Tuesday, November 06, 2007

November 12, 2007


The following is an excerpt from my new book, "MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD - A Handbook for Entering the Work Force" which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life. The book offers considerable advice regarding how to manage our personal and professional lives. As a part of this, I found it necessary to discuss some basic management concepts and philosophies.

Management 101

In order to effectively work within a company, it is necessary to understand some basic management principles so employees understand what is going on in the minds of their superiors. The better the employee understands the manager, and vice versa, the better they will be able to work together in harmony. This broadcast, therefore, covers basic management concepts you will undoubtedly come across in business. If you comprehend these principles and are able to assimilate them in your work effort, this will have also served as a primer for your advancement.


There is an old joke whereby a new manager had been hired by a company to take over an operation. As the new manager was moving into his office he happened to bump into his predecessor who was preparing to leave. The new manager asked if there was any advice the former manager could offer on assuming his duties. The former manager said he had written down advice for his successor and placed them in three envelopes in the desk marked "1," "2," and "3", and they should only be opened in the event of an emergency. The new manager laughed, shrugged it off, and went about his business thinking nothing about the envelopes.

The manager's reign started off fine but inevitably ran into a problem for which he had no solution. Desperate, he happened to remember the three envelopes and opened Number 1 which offered the following advice: "Blame your predecessor." The manager thought this was a clever way to get himself off the hook and used it to good effect.

Time went by until the manager was faced with another seemingly impossible hurdle. Not knowing what to do, he turned to envelope Number 2 containing a note that read simply: "Reorganize." The manager thought this was a sound idea and set about reorganizing his operation. Organization charts were redrawn, job descriptions modified, and new office furniture and equipment obtained.

The reorganization overcame the manager's problem but he eventually ran into a crisis taxing his abilities as a manager. At a total loss as to what to do, the manager turned in desperation to envelope Number 3 which included a note that read simply, "Prepare three envelopes."

Laugh as we might to this anecdote, there is a bit of truth in it. Too often people rise above their level of competency to take on the job of manager. Being a manager is substantially different than the duties and responsibilities of the worker. Some people have the fortitude for it, others do not. While I have personally seen some very good managers who have excelled in their jobs, I have also seen people become physically ill from being elevated to a position of management. Being a manager, most assuredly, is not for everyone.

Management is not about numbers or technology, it is about getting people to perform specific work in the most productive means possible. Monitoring numbers and implementing technology to assist in our work effort is important, but we should never lose sight of the fact that projects and work assignments are performed by human beings who possess emotions and different levels of intelligence and interests. As such, the human dynamics of management is much more challenging than most people realize. There is a countless number of books on the subject of management alone. But for our purposes, perhaps the best way to think of "management" is simply, "Getting people to do what you want, when you want it, and how you want it."

The Three Prime Duties of a Manager

A manager has three primary duties to perform: Provide Leadership, Establish the proper work Environment, and Produce/Deliver products or services.

1. Leadership

As the field general for his department, the manager should be able to articulate the objectives of his area, and the strategy for conquering them. In other words, he has to have a vision and be able to effectively communicate it to his subordinates in order to instill confidence and provide a sense of direction. People like to know where they are going and appreciate some direction in their lives. As social creatures, we take comfort in knowing we are working in a concerted manner towards common objectives we deem important. As such, not only does a manager need a vision, he must be able to convince his workers of its necessity. If the workers believe in the manager's vision and are confident in his ability to lead them, they will gladly follow him.

Following this, the manager must be able to develop practical project plans for the staff to follow. These project plans should be explained to the staff along with their rationale. By doing so, workers cannot claim they didn't know the plan or what their role was in it. Think of the game of football where plays are called for the eleven players on the field; all are given assignments to perform towards a common objective. If any one player doesn't know the plan, in all likelihood he will make a wrong move and cause the team to lose yardage. As my football coach was fond of saying, "A team is as strong as its weakest player." Planning requires communications which ultimately leads to teamwork and harmony. To this end, managers should keep their project plans and calendars up-to-date and visible to everyone in the department.

In order for the manager to instill a sense of confidence in the staff, he must not only be able to demonstrate he knows what he is talking about, he must also express a high level of moral conduct. The manager's word should be considered his bond. If he is caught in a lie, cheating, defrauding, back stabbing, or some other misconduct, this will be noticed by the staff who will no longer trust him. A true manager is a person of integrity.

Finally, beware of "reactionary" managers whereby they simply go from one problem to another as they occur. Under this scenario, the manager is not in control of his department's destiny and has to dance to the tune of someone else's fiddle. Some reactionary management will inevitably be necessary, but managers should take control over their environment and practice more "proactive" management as opposed to "reactive" management. Too often people are lulled into a reactive mode of operation or as I refer to it, a "fire fighting mode" of operating. As a manager, you are cautioned to beware of your chief firefighters, they are probably your chief arsonists as well. Also remember the old adage, "If you do not make the decision, the decision will be made for you."

2. Environment

The astute manager will appreciate the need for cultivating the proper work environment. If a worker feels comfortable in his environment, he will feel amenable to working and will take a more positive view of his job. But if a "sweat shop" environment is provided, the worker will dread coming to work and put forth minimal effort to accomplish his assignments.

There are two dimensions for creating a work environment: logical and physical. The physical aspect is somewhat easier to explain and involves the facilities and equipment used in the business, both of which impact morale and attitudes towards work. How people behave in a clean and contemporary facility is noticeably different than those working under dingy and antiquated conditions. Whereas the former supports a professional attitude, the latter promotes a lackadaisical attitude. Basically, a clean and contemporary work place is saying to the employees, "I care about you and am willing to invest in you." However, the economic reality may be the manager cannot afford the latest "state-of-the-art" facilities or equipment. Nonetheless, the manager should make an effort to keep the physical surroundings as clean and up-to-date as possible.

Whereas the physical aspects of the work environment are tangible and easy to assimilate, the logical aspects are intangible and perhaps harder to manipulate for it involves dealing with human perceptions, attitudes and emotions. Along these lines, there are three considerations:

A. The Corporate Culture.
B. Management Style - micromanagement versus worker empowerment.
C. Continuous Improvement - to constantly seek new and improved ways for producing superior work products.

3. Produce/Deliver

Equal to Leadership and creating the proper Environment, is the manager's duty of being able to produce the products or services he is charged to deliver. Even if you have the best plans and environment, if you fail to deliver your products or services, you have failed as a manager. To illustrate, one of President Lincoln's first commanders of the Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War was General George B. McClellan, an extraordinary engineer and organizer, but a complete failure at execution. If you as a manager are convinced of a specific course of action, do not procrastinate, act. An opportunity rarely presents itself twice.

NEXT WEEK: We will discuss types of organizational structures, The Five Basic Elements of Mass Production, and Understanding Productivity.

If you would like to discuss this with me in more depth, please do not hesitate to send me an e-mail.

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is... "Management is getting people to do what you want, when you want it, and how you want it."


Friends, as mentioned, we have just published a new book entitled, "MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD - A Handbook for Entering the Work Force" which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life.

The Miami Hurricane recently reviewed it (10/22/2007) and said,

"the abundance of information the book provides is a good start for anyone about to take the first step into the real world. Though the concept of adulthood may seem intimidating, it's comforting to know that someone has at least written a guidebook for it."

Reviewer Bill Petrey praised it by saying, "Every young person entering the workplace for the first time should be given a copy of this book."

The book includes chapters to describe how a young person should organize themselves, how to adapt to the corporate culture, develop their career, and improve themselves professionally and socially. Basically, its 208 pages of good sound advice to jump start the young person into the work force. Corporate Human Resource departments will also find this book useful for setting new hires on the right track in their career. It not only reinforces the many formal rules as contained in corporate policy manuals, but also includes the subtle unwritten rules we must all observe while working with others. The book lists for $25 and can be ordered online through MBA or your local book store. Complementing the book is a one day seminar of the same name which can be purchased separately for $4,000.00 (U.S.) plus instructor travel expenses. For more information on both the book and the seminar, visit our corporate web site at:
ISBN: 978-0-9786182-5-4


This has been a favorite catch-phrase of mine for a number of years and I have used it to describe the state of management in many of the companies I have consulted with over the years. Basically, it's saying people tend to work on the wrong things, that their priorities are not right. You see this phenomenon just about everywhere you go these days. In addition to the business world, I have seen many nonprofit organizations operating in this manner. Frankly, this is very disconcerting.

One of the best examples of this is the Hurricane Katrina disaster not long ago. A few months prior to this, I happened to see a documentary on television regarding the future impact of hurricanes. Interestingly, they centered their attention on the City of New Orleans where they talked to engineers who described the system of levees protecting the city. One engineer pointed out that the levees would have a hard time sustaining a Category 3 storm, and that either a Category 4 or 5 would breach them which, unfortunately, proved tragically correct. What this tells us is that city planners knew full well the levees were inadequate, yet chose to ignore the problem and diverted money elsewhere.

I am sure we all know of many other examples of this "Deck Chair" phenomenon (anybody remember the Mayor in the movie "Jaws"?). Instead of doing what is needed, people tend to take the path of least resistance; the least painful path which inevitably leads to serious consequences later on. Nobody likes to deal with problems as they are perceived as burdensome and something we don't want to be bothered with. Instead, we tend to attack symptoms which are less painful and seemingly easier to cure. This is like trying to apply a Band-Aid when a tourniquet is really needed.

I'm a bit of a history buff and one of my favorite examples I use to illustrate this point is General Billy Mitchell who was a big proponent or air power following World War I. In 1924 he was sent on assignment by the Army to study Pacific defenses, including Pearl Harbor. This resulted in an extensive 323 page report which detailed with great accuracy how vulnerable our military bases were to attack. Although his report was rebuffed and ridiculed by the Army, Mitchell proved to be prophetic as the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 in accordance with his report produced 17 years earlier. In other words, the military knew they were vulnerable, yet did the bare minimum to prevent attack, thus resulting in a heavy casualty rate.

As the Mitchell case proves, in addition to having a good understanding of our strengths and weaknesses, planning requires some farsightedness to anticipate problems before they occur. But we have become lax in terms of our long-term planning skills. Maybe it's because we now live in a fast-paced world and tend to live for the moment as opposed to planning for tomorrow. Or maybe we've been doing things wrong so long, we think it is right. This leads me to believe we are better reactionaries as opposed to far-sighted planners. Instead of looking into a crystal ball, we prefer to wait until havoc strikes then point fingers at each other as to whose fault it was.

Consider the banter of the various Internet Discussion Groups dedicated to specific subject areas. I find it amusing that people tend to talk around a topic or grouse about something as opposed to directly addressing the subject. In other words, we as human beings have a natural tendency to avoid addressing problems and discuss inconsequential items instead. Having been involved in the I.T. field for many years now, I have never encountered a technical problem that couldn't be overcome as long as you are allowed to address it openly and rationally. Managers should encourage constructive discourse as opposed to trying to suppress it.

If everyone would set aside some time to regularly examine and organize their priorities, think of how we might be better off. First, everyone would be rowing on the same oar as opposed to working against each other. Second, we might properly tackle the problems that really need to be addressed. But planning doesn't come easy. It requires brain power. Something we don't like to engage. Ask yourself, when was the last time you truly organized your own personal set of priorities? See what I mean.

As for me, I'm a big believer of either patching the hole in the ship, or getting into a life boat. I'll leave others to "Rearrange the Deck Chairs on the Titanic."

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

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


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 a few comments regarding my "Pet Peeve" on "The Cost of Technology":

A B.A. in India wrote...

"I think you make some very valid points in your agrument that technology is controlling us. Today's soceity is dependent upon tecnology and without it, we would be lost. I agree that we take a lot for granted with today's technology. If a computer crashes or a cell phone dies, we feel as if we are no longer in communication with the rest of the world. Technology has become so vital to everyday life that it has taken over our lives. Your opinions have made me realize how much I depend on technology in my own life. I have my laptop, my iPod, cell phone, television, and digital camera all sitting next to me in my dorm room, and I never think twice about it. Technology is a part of my everyday life and I can't imagine life without it. I think it's important to recognize the great accomplisments and success we have had with all these new developments, but we also need to stop letting technology control our soceity."

A P.B. in Alabama wrote...

"I said to my husband recently that I would not buy an iPhone. They can forget that! I am a sucker for gadgets. One of my doctors was playing with a new laptop she got the other day, and I asked her to let me have a go at it. Well, traffic was high and it was slow, so she got out her new iPhone. To my amazement I got quite excited. It is a neat gadget. I am impressed. It might become a business tool! Anyway, I am having second thoughts. I am sure they will improve upon it before I get one, but it is a real sharp tool."

Thanks for your comments.

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.

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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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