computers and I’m the happiest guy on the Earth.”
– Louis Vavoularis, Palm Harbor, FL

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For a listing of Tim’s Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Download Tim’s new eBook (PDF), “Bryce’s Pet Peeve Anthology – Volume I” (free) DOWNLOAD).

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Computers, Life, Management | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

FINDING A RECESSION-PROOF BUSINESS

Posted by Tim Bryce on March 13, 2009

Finding a business that can endure today’s economic recession can be tricky. People are tightening their belts more today than in the past fifty years. We are seeing businesses close down, CEO’s being replaced, and some rather substantial cost-cutting measures, including salaries and employment. So you have to ask yourself what companies are thriving? Which ones are going to make it and which ones won’t?

No, I am not an economist, but it has been my experience that whenever belt’s are tightened, people start to think of themselves first and others second. In other words we start to focus on our basic human needs and worry less about luxury items. Let’s consider the effect the recession is having in a few key human-centric areas:

Food: Eating out at restaurants is diminishing, particularly the high priced establishments. In my area of Florida alone, over 35 restaurants have closed their doors recently. Not surprising, people are more inclined to cook at home, which means boom-times for value priced items. For example, I understand sales of Hormel’s SPAM product are way up. With this in mind, I wonder when the Food Channel will replace some of their gourmet shows with a show featuring something like, “Cooking on a budget.”

Health: Drugs are still doing fine, but people are more inclined to buy generic as opposed to name brands. We will probably see a sharp decline in cosmetic or elective surgery, but we will still need to replace hips, hearts, knees, and other vital parts of our bodies. I have a friend who manufactures titanium hips and knees. He tells me business couldn’t be better.

Transportation: As we all know, new car sales are way down which means people are trying to extend the lives of their current vehicles. This means companies selling auto parts should be prospering, as well as independent mechanics offering competitive prices. The airlines will always be viewed as a necessary evil but for any of them to succeed, they have to streamline their operations.

Communications: I think cell phones will hold steady, but look for people to change or eliminate their land lines. I have also seen a lot of people cut down on the pay channels on television, as well as their ISP connections.

Housing: Like the automotive industry, sales have stagnated which means people are trying to make do with what they have. And like the automotive after-market, look for the sale of home improvement items to increase, particularly those products designed to save energy and money. This should be boom times for basic hardware stores.

Education: Private schools will be hurt by the recession as people will be more inclined to send their kids to affordable public schools. This includes state universities over private colleges.

In a nutshell, the companies that will succeed are those that address the basic needs of the human being with no frills attached. Luxury items, such as electronics will struggle in the meantime.

But success will also require companies to manage smarter than what they have been doing. They have to think faster to seize opportunities, be more organized and disciplined in their operations, and be more adaptive to change. In other words I think you’ll see a “no frills” management style emerge as companies fight to survive. Those companies with bloated bureaucracies and micromanagers will have to be cut down to size in order to manage smarter.

So, what company is recession-proof? That which addresses basic human needs and is managed so the company can turn on a dime without missing a beat.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

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

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For a listing of Tim’s Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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