Tuesday, May 15, 2007

May 21, 2007


Last year we started a free service to analyze a person's style of management. Through our "Bryce Management Analysis," a manager answers a series of questions (30 in all) and, based on his responses, we produce a report which assesses his style of management as well as other attributes.

The data collected from these surveys has confirmed a lot of my suspicions; that companies are regressing back to a Theory X form of management. Over the last twenty years we have witnessed a dramatic swing from a Theory Y or Z form of management, back to Theory X. Whereas workers used to be empowered to make decisions and tackle assignments (a la Theory Y or Z), managers today tend to micromanage every action or decision in their department. Workers are told what to do, how to do it, and when it has to be done, with little regard for their input. We see this not only in the corporate world, but in nonprofit organizations as well. The result is that organizations today are run by control freaks who would be more content working with robots as opposed to human beings. This mentality has resulted in an apathetic workforce that doesn't trust management. It also breeds contempt and disloyalty for management, as well as making for some excellent fodder for such things as Dilbert and NBC's hit comedy, "The Office."

Although there are instances where a Theory X form of management can work effectively, it nonetheless represents a top-down unidirectional "master-slave" relationship. Theory X can work well in certain crisis situations, such as "crunch-time" projects, but it is hardly conducive for a normal mode of operation in today's society. Let me be clear on this, under a Theory X form of management, project planning, estimating, scheduling, reporting and control is performed top-down. Instead, a bi-directional approach is recommended which is a critical aspect of the Mini-Project Manager concept.


The Mini-Project Manager (MPM) concept is based on our experiences in several I.T. shops over a number of years and was first described in the Project Management activities of our "PRIDE" methodologies dating back to 1971. Unlike Theory X, the MPM concept seeks to empower workers and make them more responsible for their actions. It promotes more management and less supervision. Actually, under the MPM concept, the individual is expected to act professionally and supervise themselves.

There are still some top-down activities to be performed by management, such as project planning where projects are defined and prioritized. Further, managers select and allocate human resources to participate in project assignments. It also includes establishing project Work Breakdown Structures (WBS; e.g., phases, activities, tasks) and precedent relationships between such structures. Here, the manager relies on such things as Skills Inventories, Resource Allocations, Calendars, and Priority Modeling tools.

After projects are assigned, workers estimate the amount of effort needed to perform the work. This is a critical aspect of the MPM concept and is typically not found in today's Theory X environments. Here, the worker is asked, "What do you think?" But understand this, the worker's estimate is an expression of his personal commitment to the work involved. If the manager does not agree with the estimate, he may ask the worker to rationalize his estimate. If the manager is unhappy with the answer, he may elect to give the assignment to someone else (perhaps another employee or a contractor). Nonetheless, the estimate is an expression of commitment by the person.

Based on the estimate, the manager then calculates the project schedule. Whereas the worker developed the estimate, the manager computes the schedule. Here, the manager considers the project's WBS and precedent relationships. More importantly, the manager considers the Indirect and Unavailable time affecting the worker. This means the MPM concept does not subscribe to the "Man Hour" approach to project estimating and scheduling. I have discussed the differences in the use of time in many other articles, but in a nutshell we view time as:

AVAILABLE TIME - this is the time workers are available to perform work; e.g., Monday through Friday, 9:00am - 5:00pm.

UNAVAILABLE TIME - this is the time when workers are not available for work; e.g., weekends, holidays, vacations, and planned absences.

Available Time is subdivided into two categories:

DIRECT TIME - representing the time when workers are performing their project assignments and, as such, estimates are expressed in Direct Time.

INDIRECT TIME - interferences which keep workers from performing their project assignments. For example, meetings, training classes, reviewing publications, telephone calls and e-mail, surfing the Internet, and breaks.

The relationship between Direct and Indirect Time is referred to as "Effectiveness Rate" which is an analysis of a worker's availability to perform project work. For example, the average office worker is typically 70% effective, meaning in an eight hour day a worker spends approximately five hours on direct assignments and three on indirects. Effectiveness Rate is by no means a measurement of efficiency. For example, a highly skilled veteran worker may have a lower effectiveness rate than a novice worker with less skills who has a higher effectiveness rate; yet, the veteran worker can probably complete an assignment faster than the novice. It just means the novice can manage his time better than the veteran worker. Again, what we are seeing is the individual worker being personally responsible for supervising his own time. Interestingly, a manager typically has a low effectiveness rate as he typically has a lot of indirect activities occupying his time. For example, it is not unusual to find managers with a 20-30% effectiveness rate.

Returning to scheduling, the manager uses the worker's effectiveness rate when calculating project schedules. If the worker's estimate is such that it greatly impacts the schedule, the manager may consider alternatives, such as influencing the worker's indirect time (eliminating interferences) and unavailable time (work overtime or on weekends, possibly cancel vacations, etc.).

This brings up another important aspect of the MPM concept, the manager is responsible for controlling the work environment. In addition to the physical aspects of the job such as the venue and tools to be made available to the worker, it also includes managing Indirect Time. For example, if a worker is working on a project assignment on the critical path, the manager may elect to excuse the worker from meetings and training so that he can concentrate on the project assignment. Whereas the individual worker is concerned with managing his Direct Time, the manager controls the Indirect Time. It is important to understand that nobody can be 100% effective; for nothing else, we as human beings need breaks so that we can refocus our attention on our work.

The "Effectiveness Rate" technique serves two purposes: it builds reality into a project schedule, and; it provides a convenient mechanism for a manager to control the work environment. For example, a manager may decide to send someone to a training class to develop their skills (representing Indirect Time). By doing so, he is weighing the impact of this decision against the worker's current assignments.

As workers perform their project tasks, they report their use of time (representing another "bottom-up" characteristic of the MPM concept). In addition to reporting time against assignment, workers are asked to appraise the amount of time remaining on a Direct assignment (not Indirects). This is referred to as "Estimate to Do" which is substantially different than the "Percent Complete" technique whereby workers are asked where they stand on an assignment. The problem here is that workers become "90% complete" yet never seem to be able to complete the last 10%. Under the "Estimate to Do" approach, the worker estimates the amount of time to complete a task. To illustrate how this works, let's assume a worker estimates 30 hours to perform a task. During the week, he works 15 hours on the task. He is then asked how much time remains on it. Maybe its simply 15 hours (whereby the worker was correct on his estimate) or perhaps he determines the task is more difficult than he anticipated and 25 hours remain (15 hours performed + 25 hours "to do" = 50); conversely, perhaps he found that the task was easier than imagined and only 5 hours remain (15 hours performed + 5 hours "to do" = 20). Either way, this will affect project schedules and the manager must then consider the repercussions and take the necessary actions. "Estimate to Do" is another example of where the individual worker is asked, "What do you think?"

Although the reporting of time can be performed in any time cycle, we recommend a weekly posting. This can be performed either with Project Management software or using a manual system involving Time Distribution Worksheets. Either way, it is important for the manager to review each worker's distribution of time (including Direct, Indirect, and Unavailable time) and their effectiveness rate for the week. This review should not be considered frivolous as the manager should carefully scrutinize the worker's Direct and Indirect time as they might impact project schedules.

A good Project Management system should have the ability to "roll-up" time reports into departmental summaries for analysis by the manager. For example, a departmental effectiveness rate can be calculated thereby providing the manager with a means to study which workers are working above or below the departmental average. Again, you are cautioned that this is not an efficiency rating and workers should not necessarily be competing over who has the highest effectiveness rate. Accurate time reporting is required to make this work properly.

Both the individual and departmental effectiveness rates should be plotted on line graphs to allow the manager to study trends, as well as determining averages over a period of time; e.g., three months (quarterly) or annually.


Implementing the MPM concept requires a good Project Management system (either automated or manual) and a good attitude by all of the participants involved, both managers and workers alike. Some people resist the concept as it forces accountability. Now, instead of the manager making an estimate, the worker is charged with this task, something that doesn't sit well with some people who shirk responsibility. Further, some Theory X managers falsely see it as a threat to their control and authority. However, most people welcome the MPM concept as it represents more freedom and empowerment. This helps promote project ownership by the workers as they now feel their input is heard by management, which leads to improved corporate loyalty, trust, harmony, and teamwork.

By encouraging worker participation in Project Management, they tend to act more professionally and responsibly in project activities. Interestingly, as workers are given more freedom, they are forced to become more disciplined and accountable at the same time.


It was back in 1982 when Dr. William Ouchi wrote his popular book, "Theory Z," describing Japanese management practices empowering workers. And it was in 1986 when President Ronald Reagan advised, "Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don't interfere." Keep in mind, this was twenty years ago. A lot has happened in the last twenty years; the Baby Boomers have been succeeded by Generation X, who is also being succeeded by Generations Y and Z. In the process, socioeconomic conditions have changed as well as the management landscape. Frankly, I think a lot of the management practices of today are dehumanizing. There is little concern for the people side of management, only numbers and technology. Its no small wonder that workers are becoming more socially dysfunctional.

To change this, I recommend that managers manage more and supervise less. And this is the heart of the Mini-Project Manager concept.

For a sample Time Distribution Worksheet, see:

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is... "Manage from the bottom up; not just from the top down; this creates personal commitment and accountability."


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May and June are the big months for graduations, be it high school or college, and I find it interesting how students today take it for granted. True, most understand that it marks a passage from one stage in their life to another, but most do not seem to grasp the significance of their diploma and what it represents. First, it certifies you have learned a specific curriculum, but more importantly, it means you possess the faculties to learn, that you can be taught; two important attributes employers are looking for. They are not so much interested in what you have learned in school as much as your ability to learn and adapt, which is what the diploma represents. Regardless of your degree, most employers are going to spend a period of time debriefing you and then teach you how to do things in the manner in which they want things done.

High School students in affluent areas of the country tend to believe they have a right to go to college. I don't care how much money your family has, going to college is not a right, it is a privilege, one you should be thankful for. And I do not believe college is the right path for everybody; some would be better off in a trade school or perhaps a stint in the military where they might learn some organization and discipline. Like our colleges and universities, both trade schools and the military are honorable institutions and represent a viable avenue for young people to pursue.

What I tell students departing for college is that it is most definitely not the same thing as High School; that it is now THEIR education, and, as such, they have every right to hold the professors accountable for getting the education they are paying for. Frankly, I think every college professor should offer their resume and credentials to every student on the first day of class so they know what they are buying. Some college professors do not like this. What they fail to remember is who the customer is here. But I digress.

When I graduated from Junior High School in Chicago years ago, I received a diploma in cap and gown. I don't believe such diplomas are given out anymore (in fact, most schools have gotten away from the term "Junior High School" and now refer to it as "Middle School"). Years ago, during the Depression, a Junior High School diploma was very much prized as it was as far as someone could go before having to go to work to help support the family. Back then, a High School diploma was prized at the same level as a College diploma is today. The point is, a diploma is nothing to be taken for granted as it is a representation of your credentials in today's society.

I recently met a kid who dropped out of his Senior year in High School, simply because he felt he was too cool for school; he felt he had enough street smarts to get him by in life. After a few minutes of talking to him, I knew exactly where he was going in life, nowhere. This is a prime example of someone who is destined to attend the School of Hard Knocks for the rest of his life, and grouse about it for years to come.

But if you have graduated, don't think this is the end of your education. You will be learning lessons for the rest of your life. Our schools and universities do nothing more than train your mind to learn. That is their mission. This does not belittle the diploma they will hand you. After all, it is a reflection of not only you, but your parents and teachers as well. So treat your diploma with respect; be proud of it; go ahead, frame it. And "Welcome to the jungle."

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.


I received an e-mail from a J.W. regarding my recent essay on "Putting the Boomers Out to Pasture."

J.W. writes -

"Blaming Boomers" has become the latest trendy game among the media. As self-centered as they are, boomers don't come close to the levels of narcissism and materialism displayed by their spoiled children.

How about placing at least a little of the blame on those who refuse to learn from the knowledge and experience of boomers? Perhaps a bit of reflection and humility might be in order, instead of the all too common arrogance of Gen X/Y/Z, blaming everyone else for the problems?

Newer and faster is not necessarily better.

Also, an A.L. writes:

"I am a Generation Y baby, and I agree with J.W. A lot of blame is put on the Baby Boomers, mostly by the Gen X/Y/Z's that are taking their places. However, I think the cause is resentment from the gap that Tim mentions between the boomers and the gens. Boomers rebelled from the Greats, and the Gen's learned and took the rebellion to a whole new level. We created new complicated words to describe very simple processes (in my opinion just to annoy our elders) that Boomers and Great's have been doing for 30+ years.

I agree that I and the rest of the Gen's have a lot to learn from those that are retiring or downsizing. But if the Boomer's want to stay they also have to learn from us. I think it really comes down to a respect issue. And I think I'm gonna leave it at that."

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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This is Tim Bryce reporting.

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


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