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Monday, April 27, 2015

WHAT'S WRONG WITH SERVING THE CUSTOMER PROMPTLY?

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

- The customer should never have to wait.

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

My wife and I recently went out for dinner with another couple to the local Carrabba's Italian Grill. The food was good and the overall service was fine. However, at the end of the meal our waitress disappeared. As I waited, I grew impatient and leaned over the table and whispered to my friend, "The customer should never have to wait to pay the bill."

"What do you mean by that?" my friend asked.

I explained the waitress had no idea what our plans were. We may have had tickets to see a movie or had some other commitment. From this perspective, it was just plain rude to keep the customer waiting. More than that though, there were people waiting to be seated and if our waitress had processed the check properly, they could turn the table and serve more people. In other words, from a business perspective, they would make more money. Evidently, our waitress couldn't have cared less. I might understand if she presented the bill and allowed us to finish our coffee and chat, but this was not the case.

I guess I am "old school" when it comes to serving the customer. Let me give you another example; 1982 was a particularly profitable year for our company. We were flush with cash and like a lot of other companies in our situation wanted to spend it before the end of the year as opposed to letting the government tax us for it. At the time, we were in need of a new computer. PC’s were not in vogue yet, and mainframes were cost prohibitive. Instead, we were interested in a mid-range computer that could suit both our development and administrative needs. After considerable investigation, we settled on a DEC VAX (an 11/750 with VMS) from Digital Equipment Company in Massachusetts, a fine machine with a good reputation for reliability and service. Keep in mind, such computers back then were high ticket items costing thousands of dollars.

There was just one problem with the computer; we couldn't buy it. True, we had plenty of money, but we had difficulty finding a salesman to take our order. The last week of the year is always bad in terms of people taking time off between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, but a big company like DEC should have someone around, right? Wrong. We ended up speaking to a salesman who was more interested in the holiday break than in selling us a computer. When we realized he was incompetent, we asked for another salesman. The second rep said he could take the order and would begin the paperwork in terms of setting us up as a customer and performing a credit check on us, which would take several weeks to complete. This was unacceptable, so we had to make additional calls to find the right person, a sales manager.

We explained to the manager we had spoken to his underlings who didn’t seem to comprehend our situation. We said, "Look, it's simple, you have got a computer on your docks which we want to purchase; we will send you a certified check by overnight mail, if you can process the contract and ship the product within 24 hours."

The salesman sensed the urgency of the matter and understood the necessity for acting promptly (as he did not want to lose the sale). "Can do, Sir," was his response. We processed the check accordingly and promptly received the computer from DEC. All of the bureaucratic problems as described by the DEC underlings never materialized and everybody was happy with the transaction, all because the DEC sales manager knew how to take some initiative and conquered all of the obstacles in the way.

The underlings were not sensitive to our problem and, frankly, couldn't care less if we ever got the machine. Fortunately, we found someone who possessed a sense of urgency and wanted to keep the customer happy.

Another problem I have seen lately is the laissez faire attitude of shipping products to the customer. I'm of the school if the customer orders a product, I believe he/she is entitled to receive it as soon as possible. This doesn't appear to be the case anymore. I know of a local company who sells an array of products for manufacturing companies. Recently, they had a change of management which is now run by young managers, two of them about 30 years of age. When salesmen place orders, it now takes several weeks, if not months, to ship the product. Such irresponsible processing of orders has already cost them the loss of some rather large customers, yet they are as ambivalent about it as our waitress.

To make matters worse, the company automated their inventory system over the last few years. Unfortunately, the clerks are behind in processing orders and the staff in the warehouse rarely updates it. Consequently, they no longer know how much product they have on hand, where it is located in the warehouse, and whether a back-order is required. This is obviously not rocket science, but the general attitude is, "Who cares?"

It is this mentality that bothers me most. If you order something, it should be promptly shipped, and why I believe, "The customer should never have to wait to pay the bill."

So, what is wrong with serving the customer promptly? Nothing. It is just good business to do so.

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 30 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 © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE? - Plenty, and the American public is getting tired of it.

LAST TIME:  THE MEANING OF LIFE- It is ultimately about good versus evil.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) "The Town Square" with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern); WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington "The Morning News" with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim's channel on YouTube.

Friday, April 24, 2015

THE MEANING OF LIFE

BRYCE ON LIFE

- It is ultimately about good versus evil.

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

In the Monty Python movie, "The Meaning of Life," the troupe offers a tongue-in-cheek explanation; "Well, it's nothing very special: Try to be nice to people; avoid eating fat; read a good book every now and then; get some walking in; and try to live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations." Their explanation was very succinct and made for a humorous ending to the film. However, as far as I'm concerned, it misses the mark. It is not my intention to offer a profound statement along the lines of French philosopher René Descartes, but simply make my own modest observations. To me, there are three elements to the meaning of life:

1. A person must lead a worthy and productive life. This is required for our perspective of ourselves, our work, and the people we come in contact with at the company and society in general. How we perform our job is an expression of our soul. If we treat it frivolously, our perspective tends to be shallow and irresponsible, but if we conduct ourselves professionally, regardless of the job, we will take pride in ourselves and earn the respect of others. We must recognize there is dignity in all forms of work, regardless of how menial it appears on the surface. As such, we should perform it as professionally as possible and as craftsmen. Those without this perspective, particularly managers, tend to be tyrannical in nature and are typically avoided. They will never know the simple concept of respect, just fear. However, if we "do unto others as we would have others do unto you," this would inevitably lead to an honorable existence.

2. Our second responsibility is to reproduce, thereby extending the species. However, this requires more than just the simple biological function of birth, it also means taking responsibility for teaching your offspring values, morality, and how to become responsible and productive people who will eventually take your place in society. Abdicating this duty is to allow evil to flourish.

3. Leave the Earth a better place than when you entered it. By doing so, we make it possible for the species to evolve. This means not becoming a burden on society, lending a helping hand, and returning to our first responsibility. Unfortunately, there are those who would rather forsake and destroy the world as opposed to make it better.

Implicit within these three elements is the idea of good triumphing over evil. Without this caveat, life could easily regress as opposed to progress which is why we must thwart evil wherever it is encountered.

So, the meaning of life is not about eating, walking, or reading a good book. Rather, it is about leading a worthy and meaningful life. No, we will not all be compensated the same way. Some will make more based on their education, their work ethic, by making smart decisions along the way, or plain luck. Regardless, we should be more concerned with what our contribution will be in life as opposed to the financial prosperity of the next person. If we can rise each day and be proud of our family, our business, and ourselves, and celebrate the bounties of the world around us, then we have realized the meaning of life.

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 30 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 © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  WHAT'S WRONG WITH SERVING THE CUSTOMER PROMPTLY? - The customer should never have to wait.

LAST TIME:  THE BUDGET BATTLE - Just how badly do we want to manage the budget?

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) "The Town Square" with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern); WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington "The Morning News" with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim's channel on YouTube.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

THE BUDGET BATTLE

BRYCE ON POLITICS

- Just how badly do we want to manage the budget?

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

We are finally coming down to one of the pivotal differences between Democrats and the Republicans, namely the federal budget. This is something the GOP has wanted to address for a long time, and now that they control both chambers of Congress, a confrontation is finally at hand. Most voters understand the overwhelming amount of debt we have incurred over the last seven years, that deficits and government spending is out of control, and to fix the problem certain cuts have to be made, like it or not. We certainly do not want this to be a legacy for our grandchildren to address. Now is the time to clean it up, but we face the problem of a divided nation over ideological differences.

President Obama, the Senate and the House have assembled three different budgets. Of the three, the Senate's and the House's are similar and represent the Republican's proposal to straighten out our financial mess and work towards a balanced budget. The president's represents the Democrat's point of view and is not concerned with a balanced budget.

According to a recent analysis by the Associated Press (AP), there are significant differences between the three:

In terms of REVENUE:

President - "Would increase taxes on wealthy people, corporations and smokers."

Congress - "Tax hikes do not figure in either GOP budget, though both Republican blueprints call for a tax code overhaul — with details to be worked out later. Curiously, the Republicans make repeal of the Affordable Care Act a key provision of their blueprints, but they still assume the tax revenues created by the law will still flow to the Treasury."

In terms of SPENDING:

President - "Increases spending on public works, education and defense, and would eliminate the automatic cuts imposed under a 2011 budget deal."

Congress - "Boosts defense spending but makes cuts to domestic social programs like Medicaid and food stamps. The House plan would convert Medicare to a voucher-like program, and both GOP budgets would repeal the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature domestic achievement."

In terms of THE DEFICIT:

President - "Sees deficits stabilize at about 2.5 percent of GDP."

Congress - "Seek $5 trillion in reductions over the next decade.
Both Republican plans bring the budget into balance in 2025 - a modest $3 billion surplus for the Senate plan, a $33 billion surplus in the House plan. Democrats accuse the GOP of using shady accounting practices."

In terms of THE PUBLIC DEBT:

President - "Debt held by the public does not fall appreciably, declining from 75 percent to 73 percent by 2025."

Congress - "Both GOP budgets project a debt below 60 percent of GDP by 2025.
Public debt is still expected to exceed $20 trillion in 2025, with interest reaching $857 billion. Under the GOP plans, interest be less than $625 billion in 2025."

 
In a nutshell, to reduce the debt without raising taxes is good news for both the wealthy and the middle class (not to mention smokers). Not surprising, the GOP plan is an open attack on the Affordable Health Care Act, Obamacare, a plan that Americans still do not embrace (see Gallup). All three budgets make use of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) which, frankly, is limping along (currently 2.2%) and reflects a sluggish economy. If we had a robust GDP, the country would feel its effect through more money from taxes. Finally, the president's plan openly does not support a balanced budget, but raises spending instead. As another AP report contends, "While his (Mr. Obama's budget) leaves a projected deficit exceeding $600 billion 10 years from now, the Senate plan claims a surplus of $3 billion.

So, the question comes down to: Do we compromise again or do we really want to address our economic problems? If we want the latter, we must surely move beyond the status quo and take corrective action. However, the battle lines have already been drawn. According to a statement by the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, the Senate-passed budget "relies on top-down economics and gimmicks," and "refuses to ask the wealthy to contribute a single dollar to deficit reduction." He goes on to say, the Senate bill would lock in severe spending cuts "to investments in the middle class like education, job training and manufacturing," and it fails to "responsibly fund our national security." As to national security, this is simply not so, as the GOP proposes more money for defense as opposed to the president's plan. Further, we would generate more money for education, job training, and manufacturing by simply lessening the regulations and taxes on corporate America, thereby allowing them to thrive.

The next step is to have the two chambers of Congress negotiate a compromise budget in mid-April. Interestingly, the legislation is non-binding, meaning that it will not require the president's signature, but will inevitably lead to veto fights with Mr. Obama in future bills.

It will be interesting to see if we truly have the fortitude to manage our finances responsibly. If we do not, God help our grandchildren.

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 30 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 © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  THE MEANING OF LIFE - It is ultimately about good versus evil.

LAST TIME:  BUSINESS WRITING - A crash course on writing for people in a business setting.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) "The Town Square" with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern); WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington "The Morning News" with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim's channel on YouTube.

Monday, April 20, 2015

BUSINESS WRITING

BRYCE ON BUSINESS

- A crash course on writing for people in a business setting.

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

INTRODUCTION

How a person writes for personal purposes is substantially different than how they should write for business. Whereas the former requires no discipline, the latter requires poise, discipline, and attention to detail. However, unless corrected or properly supervised, sloppy habits will inevitably turn up in business writings. Remarkably, companies spend little time teaching their employees how to write in various business situations. Consequently, troubles arise in sales and customer service settings, not to mention vendor relations.

There are many instances where it is necessary to write for business, be it through correspondence (letters, e-mails, and faxes), proposals (e.g., RFP, RFI. RFQ, etc.), feasibility studies, policies and memos, administrative procedures (manual processing instructions), audits, employee reviews, etc. Aside from possessing an understanding of grammar and language, it is necessary to convey a professional image. This sends an important message, the author does not take the subject matter lightly and should be regarded as competent and credible in the subject matter. To do so, the author must be cognizant of both the content and the format (packaging).

Narratives should be factual and represent a logical progression of ideas. Word choice and sentence structure should be kept simple. A verbose vocabulary can alienate readers as opposed to supporting your message. Likewise, avoid colloquial expressions (jargon-e-z-e and slang). Again, keep it simple. Above all, concentrate on benefits and how they will affect the other party. By doing so, the reader learns to appreciate your argument and "why" your message is important. Learn to write "tightly," meaning avoid long and flowing sentences. Think economy of effort and keep it simple and to the point. By doing so, you are creating a professional image, not just of yourself, but of your company as well.

In terms of packaging, learn to divide paragraphs into smaller sections, separated by a space (as expressed herein). The intent is to encourage your readers to review your text, not avoid it. There should be sufficient margins to force the text to smaller and easier to digest sentences. It is also useful to highlight sections and key comments, either by using a bold font, italics, or an underline, but do not use such highlights excessively thereby becoming an amateurish distraction. In terms of fonts, stick with a standard, such as Arial and Times New Roman, the two most commonly used fonts in the world. Flashy fonts may be interesting, but if they hinder the ability to read your narrative, it is useless.

As another rule of thumb, avoid the use of jokes. In this day and age of political correctness, such humor can be misinterpreted and possibly lead to allegations of sexism and racism, and ultimately termination of employment.

The following are some basic tips for the different types of business writings:

CORRESPONDENCE

- Observe the use of honorifics and titles in names, e.g., Mr. John Doe, Dr. Joe Smith, Ms. Betty Jones, Mrs. Sally Black, Director of Human Resources, Softweare Engineer, etc.

- Use the old military trick: begin by telling the reader what you are going to tell them; tell them; at the end, tell them what you have told them.

- Write an e-mail just as you would a business letter.

- Avoid the temptation to use slang, even in an e-mail.

- If you are writing a letter, consider printing it on some professional stock as opposed to plain white paper. The feel of paper adds a touch of class to your message.

PROPOSALS

- In most cases, it is necessary to follow the format as prescribed by the requester. This is particularly true in RFQ, RFI, RFP situations. If possible, investigate the names of the other vendors who will also be responding. In many cases, proposals are designed for a specific vendor. If so, do not waste your time and simply thank the requester for the opportunity to review the proposal.

- Give considerable thought to packaging the proposal for readability and to highlight key sections. Try to reflect a sense of class thereby reflecting well on your business.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

- Respond to customer compliments, complaints, or suggestions tactfully and positively. If a customer becomes combative, it may be necessary to seek legal counsel.


Policy Manuals (aka "Employee Handbooks") are tightly worded legal descriptions of the official policies of the company. Great care should be taken in writing policies, preferably by someone intimate with the policies and knowledge of legal wording. Although many companies ask law firms to write such documents, it can also be done internally by skilled writers. Policies address such things as Equal Employment Opportunity, Sexual Harassment, Hiring, Employment Agreement, Orientation and Training, Medical Procedures, Probation, Transfer, Promotion, Hours of Work, and much more.

Policy manuals typically organized by common types of policies and follow a numbering scheme for quick reference. Each policy is written with a definition of the policy, followed by terms, conditions, and additional notes; for example:


611:1 - USE OF PERSONAL ELECTRONIC DEVICES Policy: It is critical that employees working with clients remain focused on the tasks at hand and do not have any unnecessary distractions thereby promoting client satisfaction as well as job safety. It is for this reason that the policy of the Company on portable personal electronic devices such as I-pods, CD players, MP3 players, radios, video games, computer multimedia software, etc. are prohibited for employees during working hours. Comment: 1. Disciplinary action may be taken against any employee who does not adhere to this policy.
- If a policy manual is written internally, it is a good idea to have an attorney review it before releasing it within the company.

MEMOS

Memorandums are now issued more by e-mail as opposed to on printed paper. Nonetheless, they should not be crafted frivolously as employees may misinterpret it and use it as an excuse for not executing an order. In fact, the fewer the memos, the better. However, if you have to issue a memo to one or more employees, write it particularly "tightly." Define the purpose of the memo (why is it being issued), and explain what employees are expected to do about it. Instead of an electronic version, consider printing it on paper and ask for employees to initial it thereby confirming their understanding of it, and have it returned to the author.


Feasibility Studies are used to study a business problem or opportunity and recommend a course of action. There are six basic parts to any such study:

1. The PROJECT SCOPE which is used to define the business problem and/or opportunity to be addressed. The Scope should be definitive and to the point; rambling narrative serves no purpose and can actually confuse project participants. It is also necessary to define the parts of the business affected either directly or indirectly, including project participants and end-user areas affected by the project. The project sponsor should be identified, particularly if he/she is footing the bill.

2. The CURRENT ANALYSIS is used to define and understand the current method of implementation, such as a system, a product, etc. From this analysis, it is not uncommon to discover there is actually nothing wrong with the current system or product other than some misunderstandings regarding it or perhaps it needs some simple modifications as opposed to a major overhaul. Also, the strengths and weaknesses of the current approach are identified (pros and cons). In addition, there may very well be elements of the current system or product that may be used in its successor thus saving time and money later on. Without such analysis, this may never be discovered.
Analysts are cautioned to avoid the temptation to stop and correct any problems encountered in the current system analysis at this time. Simply document your findings instead, otherwise you will spend more time unnecessarily in this stage (aka "Analysis Paralysis").

3. REQUIREMENTS - how requirements are defined depends on the object of the project's attention. For example, how requirements are specified for a product are substantially different than requirements for an edifice, a bridge, or an information system. Each exhibits totally different properties and, as such, are defined differently.

4. The APPROACH represents the recommended solution or course of action to satisfy the requirements. Here, various alternatives are considered along with an explanation as to why the preferred solution was selected. In terms of design related projects, it is here where whole rough designs (e.g., "renderings") are developed in order to determine viability. It is also at this point where the use of existing structures and commercial alternatives are considered (e.g., "build versus buy" decisions). The overriding considerations though are:

* Does the recommended approach satisfy the requirements?

* Is it also a practical and viable solution?

A thorough analysis here is needed in order to perform the next step...

5. EVALUATION - examines the cost effectiveness of the Approach selected. This begins with an analysis of the estimated total cost of the project. In addition to the recommended solution, other alternatives are estimated in order to offer an economic comparison. For development projects, an estimate of labor and out-of-pocket expenses is assembled along with a project schedule showing the project path and start-and-end dates.

After the total cost of the project has been calculated, a cost and evaluation summary is prepared which includes such things as a cost/benefit analysis, return on investment, etc.

6. REVIEW - all of the preceding elements are then assembled into a Feasibility Study and a formal review is conducted with all parties involved. The review serves two purposes: to substantiate the thoroughness and accuracy of the Feasibility Study, and to make a project decision; either approve it, reject it, or ask that it be revised before making a final decision. If approved, it is very important that all parties sign the document which expresses their acceptance and commitment to it; it may be a seemingly small gesture, but signatures carry a lot of weight later on as the project progresses. If the Feasibility Study is rejected, the reasons for its rejection should be explained and attached to the document.

- For busy executives, provide a cover page with an "Executive Summary" stating the highlights of the study, such as its business purpose and why it is necessary to pursue this problem/opportunity, the type of requirements being addressed, the proposed solution, costs, and the return on investment. In other words, this is where the real "sales job" is performed.


After completing a major project, it is a good idea to conduct what is called a "Project Audit." The idea is to document what went right and wrong during a project and, hopefully, learn something beneficial from the experience. The Project Auditor should analyze the following:

1. Estimated versus Actual schedules and estimates (both costs and time).

2. A final Cost/Benefit Analysis should be prepared which, hopefully, can be compared to one prepared in the initial Feasibility Study.

3. If the project is product oriented (to design and develop something), an analysis of the finished product versus its design specifications should be prepared.

4. Conduct interviews with project participants to gather insight as to what went right and wrong.
The final report should be professionally prepared and presented to pertinent managers and executives to study. The presentation should be somewhat clinical in nature as the presenter should avoid both disparaging and complimentary remarks as they may offend someone. Just be matter-of-fact in the presentation and let the reviewers come to their own conclusions.

CORPORATE BLOG

If you are charged with maintaining a corporate blog, you must always be mindful the blog is a window to your corporate world. Extra care must be considered when stating policy or issuing a press release. Do not open the kimono unnecessarily. Review the wording carefully, but it is also wise to have another set of eyes carefully review the postings before releasing it, someone in authority or perhaps an attorney.

For all postings, be sure to include copyright notation to show the business is the owner of the work and it is not to be redistributed without permission. Sample notation:


"Copyright (c) 2015 by ABC Company. All rights reserved."

It has long been customary in business to periodically evaluate employee performance, such as 30 days after hiring, or at regular intervals, such as annually or bi-annually. The purpose is to have the manager assess the employee’s strengths and weaknesses, and make recommendations for improvement. The intent is to help the employee improve as a worker as opposed to assassinate his character. Reviewing an employee with malicious intent is just plain wrong, as is giving a rosy review, both are detrimental to communicating to the employee where they stand in the eyes of management and how they can improve themselves. Present your analysis, matter-of-factly, and provide suggestions for the employee to improve.

The use of standard forms for this task is strongly recommended.


Writing procedures for people is much more difficult than for computers. Computers will do whatever you ask, right or wrong, at great speed. In contrast, writing for the human being is more difficult as people are more emotional and can be lazy and uncooperative at times. Writing procedures for people, therefore, can be an arduous task. Instituting writing standards can materially help in bringing about consistency to this task and should be encouraged.

One technique we have found to be beneficial is "Playscript" developed by Les Matthias and ultimately based on scripts to a play. There are just three parts to a Playscript Procedure:

1. Purpose - a concise statement expressing the business purpose of the procedure and for whom it is intended to be used.

2. Setup - a listing of the inputs and outputs (forms and screens) the user will need access to, as well as other pertinent software and hardware.

3. Operational Steps - a numerically listed set of steps to execute the procedure, written with the following rules:
    (a) Begin each new Operation with a verb; samples include:

     
    AcceptEstablishPerform
    AnalyzeEstimatePlace
    AssignEvaluatePrepare
    AssistExecutePrint
    AttachFileProcess
    AuthorizeFinishReceive
    BeginForwardRecommend
    CheckGatherRecord
    ChangeGetReport
    CompareGiveRetain
    CompleteIdentifyReturn
    ConductIndicateReview
    CorrectInitialSchedule
    CountInsertSelect
    CreateInstallSign
    DefineInterviewSort
    DeleteListStart
    DescribeLocateStore
    DesignLogSubmit
    DetermineMaintainSurvey
    DevelopMarkTerminate
    DirectMoveTotal
    DiscussNotifyVerify
    DistributeObtainWrite
    EnterOrder
    (b) DO NOT begin the first sentence of the operational step with a condition clause, such as "if," "when" or "should." Begin the sentence with "compare" or "evaluate" as a verb; for example:

      "Compare the value of DD-1 to DD-2; if DD-1 is greater than DD-2, go to step 4; if DD-2 is greater than DD-1, go to step 27."

      If a single operational step is complicated, it may be divided into sub-sections; for example:

      "Evaluate the value of DD-1:

      a. If DD-1 equals 1, go to step 2.
      b. If DD-2 equals 2, go to step 6."




For additional info, see "The New Playscript Procedure" by Les Matthies.

GRAMMAR

There are some other simple rules to observe when writing for business:

1. Use present tense. Avoid future tense (using shall or will) unless you are actually referring to a future event, or you want to make a strong promise or threat.
    Incorrect: Systems Engineering will then prepare a cost/benefit analysis.
    Correct: 
    (a) Systems Engineering next prepares a cost/benefit analysis.
    (b) Systems Engineering will prepare a cost/benefit analysis when requested by Systems Resource Management.
2. Use functional titles rather than personal pronouns. For example:
    Systems Engineering vs. Systems Engineer
    Data Resource Management vs. Data Resource Manager
    Project Management vs. Project Manager
3. Other considerations:
    (a) Begin a sentence with "When" rather than "Once."
    (b) Say "help with" rather than "help in."
    (c) Do not begin a sentence with "Because" or "Therefore."
    (d) Replace LASTLY with FINALLY.
    (e) Do not begin sentences with words like FIRSTLY, SECONDLY, or THIRDLY.
    (f) Beware of the excessive use of the words. "that" and "which", two words tending to be used excessively. For each occurrence of the word in your text, ask yourself if you can reconstruct the sentence without it.
    (g) Avoid the use of words with apostrophe (n't), ('v), ('s) and ('re) words, such as: can't, haven't, I've, isn't, etc. This leads to sloppy writing habits. Spell them out instead.
And by all means, please learn to use spell and grammar checkers as found in word processing software.

Cultivating a professional image in business writing requires discipline and practice. Herein, I have covered the fundamentals for the sake of brevity. Obviously, there is much more to be discussed.
Again, remember, begin by telling the reader what you are going to tell them; tell them; at the end, tell them what you have told them.

When writing for business, it is perhaps best to remember the following quote from Michelangelo, "Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle."

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 30 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 © 2015 by Tim Bryce.  All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  THE BUDGET BATTLE - Just how badly do we want to manage the budget?

LAST TIME:  NOT INVENTED HERE COMPLEX- Where pompous egos incur considerable expense and wastes a lot of time.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) "The Town Square" with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern); WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington "The Morning News" with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific).  Or tune-in to Tim's channel on

Friday, April 17, 2015

NOT INVENTED HERE COMPLEX

BRYCE ON BUSINESS

- Where pompous egos incur considerable expense and wastes a lot of time.

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

A phenomenon I have run across on more than one occasion in my travels through the corporate world is what is commonly referred to as the "Not Invented Here" complex or simply "N.I.H." I have encountered it in North America, Asia, Europe, and a little bit down-under in Australia. Basically, N.I.H. is a situation where an idea or invention is rebuffed simply because someone outside of the company thought of it first. The idea may be perfectly sound, but if it wasn't invented internally, it is considered illegitimate.

The premise that something invented externally cannot be any good is a rather myopic and pigheaded point-of-view involving some rather large egos. Not surprising, larger companies are more inclined to adopt such an attitude as opposed to smaller ones. I don't want to drop any corporate names here, but I have seen some rather large Fortune 500 companies say something to the effect, "Well, we're the XYZ Company, the world's largest manufacturer of widgets, and you're just a small nobody; what makes you think you're so smart?" Even after you carefully explain your idea and refute all of their objections, they still refuse to admit defeat. It is at this point when their superiority complex turns into a jealous rage. Now irritated, they reject the idea or invention and, instead, become hell-bent on reinventing it themselves. The only problem here is they have difficulty reproducing your invention and inevitably result in paying a lot more than you did. In other words, the people who believe in N.I.H. are the same people incurring exorbitant research and development costs. In all likelihood, they have as much of a chance of producing a better design of your invention, than you do of producing their widgets.

I find it interesting when pride clouds people's minds in this regard. As for me, if someone has built a better mousetrap, I would much rather buy it than try to reinvent it myself at considerable expense. Basically, I want to just get on with the job.

Years ago we made a presentation to a large electronics company in California regarding our systems design methodology. The company politely listened to our pitch but afterwards made it clear they thought they could produce a better methodology themselves. After several months and a couple of million dollars trying to reinvent our wheel, they swallowed their pride and purchased our product. Costs had finally overtaken egos.

Plain and simply, N.I.H. is inflationary and a horrible price to pay for a pompous ego. I don't care how big your company is, a good idea is a good idea, regardless of who invented it. Take the ego off the table and get the job done. I do not understand the compulsion by some people to reinvent the wheel.

Originally Published: 02/15/2010

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 30 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 © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  BUSINESS WRITING - A crash course on writing for people in a business setting.

LAST TIME:  WARNING TO BLOGGERS: BEWARE OF YOUR COPYRIGHTS - Before you start blogging, protect yourself.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) "The Town Square" with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern); WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington "The Morning News" with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim's channel on YouTube.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

WARNING TO BLOGGERS: BEWARE OF YOUR COPYRIGHTS

BRYCE ON WRITING

- Before you start blogging, protect yourself.

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

I have had a blog for a number of years with hundreds of postings. I take my work rather seriously and in order to safeguard it, I learned a long time ago to copyright my material. Of course, copyright is a part of the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 8) and is intended to safeguard the rights of authors. Obviously, this means nobody can re-use it unless you authorize them to do so. The Internet though makes it much too easy to "copy" and "paste" the written word without permission. In many cases, authors will allow you to copy articles, all you have to do is ask permission and observe their copyright notation on your re-posting. Anything else is just plain theft.

There are a lot of bloggers who do not take their work as serious as I do and use it to simply record frivolous comments. However, there are a lot more who expend considerable effort in their writings and should take steps to prevent misappropriation of their work. Unfortunately, they do not and their work may be spread across cyberspace with no credit for its source. This also means deadbeats can take your work and claim it as their own.

Fortunately, copyright law is designed to protect your rights and it goes into effect the moment you write something. The Internet though is a strange creature and I would admonish you to take additional steps to protect your work. The safest blogs are those you control yourself. Blogging tools such as Wordpress and Blogger were specifically designed for independent blogging. For those who believe this is too technically challenging (they really are not), there are writer communities on the Internet who simplify the process of blogging your work. The danger here though, is some of these communities want to supersede your ownership of your work and post their own copyright notation. The author should carefully review the terms and conditions of use for the blog. If it says something to the effect, the work becomes their property or their copyright supersedes your own, run (do not walk) away from this community. Their intent is to steal your work. If you are not planning to post anything important, fine, use the facility, but if you want to claim ownership of your work, you would be wise to avoid it.

Keep one thing in mind, if you submit your blog posting with the proper notation, your copyright should preempt any other. Here is a sample of how copyright notation should be expressed:

"Copyright © 2015 by John Doe. All rights reserved."

As an aside, the HTML code for the copyright symbol is: ©

If you really do not want people stealing your work, you might want to consider writing it to a PDF file format (Portable Document Format). PDF is an open standard created by Adobe. There are many tools available to create a PDF file which can be displayed on a web page or e-mailed to people. Interestingly, when creating a PDF file, there is an option to prevent copying or downloading text, which greatly deters thieves. You can even prevent people from printing the document if you are so inclined.

I write this article as a warning to bloggers; there are simply too many unscrupulous people who do not respect the ownership of your own hard work. If you want to blog frivolously, do not worry. If you value your work, take some preventative measures.

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 30 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 © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  NOT INVENTED HERE COMPLEX - Where pompous egos incur considerable expense and wastes a lot of time.

LAST TIME:  MEDICAL RECORDS INTEROPERABILITY   - Law makers are just beginning to realize the problem the medical community has in sharing data between systems.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) "The Town Square" with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern); WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington "The Morning News" with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim's channel on YouTube.

Monday, April 13, 2015

MEDICAL RECORDS INTEROPERABILITY

BRYCE ON MEDICINE

- Law makers are just beginning to realize the problem the medical community has in sharing data between systems.

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

Five years ago I wrote a column regarding patient records in medicine, "My Dinner with the Doctor." At the time, the government mandated that all doctors and medical institutions were required to process all patient records electronically. This created an uproar in the medical community in that doctors and nurses were forced to expend an inordinate amount of time creating and updating records. As a result, doctors were spending more time updating records as opposed to caring for their patients; Nurses were also swamped by records, leaving it to orderlies to look after patients. In other words, they were spending more time on bureaucratic red tape as opposed to caring for the sick.

There is certainly nothing wrong with the concept of electronic patient records, but the government didn't think this through carefully and provided no standards for the data to be captured, and how to exchange it with other systems. Consequently, a plethora of software packages popped up to record and manage medical records. Graphically, they all looked nice, but they did not work cooperatively (aka "Closed Systems").

It has long been a Bryce's Law that, "The only way that information systems communicate, both internally and externally to other systems, is through data." In this day and age of computing, it is difficult to imagine a software product without some form of import/export facility, be it nothing more than "Save as" (another file format), or through use of the clipboard. Instead, most of these software products have their own proprietary file formats, thereby prohibiting the exchange of data and forcing a dependency on the product.

Recently, a report was brought to my attention from "MedicalMedicine," one of a group of medical publications offered by UBM Advanstar. In the report, a fellow at the Brookings Institution Center for Technology Innovation, had a recent epiphany whereby vendors have taken patient data "hostage," meaning they prohibit interoperability. All I can say is, "No fooling!"

The report goes on to say the marketplace is now saturated, and the only way to make money is in data migration. For example, if a doctor wants to move from one package to another (which is quite common), it's not simply a matter of exporting the data from the old package and importing it into the new package. Instead, he must pay a fee for someone to reconfigure the file format, thereby permitting its use in the new package. At the end of the article, readers added their comments which is where I discovered doctors were paying such fees as $3,500, $6,500, and as much as $12,000 to migrate their data. Again, had the government thought about this properly, there would be an import/export facility and standard file formats (such as Delimited ASCII or fixed length records), and this data migration ripoff would have been avoided and costs cut.

What is frustrating is this problem of data interoperability is just coming to light. The medical community has known about it for years, but the government had no clue about it. This is an instance of automating for the sake of automating, without any consideration for data exchange. The true purpose of patient electronic records is to allow the easy exchange of medical data. For example, if I were to happen to have a medical emergency in a distant town, such as Cincinnati, my records could easily be transmitted electronically by my Palm Harbor physician. However, this is not how it works. Because of the lack of standards by the government, my doctor would have to FAX my medical records instead, a much slower process.

What is happening in medical records management is simply barbaric. There is no other way to describe it. As a systems consultant, I just shake my head in disbelief. As Stengel would have observed, "Whodathunkit!"

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 30 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 © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  WARNING TO BLOGGERS: BEWARE OF YOUR COPYRIGHTS - Before you start blogging, protect yourself.

LAST TIME:  THE SIMPLE PLEASURE OF FRIDAY MORNINGS- Rise and shine, and see what is going on in the world.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) "The Town Square" with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern); WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington "The Morning News" with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim's channel on YouTube.