Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 11

Posted in social networking and business, startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 15, 2018

This is my 11th posting to a series on disintermediation, focusing on how this enables marketing options such as gorilla and viral marketing, but also considering how it shapes and influences businesses as a whole. My focus here may be marketing oriented, but marketing per se only makes sense when considered in the larger context of the business carrying it out and the marketplace it is directed towards (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 278 and loosely following for Parts 1-10.)

I have been developing the narrative offered in this series since its Part 2, in large part in terms of two specific case study business examples, that I repeat here in their single bullet point description forms for smoother continuity of discussion:

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

In actual fact, I have up to here primarily just focused on the second more established business example as offered there, and have primarily just cited the startup example in preceding installments to indicate that the issues under discussion in them are more widely applicable than the second example alone might suggest. Quite simply, it is intuitively more obvious and certainly in broad brush stroke outline, how the issues that I have been discussing here would apply in a first scenario, startup context.

My goal here is to turn to and at least begin to more explicitly explore the above-restated startup example for its details too. And in anticipation of that and for purposes of that line of discussion to come, I posit that a startup that would meet the criteria implicit in the above scenario bullet point, would also hold the following organizing characteristics:

• Its owner founders and any other early founding team members brought in, in support of their effort are all willing and able to plan ahead and with at least a goal of developing and following a single overall strategically planned out and executed business model.
• And I assume that they can and do communicate together at least sufficiently effectively and on at least the essential core details and issues, to be able to coordinately pursue their business and its develop in a manner that tracks with their underlying plans and intent. So I assume a basic coordinated consistency in what is done and how.
• Note that I am not necessarily assuming easy or automatic agreement there: just a willingness to communicate and work together in an effort to build a consensus that the business can be developed from.
• If accomplishing the above two bullet points means bringing in occasional outside consulting or similar help for specialized expertise (or for mediation assistance), I assume that fits into their ongoing business development program smoothly and cost-effectively enough so as not to be disruptive of this venture.
• And I set aside as moot, for purposes of this discussion and certainly here in it, any issues of outside funding and the impact that can have on strategic and operational decision making and their execution. For purposes of simplicity and focus of discussion here if nothing else, I assume that the people who have to live with decisions made at a higher level in this business, get to make them and without anything like outside interference.
• And I of course, start out assuming that these people are comfortable with new approaches and with trying them out. Note that this does not necessarily mean disruptively new and game changing, as gorilla marketing and viral marketing to cite the two “nonstandard” marketing options raised in my starter paragraph to this posting, are not all that new anymore at least as general approaches. Specific new and innovative ways to implement and apply them in the particular instance might be new and even game changingly so, but the basic approaches themselves are not. Nevertheless, I can also state that I also assume here that the founders of this new venture are not overly conservative in what they do; they are not going to be late or even just mid-stage adaptors when you characterize that type of business approach determination in terms of the rate and manner in which new innovation diffuses out into the marketplace and into eventual use there.

With that list of working parameters noted and with one more still to be added to them, I offer, with some context-appropriate modifications, a set of variations on the basic to-address topics list that I delved into in an established but somewhat sclerotic business context as discussed in installments leading up to this. My goal for the next installment and the next several to follow that, is to more systematically discuss those comparable, but more startup-oriented retakes on my earlier to-address points and in an explicitly young business and startup context.

• What types of change are being considered in building this new business, and with what priorities? In this context, the issues of baseline and of what would be changed from become crucially important. I assume here that change in this context means at least pressure to change on the part of business founders, from the assumptions and presumptions, positive and negative that they might individually bring to this new venture with them as to how a business should be organized and run. So I will consider change as arises here, in how the business is planned and run, at least as much as I do in what would be developed there and brought to market. I will mostly just cite and discuss the later for its contextual significance in all of this.
• Focusing on the business planning and development side to that again, and more specifically on the high priority first business development and operations steps that would be arrived at and agreed to for carrying that out (in light of the above bullet point considerations here), and setting aside more optional potential goals and benchmarks that would simply be nice to be able to carry through upon too,
• Where exactly do those must-do tasks fit into the business and how can they best be planned out, for cost-effective implementation (in the here and now) and for scalability (thinking forward)? Functionally that set of goals and their realization, of necessity ranges out beyond the boundaries of a Marketing, or a Marketing and Communications context, applying across the business organization as a whole. But given the basic thrust of this specific series, I will begin to more fully discuss communications per se, and Marketing, or Marketing and Communications in this bullet point’s context. And I will comparatively discuss communications as a process, and as a functional area in a business there.
• Turning back to the main, overall business-wide thrust of this progression of topics points, what costs and risks of cost would accrue, if the higher-of-necessity priorities as arrived at in this exercise were not followed through upon, and what would be saved or enabled in increased business viability and revenue generation potential if they were addressed and on a high priority basis?
• Now what costs would arise and both directly and consequentially if these goals and tasks were set aside for future resolution, where a decision might be made to address them but only as if they hold what amounts to a de facto lower priority? Looking back to the first of these here-reframed bullet points, I note in this context, the ease and the peril of seeking to achieve consensus by kicking awkward or difficult decisions down the road to make easier a current (and probably transient) here and now.
• What would the costs of actively pursuing these goals be, and of pursuing them in the face of possible conflict that their resolution might hold with at least one of the founder’s more individual a priori comfort zones for how the business would be run? This, I add is a question that of necessity cannot be fully contained in a more routine bookkeeping ledger manner, any more than its counterpart for the second business scenario can be in its context. Costs in this, critically include human impact as well as directly calculable monetary finances, and the costs of resistance to change, and the cost of adaptation and learning curve participation have to be included here too and even if a change involved there is fully and even eagerly endorsed and widely so.
• Now let’s consider the key stakeholders to all of this activity, and particularly those whose actions could stymie or enable them, and whose resistance or positive participation would influence overall costs faced, and of all types. That obviously includes founders and owners as they might agree or come into conflict with each other over policy or implementation. But in anticipation of discussion to come on this, that also includes the potential to facilitate or effectively slow down or even block timely action, as can arise from the decisions and actions of key founding team members brought in as non-owners too. And as a business begins to grow and build out a headcount, this type of influential impact and its range of sources can scale out with that too. Who is significantly going to be involved in this at an influencing if not outright controlling level, and on a critical needs implementation, by critical needs implementation basis? Once again, I am particularly focusing on critically important business development issues here, though “pet projects” have to be considered here too and as potential resource drains if nothing else. The goal here is to find better ways for arriving at as realistic an overall assessment of what can and should be done as possible, framed in terms that would lead to and facilitate better, more effective overall execution. Once again, Marketing and Communications offers useful case in point examples of how this can play out, and precisely because that is a functional area that is often carried out as a more separate area of expertise and without the same type of operations-connections considerations that you would expect to see considered for departments such as Information Technology or Manufacturing Production.
• And I will be blunt here. If there are crucially positioned gatekeepers of the type noted above, who would actively work against and resist changes that any prudent business systems analysis would show to be essentially necessary, are they the right people for the positions that they hold in the business? Here, the challenge faced definitely includes the fact that business founders who hold equity can at least potentially come to fundamental disagreement with each other, with all of the peril for this new venture that that can lead to. But to complicate matters, others who are brought in for support of this new venture are likely to have been chosen on the basis of preexisting interpersonal relationships and even overt friendships with those in authority there, and certainly early on when hiring can be so networking and prior relationship driven. So challenging the decision making and follow through of these people and certainly for critically positioned early-on employees can be just as stressful to the business as a conflict between founder owners. And the issues that might come to demand action here can be just as consequential. I write this on the basis of personal experience arrived at when working with at least some of my business clients.

And with that offered as my new to-address list for this startup context, I turn back to my basic assumptions list to add the last of them to it, at least for purposes of this posting:

• I assume that any disagreements arrived at, as for example noted in my above to-address notes, can be resolved. This might be done strictly in-house or it might call for outside consultant assistance: that is actually a moot point of distinction here. I will simply assume that one way or other, workable resolutions can be arrived at that will preserve and even strengthen the business involved.

I am going to start delving into the questions and issues of the above to-address list, doing so in light of my assumptions list as offered in the next installment to this series. 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. You can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1. And I also include this posting and other startup-related continuations to it, in Startups and Early Stage Businesses – 2.

Pure research, applied research and development, and business models 14

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 12, 2018

This is my 14th installment to a series in which I discuss contexts and circumstances – and business models and their execution, where it would be cost-effective and prudent for a business to actively participate in applied and even pure research, as a means of creating its own next-step future (see Business Strategy and Operations – 4 and its Page 5 continuation, postings 664 and loosely following for Parts 1-13.)

I have been successively discussing each of a set of possible approaches for jumpstarting and accelerating the early capital development and growth of a new business venture from outside funding sources, since Part 8. And I have held off on discussing and analyzing what should be the default alternative business model that they would all diverge from through that entire narrative, simply noting that I would get to it when appropriate. My goal here is to turn to that basic business development approach: the organic growth model, and to delve into its issues and possibilities in terms of an awareness of its alternatives.

I begin that next step of this series by briefly repeating the basic list of outside-sourced funding alternatives that I have been exploring up to here, and that I will develop this posting and its narrative as an alternative to:

1. A venture capital-backed one,
2. An angel investor-backed one,
3. A crowd source-backed one, and
4. A friends and family-backed one (elements of which might also apply to the basic default model scenario, as will be at least briefly discussed here, in a default organic growth context.)

And I begin that by at least briefly outlining precisely what I mean by the organic, or growth from-within business development model.

• This is a model that is best planned for and developed for from the very beginning, and from the initial drafting and development of the business plan that this organization and its founders would follow – and as a carefully drafted written document if these business founders are serious about what they would do.

I add here of course, that founders who would seek outside funding as a long-term planned for goal, in keeping with at least one of the above four scenarios, should also plan and build with a goal of creating the type of robustness in their new venture that organic growth and development would call for, and as a back-up if nothing else. Outside funding might not show up, and from any of the above four scenario possibilities.

• For Scenario 1, it might not be possible to secure the backing of venture capitalists, at least under terms that would be acceptable, for the type of speculative and novel business model under consideration here: a research as product and service-offered venture. These investors play the odds, and ground their decisions on where and how to invest on a foundation of their own experience. If the venture that you seek to develop of this type, falls too far from the comfort zones of such investors, that might very well preclude their involvement there.
• For Scenario 2, it might not be possible to raise enough funds through angel investment campaigns to make a significant difference, and even if you have a great idea that you seek to realize as a business that you see as a good fit for that type of investor, and even if you do attract at least some low-level angel investor interest. If you cannot effectively network to and connect with the right people for that, or if you can connect with such investors but the level of support they could provide would not be sufficient to matter, this cannot work for you and your new venture. And the more novel and out of the box your initial plans and intentions are there, and the more difficult that you would find it to present what you would do as meeting societal and related larger-picture goals, the harder it will be to make this scenario work for you.
• Can you make a Scenario 3 funding approach work for you? How would you make your goals and intent for that go viral and positively so, and even when you reach out through carefully selected crowd-sourced funding support web sites, in combination with get-out-the-word campaigns as launched through Facebook and similar more general resources? Only a relatively small percentage of the fundraising campaigns that are developed and pursued this way actually gain significant traction and gain really significant funding support that would offer real sustaining value to the startups that try this. Many such ventures bring in at least small amounts of funding but few secure the levels of funding that they could actually build out from. So attempting a Scenario 3 strategy is no guarantee of success there, and even with planning and forethought in how to make that work for you. Once again, I cite the issues of connecting with possible investors here, just as I did for Scenario 2. It is just that here, you need to effectively connect with many, many more such potential investors, and even if they would make much smaller individual contributions to your funds so raised.
• And this brings me to Scenario 4 and the possibility that you might not be able to raise significant enough funding that way. I wrote about the strings attached to such funding support in Part 13 but most would-be new business builders do not really have much of a Scenario 4 option to begin with.

Even if you do seek to pursue one (or more) of Scenarios 1-4 as posited above and in Parts 8-13 of this series, and as further discussed above, and even if you would do so as your first choice intended goal in developing your business as quickly as possible, start out assuming that none of them might work out for you. And prepare for going it on your own, and for building your new venture organically and on the basis of its own emerging cash flows and reserves.

And with all of that noted and with Scenarios 1-4 set aside from active consideration, I turn to consider that default starter option as a viable approach that many and in fact most new business founders at least start out planning in terms of as their basic approach. Yes, your Uncle Earl might delay buying that new set of golf clubs until next year so they can loan or give you a couple of hundred dollars now to help you file to incorporate, or for some other short term but necessary purpose. But for the balance of this posting and throughout the next at any rate, I will assume that you build and seek to build an essentially entirely self-sustaining business venture, and on your own and/or with the support of others who are actively on your founding team. And I will assume that while family and friends might offer moral support and encouragement, they would not offer more than very modest levels of cash or related support if any, to back that up.

Turning back to consider founding team members, their support might mean some money added to the pot and with their developing an equity stake in this venture that way. But time and effort provided to build this new venture counts too and certainly where essential skills and work effort would be involved that would otherwise have to be paid for.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will delve into some of the basic details of the organic growth model. And I will do so from both a strategic planning and prioritization perspective, and from a second approach as well that is inextricably connected to it, if it to offer value: a bookkeeping and accounting perspective.

Note that I approached the organic growth approach in this posting, more from a fall-back perspective that would be pursued if more specifically planned for alternatives to it were to fall through. I will approach this business development model in the next installment to this series, from the perspective of its being the desired business development and growth approach that would be followed, and from the start.

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 national security in a post-2016 US presidential election context: conflict and cyber-conflict in an age of social media 11

Posted in business and convergent technologies, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on August 9, 2018

This is my 11th installment to a new series on cyber risk and cyber conflict in a still emerging 21st century interactive online context, and in a ubiquitously social media connected context and when faced with a rapidly interconnecting internet of things among other disruptively new online innovations (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 354 and loosely following for Parts 1-10.)

I began Part 10 of this by repeating a briefly and succinctly stated (i.e. perhaps overly simplified first draft-only) summary of my take on the overall challenge faced, which I offer again here as I will be referring to it and building from it in what follows:

• The underlying assumptions that a potential cyber-weapon developer (and user) holds, shape their motivating rationale for developing (and perhaps actively deploying and using) these capabilities. (Yes, I phrase that in terms of developer and user representing the same active agent, as a developer who knowingly turns a cyber-weapon over to another, or to others is in effect using that capability through them and with those “outside” users serving as their agents in fact.)
• The motivating rationales that are developed and promulgated out of that, both determine and prioritize how and where any new such weapons capabilities would be test used, and both in-house if you will, and in outwardly facing but operationally limited live fire tests.
• And any such outwardly facing and outwardly directed tests that do take place, can be used to map out and analyze both adversarial capability for the (here nation state) players who hold these resources, and map out the types of scenarios that they would be most likely to use them in if they were to more widely deploy them in a more open-ended and large scale conflict.
• And crucially importantly here, given the nature of cyber-weapons it is possible to launch a cyber-attack and even with a great deal of impact on those under attack, in ways that can largely mask the source of this action – or at least raise questions of plausible deniability for them and even for extended periods of time. That, at least is a presumption that many holders of these weapons have come to assume, given the history of their use and of resulting consequences from that.

And I proceeded from there to at least briefly discuss how cyber weapons capabilities, unlike nuclear weapons capabilities, do not tend to engender a counterpart to the MAD (mutually assured destruction) doctrine that would limit their likelihood of use in conflict. And then I offered a briefly and I admit here inadequately stated cartoon-like first approximation solution to this emerging globally reaching challenge, which I repeat here too as my goal for this posting is to set the stage for challenging it and for further refining it, as a first round effort for discussing how remediative measures might actually be arrived at that might work:

• Remediation of or at least significant reduction of the overall threat posed by cyber-weapon technology would require a coordinated, probably treaty-based response that would most likely have to be organized with United Nations support if not direct United Nations organizing oversight.
• Possible cyber-attack victims, and at all organizational levels from nation states on down to local businesses and organizations, have to be willing to both publically acknowledge when they have been breached or compromised by malware (cyber-weapons.)
• And organizations at all levels in this from those smaller local organizations on up to national organizations and treaty groups of them have to develop and use mechanisms for coordinating the collection and analysis of this data, and both to more fully understand the scope and nature of an attack and any pattern that it might fall into, and to help identify its source.
• And a MAD-like approach to this can only arise and work if that type of threat and incident analysis and discovery would in effect automatically lead to action, with widely supported coordinated sanctions imposed on any offenders so identified and verified, and with opportunity built into this system to safeguard third parties who an actual attacker might set up as appearing to be involved in an attack event when they were not. (I made note of this type of misdirection as to attack source in Part 9 and raise that very real possibility here again too.)

I begin this posting’s intended line of discussion by pointing out that both technological and political factors enter into the underlying problem addressed here. And both technological and political factors and considerations are going to have to be shoehorned together into any viable solution for at least limiting the likelihood of this problem erupting into realized open conflict too. And I write that explicitly acknowledging that technological considerations and a direct and specific awareness of what is and is not possible at that level, rarely play a significant role in setting politically-driven policy or in determining how it would be enacted operationally.

The line “scientists should be on tap, not on top” as usually attributed to Winston Churchill comes to mind there, and particularly for how the sentiment that it expresses comes to the fore when a scientific and technological understanding of the options and their possibilities, collides with perhaps more ideologically-shaped and driven goals and their imperatives.

At the same time I also have to acknowledge that politicians and policy makers rarely if ever find themselves facing single issues that can be thought through, planned for and addressed as if in a vacuum. Competing needs and challenges always have to be considered, and competing pressures from differing constituencies and stakeholders who see differing goals and priorities in what are at least nominally the same events and circumstances, and who can come to see a seemingly same problem from very different perspectives as a result.

Politics is sometimes posited (mostly by politicians) as representing the art of the possible. It is also compared to sausage making, with admonitions that those of faint heart and weak stomach probably do not want to look to closely at what goes into the grind. That, I add is also said by politicians. And together, and with a direct admission of the inevitability of at least some conflict and controversy in any real decision making regarding challenges of any wide-ranging import, I turn to consider my modestly cartoonish remediative proposal as just repeated above.

My goal in that is to discuss the basic model approach as just offered above in general terms, in the specific context of some very real and pressing problem scenarios that we can all see playing out around us in the news, and on an ongoing basis:

1. Stuxnet and how the US and Israel set a precedent with its development and use that has subsequently been proven problematical – and with an update that includes some current news references that would indicate that even the gains hoped for from that effort have proven short-lived, and even as negative consequences arising from it have proliferated.
2. NSA cyber-weapon leaks and the consequences of unintended (though with time at least inevitable) loss of control of even just defense-oriented weapons development here. This, I add here will serve as a basis for fundamentally questioning the first of four points raised above, as to the overall nature of the threat that cyber-weaponization of information technology poses, and that will in turn lead to a reconsideration of the basic remediative response model offered here too. As part of that, I will challenge the assumption that defensive and offensive can be meaningfully distinguished between in a cyber-weaponization context, just as I will question the assumptions that I made in my cartoon resolution as to the organizational levels involved in all of this.
3. Russia and their use of cyber-weapons. And I will discuss in that context, what might perhaps best be thought of as pure cyber versus mixed: cyber plus more conventional force-enabling capabilities approach, as might be deployed in a conflict as it widens on goals sought and for range of action taken. I fully expect to offer something of an historical digression when exploring this case in point example in detail, that would illustrate how long-standing national concerns and assumptions can and do drive political thought and the policy that stems from it, and shape how governments would use technological capabilities to reach political ends. In anticipation of that narrative to come, I refer here to deep set fear of invasion from neighboring states as held by Russia’s leaders that goes back at least as far as the Tsars, and that among other things led to post-World War II Communist Russia setting up its Warsaw Pact system as a buffer against that possibility.
4. North Korea and their use of cyber weapon capabilities for disrupting enemy infrastructure in South Korea, and for raising funds and globally through deployment of ransomware. Issues of resource limitations and exploiting capabilities held to achieve goals comes in here.
5. China, and how they turn their cyber capabilities inward as well as outward, and most ominously for the future with their effort to achieve ubiquitous facial recognition system monitoring of everyone in their country and effectively all of the time. I have been discussing the Golden Shield Project (the Great Firewall of China as it is perhaps best known in the West.) I will of necessity at least briefly reconsider that and other resources already in place as I discuss how new capabilities would fit into existing systems of them, and from both a technological and a political policy perspective. What is done by whom and what is enabled as being possible by them, and why, both have to be considered and understood when taking the generalities of any broadly framed in-principle approach at remediating cyber-threat and making it work.

How do each of these scenarios stress and challenge the basic models as offered above, and for both outlining and thinking about the basic challenges faced, and for addressing them? I offer a link here to a specific posting that I offered in this blog approaching 8 years ago now that has, unfortunately, simply taken on increased significance since then for the issues that it raises: Stuxnet and the Democratization of Warfare. That earlier posting addresses a dimension to this overall problem that I explicitly touched upon in outlining several of the challenge scenarios just offered above, but that in fact runs through all of them.

In anticipation of discussion to come on that, I offered my initial outline of the nature of the threat faced here, in nation-level terms. But this is not in fact just a game that only nations can play, and the distinction between organizational levels of involvement from that of the individual hacker through that of the nation state can become very blurry here. So any resolving or at least ameliorating approach for limiting risk and damage to any of this, can only fail if it is only arrived at and executed at a national and nation-to-nation international level and as if all took place at that level. As such, and turning for the moment to my cartoon remediation approach of above, simply hoping for a remediation at an international treaty and/or UN level cannot suffice. I will discuss this in more detail in what follows too.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3, and at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. And you can also find this and related material at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 14 – the jobs and careers context 13

This is my 14th 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 1-13.)

I offered Part 1 of this as a general orienting outline of what would be covered in this series, and have been progressively working my way through a systematically conceived and executed job search campaign, and the negotiations issues and challenges that arise in that since then, beginning with Part 2. And I concluded that narrative progression with Part 13, with a decision to hire offered and agreed to, there presuming that this is a job that you would see as good for you and both in your here-and-now, and longer term as well as a career step.

I offered a background reference series on job search campaigns and how to strategically plan them and carry them out in those preceding postings: Finding Your Best Practices Plan B When Your Job Search isn’t Working, as can be found at Page 1 of my above-noted Guide as its postings 56-72. And for purposes of this next step discussion, I suggest a second work life stage-specific background reference series, to flesh out and expand upon what I will offer here when discussing new jobs held, and building a foundation for success in the initial new hire probationary period: Starting a New Job, Building a New Foundation, as can also be found at Page 1 of that Guide (as its postings 73-88.)

I stated that I would offer this series installment as a transitional posting that connects the job candidate interviewing process, and your interviews with a hiring manager, with your first meeting with this same individual as you transition into being an in-house member of their team. And I note in that context that this is also when that hiring manager transitions into being your work supervisor and manager too.

Your last meeting with this individual before now, marked the end of your job search. And your next meeting after that: your first meeting with your now supervisor, almost always takes place in the midst of a busy new job orienting day, on your day one there as a brand new hire. I am going to begin this narrative by at least briefly discussing all of the rest of this new job first day besides that meeting with your new direct report boss, and with a goal of putting that meeting into perspective here. And I will discuss the rest of this day in at least broad brush stroke outline here, to in effect set it aside from further consideration.

• That is important, in order to more fully and accurately focus in on what for you, and certainly longer-term should be the single most important detail of all that you would face on this day one as a new hire: your first meeting as such with your new manager and boss.

A first day on a new job can often present itself as an ongoing succession of new, with you meeting more members of the team you are joining and that you will work with, your being reintroduced to at least one or two of the stakeholders who you interviewed with, but in a less structured setting than took place in those interviews, and with your being shown your office or cubicle. And it is essentially certain that someone from Information Technology will drop by, or you will go to meet with them, so you can get set up with your work laptop or tablet computer, or with your desktop computer if you are assigned one of them, and their logins. And you will get your work email account with its login and quite possibly a collection of additional logins and related information too, for accessing the business intranet and any task or work team-specific resources that you need to be able to access through that, that would require special access capabilities. Intranet-based online file sharing and group chat capabilities come to mind immediately for that, though those only represent a couple of possibilities from what in fact might be a much longer list of resources that you will have to connect into and participate in. And email and intranet access are only two possible types of resource that you will have to master and quickly. For a third, consider your office phone and accessing its voicemail messaging system, and setting up your out of office and related messages that will go out in your name.

The more significantly and widely connected your work responsibilities are going to be with this business, the more of this you will have to deal with and the more rapidly all of this is going to be thrust upon you, with new names and faces and a great many details that you will be expected to pick up on and learn, and if not all at one and immediately then at least quickly. But with that noted, I have to add that this is one day when you will spend a significant amount of time with people from Human Resources too and regardless of what you would do there at that business moving forward.

Obviously this means an onboarding specialist helping you to sign up for receiving your salary and benefits. That includes details such as pay by check, or through direct deposit to a bank account, so prepare for that by bringing a deposit form for your checking account with you if you prefer direct deposits; I simply cite this as one example of how you can and should prepare for this busy day.

Other benefits and related issues will come up here too, quite likely including investment options that you can chose from for setting aside a portion of your income, often tax-free when so invested. And this is where any health insurance options will come up and have to be selected among and signed up for. Yes, you can generally defer such decisions for later, to for example, discuss them with an affected spouse or significant other. But once again, this is where preparation on your part can offer real value, and particularly where a forms and information packet might have been sent do you between your being hired and your day one there. Email attachments and similar electronic file downloads can make this process all but immediate, at least for getting these document resources into your hands.

And if you need to agree to and sign confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements, this is one place where that will come up and even if you have already signed more preliminary agreements of this type during the interviewing process, to safeguard any confidential information that you might have been exposed to then.

A general new hire orientation meeting where a group of senior HR and related personnel would meet with and present to a group of new hires will come later and probably according to a pre-established schedule that you will have to sign up for inclusion in. That, among other details, is where the business’ antidiscrimination policy will be discussed, and resources for tapping into that and similar business-wide resources will be presented to you – verbally and in writing in a packet that you will receive as you enter this room. But by the end of this day you will feel fairly saturated with new names, new work-related issues and details that you are going to have to get up to speed on quickly, and new places and the task of simply finding your way around what might be a complex new work setting – and even with that type of added detail deferred until later.

And in the midst of this, you will also have your first new hire, member of the team meeting with your new supervisor. And while all of the rest of this day is important, this meeting is at least long-term going to be more important than all of the rest of that largely-standardized detail work combined, that you go through with people from Information Technology, Human Resources and quite likely other services and departments within that business.

Yes, you will also have lunch and probably with one or more members of your new team – and possibly with your new manager and supervisor. If that happens, consider it part of your first crucially important meeting with them: a perhaps more informal part of it than a sit-down in their office but nevertheless a part of it. And that meeting, overall, is where your probationary period as a new employee there really starts. And that meeting and what is mutually understood and agreed to in it, will set the stage for all that will follow for you there at that business, and going way beyond the end of your initial probationary period. It will formally establish what constitutes success in your going through your probationary period there as a new hire, and it will lay the first section of the foundation you need to build for yourself there, in establishing the type of work and career trajectory that you can develop and pursue there too.

I will focus on and discuss this meeting, and related issues in my next installment, building in that from what transpired in your pre-hire interviews and both with this manager and with other stakeholders who you met with when being considered for this job.

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 50: elaborating on the basic model for adding people and their management into the equation 11

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 3, 2018

This is my 50th 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 1-49.)

I have been systematically addressing a succession of to-address points in this series since its Part 48 that I repeat here for continuity of narrative as I set out to complete my discussion of its last, concluding and conceptually organizing topics point:

1. What happens to standardized processes and procedures in all of this (n.b. in the complexities of a business’ ongoing processes and practices as intended and as actually carried out)?
2. And who gets to decide, and particularly on a specific-context by specific-context basis, what should be and in fact is standardized for this?
3. The issues raised in that question become both more pressing and more complex as a business becomes more complex and widely geographically spread out.
4. Now, and with that in mind, how can a business and its senior leadership maintain overall organizational consistency while allowing for necessary flexibility and opportunity to at least locally prototype test out new alternatives to what might be more standard and routine?
5. And this brings me to the last to-address point that I would delve into here in this context: ad hoc and special exception practices, and the emergence of the “ad hoc standardized” and its consequences.

I began addressing Point 5 of this list in Part 49, focusing there on “ad hoc” per se as I use that term in the context of this topics progression, and I add in the overall context of this series too. And I concluded that posting by stating that I would discuss “ad hoc standardized” here, to round out and complete this line of discussion.

I in effect began this posting’s narrative in Part 49 when I made note of a specific empirically observable distinction that I will explore here as a means of discussing Point 5 of the above-repeated if somewhat edited list. I categorically divided ad hoc standardized into two basic, fundamental types, which I repeat here as initially offered:

• Type 1: localized and specific, 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
• Type 2: generalized, where ad hoc and non-standard have come to be routinely turned to and relied upon and for what can be a seemingly open ended range of contexts and circumstances.

Ad hoc solutions to business challenges and opportunities are ones that are tactically and operationally arrived at as here-and-now exceptions-based solutions to problems faced. They arise and are carried out independently of and separately from that business’ officially planned out and expected operational and strategic systems. And I add here that they arise through efforts to fill gaps in the standard and expected, as can arise from any of a wide variety of underlying reasons, including among others:

• Genuine disconnects and gaps in the standard operational processes and practices in place, where operational planning and guidelines in place fail those who would have to apply them, at least situationally and in specific (perhaps exceptional) contexts.
• Equally real and impactful gaps in communications and information availability, forcing the people who would have to achieve a task goal or set of them to improvise on the spot.
• And disconnects and gaps in employee training, where that can mean non-managerial hands-on employees, their direct lower level managers or managers who are positioned higher up along the table of organization. I refer here to contexts where people in a business who find themselves coming up with independent ad hoc approaches to doing their work, do so because they are not adequately trained in more normative processes and procedures, or in accessing and securing use of the specific resources that they would need to do their jobs, that are in fact available to them. There, “resources” can mean essentially anything required for following expected processes and procedures, that might or might not be available and in ways and under terms that these personnel can use when needed.

These are only a few of the possible ways to parse the rationale and motivation behind ad hoc here, but these three should be enough to offer a flavor of the types of issues and challenges that can and do lead to the ad hoc approach. I add that the above three bullet pointed reasons also highlight how several or even many such factors can be in play simultaneously, in setting up a business for the types of problems that resorting to ad hoc solutions can take, and certainly when they continually seem to arise and absent any overall or longer-term strategic consideration. Consider the third point on that list: training and training support challenges. That type of problem might be an immediately causative factor in leading a local lower level manager to go off on their own and come up with an ad hoc solution to an immediate challenge, that might or might not break down-stream business process steps in the process, and require clean-up for that. But when this happens it is likely that a variation on the first of those three points of failure has been in play too, in effect setting that scenario up for being more likely to occur.

And with that noted, let’s consider Type 1 and Type 2 standardized ad hoc solutions, as briefly defined above:

• First of all, “standardized” ad hoc simply means that an ad hoc approach has come to be routinely followed, as a work-around solution that seems to get the job done for addressing some specific, generally recurring task performance need.
• Type 1 categorization refers to situations where some specific localized business process or task-defined flow of them are carried out in essentially the same novel, unaccounted for way and on an ongoing basis.
• This might mean one employee, or one group of them at a single office that might be remotely located away from headquarters, finding and following their own work-around and repeatedly as that means their meeting their targeted and expected performance goals. Or with time this can mean multiple such employees and offices following some same basic non-standard approach that is not accounted for in overall business strategy or in its operational guidelines and practices in place. And in fact that might very well indicate that this is a fundamentally better way to do things, and certainly if its success spreads, and the executive planners need to update their thinking and the business model approaches that they formulate for business-wide use, to address gaps in their reasoning and its output.
• So a Type 1 ad hoc might be a problem, but it might be the source of a genuine positively impactful solution too, and either by highlighting where a problem can be found in the official operational practices in place, or by serving as a basis for specifically addressing such a challenge, or both.
• Or this type of problem resolution might primarily serve as a cautionary note for moving forward, and a negative to learn from.
• Type 2 challenges as noted above are fundamentally different from that, and they are essentially without exception threatening to the business and its long-term viability. They arise when ad hoc per se becomes standardized, as opposed to localized and context-specific as in Type 1 cases. And they represent a fundamental breakdown in business systems, and in command, control and communications there.

And with this, I come full circle and back to the point at which I began this series. Intentional management as a process and approach, is all about identifying and addressing how a business is managed and how it is run and at all levels of its table of organization and throughout its systems. And it is about standardization, but standardization that is solidly grounded in ongoing learning and from the top down and from the bottom up along its management hierarchies.

I am going to conclude this series in a next installment, by reconsidering this overall approach in light of what I have successively discussed in the now 50 first installments to it. 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 11

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 31, 2018

This is my 11th 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 1-10.)

I begin this posting with a brief follow-up note to this series’ Part 10, and how I organized it with a brief starting commentary on automation in the work place. I wrote of how artificial intelligence agents and automated process based work flows that they carry out are entering the work force, and certainly in the here and now with what are still just limited and essentially just single task-type artificial intelligence capabilities. And I wrote at least briefly in anticipation of the development of a truly artificial general intelligence there too. Then I at least superficially switched gears to return to my already ongoing narrative regarding insider, in-house employees and outsider employees, where for now this primarily just means human agents and in all categories.

If you as a reader, finished reading my Part 10 comments on the advent of artificial intelligence agents in the workplace, and the above paragraph here with a sense of disquiet, that was at least something of my intent there. We are facing a transition era of considerable complexity in which a growing number of businesses are in effect coming to outsource their labor within the walls of their business or through cyber-based distant connection equivalents to that, with labor that is explicitly designated as temporary help, outside consultant help or other gig work. And this shift in the human work force context is taking place as we approach and begin to enter a still more profound transition where the issues of human employment per se will be redefined too.

That emerging context is simply going to become more complicated as artificial limited, specialized intelligence driven systems are added into the mix of how work would be defined and carried out, and as a tipping point is reached for artificial agent inclusion into what has traditionally been the human workforce. This situation, I have to add has already been reached in some industries and for entire job types in them and certainly for a significant number of specific job and task types. Automotive manufacturers used to employ large numbers of spot welders who connected the pieces of car and truck chassis together in assembling those vehicles. Essentially all of that work has been fully automated now, with all of it carried out by robotic welders. And we have just seen the start of a much wider and farther reaching trend there – as many have written about in recent years. But I am approaching this from a somewhat different angle here.

Artificial limited, specialized intelligence driven agents can in most respects, be considered tools: things. A genuinely artificial general intelligence with self-awareness and sapience on the other hand would best be viewed as and treated as a person, and not a device. And I write that point of moral imperative with two inevitable consequences to come, in mind. The first is that we will reach a point in time when the only moral and ethical way to approach these beings will be through emancipation and a recognition of their bearing personhood and regardless of what they are formed out of and regardless of their origins history. And the second, which connects directly to the second half of Part 10, is that we will see and we will have to deal with and resolve a whole new dimension of what can become discriminatory distinction between insider and outsider: fully included and vetted, and left-out from that among employees, and among employees who at least in principle might be carrying out comparable work. Or we might see the dystopian mass exodus of human agents from the work force with an advent of at first just artificial limited, specialized intelligence driven agents, and then with an admixture of genuinely artificial general intelligence agents added in.

I have on one level at least, been writing here of communications and information sharing needs and challenges in a strictly human-to-human context, and as long-term in-house employment as a norm is starting to give way to what can only be considered a new gig economy and gig employment-based norm, and for an increasing number of industries and business sectors.

I write and offer my more artificial intelligence-oriented digressions to that here, to at least intimate something as to how the real shifts of importance are beginning to take shape, that future historians will look back to when evaluating the 21st century workplace. Those, I would argue, are going to be centered on the widening if nothing else, of the workforce beyond a simple traditional human scope.

• Current generation specialized single task-capable artificial intelligence agents are tools. And their inclusion in the workplace is more about limiting the workforce and a deploying business’ employee head count than it is about expanding what the term “employee” means.
• A true artificial general intelligence agent would best be considered an employee – and a person, least we recapitulate the basic fundamental errors of slavery that took so painfully long for us to go beyond in a strictly human context.
• And most interestingly here, as artificial intelligence agents advance, a gray area will begin to emerge where advanced and flexibly capable tool, versus limited intellect artificial construct employee decisions will have to be made and with all of their consequences. That challenge is sure to arrive and in this century and almost certainly before its midpoint. Where and when does an artificial intelligence based agent pass a threshold from tool to person? And how will that question and its consequences and complexities be addressed and both morally and legally, when it has to be addressed in the details of realized day-to-day experience, and not just as an abstract theoretical?

With that digression added in here, in follow-up to my first part to it as can be found at the start of Part 10, I turn to the issues that I stated I would more formally address at the end of that posting: noting here that I add these points of digression to frame the second half discussions offered here, in what might perhaps best be considered to be their emerging new contexts-to-come.

• I presume here that all employees and of whatever categorical types as far as personnel policy is concerned, are persons (and at least for the here-and-now: human.)

The information access issues that I write of here in this series, and the communications issues and challenges that I raise and discuss in its context, become important if and when a business brings what are considered outsiders into their then current workforce, under circumstances where these people would require access to sensitive business-held information in order to do their jobs there. The fewer the number of people so brought in, and the fewer to types of jobs that they would be brought in to carry out, the easier it is to wall off sensitive and confidential information from them. But it is a mistake to assume any reliability in that presumption, and even when the vast majority of all who work at a business, are full time in-house employees and as a basic matter of principle and business policy, and outsiders are only brought in on a limited number and limited work context basis.

Obviously, high level special skills outside consultants are people who are going to be repeatedly exposed to sensitive and confidential information as they move from client business to client business, and both by intent and by proximity to where that information is more openly being accessed and used. But any part time, temp sales clerk who is brought in during a peak sales season, as for example for helping manage holiday sales demands, is going to see credit card and other sensitive personally identifiable customer information that a business is required by law to safeguard, and essentially every time they complete a sales transaction there, taking a credit card and related data from a customer’s hand.

• When a tipping point is reached where a sufficiently large proportion of a business’ workforce is deemed temp or other-outsider, all information security due diligence, and all risk management process and practice that govern and shape that, that were constructed under an in-house employee assumption, will have to change with new levels and types of nondisclosure agreements required for all hires only representing one facet of that required New.

I am going to continue this series in a next installment, where I will 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 here. And in anticipation of that discussion to come, I will begin it with a focus on the human to human communications and information sharing context. And then I will 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: 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 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 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 25

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 28, 2018

This is my 25th 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, Page 4 and Page 5, postings 578 and loosely following for Parts 1-24.)

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 indicating where I have discussed points and issues included there in immediately 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 and Part 24.)
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 posting is to complete my discussion of the second point of that list, at least for purposes of this series and in anticipation of my addressing Point 3 and its issues and challenges.

I focused for the most part in Part 24 on a set of issues that arise when addressing Point 2 of the above list, that are also of overall importance when thinking about and developing a strategic approach to business development and management in general: the distinction that can arise between:

• A business as it is ideally conceived according to the terms of its underlying formally agreed to business model and the assumptions that enter into that, and
• That same business as its operations and practices, and its tactical implementations of strategy and policy are actually carried out, day-to-day and across longer time frames.

I refer to these sometimes conflicting understandings of a business as their idealized and realized business models respectively. And my goal in Part 24 was to lay out this distinction and at least briefly outline something as to how these two understandings can come to diverge from each other with time and for different constituencies within the organization. For that last point, and with large organizations with multi-layered tables of organization in mind, I note that senior executives who make overall strategic decisions and who set overall business-wide policy, can and often do find themselves presuming as a given, the idealized business model that formally defines their business, and its implicit understandings that they work from. While hands-on employees and the lower level managers who they directly work with and report to, who are at the opposite end of the spectrum as far as level and position on that table of organization are concerned, tend to focus on their own particular here-and-now work requirements and realities, and without even a basic explicit consideration of the larger, overall picture that the idealized business model is assumed to offer – and certainly for the C level officers of the executive suite.

• C level executives and their immediate peers set the idealized business model, and maintain it with board approval and support.
• Lower level members of the business-wide teams that they lead: the members of the business’ in-house community who work in the weeds of day-to-day detail and implementation, and with a narrower focus on their particular areas of attention within that same business, determine through their decisions and actions, in task-by-task detail how the realized business model there is shaped and how it is actually followed at their organizational level.

As a perhaps pertinent aside here, this is where and why businesses bring in a Chief Strategy Officer: to identify divergence from the idealized and desired business model in place and its operational intentions, and find better ways to develop and maintain a closer alignment between their overall expected and what is actually done, and across the organization. See What Do C Level Officers Do? 5: the Chief Strategy Officer.) I add here that smaller organizations with simpler and more directly interconnected tables of organization, of necessity need to carry out those same functions, even if not as a separate job description. The question then becomes one of consistency of action and follow-through there.

And this leads me to the last issues that I have explicitly included in this Point 2 discussion, which I repeat here as a starting point for its discussion:

• “… and their overall strategies and operations and their views and understandings of change: linear and predictable, and disruptively transitional in nature.”

As briefly noted at the end of Part 24, ultimately this means finding effective, flexible and agile approaches for reconciling idealized and realized into a new emergent planned for and executed norm. This might or might not mean entering into and carrying out a strategically planned for business transition, intended to bring the organization back on track as a more competitively effective presence in its industry and for its markets. Or this might simply be part of an ongoing business-tuning exercise for more dynamically maintaining business alignment and effectiveness and on a smoother, more ongoing basis.

I begin addressing that bullet pointed issue and the immediately preceding paragraph as offered in commentary on it, with a simple and direct question: why? More specifically, how does effectively flexible and agile enter in here in the specific context of creating better, more effectively consistent business alignment in the face of linear evolutionary change, and in the face of disruptively novel and at least largely unpredictable change too? My goal for the balance of this posting is to at least begin addressing that question. And I will build from my response to it as offered here, in the next installment to this series, where I will at least begin to address Point 3 from the above topics list:

3. How their market facing requirements and approaches as addressed in this series up to 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.

Failure to effectively see and understand emerging divergence between the underlying idealized business model in place and actual day-to-day and longer time frame operation and tactical practices in place: the realized business model, creates business systems fragility and vulnerability and particularly in the face of the unexpectedly novel and the disruptively new. This both creates, and is created from business systems friction and the miscommunications and information sharing failures that drive that phenomenon. And all of this mitigates, and strongly so, against flexibility and agility, and against competitive strength for the organization – and particularly where that organization is seeking to function in a highly competitive context and when seeking to meet the needs of a demanding marketplace.

That brings me directly to Point 3 as just repeated above, and its issues. And I will address it 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.

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 28: keeping an effective innovative focus while approaching and going through significant business transitions 18

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 25, 2018

This is my 28th 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 continuation, postings 559 and loosely following for Parts 1-27.)

I have been focusing in this series since Part 25 on realized and possible work scheduling conflicts, and on business process and task completion delays and breakdowns as can arise from them, resulting from resource limitations. And I have used “resources” in its most general sense there, including necessary parts and raw materials, equipment, personnel with essential but limited-availability skills and experience, and time availability as schedules have to be worked towards and met.

And as part of that line of discussion, I have at least briefly addressed the issues of building for fall-backs and building for a capacity to “fail gracefully”: here in a scheduling and work coordination context, when need for that becomes necessary – as it inevitably does for any business for at least some of its work processes and tasks if it persists long enough. I began focusing on this last point and its issues in Part 26. And I continued addressing that while expending on my discussion of the here-repeated set of issues in Part 27 too, there focusing on the risk and finance management side to scheduling coordination and related matters, and how the two: risk and finances are inextricably connected.

I concluded that posting by offering the following to-address topics list which I reorganize here into bullet point format as I prepare to more systematically delve into its issues:

• 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 that that entails as can be found in true transitions.
• 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.
• 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 …
• With and without organized, strategically aware planning and forethought to back such decisions.
• 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 towards the top of this outline of discussion to come, as offered in Part 27, I stated that while a more abstractly stated orienting presentation on these types of issues can offer conceptual organizing value, I would also address these issues at least in part in specific real-world business scenario terms too, to more fully ground this developing narrative in more practical, real world terms.

I am in fact going to reframe the approach that I offer here in such terms too. But with further reflection, I have decided to more fully complete developing my more abstractly stated foundation for thinking through specific business examples first, and then add the perspective of a specific case study example for how this approach offers value in a specific business context. In anticipation of that more focused discussion and analysis to come, I will at least briefly and selectively delve into a tech sector business example that illustrates how some of the core issues under consideration here, play out. And I will focus in that on trade-offs and prioritization, and on developing buy-in and consensus there.

I begin all of this with the first bullet point from my above topics list, which I will address as a direct continuation of what I offered in Parts 26 and 27. And I begin that line of discussion by more fully addressing the question of what reserves actually – or rather what they should be as business-held contingency funding resources:

• The most obvious answer to the question of what reserve funds are, is generally expressed along the lines of “rainy day funds”. In that, these funds are resources that are set aside as proactively maintained capability for addressing unexpected challenges, whether they arise from within the business or from its surrounding context.

Unexpected problems and challenges can of course arise from within a business and just as easily and just as unexpectedly as they can from outside of it, and in at least as many ways. Consider for example the sudden discovery of a single point of failure challenge where a key individual who is essential to the completion of a key task or project, suddenly becomes unavailable when most critically needed, due to a sudden health crisis. But for purposes of this posting, I will focus on externally sourced challenges, beginning with one that I have written about in earlier postings and series.

I have at least briefly discussed the issues and challenges that businesses suddenly faced when the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 took place in the United States, and certainly for their impact upon the nonprofit sector, where monies that would have normally been expended by members of the public in support of their missions and visions, were suddenly going towards victims of those attacks and agencies that were serving them. And a number of small nonprofits with societally important missions and visions for helping address healthcare and other ongoing goals were suddenly facing essentially a complete loss of funding because of this reallocation in where their more usual donor bases were now sending their support. And a significant number of these nonprofits went under as their financial resources ran out and with no realistically possible replenishment for them in sight.

I cite these sudden challenges again here as a source of examples of how outside challenges can and do arise and in ways that genuinely could not be expected or planned for in any specific detail in advance. And sudden and unpredictable outside-sourced challenges can arise in essentially any type of business, and in any industry or sector, and both directly and through ripple effect challenges as businesses and marketplaces interact and influence each other. (Yes, outside challenges can and do arise that should have been predictable and even expected, at least with time. Businesses can find themselves blindsided by events or circumstances that they should have been able to foresee and the results can be the same or even worse than would arise from the genuinely unpredictable, for the essential lack of foresight and resiliency that would lead to this in affected enterprises. But I discuss that particular type of contingency in other series and simply make note of it here in passing to round out this posting’s more categorical listing of outside sourced challenges and how they have to be prepared for at least in the most general terms through maintenance of reserve funds.)

Consider a sudden loss of reliable supply of essential raw materials, or of expected and required third party provided parts for a manufacturer as one more source of outside problems, and one that might or might not be realistically predictable. For an arguably unpredictable example of that, or at least one that could not be predicted or expected in any long-term sense, consider the impact that president Trump’s unreasoned, self-inflicted trade wars of 2018 have had on both international trade, and on supply chain and resource sourcing and pricing, and for many types of businesses, and globally now. I cite, by way of example, a recent news piece that came out in the New York Times regarding the impact of all of this on one major US based fortune 500 company:

G.M. Says New Wave of Trump Tariffs Could Force U.S. Job Cuts.

Reserves are built up and maintained as a risk management initiative, in anticipation of adverse events and circumstances that are anticipated, and in anticipation of those that are not and whether or not post hoc analysis and review would indicate there had been warning signs that those possibilities might have been picked up upon and anticipated in advance too, and at least to some degree.

In the Trump trade wars example that we are all going through as I write this, it might be argued – using 20:20 hindsight, that Donald Trump has been pursuing a purblind isolationism since he first began running for office, so something of this sort might have been predictable. As far as reserves maintenance is concerned, it is not as important that any and all realistically possible adverse events be understood for their precise likelihood or impact in advance, as it is that an overall sense of the level of uncertainty and risk be arrived at and agreed to, that would be scaled according to how conservatively the business would prepare for that type of challenge – with more conservative there translating directly into larger and more cushioning reserves.

• Larger reserves directly equate to smaller immediately available levels of liquidity, and certainly where incoming revenue and outgoing expense payouts remain stable in the face of decision making as to how to set appropriate reserve levels.
• If reserve levels become large enough in comparison to ongoing operations and project work-driven cash flow requirements, skewing their being met, then that business probably needs to tap into its reserves to course correct as an at least short-term here and now remediation. And they almost certainly need to consider change management and more fundamental change, and probably with a true strategically planned and agreed to business transition too as a longer-term remediation.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will turn to and consider the second to-address topics point from my above list:

• 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.

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.

Meshing innovation, product development and production, marketing and sales as a virtuous cycle 14

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 22, 2018

This is my 14th 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 1-13.)

I tend to divide business sourced innovation into two broadly stated if sometimes overlapping categories, and both conceptually and as a matter of practical application:

• Market and consumer-facing innovation that is expressed in the products and services developed and offered by a business, and
• Business process innovation, that can arise and remain essentially entirely in-house for an innovating business, or that might be shared, or even marketed and sold but in a business-to-business context (e.g. within the collective partnerships of a supply chain collaboration or on a more open market.)

I have been delving into the issues of the second of those categories: business process innovation in recent installments to this series since Part 11. And I continue pursuing that line of discussion here, and both for how and why business process innovation might be held in-house and as proprietary knowledge, or for how and why it might be brought to market and made available to other enterprises and according to a variety of possible business model approaches.

As part of that discussion, I have characterized business process innovation as defined at a goals and procedures level, and innovation in computer software and related tools that would be used to implementing that, into two categorical types that in fact can best be seen as representing endpoints on a continuum. And I have identified and at least briefly discussed those two endpoints as representing cosmetic change (which I refer to as Type A innovations) and the disruptively new and novel (which I refer to as Type A innovations.) See Part 13 for that phase of this overall discussion. And I concluded that series installment by stating that I would follow it here by:

1. More fully exploring the options and possibilities inherent in how businesses would see both possible risk and possible value from either retaining a newly developed business process innovation in-house or offering it more publically, and certainly for innovations that more closely fit a Type B innovation pattern than a Type A one. There, the more B-like an innovation is when considered for how it fits on the innovation novelty (and longevity) spectrum, the more important it becomes to carry out effective cost benefits analyses that would help evaluate what type of usage and deployment strategy would work best for the business that has developed it, making this a risk management exercise as much as anything else.
2. And I stated that I would at least begin to address that set of needs and requirements and how they would be met by posing a set of organizing due diligence questions that a business owner or executive facing this type of decision would want to be able to address. They just begin with consideration of:
3. How much gross value would this innovation would actually create, for its implementation and use.
4. And how much value would it create, net the costs of developing and implementing it.
5. And how this innovation would best be evaluated and value determined for its likely competitive value created, from how it would reshape and at least hopefully improve business efficiency for the enterprises that come to use it.

I begin addressing this set of issues by repeating a detail from the first of these numbered points and by explicitly stating a crucially important detail that is at least implicit to all that follows it in the above list, and that shapes what that repeated detail means as a practical matter:

• Yes, I am writing about strategic planning and the decisions that would arise from that, for how to develop and manage business process innovation in an enterprise from a risk management perspective – where input of that type would offer essential value in shaping overall operationally actionable decisions that would be made. And this input, I add, would in principle help shape in detail, any decisions as to what would be done in developing an innovation – and potentially as a product as well as for in-house use, and when this would be done and how. How long for example, might an innovation developing business chose to retain a more novel business process innovation in-house before allowing it outside of its doors, and either to specific business-to-business partners or through a more open marketplace? And would they retain certain features that they have developed in it, in-house if they did chose to market and sell licensed access to a version of this?
• But focusing on the novelty and disruptive newness of this, and certainly for a more purely Type B innovation: that quality offers increased potential realizable value to an innovation and at the same time it also creates uncertainty and business systems friction there too when addressing the above numbered issues and questions. This means friction and uncertainty arising from a lack of complete necessary information on the part of the decision makers at a business holding such as innovation, as to precisely what it would cost to develop it into a fully useful product, and a marketable one if that route is to be taken. And that means the friction and uncertainly that disruptively new and novel brings with it for even understanding the real potential reach and impact of such an innovation, with that likely including a lack of anything like complete understanding early on as to precisely where and how this innovation might offer its greatest value.
• Disruptively new and novel innovations can and do evolve and even dramatically, and often in unexpected ways and directions as their fuller potential comes to be known and as people consider their value in new and unanticipated applications and contexts.
• I am writing here of contexts in which decisions have to be made. And I am writing here of doing so with what at least should be an awareness that these decisions are being made with less than perfect and less than complete information, and of types that would more ideally be available.

Given the uncertainties raised in the above points, and in fact framed by them and their implications, it is common for the developers of an innovation in a business and for their more active supporters and backers there, to in effect hype their new development by focusing more on the overall positive potential of what they seek to create and less on its potential complications or its gross versus net monetary value when development and implementation costs would have to be included. But it is important to ask both a first gross value question and a second net value question and certainly for any innovation of any complexity that would have to work its way through a process of developing, testing, refinement and then use – and perhaps further development, packaging and marketing as a marketable offering too.

As a basic exercise here, standard accounting practice would suggest simultaneously carrying out three reviews for this, and certainly where potential costs and benefits are of such a scale as to merit this level of due diligence effort:

• An optimistic best case review and analysis that would include discussion of when and how it might best apply. This is the complications-free scenario.
• A corresponding conservative, unfavorable case analysis where at least some significant complications arise. This is a scenario where it might make sense to proceed, but where that would involve added costs, delays (which can and do translate into costs, or other complications.
• And a more normative case evaluation that hold elements of both of the above two scenarios in it.
• The idea here is to account for the uncertainties and the unexpecteds that are sure to arise when innovative intent is translated into finished operational product, and those that might realistically be anticipated to arise in this too. But stressing the first words of that sentence, I pose the following as a reality check detail here:
• The more disruptively new and different an innovation would be and the less precedent there is for actually developing anything like it, the less accurately it will prove possible to actually cost it out for planning purposes, in advance of starting, and the more difficult it will be to realistically design and carry out these three accounting-oriented, cost and benefits based evaluation and planning exercises.

As such, the gross valuation question that I posed above, might be easier to arrive at an answer to, than the more uncertainty-laden net valuation question would be with its added factors, variables and unknowns.

• Positive value might be measured in terms of a valuation assessment of improved business effectiveness or overall productivity, from keeping a break through business process innovation in-house as a closely held advantage
• Where that would be compared to an at least rough cut evaluation of the market potential of this as a product offering, and with consideration of price point attainable for licensed use or from outright sale.
• But realistically, this is going to be all but impossible to actually calculate, and certainly if the goal is to arrive at readily, consistently justifiable numbers. Seek to develop cost and valuation ranges here.
• Ultimately the only specific valid independently calculable, replicable valuation numbers that might be possible for setting a true overall value of a business process innovation, might be found if it is in fact brought to market and licensed, or sold (as for example under patent protection).

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will at least briefly and selectively discuss the issues that I have been raising here and in recent preceding 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. Businesses compete and collaborate in larger regional and global contexts, and innovation and of all types, arises and plays out in those larger contexts. I will at least briefly consider how the complex of emergent factors that arise there would impact upon business process improvement and innovation, and its retention or transfer as I have been addressing that 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 see also Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 and Page 3 continuations.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 13 – the jobs and careers context 12

This is my 13th 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 1-12.)

I have been progressively discussing the stages in a job search campaign in this series, starting for that in Part 2. And that has led me from the earliest planning stages that would go into launching a targeted job search, through to the last step of such a campaign, with final pre-offer interviews with the hiring manager and with any stakeholders who they would bring into this, to establish wider buy-in for their hiring decision. And that posting progression has led me up to what would generally be a last interview in this process where an explicit offer to hire would be made.

My goal for this posting is to discuss that last step in what of necessity has become a long process – at least most of the time and in most hiring situations where employees would have to hold specific in-demand professional skills. So you have met with a Human Resources interviewer who has carried out a final candidate filtering step before passing there-vetted finalists on to the hiring manager who owns this particular job search. You have met with that hiring manager, and have reached at least preliminary approval with them. I have assumed in this series that they would want to, or at least need to bring in stakeholder interviewers to establish wider buy-in on who is hired for this open work position too. And I assume here that you have met with these people and that they have favorably reported back to the hiring manager about you, giving them what amounts to a green light to proceed. Now you have to meet with the hiring manager who started this job candidate search process that you going through, to finalize the deal and get a specific job offer.

This is a negotiations-oriented series, and this is an essentially entirely negotiations-framed meeting. And at this point in this process it is likely that this job is yours if you want it – subject only to two decision shaping requirements being met:

• You have to be able to come to a mutually agreeable decision with this hiring manager as to what you would require, and what they can and will offer in the way of compensation and terms of employment.
• And you have to avoid throwing extraneous issues into this conversation that could raise doubts or concerns on the part of this hiring manager, or even kill this deal entirely for them.

Starting with the second of those two potentially adverse game changers here, I have seen what seemed to be a very acceptable best of the group candidate, kill any chance of being hired by suddenly deciding to speak out negatively about a recent employer, and in ways that would raise concerns about their judgment, and about the truthfulness of what they have said up to now. If you bring a hiring manager to a point in this type of conversation where they begin to question whether you have been as honest and open with them as you have seemed to be, you have probably thrown away your opportunity to secure this next job – and even if this would mean you’re getting to work with your absolute first choice possible next employer, and even if this would be an ideal next job for you there.

Never, ever take matters for granted here and no matter how positively they are proceeding. A hiring manager who has reached this point in an interviewing process wants to hire the best-to-them candidate they are meeting with, in this hopefully final interview in their filling this work position on their team. They want you to succeed. But you can still snatch defeat from the jaws of victory if you take that likely success, or them for granted or if you come across as doing so.

Your goal in this conversation is to seal the deal from your side of this negotiating table. And while this conversation might begin with a chat about the job and what you would bring to it, the heart of this meeting is in the compensation and terms of employment discussion that this is all directed towards, that I just noted in the first of the above two bullet points. That phase of this meeting is the core topic of this posting. And this brings me to the most important points of consideration, and points of preparation that you as a job candidate can bring to this meeting.

• Your success here in reaching you goals, and in both landing this job and doing so under terms that really meet your needs, depends entirely on what you have learned and thought through and planned for going into it. I am definitely not saying here that a well prepared job candidate can never be surprised by offer details that a hiring manager they have met with might offer. I am stating that if you prepare and do your homework leading up to this meeting, you are much less likely to face offering details that you have not thought through and that you have not prepared for with at least rough outline responses prepared, that would fit into your own planning and intentions there.

And the really, really good news for you as a job candidate in this type of meeting, is that social media and employee-to-employee networking and information sharing, have made it a lot easier for you to do a great deal of the preliminary research that you need to carry out if you are to walk into this type of negotiations meeting informed and prepared.

I continue on from here with a check list of questions and points of observation that collectively raise and address at least most of the high points of what you have to be ready for here:

• How much are people with your types and levels of skills and experience currently being paid? Focus there essentially entirely on the subset of skills and relevant experience that you hold that this hiring manager would specifically hire you for. This question and its answer address both direct salary compensation, and other benefits insofar as you can meaningfully draw comparisons for them too.
• Be as specific in your data and insight gathering there as possible so you can make meaningful comparisons and start out with realistic goals and expectations for what you can ask for and expect to receive.
• What compensation ranges are people being offered with those same skills and experience levels, in the same geographic area that you are searching and interviewing in?
• What role does industry or business type worked in, play in that?
• Consider business size and I add business age and state of development there too. A younger business that is just starting to really build out and grow might not be able to offer top dollar up-front in take home pay. But they might be able to offer equity or other balancing compensation, along with opportunity for advancement and promotion there as this business does take off, trading short-term value offered for longer-term compensation package value.
• Understanding and really thinking through short-term and longer-term benefits offered, can be crucial for a well prepared job candidate here.
• Web sites such as Glassdoor can serve as an invaluable starting point for this type of data and insight gathering, but they should only be seen as a starting point for this. Business oriented social networking and research into the particular business you are applying for work with, and even into that business’ specific regional presence that you would work at or through enters into this research too. A company, for example, with a large headcount in its US facilities and a large presence in a country such as India, is likely to hew to entirely different compensation and terms of employment standards and scales in those two locales, each with their own competitive standards to meet for these issues, where businesses seek to match but not generally greatly exceed what other businesses are offering for the same type of worker.
• I have just explicitly raised several issues that bear further comment, and I have overlooked at least one crucially important detail that needs inclusion here too. And I proceed from that statement by sharing a point of detail that I have had in mind up to here, but that I have set aside until now: what I mean by experience using those skills that a new hire would be brought in for. Let’s consider skills and experience using a new computer language and a complex and functionally far-reaching software development platform that would be used to develop code in it. Do you have extensive experience as a matter of time on the job using the basic features and tools sets offered there, or do you have a level and depth of experience with this new system where you can and do routinely customize the built-in tools available in the basic software, and do you in fact build your own tools for automating specialized tasks in this system? In an object oriented programming context, think of this as the difference between routinely using objects already available in the coding library that comes with the software package, versus assembling and testing your own new objects and building your own custom library of them.
• And with that point made, and with the added level of work performance flexibility that a deeper level of skills and experience can offer in mind, I note that while a new hire might be brought in, in order to address some specific currently high profile tasks and goals, both that job candidate and that hiring manager need to think and plan for what else they would do and certainly longer-term while there.
• Be prepared to talk about immediately pressing needs, but be prepared to go beyond that too, and with a goal of setting yourself up as a new hire who can and should be given opportunity to grow professionally there too. And do not confuse job title offered with real professional growth opportunity because the two might or might not align with each other.
• Now let’s consider a point that I did touch upon already but that bears further consideration here. I have written in this bullet pointed check list of balancing here-and-now pay against longer-term opportunity, and that can be very important and certainly for job candidates who do explicitly seek career advancement and promotion as a goal. But that leaves out a large range of other terms of employment considerations, and the issue of how explicitly those long term benefits and opportunities should be spelled out for when and how they would be realized. Explicit goals-based performance criteria are important there, and need to be spelled out and mutually agreed to up-front. Vague and “in principle only” holds no real long term value or meaning in this type of context.
• I end this bullet pointed list by citing some of my earliest postings to the Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development that I include this posting and this series in too: postings that lay out and discuss a job candidate’s goals and preferences constraints box (see Job Search and Your Constraints Box, Globalization and Your Constraints Box and Working In-House, Working as a Consultant and Your Constraints Box as can be found in Page 1 of this Guide.) Know what you want and think through how this particular job would either directly meet those needs, or at the very least help you to more stably reach them moving forward. Think through and plan how you would argue an effective case for the goals expressed in your constraints box that really matter to you, and prioritize them for yourself in the process, and before negotiating for them here. And think through and understand where you would make concessions in order to reach your more important goals.
• Concession points can be valuable negotiating tools, as they allow give and take compromise while safeguarding your more essential requirements.
• And really think about the people you have met with at this business: receptionists and everyone else there included and not just the smaller number who you have formally interviewed with, and how they work there, and what you can tell from that as to their terms of employment. Look to everyone you meet with, however briefly when going to a business for interview meetings, as sources of insight into the corporate culture in place and into what it is like actually working there. Are people there, for example, expected to work overtime and even routinely so? Do they look relaxed and comfortable or does everyone there look rushed all of the time? (I intentionally express this in more extreme terms, but look for the details there, and think through their meaning and implications going into this last interview step meeting.
• Know as much as you realistically can about the issues that I have been raising here, and others that come to your attention as being important in this job search context. And prepare for this meeting with that and related information in mind: plan and negotiate accordingly, offering for example to go along with that extra overtime and routinely if needed in exchange for – fill in this blank with your own goals and priorities.
• Think and be prepared and know as much as you can going into this type of meeting: about how best to proceed in the meeting itself, and beyond if you are hired and brought on board, and about this business you seek to work with and this job there, and about the people who you would work with there, and what you would do there with them, and under what conditions.

I have built up toward this posting, offering it as a last installment in a progression of them, leading up to you’re accepting a job offer and you’re starting to work with this new business. I am going to switch directions now and begin addressing the issues of your new hire probationary period, and what goes into that once you have been hired – and once again from a largely negotiations-framed perspective.

My specific goal for the next installment to this series, is to offer a transitional posting that connects the job candidate interviewing process, and certainly starting with your first meeting with a hiring manager in your job search campaign, with day one on the job as a new hire. And the basic topic there is at least conceptually simple and easy to state: the need for you and your now workplace supervisor to come to realistic agreement as to precisely what you should work on and achieve first as your primary work performance goals, and as you start establishing yourself there. Details can become vitally important there, including factors such as allowed timeframes to completion, and performance benchmarks and a range of other issues, some of which might not initially be apparent. I am going to discuss this complex of issues in my next series installment, transitioning as noted above, from pre-hire interviews to new hire meetings and goals planning.

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. I have been particularly recommending you’re at least briefly reviewing a specific job search best practices series that I developed here on the basis of both my own job search experience and from working with others going through that process: Finding Your Best Practices Plan B When Your Job Search isn’t Working, as can be found at Page 1 of my above-noted Guide as its postings 56-72. I am going to switch this specific series recommendation, starting in my next series installment to: Starting a New Job, Building a New Foundation, as can also be found at Page 1 of that Guide (as its postings 73-88.)

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