Search This Blog

Friday, January 19, 2018

MANAGING CONSULTANTS

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

- How to manage them effectively.

The need for outside contract services is nothing new. IT-related consultants have been around since the computer was first introduced for commercial purposes. Today, all of the Fortune 1000 companies have consultants playing different roles in IT, either on-site or offshore. Many companies are satisfied with the work produced by their consultants, others are not. Some consultants are considered a necessary evil who tackle assignments in an unbridled manner and charge exorbitant rates. For this type of consultant, it is not uncommon for the customer to be left in the dark in terms of what the consultant has done, where they are going, and if and when they will ever complete their assignment. Understand this, the chaos brought on by such consultants are your own doing.

IT consultants offer three types of services:

1. Special expertise - representing skills and proficiencies your company is currently without, be it the knowledge of a particular product, industry, software, management techniques, special programming techniques and languages, computer hardware, etc.

2. Extra resources - for those assignments where in-house resource allocations are either unavailable or in short supply, it is often better to tap outside resources to perform the work.

3. Offer advice - to get a fresh perspective on a problem, it is sometimes beneficial to bring in an outsider to give an objective opinion on how to proceed. A different set of eyes can often see something we may have overlooked.

Whatever purpose we wish to use a consultant for, it is important to manage them even before they are hired. This means a company should know precisely what it wants before hiring a consultant.

ASSIGNMENT DEFINITION

Before we contact a consultant, let's begin by defining the assignment as concisely and accurately as possible; frankly, it shouldn't be much different than writing a job description for in-house employees. It should include:

1. Scope - specifying the boundaries of the work assignment and detailing what is to be produced. This should also include where the work is to be performed (on-site, off-site, both) and time frame for performing the work.

2. Duties and Responsibilities - specifying the types of work to be performed.

3. Required Skills and Proficiencies - specifying the knowledge or experience required to perform the work.

4. Administrative Relationships - specifying who the consultant is to report to and who they will work with (internal employees and other external consultants).

5. Methodology considerations - specifying the methodology, techniques and tools to be used, along with the deliverables to be produced and review points. This is a critical consideration in managing the consultant. However, if the consultant is to use his/her own methodology, the customer should understand how it works and the deliverables produced.

6. Miscellaneous in-house standards - depending on the company, it may be necessary to review applicable corporate policies, e.g., travel expenses, dress code, attendance, behavior, drug test, etc.
Many would say such an Assignment Definition is overkill. Far from it. How can we manage anyone if we do not establish the rules of the game first? Doing your homework now will pay dividends later when trying to manage the consultant. Assignment clarity benefits both the customer and the consultant alike. Such specificity eliminates vague areas and materially assists the consultant in quoting a price.

SELECTING A CONSULTANT

Armed with an Assignment Definition, we can now begin the process of selecting a consultant in essentially the same manner as selecting an in-house employee. Choosing the right consultant is as important a task as the work to be performed. As such, candidates must be able to demonstrate their expertise for the assignment. Certification and/or in-house testing are good ways for checking required skills and proficiencies. Also, reviewing prior consulting assignments (and checking references) is very helpful. Examining credentials is imperative in an industry lacking standards. For example, many consultants may have a fancy title and profess to be noted experts in their field but, in reality, may be nothing more than contract programmers. In other words, beware of wolves in sheep's clothing.

Ideally, a consultant should have both a business and technical background. True, technical expertise is needed to perform IT assignments, but a basic understanding of business (particularly your business) is also important for the consultant to adapt to your environment. This is needed even if you are using nothing more than contract programmers.

In terms of remuneration, you normally have two options: an hourly rate or a fixed price. For the former, be sure the work hours are specified, including on-site and off-site. Many clients are uncomfortable paying an hourly wage for an off-site consultant. Under this scenario, routine status reports should be required to itemize the work performed and the time spent. However, the lion's share of consulting services are based on a fixed price contract. Here, the role of the methodology becomes rather important. Whether you are using "PRIDE" or another Brand X methodology, it is important the consultant and client both have a clear understanding of the project's work breakdown structure, the deliverables to be produced, and the review points. From this, an effective dialog can be communicated in terms of managing the project. Further, the methodology becomes the basis for the preparation of estimates and schedules.

After examining your candidates, it now becomes necessary to balance the level of expertise against price. Sure, a senior person can probably get the job done in less time, but perhaps the costs may be too high for your budget. "Expertise" versus "expense" becomes a serious consideration at this point.
Whomever is selected, it is important that a written agreement be prepared and signed. The agreement should reference the Assignment Definition mentioned above and any other pertinent corporate verbiage. Very important: make sure it is clear that the work produced by the consultant becomes your exclusive property (not the consultant's). Further, the consultant shouldn't use misappropriated work from other assignments. Finally, add a clause pertaining to workmanship; that the consultant will correct at his/her expense any defects found; e.g., defective software, data base designs, etc.

MANAGING THE CONSULTANT

The two most obvious ways to manage consultants is by having them prepare routine status reports and project time reports. Such reports should be produced on a weekly basis and detail what the consultant has produced for the past week and detail his/her plans for the coming week. You, the client, should review and approve all such reports and file accordingly.

A methodology materially assists in tracking a consultant's progress. As a roadmap for a project, the methodology takes the guesswork out of what is to be produced and when. Without such a roadmap, you are at the mercy of the consultant. Along these lines, I am reminded of a story of a large manufacturing company in the UK who used one of the large CPA firms to tackle a major system development assignment. The system was very important to the client, but lacking the necessary in-house resources to develop it, they turned to the CPA firm to design and develop it. Regrettably, the client didn't take the time to define the methodology for the project and left it to the discretion of the CPA firm. The project began and the CPA firm brought on-site many junior staff members to perform the systems and programming work. So far, so good. However, considerable time went by before the client asked the senior partner about the status of the project (after several monthly invoices). The senior partner assured the client that all was well and the project was progressing smoothly. More time past (and more invoices paid) with still nothing to show for it. Becoming quite anxious, the client began to badger the consultant as to when the project would be completed. Finally, after several months of stalling, the consultant proudly proclaimed "Today we finished Phase 1....but now we have to move on to Phase 2." And, as you can imagine, there were many more succeeding phases with no end in sight.

What is the lesson from this story? Without a methodology roadmap, it is next to impossible to effectively manage a consultant. The project will lose direction almost immediately and the project will go into a tailspin. The only person who wins in this regard is the consultant who is being paid regardless of what work is produced. Instead of vague generalities, you, the client, have to learn to manage by deliverables.

CONCLUSION

My single most important recommendation to anyone considering the use of outside consultants is simple: Get everything in writing! Clearly define the work assignment, get a signed agreement spelling out the terms of the assignment, and demand regular status reports.

I am always amazed how companies give consulting firms carte blanche to perform project work as they see fit. Abdicating total control to a consultant is not only irresponsible, it is highly suspicious and may represent collusion and kickbacks.

There is nothing magical in managing consultants. It requires nothing more than simple planning, organization, and control. If you are not willing to do this, then do not be surprised with the results produced. Failure to manage a consultant properly or to adequately inspect work in progress will produce inadequate results. So, do yourself (and your company) a favor, do your homework and create a win-win scenario for both the consultant and yourself.

First published: July 4, 2005

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim's columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  RECOGNIZING THE PETER PRINCIPLE - "A man has got to know his limitations." - Dirty Harry

LAST TIME:  TELEVISION - PAYING MORE, GETTING LESS - With the advent of cable, television hasn't gotten any better.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim's channel on YouTube. Click for TIM'S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

TELEVISION - PAYING MORE, GETTING LESS

BRYCE ON ENTERTAINMENT

- With the advent of cable, television hasn't gotten any better.

Click for AUDIO VERSION.
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

There used to be a time when I relished coming home after work and watch some television after dinner. It was a good way to relax and unwind. Thursday nights used to be "must see" TV featuring comedy. News magazines like "60 Minutes" and "20/20" were also meaningful. Personally, I was a sucker for "Law & Order" and watched it for years. We would end the day by falling asleep to the late night talk shows. Unfortunately, all of this has changed.

As much as I would like to watch television, I cannot seem to find anything worthwhile anymore. The few remaining comedy shows cannot seem to get a laugh unless there is a reference to genitalia or some other taboo subject. I am certainly not a prude, but I tune in to laugh, not to listen to vulgarity. For drama, there are a host of police stories featuring a comic book array of guns, violence and drugs. There is also the occasional game show, but the lions share of entertainment appears to be reality shows, where we watch toothless rednecks surviving in Alaska, a variety of talent shows, bridal planning, home remodeling, and other topics related to obesity, survival, cooking, infidelity, hoarding, and other vices. Interestingly, there are few reality shows promoting patriotic themes, such as the military and veterans, charities, law enforcement, fire fighters and first responders, all representing the true heroes of today who should be emulated.

There are also many Hollywood adulation shows where awards are presented to the entertainment industry. These have less to do with entertainment and more to do with spouting incoherent political commentaries, which I find to be a real turnoff.

Inevitably, I now live in a world of re-runs and news. A big night for me lately is watching old re-runs of "The Munsters," "Andy Griffith," "Taxi," "Newhart," and if I'm really lucky, "The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson."

I have the same problem finding anything worthwhile to watch on Netflix, Amazon, and the other streaming channels, where a variety of movies are available, but none of which I find stimulating. Most feature comic-book stories with weak scripts. Rarely do any of these services show a movie produced before 1980, leaving me to assume movies were not around back then.

As to news, I have been a junkie for many years, but there is simply too much Fake News being reported today to be credible. No wonder they have lost the public trust. Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Walter Cronkite and Howard K. Smith would all be spinning in their graves if they knew what was going on.

Most appalling of all is having to pay a hefty monthly fee for the many channels I do not watch. Back in the 1960's, during the "Golden Age of TV," there were only three channels (ABC, CBS, NBC) and possibly a UHF channel for PBS or an independent station. With such a limited number of stations available, only the crème de la crème made it to the screen. This is when you would find yourself saying, "Hey, it's Monday night, Laugh-In is on; hurry up, let's clean the kitchen so we won't miss anything." Each night had its own unique set of programs we watched regularly. For example, Sunday nights were dedicated to Ed Sullivan, Lassie, Walt Disney, and Bonanza. And movies were shown throughout the week.

Interestingly, none of this cost us a dime. I find it rather ironic, whereas we once watched good programming at no cost, we are now being charged exorbitant rates to watch a giant pile of trash, and we are still inundated with commercials to boot. For those who may have forgotten, the original idea of cable was to eliminate those annoying ads on television. Interestingly, you'll notice they are still with us.

Thank God for the Digital Video Recorder (DVR). I actively use it to record the shows and movies I want to watch which are normally played late at night. One of the main reasons I use it is the fast forward button allowing me to speed past those pesky commercials. This is particularly useful when watching sports.

Oh well, I guess it's back to watching Herman Munster, Andy Griffith, Bob Newhart, Johnny Carson and "Law & Order" for me. What was good then, is still better than what is on today.

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim's columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  MANAGING CONSULTANTS - How to manage them effectively.

LAST TIME:  THE FIVE ELEMENTS OF MASS PRODUCTION - It's what keeps products and services affordable.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim's channel on YouTube. Click for TIM'S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

Monday, January 15, 2018

THE FIVE ELEMENTS OF MASS PRODUCTION

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

- It's what keeps products and services affordable.

Click for AUDIO VERSION.
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

I was recently watching a PBS biography regarding Henry Ford, the famed automotive industrialist who revolutionized manufacturing to produce affordable transportation for Americans. His "Model T" was the first automobile to be mass produced on a grand scale. Between 1908–1927, Ford produced over 15 million such vehicles. Ford's secret to success was in two areas: recognizing average Americans as his prime consumers, as opposed to developing cars for the rich, and; introducing the concept of the assembly line whereby the vehicle was assembled quickly in stages. Ford identified over 7,000 separate tasks to be performed in manufacturing his automobile. These tasks were broken down in such a way as common laborers could perform the work as opposed to skilled craftsmen. By doing so, he was able to produce 1,000 vehicles a day, a mind-boggling number at the time, all of which were snapped up by the masses.

I'm not sure if we are all cognizant of the five elements of mass production. I don't think it is taught in the classroom anymore, but it is something we should all be aware of in the workplace as most companies make use of it.

The Five Basic Elements of Mass Production include:

1. Assembly Line - defines the progression and synchronization of work. The Ford example is typical of manufacturing, but you can find similar scenarios in the service industry, such as restaurants, banking, insurance, etc. where there is a specific sequence of events which must be followed in order to produce the desired work product in a timely manner.

2. Division of Labor - breaks the production process into separate tasks performed by specialists or craftsmen. Subdividing the process down into smaller increments provides the means to employ common workers as opposed to developing a dependence on highly skilled craftsmen which may add to the cost to the work product. The danger here is the tedium of repetitive work, as Ford discovered. There are many ways to overcome this, such as routine breaks with light exercise (popular in Japan), or rotation through the various stations in the assembly line, thereby challenging workers to learn all facets of the work product.

3. Precision Tooling - provides mechanical leverage in the assembly line. Even in Ford's day, he understood the need for using the most technologically advanced tools, something requiring constant monitoring and upgrading.

4. Standardization of Parts - for interchangeability and assembly by unskilled and semi-skilled workers. Such standardization provides the means to share and reuse parts not just within a single product, but between many products. Imagine you are a manufacturer of lawn mowers, and you have fifteen different models for different applications, standardization of parts lowers production costs, simplifies product development, and promotes integration within product lines. This concept can be applied outside of manufacturing as well.

5. Mass Demand - the impetus for mass production. Without it, there is no need for the other four parts. In Ford's case, it was his desire to sell his product to the multitudes, not just one group. He recognized the need for studying consumption which, of course, is now a responsibility of Marketing to perform.

An inherent part of the production process is the concept of productivity, whereby:

Productivity = Effectiveness X Efficiency

Most people fallaciously equate productivity with efficiency, which simply gauges how fast we can perform a given task. Effectiveness, on the other hand, validates the necessity of the task itself. There is nothing more unproductive than to do something efficiently that should not have been done at all. An industrial robot, for example, can efficiently perform tasks such as welding. However, if it welds the wrong thing or at the wrong time, then it is counterproductive. It therefore becomes important in the production of any product to define Who is to perform What work, When, Where, Why, and How ("5W+H") which, of course, is the duty of an Industrial Engineer to perform.

The Five Elements of Mass Production affects everyone and is driven by the consumer who desires products and services at an affordable price. The five elements are obviously found in manufacturing, but it can also be applied to other areas, such as systems and software development where processes and programs can be developed in a factory-like production environment. It can also be found in construction where a developer builds multiple houses or condos in a neighborhood. Actually, it's much more prevalent than most people realize.

Next time you ask for that $.99 hamburger, thank the five elements of mass production. It is what made that product affordable to you.

First published: February 11, 2013

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim's columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  TELEVISION - PAYING MORE, GETTING LESS - With the advent of cable, television hasn't gotten any better.

LAST TIME:  CRAFTSMANSHIP: THE MEANING OF LIFE - It is universally applicable to any line of work.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim's channel on YouTube. Click for TIM'S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.
-

Friday, January 12, 2018

CRAFTSMANSHIP: THE MEANING OF LIFE

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

- It is universally applicable to any line of work.

Click for AUDIO VERSION.
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

When I got into the work force back in the mid-1970's it seemed everyone dressed in a suit and tie, drank black coffee, smoked their brains out, and worked their butts off. Today, golf shirts have replaced suits, herbal tea and bottled water have replaced coffee, nobody is allowed to smoke, and rarely does anyone work beyond 5:00pm. More importantly, we used to care about the work we produced; there was a sense of craftsmanship, regardless of the job.

My Brother-in-law in Cincinnati conducted me on a tour of his company's machine-tool shop years ago and showed me how he could take a block of aluminum and convert it into a high-precision machine tool. It was a pleasure to watch him work, as it is to watch anyone who knows what they are doing, be it a waitress, a programmer, a laborer or a clerk.

Quality and service used to be considered paramount in this country. If it wasn't just right, you were expected to do it over again until you got it right. We cared about what we produced because it was a reflection of our personal character and integrity. But somewhere along the line we lost our way and craftsmanship has fallen by the wayside. Why? Probably because we no longer care.

In today's litigious society, employees are acutely aware that it is difficult to be fired due to poor performance. They know they will still get paid and receive benefits, regardless of the amount of effort they put forth. Consequently, there is little to encourage people to perform better. Money isn't a motivating factor anymore. People now expect bonuses, raises and other perks to be paid out regardless of how well they perform during the year.

We've also become a nation content with doing small things. America used to be known as a powerhouse that could tackle large projects, such as building skyscrapers, designing innovative bridges and tunnels spanning substantial bodies of water, engineering transcontinental railroads and highway systems, conquering air and space travel, and defending freedom not just once but in two world wars. If you really wanted something done, you talked to the Americans and no one else. Now we get excited over iPods, cell phones, and other electronic trinkets.

Many believe Craftsmanship is in decline due to the general apathy found in today's society. Maybe. I tend to believe it is due to an erosion of our moral values. Let me give you an example. Having a child in college, my interest was piqued recently by an article describing the pervasiveness of cheating and plagiarism in our schools. It is not my intent to make a political statement here but many of the students mentioned in the article rationalized their cheating on the fact that one of our past Presidents cheated and lied under oath, and got away with it. They figured if it is okay for the Commander-in-Chief to act this way, it was an acceptable form of behavior.

Arnold Toynbee, the famed English historian, observed, "Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder." If the moral fabric of our society dies, our story is told as evidenced by other great civilizations that long preceded us. Our perspective needs to be realigned: Our personal and professional lives must be viewed as one. As Toynbee remarked, "The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play." By doing so, we identify more closely with our work and assume a greater pride in workmanship. We do not need to hear this from our boss, but rather from within. As strange as it may sound, I see Craftsmanship as being patriotic in nature; doing a good quality job is part of leading a good and honorable life and builds on the individual's esteem, the company he works for, and the country he lives in.

The biggest problem though is that we have forgotten how to manage people. The manager's primary goal is to create the proper work environment for employees to produce the desired work products. This is different than a supervisory capacity that directs how each person performs the various tasks of a job. In fact, I encourage managers to manage more and supervise less. I cringe when I see a manager try to "micromanage" either a Fortune 500 company or a non-profit organization. Yes, people need to be trained in order to properly perform their work but following this, employees should be mature enough to supervise themselves. In the old days, management stressed discipline, accountability, and structure; three ugly words in today's workplace.

Understanding Craftsmanship

Some might say craftsmanship is a simple concept that we should intuitively know. Not true; most people today have no comprehension as to what makes up a good craftsman; they have either forgotten or it has simply passed them by. Craftsmanship can be found in any field of endeavor imaginable, be it in the product sector or service industry. Craftsmanship, therefore, is universally applicable to any line of work.

Craftsmanship is not "workmanship", nor is it synonymous with quality, although the three concepts are closely related. Let's begin by giving "Craftsmanship" a definition: "The production and delivery of quality goods or services from highly skilled workmen."

Quality relates to the absence of errors or defects in the finished product or service. In other words, finished goods operate according to their specifications (customers get precisely what they ordered). Such products are normally durable and require minimal maintenance. Craftsmanship produces quality products. In the absence of craftsmen, a rigorous methodology or assembly line process is required to produce quality goods using workers without the expertise of craftsmen. Such processes detail "Who" is to perform "What" work, "When", "Where", "Why" and "How" (5W+H), thereby assuring a quality product or service is produced. Such is the underlying rationale of the ISO 9000 certification as used by many companies today. The point is, quality is not the exclusive domain of the craftsman.

Craftsmanship is also a human trait. Some might argue a computer or industrial robot can produce quality products and are, therefore, craftsmen. However, we must remember these devices are programmed by human beings in accordance with the rules of the craftsman. As such, they are an extension or tool of the craftsman.

Craftsmanship can be found in either the overall work process or a section of it. For example, there are craftsmen who are intimate with all facets of building furniture, such as a table, a chair or desk, and can implement the product from start to finish. However, as products grow in complexity, it becomes difficult to find people suitably qualified to build them from the womb to the tomb. Consider military weapons alone, such as the complicated ships, tanks, and airplanes we now use, with thousands or millions of parts to assemble. Such complexity makes it impossible for a single person to have the expertise to build the whole product. The same is true in the service sector where different types of expertise and capabilities may be required. In other words, craftsmen have a specific scope of work. The scope of work may relate to other types of craftsmen through a chain of work dependencies, e.g., Craftsmen A, B and C concentrate on separate sub-assemblies which are eventually joined into a single product.


Attributes

So, what are the attributes of a craftsman? What makes a craftsman a craftsman? There are three basic attributes described herein:

1. Possesses the necessary knowledge and skills to perform the work.

The craftsman is an expert in his field of endeavor; so much so that he could easily serve as an instructor in the subject matter. But the craftsman is also smart enough to know that education is not a one time thing, that his world and field evolve as new tools and techniques are introduced. As such, the craftsman is a student of his profession and is constantly looking to improve himself. This is exercised through such things as continued education, routine certification, studying books and trade publications, and industrial groups. The craftsman willingly participates in trade groups, often at his own expense, in order to network with his peers.

It is Important to note that the craftsman does not need to be told he needs periodic training to sharpen his skills. Instead, he takes the personal initiative to stay on top of his game. Further, the craftsman has no problem with a periodic job review; in fact, he welcomes it for it might bring out a weakness in a skill he needs to sharpen.

2. Attention to detail.

The craftsman understands and respects the process of building/delivering a product or service and is acutely aware of the penalties for cutting corners. Earlier we discussed the need for a methodology that specifies 5W+H. The craftsman is intimate with all details of his scope of work, so much so, he could probably write the methodology himself. Further, his intimacy of the work process means he can produce a reliable estimate of time and costs to perform the work.

Although many of the craftsman's tasks may be repetitive, it doesn't mean he easily falls into a rut. Instead, he is constantly looking for new tools and techniques to improve the work process. As such, he plays the role of Industrial Engineer who is normally charged with such a task.

The craftsman's attention to detail also means that he demonstrates patience in his work effort. Again, wary of cutting corners, the craftsman must possess such patience in order to produce the product the right way.

3. Views professional life as an extension of his personal life.

The craftsman identifies with the end product which is where pride in workmanship comes from. In his mind, the craftsman has been charged with the responsibility of producing something, and wanting to satisfy the customer, puts forth his best effort to produce it. In other words, craftsmen take their work personally. This is a difficult trait to teach particularly in today's society where the focus is more on financial compensation than on the work product itself. It may sound naive, but the craftsman believes he will be suitably compensated for producing superior results.

Years ago, Dick Butkus of the Chicago Bears (NFL) confounded sports writers who could never understand why Butkus played as hard as he did year after year for a losing football team. True, Dick loved the game, but beyond that, the sports writers didn't understand one thing about the seven time All-Pro linebacker: Butkus took his job personally. It was important to him that his opponents know that they had been tackled by the best player; as he said, "When they get up from the ground I want them to say 'it must have been Butkus that got me'." Dick Butkus was a craftsman.

The craftsman has a burning desire to produce a superior product/service because he sees it as a reflection of himself. As such, the lines delineating their personal life and professional life are blurred. This is a significant characteristic that clearly separates a craftsman from the average worker. The craftsman's work is his life. He does not shirk responsibility, but rather embraces it with confidence and embosses his name on the finished product. Conversely, making a work related mistake of any kind pains a true craftsman.

Job titles are normally inconsequential to the craftsman who is more interested in delivering a quality product/service enjoyed by the customer. Instead, the craftsman takes pleasure in being touted as the best in his craft. He appreciates recognition; when someone makes a compliment about a product, the craftsman views it as a personal compliment. This too runs contrary to today's corporate world where people desperately seek recognition through simple job titles. Want someone with an inflated ego? Give them a title. Want something done right? Call a craftsman.

Productivity

"Dependable", "professional", and "resourceful" are adjectives that aptly describe the craftsman. He is not one who fabricates excuses but, rather, always finds a way to get the job done. The craftsman is typically your most productive employee. He is mindful of the concept of productivity that we have touted for years:

Productivity = Effectiveness X Efficiency

Most people fallaciously equate productivity with efficiency, which simply gauges how fast we can perform a given task. Effectiveness, on the other hand, validates the necessity of the task itself. There is nothing more unproductive than to do something efficiently that should not have been done at all. An industrial robot, for example, can efficiently perform such tasks as welding. But if you are welding the wrong thing, then it is counterproductive. Going back to our description of a methodology, effectiveness defines "Who/What/When/Where/Why", efficiency defines "How." The craftsman is well aware of the difference between the two and knows how to apply both. As such, the craftsman is in tune with his work environment and corporate culture.

So how do we make craftsmen?

Not easily. Because of the human dynamics involved with the craftsman, you will need to be a pretty intuitive manager or industrial psychologist to make it happen. Selecting suitable candidates is the logical first step. Devise an aptitude test to determine the candidate's suitability to become a craftsman. After all, "you cannot make a silk purse from a sow's ear." Aside from specific knowledge and experience in a given field (e.g., programming, woodworking, construction, accounting, etc.), here are some other important traits to look for:

* Fertility of mind - judge his ability to learn, to adapt to changing conditions, and to look beyond his scope of work. Evaluate his professional curiosity.

* Confidence - judge how well the candidate knows himself, particularly how well he knows his own limitations. He should admit his deficiencies and not fabricate excuses.

* Dedication - judge his loyalty and determination to accomplish something. What is his attendance record? What outside clubs and organizations does he belong to and how active is he in them?

* Entrepreneurial spirit - judge his personal initiative. Is he driven to succeed (but not to the point of reckless abandon)? Does he have a problem with accountability? This says a lot about assuming responsibility.

* Attention to detail - judge his ability to focus on a subject. Does he have a problem with discipline or organization? A person's dress, mannerisms, and speech says a lot about a person.

* Reliability - judge his ability to assume responsibility and carry a task through to completion.

* Resourcefulness - judge his ability to adapt to changing conditions and persevere to see a task through to completion. The candidate cannot be inflexible; he must be able to find solutions to solve problems.

* Socialization skills - does he work better alone or as a team player? His position may depend on his answer.

When you have selected suitable candidates, here are three areas to concentrate on:

1. Develop their skills and knowledge by allowing such things as: participation in trade groups, outside certification and on-going training, subscriptions to trade journals, continued education, etc. Some companies even go as far as to develop an in-house school to teach the company's way of doing things. If the in-house school is good, it will promote confidence through consistency. Even if people leave the company, they will recommend your company because they know the quality of the work produced. Supporting the education needs of our workers is not only smart, it is good business.

2. Teach them the need for producing quality work; they should become intimate with all aspects of their work process (5W+H). Further, instill discipline and patience in their work effort.

3. Change their attitude towards development so they become more focused on delivering a quality end-product. This is perhaps the most difficult element to teach. However, it can be realized by having them become intimate with the needs of the customer (have them visit or work with a customer for awhile - "let them walk in the customer's shoes"). It may also be necessary to change their form of remuneration by going to a reward system for work produced (as opposed to guaranteed income regardless of what is produced). Changing the mode of financial compensation is highly controversial in today's business world. But, as an example, can you imagine the change of attitude of today's professional athletes if they were paid based on their accomplishments (e.g., runs or points scored, hits, rebounds, etc.) rather than having a guaranteed income? Their motivation and attitude towards their profession and team would change radically.

Candidates must learn to respect their institution, the process by which they work, fellow human beings, and themselves. They must also learn not to be afraid to TRY; that they must put their best foot forward, win or lose. Bottom-line: they must learn that their work has meaning and worth. If they don't enjoy their work, they shouldn't be doing it.

"There are two things that I want you to make up your minds to: first, that you are going to have a good time as long as you live - I have no use for the sour-faced man - and next, that you are going to do something worthwhile, that you are going to work hard and do the things you set out to do."
- President Theodore Roosevelt
Talk to schoolchildren in Oyster Bay, Christmas-time 1898

Certification

Teaching the elements listed above probably cannot be done in one fell swoop. Further, companies simply don't have the time or money to wait for the craftsman to be produced. Instead, they must understand the human spirit needs to be cultivated and be allowed to grow over time. Because of this, it is strongly recommended that an in-house certification program be devised specifying what the candidate should know and what skills and talents he should demonstrate. This should be divided into classes of progressive expertise; e.g., apprentice, intermediary, and craftsman. The ancient builders in Egypt, Rome, and Greece understood this concept and devised such classes of workmen. Other disciplines and schools follow similar tactics (the various degrees or belts in martial arts for example). Each degree is based on specific prerequisites to master before moving on to the next level.
An in-house certification program has the added nuance of making people feel special which greatly enhances their self esteem. If they are made to feel like a vital part of the company, regardless if their work of a large magnitude or trivial, they will strive to do what is best for the company overall, not just themselves. Consequently, their work adds meaning to their life.

There is one pitfall to all of this; today's "go-go" management style fails to see how craftsmanship adds value to the company. In fact, there were companies back in the 1980's that shut down such programs simply to reduce costs. As a result, quality suffered, repeat business was lost, products were more in need of repair, absenteeism on the job escalated, etc. Want value? How does a loyal customer base who has confidence in your products or services sound? And what effect would employee harmony have, particularly if they believed in the work they were producing? It would be mind-boggling, all because we had faith in the human spirit to produce superior results.

A final note: craftsmanship is not a one time thing. After it has been instilled in people, it has to be cultivated and perpetuated. If a manager slips even for a moment, it will go right out the window and it will take time to bring it back to life. As for me, I like to post motivational reminders kind of like the one recently spotted in the Hickey Freeman manufacturing facility in New York, "Excellence is Tolerated."

"Manage more, supervise less."
- Bryce's Law

First published: January 10, 2005

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.



Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim's columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  THE FIVE ELEMENTS OF MASS PRODUCTION - It's what keeps products and services affordable.

LAST TIME:  THE UGLY TRUTH ABOUT AMERICA - What most of us already know, but don't want to admit.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim's channel on YouTube. Click for TIM'S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

THE UGLY TRUTH ABOUT AMERICA

BRYCE ON SOCIETY

- What most of us already know, but don't want to admit.

Click for AUDIO VERSION.
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

As you get older, you discover there are fewer shades of gray in life. As you gain experience, you tend to see things more in terms of black-and-white. You now possess an appreciation of what works and what doesn't, which is why people ask for your advice. Some would say you become less tolerant of others but the truth is you've simply been down that road before and don't want to revisit it. From this, you learn the subtle truths of how the world works.

The United States is a beautiful concept; the land of opportunity founded as a Constitutional Republic. I have been fortunate to see many different systems around the world, but I believe we have it better than just about everyone else. However, we are not without faults, ugly truths about who we are and how we operate. It's what makes us tick and provides insight into the American psyche.

What follows is what I refer to as the ugly truth of America; things we all know are true but don't want to admit. Consequently, we have learned to accept them and adapted our lives accordingly.

1. Yes, Americans are not really happy with their lives. I tend to believe this is caused by the tension we are under, both financially and politically. Norway is considered the happiest country on the planet. The USA isn't even in the Top 10; currently we are at #14, having dropped one point from 2016. Americans seem to be most happy when they score a personal victory, not necessarily as a team. For example, an individual will relish a job promotion even if the company is struggling to survive. Strange. As an aside, I didn't see too many smiles during the recent holidays. Shoppers all seemed to be resigned to their fate and wore sour pusses on their faces. If you happen to greet someone pleasantly they typically look at you suspiciously.

2. Yes, there is a privileged class in America. As much as we would like to believe the law serves everyone equally, this is simply not true. Money and celebrity buys influence in this country and puts people above the law, if for no other reason they can purchase the finest legal minds in the country. Rarely are such people jailed. This also means America is a politically charged nation where advancement is based not necessarily on performance, but who you know and how you know them. We see this in companies, both commercial and nonprofit, as well as in government.

3. Yes, America embraces a drug culture. The country recently recognized opioid drugs as bad, but we somehow see no connection to marijuana. The reality is, America wants to remain high all the time and, as such, is the #1 consumer of drugs. To prove it, see how far you get trying to recall legislation regarding recreational or medicinal marijuana in this country.

4. Yes, Americans are addicted to technology. Even though it stunts our maturation process and empathy for others, our sense of humor and communication skills, and our ability to socialize, Americans cannot live without their personal technology. Then again, neither can most of the world.

5. Yes, Americans are historically ignorant. When you compare the USA to other countries, Americans are grossly in the dark regarding the past. This leads to misunderstandings regarding the principles of government (the Electoral College is an excellent example), and dooms us to commit prior mistakes repetitiously. It's interesting, in an age where technology affords us 24/7 news and info, most millennials are ignorant of our past and how their country works. As the famed American historian David McCullough observed, "We are raising a generation that is historically illiterate and have a very sketchy, thin knowledge of the system on which our entire civilization is based on. It is regrettable and dangerous."

6. Yes, the American public is sheeple. Most use limited brainpower in their daily affairs and, as such, are weak willed and can be easily manipulated by the media. This is likely related to their addiction to drugs and technology. Due to changing values, Americans today lack common sense. They do not want to know the truth, preferring instead only the news and information corresponding to their way of thinking. This is to be expected as the media is unable to offer the American people factual news, only spin.

7. Yes, the system is fixed. Donald Trump hit a hot button when he first brought this subject up in the 2016 election, but it is found not just in politics, but in just about everything else; e.g., job progression in companies and nonprofits. This explains why there are so many suck-ups in the land. Americans have been taught to lie and cheat at all costs to attain goals. Instead of living in a "win-win" environment whereby both parties can achieve prosperity together, we now live in an age of "win-lose" meaning we can only win at the cost of the other party losing.

8. Yes, Americans are reactionaries, not pro-active planners. We prefer allowing our opponents to knock us down before we are stirred to action. There are many examples to illustrate the point, e.g., Hurricane Katrina, Pearl Harbor, 911, the USS Maine, etc. This is a severe weakness we possess, something the rest of the world is cognizant of.

9. Yes, programmers control everything, be it our televisions, automobiles, communication devices, business equipment, etc. But know this, programmers will only do what is best for them, not the end-user. What is intuitive to the programmer is not so for the rest of us. Most useful tools are designed by accident, not on purpose. As such, they control the mindware of the public.

10. Yes, most Americans do not know how to drive. The USA is #1 in terms of automobile accidents, head-and-shoulders above everyone else. Because of self-absorption, we are preoccupied doing everything else other than driving cars in an alert manner; e.g., People texting and talking on the phone, eating, doing drugs or drinking, applying makeup, etc. Electric cars will likely cure this over time, another sign we are losing our freedom and independence.

11. Yes, American morality is in decline, representing a sign of decay to our culture. For example, loyalty is in decline and can be purchased by the highest bidder. Interest in organized religion and patriotism are also in decline. We also tend to lack empathy for others and consequently are self-absorbed. Our sense of right-and-wrong is split along political ideologies, thereby denoting the true division in the country.

One thing we are not is a nation of racists. We are a melting pot of people living in a highly competitive society. I cannot think of another country with as many different types of cultures, a true heterogeneous society where each group tries to outperform the others. Some respond positively to competition, others do not. I do not believe we are devoid of racism completely, it is inevitable in a mixed racial society, but there are probably more racists outside of the United States today than there are inside. I find the use of the "racist" label in America today is more of a diversionary tactic for political purposes as opposed to possessing any true substance.

Some will say America is a land where you cannot win. This is simply not true as the Constitution was deliberately designed to provide the individual with certain unalienable rights, particularly opportunity, yet there are no guarantees for success. This is the bedrock of capitalism.

Some will also accuse me of being a pessimist in my assessment of the United States, but I am not, as Twain would suggest, I am an optimist who hasn't arrived yet.

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim's columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  CRAFTSMANSHIP: THE MEANING OF LIFE - It is universally applicable to any line of work.

LAST TIME:  INDIVIDUALISM VS. TEAMWORK - "There is more to building a team than buying new uniforms." - Bryce's Law

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim's channel on YouTube. Click for TIM'S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

Monday, January 8, 2018

INDIVIDUALISM VS. TEAMWORK

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

- "There is more to building a team than buying new uniforms." - Bryce's Law

Click for AUDIO VERSION.
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

As you travel around corporate America these days, you hear a lot about "teams"; that groups, departments or whole divisions are trying to behave more as a team as opposed to a group of individuals. Its the latest catch phrase du jour. I guess someone finally figured out the power of teamwork. Then again, how much of this represents sincere effort? My corporate contacts tell me its mostly facade. They contend they get some nifty new corporate shirts and some great pep talks, but aside from this, little else. As much as corporations tout the need for teamwork, most still encourage rugged individualism.

There is more to creating a team than simply saying you are one. New shirts and axioms are nice, but in order for this to work, people have to think and act as a team. In other words, success hinges on it becoming a natural part of the corporate culture.

CORPORATE CULTURE

Teachers, coaches, and drill instructors have long understood the value of teamwork. The intent is to turn a heterogeneous working environment into a homogeneous environment whereby everyone is working in a concerted effort towards common goals. However, do corporate managers truly understand teamwork? Not necessarily. Many still create competitive environments in the hope the strongest person will rise to the surface. Teamwork is more about cooperation than it is about competition.

This brings up an important point: Teamwork is taught. It means developing a disciplined work environment where the participants must conform to a specific set of rules. Inevitably, it means breaking some work habits and creating new ones. This can be painful, yet necessary if you want to achieve the desired results. Basically, you are teaching people how to live and work together as opposed to apart.

In the United States there is more of a natural inclination to teach individualism as opposed to teamwork; perhaps this is because we are a nation based on freedoms. For example, our public school systems have minimal dress and hair codes; each student is allowed to look and dress as they personally see fit, many with some very questionable taste. This is permitted as it is believed the individual must be allowed to freely express him/herself. This may be fine, but it certainly does not promote a spirit of teamwork. Compare it to other countries, such as Japan, where students are required to wear school uniforms and are given group assignments, such as the preparation and cleanup of their daily lunch. In Japan, students are taught the value of cooperation at an early age which has the added benefit of improving their socialization skills.

As mentioned, teamwork requires the establishment of a working environment conducive to teamwork. It doesn't happen simply by making some platitudinous statements. A manager must do more, much more; some suggestions:

1. First and foremost: Lead. All teams need a leader who can articulate goals and give direction. The team must trust and believe in its leader. Without such confidence, the team will not likely follow the leader, particularly in times of difficulty. The leader should also be wary of leading by democratic rule. Soliciting input is one thing, as is having assistants, but there can only be one ultimate leader to guide the team.

2. Institute uniform operating practices that everyone will be expected to conform to, such as operating hours of work, dress code, office appearance, speech and conduct, etc. Such uniformity stresses the equality of the workers. As another suggestion, downplay job titles and put more emphasis on work assignments instead. Job titles tend to emphasize a person's stature in a company and can be disruptive in terms of equality.

3. Establish standard practices for executing work assignments, thereby everyone is following the same methods, and using the same tools and techniques in their work effort. This improves communications, provides for the interchangeability of workers, and promotes the development of quality work products.

4. Make sure everyone knows their responsibilities and assignments and understands their importance. Nobody wants to be regarded as the weakest link and, as such, the manager must be able to communicate their importance and carefully balance the workload. Yes, there will be those workers who will undoubtedly excel over others, but teamwork is a group effort. If a weaker worker needs additional training, either give it to him/her or replace the person.

5. Routinely check progress. Whenever applicable, keep statistics on both team and individual performance. However, it is not important to publish such stats. It is important for the leader to know the team's strengths and weaknesses, but it is nobody else's business.

6. Be on the lookout for conflicts in working relationships. Some people will simply not get along and it is up to the manager to referee such conflicts. Either have the people work out their differences, keep them apart, or rid yourself of them. You want harmony, not contention, on your team.

7. Allow time for the team to meet and discuss issues as a group. This keeps everyone in tune with common goals, problems, and the team's general progress. It also allows the team to socialize and form a camaraderie (a bonding of unity).

8. Recognize individual achievement but reward on a team basis as opposed to an individual basis.

CONCLUSION

Are we really trying to promote teamwork or is this nothing more than the latest corporate fad that is being implemented more for public relations than anything else? Let's hope for the former and not the latter. Teamwork is a powerful concept, particularly when there is anything of substance to be done.

Shrewd managers intuitively understand the need for teamwork. Let me give you an example from the world of entertainment. Jack Benny, the famous comedian of yesteryear had a great appreciation for teamwork. His radio and television shows were consistently at the top of the rating charts for a number of years. When asked what his secret to success was, Benny simply said teamwork. To Jack, it wasn't important that he personally got the best lines and laughs week after week. In fact, he was often the butt of many of the jokes. Instead, he made sure his cast, guests, and writers all received the accolades they deserved. It was more important to Benny that people said they had tuned into "The Show" as opposed to tuning in to see "Jack Benny." He was right.

I realize there are instances in business when it becomes necessary to exercise individualism, but these are becoming a rarity. Instead companies can find greater glory as a team as opposed to a group of individuals.

"Individual glory is insignificant when compared to achieving victory as a team."
- Dot Richardson, M.D.
U.S. Olympic Softball Team
Two time Gold Medal Champions

Related article:

First published: June 12, 2006

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim's columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

NEXT UP:  THE UGLY TRUTH ABOUT AMERICA - What most of us already know, but don't want to admit.

LAST TIME:  IS THE GOP REALLY ON ITS DEATHBED?  - Or is the main stream media up to its old tricks?

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim's channel on YouTube. Click for TIM'S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

IS THE GOP REALLY ON ITS DEATHBED?

BRYCE ON POLITICS

- Or is the main stream media up to its old tricks?

Click for AUDIO VERSION.
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, "The reports of the death of the GOP are greatly exaggerated." To listen to the main stream media, they would have us believe the Republican Party is in disarray and on its deathbed, that the Democrats have already sewn up the Congressional midterm elections for 2018 thereby enabling them to finally impeach President Trump. All I can say is "Bwahahahaha!" This is designed to create nothing more than political intrique so they can maximize viewer/readership and sell advertising. In other words, none of it is based on fact, just money.

The press conveniently overlooks the fact the states are predominantly run by the GOP with 34 Governors, 34 State Senates, and 31 State Houses. According to the latest survey of "State Fiscal Rankings" (July 11, 2017) conducted by the Mercatus Center of George Mason University, the Top 10 States in the Best Fiscal Condition includes (in order) Florida, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Idaho, and Montana. With the exception of Montana, all of these states have Republican Governors, State Senates and Houses (Montana has just a Democratic Governor). The bottom of the list is predominantly run by Democrats, including New York (#39), California (#43), Massachusetts (#48), Illinois (#49), and New Jersey (#50); in other words, the states most resistant to the policies of our Republican President.

The press also contends Mr. Trump's popularity is sagging. Let us not forget, this is based on the same polls that predicted a run-away victory for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and are controlled by Democrats; a convenient coincidence perhaps? Again, this is designed to make money by creating political intrigue.

If anyone should be concerned about popularity, it should be the main stream media. In an Associated Press report of April 17, 2016, they claimed, "just 6 percent of people say they have a lot of confidence in the media, putting the news industry about equal to Congress and well below the public's view of other institutions." In other words, Mr. Trump's popularity is head and shoulders above the media's.

Despite efforts by the Democrats, Mr. Trump accomplished quite a bit in his first year, including: The tax-reform bill, Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, roll-back of bureaucratic regulations, tougher controls on illegal immigration, declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, bolstering the military and law enforcement, etc. The result has been a revitalized respect for the United States foreign policy, and a resurrected economy brought back from the dead.

Who have the Democrats got to run in the next presidential election? Hillary? Uncle Joe? Governor Moonbeam? Andrew Cuomo? Nancy Pelosi? Chuck Schumer? Hardly. The Democrats have to break the stranglehold of the Progressive movement and demonstrate they represent the interests of the heartland, not the uber-Left. Aside from their distaste for Donald Trump, the country is at a loss as to their platform other than to revert back to the days of Barack Obama (which cost them the Congress and the White House). The Democrats have to overcome the stigma of a party which is faceless and meaningless.

So, the next time you hear the GOP is coughing up blood, the truth is it is the Democrats who are desperate and on the brink of extinction.

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim's columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

LAST TIME:  THE AMERICAN CULTURAL REVOLUTION OF 2017 - It wasn’t Trump, it was our changing values.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim's channel on YouTube. Click for TIM'S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.