Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 30: a second round discussion of general theories as such, 5

Posted in blogs and marketing, book recommendations, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on August 16, 2019

This is my 30th installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-25 and its Page 2 continuation, Section IX for Parts 26-29.)

I began this series in its Parts 1-8 with an initial orienting discussion of general theories per se, with an initial analysis of compendium model theories and of axiomatically grounded general theories as a conceptual starting point for what would follow. And I then turned from that, in Parts 9-25 to at least begin to outline a lower-level, more reductionistic approach to businesses and to thinking about them, that is based on interpersonal interactions. Then I began a second round, next step discussion of general theories per se in Parts 26-29 of this, building upon my initial discussion of general theories per se, this time focusing on axiomatic systems and on axioms per se and the presumptions that they are built upon. As a key part of that continued narrative, I offered a point of theory defining distinction in Part 28, that I began using there in this discussion, and that I continued using in Part 29 as well, and that I will continue using and developing here too, drawing a distinction between:

• Entirely abstract axiomatic bodies of theory that are grounded entirely upon sets of a priori presumed and selected axioms. These theories are entirely encompassed by sets of presumed fundamental truths: sets of axiomatic assumptions, as combined with complex assemblies of theorems and related consequential statements (lemmas, etc) that can be derived from them, as based upon their own collective internal logic. Think of these as axiomatically closed bodies of theory.
• And theory specifying systems that are axiomatically grounded as above, with at least some a priori assumptions built into them, but that are also at least as significantly grounded in outside-sourced information too, such as empirically measured findings as would be brought in as observational or experimental data. Think of these as axiomatically open bodies of theory.

And I have, and will continue to refer to them as axiomatically closed and open bodies of theory, as convenient terms for denoting them. And that brings me up to the point in this developing narrative that I would begin this installment to it at, with two topics points that I would discuss in terms of how they arise in closed and open bodies of theory respectively:

• How would new axioms be added into an already developing body of theory, and how and when would old ones be reframed, generalized, limited for their expected validity and made into special case rules as a result, or be entirely discarded as organizing principles there per se.
• Then after addressing that set of issues I said that I will turn to consider issues of scope expansion for the set of axioms assumed in a given theory-based system, and with a goal of more fully analytically discussing optimization for the set of axioms presumed, and what that even means.

I began discussing the first of these topics points in Part 29 and will continue doing so here. And after completing that discussion thread, at least for purposes of this digression into the epistemology of general theories per se, I will turn to and discuss the second of those points too. And I begin addressing all of this at the very beginning, with what was arguably the first, at least still-existing effort to create a fully complete and consistent axiomatically closed body of theory that would address what was expected at least, to encompass and resolve all possible problems and circumstances where it might conceivably be applied: Euclid’s geometry as developed from the set of axiomatically presumed truths that he built his system upon.

More specifically, I begin this narrative thread with Euclid’s famous, or if you prefer infamous Fifth postulate: his fifth axiom, and how that defines and constrains the concept of parallelism. And I begin here by noting that mathematicians and geometers began struggling with it more than two thousand years ago, and quite possibly from when Euclid himself was still alive.

Unlike the other axioms that Euclid offered, this one did not appear to be self-evident. So a seemingly endless progression of scholars sought to find a way to prove it from the first four of Euclid’s axioms. And baring that possibility, scholars sought to develop alternative bodies of geometric theory that either offered alternative axioms to replace Euclid’s fifth, or that did without parallelism as an axiomatic principle at all, or that explicitly focused on it and even if that meant dispensing with the metric concepts of angle and distance (where parallelism can be defined independently of them), with affine geometries.

In an axiomatically closed body of theory context, this can all be thought of as offering what amount to alternative realities, and certainly insofar as geometry is applied for its provable findings, to the empirically observable real world. The existence of a formally, axiomatically specified non-Euclidean geometry such as a an elliptic or hyperbolic geometry that explicitly diverge from the Euclidean on the issue of parallelism, does not disprove Euclidean geometry, or even necessarily refute it except insofar as its existence shows that other equally solidly grounded, axiomatically-based geometries are possible too. So as long as a set of axioms that underlie a body of theory such as one of these geometries can be assumed to be internally consistent, the issues of reframing, generalizing, limiting or otherwise changing axioms in place, within a closed body of theory is effectively moot.

As soon as outside-sourced empirical or other information is brought in that arises separately from and independently from the set, a priori axioms in place in a body of theory, all of that changes. And that certainly holds if such information (e.g. replicably observed empirical observations and the data derived from them) is held to be more reliably grounded and “truer” than data arrived at entirely as a consequence of logical evaluation of the consequences of the a priori axioms in place. (Nota bene: Keep in mind that I am still referring here to initial presumed axioms that are not in and of themselves directly empirically validated, and that might never have even been in any way tested against outside-sourced observations and certainly for the range of observation types that that perhaps new forms of empirical data and its observed patterns might offer. Such new data might in effect force change in previously assumed axiomatically framed truth.)

All I have done in the above paragraph is to somewhat awkwardly outline the experimental method, where theory-based hypotheses are tested against carefully developed and analyzed empirical data to see if it supports or refuted them. And in that, I focus in the above paragraph, on experimental testing that would support or refute what have come to be seen as really fundamental, underlying principles and not just detail elaborations as to how the basic assumed principles in place would address very specific, special circumstances.

But this line of discussion overlooks, or at least glosses over a very large gap in the more complete narrative that I would need to address here. And for purposes of filling that gap, I return to reconsider Kurt Gödel and his proofs of the incompleteness of any axiomatic theory of arithmetic, and of the impossibility of proving absolute consistency for such a body of theory too, as touched upon here in Part 28. As a crude representation of a more complex overall concept, mathematical proofs can be roughly divided into two basic types:

Existence proofs, that simply demonstrate that at least one mathematical construct exists within the framework of a set of axioms under consideration that would explicitly sustain or refute that theory, but without in any way indicating its form or details, and
Constructive proofs, that both prove the existence of a theorem-supporting or refuting mathematical construct, and also specifically identify and specify it for at least one realistic example, or at least one realistic category of such examples.

Gödel’s inconsistency theorem is an existence proof insofar as it does not constructively indicate any specific mathematical contexts where inconsistency explicitly arises. And even if it did, that arguably would only indicate where specific changes might be needed in order to seamlessly connect two bodies of mathematical theory: A and B, within a to-them, sufficiently complete and consistent single axiomatic framework so as to be able to treat them as a single combined area of mathematics (e.g. combining algebra and geometry to arrive as a larger and more inclusive body of theory such as algebraic geometry.) And this brings me very specifically and directly to the issues of reverse mathematics, as briefly but very effectively raised in:

• Stillwell, J. (2018) Reverse Mathematics: proofs from the inside out. Princeton University Press.)

And I at least begin to bring that approach into this discussion by posing a brief set of very basic questions, that arise of necessity from Gödel’s discoveries and the proof that he offered to validate them:

• What would be the minimum set of axioms, demonstrably consistent within that set, that would be needed in order to prove as valid, some specific mathematical theorem A?
• What would be the minimum set of axioms needed to so prove theorem A and also theorem B (or some other explicitly stated and specified finitely enumerable set of such theorems A, B, C etc.)?

Anything in the way of demonstrable incompleteness of a type required here, for bringing A and B (and C and …, if needed) into a single overarching theory would call for a specific, constructively demonstrable expansion of the set of axioms assumed in order to accomplish the goals implicit in those two bullet pointed questions. And any demonstrable inconsistency that were to emerge when seeking to arrive at such a minimal necessary axiomatic foundation for a combined theory, would of necessity call for a reframing or a replacement at a basic axiomatic level and even in what are overtly closed axiomatic bodies of theory. So Euclidean versus non-Euclidean geometries notwithstanding, even a seemingly completely closed such body of theory might need to be reconsidered and axiomatically re-grounded, or discarded entirely.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment, where I will turn to more explicitly consider axiomatically open bodies of theory in this context. And in anticipation of that narrative to come, I will consider:

• The emergence of both disruptively new types of data and of empirical observations that could generate it,
• And shifts in the accuracy resolution, or the range of observations that more accepted and known types of empirical observations might suddenly be offering.

I add here that I have, of necessity, already begun discussing the second, to-address topic point that I made note of towards the start of this posting, in the course of writing this posting:

• Scope expansion for the set of axioms assumed in a given theory-based system, and with a goal of more fully analytically discussing optimization for the set of axioms presumed, and what that even means.

I will continue on in this overall discussion to more fully consider that set of issues, and certainly where optimization is concerned in this type of context.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory and its Page 2 continuation, as topics Sections VI and IX there.

Xi Jinping and his China, and their conflicted relationship with Hong Kong – an unfolding Part 2 event: 4

Posted in macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on August 15, 2019

This is my fourth posting, all coming out since June 19, 2019, to address the significant and still expanding conflicts taking place in Hong Kong, arising as a response to actions taken by China’s mainland government in Beijing and by Xi Jinping’s decisions and actions there (see Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.) And this is my sixth such posting if you include the two 2014 entries that I initially offered here, in response to the events that have come to be known as Hon Kong’s Yellow Umbrella Movement (雨傘運動) (see those Part 1 and an Part 2 postings for further related background material and perspective.

I began writing my more recent above-cited postings here, as addressing a Part 2 continuation of what happened in 2014 and of what led up to that so public a confrontation. But in a real sense, more recent events can perhaps best be seen as a direct continuation of 2014 and its challenges. It is just that more recent actions taken, and both by senior members of Hong Kong’s government who were installed in office there by the Communist Party of China, and by Xi and his government itself, have stoked fresh flames from what were still burning embers of discontent.

I said at the end of my most recent installment to all of this that I would come back to this set of issues “in the coming weeks.” But the pace and the consequence-creating impact of recent events have prompted me to write and post that early. And I do so with a great many possible starts to this updating note in mind, that I could choose to from.

I recently found myself comparing these events to a classic Greek tragedy, and there are at least potentially some important points that the two hold in common. I explain that here as an at least intended cautionary if hopeful note as I know that at least some people in China have been reading what I have been offering here. A classic Greek comedy is a theatrical work in which problems and challenges arise, but in ways that allow for a more positive resolution. Everyone does not die in some way in the end. That does not mean humor; it does not necessarily have to include witty lines or comedic acting that would provoke laughter from the audience. It means that good prevails and that people survive and move on. A classic Greek tragedy on the other hand, is marred by what becomes doom realized, and with that as an increasingly inevitable outcome.

• If Xi Jinping and his government and the forces and voices at his command stay their current course in their effort to control and subjugate the peoples of Hong Kong, and if the protesting people of Hong Kong stay their course in demanding their rights and freedoms in the face of that, Xi is in danger of forcing a name change there, where this type of event becomes known as a classic Chinese tragedy.

A second possible start to this note is that I might offer it as what amounts to an open letter to Xi Jinping and his more senior advisors, and I particularly focus on Xi himself here because ultimately it is going to be up to him to make the decisions and take the actions that will determine if this ends as a tragedy or not. Xi, perhaps above all else, seeks to be the supreme leader in China and a true world leader as a consequence of that. Consider this responsibility as part of the cost that is automatically going to be included in any such ambitions and certainly as effort is made to realize them. The How and What of any resolution to the unrest and even chaos in Hong Kong today, are up to Chairman Xi, as is any possible If.

I displayed my own brand of hubris in Part 3 to this, by offering a concerned third party’s perspective on what might be done to at least lesson the tensions in Hong Kong, and in the halls of power in Beijing too over this, which I repeat here in at least abbreviated form at the risk of boring my readers:

• Xi and his Communist Party and government see a fundamental need to have people in political and governmental power in Hong Kong, who support them and who believe in what they seek to do. But when Xi and members of his Party and government overtly put their own hand-picked puppets into senior positions of authority in Hong Kong and its government, they poison those would-be leaders for their ever being accepted as legitimate there.
• And they poison the prospects that they themselves would ever be accepted in Hong Kong as in any way honoring the terms of the treaty that China signed with Britain, turning Hong Kong back to China, with the terms of autonomy that that treaty specified.
• So this is where Xi in particular has to look to and reconsider his true goals and priorities and certainly long-term. Does his China Dream, his Zhōngguó Mèng (中国梦) revolve around a Carrie Lam staying in toxically dysfunctional power in what should be one of China’s most valuable assets: the port city of Hong Kong? According to the terms of that Treaty, Hong Kong is set to fully return to China’s and Beijing’s control in 2047: in just a few short years when measured against the centuries that Chinese history is measured in, and that Xi himself cites as the foundation of his China Dream.

This is the backdrop and stage setting to that at least potentially classical tragedy in the making: this conflict of needs and of vision that we are witnessing unfolding in the news and every single day now. And with that noted, I actually turn to Chairman Xi, or at least to his fellow countrymen and women who read my postings, to offer that open letter. And I begin it with the fundamentals: with what I hope at least to be a fair and balanced, if selective consideration of Xi’s China Dream itself, and what it means.

Dear Chairman Xi,

I write this to you as leader of the single most important and powerful organized body and power base in your nation, overwhelming any possible challenge that could conceivably come to it from your nation’s government on its own, its military with its system of military and political officers and with those political officers really in command there, and its still embryonic private sector. I write to you here and now as the supreme leader of your nation’s Communist Party. And I write to you as the creator and bearer of your China Dream: a distillation of all of your development plans for China and of all of your more personal legacy creating ambitions as well.

You seek to restore China to the greatness that you see in its past from before the humiliations of the First Opium War and all that led up to it, making that tragedy inevitable. And you seek to redress the wrongs done and the grievances suffered coming out of the unequal treaties, with the first of them, ending the First Opium War a particularly painful part of that story, and certainly now. It was, after all, the Treaty of Nanking that ended that war, as a total defeat for China and not just militarily. It was after all that treaty that tore Hong Kong from China, making it a British colony and a more effective gateway into your country as British and other foreign forces did as they wished and throughout China. Extraterritoriality and the immunity that British, and soon other foreign nationals held, from having to honor and obey Chinese law and even in the heart of your nation, was only a small part of that. And I stress that and your loss of Hong Kong here because it is Hong Kong that I write this for, and your hopes and dreams for China as a whole.

You look back to earlier days of greatness, and most certainly to the golden age of the Qing Dynasty, before it began to fail and at least in part from the onslaught of foreign challenge. You look back to the days of the Kangxi Emperor and his grandson the Qianlong Emperor, and the 138 year span of time in which their rule led to stability and strength. And you look to the chaos and humiliations that followed, and with a goal of reversing them to restore what you see as China’s true place in the world. But at the risk of displeasing, I would offer you some thoughts as to how the Kangxi Emperor and the Qianlong Emperor actually achieved the stability and prosperity that their leadership led to, and with the expanded reach and influence that the China of their days achieved.

What was their greatest strength that they were able to bring to bear there? There are, of course, many possible answers to that, but the one that I cannot help but think of here was in how they knew when and how to be rigidly insistent and when and how to be flexible and even on what would seemingly be set and established principles and practices that would not allow for that. And the key area that comes to mind for me there, is not more internal to the country. It is not in how their numerically lean bureaucracy worked flexibly with provincial officials and through them with more local officials and to the ultimate benefit of all and to China as a whole. It is in how those emperors and the people who reported to them and who carried out their orders, managed the intricacies of the tribute system, that bound what were seen in China as their vassal states to their rule. And this system both defined and shaped all of the international trade that led to China emerging as a globally significant power during the Qing Dynasty’s golden age. And then failures in that system ultimately led to the downfall of the Qing Dynasty and the emergence of the century and more of humiliations that you seek to redress through the realization of your China Dream.

Officially and as a matter of established process and practice, any foreigners from any nation who sought to enter into business and trade in China outside of the tribute system and its protocols and restrictions, were deemed to be pirates and smugglers, and pirates and smugglers tended to be dealt with quite harshly if caught. But openly if unofficially, entirely separate alternatives to the traditional tribute system, as had officially held sway for centuries, were allowed and even unofficially supported – when they offered greater long-term value to China and their Emperor’s Court. I cite by way of example, the fact that Japan absolutely refused to enter into China’s tribute system and certainly not as a lesser supplicant nation and throughout the Tokugowa Shogonate (徳川幕府). But even with that, Japan served as a major trade conduit and one of real value to China, in its dealings with the West during this period, with a tremendous ongoing flow of trade that ultimately went in and out of China, going through the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Japan-enabled trade and the flow of new knowledge from the outside world that came with that, significantly contributed to the China of the Qing Dynasty, and to that China becoming and remaining the power that it was during this golden age. And it was the breaking of this system and partly with the advent of the unequal treaties, partly from internal challenges in China and partly – and even significantly from China’s failure to learn and internalize new scientific and technical advances that were developed in the United States and Europe in the 19th century, that led to the chaos that followed.

But I am not writing this with a goal of sharing a history lesson, and certainly not to someone who I would expect knows more of China’s history than I ever will. I offer this brief note thinking to today and to the days to come. I mentioned the distant land of Japan as an example of how China’s revered and expected tribute system could be set aside, or creatively adapted as called for in meeting specific needs and circumstances. But a seeming myriad of such exceptions, large and small, were allowed to play out in China’s own port cities too, and in fact wherever China and Foreign might meet, and at least beneficially for all and with stable good coming from that.

You revere the golden age of China and seek to restore it? It was not built on brittle, fragile intrangence. In fact, rigid and unconsidered intrangence and seemingly wherever possible was one of the hallmarks of the late and failing Qing Dynasty, as it found itself hemmed in and thwarted by forces it could neither change nor adapt to, as it successively fell from failure into failure. Look at how what had been a mutually supportive system of governance in China, collapsed and from internal rebellion and from the proliferation of disconnects between the Forbidden City and its leadership, and China’s provinces and more local governmental leaders.

Look to Hong Kong now and what do you see? Look to Hong Kong in light of the lessons of history, but not just the history of the humiliation of the First Opium War and of Britain’s seizure of that city as tribute in the Treaty of Nanking, that a Chinese Emperor and all of China were forced to swallow. Look to Hong Kong with 1997 and with 2047 in mind and ask yourself if a brittle, intransigent approach to righting perceived wrongs NOW, is the type of path that the leaders of China’s golden age would have turned to and as their only possible course of action. If you seek to be China’s leader into a new golden age, what path should you take here, to address and reduce the tension and the risk of an outright break there, with calls for Hong Kong independence that could not be withdrawn so easily?

I just learned today as of this writing (August 15, 2019) that at least some of the people protesting in the streets in Hong Kong are now carrying United Nations flags and British flags too: the Union Jack. By now everyone with any interest or concern as to what is happening in Hong Kong today, knows at least something as to how both sides – protesting citizens, and police and related agents of the state, have come to resort to progressively more violent and confrontational means to promote their causes. If you are China’s leader, where are you in all of this? Are you prepared to sit back and rigidly allow this to become that classic tragedy, or are you willing to lead, and away from that? This really is up to you now and history will judge you on the basis of how you rise to or fail to rise to this challenge.

Sincerely, Timothy Platt, Ph.D.

I am certain to offer a fifth posting in this succession of them as events continue to proceed, and both in Hong Kong and in China. Meanwhile, you can find this and related China and Xi Jinping-oriented material at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation.

Innovation, disruptive innovation and market volatility 48: innovative business development and the tools that drive it 18

Posted in business and convergent technologies, macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on August 13, 2019

This is my 48th posting to a series on the economics of innovation, and on how change and innovation can be defined and analyzed in economic and related risk management terms (see Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, postings 173 and loosely following for its Parts 1-47.)

I have been discussing two-organization based, innovation discovery and development scenarios here since Part 43 when I began outlining and analyzing:

• University research labs and the university-as-business systems that they function in, as original sources of new innovation,
• And invention acquiring, for-profit businesses that would buy access to these new and emerging opportunities for development and sale

as the two organizations involved. And my goal here is to expand that line of discussion to include a wider range of participating organizations. I raised a possibility for that in Part 47, when I made note of how larger companies can and do at least occasionally divest themselves of patents that they hold, but that do not supportively fit into their current or planned business model and its needs. IBM is known for having sold off tens of thousands of patents in that way as they have, as a business, redefined themselves to remain competitively effective in the face of overriding change and its challenges. (See, for example IBM Has Sold Over 15,000 Patents Since 1991; Google is its biggest customer, where this news piece only addresses part of a still larger and longer-term patent divestiture story for this business.)

For purposes of this line of discussion and this posting in it, it does not matter as much what types of businesses are involved in these transactions. It only matters that one of them holds effective control if not direct outright ownership of at least one trade secret, patent protected or otherwise access-limited innovation that another would want to be able to benefit from, and that second organization is both willing and able enough to secure control of this for itself to make a transaction for managing that transfer, a viable option. Under these circumstances, the precise business models and business plans of the enterprises involved, do not particularly matter except insofar as that type of information would add insight into the nature and details of whatever those businesses could negotiate an agreement upon in this specific context. And that means relevant information concerning these businesses that fall into four fairly specific question-defined categories, that are all fundamentally grounded in a same set of operational and strategic concerns:

• What value would the initially owning business gain, or retain if it were simply to maintain tightly controlled, access limited hold over the innovation or innovations in question here?
• What value could it develop and secure from divesting at least contractually specified control over the use or ownership of this innovative potential?
• And from the acquiring business’ perspective, what costs, or loss of positive value creating potential would it face, if it did not gain access to this innovation and on terms that would meet its needs?
• And what positive value would it gain if it did gain access to this, and with sufficient ownership control and exclusivity of use so as to meet its needs?

I posit this entirely in cost and benefits terms, and in terms of risk and benefits where the more disruptively novel the innovations under consideration are in this, the less firm data will be available to calculate a priori, what the actual costs and benefits would be, as efforts are made to answer the above four questions. That places this type of analysis at least significantly in a risk management arena.

Timeframes enter this narrative here, as even the most dramatically new and novel innovation as initially conceived, is going to have a time limited shelf life. And this can be expected to hold true with particular force if an innovation in question offers dramatic new sources, forms or levels of value that would not have been possible before it. As soon as word of its existence gets out, efforts will be made to bypass any ownership or licensure-based access restrictions to what it can do, with duplication of initial discovery and innovation pursued by others and either by directly copying it with knock-offs or through efforts to create similar if analogous product offerings that would capture similar forms and levels of new value, or both. And with this, I cite my above-noted IBM example again. On the whole, the thousands of patents that that company has sold off, have still held value for at least select business-to-business markets and sectors, and for specific types of potentially acquiring businesses. But it is likely that many of them were worth less on an open market of this sort when finally sold off, than they were initially worth. And some of them have undoubtedly fit into a “cut your losses” pattern where it had in fact cost more to initially develop them and secure patent protection over them, than could be fully recouped from their ultimate sale.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will add in the complexities of scale, and for both the divesting, or licensing business and for the acquiring one. And I will also discuss the issues of direct and indirect competition, and how carefully planned and executed transfer transactions here, can in fact create or enhance business-to-business collaboration opportunities too, where that may or may not create monopoly law risks in the process.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation. And also see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3 and that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Xi Jinping and his China, and their conflicted relationship with Hong Kong – an unfolding Part 2 event: 3

Posted in macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on August 12, 2019

This is my third posting offered as part of an in- the-news analysis of current events in Hong Kong, as they revolve around the deep seated sources of conflict that exist between that former British colony, and China’s Beijing government (see Part 1 and Part 2.) And this sequence of postings is itself, a continuation of a pair of related postings that I initially offered in 2014 as part of another series, that reported on and analyzed a series of events that I would refer to here as the Part 1 that I name these postings in terms of: Hong Kong’s Yellow Umbrella Movement (雨傘運動) and its protests over China’s Beijing government and their Communist Party, interfering in and suborning local Hong Kong elections in order to put their hand-picked candidates in office there: Hong Kong’s current most senior executive branch government official included: Carrie Lam. And now there are protests in the streets and beyond as well, as Xi Jinping’s Beijing government, and Carrie Lam and her government have sought to fundamentally suborn the rights of Hong Kong citizens to fair and impartial trials if they are brought up on criminal charges in Hong Kong itself.

I wrote my earlier, 2014 postings: An Inserted News Update re Hong Kong and an immediate continuation of that, with a real sense of trepidation, thinking back to the events leading up to the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and the crackdown and massacre that ended that ordinary citizen-based reform movement attempt. Would Xi Jinping follow the same type of violently repressive course that his predecessor in power, Deng Xiaoping did in Tiananmen Square? Deng and the people who he had to work with and accommodate in shared power, looked back to the days of Mao Zedong and to his use of repressive power as a means of societal control. And they thought that if they acted according to that pattern, as was used in initially building the system and the power base that they relied upon, they would achieve similar results. But the China of Mao’s days was cut off and isolated and it was possible to carry out massive repressions, and certainly in more isolated areas of their country and no one would see, from the outside. No one, they thought would care.

Then Deng began to open up China to the world, reaching out to potential friend and foe alike in order to reshape his own and China’s images, and the conversation that took place around both. Xi has if anything, tremendously expanded that opening up and way beyond what his predecessors since Deng could achieve. And that has helped him to advance his China Dream: his personal legacy building dream and ambitions. But that opening up has also ripped away any possible veil that a Mao might have tied hiding his more repressive measures behind: a veil that was already gone by the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre, and that could not conceivably offer any cover now in 2019 and certainly in a globally visible international port city such as Hong Kong.

So I wrote my recent Parts 1 and 2 postings on the turmoil in Hong Kong, with a greater sense of confidence that reason and a search for calm would prevail, than I felt when writing my above-cited 2014 postings, and certainly as cooler heads did prevail then. But more recent events that have developed since I wrote and posted them have given me pause for thought and cause for concern again. I am not so sure that reason can prevail this time, at least long-term, and even if Xi’s government did try to bring the Yellow Umbrella Movement protests of a few years ago to a peaceful end, avoiding direct conflict and the prospects of escalating violence that neither Xi nor anyone else could simply turn off, once started.

• I am not concerned about the possibility that Xi or others in his government would set out to in some way intentionally create a larger scale and globally visible Tiananmen Square massacre, Part 2. I see that as beyond the realm of possibility and certainly where intention could shape actual realized events.
• I am not even particularly concerned that Xi and his government would display the possibility of more intentionally planned out use of military or other large-scale force as a visible Plan B, and certainly when that force capability is still an hour and more from Hong Kong by airlift, and even if elements of his People’s Liberation Army have been carrying out large scale antiterrorism exercises and visibly so as briefly discussed in Part 2 here. There, a display of force can remain just that: a display and without any follow-through beyond that.
• But I do, however, feel real concern that Xi’s and particularly Carrie Lam’s brinksmanship efforts to suppress what have become larger and more widespread protests, and with no end in sight to them, might lead to escalating violence with police and even local-to-Hong Kong, Chinese military garrison involvement that they cannot simply rein in and stop once started – until that is, they have that massacre Part 2 event to deal with.
• I am concerned about the possibility of Xi and his military and his government, and Lam and her puppet government and her available forces, taking steps that carry ever-increasing risks that they cannot contain, with that too likely leading to escalations that they would in retrospect find worse than those arising from the Tiananmen Square massacre itself. Brinksmanship as policy and practice creates too great a risk of accident and of unintended action and reaction, and with what in this type of context would be explosive results.

I add here that the 74th Army Group that is providing the troops and support systems for carrying out those antiterrorism exercises, has a storied history that prominently includes their having active fought in what in the United States, is called the Korean War. When Chinese forces entered North Korea in that conflict, to prevent the military annihilation of Kim il Sung’s forces, most of the Chinese forces that the American and South Korean military faced were drawn from the 74th. And elements of the 74th have actively invaded the northern reaches of Vietnam, most recently in the years after American forces were withdrawn from the area as an end to the United States, Vietnam War, doing so as part of a show of force to demonstrate China’s authority in the region, and in order to “correct” what the Beijing government saw as “border irregularities”. But while units from a wide range of army groups were involved in the events that we know of as the Tiananmen Square massacre, that did not include any direct involvement or participation of elements of the 74th. That, along with their willingness to fight if so ordered, that is so central to the 74th’s history and tradition, was undoubtedly a significant factor in the selection process when deciding which People’s Liberation Army units would do this. But simply deploying and involving military units that are free of any taint of Tiananmen Square involvement themselves, cannot do much to change either the levels of risk that these exercises create as an obvious threat message, or the marketing message that deploying them in particular, might hold for the world at large.

I stated above that the current unrest in Hong Kong is continuing without any let-up and in fact at a seemingly ever-increasing level of intensity. And that in fact is true, with protests impacting on transportation and communications systems and in fact on essentially all of their basic infrastructure systems – and certainly where this would visibly impact upon a deeply involved globally spanning international community that is grounded in trade through Hong Kong. For some recent news references in support of that contention, see:

Chinese Official Warns Hong Kong Protesters Against ‘Color Revolution’,
Protesters Plan to Swarm Hong Kong’s Airport, a Symbol of Efficiency,
Hong Kong Protesters Descend on Airport, With Plans to Stay for Days,
Hong Kong Protesters Defy Beijing Warnings, as Police Fire Tear Gas and
Hong Kong Protesters’ New Target: A News Station Seen as China’s Friend.

Officially China has sought to redirect any possible blame for this conflict happening, away from itself and away from the decisions and actions of their hand-picked executive official in place in Hong Kong: Carrie Lam. And in keeping with their current trade war tensions with the United States, as initiated by the president of the United States, Donald Trump, this has included their making accusations of Hong Kong’s unrest, arising as a consequence of US meddling. See, for example:

China’s Theory for Hong Kong Protests: Secret American Meddling.

But ultimately this conflict all arises from two sources, both of which are or at least were under the control of China’s Communist Party, their national government and Xi Jinping himself:

• Their insistence of managing and even overtly taking control of Hong Kong’s local elections, when they first installed Carrie Lam in office there, leading up to and causing the Yellow Umbrella Movement,
• And their insistence on continuing to support her and even when that means their supporting decisions and actions that can only cause harm to the current leadership of China: Xi Jinping himself, and his hopes for fulfilling his self-perceived destiny as a great leader.

I have not worked with a national government as a consultant for a while now, and I have never served in that capacity in any dealings with China and their government or Hong Kong, which I intentionally label here as being separate, still. (Just ask Hong Kong’s current protestors if you are uncertain as to why I would make that distinction.) But that point of detail acknowledged, if I were to take on a work assignment of that type now and in China, and if I were asked for my advice as to how to actually end this current and ongoing predicament, I would most likely at least start that by suggesting that:

• While Xi and his government want to see people elected or appointed to positions of power in Hong Kong, who would look and act favorably towards China as a whole and its Party and government, the price for that is too high if it means Beijing having to overtly install a local Hong Kong leader. Such an act can only serve to poison any possibility of that leader ever being accepted as anything other than a puppet, owned by and controlled by Beijing.
• So whatever her expected positive value or virtues as seen from Xi’s perspective, Carrie Lam started out in her current office as a liability and as a toxic one. And the fact that her election essentially immediately led to the Yellow Umbrella Movement and the fact that the tension and unrest that erupted then has never really gone away since then, and the fact that it has erupted again and with even greater force now – and specifically as a consequence of her continued actions, should be telling the decision makers in Beijing something.
• Xi Jinping has his China Dream, and it is solidly grounded in an at least partly fantasized vision of China’s golden age of power and influence, and of respect as achieved in the days of the Great Qing when that dynasty and its China reached a zenith of authority and position and both regionally and even globally. But if he can only see his legacy building vision in terms of recreating this Qing dynasty dream, and if he cannot avoid getting caught up in the snare of its here-and-now unrealistic details, what can and will come of his own China Dream as a whole?
• At the risk of being presumptuous, I would cite by way of advice here, a passage from one of China’s historically most revered documents: the Tao Te Ching, to the effect that a little fish, overly handled soon spoils. Hong Kong is no little fish, but it is small in comparison to the sweep of Xi’s ambitions, and of his dream. And if his manhandling of this continues, the stink that comes from that spoiling will spread out globally, and with consequences to match.
• This is a time when Xi and his government should step back, disavowing a disaster of their creation, with positive measures replacing them in support of Hong Kong’s rights under the terms of the treaty that returned this vital port to China in the first place. And as a first step there, Xi and his government should disavow themselves from Carrie Lam, offering her in private a way out and even if that means offering her a less visible or impactful paid position in Beijing or some other mainland city. And they should open up the process of replacing her as a presumably Hong Kong leader, with a more open, involving and transparent process – and even if that would mean their facing a replacement who would at the very least start out more confrontational towards them than they would like.
• The treaty that China signed with Great Britain as part of the handover of Hong Kong to their ultimate control, is set to continue in force until 2047. Xi and yes, his successors in power have time and reason to take a long-game approach here and to look and think and plan much further forward than they seem to be doing now, for the self-defeating short-sightedness they seem to be showing now.

Do I expect any of this to happen? No, not now and certainly given the way events continue to unfold and both in Hong Kong and as coming from mainland China as well.

I expect to add a fourth installment to this progression of them in the coming weeks as Hong Kong has become Xi Jinping’s kryptonite, to cite a reference from Western fiction. Meanwhile, you can find this and related Xi-oriented material at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation.

Planning for and building the right business model 101 – 44: goals and benchmarks and effective development and communication of them 24

Posted in startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 10, 2019

This is my 44th posting to a series that addresses the issues of planning for and developing the right business model, and both for initial small business needs and for scalability and capacity to evolve from there (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 and Page 5 continuations, postings 499 and loosely following for Parts 1-43.) I also include this series in my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory and its Page 2 continuation.

I have been discussing three specific possible early stage growth scenarios that a new business’ founders might pursue for their venture, in recent installments to this series, which I repeat here for smoother continuity of narrative as I continue addressing them:

1. A new venture that has at least preliminarily proven itself as viable and as a source of profitability can go public through an initial public offering (IPO) and the sale of stock shares. (See Part 33 and Part 34.)
2. A new venture can transition from pursuing what at least begins as if following an organic growth and development model (as would most likely at least initially be followed in exit strategy 1, above too) but with a goal of switching to one in which they seek out and acquire larger individually sourced outside capital investment resources, and particularly from venture capitalists. (See Part 35.)
3. And a new venture, and certainly one that is built around a growth-oriented business model, might build its first bricks and mortar site, in effect as a prototype effort that it would refine with a goal of replication through, for example a franchise system. (See Part 36 through Part 39.)

I initially focused on those business development models themselves, with a goal of fleshing them out with the types and levels of detail needed for purposes of this series and this portion of it. Then I continued discussing and analyzing them as working examples of how a business’ founders and managers would more likely address a specific set of business performance requirements that they would face when working to make their specific enterprises succeed:

A. Fine tuning their products and/or services offered,
B. Their business operations and how they are prioritized and carried out, and certainly in the context of this Point A, and
C. Their branding and how it would be both centrally defined and locally expressed through all of this.

I have already at least touched upon all three of these functional processes and the goals they would be directed towards achieving, since Part 39 and leading up to this posting, focusing on Points A and B in those five series installments. My goal here is to continue this line of discussion by focusing in at least some detail on the above Point C, turning back to reconsider Points A and B in its context as needed. And in that:

• Think of Points A and B as addressing the issues of what a business does and how, and Point C as addressing how that business presents the fruits of that combined effort to the world.

And with that noted and my above-repeated business development models in mind, I begin to more formally address Point C and its issues by posing a set of three basic if essential questions:

• What constituencies and potential constituencies would ventures following each of the above-repeated business development approaches need to effectively reach out to and connect with?
• What basic messages would they have to convincingly and even compellingly share with those audiences, to create value for themselves from their marketing efforts?
• And where and how would they best accomplish this?

Interaction and two-way communications, of necessity, enter into all of these questions and into how they would be understood operationally, and addressed. And I begin considering the first of these questions with that in mind, by noting that the constituencies and potential constituencies that it cites, fit into at least two fundamentally important, distinct groups: at least potentially business and business model-supportive stakeholders, and outwardly-connected and response-connecting marketplace participants.

The first of those groups are effectively defined by the business development strategy that is being attempted if not already actively pursued, and certainly for purposes of this discussion with its topical focus. And to take that out of the abstract, let’s begin by considering my above-offered:

Development Scenario 1(the would-be IPO business): Any business that would go IPO has to be prepared to secure the positive support and recommendation of a set of potential high level investors and investment influencers, as key early participants. And I begin discussing that by noting those influencers: stock market analysts and particularly those with real followings. They more generally do not any put any of their own personal financial skin in this game as they make their investment recommendations; they do not generally run out and buy shares in the companies that they positively recommend, as most respectable stock market analysts would see their own investment in a business that they have just recommended others to buy, as representing a conflict of interest challenge that they would rather do without. But they do offer more immediate business valuation and longer-term value-prospects analyses that others would and in fact do pay close attention to. And their analyses and reviews can go a long way in establishing the price per share that an IPO would at least initially go for, with the aggregate total valuation as determined from that for all shares offered, serving as a benchmark valuation of the business as a whole, at least for that day.

For an explicitly investor example, I would cite larger institutional investors and aggregated publically traded funds managers, and particularly those who seek out new ventures to add to their funds’ portfolios. Early adaptors can be crucially important there, and word of mouth, viral marketing is important there too where large numbers of individually smaller investors can play a determinative role in how an IPO roll-out proceeds and for what comes of it as an initial public evaluation of a new business and its overall value.

I have only touched upon a few of the business development-oriented stakeholder categories here, that an IPO-facing new venture is going to have to successfully reach out to if its IPO is to really succeed for it. But this should suffice at least for here in this phase of this overall line of discussion. Bottom line, all of the stakeholders types that I have even just briefly made note of here, as well as others that I could have delved into, are going to be looking for secure places that they can invest portions of their available liquid capital in, and with at least reasonable prospects for gaining positive returns on investment from their buying into this new business. And this brings me directly to the market-facing side of my Who-oriented first due diligence question as offered above, and the importance of coordinately marketing to that group of stakeholders too: purchasing consumers and end users.

That last statement could very reasonably be seen as my opening a door to a more general discussion of marketing per se and at all levels. But for purposes of this narrative, I would focus on how early marketplace outreach from a new venture, and early market-sourced response back to it, can and does fundamentally shape how potential business development-oriented stakeholders as just discussed, respond to a new business investment opportunity, or even if they do so at all.

Investors and investment influencers look for new businesses that have a real potential for success in their markets. Let me stress that point by noting that I am not necessarily saying that they look for already-achieved marketplace success and certainly at the level of revenue flows already achieved and profits reaped. Google, famously all but took over the search engine side to the online experience and for huge widespread demographics of internet users, before they really determined how best to monetize this reach and influence as a realized flow of profits and overall fiscal strength. But their early success at becoming the leading search engine, and globally, brought them tremendous cash infusions and positive marketing spin from day one of their first day of trading as a new IPO.

• Market impact and marketplace success drive investor decision making.
• And certainly in an IPO context, where vast amounts of liquidity as capital investment funds are at stake, visible success in securing the backing of investors can only serve but to enhance and strengthen marketplace position too, and for what that can say about rapid growth potential if nothing else.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will turn to consider my second, venture capital-backed business development scenario, from the perspective of this same Who question. Then after completing that, and continuing on to address the third above-repeated scenario as well in light of that same question, I will address the remaining two questions that this Who question came with, in a similar scenario-by-scenario manner.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. And you can find this and related material at my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory too and at its Page 2 continuation.

Which shapes which: a business or its tools?: a few thoughts on how businesses are run and on how to better evaluate that

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 8, 2019

There are a number of at least contextually relevant ways to view and understand businesses, and I have noted and at least briefly discussed a succession of them in the process of writing and assembling this blog. Much of that ongoing flow of discussion and analysis has centered at least loosely on what a business does in meeting the needs of larger communities that it enters into, and on how it would do this. I would at least loosely characterize those and similar representations as being externally framed and focused. And that general approach makes sense and offers value, and both for understanding businesses and how they have gotten to be the way they are, and for thinking through, how they plan and execute when moving forward from there.

Most businesses do, after all, succeed or fail in competitive contexts and in the contexts of the markets that they face, and that they would ultimately gain any income and profits from that they can realize. And when supply chain and other more collaborative business-to-business contexts are added in there, that only adds to the complexities of the externally framed representations that this basic approach would have to be able to address. And that wider inclusiveness and its descriptive and predictive value for business planning and execution further highlights the importance and relevance of taking an externally framed and focused approach here.

This briefly stated stakeholder defining description is still incomplete for the range of interactive, outwardly connecting relationships that it can include, for how it leaves out external stakeholders such as regulatory agencies, and the legal code that defines their activities, and the court decisions and other related interpretation-shaping agencies and forces that guide their functioning. And in an all but real-time interconnected online interactive context, this list is still far from complete. The full range of significantly involved participants and stakeholders here can come to seem all but open ended, and certainly in our increasingly interconnected businesses and markets world.

But my goal for this posting is to offer a thought piece that would be predicated on considering businesses from a different direction than that more usual one could provide. My goal here is to look at businesses, and at business models and their execution from a more entirely internal perspective, with a goal of focusing in on some specific types of issues, free of what at least initially for them might serve as masking clutter. And in anticipation of that discussion, I begin this posting and its narrative by explicitly stating a point that should seem obvious, and certainly when you look at how businesses are actually run, day-to-day and for essentially all routine contexts and situations – and I stress the word “routine” there. But at the same time, the point that I would raise here would also be downplayed or even denied if it were to be formally, directly stated.

• Yes, essentially every business: essentially every organization and regardless of type, has to connect with and function in larger contexts that it in fact exists in if it to function and certainly if it is to survive and thrive. It is those interactions that give it meaning and that sustain it if it is to continue on at all, and certainly long-term.
• But day-to-day and on a routine ongoing basis, a large share of all of the activity that takes place in any real world business, and even a vast majority of it, is carried out from an entirely in-house, within the business perspective and with a defining emphasis on how activities that are carried out there, fit together and support each other. I cite here, essentially all business activity that is explicitly organized around carrying out and completing tasks that begin for the people carrying them out, with input developed by colleagues there, and whose output from them would be handed on in a similar manner to still other in-house colleagues.
• And when that range of connecting vision with its strengths and its very real limitations too, comes to hold sway and for large amounts of the business as a whole and for the wrong areas of that business too, that can lead to that organization and its people working while in effect wearing what amount to sets of blinders, and even when just carrying out activities that would be considered more back-office and internal functioning in nature, for their direct performance.

Both basic perspectives: externally facing and connecting, and internally oriented and focused, are understandable. Externally oriented perspectives and thinking about businesses in such terms, can serve as a basis for analyzing and understanding businesses, and how they succeed or fail, and how and why, and both functional-area by functional-area, and as a whole. And this type of understanding can serve as a basis for both reactive and corrective measures and for proactive and forward facing next-step development too. But at the same time, most of the back-office and other internally facing work that is carried out, is both executed and performance benchmarked on short-term, quick turnaround time cycles and without any immediately visible, direct connections to outside stakeholders, except perhaps as arise in very specific types of highly structured transactions, that follow largely standardized patterns. And it can be easy to come to see all of this as from a strictly within-business perspective and certainly as its business process flows are shaped by within-house employees and their work.

• Think of that as representing an example of what might be called an inverted black box model and its application,
• Where all external context is reduced to more standardized and simplified ultimate input and output representations, with the details of where that input comes from are hidden, and the details of where that output goes to and for what, is similarly hidden.
• And all structural and functional analyses that are arrived, are developed in their detail from an entirely “inside the box” perspective, and with a focus on what happens there and how, and as carried out by whom.

Why do this? I write this brief note with a specific possible application for it, in mind. And I began writing this reason-framing part of this note, thinking back to a posting that I was surprised to realize, initially came out almost three years ago now:

When the Tool You Most Compelling Lack is a Hammer, Everything Can Begin to Look like Nails.

The driving force behind the new adage-like assertion that I based that posting on, and the driving force behind the older, more genuine adage that I developed it from as a point of contrast:

• That when the only tool that you have is a hammer, everything begins to look like nails,

have at least one crucial point of detail in common. Both can and in most cases do come to hold true, when they do, in at least large part from a narrowing of vision and understanding of the possible and the necessary. And that situation often comes when it does in business settings, from a narrowing of the range and the scope and complexity of needs that are recognized and being responded to in that business, and from a narrowing of the range of stakeholders who are being taken into account for all of that, of those who actually enter into a business’ relevant ongoing activities there.

But my point of focus here in this posting is somewhat different than would be covered by this point of observation, as just stated. It is not the perception that is created and enabled by the tools that we do have at hand, or that we see ourselves as crucially lacking and that we critically need, that I would focus on here. It is not even on the cycles of need and of response that this type of awareness can create, where responses there include both actions taken and goals and priorities set, and ones set aside or overlooked. It is on thinking through and clearly seeing and understanding what is happening, and with a clear grounding in the essential details.

Specific tools and types of them that involved in this can have tremendously wide-ranging impact, so I have to stress that I am not discounting them in what I offer here. Business management tools that are brought in and used or not, to cite a crucially important categorical example there, can come to play a central role for planning and for managing business process execution, and certainly for their scope of impact and for how they affect a business as a whole. Those, very specifically, are the tools that enter into and act upon the business and its operations, and on its more one-off project oriented activities, and on distinguishing between them. They serve to define all of these business activities for their scopes and goals and they prioritize them and determine their legitimate acceptable and necessary budget limits. As such, they are the tools: the hammers if you will that have the most impact, and whether inappropriately overused and out of their effective contexts, or whether they are lacking and with inappropriate substitutes forced to fill in for them.

But even that does not really cover my intended topic here. My focus is in fact more on those externally, or alternatively those internally framed understandings of businesses as modeling and planning tools and as tools for tracking and evaluating performance too.

I briefly wrote about externally facing and connecting approaches to business planning and analysis towards the start of this note, and I turn here to consider their more entirely internally facing counterparts and by proposing what might seem a very contrarian perspective on them, and certainly given what I just wrote about hammers and their misuse. Much of what I have written here would suggest that I would actively discourage actually carrying out internal-only business reviews or evaluations. But I would cite here, at least one context where that type of analysis would offer real, genuinely positive value: when you and others on an executive team, or others who you work with there as a consultant, see evidence of the types of vision and understanding narrowings that I wrote of above.

• Under those circumstances, it can make sense to carry out precisely that type of evaluation as an exercise that would be matched to a more inclusive, externally connecting evaluation, to look for functionally significant consequential differences.

If you think that one or more key stakeholders, and particularly ones with real gatekeeper powers, have been taking too narrow a view of the business, carry out at least one form of both of these types of analyses to help identify the gaps in their data as gathered and their actionable evaluations, so you can more fully understand and evaluate their actions as based upon all of this: any actions that have led to new emerging problems, or the continuation of known and avoidable ones, definitely included. Use the fruits of such analyses as a road map, or at least as one critically important half of such a road map that you can reimagine and remediate from. And yes, look to see what tools and of all types are being used, appropriately or not and what tools are not available when and where needed, and even if otherwise sitting idle at the business – or being misused there. And look to see who is and isn’t involved in all of this. Start looking from within the business for all of this, and then expand your vision of what is going on to include wider ranges of external stakeholders and critically connected others too.

If I were to finish this type of note with any one, more general point, it would be the following, with the above offered discussion serving as a working example as to how it might be applied:

• Start with the requirements and the task performance goals that you would use your tools for, and with an at least first cut determination of what resources and other context factors you would need available for that.
• Then look for the right tools to do that work and as reliably, efficiently and cost-effectively as possible (taking the trade-offs of that complex of requirements into account as a significant exercise in its own right.)
• And do all of this with both a locally focused understanding of immediate contexts of where they would be directly used, and with a larger, overall awareness of the more total context too that this work would fit into too.

You can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory.

Building a business for resilience 36 – open systems, closed systems and selectively porous ones 28

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 7, 2019

This is my 36th installment to a series on building flexibility and resiliency into a business in its routine day-to-day decisions and follow-through, so it can more adaptively anticipate and respond to an ongoing low-level but with time, significant flow of change and its cumulative consequences, that every business faces in its normal course of operation (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 and Page 5 continuations, postings 542 and loosely following for Parts 1-35.)

I began working my way through a brief to-address topics list in Part 32 of this series that all related to information management and to follow-through based upon it, that I repeat here for smoother continuity of narrative as I continue discussing its points:

1. Even the most agile and responsive and effectively inclusive communications capabilities can only go so far. Effective communications, and with the right people involved in them, have to lead to active effectively prioritized action if they are to matter, and with feedback monitoring and resulting reviews included.
2. Both reactive and proactive approaches to change and to effectively addressing it, enter in there and need to be explicitly addressed in rounding out any meaningful response to the above Point 1.
3. And I will at least begin to discuss corporate learning, and the development and maintenance of effectively ongoing experience bases at a business, and particularly in a large and diverse business context where this can become a real challenge.
4. In anticipation of that, I note here that this is not so much about what at least someone at the business knows, as it is about pooling and combining empirically based factual details of that sort, to assemble a more comprehensively valuable and applicable knowledge base.
5. And more than just that, this has to be about bringing the fruits of that effort to work for the business as a whole and for its employees, by making its essential details accessible and actively so for those who need them, and when they do.

More specifically, I have addressed the first two points of that list, at least for purposes of this series and its overall discussion, in Part 32 through Part 35. And I began addressing Point 3 and its complex array of issues in Part 35 too, where I raised and began discussing a reality that is often overlooked, and certainly when the types of challenges that I raise with Point 3 are examined entirely through the lens of current and newly emerging information technology and its more actively engaging, currently popularized implementations. And I note here that that is a perspective that can become overwhelmingly compelling and certainly for businesses that find themselves in an ongoing race to stay as current and advanced in what they do and in how they do it as possible, so as to remain as competitively effective as possible in their business sectors and industries.

• What is this real but often overlooked challenge? It is the empirically compelling fact that no “one size fits all” approach or system can in fact address all information management and sharing needs, and certainly for a large and diverse organization, as a unifying best practices solution.

Let’s at least begin to address that by considering what for most readers would be the most obvious starting point here. Some business process problems can be most effectively addressed through best of breed technology solutions, as determined and pursued according to a carefully planned-out best for context, technology implementation approach. And computerized, networked information technology systems with their software and hardware resources are fundamentally designed to manage large scale informational content as an actively usable overall resource, so they and their implementation and use, do in many respects fit that pattern and for wide ranges of information management contexts. Such technology shaped and driven approaches can even prove themselves, if well selected and implemented, to be absolutely essential for to an organization. So it makes sense that a technology-forward approach be pursued as a primary default option here. And this type of approach can be and generally is the best to pursue for managing data and knowledge developed from it, that share the particular qualities of being:

• Objective and clearly defined (as for example with precisely measured and scaled production or sales data, or customer sourced data that can be clearly and fully covered through entry in specific sets of database fields),
• And that are more impersonal in judgment and not subject to meaning-drift or other forms of viewer-to-viewer or user-to-user differences in understanding, as can arise from divergence of perspective there.

This leaves in, as appropriate for organization and storage on shared database systems, and for access and use through networked computer technology, a broad range of business intelligence data and knowledge types, and certainly if access security is included in the resulting overall systems that, so as to manage sensitive and confidential information requirements as faced by the business.

But with that noted, and as an exception to this model of what would be included in business intelligence in an organization, I point to the workplace advice example that I cited in Part 35 when I initially began discussing Point 3 and its issues here, where the type of advice cited there might be essential for effectively carrying out important business tasks, but where the necessary information called for, for that would be both subjective and personally judgmental (see Part 35 and its last two paragraphs in particular for this very real-world information sharing example.)

Business communications and the overall information resource base that would be shared through them, as a necessary part of carrying out essential business activities and of all sorts, are largely grounded in the types of data and knowledge that can best be organized and stored and used through stable, controllably sharable computer and network systems and according to a by-now standard technology-driven paradigm as touched upon above here. But what types of information and communications systems and processes would be called for when the information access and communications needs in question would address situations such as these two?

• “I really need your advice. I have this critically important, time-sensitive task: X to carry out and complete, and I know that I will need supportive help from someone with specific skills and resource access to help me plan out the end-user interface side to it, that the stakeholders who need this will actually directly use. Who should I try turning to in that department and service for this type of help as a first choice?” “Work with A on this and not B if you have a choice, because …” or
• “I really need access to X (a limited, bottleneck availability equipment resource) to build and test a prototype for a key project that has been tossed in my lap, but no matter who I turn to, to try to get access to it on anything like a plannable schedule, I hit a wall with no one seemingly able or willing to commit to anything. Who should I ask?” “Try to secure the support of B as a (perhaps less than obvious, but nevertheless crucially involved) stakeholder if you need quick and timely access to X, and stress that you need it now in order to carry out one of your high priority tasks, so they understand your priorities there and don’t have to guess on that.”

The types of information needed to effectively resolve these and other experience-based decision making issues can also be considered crucially important, and a part of that business’ overall knowledge base. But the raw data and process knowledge involved there, is not likely to be entered into any sharable online database system, and in any business or organization. It is going to reside in the knowledge and experience of individuals and it is going to be accessed through business-oriented social networking, if at all.

And together, the example types that I have raised and made note of here, confirm the basic point that I would discuss this entire complex of issues from:

• The overall pool of critically important information that could beneficially be included in an overall, comprehensive Point 3 context for most any large business of any significant duration, calls for different types of collection, storage and shared usage processes than would make sense including in any one single more unified information management system, whether technology driven and shaped or interpersonal and social networking shaped, or some combination-thereof in nature.

I conclude this posting by noting that many if not most of us who seek best of breed solutions to the challenges of business intelligence availability and of corporate learning, start out thinking in terms of technically driven solutions such as version 2.0 interactive intranets with in-house and carefully vetted and managed third party-included business oriented social media and related platforms built into them. I have in fact written of this approach here in this blog and for years now. See for example:

Connecting an Organization Together, version 2.0 (from September, 2009) and
Boundaries and Internal Organization Structure as Safe-Haven and Safety Net (from August, 2011.)

Concurrently with that, I have written about more direct person-to-person business oriented social networking per se, as considered independently of what types of channels it would be carried out through. And in this context, I specifically note the value and importance of long-term employees, and I add widely connected ones who can come to be de facto repositories of history and of directly currently applicable knowledge and insight about the business in which they work and of what has been done and of who does and does not do what there.

This, up to here, more fully outlines the general nature of the basic problem that I have raised here, and at least points in the direction to possible approaches for managing it in practice. But this still leaves me with some crucially important gray area questions if nothing else:

• It might be fairly obvious that a detailed table of organization and in-house phone and email directory would belong on a sharable intranet-accessible data base, fitting into a data and knowledge context that would fairly perfectly fit a technology-driven solution as touched upon above.
• And it might be fairly obvious that the types of character and personality and performance discussions that would address my above cited Part 35 example, and my also-briefly sketched out examples from above, would not. It might be obvious that these are questions and any answers that would be shared in response to them would be communicated in a more individualized case-by-case business networking context.
• But not all business sourced or related information clearly fits into one or the other of those admittedly vaguely defined categorical groupings, as being best suited to a more entirely technology implementation or as calling for significant interpersonal interaction. And even when a specific case in point example seems to best fit one of those paradigmatic approaches in principle, it might not in practice just fit there. So for example, data and knowledge that fits into and would be offered in an automated database system, might still need more experienced explanation when it is to be used in practice, and certainly if it does not fit a usual or expected pattern for the type of work it would be applied to. And even more strictly social networking-based information management and sharing can be facilitated by online social networking and other standardized intranet-based tools, and for finding the right people to reach out to if nothing else.
• How would gray area data and knowledge for this be indentified and how would be best be managed?
• And how and when would hybrid solutions and approaches for managing them, best be developed and pursued here?

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will at least begin to address this set of issues. And then, as noted above, I will turn to and address the above Points 4 and 5. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 19: some thoughts concerning how Xi and Trump approach and seek to create lasting legacies to themselves 7

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on August 5, 2019

This is my 19th installment in a progression of comparative postings about Donald Trump’s and Xi Jinping’s approaches to leadership per se. And it is my 13th installment in that on Trump and his rise to power in the United States, and on Xi and his in China, as they have both turned to authoritarian approaches and tools in their efforts to succeed there.

I have been focusing on Xi and his still actively developing narrative for this since Part 16 of this series, with a goal of offering an historically grounded framework for thinking about and understanding his goals and ambitions as a legacy builder. And that has meant my at least briefly and selectively outlining two sources of overriding influence: one positive and the other negative, that Xi and in fact all in China’s leadership face, and whether or not they would all explicitly pursue them as role models for future planning and action:

• The mythos and realities of China’s Qing Dynasty during its Golden Age, as a source of visionary legacy defining possibilities (as briefly discussed in Part 16, and
• What has followed that period in China’s history, leading up to the reign of Mao Zedong as China’s first de facto communist god emperor, and with particular emphasis on the humiliations that China has endured at foreign hands, starting with the events of the First Opium War (第一次鴉片戰爭) of 1839-1842 (with this line of discussion starting in Part 17 and Part 18 and continuing here.)

And to be explicitly clear here, I am not simply offering my own outsider’s-view or analysis of what might be motivating Xi Jinping in this, and even driving and shaping his plans and ambitions. I am in fact outlining something of the history and context of what Xi himself has openly, publically proclaimed to be his source of driving inspiration as China’s supreme leader, and certainly when he proclaims his China Dream: his Zhōngguó Mèng (中国梦) as his policy shaping vision.

Xi focuses in his Dream, on righting the wrongs and removing the unjust and unwarranted shackles of foreign domination that he still sees China as being burdened with, that had their origins as far back as the First Opium War as it was imposed upon his country by the British, and the Treaty of Nanking that formally ended it, and entirely to the benefit of that and other colonially ambitious foreign powers. And I hold up the Qing dynasty and certainly in its years of greatness as an exemplar, if an idealized one of what an unshackled China could and can achieve and certainly as Xi sees things.

I focused in Part 17 on the declining years of the Qing Dynasty and on its increasingly isolating and fragmenting weaknesses, that both insiders from within China’s state bureaucracy and foreign powers could and did exploit. Then I used Part 18, as a perhaps-digression from this largely-historically framed narrative here, to more fully discuss and clarify what “us” and “them”: “true” Chinese and foreigner (guizi in Mandarin Chinese; gweilo in Cantonese slang – 鬼子, and words like them), even mean in this overall context. My goal for this posting is to continue the historical narrative that I offered in Part 17, from an awareness of the line of discussion offered in Part 18, and to at least begin to explicitly discuss Xi’s China Dream as he shares it with China and the world. And in anticipation of what is to come here, I will at least initially focus on trade as a compelling source of interaction and influence and both within China itself and with the outside world. And while Xi himself begins his Dream narrative, for the most part with the events of that First Opium War and its aftermath, I will begin my narrative here with an at least acknowledgement of earlier foreign trade and interaction.

I could in fact delve a lot farther back then the days of Marco Polo (1254-1324), and the writing of his eye opening book: Livre des Merveilles du Monde (Book of the Marvels of the World) , as first written and offered to the West, circa 1300. He and his travel accounts opened the eyes of the merchants and of the public in general in Europe, to the wonders of China and the orient. But even there, Marco Polo was not in fact the first to have built at least transient trade connections between East and West.

For purposes of this discussion, I begin pursuing this narrative in 1514 with the arrival of the earliest Portuguese traders to visit China and with their initial commercial ventures there (see China–Portugal Relations. Portuguese traders and I have to add, Dutch traders who followed them were not primarily bent on building empires. They sought out trade and business opportunities that they could develop and profit from, and without their having to make more than whatever more minimal effort was needed in order to develop stable and reliable trade systems. If that meant their negotiating access to and use of a particular trade port where they could build a local base of operations in a country that they would do business with, that was acceptable. But they did not seek to dominate or control, and either new lands and peoples or the governments that held sway over them. For a relevant more-general Dutch trade reference see this piece concerning their Dutch East India Company ( the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, or VOC), and for a more market and trade-specific example see Early 17th Century Chinese Trade Ceramics for the Dutch Market: Distribution, Types and Consumption.

This, it is important to note did not mean that this early trade was free of all conflict, as the Ming Dynasty rulers and their government functionaries who these Western traders and merchants had to deal with, were reluctant at best to the prospect of having to deal with such foreigners, and even when they did agree to follow China’s tributary system rules. See, for example Sino–Dutch conflicts. What this means, was that the conflicts that did arise were context-specific and that they were kept within bounds, and of a type that imperialist ambitions would not have supported.

To add one more relevant source of references here, that later experience should be compared to, I would cite the Qing Dynasty’s experience with their neighbor to the north, Russia, and how those two governments came to sign, and adhere to the Treaty of Nerchinsk of 1689. This was the first Westphalian treaty that any Chinese government signed and it was in fact more of a treaty between equals than later treaties signed with the British would prove to be. So, for example, under the terms of this treaty, Russia agreed to both stop their incursions into adjacent Chinese territory and to pull back from such lands as already taken, in exchange for trade rights and opportunities through a system of designated open Chinese cities.

Not all European nations to follow, were as interested in trade alone, and as free of empire building ambitions. The British were not the only such power to break from the above noted pattern, but they were perhaps the most influential of them and certainly for setting the stage for reimaginings such as Xi’s China Dream. It was, after all, the British who forced the Opium Wars on China.

• Opium was China’s scourge. And opium addiction and its consequences were seen as a demeaning problem, with widespread use of this drug in communities that spanned the nation, fueled from opium grown and processed in China itself and primarily in its Szechwan and Yunnan Provinces.
• The national government of China, under Qing rule finally sought to stop this, by enacting new law in 1729 that went so far as to impose a death sentence on those caught and convicted of participation in this business.
• Then British traders arrived and began forcing their way into China, bringing a by then already weakened succession of Qing emperors to allow them to carry out their business through more and more Chinese treaty port cities. But China’s citizens were not buying enough of their European-sourced goods. So they looked for an alternative form of marketable products that they could secure inexpensively and reliably and that a Chinese market could be brought to want to buy and with big profitable markups.
• Indian opium, with the majority of that coming from the Bengal region, proved to be the best and certainly the most profitable solution to that problem that they could arrive at. India was not formally designated as a British Crown Colony until 1858 with the formal beginning of the Raj. But the entire subcontinent was already effectively under British control and its foreign trade was just as firmly under the control of Britain’s large merchant empires such as Jardine, Matheson & Company, and Lancelot Dent and Company. They were the largest importers of Indian opium into China, and their trade in this commodity was viewed as a humiliating, and a devastating form of challenge to Chinese sovereignty and to the Chinese people as a society.
• China sought to thwart and even stop this trade. These merchants brought in their government’s military, and China was resoundingly defeated in what turned out to just be the First Opium War of 1839-1842.
• And that ended with China being forced to enter into what became known as the first unequal treaty (不平等條約), of a series of them that were imposed on the Qing Dynasty and on China. This event, and humiliations included in it such as a requirement that China cede Hong Kong over to British control, is widely seen as constituting a formal, historically framed start to the challenges that Xi, among others still seek to redress. See my two recent posts regarding Hong Kong’s current unrest, and the conflict that continues to take place between the Beijing government of China and the local Hong Kong government that was forced upon China in 1997, as a condition in yet another treaty between those nations: Xi Jinping and His China, and Their Conflicted Relationship with Hong Kong 1 and its Part 2 continuation.

Trade and foreign relations that China entered into during the Qing era’s golden age are looked back upon in today’s China, in idealized form and as validation of how China has been, can be and should be honored and as a leading power and authority, and even globally. The events that I write of here in this posting and this treaty that came out of them, and foreign relations that China has entered into subsequent to that with its succession of subsequent uneven treaties, are seen as a demeaning counterpoint to that, to be overcome and vindicated. And that pattern has, in the eyes of China’s current leadership, continued through a succession of challenges as arising both from within and from the outside the country. And it is only really being redressed now through their current leadership and policies.

I am going to continue this narrative by briefly considering a succession of debilitating rebellions that China went through, citing the Us versus Them discussion of this series’ Part 18, where for example, the then-ruling Qing emperors themselves, came to be vilified as foreigners and as unworthy from being so, and as not being truly Chinese at all. Then after that I will at least briefly outline some of the events and developments that followed the formal end of the Qing Dynasty in 1912, up to the founding of Mao Zedong’s Communist China in 1949. And I will round out this historical narrative by at least briefly and selectively discussing how Xi Jinping developed his China Dream and his vision of leadership out of Mao’s dreams and ambitions and out of his policies and his practices.

Meanwhile, you can find my Trump-related postings at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation. And you can find my China writings as appear in this blog at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time, and at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation.

Reconsidering the varying faces of infrastructure and their sometimes competing imperatives 8: the New Deal and infrastructure development as recovery 2

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning, UN-GAID by Timothy Platt on August 4, 2019

This is my 9th installment to a series on infrastructure as work on it, and as possible work on it are variously prioritized and carried through upon, or set aside for future consideration (see United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN-GAID), postings 46 and following for Parts 1-7 with its supplemental posting Part 4.5.)

I have, up to here, successively addressed and discussed each of a set of four large scale infrastructure development and redevelopment initiatives in this series, with a goal of distilling out of them, a set of guiding principles that might offer planning and execution value when moving forward on other such programs. And as a core foundational element to this narrative, I began discussing a fifth such case study example in Part 7, that I will continue elaborating upon in at least selective detail here:

• US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and related efforts to help bring his country out of a then actively unfolding Great Depression.

I focused in Part 7 on some of the underlying causes of the Great Depression, and both for clarifying for purposes of this discussion as to how that historically transformative event arose, and for more clearly stating how and why Roosevelt was challenged as he sought to orchestrate a real recovery from it. And at the end of that posting, and in anticipation of this one to come, I said that I would turn here to quantify the bank failures and their timeline to more fully present the economic challenges faced, as a completion at least for here and now of an underlying cause-oriented discussion as to what motivated a need for the types of infrastructure and related changes that consequentially took place. And I said that I would then discuss Roosevelt’s New Deal as a massive recovery effort, and one that had within it a massive infrastructure redevelopment effort too.

I will in fact delve into those issues as outlined there, continuing my discussion of relevant overall economic background issues in the process, as part of that. But before doing so and to put what follows into clearer perspective, I am going to step back from the specifics of this particular case study to make note of a fundamental aspect of large scale infrastructure development projects and their underlying driving needs in general, that this case study in fact can be seen as highlighting, for its core importance:

• Most people: with a significant proportion included there of the people who would plan out, approve and fund, and carry out large scale infrastructure projects, focus on what is physically built from scratch or replaced with new, and on the visible end-results of infrastructure development per se. This makes sense insofar as these are the aspects of essentially any such large scale initiative that are lastingly visible and that are going to be directly used and long-term.
• But just as importantly, and certainly during early planning and support building stages for realizing such accomplishments, and for when this work is being carried out, are the behind the scenes economic and financing-based considerations and all of the rest of the politically driven decision making processes that are required to make any such development project happen. They shape the What and the When and the How and the By Whom of what in fact can be done, and consideration of them must be included too, in any inventory of what is included in such work, and in any understanding of what is accomplished from it.
• So, for example, in my Great Depression example, I could cite Roosevelt era initiatives such as the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) with its explicit physical infrastructure building efforts, and I will in fact do so as I proceed with this case study. That is important here in this case study narrative. But the context and context-building effort that made programs such as the CCC possible, and that made even attempting it challenging, have to be considered and included here too.

In anticipation of my more general comments to come here in this series, regarding infrastructure development as a whole and in general, and with the above points in mind, I offer the following at least preliminary overarching comments:

Infrastructure development, and certainly large scale development and redevelopment projects that would fit into such a rubric, are – or at least should be driven by what can at least categorically be divided into two sometimes competing, sometimes aligned considerations:

• Human needs and meeting them more fully than would be possible absent some given infrastructure effort, and
• Economic and other wherewithal and sustainability factors and how they would be worked within, or adjusted to accommodate new needs and priorities.

The issues that I raised in Part 7 as leading up to and causing the Great Depression, and that made it a true depression and not just a recession, all fit into the second of those bullet pointed considerations. And actually carrying out the programs of Roosevelt’s New Deal and related initiatives, as he conceived them and strove to achieve them as his response to that challenge, was intended to address significant widespread unmet human needs as the Great Depression brought them about.

And with that noted, I turn back to my largely-economics oriented outline of how the Great Depression arose and as a depression: not just as yet another recession, and with a goal of laying a more complete foundation in preparation for a discussion of the “what would be done” side of this, by more fully outlining the societal context that would make that a realistically considered possibility.

I made explicit note of three dates in Part 7 that I would cite again here, as benchmarks for what is to follow. The stock market as tracked on the New York Stock Exchange was seriously challenged on Thursday, October 24, 1929 when it faced what became a catastrophic collapse in value and in underlying investor confidence. And it fell into what amounted to freefall the following Tuesday, October 29: Black Tuesday. And when the US Congress reacted to this and to what immediately followed it from public response, they did so as a reactionary pulling back with the enactment of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act on March 13, 1930 – setting off a trade barrier erecting conflict that ultimately largely shut down international trade and not just for the United States.

And to complete this timeline-based set of benchmarks, I add two more dates that should at least be kept in mind for what follows in this posting, including them here to put what I will say in what follows into fuller perspective. And I will make explicit reference to them and to the reality they benchmark, in my next installment to this too. The dates themselves are March 4, 1929 – March 4, 1933: the dates when Herbert Hoover served as the 31st president of the United States. And to round out this dual benchmark entry and at least briefly explain the relevance of it for this narrative, Hoover was elected at a time when most everyone, and both among the general public and among the nation’s leading economists, tacitly assumed that prosperity was there to stay, as an essentially immutable, reliable reality. Then half a year later the United States economy and in fact much of the overall world economy began to collapse. Hoover tried course correcting from this through presidential policy, and he tried leading a recovery from it, in an effort that lasted until late winter, 1933 when Roosevelt was sworn into office and this became his problem.

What, in at least selective numerical detail, was the challenge that Hoover faced and that Roosevelt inherited? Let’s start addressing that question with consideration of the banking system in the United States and on what happened there. Starting from the two October 1929 benchmark dates just cited, and looking out through the first ten months of 1930, a total of 744 US banks failed in the United States: 10 times as many as did in the corresponding 1928-29 period as a closest point of pre-depression comparison. And when trade barrier walls really began to spread, as more and more erstwhile national trading partners took retaliation against the new tariffs that they suddenly faced, by imposing tariffs of their own, this pace accelerated. In all, 9,000 US banks failed during the decade of the 1930’s, and close to 4,000 of them did so in one year alone: 1933. By the start of 1933, depositors had already seen approximately $140 billion of their invested wealth: their life savings disappear through bank failures, independently of any loss faced through failures of the stock market, or from lost income as more and more businesses that they had worked for, scaled back and let employees go, or failed outright themselves.

To put those numbers and bank and business failures in perspective, and to add an impact indicating scale to that, consider the following (with data drawn from U.S. GDP by Year Compared to Recessions and Events:

Year Reported Nominal GDP
GDP ($trillions) GDP Growth Rate % Benchmark Events
1929 0.105 1.109 NA Depression began
1930 0.092 1.015 -8.5 Smoot-Hawley
1931 0.077 0.950 -6.4 Dust Bowl
1932 0.060 0.828 -12.9 Hoover tax hikes
1933 0.057 0.817 -1.2 New Deal
1934 0.067 0.906 10.8 U.S. debt rose
1935 0.074 0.986 8.9 Social Security started
1936 0.085 1.113 12.9 FDR tax hikes
1937 0.093 1.170 5.1 Depression returned
1938 0.087 1.132 -3.3 Depression ended
1939 0.093 1.222 8.0 WWII began; Dust Bowl ended

Notes, clarifying the events listed in this table for their meaning and relevance here (focusing on entries not already at least briefly discussed:

• The Dust Bowl was an environmental disaster brought about by prolonged drought in the heart of one of the primary agricultural regions in the United States, at a time when the banking system in place was so stressed and limited that it could not offer financial support to farmers, and at a time when the US federal government was unable, unwilling or both, to provide any significant relief. This was all exacerbated by, and in several respects even caused by widespread use of farming practices that did not and could not sustainably work, and certainly under the ongoing drought conditions faced.
• President Herbert Hoover attempted to help pull the United States out of a recession, turned Great Depression, by imposing with Congressional support, a tax increase bill that if anything worsened matters.
• President Roosevelt, pushing back against the concern and even fear of raising taxes and of even attempting tax reform during the Great Depression, and certainly given the outcomes of Hoover’s 1932 effort, decided to reframe and reattempt this basic economy-impacting, government financing approach with his own tax reform: his Revenue Act of 1936.

To put those numbers and their impact into more individually human terms, during the Great Depression the United States as a whole was hit with extremely high unemployment rates. By 1933, the overall national unemployment rate had climbed from 3% (as measured just prior to the September 1929 stock market collapse), up to to 25%. By 1932, over 13 million Americans had lost their jobs. And between late 1929 and late 1932, average incomes were reduced by 40% (see The Great Depression Facts, Timeline, Causes, Pictures.)

And Franklin Delano Roosevelt was sworn into office as the 32nd president of the United States on March 4, 1933. And one of his first acts in office was to formally start a 100 day collaboration with the US Congress that has become known as the 100 Days Congress, for the amount of and far reaching variety of legislation that was debated, voted upon and passed during that fast start to Roosevelt’s first term in office (see First 100 Days of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Presidency.) And that is where the “what was done” in his response to the Great Depression really began. And I will continue this narrative in a next series installment with an at least selective discussion of that.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. I also include this in Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3, and also see Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. And I include this in my United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN-GAID) directory too for its relevance there.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 34 – the jobs and careers context 33

This is my 34th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-33.)

I have been successively addressing each of a set of six workplace issues and challenges that would explicitly call for negotiating skills and effort since Part 25 of this series, the first five of which can arise for essentially anyone who works sufficiently long-term with a given employer (see Part 32 for a full list of those topics points, with appended links to where I have discussed them up to there.) And as part of this narrative, I began discussing the sixth and more complexly comprehensive final entry to that list and its issues in Part 32 and Part 33:

6. Negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them, and how you might best manage your career when facing the prospects of getting caught up in that,

More specifically, I discussed in at least some detail, more precisely what downsizings are in Part 32 when they are considered beyond their bottom-line outcome to a business’ employees of what can become massive layoffs. And I built from that starting point discussion in Part 33, to lay a foundation for explicitly discussing negotiating approaches and tactics that individuals can make use of in order to at least better manage the impact of this type of event on themselves and their jobs and careers.

My goal for this posting is to at least begin to explicitly discuss negotiations and the negotiating process in this challenging and stress-creating type of context. And I begin that phase of this overall discussion by repeating a crucially important point that I made in Part 33, that success in any negotiating effort of the type that I address here would hinge upon your understanding as a matter of basic principle, that:

• You cannot effectively negotiate absent an understanding of what you have to, and can negotiate about. And knowing that calls for understanding the context and circumstance, and the goals and priorities of the people who you would face on the other side of the table. And as a crucial part of that, this also includes knowing as fully and clearly as possible, what options and possibilities they might and might not even be able to negotiate upon.

This means that negotiating in a complex and options-constrained context such as that of an impending (or already occurring) downsizing, can never be carried out as a “one size fits all” effort on your part. Effective negotiations in this context, have to be explicitly framed and carried out on a specific-scenario by specific-scenario basis and according to precisely what type of that you face. And even there they need to be flexible and adaptable from your side of this conversation, and certainly when and as your negotiating efforts bring the people who you would negotiate with, to reconsider their initially planned decisions and actions as they would impact upon you, or alternatively if and when they begin to show increased resistance to that possibility.

Note: I am discussing this set of issues in this jobs and careers oriented first half of this series, from the perspective of how you as an individual would best manage and seek to manage your own work and career context. I will also, further on in this series, reconsider this overall challenge from a business negotiations context too, where I will discuss what at least begin as the same set of issues but from the perspective of negotiating for others too, and when working with others who would negotiate on your behalf.

All of this, of necessity means both reconsidering negotiations from an employee perspective, and addressing them from the business side of the table too. And in anticipation of that line of discussion to come, I note here that effectively negotiating from either an employee or a business side requires as clear an understanding as possible of the other side’s perspective too, and in both directions for these negotiations to succeed. And in that, negotiations can become what amount to teaching exercises as well as exercises in persuasion, as assumptions held walking into them arise in explicit discussion.

That noted, and turning back to focus on the employee side of the negotiating table again, my goal for what follows here is to at least begin addressing the individual employee side to this, with more general comments on negotiating a better jobs and careers path through overall change at a place of employment, such as a downsizing event. And that starting assumption: an assumption of individual negotiating in a context of overall business change, can be the best way to approach these conversations in a downsizing or downsizing-like context.

• The type of negotiations process that I am discussing here is not just about you and your direct supervisor and how you work together, or about you and other colleagues with them included there, and how you supportively and productively fit in and offer value.
• And certainly when considered from the other, business management side of the table for this; it is not just about your employment and its terms there, as a center of attention or concern.
• This is about how you would navigate a larger and more widely involving and impacting context of change as a whole, as it is taking place at the place where you work, and even where that might mean your specific situation being treated as an exception to some more generally considered personnel policy-based decision that is otherwise being followed as a more determined rule.
• But that noted, effective negotiations on your part in this are still going to have to significantly focus on what you individually offer and can offer, do and can do for your employer moving forward.

After completing a more generally orienting half of this line of discussion, I will successively discuss how the basic principles that I have been discussing here, and since Part 25, can be applied to the specific business-needs defined downsizing scenarios that I raised in Parts 32 and 33. And with that orienting point noted and the above negating context-clarifying bullet points offered, I begin addressing more general principles as to how to negotiate better terms of employment, or even just continued employment with a business here, beginning with the absolute fundamentals and by noting that:

• It is vitally important as a matter of basic career planning due diligence, that you be as generally informed as possible and on an ongoing basis, as to what is going on at your place of employment as a whole, and that you not just focus on your own work and responsibilities or your own part of the table of organization there, and on what you and your team does. You need to know and understand the larger context that you face where you work and on an ongoing basis. And this means seeing and thinking through what might be the unpleasant and the undesirable sides of that too, and certainly as they might arise and involve you, your job and your career path. This type of proactive preparation certainly holds value if you are to effectively negotiate where possible and where doing so might offer benefit to you, if events are developing that might adversely affect you.
• At the same time you reach out to better understand the business that you work at, you also need to know and really understand what you seek to achieve from any such negotiations that you might enter into here too. It is just as important that you be thoughtfully aware of your own needs and issues too. You need to think through and understand both your own needs and desires, and your priorities and what you can and cannot comfortably give ground on and make concessions on, if and when jobs and career supportive negotiations become necessary.
• And with an at least significantly considered set of answers in place for the questions that those first two bullet points raise for you, and with a clear understanding of what specific questions you need to ask given your particular circumstances, you need to have at least broadly considered your Plan B options in case you cannot in fact find a way to mutually agreeably reconcile your own negotiating goals with those of the people who you would negotiate with. What are your best options, absent you’re being able to achieve an acceptable negotiated agreement there? The issues and questions that I raise here in this bullet point, at least should come into sharp focus if you do in fact see challenge to your continued employment from an impending downsizing on the horizon.
• And in anticipation of discussion to come, you have to assume that you start out any negotiations that you can enter into here, from a completely asymmetric position with your employer, where it comes to leveraging influence and power. You have to assume that you start out wanting to stay on at a current job or at least with a current employer, even if with a new position there, more than they start out at least, wanting to see you stay. And as a result, you want to think through and be prepared to negotiate from a perspective of how you can establish your value with this employer and from as early on as possible, so as to tip the balance there to one of more equal perceived value.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment by expanding upon these more general organizing notes, fleshing them out to form a more organized foundation for dealing with the specifics of the particular downsizing contexts that you might face. Then as promised, I will take this more general narrative out of the abstract by applying it to the specific downsizing scenarios that I have already mentioned in Parts 32 and 33. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. And you can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

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