Tuesday, November 20, 2007

November 26, 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.

Over the last couple of weeks I described the Three Prime Duties of a Manager, organizational structures, The Five Basic Elements of Mass Production, and Understanding Productivity. This week, I'll describe a set of management related laws and rules you will undoubtedly hear about in the workplace. As such, you should become familiar with these concepts and how to use them to good effect.

Management 101 (Part III

Peter Principle

Introduced by Dr. Laurence J. Peter in his 1968 book of the same name, the Peter Principle relates to how people move up and down the corporate hierarchy, specifically how they rise to their level of competency. A problem occurs though when a person rises above his level of competency, whereby he becomes ineffective in performing his job function. Keeping people at such a level is a disservice not only to the company, but to the worker as well. When a person has risen above their level of competency, it will become obvious to others and may affect morale. Standard and routine performance appraisals should help overcome this problem, but if they are infrequently performed or done in an inconsistent manner, the Peter Principle will inevitably kick in. Management will either work with the person to get him back on track, or terminate his employment.

Parkinson's Law

"Parkinson's Law" was devised by C. Northcote Parkinson, noted British historian and author. His original book, "Parkinson's Law: The Pursuit of Progress," was introduced in 1958 and was a top-selling management book for a number of years (it is still sold today). The book was based on his experience with the British Civil Service. Among his key observation's was that "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." Basically, he suggests people make work in order to rationalize their employment. Consequently, managers create bureaucracies and superfluous work to justify their existence, not because it is really needed (aka, the "making mountains our of mole hills" phenomenon). As an aside, CEO's clearly understood Parkinson's Law, which became the driving force behind the flattening of corporations during the 1990's.

80/20 Rule (Pareto's Principle)

I have often been asked why it seems only a handful of people always carry the workload. This is not uncommon and is found in everyday life as well. It is commonly referred to as the "80/20 Rule" or "Pareto's Principle." Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who observed in 1897 that 80 percent of the land in England was owned by 20 percent of the population. Pareto's theory thereby relates to the ratio of input to output; e.g. twenty percent of your effort produces 80 percent of your results. From a time management perspective, it means 20 percent of the people are normally responsible for producing 80 percent of the work.

As a manager it thereby becomes important to recognize your core 20 percent workers and concentrate your attention on them. It also becomes important to devise new means to squeeze out the remaining 20 percent of the work from the 80 percent who do not actively participate. This is not to suggest the 80 percent do not care about their work, they just may not be as talented, experienced or as motivated as your 20 percent workers.

One dangerous byproduct of the 80/20 Rule is petty jealousy. Since the 20 percent performs the work, they are thereby deserving of the accolades for performing it. Inevitably, it is not uncommon for small minded individuals from the 80 percent group to feel slighted and jealous of those doing the work and receiving the recognition. Such petty jealously should be overlooked and the person forgiven, unless something more malicious is involved, such as character assassination of which there is no excuse. The manager must carefully squash this behavior before it has an adverse effect on your 20 percent. If not, the 20 percent worker will question why he is working so hard if he is only going to be the object of ridicule and humiliation. The 80/20 Rule is an interesting phenomenon every manager must be cognizant of to get the most out of their workers.

As an aside, I am not a proponent of "Employee of the Month" programs as they tend to encourage individual achievement as opposed to teamwork. The concept of "Employee of the Month" programs is to recognize and reward an employee for outstanding effort and, hopefully, inspire other employees to work as diligently. Instead. such programs tend to generate petty jealousies and disrupt the harmony of the workplace.

W. Edwards Deming (Win/Win)

W. Edwards Deming pioneered quality control principles through statistical analysis in the early part of the 20th century. Unfortunately, his early work was unappreciated in America and, consequently, he applied his talents to help rebuild the industrial complex of postwar Japan. It was only late in life did he receive the recognition of his work in the United States (after Japan became an economic powerhouse). The Deming Award for quality is still coveted in Japan. One of his most famous quotes is, "Quality is everyone's responsibility."

To me personally, one of Deming's biggest contributions was his philosophy of creating "Win/Win" situations in business. Instead of competition, he preached cooperation; instead of rugged individualism, he preached the need for teamwork. Deming observed people too often create "Win/Lose" situations, whereby one person can only win at the expense of the other party losing. Instead, he recommended the creation of "Win/Win" situations whereby both parties cooperate towards success. To illustrate, he would describe how "Nylon" was created by DuPont, which was actually based on a joint research project between offices in New York and London, hence the name "NYLON."

Deming's philosophy in this regard is very much compatible with our own Bryce's Law stating, "The only good business relationship is where both parties benefit." Instead of promoting cutthroat tactics promoting individualism, what is wrong with achieving success through cooperation?

Catch 22

The term "Catch 22" was derived from Joseph Heller's book of the same name about World War II. It is commonly used in the business world and represents a no-win situation, e.g., no matter what how you attack a problem, you cannot conquer it. In the course of your personal and professional life you will inevitably run into a Catch 22 along the way.

Murphy's Laws

Murphy's Laws originated in the 1940's from the American military and consists of a series of amusing axioms relating to real world experiences. For example, perhaps the best known law is, "If anything can go wrong, it will." This expression rightfully admonishes us to always prepare for the unexpected. There are many other amusing Murphy's Laws, but none as profound as this simple expression.

Murphy's Laws was also the inspiration that led to the development of Bryce's Laws.


When describing the duties and responsibilities of management, I often use the analogy that management is like driving a car. Too often managers become more obsessed with reading the dials and gauges than actually driving the car. True, the dials and gauges are important and tell us how fast or slow we are going, but they are no substitute for actually driving the car to where we want to go. Management is about leading people in the right direction, creating a suitable work environment for them to perform their work, and having the tenacity to see the job through to completion.

As is mentioned frequently throughout my new book, how we elect to manage others or how we elect to be managed is based on human perceptions, right or wrong. These perceptions dictate the necessity for improving our social skills in the workplace, both the manager and the worker.

Management is about people. And because of this, it's about effectively communicating, developing trust, and learning to socialize with others.

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... "The only good business relationship is where both parties benefit."


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


Something that bothers me is what I call an "SFB" which I'll define in a moment. In a nutshell, an SFB is a type of person who doesn't want to cooperate with you and comes down with a bad case of the stupids to confound you. The first case of an SFB that I can recall is a guidance counselor I had in High School. She disliked my family for some reason and seemed to work overtime to screw up my older brother who was trying to apply for college. When my turn finally came around, I was summoned into her office where she greeted me cheerily as if we were long lost friends. I said to her frankly, "Look, let's not kid each other, you have no use for me and my family, and I frankly have no use for you. I am going to work through the principal instead of you."

She looked at me coyly and said, "Well, I don't know what you mean." She knew exactly what I meant, she just came down with a bad case of the stupids to cloak her dislike of me. I've come across this same type of scenario time and again as I got older, especially from government bureaucrats and people participating in nonprofit volunteer groups. They just look at you seemingly dumbfounded and say, "Gee, I don't know what you mean," or "Whatever gave you that idea?" This really bugs me. Instead of saying, "Look, I'm having a bad day, why don't you go away until I'm in the mood," or "Quit bothering me and talk to someone else." Even when you articulate your problem carefully, they pretend ignorance instead of trying to help you.

This SFB phenomenon is really disturbing in business, particularly in a Customer Service situation. Instead of looking for ways to help you, people look for ways to confound you so that you will take your problem elsewhere. I think this is why voice mail was invented, so people can pick and chose who they want to talk to.

I recognize there are times where it is necessary to practice tact and diplomacy when dealing with people, but pretending to be brainless is certainly not a good practice particularly when interacting with people on a regular basis is an inherent part of your job.

As I've mentioned in the past, I have a letter carrier who delivers mail to my office only when he is in the mood (which seems to be twice a week). When I confronted him about why he wasn't delivering our mail regularly, he became an SFB and feigned ignorance about what I was talking about. Even when I complained to his superior at the post office, he also became an SFB and pretended not to understand what I was talking about. I guess being an SFB is contagious.

So what exactly is an SFB? Actually, it's quite simple; it's three little letters representing: Shit for Brains.

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 the following comment regarding my "Pet Peeve" on "Chinese Fire Drills":

A G.T. in Utah wrote...

"Could it be, those teenagers years ago who participated in 'Chinese Fire Drills' are now the managers and feel that chaos trumps control in today's office environment?"

An H.T. in Lansing, MI wrote...

"Great article. I have occasionally seen kids do these (and yes, back in the day, I participated a time or two...) still as recently as a few weeks ago."

An S.S. in Decatur, GA wrote...

"My dad taught us how to do this when we were kids...but, he called it a Fruit Basket Turnover."

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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