Feedback 8 Questions


ISE 4015


Questions/Comments from the eighth week


What is the meaning of “data logging”?

Strictly speaking, it means collecting data onto logs, often as tick marks or numbers in columns. These days, it means capturing data thoroughly on as many variables as you can imagine or think important by whatever means you have, for example, electronic measurement.


I am not clear with respect to tactical and operational endeavors.

Tactical has to do with resources; operational has to do with procedure. Resources and procedures are quite different; but both are important to solve a problem. A budget is the most universal tactical management tool and can be used both in formulation (planning) or execution (doing). A map or list of steps is the most universal type of operational management.


You have described many skills that a systems analyst needs. What according to you are the 5 most important skills required by a systems analyst in order of importance?

In terms of categories in Figure, interpersonal, attitudinal, informational, organizational, and decisional. That’s my estimate. In terms of skills in Module, the first five on the list probably in the order shown with the possible exception of reversing #4 and #5.


How does one acquire so many diverse skills?

Hard work. You were blessed with some natural born skills. Start with those.

Through your family, teachers, and friends, you developed other skills early on.

Hang on to those. Which of the remaining skills seem most interesting to you? Go to those next. Identify which skills you’d just as soon not pick up too soon. Leave those till last. When I was in my 40’s I determined I had two large weaknesses.

Actually, I had many others, but these two seemed most significant. They were writing and dealing with the bureaucracy. I decided I needed to work on writing and hired Lou Middleman expressly to fix me. He helped a lot. (Yes, my writing was even worse 20 years ago.) I decided I didn’t want to be good at dealing with bureaucracy and hired Andrew Walker to do that and protect me from it. To this day

I suffer because I’m not good at dealing with bureaucracy. Given the choice again,

I’d do the same thing.


With a change in the decision-maker, do we need to re-iterate the MSM model, or are only minor modifications to the present model needed?

The changes to the model are the who manages with his or her attributes and the interfaces involving the who manages; namely, the information portrayal/information perception interface and the decision/action interface.


Is it never possible to skip a stage in the maturity sequence?

I don’t believe so. Being a generalist, I’m recalling an entirely different situation around skipping steps. I know there’s a whole school of thought that children or adults that have trouble reading skipped steps in their motor development. That is, typically they never learned to crawl right on their way to walking and running.

These people take people back to the stage they skipped and teach them to crawl right and ultimately their reading improves.


Could you give some real life examples of the use of socialization in an organization?

(pg. 628)

The rat line at VMI. Fraternity and sorority initiation. Etc.


In module you mention two options for dealing with weaknesses in skills:


learn new skills and improve old ones


recognize and cover them by working with others who have them

Which do you think should receive more emphasis, or does it depend on the situation?

It depends on the situation and your own desires. See my answer to Question #4.


Could you explain the differences between EDP, MIS, AOSS, DSS and MSS?

I believe I have a number of modules in the book that try to do that. In short, your question would take about 10 pages to answer. In the sequence you’ve listed them, they are the evolution of data-to-information chain tools that convert data to information for decision making. Even though EDP was first, many organizations— especially accounting functions—still have tools that might be called EDP tools.

With modern computers, we might find an EDP tool in with Microsoft Office and see the whole computer software as a single tool. However, Word is a different tool from



How can you really be sure that a tool will match your goals?

Identify the goals for the operation (what is managed) and make sure the boss knows the goals (who manages) and fit the tool to the operation and the boss.


Would it be possible to discuss in class the role of a systems analyst? I’ve noticed many positions in today’s job market with that title.

Yes. Please remind me. Like a systems engineer (another very popular title in today’s job market), a systems analyst can mean different things to different people.

For example, at UVA, a systems engineer is essentially an IE at VT; at GMU, a systems engineer is essentially an information systems analyst; at VT, a systems engineer historically has be a defense systems or manufacturing systems person.

(With me involved at VT, a systems engineer now includes an organizational systems/management consulting aspect.)


Your 2 rules for using management tools are to pay attention to detail, and don’t lose the forest for the trees. Don’t these two rules contradict each other?

Great question. We must know context (the forest). Good management is about focusing on the right detail. Bad management is about focusing on the wrong detail.

Like most real engineering, we have a series of seemingly contradictory constraints on us and have to optimize (if you’re an IE) or satisfice (if you’re most other kinds of engineer) the situation within the constraints.


How can we develop better communication skills?

Hard work. I believe the next two to three weeks will give you an idea of steps you can take. Of course, there are many steps you can take and each of us might choose a different step to start.


Will internalizing all of the presented concepts make me a good manager?

I assume you mean supervisor. However, a good manager is a good decision maker.

The concepts will help becoming a good decision maker a whole lot. Remember

James Autry’s comment that leadership (and supervision) is a calling and is as much a heart thing as a head thing.


Could you please give more examples of “driving the management of the uncertain pursuit to the next more certain pursuit”

I think you can generate any number of examples by picking a pursuit and identifying its category, for example, a project. How do we drive the senior design project to the next more certain pursuit? By making a process of it. Bill Schmidt’s job is to make a process out of the senior design projects.


Can you give an example in succession of policies, plans, procedures, and instructions?

In the university, we have policies governing everything, for example, hiring people.

We also have plans—some written down, some not, for example, IE has a plan for hiring a number of new faculty and has set up a committee to carry out that plan.

Within the university, there are prescribed steps (procedures) for doing the hiring. If we skip a step or do a step wrong, we’re in trouble. Most of the steps have written

instructions for how to do that step. We give the instructions to the person assigned to do the step and they follow the instructions.


You seem to imply that a management systems engineer is most useful as a consultant more so than a full time employee. Do you find this to be true?

Maybe so. It depends on how you define consultant. We have independent consultants and consulting companies. The two largest hirers of VT engineers are

Anderson Consulting and AMS, both of which are essentially consulting companies.

In these companies you do or manage projects related to almost anything. You don’t necessarily consult as such (whisper wisdom in someone’s ear). You make deliver a product—usually a management tool or an improvement in a work process. There are companies like Proctor and Gamble that have management systems engineering departments. They are like an internal AMS.