Tuesday, May 29, 2007

June 4, 2007


"Are I.T. Workers Blue Collar?" Interesting question. I was recently asked this by some executives who were concerned with improving the productivity of their I.T. departments. I asked them to explain why they thought this way. They contended their I.T. people (e.g., analysts and programmers) exhibit a lot of blue collar characteristics, e.g., repetition in types of work performed, they do not dress or act like professionals, and regularly punch in and out of work with little interest in going above and beyond the call of duty. I countered there were two other aspects to consider: first, blue collar workers tend to perform manual labor, and; second, they are nonexempt workers who are paid an hourly wage. Also, they tended to be less educated than white collar workers. They told me I was being naive; that blue collar workers can perform technical tasks as well as manual tasks, such as those found in manufacturing and assembly; and although they are classified as exempt workers paid a salary, they tend to behave like hourly workers instead. Further, there are plenty of blue collar workers who were just as educated, if not more so, than a lot of the programmers and analysts on their staffs. One executive even went so far as to tell me about a couple of craftsman machinists he had with MBA degrees. Frankly, I had a hard time refuting their arguments. This is actually an old concept, one which I haven't heard in quite some time, back to the 1980's when there was talk of unionizing programmers. Nonetheless, it should cause us to pause and think how I.T. people are regarded in the board room. To me, it suggests a credibility gap between management and I.T. and helps explain why a lot of jobs are being outsourced. In recent years I have met a lot of people who have abandoned corporate I.T. shops and have opted to become consultants instead. Its not that they didn't like their companies, they simply became disenchanted with how I.T. departments were being run, read the writing on the wall, and figured it was time to bail out before they were outsourced. So who is at fault here, management or I.T.? If management truly perceives I.T. workers as blue collar, than there will be a great temptation to give the work to shops overseas at greatly reduced costs. There are those in the I.T. field who believe unionization is the route to take. As far as I'm concerned, this would be the kiss of death to corporate I.T. shops as executives would rather outsource than be held hostage to a union. Instead, I believe I.T. workers should do some soul searching and ask themselves how they can differentiate themselves from their foreign counterparts. Technical knowledge alone will not do it any longer. Outsourcers have already demonstrated their technical skills are on a par with ours. No, the answer is they must demonstrate how the I.T. department adds more value to the company than an outsider can. This means they have to become more serious about their work and produce better I.T. solutions more quickly, correctly, and less expensively. Anyone can apply quick and dirty Band-Aid solutions. What is needed is a higher caliber of professionalism and improved skills in management. The I.T. workers have to work both harder and smarter. In other words, job assignments have to be performed in a more professional and craftsman-like manner (methodically with a quality consciousness). This requires a more disciplined, organized, and professional attitude which is the exception as opposed to the rule in a lot of I.T. shops today. If I.T. can demonstrate they behave more like white collar professionals, executives will become dependent on them and will be less likely to outsource their jobs. Ideally, you want to hear executives say, "I can't live without these guys (the I.T. department)." But if executives perceive you, the I.T. worker, as nothing more than a blue collar worker, than your story is told. Think I'm kidding? Consider this, I know of a large manufacturing company in the U.S. Midwest who had a pressing I.T. project not long ago. Knowing he was short on staff, the CIO appealed to the executive board for additional funding for more personnel. Basically, the board gave the CIO carte blanche to hire as many people he wanted at generous wages, with whatever job title the workers wanted. But the CIO was explicitly told, "When the project is over, fire them." Do you think these executives had a high regard for I.T. people? So, are I.T. workers "Blue Collar"? Look in the mirror and you tell me.

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is... "How we look and act speaks volumes."


Friends, the "PRIDE" Methodologies for Information Resource Management (IRM) is a common sense solution for Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, and Project Management. The methodologies include defined work breakdown structures, deliverables, and review points that promote quality and the production of industrial-strength information systems. Building information resources is a science, not an art form. Our methodologies clearly explain the concepts that govern them, which remarkably, is derived from engineering/manufacturing practices. Now you can get these acclaimed methodologies for free at our corporate web site at:


This is not the first time I have talked about micromanagement over the years, and I am sure it won't be my last. Recently, I had some business friends complain to me how their employees cannot follow directions. But on the other hand, I also know a lot of people who wonder why management doesn't trust them to do their job properly. You see this not only in the corporate world but in nonprofit organizations as well. Today, managers are spending more time supervising the work of others as opposed to actually managing them.

Back in the 1960's and 1970's we talked a lot about empowering workers and teamwork, but the pendulum seems to have swung the other way and micromanagement is now in vogue in today's corporate cultures. I have a theory as to why this has happened:

First, we now live in a litigious society where everyone is paranoid about accepting responsibilities that may result in a lawsuit. As a result, employees come down with an acute case of "The Stupids" and heaps everything on their manager's desk. Such a mindset means there is little, if any, self-initiative by employees.

Second, we overly structure the activities of our youth, be it at home, in school, or on the playground. For example, when I was a kid I was always ready for a pickup game of baseball (I think I carried my glove and bat with me just about everywhere). But the youth of today doesn't think this way anymore. Instead, they need uniforms, equipment, coaches and manicured baseball fields in order to play. Further, they are more inclined to play an electronic game indoors as opposed to interacting with their peers. This is causing our youth to become socially despondent and a legitimate cause for concern in the workplace in the years ahead. And because they are only being given tasks to perform around the home, and not responsibilities, there is no sense of initiative being instilled in them. In other words, our youth are being subliminally trained to accept micromanagement. How about delegating some responsibilities to them instead? We used to call this "chores" in the old days.

Third, We've forgotten how to manage. Regardless if you are in the corporate world or a nonprofit volunteer organization, our leaders are now more driven by ego as opposed to a results orientation. Being a manager is not about having a fancy job title or building an empire, its about producing a quality product or service on time and within budget. And the only way this can be accomplished is through people. Consequently, managers need to develop their interpersonal communications and leadership skills. Its not about numbers or technology, its about people.

Managers want workers to show some self-initiative and perform their work well, but to do so, you have to train them properly and trust them accordingly. This means building loyalty and investing in the staff. It also means empowering them with responsibility and holding them accountable. Employees have to understand what their duties and goals are, and be allowed to try and conquer them. "Empowerment" implicitly means a worker has a right to try. This of course means motivation, training, and experience.

The three "top-down" primary duties of a manager are:

  1. Delegate - prioritize and assign tasks to qualified employees.

  2. Control work environment - minimize staff interferences and provide a suitable workplace to operate with the proper tools to perform the work.

  3. Review progress - study employee reports and take corrective action where necessary.

In return, the "bottom-up" responsibilities of the workers include:

  1. Participate in the planning process - review work specifications and give feedback; estimate amount of time to perform an assignment, assist in the calculation of work schedules with management.

  2. Perform work within time and costs constraints.

  3. Report activities to management - including the use of time, interferences, possible delays, and anticipated accelerations of schedules.

This "bottom-up" approach to management represents an empowerment scenario where the workers are made to realize their voice is important, builds trust, and encourages initiative.

But if you are the type of manager that finds its necessary to supervise the actions of your workers, than you are part of the problem, not the solution. Remember: "Manage more, supervise less."

"Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don't interfere."
- Ronald Reagan (1986)

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.


Folks, a couple of years ago I started to include my "Pet Peeve of the Week" in these "Management Visions" podcasts. They have become so popular that I now syndicate them through the Internet and they are available for republication in other media. To this end, I have created a separate web page for my writings which you can find at Look for the section, "The Bryce is Right!" Hope you enjoy them.


A B.T. wrote me regarding my recent essay on "Putting the Boomers Out to Pasture"; he wrote:

A B.T. writes:

"I dislike your general classification of baby boomers as protectors and experts in legacy systems. I also do not like your description of the old way of long term development of systems as resulting in higher quality systems.

I am a baby boomer who has and will always love making legacy systems obsolete. Generally, the systems that were the result of the formal development process were inflexible and did not really serve the end user, just the people who developed the requirements.

I am also highly competitive and love new technology.

The rapid development approach, where systems are developed and delivered in 30-90 days and then replaced with evolved, better systems of the next generation, etc. actually results in higher quality systems that meet users real needs, in the long run, while providing the user with the minimal functionality that is need to meet the "current" informational needs.

That is why the new approach dominates."

Thanks for your comments.

Rapid development is fine for software but not for enterprise-wide systems. As I mentioned in the podcast, Agile Methodologies are nothing new; it has been around a long time (its just the latest spin). The only difference is the power tools now available to programmers. As I have said in the past, "If we built bridges the way that we build systems in this country, this would be a nation run by ferryboats."

Again, thanks for your e-mail. Keep those cards and letters coming.

MBA is an international management consulting firm specializing in Information Resource Management. We offer training, consulting, and writing services in the areas of Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, Project Management, Methodologies and Repositories. For information, call us at 727/786-4567. For a complete listing of my essays, see the "PRIDE" Special Subject Bulletins section of our corporate web site.

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Management Visions is a presentation of M. Bryce & Associates, a division of M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. The program is produced on a weekly basis and updated on Sundays. It is available in versions for RealPlayer, Microsoft Media Player, and MP3 suitable for Podcasting. See our web site for details. You'll find our broadcast listed in several Podcast and Internet Search engines, as well as Apples' iTunes.

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Copyright © 2007 by M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. All rights reserved. "PRIDE" is the registered trademark of M&JB Investment Company.

This is Tim Bryce reporting.

Since 1971: "Software for the finest computer - the Mind."


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