Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century – 2

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on November 19, 2017

This is my 27th installment to what has become an ongoing series of postings in which I seek to address politics in the United States as it has become, starting with the nominations process leading up to the 2016 presidential elections. See my series: Donald Trump and the Stress testing of the American System of Government, as can be found at Social Networking and Business 2, posting 244 and loosely following.

This can also be considered to represent my 56th installment to an ongoing series that I have been offering here concerning Xi Jinping and his still emerging and expanding leadership role in China. See China and Its Transition Imperatives, as it can be found at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, as postings 154 and loosely following.

I began a comparative discussion of Xi Jinping and Donald Trump and their respective understandings of leadership in Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century – 1, with a brief and in-effect summarizing statement addressing this for Xi. I have been offering supporting background to what I offered there throughout the China series that I connect this posting to.

If I were to further and more tersely summarize even Part 1’s paucity of detail in this leadership diptych, it would be to say that Xi Jinping displays a seemingly endless ambition, coupled with an acute ability to both create and capitalize upon opportunity to achieve his goals. And he has the shrewd intelligence and the drive and determination needed to do that, unburdened by anything like excessive conscience to hold him back.

That said, and with my Trump series as a source of carefully considered supportive evidence, I begin this posting with a corresponding summary statement regarding Donald Trump, and certainly as he seeks to lead and govern as the 45th president of the United States. And I begin offering this summary by citing a basic point of observation that I have made in both job search and career development contexts, and in personnel and Human Resources contexts too. Self-evaluations rarely offer any real value in employee performance evaluations. The best employees with real skills and expertly meaningful professional experience rarely if ever rate themselves at the top of their performance evaluations; they know enough to see and remember where they could have done better – and where they have learned from that. And they know that there is always room for improvement. And the worst employees at any given business rarely know enough of what they are doing and of what they should be doing to be able to offer any meaningful response there. So they frequently assume that since they were hired and since they are still working at a business, they must be doing a great job there. They are in fact more likely to give themselves more top marks on the performance evaluation form questions that they answer, than the best and most skilled of their colleagues would. And this brings me to Donald Trump and his ongoing flow of self-evaluation praise. Donald Trump is tremendous as president – the very best ever. If you don’t believe me, just ask him, or rather just listen to a few of his self-evaluations for yourself, about how tremendously well he is doing (and even when he has proven unable to convince a US Congress that is led by members of his own political party to pass and enact even just one significant piece of legislation and in what is now over 300 days of his having held office, and when he has alienated essentially all of the traditional allies of the United States, and hopelessly divided our nation and over seemingly every single issue that he has spoken or tweeted about!)

To keep my supporting evidence for that as found in my Trump-related series up to date here, the House of Representatives did very recently pass a “tax reform” bill and pass it on to the Senate. But the House bill was filled with what are sometimes called poison pills, as far as the Senate is concerned and with objection from that coming from more than enough Republican senators to essentially guarantee that this fail to pass and be enacted into law too. I have to add that at Trump’s request, senators who are still supportive of him have added a significant amount of poison of their own to their touted version of this piece of legislature. And Trump lacks the vision or understanding to realize how this will impact on any possible success in his getting tax reform passed that is to his liking. And he lacks the leadership skills or ability to do anything about that, even if he were to come to realize where this legislative effort is headed.

And with that in-the-news background material update in place, I turn to the set of issues that I would really focus upon here: how easily and fully Donald Trump can be manipulated and particularly by national leaders whose interests gravely diverge from what would be best for, or even just good for the United States. And in keeping with my above summary statement regarding Xi, I note here that he has been particularly adept at manipulating Donald Trump for that.

I back up those assertions with some recent news stories of note. And my first is:

Trump, Aiming to Coax Xi Jinping, Bets on Flattery.

Donald Trump assumes that if he flatters others, they will simply go along with anything that he says. But if we have seen one irrefutable fact coming out of his recent visit to Asian nations, and repeatedly, it is that if their leaders flatter him and give him a good time, appearing to really appreciate him, then Trump will do precisely what they want him to do. And with that I offer:

Trump’s ‘Tremendous Success’ Abroad Is Overstated.

This is a fact check news piece that speaks for itself from the succinct cogency of its title. And with that news piece noted I offer:

Trump Declares ‘America First’ Policy a Success After Asia Trip.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump’s “America First” policy has in large part made the United States more irrelevant where he has pursued that goal, than anything else. And with that stated, I offer:

Vietnam, in a Bind, Tries to Chart a Path Between U.S. and China,
Seeing U.S. in Retreat Under Trump, Japan and China Move to Mend Ties and
Trans-Pacific Trade Partners Are Moving On, Without the U.S.

I simply add here that president Trump’s “America First” policy has had this type of negative impact for the United States, globally. It is not just the Trans-Pacific Trade Partners and their treaty-based open trade system that have continued on without the United States – and with Xi Jinping and his China taking the leadership role that the US would have been expected to assume for that. The Paris Climate Accord has also continued on, as a globally reaching effort to more effectively limit adverse climate change from human pollution. And yes, even with their environmental disaster of a track record and their still-over reliance on coal fired electrical power, Xi and China are taking a leading role there too – and with the United States left out and on the sidelines of any decisions reached or actions taken.

And with that, I turn back to reconsider my comments as offered above, regarding workplace performance self-evaluations. The only people who can legitimately proclaim Trump’s successes to date as president to be tremendous and the best ever, are Vladimir Putin and his colleagues, who arguably put in a great deal of effort to suborn the 2016 US presidential elections to put Trump in the White House in the first place.

Should I prefer to have Xi or someone like him to be president of the United States? Should I prefer to see China having to deal with a Donald Trump as their supreme leader? Personally, I see both as offering genuine cause for concern that either is in high office and anywhere, and effectively uncontrolled and uncontrollable in that. So I end this two posting, series joining sequence at a point where I do in fact view these two men in the same way. Meanwhile, we have to deal with both in office and at the same time and with each helping to bring out the worst in the other.

And meanwhile, I am certain to continue adding new installments to both Donald Trump and the Stress testing of the American System of Government, as can be found at Social Networking and Business 2, posting 244 and loosely following, and to China and Its Transition Imperatives, as can be found at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, as postings 154 and loosely following.


Technology as the tide that raises all boats 12 – but often unevenly 9

This is my 12th installment to a discussion that I initially began as a single stand-alone posting in April, 2012, but that needs reconsidering. I focused in that posting, on a key issue that enters into a determination of how and when change rises to a level of significance so as to qualify as true innovation (see Outsourcing and Globalization, postings 25 and loosely following for Parts 1-11, and Part 1 of that in particular as the foundational urtext for this narrative.)

I began discussing economic friction as a basic approach to understanding economic systems, and its more micro-level expression: business systems friction in Part 11, as tools for more fully understanding a global playing field perspective that innovation arises in and spreads through, when and as it does. And I focused there on two specific aspects of this phenomenon, as it plays out in the marketplace:

• How friction can limit the flow of information that would be required in order to make best possible business and economic decisions, by impacting upon and shaping how market participants perceive and respond to, in this case innovation, and
• How the levels and sources of friction vary for market participants depending on where they would position themselves along a standard innovation acceptance curve, running from pioneer and early adaptors on through late and last adaptors.

My goal for this posting is to continue that narrative, here addressing the issues of “cultural and socioeconomic impact, as innovative change and the opportunity for it advances all around us.” And I focus in that on the dichotomy of open and closed societies, and on how they variously allow or limit the acceptance of change and innovation, and the flow of information that would be needed for that to be possible. The forces that arise there, can ultimately override the impact of the aspects to this topic that I have addressed up to here in this series and certainly as addressed in Part 11.

I have at least briefly discussed the issues of open and closed societies per se in this blog, for the impact that more generally closed societies and what might be deemed more “selectively open” ones can have in creating wrinkles and barriers in the global flattening that Thomas Friedman writes of in his books. (See, for example:

• Friedman, T.L. (2007 edition) The World Is Flat. Picador/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. New York. (The first edition of this initially came out in 2005 but I cite here its revised and updated edition.)
• Friedman, T.L. (2008) Hot, Flat and Crowded: why we need a green revolution – and how it can renew America. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. New York. (Available through this link as a free full text PDF download.)
• Friedman, T.L. (2016) Thank You for Being Late: an optimist’s guide to thriving in the age of accelerations. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. New York.)

I address this complex of issues in this posting from the perspective of communications and information sharing across traditional boundaries and the friction that barriers to this can create, reinforcing those boundaries. But perhaps more importantly, I address this set of issues here from a more finely grained perspective than that of entire societies, at least as more traditionally envisioned too. Ultimately, to pursue the message implicit in the first half of the title to this posting, technology can only serve as a tide that can raise all boats, if all boats are floating, and all are equally unencumbered in being able to respond change and innovation and to its potential. And ultimately, that calls for a free and open exchange of information: wide-ranging fact and opinion and all that fits between them as holding elements of both of them.

Where are we now for this, as of this writing, as individuals and collectively? Where are we societally and as members of networking and otherwise connected groups? Is the world currently more actively opening up and both for information sharing from us, and for our open receipt of information that is at least potentially open to us? Right now, and certainly for the foreseeable future as I write this, I would have to answer these questions with more negative answers. And I this regard, I cite a posting that I have offered here in this blog that I based on a talk that I gave during the candidate nominations race in the United States leading up to the 2016 presidential elections:

Thinking Through the Words We Use in Our Political Monologs.

I wrote there of how we have come to speak past each other, and less with each other and most certainly in political arenas and across differences of opinion. I did not explicitly write of epistemic bubbles there as a within-group and outsider to that defining understanding of this phenomenon: echo chamber barriers that we increasingly enter into, within which we only hear what we are already inclined to believe, and opinion and information: true or not that would support it. But I have used that term and I have discussed its issues for their sociopolitical and societal impact in subsequent postings to a series that I have developed from that posting. My point here is that we increasingly live in a world of communities that are splintered by the communications barriers that divide us. And this impacts on politics and trade and everything else. And ultimately, our reliance on those bubbles for our news and opinion sourcing and for our networking and direct communicating, and our increasing existence essentially entirely within them leads to a reduced ability to respond to and live in a wider world. Think of this as an emerging new source of wrinkles and of overt barriers too, in any participation in the larger communities that ubiquitous online connectivity and communications resources should be making possible and for all of us. This series is about innovation and change and this partitioning affects what we see of that too, and how we see the specific changes that do come to our attention.

We are currently living in a decidedly and I have to add increasingly “but often unevenly” world, to cite the second half of the title of this posting. And ironically, this phenomenon is most pronounced in at least some of the most online connected nations on this planet, and certainly in nations like the United States, as those who would battle for openness and connectedness in them confront those who would turn away from all that might differ from them and threaten their beliefs and opinions by offering alternatives to them.

I am going to end writing to this series at least for now, with that note, though I might very well return to it again and certainly as the era of the Trump presidency ends and his vision and his “nationalistic” closing off excesses come into wider and more dispassionate review and analysis.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. I also include this in Outsourcing and Globalization – and see that directory for related material. And I include a link to this posting as a supplemental addition to Section VII: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals (reconsidered), of Reexamining the Fundamentals too.

Balancing innovative change and ongoing reliable stability and consistency 9: strategic thinking, planning and execution 6

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 16, 2017

This is my 9th installment to a series in which I explore tactical and strategic approaches to business management and leadership, and best practices approaches for coordinately pursuing both as context dictates. (See Business Strategy and Operations – 4, postings 655 and loosely following for Parts 1-8.)

I have been focusing in this series on a complex of issues that enter into effectively meshing overall strategy, and more issue and context-specific tactics, and how that can break down leading to strategic and operational disconnects in a business. I set an initial foundation for this line of discussion in its Part 1. Then in Part 8 I turned to the issues and challenges of effective business communications in preventing these disconnects where possible, and in identifying and remediating them and as early and effectively as possible when needed. And towards the end of that installment, I suggested the following, in the context of noting that accomplishing this depends essentially entirely on the development and maintenance of effective communications and communications channels in the organization that specific individuals there can comfortably and reliably turn to and use:

• “It is rare that a conversation about an ongoing problem or challenge at a business would seem pleasant, and whether that means confronting the problems of an individual employee or manager, or facing and addressing a more wide-ranging issue that involves larger areas of the business as a whole. Leadership (sic. in the sense addressed here) is all about more effectively enabling and carrying out conversations about problems and challenges, where people can feel and act defensively, but without recriminations that can only create still greater defensive barriers: barriers that limit or even prevent effective resolutions if unaddressed.”

What is the single greatest impediment to this, that tends to arise in any business or organization, and certainly where these conversations take place between people who function at differing levels on the table of organization? I in effect have just fairly compellingly implied the answer to that question from how I framed it: perceived and realized imbalances in the power and authority of the people who would enter into these conversations.

Yes, differences in communications style and preferences can enter into this too as sources of communications friction, as can reliance on more specialized professional jargon with the obfuscation and confusion that that can bring. And the sometimes mazes of assumptions that specialists can come to take for granted when working with and communicating with fellow specialists in their areas of expertise can too and certainly when they have to work with and communicate with outsiders to these specialized groups. But these challenges can all generally be resolved if the parties involved are willing to acknowledge when they are not sure they fully understand what another participant in these conversations is trying to say or what they are assuming to already be known. And they can all generally be resolved if those participating parties are willing to step back from their automatic assumptions and rephrase and clarify, and with a shared goal of achieving effective communications, guiding how that is attempted and carried through upon.

But the real problem here that those clarifying efforts cannot resolve on their own, arises when imbalances in power and authority of those involved can mean subordinates limiting what they would share from their side of a possible conversation, in order to limit what they would see as possible threat or risk to themselves – and particularly where these conversations involve identifying and clarifying problems and with them bearing bad news.

I find myself thinking back to a classical example of how critical communications can break down in this manner, and with disastrous consequences that comes to us from the writings of Plutarch’s in his Lives. When a messenger approached the 1st century BC Armenian king: Tigranes the Great to give word that Lucullus was leading a Roman army toward him in an invasion, Tigranes executing him on the spot for attempting to bring such troubling news. After that, everyone was very careful to only give their king positive news or none at all to avoid his wrath, and even as battle came to Tigranes’ lands, and even as it came to take place all around him. Impediments to effective communications that can go both down and up a chain of command and authority, can only lead to greater and greater problems and this has in fact been known through most if not all of history. But this by now ancient story still resonates because we have all seen at least milder examples of it in our own lives.

This type of friction-creating challenge can and does enters into business conversations of the type that I write of here, when fear of possible negative impact on their employment can restrain what a subordinate on a table of organization can say, and even when the information that they could share is necessary or even essential for their managers to know. You have to expect to find at least a measure of this type of friction and with that at least incrementally added into the business and its systems from more senior managers and executives on down, when effective patterns of safety in sharing even unwelcome news or views cannot be routinely assumed and by all.

This primarily addresses the speaking side of these conversations; I could just as easily have framed the friction that I write of here from more the listening side too. The main point here is that power imbalances can shift conversations about problems in the business and potential problems there, from being difficult to being all but impossible and at least as fully meaningful exercises and with a complete and open sharing of understanding and insight. I write this with the starting example of Part 1 to this series fully in mind, and as a source of concern on my part as to how that business is proceeding in addressing its challenges here, if nothing else.

• How can you resolve this? Ultimately, the only way is to in effect create a safe place that can serve as an open and level playing field where all necessary stakeholders can come together to share their ideas and concerns, and without fear of consequences if they share ideas that others might not be happy to hear – and even if they basically agree with them.

I have been pursuing a specific list of to-address points in this series since its Part 5:

1. I will move on in this narrative to discuss the questions of identifying disconnects between strategy and tactics, and as early as possible when they do arise.
2. And I will consider and discuss startups, as a business context where founding executives can find themselves facing learning curve challenges in understanding and addressing the issues that I raise here,
3. And the sometimes significant challenges that large and complex business organizations can create in aligning strategy and tactics, with effective disconnect identification and remediation implemented, as a core ongoing due diligence process.
4. And I will return again to my starting case study example for this series, to consider lessons learnable and remediative approaches that might be possible for that business – and at least some of the trade-offs that would have to be resolved in that too.
5. And that is where some very specific, crucial negotiations-related issues enter into this series’ narrative.

And this posting and its line of discussion brings me to Points 4 and 5 of that list. I am going to continue in my next installment to this series with Point 4 and a return to the issues and questions that I began this series with, which I will reconsider in light of the discussion that I have been developing this series around as a whole up to here. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory.

Career planning 19: career planning while navigating change and uncertainty 1

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on November 14, 2017

This is my 19th installment to a series in which I seek to break open what can become a hidden workings, self-imposed black box construct of career strategy and planning, where it can be easy to drift into what comes next rather than execute to realize what could be best for us (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 459 and following for Parts 1-18.)

I have taken what might be seen as a dual-focus approach in developing and writing this series, which I explicitly began addressing as such, early on in it:

• The inextricably connected issues of career planning and development in this rapidly emerging 21st century,
• And the ongoing emergence of a veritable flood of disruptive change and of all sorts that we are going through, that has come to fundamentally redefine what it means to be employable and employed.

I began this series with a briefly stated and more general set of opening notes on basic tools and approaches for planning out a career path. But after setting a stage with that for what would follow, I have been focusing in this series on change and on clarifying and analyzing the challenges and opportunities that we are all coming to face from it, and in our work and careers and in our lives. And then at end of Part 18, I switched directions back to that of career development tools and approaches again, by posing a basic, and even fundamental set of questions, which I repeat here as a starting point for what is to follow:

• How can we better navigate our way through all of this uncertainty and in ways that will maximize our chances of achieving a meaningful, fulfilling career path and work life?
• And how can we find our way through this jumble to assemble for ourselves and for our families, a more stable and meaningful path forward in it, and one that can help us to better prepare for our post-work life and retirement too?

If I were going to offer a single, quickly stated response to both of those questions, at least as a starting point in addressing them, it would be:

• Embrace change, and seek out ways to make it work for you.

That means acknowledging that change is happening and with all of the uncertainly and all of the at least potential for creating apprehension that it can bring with it. And it means approaching all of these changes: the more disruptive of them included, that are taking place around you, in ways that would limit their risk creating limitations as you move forward, while enhancing their new value creating opportunities.

Let me clarify what I mean there by noting that many if not most of the potential negatives of change, and certainly where those changes are not entirely win-lose in nature, fall on workplace and career options that may have held positive value for us in the past, but that cannot be adapted to new and emerging circumstances. So I reframe my initial response as offered in the above bullet point and the brief paragraph that follows it with:

• Embrace change that takes place around you, by adapting new ways and new understandings of what you do, that become possible and that can offer positive value because of those changes.

The key to this is in approaching your job and workplace and the job market and the contexts that they take place in, with open eyes and an open and acknowledging mind. Let me take that out of the abstract with a specific change example that too many of us are familiar with from direct personal experience, and one that is disruptive to those who face it even if it is not generally considered to be a disruptively novel change per se: layoffs.

When people are swept up in them, and find themselves facing and going through a termination of employment meeting stemming from that, their perhaps commonest first emotional response is often something like sickened surprise. But as the first shock passes as to what is happening and what has just happened, it is essentially just as common to find oneself thinking back to the fact that as much as this might have been a shock when it happened, it was not completely 100% unexpected either; there were at least some signs that this might happen – that seemed to be more comfortable to ignore at the time.

Keeping your eyes and your mind open to the possibilities is not always easy and particularly when the first possibilities that you might see coming are more disturbing from the unknowns and uncertainties involved, than they are comforting for the potential positives that they might bring too. But ultimately, turning a blind eye to what might be coming can only tip the balance away from you’re in any way gaining maximum benefit that you can derive from change. Blindness to what is happening when change is approaching just leaves you blindsided by it and unprepared for whatever potential negatives or positives that this change might bring.

So I start this second phase to my more prescriptive accounting of how to plan for and carry out a desired career path and work life by explicitly stressing what should be a most obvious point, that is all too often never actually acknowledged when it would be of greatest importance to us in our work and career planning:

• The imperative that we unflinchingly face change and in both its positive and negative potentials, and that we seek out ways of embracing it and in ways that can help us navigate the uncertainties it brings.

No one can effectively plan forward from where they are now, if they do not genuinely know where they are now that they would have to plan and execute from. I begin this next phase of this series with that, and with knowing what your starting point is so you can better plan your next steps and move towards them. I am going to continue this narrative in a next series discussion from that point and with a goal of discussing tools and approaches for identifying and understanding next steps and particularly the very first ones that you might take as you see change and disruptive change coming.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 34 – the issues and challenges of communications in a business 1

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 12, 2017

This is my 34th installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-33.)

I have been writing about bringing in and retaining creative excellence in a business, and on securing and maintaining a best possible assembly of skilled, experienced and innovative hands-on employees and managers there, throughout this series. And at the end of Part 33 of that narrative progression, I cited two approaches to business communications, as can be carried out in-house and among hands-on employees and managers, that I have previously invoked when discussing business operations per se: two basic categorical patterns of communications that shape the employee and manager experience, and what they are allowed to do, and what they are required to do at work:

Structured and even formally structured communications, as arise for example in the context of annual performance reviews with their pre-vetted review forms and protocols (to couch this in a specific case in point example of possible Personnel and Human Resources terms), and
Unstructured communications, as tools for arriving at unexpected insight and types of it.

And I added that I would delve into the issues and implications of those two modes of communications here, and use those selectively stated points of definition as a starting point for discussing best practices in identifying and cultivating innovative potential in a business.

Let’s begin this by at least briefly reconsidering these modes and patterns of communications in general, and for what they bring with them that would shape how we would think about and understand businesses that employ them in general.

Structured communications systems and the communications channels that they allow and support, are crucial to the day-to-day functioning of a business and certainly for standard and standardized processes and practices as collectively comprise routine business operations in place. There, a same basic flow of work is carried out and tracked and reported on, and by essentially the same people and on a routine basis. Exceptions to that, as arise when employees join a business and enter into these communications flows, or leave it and move on, do occur. And they arise when key participants in these conversations are out on vacation or on sick leave or maternity leave too, to add in three other possibilities here. But however these disruptions arise, they represent types of exception that at least should be prepared for, at least in general terms, and even if specific instances of them can create special challenges – and even for what would nominally seem to be more routine positions.

The term single point of failure enters in there, when for example a business suddenly discovers that some specific manager or hands-on employee was the only one there, who can actually carry out some specific and here-crucial task, at least in a timely manner – and suddenly they are out sick or away and out of touch on vacation, or they have just left the business for a new work opportunity elsewhere. But let’s set aside that range of possible contingencies at least for now, in order to keep this discussion more focused and free of possible digressions from the core topic under consideration here. Structured communications form the information sharing framework for routine business as usual, and certainly insofar as real effort is made to develop and adhere to standard business as usual practice and avoid ad hoc exception making.

And to add in one perhaps complicating detail to that, which in fact always has to be taken into account, this is also essential for maintaining standardized and routine-enabled security control over sensitive information held by the business too. I have only skimmed the surface of this area of discussion here, noting that there is a lot more even if this should suffice for this series and its narrative.

Unstructured communications arise when the more structured approach that I have just made note of, break down and for whatever reason. And I raise this entire line of communications patterns discussion here, to separate out some of the possibilities that can easily become conflated and blurred for their separate types and significance – and to the determent of a business that faces that.

Unstructured communications become necessary, and certainly in the eyes of the people who resort to them, when the systems and processes that they rely upon that should be more routine and standardized, significantly break down and in ways that block their being able to carry out their essential duties to successful completion. This can mean carrying out tasks that they would in fact complete themselves and with little if any direct follow-through consequences if they cannot do so for others in their being able to carry out their own work. But more importantly, and I add much more commonly, this can arise in contexts of task completion dependency where B cannot complete, or at times even effectively begin to work on one or more essential tasks they are responsible for until A has completed some task that they are responsible for and handed off the results of that to B and at least indirectly to C and D and others who are waiting further down some task completion dependency track.

If standard and routine break down and others and perhaps many others are depending on work affected being completed, the pressure becomes enormous to find work-arounds to accomplish that. And when this means having to bring in non-standard resources and the stakeholders who would provide or at least control them, that means entering into less or entirely unstructured communications flows too, as roughly defined above.

Here, unstructured reflects a more “shoot from the hip” crisis mode response to the unexpected and unplanned for, and a response to what is now suddenly challenging for that. Compare that with the second basic scenario that I would raise here, for how this type of communications mode can arise, at least as described in general terms:

• The emergence of need for creative and novel communications patterns, bringing together what for that business would be non-standard combinations of stakeholders with their particular areas of knowledge and expertise, and of authority to provide resources and approvals to use them,
• That can become essential when pursuing disruptively novel sources of potential value for the business: possible disruptive innovation opportunity.

What binds these two communications contexts together: one negatively framed and the other positively framed here, and in ways that can make them difficult at times to distinguish between and certainly when attempting to do so without the benefit of hindsight? A succinct starting point to answer that can be found in how different stakeholders and involved gatekeepers can and do see and understand risk, and the relative levels of benefit and risk that might be expected.

I am going to further flesh out my second scenario as started above: the possibilities of positive value creating disruptive change from within a business, in my next series installment. And after that, and building from this posting and that continuation of it, I will more fully consider the issues of risks and profitable benefits and how their evaluation, as variously considered, shapes both communications within a business and its capability to either innovate for itself, or respond to innovation taking place around it.

Then I will step back from that narrative at least somewhat to reconsider innovation and the capacity to innovate, as an at least potentially innovative business moves from early startup to established business: and does or does not develop itself in ways that would make that readily possible. Who is brought in and retained, is only one piece to that puzzle, but it is one that I will explore as a more central point in that discussion to come.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 5

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 10, 2017

This is my fifth posting to a series on disintermediation, focusing on how this enables marketing options such as gorilla and viral marketing, but also considering how it shapes and influences businesses as a whole. My focus here may be marketing oriented, but marketing per se only makes sense when considered in the larger context of the business carrying it out and the marketplace it is directed towards (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 278 and loosely following for Parts 1-4.)

I have been discussing two very different business scenarios in this series since its Part 2, which I repeat the basic starting descriptions of for purposes of clearer continuity of narrative:

• A new, young, small startup that seeks to leverage its liquidity and other assets available as creatively and effectively as possible, and from its day one when it is just starting to develop the basic template that it would scale up from,
• And a larger, established business that has become at least somewhat complacent and somewhat sclerotic in the process, and with holdover systems and organizational process flows that might not reflect current actual needs or opportunities faced.

And in the course of my ensuing discussion of them up to here, I have at least briefly sketched out why a new and still small business would be drawn to resource expenditure approaches such as gorilla and viral marketing, and disintermediated communications marketing in general. And at the same time I at least briefly sketched out why a business that fit the pattern of my second bullet point there, would face challenges if it tried pursuing that type of approach, at least if it did not make some fundamental changes in the systems that its marketing would have to fit into, in-house and on its side of the conversations entered into there.

It is also possible to note and discuss the in-house problems that startups can face when attempting to effective deploy these marketing approaches, and how and why a larger and more settled business would need to pursue that type of market approach in the face of its resource and other limitations too. My goal for this posting is to at least begin to address this set of issues, and certainly from the larger and more established business perspective. And I begin that by repeating some questions that I posed at the end of Part 4 in anticipation of this next series installment:

1. How best can an established business that is set in its more traditional ways, break away from their perhaps long-established patterns as necessary, to bring in innovative new approaches such as disintermediated marketing?
2. How can such a business make this work for them, and in ways that do not simply leave any value potential created, lost in the complexities of the rest of their business?
3. And can an established and even at least somewhat sclerotic business use the introduction of new and different, such as gorilla or viral marketing as a starting point for reinvigorating and updating the business as a whole, and if so, how?

I begin addressing Point 1 of this list, by raising a set of points of observation and conclusion that should sound familiar to anyone who has followed my blog here, and certainly insofar as I have addressed the issues of change management and course correction in a business, or the issues of bringing a business to be more agile and resilient in the face of change. Ultimately, the only way that a business that fits the pattern of the second scenario as offered at the top of this posting, can make effective change of any type, is if it starts out by more fully understanding where it is now.

• “Long established” as a business process or business strategy descriptor is usually at least to a significant degree, and alternative way of saying “taken for granted and invisible for that.”

Established and settled businesses become sclerotic precisely because they become calcified in their networks of unconsidered and even effectively invisible systems, that with time are certain to drift out of effective relevance for never being updated to keep them current and relevant. I have written about this set of issues in detail, on a number of occasions over the years now in this blog, and simply cite one relevant source of such references here, for anyone who would wish to explore that complex of issues in more detail: my currently running series Building a Business for Resilience (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 542 and loosely following for its installments.)

Knowing where change in business systems might be both necessary and possible in such a business, can and often does begin with a vision of how an alternative is possible and effective in the examples of other businesses, and of direct competitors in particular, that are not burdened with calcification: business sclerosis for some significantly important, value creating set of processes in their business systems. Think of this series as taking that general business-wide point of observation out of the abstract, with the specific example of moving their marketing out of the staid and routine and yes … “functionally dysfunctional” and boring to any target audience, and into New and more actively engaging. Effective marketing has to be fresh and certainly to any target audience, if it is to work effectively. And that does not just mean fresh for its specific message content. It has to mean fresh for its overall format and its way of communication too.

Think of Marshall McLuhan’s famous dictum: “the medium is the massage”, in this regard (here is a link to a free PDF formatted copy of: McLuhan’s original book by that name where he first introduced this understanding.) The emergence of the interactive online experience as a means of effectively anywhere to anywhere, anyone to anyone communications capability, and of direct connection media has brought change to his basic message, but mostly my making it more compellingly direct and meaningful and for all of us, than McLuhan himself could have ever imagined, with a myriad of media channels: standard and generic, and customized and personalized to the tightly defined demographic and even to the individual, all competing for our attention, and all of the time. No wonder, staid and taken for granted and at least a bit sclerotic tends to get at least somewhat lost in all of that! And that circumstance is just going to become more and more likely in the coming years too.

A business that needs to break out of such a rut has to be able to see a need to it has to actually do so, and through specific actions that they can bring into focus for specific prioritization, planning and execution. They need, baring disruptive insight from among their own ranks and a capacity to recognize and develop that, at least a basic outside role model that they can build towards and make their own in the process. And they need a willingness to actually take the risks involved in stepping out into what for them is the unknown, to actually do this: and in the face of resistance and friction and misunderstanding on the part of those who are afraid of change and its impact on them in the business, and its possible impact on the business as a whole too. And this brings me directly to Point 2 from the above to-address list. I will continue this discussion in a next series installment with that. Then after completing a discussion of that topic point and Point 3, I will turn back to reconsider startups and how they can face challenges attempting to use disintermediated marketing approaches such as gorilla and viral marketing, with consideration of both potential problems and potential opportunities that can arise there.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. You can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century – 1

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on November 9, 2017

This is my 26th installment to what has become an ongoing series of postings in which I seek to address politics in the United States as it has become, starting with the nominations process leading up to the 2016 presidential elections. See my series: Donald Trump and the Stress testing of the American System of Government, as can be found at Social Networking and Business 2, posting 244 and loosely following.

This can also be considered to represent my 55th installment to an ongoing series that I have been offering here concerning Xi Jinping and his still emerging and expanding leadership role in China. See China and Its Transition Imperatives, as it can be found at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, as postings 154 and loosely following. I began writing about Xi in this series after his elevation to a position of supreme leadership in the Communist Party of China and of China’s government and military.

I began thinking and writing about Trump and his effort to achieve national prominence and power in the United States before his nomination as a Republican Party candidate, and well before his election to power, as addressed in my above cited series. And in a similar manner I began following Xi’s rising career path from before his ascension to supreme power in China too. And since Trump’s assuming power as the president of the United States I have written a few postings to each of the above cited series that in fact at least selectively discussed both of these people. But I have been thinking of the points of similarity and of contrast that they present to the world and I have been considering for months now, the possibility of writing about these two men in that vein, and in a more systematic manner than I have up to now. I at least begin doing so here, in this series-joining installment.

I fully expect to continue both of those series, each with basically their same original area of focus and each with their own separate narrative line. But here and for purposes of this posting and with our current, as of this writing context as it is, I begin to write of where those narratives of necessity have to overlap. And I begin doing so with Xi Jinping and with China, at a point in time in which Xi is beginning to fulfill what might be his ultimate political goal: that of becoming the next Great Helmsman in the all but deified image and stature of Mao Zedong himself. Then after offering this posting as a discussion of him, I will follow it with a next dual-series installment in which I will focus on Trump and will offer some thoughts comparing and contrasting the two. But first Xi and China, and I begin consideration of him with the one valid point of comparison for him in China and its history that I could turn to here: Mao Zedong.

Mao, as I have noted before in this blog, is still revered in China in a way and to a degree that overshadows any positive regard in the United States for any of that country’s founding fathers. But at the same time, and with Mao’s disastrous excesses through protracted events such as his Cultural Revolution, China’s senior Party and government leadership have actively sought to prevent any one individual from ever again rising to the level of limitlessly uncontrolled power there, that defined both Mao and his image, and Mao and his government.

A key element of that can be found in what up to now have become firmly entrenched term limits and upper age limits for positions of great power. And supreme leadership of their Communist Party, and of its centrally controlling Politburo Standing Committee, and through that of their national government and their military has been particularly controlled and time-limited in this manner. Their supreme leader cannot, according to this pattern of precedent and expectation, serve in that position for more than two five year terms, at which point they would be expected to in effect, retire from active service.

That has not meant former supreme leaders disappearing; several have in effect become behind the scenes power brokers and advisors. But it has meant their once-power being turned over to the hands of successors who in general guard their newly endowed power prerogatives jealously and who make their own decisions there. And a leader who seeks out their second term in supreme power has, since the end of the Mao era, always announced their choice of a possible (probable) successor as part of the panoply and pageantry of their being reelected to their office for their second (and last) term by the Party elite. They themselves are expected to formally begin the succession process that would replace them with this announcement.

It might be argued that I jumped to conclusions prematurely for Xi but I have already stated here and for many months now, that not only would he be reelected to that second term (which was obvious), but that he is likely to run for and serve an unheard of third term too. It is very recent news as I write this, that Xi Jinping has been reelected for that second term. But he did not in any way name or even suggest a favored successor in that, or even the possibility of such a successor for when his second term approaches its end. That omission is in fact, probably one of the two most important details to come out of this otherwise largely stereotypically scripted, staged showcase event. The second of those crucial details is one that I have seen touched upon in the news in passing but without real, at least publically discussed attention paid to its overriding significance. And I will end my at least initial discussion of Xi for purposes of this series with a discussion of that event.

The New York Times, to cite one of many possible news sources, made note of what at first glance might seem to be more of an honorific bestowed, than anything else in their October 25, 2017 news story:

China’s ‘Chairman of Everything’: Behind Xi Jinping’s Many Titles.

Mao held the title of Core Leader: an honorific that in effect designated him as representing the living heart and soul of China and of Chinese Communism incarnate. Since then, only two others have been granted that title: Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin. But they were only awarded this honorific as they formally agreed to leave power and as they were doing so, making this “advancement” more of a retirement gift than anything else – like awarding a long-term employee a gold watch upon their retiring and for good from a business. But this was Mao’s title and now Xi has been awarded it when he is going to be staying on in a position of supreme power and with nothing in place that might indicate any end to that. That difference makes this honorific more than just an empty if appreciative title.

I fully expect to see Xi Jinping take on the fuller mantle of Mao with his being awarded two other titles that up to now at least, only Mao himself has achieved: Chairman of the Communist Party (which he in fact already is in practice) and State Chairman. Xi was explicitly addressed as China’s Helmsman when being reelected, in keeping with Mao’s special title of Great Helmsman. But shared special titles only constitutes a small portion of what Xi Jinping and his predecessor Mao Zedong hold in common:

• Both assiduously cultivated cults of personality to create widespread admiration and support throughout China and across its many peoples. And both have achieved dramatically greater success in this than have any other head of state since the founding of the Peoples’ Republic of China. This means building what can amount to an unassailable power base.
• Both just as assiduously and systematically have rooted out and destroyed any potential opponents in their rise to power. Mao used both mass purges and show trials that made special examples of particular enemies, and Xi has pursued a largely similar course with his anti-corruption campaigns, among other competition limiting initiatives.
• Both collected titles as suggested above, and Xi already has amassed more of them than any of his predecessors in power in China since Mao himself. But more importantly, both cultivated positions of direct power and direct influence in all potential power bases with each of those titles representing mastery over one more of them, with that including China’s Communist Party, their government, their manufacturing sectors, and for Xi their growing private sector, as well as a host of specific power centers within these larger entities.
• And both Mao and Xi proved themselves to be ruthlessly systematic and calculating in all of this. I have posed this bullet pointed list in the past tense in honor of Mao, but all that I cite here represents Xi’s still emerging present too and his likely pattern of decision and action moving forward as well.

I could cite any of a large number of recent news stories that highlight aspects of this set of claims. But I chose to limit myself to sharing one such news piece here, that reflects how Xi has taken his second term reelection as a renewed starting point for building and consolidating his power from:

China Sets Date for Major Communist Party Reshuffle.

Xi Jinping really is in the process of rebuilding the Communist Party of China of today and tomorrow in his own image, much as Mao did in his day. And this brings me to the last point that I would raise here. Xi also has Donald Trump as a perhaps unwilling asset, but nevertheless as a very real one. I have discussed the problems and challenges that China has faced for a number of years now in this blog, with their Party and government corruptions and inefficiencies and with their fractured economy. Ultimately centrally controlled command economies that are ideologically driven cannot successfully compete and endure. If Donald Trump has done nothing else in his foreign “policy” it has been to create a power vacuum that has taken a tremendous amount of pressure off of both Xi as an individual, and China as a nation. He has opened the door for China to more fully lay claim to what amounts to ownership of the South China Sea and the East China Sea and all of their resources. Trump has opened the door for China to claim strength and hegemony in many directions, with that including China more effectively glossing over its economic weaknesses and failures as Xi has sought out and pursued all possible opportunities for him to fill those power vacuum gaps that Trump has created. And in that regard I offer one more news story reference here, switching discussion from a Xi perspective to a Trump one:

Trump Heads to Asia with an Ambitious Agenda but Little to Offer.

The power vacuum from the West continues on. And with this point raised, I turn to more explicitly consider Donald Trump in this series. And in anticipation of that, I note how the Trump administration has been hamstrung by largely self-inflicted chaos since its beginning and that it is increasingly attempting to function under a cloud of possible impeachment charges. So the differences between Xi and Trump are fairly clear at least in broad outline here. But the points of similarity between these two men bear noting too.

I will turn to that set of issues in my next, here dual-series installment. Meanwhile you can find my Trump-oriented series at Social Networking and Business 2 as noted above, and my Xi-oriented series at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation.

Pure research, applied research and development, and business models 8

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 8, 2017

This is my 8th installment to a series in which I discuss contexts and circumstances – and business models and their execution, where it would be cost-effective and prudent for a business to actively participate in applied and even pure research, as a means of creating its own next-step future (see Business Strategy and Operations – 4, postings 664 and loosely following for Parts 1-7.)

I have been discussing in this series, both a basic business model and at least one possible path forward that an enterprise might pursue when building according to that basic model. And as a part of that narrative progression, I focused in Part 6 on questions and issues that more specifically related to planning for and starting such a research-as-product offering business. And I began a discussion of earliest stage considerations for expanding and growing such a business from that start, in Part 7.

I have predicated this series on a presumption that effective researchers with business development and management skills and an entrepreneurial spirit, can make this type of business enterprise work, and even very successfully and certainly:

• When serving the needs of client businesses that operate in rapidly advancing industries and sectors, where next step innovation is a key to ongoing success,
• And where competitive pressures limit what they can afford to do in-house, to their core essentials, and where it would not and could not be cost-effective to develop or maintain effective research capabilities or their supportive facilities in-house too.

An ideal such client business would acutely see need for effective solutions to specific research problems that would help them advance what they do in-house in fulfilling their business model and producing their value defining products and services. But they would not see it as cost effective to build or maintain the infrastructure for this research in-house too. The pace of change that we see going into this 21st century indicates a significant and growing need for this type of business-to-business support service, and that is a need and source of it that I have been addressing here.

I have assumed as a given that such a venture has been launched and that it has begun to prove itself, and bring in revenue. It has even reached a point where its owners and founders are beginning to seriously think in terms of next steps, as proof of principle success has started to flow in, in the form of incoming revenue and even overt profitability, with liquidity coming in exceeding liquidity flowing out from expenses and bills paid. My narrative development goal for this posting is to at least begin a discussion of what does and can happen as a business reaches a point in its development where it is consistently bringing in genuine profits. And this brings me to the concluding note that I added to the end of Part 7, as a foretaste of what I would address here, as my primary focus of attention:

• “I am going to continue that discussion in a next series installment, where I will at least begin to consider the issues of business models and exit strategies, and short-term and long-term and in-between planning. And in anticipation of that, I note here that ‘exit strategy’ does not necessarily mean the founding owners of a business selling it off and walking away from it. This term more generally encompasses transitions from startup and early stage into reliable ongoing profitability, and exiting from what might be considered a business’ infancy into its first real growth phase.”

I begin address that very complex and far-reaching set of issues by noting and discussing a basic orienting point of distinction that would fundamentally shape both the thinking and the planning of such a business’ owners: profitability versus growth.

Most owners and founders do in fact seek to find an effective balance between these goals:

• With their taking personal salaries if nothing else for themselves, and with their rewarding their key team members for risk and sacrifice made as they contributed to the effort to start this venture and bring it to profitability,
• While still plowing profits achieved back into the business to grow it into realizing the opportunities that its initial success have made possible.

Think of this as planning and executing for an effective short-term here and now, while also planning for a long-term future and with both sides to that showing real success. These two objectives: profitability and growth can and frequently do work well together, but at heart they represent competing goals and any successful accommodation between them represents arriving at a successful dynamic balance between them, that would be reviewed and rebalanced on an ongoing basis as part of the overall strategic process and its operational implementation.

I mentioned the exit strategy of building to sell, in my notes as repeated above, for what I would begin to discuss here. And I added in that context that this was only one of many possible exit strategies that the owners of a new and newly successful business venture might pursue. But let me begin with that one, and to in effect get it out of the way if nothing else. Besides, any reasonable discussion of that specific exit strategy approach, as addressed for purposes of this series, will at least introduce several of the basic factors that would have to be thought through and planned for, for essentially any exit and I add next-step entrance strategy that business owners might pursue here.

To keep this discussion more focused and straightforward and to at least limit the digressions in it, I assume that all equity and therefore all decision making power in this business remains in the hands of the original founding owners, and unencumbered by other voices or perspectives: with no angel or venture capital investors involved who would be in a position to claim equity shares and a voice in any exit strategy decisions. To be more explicit in this, I also specifically add that these owners have not offered what amounts to equity, and even as “non-voting shares” to others in their founding and growing team, as promissory notes from their early “pre-reliable salary” days. “Non-voting” in and of itself can be challenged in court and certainly if the owners of record of a business, who have also entered into these agreements with employees and managers, seek to pursue exit strategy decisions that recipients of this compensatory equity claim, would see as limiting or abrogating their share of the business and its value to them. So I assume in what follows, at least for now, that owners can make decisions and take actions here, without concern on their part of second guessing or reversal from “their” side of any negotiating table.

A startup’s founders and owners can decide to accept an offer of buy-out from a larger and more established company that they did not anticipate and that they were not planning for – and even if they have planned out in detail, next step forward growth and development plans for their business, and with them at the helm. In this case, it is likely that they have made every reasonable and achievable effort that they can, to build out their business for long-term growth and success as a stand-alone entity. But at least in my experience and from my study of this exit strategy and how it plays out, business founders and owners can at the very least arrive at a decision to build to sell, and from early on in its initial development as a startup, as they come to see potential profitability from that, too.

These entrepreneurs at least come to plan and build their ventures to sell, and they put their growth and development effort into building their venture towards becoming an attractive potential acquisition for target companies that they would want to sell to. That, among other things means focusing on and prioritizing on building out and developing resources and capabilities that would fit into and support their unique defining source of value – which any new business owners would want to do, but in this case without making corresponding levels of investment in all of the more behind the scenes, and more generic infrastructure systems that a larger acquiring business would have and would want to provide for their new acquisitions from their own preexisting systems.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will add a few more thoughts about this divestiture-oriented exit strategy. But the key point that I would offer in summary of what I have written of it here, that I will be building from in further and more general exit strategy discussion is that:

• Exit strategies planned for and prepared for, shape the decision making and the prioritization processes for what is done and how, and to what degree and in what way, for essentially everything that would go into building a new venture.

To cite a specific example there, of topical relevance in our increasingly business-to-business connected context, this among other details means deciding where and even if to outsource specific business functions, as a means of achieving balance sheet and business effectiveness. Cost-effectiveness and business effectiveness and what they operationally mean, depend in large part on overall business planning and business goals, and on the actual business model in play as being thought through and executed.

That point and the logic behind it will prove to be important when considering other types of exit strategy too. I will also begin to consider other types of exit strategies in my next installment to this series, as they can arise as a new venture first becomes more consistently profitable and as it enters what could be its first real growth phase.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory.

Rethinking national security in a post-2016 US presidential election context: conflict and cyber-conflict in an age of social media 5

Posted in business and convergent technologies, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on November 6, 2017

This is my 5th installment to a new series on cyber risk and cyber conflict in a still emerging 21st century interactive online context, and in a ubiquitously social media connected context and when faced with a rapidly interconnecting internet of things among other disruptively new online innovations (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2, postings 354 and loosely following for Parts 1-4.)

I have been addressing change in this series, and disruptive change, and in both the positive sense of improving and expanding the information technology and communications systems that we rely upon, and on the downside vulnerabilities side that these innovations bring with them too. And I have also and in that same context, been addressing how many of us, and both as individuals and as participants in organizations, keep failing to even address old and known cyber-risks and even when effective means are readily available to patch them. I add that that circumstance continues to hold, even when effective risk reducing measures are readily and even freely available and when warning signs are developing that those risk sources are being systematically exploited already.

I begin this series installment by citing some recent news pieces that might focus in on specific events and specific organizations, but that hold warning for all. The three news stories that I would cite here, address very different seeming events, but I would argue that they hold more in common than might be apparent, as explicit examples of realized vulnerabilities to the issues that I raise in this series. So I offer them with that point in mind:

Identity Thieves Hijack Cellphone Accounts to Go After Virtual Currency,
Equifax Says Cyberattack May Have Affected 143 Million in the U.S. and
Every Single Yahoo Account Was Hacked – 3 billion in all.

Focusing in on the last of these three as a starting point for follow-up discussion of these events, I note that at its peak, Yahoo was valued at just over $100 billion as a company. It has lost value since then, over a period of some 15 years and for a variety of reasons. But this event had to have contributed to its level of devaluation from that high point, as of when Verizon bought out Yahoo – for only $4.8 billion. Not to belabor the obvious, that sale price was less than 5% of Yahoo’s peak value and even then, right now Verizon executives must be thinking that they still paid way too much for what they got.

And turning to the first two of those news stories: the first of them simply adds to already existing concerns as to the safety and reliability of virtual and crypto-currencies such as bitcoin. And this successful hacking of the Equifax database system, with the loss of control over personal confidential records for so many: records with data in them that can be used for identity theft, has become an all but existential threat to that organization as a whole: one of the three major credit reporting agencies globally.

And this brings me to the core point that I would raise here in this posting, which I offer here in the form of a brief set of bullet points:

• The more globally interconnected we all become, and both in general
• And through the elaboration of specific organization-to-organization information sharing and communications channels,
• And through the elaboration of deeper and more pervasive organization-to-individual and individual-to-organization data sharing,
• The more difficult it becomes to both prevent security breaches there,
• And the larger they can expect to become when and as they do arise.

Quite simply, a malicious hacker does not have to be able to breach any and all possible points of connection and entry into an organization to steal or suborn the keys to its information holding kingdom. They only have to find one route in that they can identify and exploit system vulnerabilities through. And if that represents a source of vulnerability that would not readily raise red flags if probed and exploited, so much the better for the hacker and so much the worse for all of the rest of us. And one of the core consequences of the above bullet pointed observations, is that every one of these new technologies created both new points of connection and new types of points of connection: each potentially having within them their own set of still to be discovered zero-day vulnerabilities.

• Ultimately, it is our race to ubiquitous connectivity and our race to build newer and better tools and approaches for achieving that, that become our truest vulnerability here. And the pace of technological advancement in all of this, with its steady flow of new and of disruptively novel and different, simply represents the new area of an already large map for where to look, when seeking to protect and safeguard all of those communications and information systems that we have come to absolutely rely upon.

I want to be as clear as possible here. I am NOT in any way espousing a turning back from the emerging technologies of the 21st century. Their positive value is way too great for that to offer any positive value, and ultimately for any of us. What I am proposing here is that we need to find better, more real-time effective, more resilient and more consistently followed approaches to safeguarding these systems and the resources they contain so they cannot so readily be turned against us for malicious reasons. And I am writing of a need for greater resiliency and flexibility in the systems that we do have in place, so we can more rapidly and effectively expand them to accommodate new challenges and their security needs.

I have written in this series, among other places, about how any such solution has to include new types of technology components in its coverage. But at least as crucially importantly, it has to have human, and human behavior accommodating (and shaping) components too. I am going to continue discussing the issues and challenges and problems faced here in this posting, but I am also going to at least begin to more explicitly address approaches for resolving them in my next installment to this series.

I wrote at the end of Part 4 that I would:

• “Discuss threats and attacks themselves in the next installment to this series. And in anticipation of that and as a foretaste of what is to come here, I will discuss trolling behavior and other coercive online approaches, and ransomware. After that I will at least briefly address how automation and artificial intelligence are being leveraged in a still emerging 21st century cyber-threat environment. I have already at least briefly mentioned this source of toxic synergies before in this series, but will examine it in at least some more detail next.”

I will explicitly discuss those issues next. Then after more fully discussing the problems faced that I have been examining here, I will turn to consider approaches for better addressing these challenges. And in anticipation of that, I note that:

• On the human side of this conundrum, that has to mean shaping effective information security enhancing options that mesh with basic human behavior and with what we tend to do by default. And that challenge is daunting.
• And on the technology side, this means trying to stay at least one step ahead on the white hat hacker side, in the technology arms race that we are in here, vying effort to secure and safeguard against effort to breach and challenge,
• And all while making legitimate system usage easy and in accordance with the “human side of this” challenge as just noted.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 continuation. And you can also find this and related material at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1.

Intentional management 44: elaborating on the basic model for adding people and their management into the equation 5

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 4, 2017

This is my 44th installment in a series in which I discuss how management activity and responsibilities can be parsed and distributed through a business organization, so as to better meet operational and strategic goals and as a planned intentional process (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 472 and loosely following for Parts 1-43.)

I have been discussing a set of eight to-address points in this series, since its Part 40 that all relate to:

• What a business would do, and consistently and by default if it were to assiduously follow its strategically mapped out business plans and its formally agreed to operational processes and practices in place,
• And how businesses and the people who work there can and at times do deviate from that default business plan-based approach and even consistently and systematically so.
• And I also at least briefly made note of at least some of the consequences risked, that can arise from that type of ad hoc hands-on and managerial practice. Ad hoc and spur of the moment can lead to capturing and developing unexpected sources of positive value and benefit and they can become necessary when faced with unexpected problems and challenges that are not addressed in more routine contingency planning. But businesses that come to embrace it as a more routine approach, or that do not effectively learn from its use when it is turned to in exception handling, risk becoming riddled with disconnects between their actual day-to-day business practices and their planned for overall strategy. They come to develop disconnects between what is expected and planned for, and what is actually done, day-to-day.

Then after delving in those issues in more general terms, I began focusing in on the specifics of how they arise and play out for specific business stakeholder types, beginning in Part 43 with managers, and with a specific focus on lower and mid-level ones who do not themselves directly contribute to the conversation that shapes and defines overall business strategy or its overall operational execution.

I pursued that line of discussion as framed by an at least seemingly simple single question:

• What makes a good manager?

Then at the end of Part 43, I stated that I would take this by now multi-installment discussion thread, more out of the abstract by considering other stakeholders as well. And at least starting that narrative, is the goal of this posting.

I simply said “good manager” in my Part 43 exposition, and without explicitly stating there, that I would focus on managers who do not carry executive authority or responsibility, in what would immediately follow. So I turn here to in effect complete my answer to that basic question as initially posed, at least to the level of a first draft response to it, by explicitly reframing the basic question itself:

• Think of Part 43 as addressing the question: what makes a good lower level or mid-level manager whose primary responsibility is to apply overall business strategy and its operational guidelines, into the specific circumstances of their more focused areas of work responsibility?
• Now, what makes a good senior or executive manager who contributes to creating and maintaining that business-wide overall organizational framework?

And I begin addressing that second question, by raising two fundamentally important points of consideration: authority and responsibility.

• Many, and even most people who work in businesses, and certainly in large and complexly structured ones with large headcounts, tend to see the senior managers and C level executives at the top of their lines on the table of organization, as having authority to make binding decisions. They see them do this, and in ways that have real impact throughout their lines of their table of organization, affecting many in the process. And they construe this to mean that these executives as being allowed to, and empowered to make even major decisions on their own, and as if at least largely independently of the dictates of others.
• But in a fundamental sense, the higher up you are on that table of organization, the more hemmed in your can become by the overall dictates of the business’ overall strategic planning and its approved operational systems of strategic execution. This is because most lower level managers make decisions that for the most part only involve or at least directly impact on specific aspects of their own functional area of professional activity. But to consider the opposite end of this spectrum, a senior manager or executive working towards the top of a line of functional activity on a table of organization, always has to think and decide and act with a full awareness of the impact of what they do, throughout the organization. They have to take into account the larger, and even the essentially complete picture, with all of its in-house competitions for shared but limited resources, where liquidity and direct fundability is often only one facet of a much larger competitive arena. And this can and at times does mean intentionally, knowingly agreeing to decisions that would at least in the short term, mitigate against their own area of direct business oversight and responsibility, gaining what they would need now in order to function more optimally, deferring to the needs of other parts of the business and their priorities instead.
• Authority usually points down the table of organization and in the direction of those who a manager or leader directly or indirectly manages themselves. Responsibility points in all directions, and that means down the table of organization and it also means higher up on it. And for senior executives certainly, that also means laterally and across the business as a whole. And every point in the business that this points to, brings its own shaping constraints into any best decisions that might be made, and whether that means addressing short-term and more immediate needs or longer-term ones – or what is more likely the case: a combination of them.

And that does not even begin to consider the added complication of other stakeholders that a manager and their team might be doing essential work for, and either in-house and across the table of organization or outwardly facing (e.g. to the marketplace and its customers, or to business-to-business collaborative partners, as for example are found in supply chain systems.)

I began this posting’s narrative by explicitly focusing on the line of responsibility and command as it runs up and down branches of the table of organization. I will continue from there in a next series installment to include a wider range of stakeholder interactions, and how complexities and constraints can arise for managers throughout a business when dealing with them. Then I will move on to consider a wider range of stakeholders themselves as they view a business and their roles in it, and as their involvement, of necessity shapes their decision making and follow-through. And with that considered, I will reconsider, yet again, ad hoc and special exception practices, and the emergence of the “ad hoc standardized” and its consequences.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

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