– For management, which triangle do you follow?

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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 [email protected]

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Copyright © 2020 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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