Wednesday, January 02, 2008

January 7, 2008


I have been thinking a lot about micromanagement lately. It seems the corporate world is consumed with mini-dictators who are bent on directing the activities of others. I also see this in nonprofit organizations consisting of volunteers and managed by leaders who can be rather ruthless. Nonetheless, I have also noticed there appears to be an inclination for such managers to be reactive as opposed to proactive in their style of management, and I cannot help but think that micromanagement and reactive management are somehow related.

I have met a lot of reactive managers in my time. All exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Seldom has time for interoffice planning/organization meetings.

  • Has trouble effectively communicating with the staff, particularly articulating objectives and plans.

  • Not interested in or doesn't heed input from subordinates.

  • Spends more time supervising than managing.

  • Changes priorities on the fly.

  • Rarely, if ever, produces priority lists (keeps it in his/her head).

  • Bipolar - knows great enthusiasms and is easily depressed.

  • Thrives on chaos - sees themselves as saviors. Likes to swoop in and solve problems.

As to this last point, we have encountered situations like this on more than one occasion, but in particular we were contracted by a large insurance company in the Midwest to audit the performance of two systems development groups in the company. One group appeared to be well organized and managed; they quietly went about their business and delivered their work products on time and within budget. Another group was just the antithesis of the other; systems were installed prematurely and never to the customer's satisfaction, and assignments were routinely late and over budget. Nonetheless, the manager of this latter group was well respected for being able to put out fires at a moment's notice.

When we finally presented our results to the board of directors, we made the observation that their head firefighter was also the cause of all of the problems he was correcting. Yet, whereas the manager of the group who quietly produced superior work products was unrecognized, the head firefighter was being amply rewarded for his efforts. Basically, he was taking advantage of the "squeaky wheel getting the oil" phenomenon. Frankly, the executives were surprised by our comments and that such a situation had arisen in their company.

There are two reasons for reactive management; either for political gain (as in the insurance example above), or because people simply do not know how to be proactive. One excuse commonly heard from reactive managers is, "We never have enough time to do things right." Translation: "We have plenty of time to do things wrong." True management is hard work, requiring skills in planning, analysis, organization, leadership, and communications. To some, it is easier to let problems come to them as opposed to trying to anticipate problems and take action before they occur. In other words, they resign themselves to a life of reactive management.

The proactive manager invests his time and money in planning and, consequently, spends less in implementation. In contrast, the reactive manager regards planning as a waste of time and is content spending an inordinate amount of time in implementation, thereby incurring more costs and, because of the ensuing chaos, needs to micromanage people.

Young people coming into the workforce tend to learn from their managers and emulate their style for years to come. If they see proactive management, they will believe this is the proper way of conducting business and perpetuate this style, but if they only see reactive management...

This leads me to believe we will be plagued by reactive management for quite some time to come.

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... "Beware of your 'firefighters,' they are probably your chief arsonists.


Friends, 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.

Bonnie Wooding, the President-elect of the Toronto Chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) said, "Many of our members are just starting their careers and I will be recommending that they read this book, especially Chapter 3, Professional Development - a primer for business skills and filled with basic common sense advice that is simple, easy to follow and extraordinarily practical; and Chapter 5, Do’s and Don’ts of the Workplace, an excellent resource for those questions you are too embarrassed to ask for fear of looking foolish."

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


As the man of the house I have had to do a lot of odd jobs around it, everything from fixing sprinkler heads and garbage disposals to replacing lights. But I would have to say one of the most irritating jobs to perform is fixing the toilet. Regardless how clean they are, I don't think anybody likes to work on a toilet which typically breaks down at the worst possible moment, such as just before you host a dinner party.

It seems you never have the correct parts on hand to fix the toilet. You then have to go to the hardware store where you inevitably pickup the wrong parts which forces you to return them to the store and pickup replacements. For those of you who have had to fix a toilet, wouldn't it be nice if they had standard parts so you picked up the right thing the first time? I remember one time when I picked up the wrong overflow pipe. It worked fine, but the back toilet lid sat up several inches too high. I kind of felt like the guy on the old Ed Sullivan show who spun dinner plates on top of six foot wooden sticks. The wife didn't think it was funny either.

I also had to replace the copper tubing that feeds water to the toilet with some of the new flexible tubing. These worked great but the sales clerk sold me lines that were simply too long. Now my toilet looks like its got a Boa Constrictor hiding behind the bowl.

The biggest problem though is when you have to totally replace all of the guts in the tank. No matter how you try to drain the tank before you work on it, whenever you unscrew the master screw underneath it, water inevitably comes out either on the floor, you or both. I'm sure someone who designed the tank did this deliberately for a good laugh. They also designed it so all of the screws are in the most uncomfortable place possible, making it awkward at best to loosen or tighten them. In most cases you feel like Helen Keller groping around underneath the tank.

Thomas Crapper is credited with the propagation of indoor toilets, hence the use of his name to denote what you are using the toilet for. I find it somewhat ironic that the name of the person who gave us what is generally regarded as the most useful plumbing device ever is now a term we use in a derogatory sense. I wonder what would have happened had his name been something else like "Schmidlap"? Would we say, "I have to take a good schmidt"? But I guess we use something like that already.

Toilets may be invaluable indoor commodities but I wish they were easier to work on. I guess the alternative would be to go back to outhouses and Sears catalogs.

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 the following response from my "Pet Peeve" on "Celebrity Endorsements":

An S.U. in Iowa wrote...

"Honestly, endorsements from friends mean way more to me than celebrity ones.....sorry, but I trust friends much more in that sense!"

I also received quite a few comments regarding my "Pet Peeve" on "Christmas":

An L.O. in Turkey wrote...

"The holiday of Christmas used to be a pagan religious holiday IIRC. Because the masses wouldn't give up that holiday the Christians made it their own. Maybe full circle has come around. I too feel that many of our religious holidays have become not much more than commercial enterprises and many have forgotten the true spirit."

A G.L. in Michigan wrote...

"I feel the same way.... and I am beginning to hate Christmas. Instead of Christmas cheer all I am seeing is Christmas GREED. As I have been watching the news these last few days I realized that our whole "economy" seems to hinge on "Holiday Sales." What??? Do they mean that without Christmas America would be in a depression or something like that? I'm glad that Jesus came to save the world... and is saving our economy too. What a nice added bonus. Nice article Tim. Have a great Christmas too."

A D.F. in Ohio wrote...

"You raise some very valid points, particularly about the office parties versus a bonus, which is pretty much a thing of the past, except for those who already pull in a six figure income."

A J.U. in Clearwater, Florida wrote...

"Interesting writing regarding Christmas. It is the savior for the retail industry, the beginning of the end of many people's financial stability, the reasons for a few suicides, and of course the reasons for many visits to the shrink's office, and let's not forget the reason for relationships to come apart because the poor slob did not buy the right size diamonds for his special friend!"

And finally I received a comment regarding my "Pet Peeve" on "Christmas":

An M.B. in Clearwater wrote...

"EXCELLENT! Like many "middle class" people these days, people are not really middle class, but maintain the pretence by being in debt up to their eyeballs, and each time their cards get maxed out, they sell their fancy home at a profit and buy another one, using the profit to pay off the credit cards, and start the process of living off the cards all over again. I am amazed how many people I know who actually live this way! The housing crash has ended the ability to live like that, and for a lot of people, the piper now wants to be paid and they are up the proverbial creek. I don't give a fig what other people have. We believe in living debt free and always have. People need to get a grip and realize how marketers are manipulating them like puppets and laughing all the way to the bank."

Thanks for your comments. For these and other comments, please visit my "Bryce is Right!" web site.

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.

Our corporate web page is at:

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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This is Tim Bryce reporting.

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




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