Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Art as hope, art as fear, art as the sharing of perspective

Posted in book recommendations, social networking and the arts by Timothy Platt on October 20, 2018

Art holds within it a capacity to open eyes and more. It can amuse, startle, upset and disquiet, please and reaffirm …. It can contain within it a part of the artist and a part of what drives them. And at its best, art can transcend culture and time, touching those who view it, those who experience it with perspectives that they might never have otherwise reached.

Not all art can or does achieve this and not all viewers are open to what it can say and share with them. But great art opens eyes and minds and in ways that can catch the viewer off guard and unprepared, and in what for them are completely unexpected ways. I find myself writing this posting after walking through a veritable lifetime retrospective of one artist: Alberto Giacometti, as he faced seemingly endless challenges to his even having an artistic voice. Its works spanned over 40 years of his artistic output as assembled together from multiple collections: public and private.

On the one hand, and from a perhaps more quick glance, superficial perspective, his human figures do show a continuity of similarity. Similar points could be made when viewing his more abstract works. And that is understandable given the fact that he traced so much of his artistic life pursuing a same small group of models for his representational works, who served as his immediate and ongoing sources of inspiration. But the way he depicted them did change, and in ways that meshed with his own life experiences. There is a gauntness, and an almost fractured incompleteness to his later works, produced when he was already ill from health problems that would eventually kill him, that do not appear in his earlier works. But even his earlier works convey a sense of the challenges he faced in Europe and certainly during World War II, and both from when he lived in Vichy France and under Nazi rule, and from when he was forced into exile in Switzerland, denied reentry into his native land.

My goal here, and my reason for offering this for-me rare addition to my Social Networking and the Arts directory, is not however to offer a review of an art exhibition of some single artist, and certainly not as that would be filtered through the eyes and the understanding of one museum’s curators and the filters of my own more limited experience. I could just as easily be writing about Pablo Picasso here instead, as my opening source of examples, with his seemingly endless and open ended reinventions into new media and materials and artistic styles, as he continuously sought to express his artistic depths in physical form. I could have written about an Asian or African artist or an artist from the Americas: North, Central or South as they seek, or have sought to bring the depths of their inner selves into overly physical form too. And I could just as easily have selected works and artists from an earlier age too. And that perhaps overly drawn out “could have” point strikes closer to the why of my writing this posting and adding it to this blog, than would any intent to share my thoughts on any single artist or any single exhibition of their work.

I find myself thinking back to an earlier entry to this small and sparse directory page, as I write this: In Defense of Art: creative expression and its challenges. And I find myself thinking back to the dichotomy of judgment that I imposed in it, separating art and its expression in terms of whether it reflects a clear vision of an artist, or the image and vision of a societal other.

We all face and we all live in the contexts that we live in. I state that as a veritable syllogism and in a fundamental sense it is and inevitably so. We live in and are at least in part shaped by the contexts that we exist in. Good art, and certainly great art brings us to step outside of our usual contexts and our usual perspectives, where we can view a world around us – and perhaps ourselves as well through new eyes. The understanding that this brings might be light and enlightening, dark and threatening, or any of the none of the aboves that can be encompassed in human experience. But great art moves, and certainly when a viewer allows themselves to be open to that possibility.

And with that noted, I come back to reconsider the art of those who I wrote of in that 2010 posting, as representing a propagandistic vision. Art need not be nice, or easy or comforting to be art. It can jolt and both from what it contains and shows us and from where it is sourced and both from within the artist themselves and from their more outside-shaping sources of inspiration. Art can be disturbing and even threatening. And it can convey messages that we might not wish to see, but that we find ourselves having to acknowledge as part of life too.

I find myself thinking of Giacometti’s later figural sculptures as I write this with their gaunter faces, their more hunched poses, and with what looked to be hunks of their flesh all but torn off of them, with a missing shoulder or other maiming so visible – even as those figures stood as his earlier works did.

And I find myself thinking to the works that I wrote so negatively of in my 2010 posting, feeling the same visceral response that I did then, against the sources of inspiration that drove an artist such as Leni Riefenstahl to create works in support of what most would call evil. Were her films works of art? And were they powerfully moving art that conveyed a measure of the artist and her own vision, and of her understanding and its message, even as they promoted and propagandized for a malignant regime? My only possible answers to those questions have to be yes.

Leni Riefenstahl produced her art in specific, explicit and intentional support of Nazism and all of the worst that it stood for. And what she did in that is worthy of censure, in a very fundamental sense, precisely because it held qualities that can only be considered greatness as far as her artistic skills were concerned; she used her skills and her artistic vision to promote evil, but she did so with artistic genius. If she had been a hack filmmaker and a poor artist who was incapable of moving others with her artistic vision as she brought it into physical, shareable form, I would not write of her. I would most probably never have even heard of her to be able to so do.

I close this posting reflecting on a passage from one of Rilke’s longer poetic works: his Duino Elegies, and more specifically to a set of lines from his first elegy of that set:

“…Beauty’s nothing
but beginning of Terror we’re still just able to bear,
and why we adore it so is because it serenely
disdains to destroy us. Each single angel is terrible.”

(You can find a full text, English language translation of the Duino Elegies here in PDF file format.)

Rilke writes of angels in this piece, and of their capacity to overwhelm us. But then again angels always bear more than just one face. Lucifer was called the most beautiful of all angels and his name from then meant bearer of light. The Judeo-Christian tradition is not the only one to find both beatific and horrific visions in its angels; both such visions have their different faith counterparts. And sometimes people – us mortals can and do in fact bring such impact too, that we perhaps more comfortably see as coming from outside of ourselves and from a presumptive angelic presence.

• Art engages, and certainly great art does; it captures and holds and it forces change in perspective. It can and does carry and convey … but what it conveys is not always comforting. It is not always settling. And it can blend beauty and terror and in ways that live up to the full terms of both words. And art need not convey or promote the good, and by any criteria.

I find myself writing this brief thought piece while thinking back to an earlier such note from 2010, as cited here. And I find myself writing this while looking around myself at the coarsening and intolerance of social discourse and of societal norms that has been flowing forth from the alt-right and from the Trump presidency in the United States. And yes, I find myself thinking back to the historical context that Leni Riefenstahl grew and thrived in, that she gladly accepted as her own and at what cost to all. And I write this thinking over the issues of artistic sensibilities and artistic talent, and about the inner truths that artists hold within themselves and that they bring forth in their works.

I seek out more technically framed and definitive approaches to understanding and resolving business and technology issues in my professional life and as a matter of how I think. I would not even know where to begin to untangle and organize the issues that I raise here in anything like a comparable manner. But then again, every artist is unique, and art transcends and stands in large part apart from analytical logic. And certainly every greatly talented artist is unique, and regardless of how they frame their art and regardless of its sources of inspiration. So I find myself writing this note as a matter of acknowledgment and reflection on what for me remains an open but still compelling topic, and an uncertain one even as it is a compelling arena of experience and understanding at that. I will return to this complex of issues in future postings, just as I have here in follow-up to my above cited 2010 posting to this blog.

Sometimes the most we can hope for is good questions, with no real possibility of anything in the way of resolving answers to them. That, at times can make them the good questions that they are.

You can find this and related postings at Social Networking and the Arts.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 18 – the jobs and careers context 17

This is my 18th 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, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-17.)

I began systematically discussing the new hire probationary period in Part 14 of this series, and have been focusing on day one on a new job since then, with a particular focus on your first formal meeting with your now direct supervisor there: your new immediate boss there.

I turn here to consider your day two there and beyond, and with an at least initial to-address list of topic points that bear consideration in that longer timeframe context, and in the overall context of this communications and negotiations-oriented series. I have to add here that the issues that I raise in these points at least begin to hold importance on your day one at a new job, but the flurry of tasks and responsibilities faced on day one can in effect mask them by limiting any real opportunity to reach out and connect with others who you will find yourself working with once you are more settled in. But how you address them and on an ongoing basis will significantly shape both your new hire probationary period with this employer, and all that follows as you continue working there:

1. Becoming a valued and appreciated member of a team, and fitting in.
2. Business policy and business politics, and navigating them.
3. Networking for success in the workplace.
4. Negotiating access to the resources that you need, as an ongoing workplace and career requirement.
5. Plan B planning and execution, and being prepared for the unexpected (and the importance of finding and addressing solutions to problems, and not assigning blame for them.)

All of these topic points crucially involve you’re reaching out to a widening group of colleagues and stakeholders, and in-house clients who you would provide direct value to through your work there. And all five of those complexes of issues and opportunities, crucially depend on how well you can and do communicate and on how well you can come to be seen as being an effective communicator and negotiator. There, being both capable in reaching your own goals, and fair in acknowledging the needs and priorities of others are important. And how you balance these often competing approaches, will play a significant role in shaping what will become your lasting reputation at that job.

This is true whether you work hands-on and in non-managerial roles and primarily use your communications and negotiating skills when coming to agreement with your manager as to goals and priorities and timelines for reaching them. That applies if you are negotiating access to shared, bottleneck or otherwise limited resources, or working out terms under which a colleague with special skills would help you in competing one of your task responsibilities, and in ways that would effectively mesh with what they do too. Reciprocity and offering value to others in exchange for value received from them is important in all of this, and so is developing a reputation for being a colleague who pays it forward and who pays back for help received. And if you have joined this business in a managerial position, this will mean how you work with and communicate and negotiate with those who now report to you, and with your own managing supervisor, and with your same level peers at that business and with a host of others as well. Communications and negotiations always go out in multiple directions, and often in less expected ones at that. And how you conduct yourself and relate to others in any one direction can and will influence what can be possible in all others too.

Regardless of context faced, as so briefly touched upon there, this means you’re becoming a valued and appreciated member of a team, and fitting in, and as part of the solution to problems faced, and not as part of those problems themselves.

• This is all about finding an effective balance between fitting in and becoming a real asset that others can rely upon, and who they would want to be of help to as well,
• While still allowing yourself the time and other resources that you need to meet your own, personally faced work responsibilities too, and effectively and on time.

I return to a point that I made in Part 17, as to how the goals and tasks that you were hired to address, were in most cases arrived at. These were and are work responsibilities that your now-direct supervisor has come to see as holding high priority and significance for their own areas of work responsibility and for their own success at their job. And it is likely that their own direct supervisor sees these goals and tasks as important too, with their perspective on that and with their own sense of timing and prioritization carrying heavy influence on what your supervisor does and why, when working with you. And just as importantly, essentially all of the specific to-do list items that went into the job description that you responded to when applying for work there, and that have continued to be highlighted in all conversations with your now-manager, are tasks that they could not simply turn over to others already there, to carry through upon and no matter how important they are. And they are all, most likely, tasks that will of necessity continue on through and past the end of any realistically timeframed new hire probationary period.

• These are your goals and responsibilities now; you own them and are responsible for them. And I write here of you’re carrying them out and in ways that build bridges with the people who you work with, so you can be sure to have access to the resources and the support that you would need for that, insofar as it can be made available to you at all.

This, in one sense is all about work. But in another sense, and one that can be just as important and certainly in any longer-term sense, this is about building interpersonal relationships and even explicitly cultivated workplace friendships. Trust, to cite one of the bonds that brings teams together, is partly a matter of being able to assume that others will do their part of any larger effort entered into, and as reliably and fully as possible. But trust is also strengthened at the very least, by the acknowledged shared sensibilities of collegiality and yes – even friendship too.

Part of this is knowing when to bring non-work into a working context, and when to reach out supportively in that work context. Should you suggest team members going off-site to a local restaurant for lunch, to enjoy a shared meal and chat? This can offer real value when a more open and informal conversation in a neutral, convivial setting would make it easier to raise and discuss challenging issues. Should you offer to order lunch in because everyone might be getting hungry but everyone is facing some shared deadline too, and see themselves as facing a crunch time for that? Friendship in this sense is driven by an awareness and appreciation of need, and of the people facing it who you work with. And this is where the valued and appreciated of the first point of the above topics list that I have been addressing here, enters this narrative. Become valued and appreciated by showing that you value and appreciate too.

I am going to turn to consider the second topics point of that list in my next series installment:

• Business policy and business politics, and navigating them.

And I note in anticipation of discussion to come that this topics point is closely aligned to the first. Both of those points are shaped, and certainly for how they would best be addressed, by the corporate culture in place.

Think of the first point of the above to-address list as approaching on a more micro and immediately interpersonal level, what are at least very similar communications and negotiating issues to those that arise in the second point. And think of the second as approaching an at least strongly overlapping set of issues to those that arise in Point 1 of that list, but from a more macro and large scale perspective than would directly apply to the first (while still involving more immediately interpersonal elements to it too.) And neither of those topics points can be fully addressed absent an understanding of the corporate culture in place, and how it plays out on a day-to-day basis, and certainly in more normative contexts but also when facing the unexpected.

In anticipation of further discussion to follow, I will interject a new basic topics point into the above list after addressing Point 2: dealing with and communicating and negotiating through the unexpected. Then I will continue from there with a discussion of Point 3 as listed above, and will proceed from there.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 3 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1 and Page 2. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material. And for relevant background and a systematic discussion of the new hire probationary period as a whole, as organized from day one on, see : Starting a New Job, Building a New Foundation, as can also be found at Page 1 of that Guide (as its postings 73-88.)

Intentional management 51: reconsidering the basic approach in light of more detailed preceding discussion of it

Posted in book recommendations, HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 14, 2018

This is my 51st installment in a series in which I discuss how management activity and responsibilities can be parsed and distributed through a business organization, so as to better meet operational and strategic goals and as a planned intentional process (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 and Page 5 continuations, postings 472 and loosely following for Parts 1-50.)

I began writing and posting to this series in early 2014, with its Part 1: mapping management systems by default and through simple repetition of a basic oversight model going live in February of that year. I in fact wrote that posting in early January, 2014, given how I always write and upload new postings in advance of their going live to the site. So I have been working on this series for almost five full years now, and for more than half of the time span that I have been writing to this blog at all, as of this writing.

So it is fair to state that the issues that I have successively, and for some of them recurringly addressed here, are more central to what I have been developing in this blog than they are peripheral to that. My continued long-term writing about them proves that if nothing else does. Ad hoc and certainly when pursued as a standardized approach, an unconsidered one or both, can be seen as an acknowledged and considered bête noire to all that I have been proposing and offering here in this blog. And I acknowledge that while placing ad hoc per se, in contrast to innovation and the development, vetting and implementation of New, with all of the allowed for and planned out novelty that that brings with it. I acknowledge that in recognition of how ad hoc can be backed into, and in stark contrast to the prototyping and other intentional process and review driven mechanisms that New would be arrived at and developed into, in a more intentionally considered context.

Stable businesses that operate in stable and reliable marketplaces and other external contexts (e.g. established supply chain and related systems), might at least occasionally see and have to deal with the consequences of what I referred to as Type 1 ad hoc in their systems, as defined in Part 50:

• “Localized and specific occurrences of this phenomenon, where specific business processes and their associated tasks come to be understood, managed and carried out in some particular, and at least relatively consistent “nonstandard” or work-around manner, and locally within an organization.”

It is in fact all but inevitable that at least elements of Type 1 ad hoc will arise at least locally and in some areas of its overall system in essentially any business if it endures long enough. And to pick up on the driving force examples that I offered in Part 50 that lead to that happening, this form of ad hoc can arise from any of a seeming multitude of reasons, or combinations of them with that including among others:

• Training gaps as to how particular tasks should be addressed, and certainly for employees and their managers who work more independently and without immediate home office supervision.
• Resource access gaps that would hinder if not prevent managers and hands-on employees from following expected procedures, and even if they wanted to more strictly follow them, while still meeting imposed completion deadlines,
• A lack of fit, where home office approved and even home office-mandated might not work as effectively in the culture and setting of a distantly placed office than it would in the home office culture and setting.
• And the people at such a perhaps geographically distantly placed office who can find themselves operating without direct day-to-day supervision, might have arrived at what for them at least, are simply better ways to carry out specific tasks and reach specific expected and even demanded goals. They might in fact have found better ways to carry out specific tasks or closely aligned sets of them that the business as a whole would benefit from and even throughout its system.

Yes, ad hoc can be and often is a bête noire and something to be avoided. But as the last of the above partial list of causes for it illustrates, ad hoc and certainly unconsidered ad hoc can be in the eye of the beholder, with more senior management in a home office in that case, starting out presuming the worst while the people who arrived at their New, doing so through careful planning and review processes and with new process refinement and tuning as a part of that: prototyping, and even carefully considered prototyping. The home office might see this as breaking away from their standardized and expected, while the people who have arrived at it might see this as the fruit of carefully planned out innovative development.

I have touched on an at least fairly wide set of work performance issues and on the challenges and opportunities that can araise with them, in the course of developing and presenting this series. And I have kept cycling back to a set of shared issues that conceptually bind them together, and on an ongoing basis, throughout this series. And I freely acknowledge that my selections there have been at least someone idiosyncratic, as ultimately I have had to base them on my own experience and on what I have seen and worked on in my career. I am sure that others might have come up with at least somewhat different lists of specific issues and that they might have focused upon in this type of series, and even if they started out with what amounted to the same basic overall understandings of management and of business systems that management would work within, that I hold to.

My primary goal here has not been embedded in the specific example issues that I have been addressing from an intentional, carefully considered management systems perspective. It has been, and is one of presenting and analytically discussing an overarching understanding: a business weltanschauung itself.

So I conclude this series here with some overall organizing thoughts as to what intentional management is, as a dynamic and changeable, evolvable system of processes and approaches, and as an adaptive system that if pursued, can facilitate lean and agile capacity to respond to the unexpected, as well as to the normative and expected.

• If you really know what your business is doing and how and why, and with a great deal of emphasis on you’re thinking through your why of that, you create opportunity for your business to hold real strength in depth and throughout its systems, that will give you the flexibility to be competitive, and to remain so.
• Unconsidered ad hoc, by contract can only lead to systems and resource base disconnects, and to a fragility that can come to haunt a business when and if it does find itself facing a need to change and adapt, and certainly if the timeframe that they would face in that is short – as can be expected when the disruptively unexpected arises.

Let me at least somewhat tie together what I have been offering here in this series with a briefly and perhaps overly compacted set of concluding points:

• Intentional management is all about facing change and thriving from it, and from a stable and understood vantage point.
• The primary goal of the intentional management approach in one of developing and maintaining a flexible, adaptive management system that can keep a business strongly competitive and even when confronted by disruptive uncertainty – an essential and even defining element of any truly revolutionary, disruptive change.
• And this means a system that can accommodate both ongoing consistency, and carefully considered change and adaptation too.
• Evolutionary change, whether focusing on products and services or on business processes followed, tends to be steady and predictable, and certainly over time. And it tends to stay in pace with the rate of change of marketplace expectation and can even drive that; marketplaces and customer demographics tend to stay relatively stable and predictable too with essentially the same types of customers and end users looking for that next step in product or service development as they continue buying in that marketplace – at least until they face new possibilities and compel a disruptively new change in response to that.
• Revolutionary, disruptive change often defines itself by breaking that more evolutionary, predictable pattern, and both for how it redefines competitive positions in the industries or business sectors in which it emerges, and for how it in effect redefines its marketplaces too. For working examples of that point of observation, see C. M. Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma (1997, Harvard Business School Press) for its discussion of how disruptive next generation electronic memory chip technology has seemingly always found its strongest markets in entirely new customer bases and for both new and disruptive types of customers and in new and disruptively novel applications.
• Addressing ongoing continuity and its issues as that plays out, and change and for both of these forms of it as just touched upon here, calls for fundamentally different types of management adaptability than most businesses would more automatically follow. That fact and the challenges that it raises, have informed my selection of topics of this series, and they raise issues that I will continue pursuing in this blog, in other series contexts.

So I am ending this series with this final closing installment, but I have in a fundamental sense just begun addressing the issues that I would raise in this complex and rapidly changing context. I will continue to refer to this series in future writings, just as I have already cited it in other series here. And I will continue to expand upon its narrative in other series too.

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. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

On the importance of disintermediating real, 2-way communications in business organizations 12

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 11, 2018

This is my 12th installment to a brief series on coordinating information sharing and communications needs, and information access filtering and gate keeping requirements (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 275 and loosely following for Parts 1-11.)

I have been pursuing a dual track discussion in this series and certainly since its Part 10, considering both human as agent information access and use of business intelligence, and the emerging realities of artificial intelligence agents as they access, process and use such information too. And my focus in all of this has been on sensitive and confidential information, from the communications and information usage side of that, where real risk liability issues can arise for an involved business. And my focus has been on the status and the perceived risk and benefits evaluation standards that would be applied to agents in general: human and more traditionally faced, or artificial and artificial intelligence driven as they relate to and function within a business organization.

• Reframing much of what I have offered in Part 10 and then again in Part 11 as at least ultimately fitting into a single overarching framework, once a threshold of capability and of capacity to think and understand is reached for artificial agents, and they should best be considered persons and not tools, the same rules and understandings that apply to human people and their interactions and involvement, should apply to all sentient, sapient agents: in-house employees or more temporary as hires as far as their relationship with any given hiring business might be concerned.

I concluded Part 11 by offering a text paragraph formatted to-address list that I will repeat here in bullet pointed format for smoother continuity of narrative:

• Reconsider the basic issues of communications and information sharing and their disintermediation in light of the trends and possibilities that I have been writing of in this series, and certainly since its Part 6 where I first started to more explicitly explore insider versus outside employee issues in this series.
• Begin it with a focus on the human to human communications and information sharing context.
• And then build from that to at least attempt to anticipate a complex of issues that I see as inevitable challenges as artificial agents develop into the gray area of capability that I made note of above (n.b. in Part 11). More specifically, how can and should these agents be addressed and considered in an information communications and security context? In anticipation of that line of discussion to come, I will at least raise the possibility there, that businesses will find themselves compelled to confront the issues of personhood and of personal responsibility and liability for gray area artificial agents, and early in that societal debate. And the issues that I raise and discuss in this series will among other factors, serve as compelling bases for their having to address that complex of issues.

I began Parts 10 and 11 by focusing on what I see as our emerging artificial agent-included reality. Then I went on from there in both of those postings to consider how the issues that I would raise and delve into here in this series, play out in a more strictly human context; the lessons and the decision making processes that we hold now in that more traditional context will significantly shape what we do and how and why as artificial intelligence agents emerge as significantly impactful in the workplace and in business production and productivity. And perhaps more importantly, so will the largely unexamined, but profoundly impactful axiomatic assumptions that we bring into this emerging reality, from our more entirely anthropocentric workplace past. And so will our equally deeply held assumptions as to the nature of tools and people.

That noted, I begin this posting from a human agent perspective, where that means in-house long-term and outsider-sourced temporary employees, and the collective balance that holds between them as their roles and their overall levels of impact shift in the emerging workplace. And I begin with my own direct experience as a consultant who has worked in-house but who can claim to have built an overall career path in large part, as an outsider who is brought in for their specialized expertise and experience. And for purposes of this posting, I focus on one crucially important detail that essentially any outside consultant faces and certainly if they work at levels of a hiring business where it becomes inevitable that they will be exposed to and learn sensitive client business information.

As a matter of practice, I rarely if ever name client businesses that I have worked with. I do not name them here in this blog or in my LinkedIn profile, except as special exceptions and I do not name them in the course of my consulting practice, except as mutually agreed to exceptions. And I certainly refrain from openly naming clients where I have explicitly gone to work for them on a more time-limited goals-completion basis and on matters that veer towards being change management in nature.

More importantly and certainly from the perspective of this posting and series, I treat the information that I learn from them, through them or about them as confidential and do not share that with any third parties except insofar as it can best be considered open, publically available knowledge – or where I might be asked to share it by a client source. I always seek to err on the side of caution and of silence there. And the approach that I offer here, is in fact the basic standard followed by essentially any reputable outside consultant – except perhaps in how they might market themselves by naming their larger and more marketing-impactful clients when looking for new work.

The key there is that good, reputable consultants do not knowingly share business intelligence they gain from one client business with any others that they might subsequently work with, and certainly where confidentiality would be expected. Nondisclosure and related confidentially agreements can enforce that in general terms, but the dictates of developing and maintaining a professional business reputation as someone who can be trusted, expands and strengthens any legally mandated nondisclosure terms that would be worked under.

And I just offered the above digression on consultant discretion and trustworthiness so I could highlight and pick up on one word that I added to the immediately preceding paragraph, in its first sentence: “knowingly” as in not knowingly, intentionally sharing another client’s business intelligence.

I begin discussing the first of the above three to-address points by noting the irony in that word, and how irony is the only legitimate way to view it in this context. No, I have not gone around openly and explicitly sharing information gleaned from one client business with another, and certainly where doing so might in any way violate trust. And I have pursued that very carefully and for years. But that does not and cannot mean that I do not still know it, as I have accumulated such insight from multiple sources. That does not mean that my knowing all of this would not shape or influence my thinking, for how I understand and frame the issues that I face with a new client (e.g. identifying and understanding the symptoms of problems they face versus identifying and understanding the underlying problems themselves.) And that does not and cannot mean my not being influenced by all of this background knowledge as I seek out better ways to resolve those issues: symptoms and underlying problems alike, and in ways that can achieve both buy-in from the hiring business and success for it.

• Like it or not any business consultant, and certainly any with a significant work history and track record at that, brings all of what they have learned: publically open and strictly confidential alike, to every subsequent work assignment that they take on.
• And they bring the influence that all this knowledge and insight offers them, to the work that they do with those subsequent clients too, and with a goal of bringing best possible resolutions to them for the issues that they would hire a consultant to address in the first place.
• So at least for outsiders who are brought in who would see information of lasting impact to the hiring business, any perception of risk management setting up impervious barriers to protect critically important information, can be something of a mirage and even when those outsiders follow best possible confidentiality practices.
• On this positive side, the information and insight of this sort that a consultant does work from and inevitably so in their thinking processes, remains anonymous as far as their current and future clients are concerned. And those clients need not even know that it is there and influentially so – except for the fact that many businesses explicitly hire consultants with in-depth within-industry experience or wide-spread functional area experience, because they are banking on their new consultant hire holding depth of relevant experience, and with all of the confidential information exposure that would go into building that included. They accept the trade-off that this consultant will learn and grow professionally from working with them too, and that they will bring their still more expanded knowledge and experience base with them as they move on professionally, too.

Temporary hire phone bank or bricks-and-mortar storefront sales people, and others who are brought in to help meet seasonal peak sales needs, directly see for example, customer information of types that are assiduously protected by law, and very widely so (e.g. customers’ personally identifying and credit card information.) And any resulting confidentially breech there can have significant impact on a business that comes to be found (or at least accused) of laxity in how it protects their customers and their sensitive information. But a savvy business consultant, and certainly one let into higher level decision making processes and business process execution in a client business, can in effect find themselves holding information that holds wide-ranging value and importance and throughout the organization and of enduring importance there. So the points that I raise here, add important nuance if nothing else to thinking through and understanding information access control and its risk management. That type of system, of necessity deals with black and white decision making and the processes that would be put in place and followed for them. But it has to be able to accommodate and risk manage what can become a lot of gray area for this too.

• And even long-term in-house employees sometimes leave to work for a competitor too. It is not always just the more reliably assumed to be temps, consultants and other intentional shorter-term hires who might leave and with all that they have learned. Exiting insiders are certain to know a lot more than any temporary outsider hire could too, and about how the proprietary and confidential information and knowledge that they hold, fits into the business as a whole too.

This is a series about communications disintermediation and its layer and barrier adding alternative. So I conclude my discussion of the first of the above three to-address points with that gray area-acknowledging note. And I offer the above as at least a source of opening thoughts as to how I would address the issues of this series in general. On the face of it, I am writing here of business contexts where simply adding in new extra gatekeeper layers to information sharing and communications systems might not offer value. A business, for example, that collects customer credit card and other personally identifiable information, should have a robust oversight system in place for when its in-house employees are involved in this, and it should be a system that is actively engaged and followed. And their system in place for this should be robust and flexible enough to account for more temporary help employees too, who are brought in and who find themselves facing and using sensitive information there too.

Such a system might need tweaking and updating to accommodate management of temp-hire sales people who would carry out what might be the same business processes too, but the basic system itself should already be in place. And adding in a layer between the sales staff and the customers who they work with in setting up and completing sales transactions would not likely make any real sense and certainly on a cost/benefits basis.

• How should all of these people: in-house and temp alike be monitored and performance tracked?

That question only touches on the possibilities of what might become involved there, adding the possibility of an intentionally planned out reactive, review-based management approach to a perhaps more readily presumed proactive management of information access and control, and as a second necessary side to these risk management systems.

So I leave this part of this posting by simply noting that I have not been writing about simple issues here; I have not been writing of issues here that are amenable to simple cookie cutter solutions and certainly where that would involve managing communications or information access and use on a plan-once and execute basis.

And this leads me directly to the next set of issues that I would raise in this series, related to the emergence of artificial intelligence agents in the workplace. And I begin addressing that here by raising two questions that are in fact still entirely open, but that merit consideration now when that type of analysis can still be carried out entirely proactively:

• All of our current, as of this writing artificial intelligence agents in place in businesses, and throughout the workplace are still special function and single function for the most part, and driven by single algorithms that are of very constrained and limited scope. They are still just tools. Security software and patches make sense for tools and for any tool-level computer or network or otherwise information access-vulnerable devices. But how do you address the issues that would lead to use of such imposed, overriding and in fact over-writing solutions when faced with what would best be considered AI people, as discussed as a real possibility in Parts 10 and 11 of this series? And perhaps more importantly, how would and should a business parse out valid and I add ethical and moral resolutions to this type of question?

This, among other things, is where the entire question of communications intermediation and disintermediation have to be reconsidered and even fundamentally reframed.

I am going to at least preliminarily discuss some of this complex of issues in my next series installment, though I fully expect to keep coming back to it in future postings too. And I will at least begin a discussion of the second and third to-address points from my above list too, and in that context as a core point of consideration:

• Human-to-human communications and information sharing context, and that complex of issues that I see as inevitable challenges that every business, and that society as a whole will face as artificial agents develop into the gray area of capability that I write of here.

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 also see Social Networking and Business 2 and that directory’s Page 1 for related material.

Business planning from the back of a napkin to a formal and detailed presentation 26

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 8, 2018

This is my 26th posting to a series on tactical and strategic planning under real world constraints, and executing in the face of real world challenges that are caused by business systems friction and the systems turbulence that it creates (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 and Page 5 continuations, postings 578 and loosely following for Parts 1-25.)

I have at least relatively systematically been addressing a brief set of topics points in this series since its Part 19, which I repeat here with parenthetically added notes that indicate where I have discussed its issues in preceding series installments:

1. More systematically discuss how business operations would differ for businesses that follow one or the other of two distinctively different business models (see Part 19 through Part 21 for a selectively detailed outline and discussion of those businesses),
2. How the specific product offering decision-making processes that I have been making note of here would inform the business models pursued by both of these business types, and their overall strategies and operations and their views and understandings of change: linear and predictable, and disruptively transitional in nature (see Part 22, Part 23, Part 24 and Part 25.)
3. And I added that I would discuss how their market facing requirements and approaches as addressed here, would shape the dynamics of any agreement or disagreement among involved stakeholders as to where their business is now and where it should be going, and how.

My goal for this installment is to at least begin to address Point 3 of that list in light of my analysis and discussion as offered in response to Points 1 and 2. And as a foundational detail as to how I will proceed here, I will continue this overall line of discussion at least in part in terms of communications effectiveness and the availability of essential information in a timely manner, as decisions are made and carried through upon. That means reframing this in terms of what on a more macro scale would be called economic friction, and that I refer to on a more micro scale as business systems friction.

I begin addressing all of this from a within-business perspective and in terms of the single enterprise. And I will expand this narrative out from there, to include consideration of the still microeconomic but larger scale of supply chain and similarly proportioned business-to-business collaboration systems. Then I will at least briefly consider how the issues that I will raise here, impact upon and shape the more macroeconomic context, and particularly as regulatory law and trade policy create impact on the individual business and at its more microeconomically framed issues.

This is a series with an overall within-business perspective. And it is one that has as its primary focus, within-business issues and challenges, even as I set out to place those considerations in wider contexts here for how they arise and for how they create impact. To round out this orienting anticipatory note, I am going to conclude this line of discussion where I began it with an at least brief reconsideration of the two case study examples that I started addressing the above to-address list with, as noted in its Point 1.

With that anticipatory organizing note in place, I turn to the above Point 3 and to the issues of stakeholder goals and priorities and how they can align and conflict – and even simultaneously. And I begin that by pointing out that I have built what can be a fundamentally untenable axiomatic assumption into Point 3 as I have been presenting it in this series as a topics point up to here. Let’s begin more formally discussing its set of issues by parsing out and analyzing what that built-in assumption is and what it entails, and how it can and all too often does break down.

• The key wording as taken from Point 3 that I am holding up for discussion here, is: “…how their market facing requirements and approaches as addressed here, would shape …”
• But this can only apply as-is and as a sufficiently complete statement, if all significantly involved and all at least potentially involved significantly positioned stakeholders, were to approach the business that they work for from a high-level overall strategy and planning perspective – and not from the perspective of their particular functional or managerial areas of it.
• And at least as importantly, this assumes that the individual stakeholder perspectives and priorities raised in the above bullet point, would show at least a close enough approximation to real, effectively accommodating alignment as to where the business is and where it should be going, so as to at least allow for a negotiated agreement on any differences remaining. Point 3 is negotiations and alignment-creation oriented, and it assumes that such joint efforts would not be stopped by the emergence of irreconcilable differences. I have seen differences of that sort arise as business founders and owners have sought to move beyond general principles to the more challenging task of dealing with the actual day-to-day and longer timeframe realities that they have hidden within them. And when points of difference and disagreement arise from that, that might start out issue-centered but that can quickly become matters of personality conflict too, that generally means at least one founder/owner breaking away and going off on their own to build a separate new business and according to their vision – if it does not come to mark the end of this business venture entirely through what amounts to an implosion. I assume at least enough initial agreement and capacity for it here to build from, in strengthening a business’ essential leadership alignment, and with real functionally effective stakeholder agreement a real possibility.

I continue this discussion, and a reconsideration of Point 3 by challenging the first of those two bullet pointed assumptions, but while sustaining the second as valid. More specifically, I will assume a mixed big-picture business-wide perspective, that can be all but inseparably linked to a more explicit localized within-business functional area, parochial perspective. And I start out assuming at least a potential for differences of opinion and judgment arising in any stakeholder discussions and negotiations that take place, and both as different stakeholders raise and discuss their perspectives on pressing matters and as they work out their own overall positions in their own minds.

I assume that stakeholders do not generally start out knowing in advance precisely what their fellow stakeholder colleagues are thinking, or what their precise priorities are or even necessarily what their precise overall goals are and certainly not in anything like operational detail. That level and type of uncertainly arises from how individual stakeholders each variously seek to balance their own responsibilities and their own functional area concerns and priorities, with their understanding of the business that they work at as a whole – as those big picture understandings are themselves shaped by their view of the business from where they work within it.

Point 3, and certainly as initially framed, looks to its issues from a complete business perspective, and for how that business as a whole faces and works with its marketplace. And in a similar vein I could have easily added its working with business-to-business partners in supply chain or similar systems, to that. A more realistically framed alternative to that might be:

• Point 3 (take 2): … And I added that I would discuss how a combination of stakeholder-held perspectives and understandings of the business as a whole, as shaped by their own more individual work responsibilities and perspectives there, would in turn shape the dynamics of any agreement or disagreement among them as to where their business is now as a whole and where it should be going, and how.

This is where the issues of reactive versus proactive arise, and of necessity. And the key set of issues that serve to link the balance of reactive to proactive that actually take place in a business, to the issues raised in the above restated Point 3, is entrenched in the information gaps and the business system friction that it creates that I have made explicit note of here. I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, where I will delve into that set of connecting issues. Then as promised above, I will discuss the issues that I have been raising here from a larger context than that of the individual business and its stakeholders. And I will return to my initial case study examples as I complete this discussion thread.

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.

Rethinking exit and entrance strategies 29: keeping an effective innovative focus while approaching and going through significant business transitions 19

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 5, 2018

This is my 29th installment to a series that offers a general discussion of business transitions, where an organization exits one developmental stage or period of relative strategic and operational stability, to enter a fundamentally different next one (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 and Page 5 continuations, postings 559 and loosely following for Parts 1-28.)

I began working my way through a brief to-address list of topics points in Part 28, to complete a more abstractly organized line of discussion of costs and liquid reserves, and of goals and priorities as they all interrelate in this context. And I will make use of that still developing narrative when considering a specific case in point business example, as I will offer in a soon to come installment.

In anticipation of what is to come, the case study example that I will turn to and at least briefly explore will involve a high-tech company that, as is common for my working examples here, seeks to reach and maintain innovative excellence as a core defining element of its business model and business vision. I make note of that here in early preview of what is to come, because I intentionally left out a crucially important point of uncertainty and risk and cost exposure in Part 28 when making a there-crucial point that I will build from in this posting too. I made note of internally sourced and externally sourced risk factors and how they can arise. And I at least briefly and selectively made note of how they influence and shape business decisions and follow-through. But I left out what for the flow of discussion of this blog as a whole, has been one of the most important sources of such causally determining factors of them all, and one that I have delved into in some detail as a general consideration. And it is one with both internally and externally initiating elements in it: the risk (and costs), versus benefits dynamics of innovation in a business such as the one that I will delve into in my case study to come. And it: innovation in general and more disruptively novel innovation in particular and their risk and benefits correlations, inform all of the to-address points that I am successively raising and discussing here in this phase of this series.

For smoother continuity of narrative here, that to-address topics list, as worked on from Part 28 on, is:

1. Reserves as a cost because they represent assets and in fact liquid assets that cannot be turned to and used, except in what might be more emergency situations – and the need for larger reserves as risk increases: a situation that arises when facing the novelty and the unknowns as would be found in true transitions.
2. Changes in goals and scope of action, and in the level of detail of processes under consideration that have to be monitored, and how that overall form of course correction can be intentionally proactively sought out and developed, and how it can be reactively forced upon a business and its leadership.
3. And in a more strictly project context, or at least in more strictly project-oriented terms: consider scope creep and scope expansion in general, and its opposite with scope compression and simplification where details are dropped and goals reduced …
4. With and without organized, strategically aware planning and forethought to back such decisions.
5. I added that I would discuss these issues at least in part in terms of goals and priorities collisions, where more strictly cash flow and financial considerations, and risk and benefits considerations, and overall business goals can all come into conflict and even direct collision with each other. And my goal there is to at least begin to offer some approaches for both better understanding these scenarios and their dynamics, and better addressing and resolving them. And then after addressing all of that, at least for purposes of this series, I will proceed to reconsider exit and entrance strategies per se again, this time from the perspective of this developing narrative.

And I continue addressing this progression of issues with a final, at least for now, comment that relates directly to the above Point 1. One of my key goals for Part 28 was to offer a more or less complete response to that topics point, at least for purposes of this series. But I add a further related element to that response here for bridging purposes as I continue on in this intended narrative progression.

• Unknowns and uncertainties, and the potential for more disruptively disconnected change bring with them increased potential for at least short-term cost and risk increases. This can be considered to hold true even if those shorter-term liabilities are considered as representing costs of entry for achieving greater long-term reliable value, as measurable in terms of market share and profitability, or whatever other overall business performance metrics that would be employed.
• I have cited business transitions here: more fundamental change in how a business is run and even in how it might be organized to run, as a source of such disruptive impact. But innovation, and a move towards disruptive innovation can be equally disruptive. And these two guiding disruptors in costs and in emerging value creating opportunity: a need for entering into a genuine business transition and an ongoing drive toward innovation and the New, can play out together and synergistically so, and certainly for any business that is growing into the type of overall change that would call for an intentionally planned out transition, while doing so as an overtly intentionally innovative enterprise.
• And most importantly, and certainly for this narrative thread, both the potential for increased long-term value and the at least shorter-term potential for increased risk and cost in this, can and do show such scaling synergies too. The overall scales of what might arise with any given degree of certainty and from both the risk/costs and from the benefits side of this: the stakes in these games (in game theory terms), rise at a faster rate together than would be expected if simply considering the separate cost/benefits parts of that dynamic as if they were arising in vacuo, with a simple summing up of their respective contributions to arrive at an expected overall whole.

That noted as an orienting starting point for this posting and its discussion, I begin here with a more focused consideration of Point 2 and its issues, and I add some correlated thoughts concerning Point 3 as well. I begin here with both of these points at least significantly acknowledged, by noting how inseparably interconnected their issues and challenges are in practice. Put somewhat simplistically, Point 2 addresses our understanding what would be done and in sufficient detail and with an awareness of the crucial issues involved so as to be able to make effective, informed strategic and operational decisions and in ways that can lead to stakeholder consensus (as that detail will be separately addressed in a Point 4 context.) And the distinction of proactive versus reactive is crucial through all of this, as raised in Point 2. Point 3 addresses the issues of what is actually done, and certainly as it might deviate from prior strategic planning (N.B. a set of issues that a Point 4 discussion will in turn address for developing an effective implementation and follow-through.) I parenthetically raise Point 4 of this list here too, in order to put this posting and the next ones to follow it in single more organized context. I will of necessity raise and address Point 5 issues throughout this short posting progression to come too, of course.

I will primarily focus on Point 2 here while at least significantly starting a line of discussion of Point 3 as well, and will proceed “as above” from there. And with that (dis?)orienting preview in place to clarify how and why I might seem to be cutting ahead of myself here in all of this, let’s begin actually addressing that “all of this” with an at least organizing analysis of Point 2 and its issues, as briefly set in the wider context of the immediately preceding paragraph. And I begin doing so with the fundamentals and with strategy and tactics, and operations as they remain as-is or as they change in the face of emerging New.

I begin with a perhaps cartoonish, but nevertheless useful scenario: a business is facing a need for fundamental change – change and pressures that would compel it to change, that cannot simply be managed through more business as usual evolutionary shifts and accommodations. And it is facing this as a synergy of converging forces and factors that in this case is probably going to be significantly growth-driven where more established operational processes and approaches that have been pursued up to now have stopped being able to scale up effectively for meeting its current and emerging needs. And at the same time, the demands of innovative change in what this business does and in what it offers, have factored in to that here too, and particularly as their underlying support systems in place for realizing innovative value (e.g. their new offering development and production pipelines) have to be fundamentally upgraded if they are to keep pace with emerging business need and opportunity.

I offered the above as an explicit cartoon representation. Point 2, as framed above, specifically addresses the gaps that actually underlie and cartoonize its more detailless presentation. Actually organizing and running a business and analyzing and understanding how it is and is not performing from that, and moving forward from there and at either a same or an expanding scale, calls for effective information and information availability and use. And all of that hinges on what is measured and in what levels of detail and depth that could be applied to answering very specific, and very specifically considered and arrived at business planning questions – including questions that might highlight and challenge some of the basic and even axiomatic assumptions held.

The types of change that I write of here as facing a business, and the types of change that that business would enter into when addressing all of this, have to be data-driven. And crucially importantly here:

• The types of innovation-driven, business transition-shaping and other changes that this enterprise might simultaneously be facing, all demand changes in what types of data are needed, and what volumes and levels and depths of detail of it that would be needed,
• For ongoing effective strategic and tactical, and operational planning and execution, and certainly if anything like effective performance and consequences reviews are to be carried out post hoc for taking better next-steps forward in the next round of planning and execution.

When you do new things, you need new types and forms of information if you are to do them well. And when you look back to review the outcomes: realized and still unfolding, of change that you might have instituted, this can call for an even more expanded effectively available information base too. And some of the older data types and metrics that you have relied upon up to now, might come to take on lesser value and relevance for moving forward too, as no longer holding the same relevance to your new New and Next as they did to what is now your old and even former.

And this is specifically where Point 3 enters this narrative, and it is where it has been already been holding impact in all of this, as the changes that I write of here play out. And I will at least begin to explicitly add this complex of considerations into this narrative thread here with a second cartoon representation that I will at least in part demolish and replace in my next series installment:

• Scope creep, as I use the term here, can arise in many ways, and certainly when a business faces the types and levels of change that I address here. Increased scale can and does correlate fairly directly with increased overall systems complexity and even when that business is assiduously scaled up according to a same-type modular expansion model and with a goal of replicating an already-is, in what amounts to a more linearly expanded number of instances (e.g. increasing the number of customer-facing offices or storefronts in a more cookie-cutter manner, and with a goal of maintaining an ongoing “small and locally yours” flavor to them.) There and for that example, this business is still going to have to add at least some scaled complexity for simply coordinately managing all of these additional market-facing resources. And if this expansion means moving into new geographic areas that might culturally differ from what the business and its executives would expect in their older and more established markets, that would add a second source of increased complexity for them too, and certainly if they seek to effectively connect to this now expanded business-to-consumer context. And that example-based digression only raised two of many possible sources of increased required business systems complexity, and even for this simplified, complexity minimizing example.
• But scope creep can also arise from a business and its strategic and operational planners adding in new while holding onto all of the old as well and even ALL of it, and by less than fully considered default if for no other reason.

I will explicitly discuss scope compression and simplification as first noted here in Point 3, in my next series installment too, while more fully exploring that set of issues as whole. And as briefly discussed here, Point 2 issues will arise of necessity in that line of discussion, even as Point 3 issues have at least hovered in the background for all that I have written about here. I have, by way of example, noted but essentially ignores the issues and complexities of reactive and proactive approaches and their consequences here. And I will address that complex of issues, at least as it specifically relates to this narrative, there. And then I will proceed from there to more fully discuss Point 4 and its issues, and Point 5 and its perspectives too. And with that in place, I will finally turn to and discuss my case study example as has by now been long-promised.

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.

Rethinking the dynamics of software development and its economics in businesses 1

Posted in business and convergent technologies by Timothy Platt on October 2, 2018

I offer this posting as a compact if not entirely briefly stated thought piece that connects to and that hopefully helps inform, much of what I have offered in this blog that relates to software development and to computer technology development in general. And as I develop this essay I will include artificial intelligence agent oriented software development in its narrative and as a central orienting point of example for what is being developed towards now in all of this; I will at least selectively write of how we have arrived where we are now. But I will also offer at least a few selectively considered anticipatory notes as to how the trends and the underlying forces that have brought us here, might move forward too.

The issues that I would address here have roots that go way back in the history of electronic computers and in how the information technology systems based upon them have taken shape. And many of the basic paradigmatic assumptions and presumptions and their direct consequences that have led us to where we are now for the computer and networking technology that we have, will almost certainly continue forward too and certainly from how they have become so ingrained as to have become essentially invisible – except when circumstances at least situationally force a more direct awareness of them. So this is not a discussion about any given particular new or old technology state of the art, or of any particular hardware or software design paradigm step or phase or expression; it is about the framework that underlies what is developed and how.

• “Nature abhors a vacuum” …
• … and in an information technology context that means software expands for the hardware capacity that it requires, to fill and with time exceed any possible current systems capability that might currently be available for running it.

I offer the above as a starting point for a wider ranging discussion than they themselves seek to encompass. That noted, the first of those sentiments can perhaps best be viewed as a considered and examined axiomatic assumption that was developed by Aristotle in his writings and teachings as a foundation point for how he viewed reality, and that has since been attributed to him as its original source. The second represents a reality that essentially any computer programmer or computer hardware designer with any significant level of experience, has come to see as a part of their working reality, and certainly for those who work on complex systems and as they seek to push the envelope of the doable.

Yes, this means software code expansion (and its often accompanying cousin: performance speed reduction) as a cost of adding in necessary new functionalities. And this holds just as true when expanding upon and significantly improving features and functionalities already in place. But how much of this often code-volume explosion primarily takes place as a bells and whistles-adding mechanism that is intended to keep the programmers, and their managers, and their services and departments more fully and gainfully employed and with steady paychecks and business expenditure allowances to prove it? How much of it arises as an ongoing search for that next marketable cosmetic add-on that providing businesses can market as proof of their ongoing marketplace relevance and value? And yes, how much of it takes place with an intentionally planned goal of adding in really functionally important new features that an end user would specifically see and use, or that would at the very least improve the performance of functionalities that they already have, as they use them?

How can a better dynamic balance be arrived at and maintained there, where businesses legitimately do need to change and evolve their product offerings and even if that just means making more cosmetic and bells and whistles oriented changes if they are to remain competitive? And how can and should they best accomplish that?

Let’s begin considering that dual question from the perspective of a software development and production paradigm that can be found in variations throughout information technology as a set of interconnected industries. It is a very legitimate point that software development companies, and essentially any such companies, need to be able to maintain a steady new product development pipeline that ranges from emerging new in concept possibilities, on through to first-release new product offerings that have their roots in those starting points. No software developer business just has one possibility under development in this type of process flow at any one time. They of necessity find themselves with what can amount to an assembly line progression of what would hopefully be next new and great marketable offerings that are each at their own specific stage in this overall progression, and with at least something at every benchmarked step of the progression at any one time. Their goal in that is to avoid ever facing a dry period where their competitors are bringing out their next new, but they can only offer their current and older.

But they have to simultaneously work towards developing their next New while still supporting their current customers and their more recent and older products that they might see as more legacy than current but that those customers still rely upon. Customers: individual consumer or business, that make what for them are a significant investments in purchasing a new software package, integrating it into the rest of what they have, and going through the learning curves to make effective use of it, would feel betrayed if the company that developed and sold it to them were to simply walk away, its eyes entirely on its own future and with no interest in offering any service support when they need it.

True, most software development businesses do set and follow aged-out, support cut-off policies where they stop offering patches or other upgrade support services for sufficiently older products when they have moved some set number of next development generations beyond them with their current new offerings. This becomes a cost-effectiveness necessity; no business can continue to actively support everything that they have ever offered, no matter how old or rarely used, forever. But meeting what for them and for their customers would be more legitimate needs for this, can call for a significantly scaled and complex software development and maintenance staff, just as new product development does, and certainly for larger developers that offer wide ranges of software offerings and ones that are not in any way fad oriented or driven. Consider office and business productivity tools there as a source of working examples, or operating system developers and providers. This requirement perspective particularly holds true where all of the old functionalities that would be found in older software releases are going to continue to hold real importance to their customers, long term and with no realistic end in sight, and even as demand for inclusion of new as well, continues.

This second vision of software development and production (with all of its patches and fractional generation upgrades) can call for what effectively amounts to an established but still supported product maintenance pipeline too, and one that can be just as important to effectively maintain as their new product pipeline if they are to securely and consistently remain financially strong by retaining the ongoing business of a loyal, returning customer base.

How does this relate to software code expansion? Large and wide-ranging in what they offer, or small and specialty software oriented and focused, all of these businesses need to be able to keep their programming staff busy and employed and for both pipeline types if they explicitly have them, and with all of their respective accumulations of skills and experience at hand for them when they would be needed, to make more fundamental value creating changes too. A new product pipeline might address this type of challenge more proactively and a maintenance one more reactively, but this basic point applies to both. And in the new development pipeline, this can and does lead to code bloat and certainly when a need to be able to offer new is coupled with a need to maintain an actively busy development team, but as cost-effectively as possible.

Think of all of this as representing just one side to a single larger dynamic that takes place in software development companies. And think of it as one that just as strongly impacts upon and shapes the next-step development worked towards by the hardware industries and their players, and certainly for challenges such as next generation chip design. And think of it as one that can catch the consumer and the marketplace in the middle, and certainly when this race towards bigger and more expansive brings with it, what can become significant law of unintended consequences impact for them.

How does this dynamic fairly automatically lead to software expansion, and in forms that all too often can come to be perceivable more as software bloat than anything else? First of all, it is easier to simply add new blocks of code to a body of software already in place than it is to work your way through the accumulation of code already there with a goal of optimizing it and with a goal of creating leaner more efficient programs through that. I write here primarily of programs that would run on laptop computers or larger, but the same applies to their tablet and smaller cousins too. And for a very real world example of this add-on and grow phenomenon that can be seem as fitting a basic standard pattern, I cite the continued incorporation of even early development stage DOS operating system code in Microsoft Windows operating system releases and well after the presumed end of the DOS era itself. I still find it amazing that Microsoft was still running what for it was still early DOS operating system code in their new operating system software until after they completed their round of update versions for their Windows 95 system (see this brief history of MS-DOS and this timeline of DOS operating systems.) They repeatedly updated their DOS code into new versions through their explicitly DOS-based operating systems history and in these presumably post-DOS operating system packages too. But they retained the core elements and their core limitations of at least some of even their earliest DOS code though out all of that. Mostly what they did was to build upon that primordial foundation in their New and Next, and retain it in what were up-front visibly post-DOS operating system packages, where it still functioned more behind the scenes for most users but significantly so in at least certain functional contexts.

Yes, Microsoft has gone through rounds of “redevelop from scratch and build from there,” new software design and coding. Apple has to and so have most any large software development company of any historical duration. But it is still easier to add on, then it is to painstakingly refine and optimize and trim back and particularly when software development businesses are always racing to be the first out the door with that next Newest and Greatest and none of their competition will wait for them to rebuild the already released for improvement first. Stepping back to rebuild the old is not as likely to be cost-effective or competitive value creating, as adding New is.

But that narrative and its issues only addresses one part of this story. The assumptions and presumptions that arise from the ongoing successful predictiveness of Moore’s law works synergistically with that trend. The at least presumption of Moore’s law as if a virtual axiom of nature – or at least an axiom for the next few technology development generations, takes the pressure out of any potential countervailing argument that would favor lean and efficient, because of the presumption that it brings with it that hardware capability expansion will always at least keep up with any software expansion need and regardless of how its volume of code (or its run-time demands) expand. That is the second side, or the second leg of this paradigm of expansion that I would offer here. And I add parenthetically if in no other way, that I also at least alluded to a third such foundational element just now to when I added in the phrase “or at least an axiom for the next few technology development generations.”

Business finance might be included in longer term strategic planning as is often carried out on an annual basis by the executive officers of a business: a process that can take on a ritualistic quality but that when carried through upon effectively can lead to real value for the organization. But that means looking five years out at most and with everyone acknowledging up-front that the out-years of that are more orienting cartoon than anything else. Publically traded businesses often find themselves focusing on the next fiscal quarter than anything else, and with a goal of being rated positively by stock market gurus and pendants if for no other reason. But even that five year evaluation (three or so if you discount the longer-term cartoon) is approximately two Moore’s law technology generations. Foundation piece three can be seen as a calculated and analytically consider, or at least used long-term myopia. And what we do not see, can still impact and even fundamentally shape what we do and how we think about it.

Software growth is necessary to meet genuine emerging needs. It is not just a consequence of adding extraneous change that is of cosmetic value at most to software, with its seemingly always supplementing code volume. And this growth continues on even when efforts are added in to rein in the code volume and pursue at least something of a lean and agile approach. That point of observation gains significance as software packages grow; the bigger they are the more easily they continue to grow even bigger from there. Or slightly rephrased, lean and agile coding begins to break down and can become all but cosmetic in its own right, as the scale of the software that it would be applied to reaches a shadowed, gray area threshold limit where it becomes essentially impossible to at least cost-effectively trace through all of the possible inefficiencies that might have arisen in a software package as a whole.

And bloat can and does arise in all of this in essential function development and improvement too, and not just in the more cosmetic side of software development … and this leads me to more fully consider the challenge of even meaningfully trying for lean and efficient, compact code and the challenges that that approach faces.

I am going to turn in a next installment to this thought piece to more fully consider that, and software optimization in general. And in anticipation of that I note here that programmable computer software as we think of it, initially arose in a context where lean and agile were not luxuries that might be thought about but that were not necessarily practiced. They were absolute necessities. And after an era of the type of expansionary growth, and yes bloat and room for bloat that I have been writing of here, we might very well find ourselves in a world that has more in common with that earliest lean-demanding one than might always be readily apparent in our still current here-and-now Moore’s law certainty, as still prevails as of this writing. But that will involve complex and nuanced shifts – not simply a return to a beginning paradigm. I will at least briefly discuss some of the factors and possible outcomes that might arise in that impending paradigm shift.

And yes, I will in turn bring the lines of discussion that I have begun developing here, to an artificial intelligence agent context too, as promised at the start of this posting.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3, and also see Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 17 – the jobs and careers context 16

This is my 17th 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, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-16.)

I began to more formally discuss the new hire probationary period in Part 14 and Part 15. And as a continuation of that I began in Part 16 to explicitly discuss the single most important first day task that you can face as a new hire when just starting out: your first formal meeting with your new supervisor there.

My goal for this posting is to continue on from there in outlining and discussing how to more effectively navigate the new hire probationary period. More specifically, my goal here is to complete my background discussion of the issues and contexts that a day two on this new job would be built from, and to at least begin to address a series of issues that explicitly involve negotiating as they arise in that more ongoing context. In that, I include the issues of working more effectively with immediate same-team colleagues. But I also include in-house stakeholders there, who you would help support the work of at that business and through your own assigned efforts, where they constitute clients for you and even if you never deal in any way with outside clients or the marketplace. “Clients” has to be included in this type of a listing for most any new hire employee, and essentially regardless of their rank or title on the table of organization in place. And this fact becomes important when considering how best to communicate and negotiate here.

But before I proceed to that set of issues, I want to conclude my discussion of your first formal meeting with your new supervisor here, in order to highlight some specific points that become crucially important as you start your day-to-day work with this business, and as you proceed on from that day one to your day two and beyond as well:

• Your success at that meeting can and will hinge on you’re being able to under-promise and over-deliver from the first formal meeting with your new supervisor and boss,
• And on you’re coming to agreement with them on what would constitute your core work goals, and what would be added in as stretch goals. Managing that determination effectively can serve as an organizing framework for reaching a meaningful goals agreement at all, that will make sense as you seek to carry out all of this anticipated and expected work.
• Much of this task and goal distinguishing determination might have already been settled upon in the hiring process, when you were meeting with this manager then. But effectively fine tuning those earlier agreements here, if nothing else, can make all the difference for setting yourself up for success, or for what might have been avoidable challenges to that.

Let’s start considering the second of those two bullet points in terms of the dynamics that arise as a new hire seeks to collaboratively cooperate with their new supervisor, while that supervisor is balancing at least two separate and compelling agendas – separate agendas that can compete and even conflict with each other at times. Remember, they are answerable to others too, if nothing else.

• As a new hire who is trying to make a good impression and show how willing you are to really perform on the job, you can face internally sourced pressures if nothing else, that would lead you to agree to terms that might legitimately be more stretch goal in nature, but as part of your basic must-do goals list.
• Negotiating effectively with your new supervisor here has to begin with really listening to your own inner voice first, and with your honestly accepting your real world limitations,
• Given the scope and scale of what you would agree to do,
• The timeframe allowances you would be given to compete that work,
• The criteria that your supervisor and I add others who they are responsible to, would use when determining what acceptable success means there,
• And the availability of key resources that you might need.

I cited in Part 16, how problems can and do arise when that last resources-defined point becomes problematical from a failure to effectively address your actual needs early on, and in the first formal meeting with your supervisor if at all possible. All of the last four of those bullet points make note of comparable potential collision points. You do not, for example, want to find out after you have made commitments in this meeting that would be challenging, that some of them might not be possible at all because your own direct supervisor is under pressure from their boss and supervisor to meet results criteria and in a timeframe that just cannot be met, and certainly given the allowances agreed to for the other three of those points and how they would be agreed to. I have seen that happen and the results are never good for anyone involved, the new hire definitely included.

This addresses what would be agreed to and some basic parameters that enter into how that work would be done. And it at least acknowledges the potential complexities in what “agreed” means, at the level of what performance points and task completion points would be required and by whom – where the most senior manager or executive who becomes involved in setting acceptable performance and results standards will prevail in their view and even if you have never personally met with them. Under-promising and over-delivering is simply a way of saying that you should negotiate as effectively as possible for being allowed enough time expected and other allowances that would help you to accomplish all of your core goal responsibilities and with room to accommodate a measure of the unexpected and challenging in achieving that, and with your still staying within schedule for what you have to do. So start with a goal of being able to effectively meet all of your basic must-do goals for your probationary period on time, and one that would likely allow your being able to make significant progress on at least one of your stretch goals too, and with a personal goal of being able to present yourself as a really effectively employee who can and will go beyond the basic essentials in what you do, to bring extra value to the people you work with and to the business that you work with as a whole.

And as I have noted in this discussion thread, this is where goals and stretch goals enter this narrative, as a strategically considered point of distinction that you can use in advancing your position at that business, and in advancing your career as a whole too. I just cited the issues of stretch goals in the above paragraph, and I conclude this added note on your first day meeting with your supervisor with a brief consideration as to what is actually involved and at least potentially included in that task category too.

Goals and stretch goals are often thought of as separate lists of distinct tasks and non-overlapping lists of them at that. So A is a basic must-do goal and a completely separate and distinct B is a stretch goal. These lists can divide out that way, but the more important lines of distinction between goal and stretch goal can be in how successful completion, or completion-directed progress might be defined, and by whom for at least some of the entries on an overlapping list of basic task-oriented goals that are assigned.

Remember, managers and the businesses that they work with, go to the effort and expense of finding, hiring and onboarding new employees because they have tasks and responsibilities that have to be taken care of that they cannot cost-effectively get done with their current staff. So they take on all of the challenges that increasing headcount brings with it, that just begin with the hiring process itself and continue on from there with the learning curve period that a new hire would have to go through as they find their way around and ramp up their productivity to meet their potential – and fully meet the performance requirements of the job. For complex and far-reaching jobs that call for deep familiarity with the employing business itself and its systems, that can take a while and this can mean the hiring business taking on what effectively amounts to a significant additional new hire expense. And one consequence of this, is that the tasks and goals that a new employee would be hired for, tend to include ones that could not realistically be completed within any normally scaled new hire probationary period. Criteria for success and criteria as to what aspects or parts of the goals tasks that would be worked on during this period become crucial. Reaching at least minimally expected and required results there can be and often are set as core required goals, with achievement of specific benchmarked results beyond that set as explicit stretch goals for those tasks too.

I have briefly mentioned the possibilities of meeting with your new supervisor more informally, on or at least very soon after your first day on the job, as well as more formally in your first day scheduled orientation meeting with them. And I raise that possibility again in this context too. Meeting less formally as for example over cups of coffee, or over lunch in the office cafeteria if there is one, can give both you and your supervisor an opportunity to get to know each other a little better. This can create an environment where your supervisor might be able to speak more freely about this workplace that you have just joined, and the constraints that they work under when assigning goals and tasks and their priorities and schedules, and for both you and for others on their team.

This is where you might be able to learn more about the people who you will meet and work with and for how they work and for how they do or do not work well with others, and in ways that might affect you too. If for example, you are going to need to work with Bob or Mary and on an ongoing basis, you would probably want to know if Bob for instance is a procrastinator who might get their work done on time – finally, but who would do that at the last minute. They might not be able to effectively coordinate their work with others on a more ongoing basis and certainly not in the manner that you might initially presume when working collaboratively with others on your immediate work team. And you would want to know if Mary is the go-to person who could tell you where you can find whatever resources that you need, who could best help you if you need assistance on some work detail, and who really knows the history of the projects and tasks that you are now responsible for, that has preceded your arrival and that might be significant for how it shapes the expectations of others there: your supervisor and their supervisor included.

This can also create opportunity for fine tuning the goals and stretch goals expectations that your more formal meeting with your supervisor might have left you with, and an opportunity to clear up any ambiguities or uncertainties that you might be facing from that.

Whether and how his type of follow-up meeting occurs, depends of course on personality and interpersonal relationships issues that might be in play here; do not expect such an opportunity from a more coldly distant manager for example, thought I have seen seemingly entirely impersonal managers decide they would like to meet with a new hire this way too. There are no firm rules for this except perhaps one:

• The safest way for a new hire to approach their new supervisor for a second conversation that might take place in a less formal setting than in their office, if they choose to proactively pursue that approach themselves, is to seek out a conversation that would not have a formal agenda; the best way to do this, at least in my experience is to simply ask for advice. And then propose this second meeting: this second, informal chat, in a more relaxed manner by for example suggesting an opening for it such as: “I was thinking of getting a cup of coffee. Would you like something too? I would really appreciate an opportunity to ask you’re a few more questions that came to me after our meeting and as I got to work here.”

Then follow through on this or let it go depending on the response you get from your request. And this leads me directly to the starter list of issues that you would face and have to address as you begin working at this new job, as repeated here from the to-address note that I appended to the end of Part 16:

• Becoming a valued and appreciated member of a team, and fitting in.
• Business policy and business politics, and navigating them.
• Networking for success in the workplace.
• Negotiating access to the resources that you need, as an ongoing workplace and career requirement.
• Plan B planning and execution, and being prepared for the unexpected (and the importance of finding and addressing solutions to problems, and not assigning blame for them.)

I will just start addressing these points here with an orienting point of observation that I have essentially always found to hold true. All of the above five points and how you can and should address them will be influenced by how your colleagues there perceive you as you work with and interpersonally relate to your supervisor. If, for an extreme case example, it looks like your new boss sees you primarily as if just a work unit, they will be predisposed to deal with you differently than they would if they saw you relating with them in a more friendly and collegial manner. And they will definitely view you and act towards you differently if they see you as relating respectfully and professionally with your supervisor and with them, than they would if they thought you were “sucking up” to your new boss or to them and as being less than trustworthy as a result. The first meeting that I have been addressing in Part 16 and again here, really does lay the foundation for all that will follow. But for all of its importance, it can only serve as one building block that you might build for success from.

I am going more formally begin to discuss the above-repeated next step points in my next installment to this series as already noted. And I will delve into some relevant issues more related to corporate culture, and to interpersonal relationships in a business setting while doing so. And I fully expect to add at least a few more topics point issues to that starter list as I proceed too. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 3 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1 and Page 2. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material. And for relevant background and a systematic discussion of the new hire probationary period as a whole, as organized from day one on, see : Starting a New Job, Building a New Foundation, as can also be found at Page 1 of that Guide (as its postings 73-88.)

Meshing innovation, product development and production, marketing and sales as a virtuous cycle 15

Posted in book recommendations, business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 26, 2018

This is my 15th installment to a series in which I reconsider cosmetic and innovative change as they impact upon and even fundamentally shape the product design and development, manufacturing, marketing, distribution and sales cycle, and from both the producer and consumer perspectives (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 342 and loosely following for Parts 1-14.)

In Part 14 I focused on the finances-driven risk and benefits management of business process innovation, and on whether it would be best to retain a new such innovation in-house or in some way market and distribute it outside of the developing organization. And I concluded that phase of this overall series narrative by raising the issues of a wider and even global context and both for business-to-business competition and for when addressing the markets that all of these enterprises seek to serve too.

More specifically, I concluded Part 14 by stating that I would continue its narrative here by:

• At least briefly and selectively discussing the issues raised in Part 14 and other recent installments, in the dynamic and at times less than clear-cut context of global flattening as it is taking place in this 21st century, as accompanied by the reactive (if nothing else) global wrinkling and push back that accompanies that.

I then went on to note that businesses compete and collaborate in larger regional and global contexts, and that innovations and of all types arise and play out in those larger contexts. I will at least briefly consider how the complex of emergent factors that arise in that more complex arena would impact upon business process improvement and innovation, and its retention or transfer as I have been addressing that here in this series.

I begin this line of discussion by stressing the two defining terms that together make this an area of consideration that has to be included here: “flattening” and “wrinkling.” Separately, they can perhaps best be thought of as distinct trends, even if complexly structured ones that would be expected to display speed-ups and slow-downs and regional differences and understandings as to how they proceed. Neither can or should be expected to be able to occur either uniformly, and at some form of quantifiably fixed rate, or everywhere the same way and even if there were no countervailing forces that might oppose them (such as each other) and create complexities within them from that. Together they define an ongoing global collision and one where uniformity and consistency are the last features for either of them that should be expected, and anywhere. In that, ripple effect influences can and do arise for each from the mere existence of the other, and even when one of these historic force shaping trends seems to strongly dominate locally. Put baldly, the global forces and momentums of global flattening in effect form and define the terms of wrinkling in trade and economy, when pushback to perceived homogenization from it arises as a locally, nationally or even regionally defining imperative. And the emergence of pushback to globalization and its global flattening in turn shape efforts to promote and create a more open playing field, globally flattened trade and commerce setting. And the collective consequence of that is experience based evolution as to what globalization is and can be as a practical goal that can be developed towards.

Together, they can be seen as defining one of the great sources of economic friction, and more locally of business systems friction that we face in this 21st century and certainly as we go through its first third and probably more. I in fact expect that future historians will be able to trace the impact of this dynamic through much if not most of this century – and even knowing how unreliable longer-term predictions can prove to be, and how quaint they can turn out to have been in retrospect.

• As long as there are global opportunities and also local perspectives and needs, and both large scale and global, and explicitly local economies that they can arise and play out in, this dynamic will play in an at least strongly influencing role.

And together they bring turbulence and unpredictability, and in forms that play out at larger national, regional and global levels and for entire industries and entire economies. But they also play out and critically importantly so, for individual businesses too. And they play out just as significantly for business-to-business collaboration systems such as supply chains too. And this essentially by definition leads to increased economic friction on the more macro scale, and business systems friction as I use that term on the more micro scale. This is crucially important to this narrative and to what will follow from here in it.

Let’s consider flattening and wrinkling in their here and now, but from a somewhat longer timeframe unit perspective than single-year to single-year so as to “smooth out” the influence of immediately current increases or decreases in their relative immediate impact, and non-trending fluctuations in general. As of this writing, for example we have all seen wrinkling in this take on new levels of influence and globally (e.g. that even include self-inflicted trade war). But the overall trend that arises between them will probably lead to overall global flattening prevailing – long term at least. So let’s at least start out here by setting aside both this immediately here-and-now view with its particular trend-defined interpretations, and the longer-term prediction (hope?) that I have also just expressed here. And let’s begin addressing that mid-range, “statistically smoothed out” vision of these processes and their dynamics as if we have used an analog to moving averages on all of some set of most-pertinent metrics, in order to more clearly focus on longer than immediate trends and on the trend lines themselves.

And let’s begin that with a baseline discussion of the pre-globalization competitive context and the pre-globalization economy – which has in its truest form has been a fiction from before the dawn of history, and certainly if that would mean local and small local region only.

• In all of recorded history, there have never been just local-only economies, or just local-only trade and commerce systems in place, and certainly not as a uniformly universally adhered to realized standard.

Early Paleolithic excavations show evidence of trade goods that had to have been sourced from distant and even amazingly distant initial origin sites, and certainly given the communications and transport capabilities that were then available. I cite by way of example, the recurring discovery of items such as seashells in locations sited hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean beach. This might have been, and probably was very limited trade, and from the surviving evidence most if not all of it might have involved trade exchange of items of primarily totemic value. But even that is not entirely certain; some types of trade and barter goods might very well have been transferred long distance and on a more ongoing basis and over extended periods of time.

As far back as ten thousand years ago, judging from the older such finds, there has been at least low level but still significant trade over what was then great distances and almost certainly across tribal and cultural divides. Consider these references as a small sampling of a much larger and wider ranging literature on this complex topic:

Barter in Prehistoric Times.
Trade and Exchange in Prehistory. A Theoretical Evaluation. (a downloadable PDF file version of a paper written by I. Banu Dogan.)
Ancient Figures Reveal Trading Routes of Prehistoric African Civilization.

And if this trade and barter constitutes early flattening, it is all but certain that it was met with at least a measure of early wrinkling too and resistance to outside ideas and influence. Though a failure to participate in this system of exchange would not be expected to leave a durable artifactual record.

So while this has not always been a fully global phenomenon per se, the principles and dynamics of our more recent fully global trade flow and global flattening that have more recently and perhaps most forcefully been brought to our global attention by people like Thomas Friedman, have deep roots and distantly origined antecedents. For a key Friedman work on this topic and certainly for its modern iteration, see:

• Friedman, T.L. (2007 edition) The World Is Flat. Picador/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. New York. (The first edition of this initially came out in 2005 but I cite here its revised and updated edition.)

This type of work primarily just serves to highlight and analyze a newer and more expansively far reaching and pervasive overall phenomenon, that has existed in at least limited if still significant form for what has probably been as long as there has been a humanity and certainly one that has moved beyond simple nomadism as its only viable ecological niche. Even that assumption is suspect as when people move, and certainly across wider territorial ranges, they meet others as both groups proceed. And when they meet, and certainly if they do not enter into more immediate conflict from that and from how they do, experience gained from study of the world’s remaining hunter gatherer peoples show that they tend to seek to form bonds and avoid conflict – and often at least in part through item exchange and through simple barter if nothing else. So I reframe my initial premise here from one of focusing on pre-globalization (or rather on pre-global trans-cultural and trans-tribal reach) and its wrinkled discontents, to one of non-global and even parochially localized-only reach.

I will continue this narrative from there with a goal of comparing our current more globally impactful realities to this more cartoonishly abstracted alternative that I have proposed here for comparative purposes. And in anticipation of that discussion to come, I will make use of my moving averages approach to tracking globalization and its challenges as briefly noted above for more cleanly depicting that. And I will take two approaches to understanding the non-global and even non-regional model that I have been building up to here as an alternative older depiction of the underlying forces that shape and define it. In that, I will consider the possibilities of how very limited totemic and related exchanges that do not rise to the level of trade per se and that primarily include information and insight exchange would shape that second model and its approaches, and I will go from there to consider a more completely isolated possibility as well, and its perhaps more predictably expected marketplace and related dynamics.

I am going to at least begin to explore and analyze these two alternative overall world views: currently emerging global and its older antecedent, and their trend-defining consequences in my next series installment. And then, to bring this foundation element oriented digression back into focus I will apply that line of discussion and points of understanding that arise from it, to the basic questions at hand here in this series, and to an at least selective analysis of some of the features of the global context that we live in now, for businesses that arise and function as they seek to be and remain innovatively competitive. And I will at least initially focus on business process innovations in 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. And see also Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 and Page 3 continuations.

Note: I offer the following as an addendum to Part 14, in response to a question that was posed to me as to the durability of a business process per se as a marketable item. Patent protection is a possibility, of course but I would suggest a second possibility here that might be particularly relevant for this blog context given it dual business and technology focus. And I raise it by posing a question that a business’ innovators might be advised to at least consider here:

• Can a given business process innovation be parsed into critically important pieces, some of which could be embedded in custom business productivity software apps or larger programs, that would arrive in code form that could not readily and cost-effectively be bypassed or done without?

So hands-on users would know and use the portions of this type of overall package that they would need to be able to carry out themselves by hand, as for example when integrating the functioning of this purchased or licensed resource into the rest of their there-relevant business process context (assuming this new innovation was not added entirely into more automated areas of acquiring businesses operational systems.) But simply adding new hands-on process steps to their routine would not suffice to bring this innovation in-house. My point here is that there are ways to safeguard an innovation providing business’ intellectual property and its ongoing value for them and even long-term, and even when it is shipped out of their doors through purchase or licensing or other mechanisms.

Finding virtue in simplicity when complexity becomes problematical, and vice versa 13

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on September 23, 2018

This is my 13th installment to a series on simplicity and complexity in business communications, and on carrying out and evaluating the results of business processes, tasks and projects (see Social Networking and Business 2), postings 257 and loosely following for Parts 1-12.)

I began actively addressing a brief to-address list of topics points in Part 12 that I repeat here for smoother continuity of narrative as I continue addressing its issues:

1. Bringing a business’ own house into order through improved communications and information sharing, of the type under discussion here. (I will continue to pursue help desk systems as at least one possible source of working examples there.)
2. Then, I will turn outward to explicitly bring business-to-business collaborations into this narrative.
3. And then I will delve into at least some of the issues of larger contexts that businesses in general have to be able to function in: regulatory law and its implementation included.

I expect to return to the issues of the above stated Point 1 to add in further details as I proceed in this narrative, but refer you to what I offered in Part 12 for the an at least foundational start to how I would address it in this series. And with that, I proceed to at least begin addressing Point 2 and the complexity of effectively functioning in supply chain and other larger business organizational entities, where Point 1’s issues can only be seem as a starting point for what has to be addressed there.

I begin that from what should be an obvious point of observation and expectation for any reader here:

• Businesses that operate in larger collaborative business-to-business partners, as for example with suppliers or with transport and logistics service providers, have to be able to effectively share business intelligence with those outside business entities. And that can and often does include what might best be considered sensitive information as to ongoing production and sales information, and information that would offer specific insight into how that business is proactively planning ahead for them. And it can and often does include specific individualized customer data from them and of a scope and variety that can both individually identify their customers and identify the specific types of transactions they have entered into with this business (e.g. what they have purchased from them and when and in what quantities, etc.) And that only scratches the surface of the possibilities there, as to the types of information that can be so shared and of necessity in the course of carrying out routine business-to-business transactions.
• And this still all has to be carried out within the due diligence and risk management based and supported frameworks that these businesses have to develop and follow in meeting their Point 1 goals, and in the face of ongoing change in the competitive contexts that they operate in and with all of the potential for the unexpected that that can bring with it.

I begin addressing that larger context by citing a point of distinction that I have variously posed in earlier postings and series in this blog:

• Direct, operationally oriented business communications that arise and take place in the context of carrying out specific business tasks and processes, and flows of them, and their tactical management, versus
• Indirect business communications that arise when organizing and managing that categorical form of business communications, as for example when addressing strategic process needs or risk management oversight processes.

I have raised this point of distinction in a risk management context where it can perhaps best be thought of as differentiating between immediately goal-specific communications, and more systems management oriented meta-communications that would take place concerning them. This oversight level communications about ongoing operational communications can, or at least should be expected to arise in essentially any primarily planning or strategy context of widespread significance for a business and certainly as the direct communications messaging involved in carrying out specific work there, cuts across wider swaths of a business and its detailed operations than would be considered and managed in a more routinely focused (and localized) tactical sense. Think in terms of essentially any business operations there that are not entirely routine and standardized as such, and that are multidisciplinary in that their actively requires and brings in participation from parts of the organization that would otherwise not have to directly work together on specific tasks, and that reside in differing and seemingly disconnected areas of the overall table of organization to prove that point.

This point of distinction and its at least de facto realization in practice, and certainly as a top-down managed process, can generally be considered to be somewhat of a defining marker for how effectively a business carries out its Point 1 management and risk management responsibilities as discussed in Part 12. But the loss of direct controlling oversight as to what would actually happen to sensitive, or potentially sensitive information shared beyond the walls and the strategic and operational oversight of a business, as it shares this through a supply chain system, shifts the fundamental balance there.

A lack of ability to directly manage and ensure that any and all data so shared will continue to be maintained according to the processes and standards of the originally providing business, serves to pressure these communicating systems to follow a much more completely standardized approach for who communicates what information to whom and with a rigidly adhered to control process in place as to what sensitive information can be so shared, and with ramped up risk management compelled tracking and monitoring of that included as a core element. I have written of the impact on innovation and its potential from cutting off or even just significantly limiting more ad hoc, back channel communications per se, and I have variously touched on at least the potential arising for collaboration taking place between business-to-business partner organizations, as for example through the development and improvement of capabilities that would improve business-to-business tasks as carried out in supply chain systems. But the more sensitive the information would have to be, and that would be shared in that innovation exploration or development process, the more friction that can be expected to create for the individual participating businesses.

One consequential outcome, and one that can serve as a work-around for that would be if involved businesses were to agree to conjointly develop and maintain a shared database of what amounts to like-real but nevertheless dummy data with fake in detail but realistic looking customer data, sales data and so on as needed.

• What types and volumes of dummy data would be needed, and that can be developed and maintained as an ongoing shared, or at least sharable resource, and who would develop and house it, and who would pay for it, or for its use and how and under what terms?

Then, and with at least workably agreed to answers to those questions in place, when this new business-to-business shared task capability that has been developed using this data resource, and when it has been tested: at least initially agreed to beta testing included, it would be deployed as per standard communications protocols as agreed to, and contractually so, and through standard agreed to channels. That, would of course mean shifting to use of real and genuinely sensitive data and processed knowledge developed from it, as discussed above. So a goal in this innovation development project and its testing would be one of adequately meeting the information security concerns for all new tool using parties that would be involved here.

And this brings me to Point 3 and its issues: issues that have arisen in this posting’s ongoing line of discussion, even while going unstated throughout it. Neither individual businesses nor organized collaborations between them can or do exist in a vacuum. I cited regulatory law in Point 3 of the list offered at the top of this posting, and repeat that here, noting that it includes within it a multitude of issues, including restrictions against improper business-to-business collusion as that might skew markets, as well as its including regulatory controls and oversight intended to protect consumer data, and I add wider ranges of business intelligence confidentiality too. (For the last sentence there, consider situations where Business A might share confidential information with Business B, just to find that they have in turn shared it with some Business C too, and without approval from A and even against their expressed intentions or wishes. Intent to so share, I add here, is not in general going to prove relevant in this: just the results and consequences achieved from this type of data security breech.)

I am going to at least begin to delve into Point 3 and its issues in the next installment of this series, building that line of discussion on the organizing framework that I have offered up to here and particularly in Part 12 and this Part 13. And in further anticipation of the next installment here to come, I have just made some significant, essentially axiomatic assumptions in this posting that bear further consideration. The basic and I add risk management conservative approach that I have offered here can prove sound, but it is not necessarily a best approach and it is certainly not the only one that businesses can pursue when working together that would still meet their due diligence needs. I will at least briefly outline an alternative understanding of what I have just addressed here in Part 13 and will suggest a process and an operational mechanism that would address it according to mutually agreed to due diligence understandings. This means that I will at least briefly consider some alternatives for at least one of the basic business model assumptions that can and should be (re)considered for this type of business-to-business context, and why.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its Page 2 continuation. And also see my series: Communicating More Effectively as a Job and Career Skill Set, for its more generally applicable discussion of focused message best practices per se. I initially offered that with a specific case in point jobs and careers focus, but the approaches raised and discussed there are more generally applicable. You can find that series at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, as its postings 342-358.

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