Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Balancing innovative change and ongoing reliable stability and consistency 5: strategic thinking, planning and execution 2

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 24, 2017

This is my 5th installment to a series in which I explore tactical and strategic approaches to business management and leadership, and best practices approaches for coordinately pursuing both as context dictates. See Business Strategy and Operations – 4, postings 655 and loosely following for Parts 1-4.)

I offered a still to consider, list of to-address points for this series at the end of Part 4 that I repeat here as a starting point for this step in this series’ overall discussion:

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

And I begin here in this posting with the first of those five points, and by highlighting the obvious: change happens and the unexpected and even disruptively unexpected happens too, and disconnects do arise between what is expected and planned for, and what is actually faced. Disconnects happen, and between longer-term overarching strategic planning and actually encountered reality faced, and between more here-and-now tactical planning and its expectations and the reality that is suddenly encountered and that has to be operationally addressed. And certainly when tested by the disruptively unexpected, disconnects can arise between strategy and tactics in place.

So my goal for this posting is not to offer or even suggest the existence of some magical management process that would eliminate uncertainty or the appearance of the unexpected, or the occurrence of disconnects between what was planned for and prioritized, and what has to actually be done next and how. My goal here is to address the issues of limiting the occurrence of these disruptions to the truly unavoidable, and it is to offer at least an orienting overall approach for responding to these events when they do arise, and more efficiently and smoothly so their impact can be kept as limited as possible,

• And both for their reach throughout your business systems and in how they would affect your customers and other external stakeholders, and
• Over time, where these events would be resolved as quickly as possible,
• And with lessons learned and operationalized so your next such disruptive event is not simply going to be a repeat of one already faced.

How do you best “identify disconnects in this, and as early as possible when they do arise”? This begins with really tracking where you are now and how you got there so you can, among other things have a capability for identifying drift or overt shift from what you would expect and have planned and prepared for, to an unexpected new.

Ultimately, this is an information development and management problem and a communications problem. Even perfect information and communications systems, with all necessary information developed and organized and shared as needed, and real-time cannot prevent the completely novel and unexpected. But good information management and communications practices can help you, and your at least potentially affected stakeholders, from being blindsided and certainly from more gradual drift from the expected – and before a crisis tipping point has been reached from that.

Let’s consider this from a strategy and tactics perspective and more specifically in terms of how the two do and do not effectively connect together in day-to-day and longer term business planning and execution. And I begin by offering a simplifying division of labor understanding of what strategy and tactics are, in practical day-to-day terms:

• Strategy tells you and the members of your overall business team what to do and with what priorities and for achieving what goals,
• And Tactics map out how to accomplish that and with both task selection and completion, and results and performance benchmarking and reviews included for better carrying out next steps, and subsequent occurrences of those same tasks.

So ultimately, this posting is about understanding and bridging any potential gaps between knowing what to do and knowing how to do it, and in the face of a lack of perfect information availability and in the face of sometimes genuinely unpredictable change and disruption.

I noted earlier in this posting, the importance of learning from challenges faced so the next disruptive disconnect between strategy in place and its tactical implementation is not going to be a repeat of one already faced – but not apparently, effectively learned from. Recurring instances of some same disconnect, and of a disconnect that rises in level of significance so as to merit specific focused action, reflects a structural failing in either the underlying strategy itself where it does not meet actual needs or circumstances faced, in the tactically defined and shaped processes in place that should implement strategy, or both.

• One-off disconnects that are corrected for by type and that would not recur as a result, are learning curve opportunities and opportunities to keep the business more agile and effective in the face of ongoing change.
• Recurring disconnects and certainly recurring ones of some same basic type, call for a more specifically corrective remediation response and in the business systems in place. They constitute red flag warnings of what might be wider and more pervasive underlying problems in the strategic plans and in the operationalized tactical planning in place, and can in fact primarily represent points where wider underlying business systems challenges are prone to visibly erupt.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, where I will focus on one key word in the above cited Point 1: “early.” Then I will then proceed from there to at least start a discussion of Point 2 of the to-address list offered at the top of this posting:

• Startups, as a business context where founding executives can find themselves facing learning curve challenges in understanding and addressing the issues that I raise here.

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

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 30 – bringing innovators into a business and keeping them there 13

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 22, 2017

This is my 30th installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-29.)

I have been writing in recent installments to this series about finding and hiring the best, and particularly for critical needs positions in your business and when you need to find new employees who do not fit into any given, standard cookie cutter-type moulds. And with that in mind as a general overarching area of discussion, I successively addressed four specific issues and their possible resolution in Part 27, Part 28 and Part 29 that I repeat here for continuity of discussion as I proceed on from that starting point:

1. First, you need to reach out through communications channels that the people you seek to reach actively use,
2. Then you need to craft conversation starting messages that will prompt them to reach back to you, and to at the very least look further into what you have to say, and into what you do and are as a business.
3. Then you have to actually engage, and with a goal of starting a conversation – which would lead to these people thinking of your business as a possible next employer, and with their coming to see one or more positions that you have available as possible good next career steps for themselves.
4. And this crucially means you’re learning more about them, just as they reach out to learn more about you.

I have, as just noted, offered at least a foundational answer to the issues and questions raised in those four numbered points in the three immediately preceding installments to this series. And I continue on from there, with a goal of putting that flow of discussion into an organizational context, where I took a more individualized approach to special needs hiring there. And that brings me to two more areas of consideration that I made note of in Part 29 and that I repeat here, as new additions to the above list:

5. How can you more effectively bring current employees and managers on-board with change in hiring and in personnel policy and practice, as your and their business pivots towards being more innovative – and even in its basic business processes where that would create greater business flexibility and competitive strength?
6. And how can you best enable a smoother integration of the type of change that I address here, into a perhaps very settled existing system and in ways that can increase buy-in from stakeholders and gate keepers already in place – and at a structural organizational level in your business as well as at a more strictly interpersonal one?

Simply promulgating policy and passing it down the table of organization here, is not going to in any way guarantee either buy-in or compliance, or even a shared understanding as to what is supposed to be done now or why – which can explain a lack of actual day-to-day realized buy-in and compliance in and of itself.

I have made note in recent installments to this series, and certainly in Part 29, of how both compliance with and even shared understanding of new policy and practice of the type discussed here, can require active support from the corporate culture in place. And I have explicitly stated that making a change to the type of hiring and staff retention approach that I write of here, can require change and even relatively fundamental change in the overall corporate culture in place too. I stated there, that I would delve into this complex of issues in the course of this overall discussion, and will begin to explicitly do so here in this posting, as I at least start considering Point 5 as just listed above. And I begin that by posing a challenge, or rather by acknowledging one that the ongoing momentum of a business can and often does offer.

• Supervisory managers who are looking for new hires, and I add members of Human Resources who are supposed to assist them with this, and help keep processes followed aligned with business norms, all tend to follow processes and practices that they themselves have had to follow in their own careers, and from both sides of the hiring table.
• When these processes have come across as onerous or difficult, even the managers who found them the most objectionable when they were going through them, can come to see them as “paying one’s dues” and as a necessary part of the new employee candidate-filtering and selecting process – and not as problems that they might have prevailed over themselves but that nevertheless create avoidable problems for all concerned, and on both sides of that hiring table.

So as a starting point, Point 5, above is in many respects a matter of bringing decision makers in the hiring process to see this workplace and task performance requirement through fresh eyes. And for finding and bringing in the best possible new hires, and particularly the creative and special skills and experience best, that means looking through and thinking through the hiring process both from their own perspective and from that of the candidates who are under consideration – and particularly for those candidates who could bring the most to the business if hired, and who all of your competitors would want to hire too.

• This is important; re-envision the hiring process as a manager or as a Human Resources professional who works on hiring-process tasks, from the best candidate perspective, and from the perspective of you’re looking to hire those best candidates in a seller’s, candidate favoring market.
• When you are looking at these candidates, the market is always going to be at least somewhat of a seller’s market, and even if it is an essentially entirely buyer’s, hiring business-favoring jobs market for finding and bringing in more routine hires.

Now, how do you actually bring these business-side hiring process gatekeepers on board with all of this, as the business they work at seeks to pivot towards being more effective in finding, hiring and onboarding their next business step forward, new hire enablers?

I at least begin addressing that question by turning back to the above repeated Points 1-4 of the numbered lit at the top of this posting. The interactive online experience as an all but ubiquitously expected presence, and online social media have changed the playing field here and for both job seekers and hiring businesses. And at the same time that this has affected how candidates and employers find each other, come to know about each other and interact, this also offers a key element to the answer to that question too.

Effectively bringing a change like this into a business means offering the people involved in it as stakeholders and gatekeepers, the tools that they would need to actually follow the new approaches and processes put in place. And that begins with information gathering and communications.

Marketing and Communications is always involved in the hiring process when a new hire would work in that department or service and in that functional area. But in an interactive online and social media shaped context, it is vitally important to bring relevant skills and experience from these professionals into the hiring process in general, and exactly as more generically skilled Human Resources professionals are brought in, to help organize and manage specialty skills hiring for other functional area services. An involved member of the HR team does not have to be an expert in the skills sets that they would help another department or service to hire for; they do not necessarily have to actually know anything about the details of what a new hire there would do. That is an area that the people involved in this from the hiring department or service would be expert in. Similarly, a social media and related communications expert from Marketing and Communications, need not be an expert in what a new hire in another department or service would do either. But they could offer real expertise in finding and vetting the right online channels to connect with the right potential new hires through. And they could offer assistance in crafting a conversation with these people, that could be built from as best candidates are identified and pursued.

• Even when a new hire would work in the most abstruse technical areas, an initial conversation starter that might lead to their applying for a job with your business, is not going to be technically detailed and abstruse. It is going to be more general and two-way introductory, and more generic in many respects for that. It is going to be more about “this is who we are; what are you looking for as a next best opportunity and how can we work together to reach our respective goals?”

I have started addressing Point 5 of the above, here-expanded to address list by expanding the range of expertise brought into the candidate selection process at the very least, and in building a more effective communications bridge that can be used in the next hiring process steps. I am going to continue addressing Point 5 in the next series installment and will at least begin addressing Point 6 there as well. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

Donald Trump and the stress testing of the American system of government 18

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on May 21, 2017

This is my 23rd installment to what has become an ongoing series of postings in which I seek to address politics in the United States as it has become, starting with the nominations process leading up to the 2016 presidential elections (see Social Networking and Business 2, posting 244 and loosely following.) And this is also my 18th installment here since the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States.

I have been charting the chaotic course of a Trump presidency in this series since one month after his taking the oath of office. And for much of that time, I have posted a new series installment every four days (see Parts 6-22 of this series.) And in the course of developing that progression of postings, I have at least attempted to offer both a current events-oriented narrative of the first 100 days of a Trump presidency, and an organized discussion of relevant constitutional law, historical precedent and related information that would put a Trump presidency into a more meaningful perspective. The choices that we face in understanding Donald Trump there, are both increasingly clear and increasingly grim for what they portend:

• That he may be so mentally incapacitated so as to be unable to fulfill his constitutionally mandated duties of office without causing chaos and endangering the country (as would be determined in accordance with the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution),
• That he might be so entangled in illegalities of a type and nature that would justify impeachment and removal from office under terms of the Constitution’s Article 2, Section 4,
• That he might be so incompetent as a manager and leader so as to be unable to effectively serve as president and even if he were deemed to be sane, technically, and even if he is not entangled in “treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors” as cited in the Constitution’s impeachment clause,
• Or some combination of mental incapacitation, criminal involvement and incompetence in office.

I ended Part 22 of that progression of postings by noting that I was planning on adding more updates to this series but on a less regular basis. And I had at least tentatively selected a topic for a next such installment, for after Congress had acted, or explicitly decided not to act on a few more of president Trump’s major agenda fulfilling legislative proposals, with healthcare reform and tax reform listed as high on his list that he is actually pursuing in office. And my topic for this posting as so anticipated can be easily summarized as to its basic orientation in a simple tagline:

• … promises made and kept or at least remembered and pursued, and promises made just to be discarded and forgotten.

One of the biggest and most far-reaching campaign promises that a then still candidate Trump made to the American people was that he would actively push for a one trillion dollar infrastructure rebuilding and improvement program. That promise has for all intent and purpose, entirely evaporated since he became elected. And the irony of that, is that a comprehensive infrastructure redevelopment program that was offered as a non-partisan initiative, is the one and only proposal, conjecture or fleeting throw-away line comment of any sort in Trump’s entire campaign for office that held any real chance of gaining broad based support and from across the political spectrum. This is the one and only promise of any sort that candidate Trump made, that might have brought the country together in support of what he was doing and seeking to do.

Let’s consider the might have been of this. If Trump had stated in his inaugural address that partisanship and political campaigning where now over and that he had just taken the oath of office as the president of the entire United States and not just for those who agreed with his political views, and if he had used that point of reassurance to launch into a brief but focused presentation on how he wanted to work with all Americans in rebuilding our national infrastructure, and in putting more people to work, and full time and in real careers that they can advance in, that would have silenced a great deal of criticism that he was facing and that has only grown in his actual presidency.

Millions of people in this country are in fact either unemployed or under-employed, or employed in dead-end jobs. And that holds true even as the official unemployment rates remain low. President Trump could have reached across the political divide to address the needs of these people, and of all Americans and regardless of their demographics: their political affiliations and beliefs included. And our rail and roads and bridges and our electrical power grid and so much more do need correction and repair and improvement. How many dams are there in the United States that span and regulate the water flow of how many rivers? How many of them need inspection and remediative repair work? A lot of them, and they and other critical needs infrastructure challenges can be found in essentially every state in the nation. The infrastructure problems and challenges that I so briefly make note of here can be found all over the country.

Some of these challenges would be relatively easy to gain both local and state, and I add national support for resolving. Some of them, on the other hand would be contentious and very difficult to actually resolve. And as an example drawn from that category of problems faced, I cite actually selecting and finalizing a solution – and picking a location for very long-term capable, permanent storage and sequestration of high level nuclear waste from nuclear power plants and other sources.

To pick up on that troublesome challenge, the US government is still trying to find a way and a place for permanently storing the radioactive waste generated from the World War II era Manhattan Project and that was concluded in 1945, over seventy years ago. This is an infrastructure problem that is vitally important to address and resolve and it has proven at least as difficult to address as healthcare reform, tax law reform or any other issue that we face. It might in fact be the single most difficult challenge of all that we face, at least politically. But we do need to address it and soon.

While I am at it, and to really drive home what a more thoughtful president Trump might have done and from his day one in office, he could have chosen to focus on education too, and not by bringing in a Betsy DeVos who has only wanted to dismantle the Department of Education. He could have affirmed support for strengthening the American school system as a whole, and with a new focus on expanding adult education opportunities and particularly educational programs and resources for learning new skills needed for new and emerging jobs. I think of coal miners as I write this, who then-candidate Trump made his many florid promises to: of restoring their jobs and their careers and their dignity and their entire communities, by turning back the clock – while closing off the already less than adequate educational options and resources that they did have, when they need retraining if they are to ever have a chance of moving on to new jobs and new careers. Automation has already made their pasts that Trump has promised to restore, their distant pasts, never to return. He could have offered them work opportunities in his vast new infrastructure redevelopment initiative and right in their home states, and training opportunities that would have made their participation in this both possible and realistic.

An alternative reality Donald Trump, if you were, could have actively set out to make this vision our reality, starting a process of redevelopment and renewal and of increased work and career opportunity and for many, that other subsequent presidential administrations would have had to continue. But the real Donald Trump is unable to see or appreciate the possibilities in this or anything like it that would call for long-term and even difficult effort, and long term focus and commitment, and to the welfare or others.

I am writing here of an alternative fact-based, alternative reality and one that the real world Donald Trump has never had the vision or knowledge or will to even begin to make real fact or actual reality. More is the pity for that, as he has focused all of his real world energies in promoting legislation that would only benefit the very wealthiest in the country – and at the direct expense of harming the very people who voted for him. And his trillion dollar infrastructure promise has become as fact-based and real as his promises of shared wealth in his many failed business ventures.

Let’s consider the specifics there, with a very real-world example from Donald Trump’s own past. And his promises going into his disastrous Atlantic City casino venture come to mind as a perfect example to cite here. Trump promised wealth for all who bought into this venture and to all who invested in it in any way. Then everyone else who bought into his promises there, lost their shirts out of that fiasco, but not The Donald. Everyone else lost out and lost big: lost tremendously to use one of Trump’s favorite words – except of course Trump himself. He walked away from this bankruptcy with a combination of genuine losses and paper-only financial losses that totaled close to a billion dollars for tax write-off purposes. And he has been able to use this largely paper-loss to offset his year-to-year reported income for years, when filing his income tax forms, turning this “loss” for him into hundreds of millions of dollars in actual (if year-to-year deferred) profits.

And his once grandly promised infrastructure initiative has disappeared as Trump tweets about how big his inauguration crowd actually was, and about how everyone actually loves and admires him and as he pushes for deregulation of all sorts and for windfall benefits for the wealthiest people in the country and without regard for the impact that his proposals would have on the vast majority of Americans – and on his own supporters and political base in particular.

I was going to focus on this set of issues in this 23rd series installment, and probably in a few weeks when we have had a chance to see how the US Senate takes up and votes on the latest version of the Trump healthcare plan: the American Health Care Act as finally, narrowly passed in the House. And I was also planning on waiting to see how his actual tax reform bill is drafted, and how Congress would respond to that. But recent events and developments coming out of the White House and directly from president Trump himself, have caused me to rethink and reconsider what I would address here. So I start this posting by noting what I would have focused upon, and entirely in this series installment. But I end it by turning to consider the wave of crises that Trump has created for himself, and certainly since his firing of the director of the FBI, James Comey.

Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency was reckless and chaotic and deeply divisive. And that did not change when he was elected, or when he was actually sworn into office as president and began to serve in that capacity. But it might be argued that the pace and tenor of his chaos has changed and fundamentally so and in very troubling ways. Has he reached a tipping point in his presidency from all of this, where a sufficient number of Republicans in Congress would now consider speaking out and even taking action against their own Republican Party-affiliated president? If president Trump has not pushed matters far enough for that yet, what is he going to do next, and when and how will that be viewed, and both by the American public as a still bitterly divided whole and by elected members of the House and Senate?

As a reality check on my own views and assumptions here, I spoke earlier today with the mayor of a large American city who I happen to know, asking him very specifically if he thinks that Trump has in fact pushed matters to that tipping point yet. The mayor I spoke with is a life-long Democrat and serves in a city that tends to vote for Democratic Party candidates. But he has to work with strongly partisan Republicans too, and there are areas of his state and even significant ones that are Republican bastions too. And he is a realist – not prone to wistful thinking or presuming. I asked him if a point has been reached where even Republican members of Congress might be at least contemplating pursuing 25th Amendment, or Article 2, Section 4 US Constitutional proceedings against president Trump, and if not because of outrage and concern as to what he is doing to the country, then because of what he is most probably doing to them and their party going into the 2018 elections. He said no; as much as he would like to think that enough Republicans in Congress might be ready to take a stand in opposition to president Trump now, he does not think that we are there … yet.

I tend to agree, but add that if president Trump stays his current course, he will push matters to a point where something has to break – and in the Republican Party ranks in Congress as much as in the country as a whole. Then, and with 20/20 hindsight, pundits will look back to the recent events that have prompted me to write this particular posting, as the turning point when momentum began to shift away from supporting Trump and towards removing him from office and even by his fellow Republicans. And as an ultimate repudiation, they will compete for how fully and loudly they can proclaim that they have never actually supported Donald Trump and that he has never actually been a real Republican – a real believer of anything that their Party stands for. Republicans will talk publically of how Trump hijacked the Republican Party and the election. And they will do all of this as part of an attempt to salvage as much as they can of the Republican Party as they have tried to make it, as well as their own careers. I find myself thinking back to an earlier posting to this series as I write this paragraph: Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and Lessons from the Whig Party. As I have already noted, the Republican Party that they would seek to somehow restore as a re-set to a pre-Trump version of “their Party,” is dead and gone. And their hopes of undoing Trump’s impact are as unrealistic as any hopes held by any West Virginia coal miners that Trump will somehow restart and restore their old way of life and their old jobs and communities again.

I am going to conclude this posting with some recent news story links, relevant to recent turning point events in the Trump presidency, simply noting that much more is likely to come out in the coming days and weeks that will add to this narrative. Even just the headline titles of these news pieces outline a significant and compelling story, though I offer links to the full news stories themselves for their details:

1. F.B.I. Director James Comey Is Fired by Trump.
2. Sense of Crisis Deepens as Trump Defends F.B.I. Firing.
3. Trump Shifts Rationale for Firing Comey, Calling Him a ‘Showboat’.
4. Inside the F.B.I., Stunned Agents Wonder About Future of Russia Inquiry.
5. Sally Yates Tells Senators She Warned Trump About Michael Flynn.
6. Updates and Reactions to F.B.I. Director Comey’s Firing.
7. Trump Lawyers Say He Had No Russian Income or Debt, With Some Exceptions.
8. Trump’s Troubles Go Way Beyond Russia.
9. Critics Say Trump Broke the Law in Firing Comey. Proving It Isn’t So Easy.
10. In Trump’s White House Press Briefings, No Degree of Accuracy Required.
11. Latest Developments on Comey: Acting F.B.I. Chief Contradicts White House.
12. In Trump’s Firing of James Comey, Echoes of Watergate.
13. Intelligence Officials Warn of Continued Russia Cyberthreats.
14. Firing Fuels Calls for Independent Investigator, Even From Republicans.
15. Sense of Crisis Deepens as Trump Defends F.B.I. Firing.
16. Days Before Firing, Comey Asked for More Resources for Russia Inquiry.
17. With Awkward Timing, Trump Meets Top Russian Officials.
18. In Firing Comey, Did Trump Unleash the Next Deep Throat?
19. Trump Revealed Highly Classified Information to Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador.
20. Trump Defends Sharing Information on ISIS Threat With Russia.
21. Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation.
22. Senate Panel Asks Comey to Testify on Flynn and Trump.
23. Trump Team Knew Flynn Was Under Investigation Before He Came to White House.
24. Trump Revealed Highly Classified Intelligence to Russia, in Break With Ally, Officials Say.
25. Trump Denies Any Collusion Between His Campaign and Russia.
26. Republicans Pivot and Make Comey the Capitol’s Most-Wanted Man.
27. Robert Mueller, Former F.B.I. Director, Is Named Special Counsel for Russia Investigation.

I find myself thinking back over the last hundred days plus, since Trump was sworn into office as the 45th president of the United States, and back to his campaign for office as I review this relatively extensive, but still lean list of new story references. And one set of details that comes compellingly to mind for me out of all of this, is Donald Trump’s narcissism and his complete and utter lack of self-awareness, or of awareness of the needs or rights of others. At least as troubling are his grandiosity and his very real self-destructive tendencies, as his lack of awareness and his grandiosity bring him to make decisions and take actions that can only lead to disaster and for himself and for those around him. And all of this plays out in the progression of news stories that I share links to here, and in the larger story that they all fit into.

Donald Trump: businessman, has driven six businesses into bankruptcy, and now Donald Trump: politician and elected president is on the verge of what is most likely his seventh bankruptcy of sorts. By now you would think that he has been down that path enough times to be able to see and understand the warning signs, but that is clearly not happening. And I end this posting where I began, with the failed, throwaway-line promise of that trillion dollar infrastructure redevelopment initiative – that would have taken real thought and real, sustained effort and commitment on his part and even the spending of political capital in the service of others and not just himself and his own personal interests.

And I end this posting by returning at least briefly to that conversation that I had and that I made note of here, with an elected politician who actually does think and plan before acting, and who actively seeks to build wide-ranging support and buy-in where possible. Has Donald Trump reached a tipping point where he is likely to be impeached and removed from office for what he has done and allowed done? Probably not … at least yet. But the events that I briefly outline in the above links and their news stories do represent what in retrospect will likely be seen as a turning point and both for the Trump presidency and for the Republican Party, and I add for the United States as a whole too.

And I end this posting with a perhaps rhetorical question:

• Can Trump legitimately claim that he has dropped more wide-ranging, non-partisan initiatives such as infrastructure rebuilding from his agenda, only because his hands have been tied by the controversies that his administration is entangled in?

I think that it is essentially certain that he will claim this, just as he will continue to claim that he is victim of a witch hunt in all of this. But his declarations of victimization ring hollow and so will any claims that his self-created controversies have prevented his tackling important issues.

I am going to return to this still rapidly unfolding news story in further installments to this series, as events develop. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1.

Addendum: I wrote this posting over the course of several days and then decided the day before it was set to go live, to add an additional note. The Democratic Party came out with a set of numbers that it has been using as it begins to prepare for the 2018, off-year national congressional elections. And I decided to share them here, to put president Trump’s administration and its impact on the Republican Party, in fuller perspective. Before Comey was fired as Director of the FBI, and before any of the chaos that has followed that had taken place, the DCCC: the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee began campaigning for public support by noting that:

• 23 is the number of House seats that Republican representatives currently hold, for districts that Hillary Clinton won by popular vote in the 2016 presidential elections.
• 24 is the number of House seats that the Democratic Party will have to capture from current Republican office holders in order to capture control of the House as a whole.
• 28 is the average number of seats that a majority party loses in its first off-year election.
• And 59 is the number of House districts currently controlled by the Republican Party that the DCCC and its political analysts have determined to be in play because of the Republican Party’s disarray and because of the unpopularity of their support for Trump agenda initiatives.

This last number is important here; the others are set and indisputable, unless that is you subscribe to Trump administration “alternative facts.” The last of these four is the one that is not at all set or established and that is subject to both disagreement and change. But this number was arrived at before the scandals and challenges of the last two weeks – and if anything, these events have given strength to the Democratic Party as it seeks to regain control of Congress.

Received wisdom up to two weeks ago, held that the Democrats were in a stronger position to retake control of the Senate than the House, but recent events have probably changed the dynamics of this, and in ways that make both the Senate and the House up for grabs. And the prospect of losing one and even both houses of Congress has to be weighing heavily in the thoughts and the political calculations of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, as well as possible candidates for office who are looking to 2018 and its elections. This year’s 2017 special elections to fill congressional vacancies left by Trump appointments bear watching as indicators of possible change to come, though even a Republican sweep of these races should not erase their concerns as president Trump is still in office and still quite capable of stirring up new controversies, and challenges for his own political party. I expect to address the fluidity and uncertainty that Trump has created in this and in other upcoming elections in future installments to this series. And meanwhile, the Trump administration continues its freefall. And I add two more breaking news story links to this posting with that in mind:

Trump Told Russians That Firing ‘Nut Job’ Comey Eased Pressure From Investigation, and
Russia Probe Reaches Current White House Official, People Familiar with the Case Say.

Trump has now stated and in front of foreign dignitaries that he fired FBI director Comey in an attempt to close down investigation into possible collusion between Russian government agencies and people close to him, and within his campaign for the presidency, and within his administration. And the current White House official who is now under direct investigation is his son in law, Jared Kushner. I conclude this addendum by noting that Kushner has in fact been one of the principle stabilizing voices in Trump’s inner circle, arguing for more reasoned behavior on his part. If he has to leave the White House, the chaos is only going to continue to expand.

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 1

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 20, 2017

Two of the most powerful and at the same time tritely used terms in the “new” economy of the social media-driven interactive online business experience are “disintermediation” and “frictionless.” Both are often and even commonly misused and without explicit consideration as to what they mean operationally, or of even what they can mean. But at the same time, both of those terms at least point toward very real and fundamental truths and towards very real sources of opportunity. My goal for this posting is begin to at least briefly delve into this dichotomy of promise and expectation on the one side, and of actual realizable value on the other, from business simplification in its many forms.

When I cite “social media in gorilla and viral marketing” in the title of this posting, I refer to market facing disintermediation processes that a business can enter into. I will directly consider that side to disintermediation as a whole in what follows, but I will do so in a larger business structure and function context as well, and with consideration of processes such as table of organization flattening as well. And I begin this discussion at a more generally inclusive, overall business organization level that addresses what can be called disintermediation as it might be pursued in a variety of contexts.

More specifically, I begin here with what might be the most visibly obvious details as to how the issues underlying the term “disintermediation” per se, can and do create positive value, as for example for smaller businesses and ones just starting out, or for established businesses in need of fundamental change. There is in fact real meaning, or at least real potentially for it, when a term such as disintermediation is invoked, and certainly when specific applications of it such as viral marketing are considered. I begin here with the fundamentals:

• When disintermediation means cutting out extra, excess cost-center layers in an organization and its functioning,
• That hold potential for becoming, or that already have come to serve more as performance restricting barriers between functional areas within a business,
• Or between those businesses and their customers in their target markets,
• Or between them and their partner businesses in their supply chains,
• Or in any combination thereof,
• This streamlining and simplification can reduce or even eliminate a whole range of possible step-by-step operational mark-up costs that would otherwise have to be carried.
• This type of impediment and barrier removing disintermediation holds potential for speeding up internal business processes, sales and supply chain processes and essentially any and every other aspect of the organization that can become hindered by dysfunctional table of organization and functional requirements complexity. This can, if planned for and carried out effectively, make an organization more agile and better capable of meeting its immediate, real-time needs,
• And it reduces information sharing failures and the business systems friction that that creates.
• Bottom line, under the conditions as just outlined here, disintermediation can make a business stronger and more competitive in its industry and in its markets.
• And when this is taken as an automatic outcome of any such organizational simplification, that is when reasonable and realistic and focused upon in the above bullet points, can veer off into the realm of hype and comforting fiction.

The cumulative end result of all of the above bullet points, and certainly for all but the last of them, as is often noted is that even a small but nimble, effectively connected enterprise can compete with a large and diverse corporation, at least in its area of business and market-facing strength, and on an essentially even footing with them for capturing market share and profitability. I write what follows with that in mind, and with the caveat of a last bullet point to the above list in mind too.

Here, to pick up on the specific disintermediation steps cited in the title to this posting: gorilla marketing and its marketplace-sourced viral marketing cousin, this means a business directly reaching out to and connecting with its marketplace and generally through development of two-way conversations where that business listens at least as much as it speaks, in order to make sure that when it does speak, it conveys the right message and in the right way and to the right audience and through the right channels. This means they’re not going through intermediate marketing or marketing data provider levels to learn about and respond to market interests and needs, to do so directly and creatively and in many respects at low or no direct cost.

• That briefly stated understanding of disintermediation, and of how it can at least reduce friction and create greater agility in this market facing context,
• Represents the truth behind what can become the hype, and certainly when business systems simplification is carried out within the framework of an ongoing strategic vision and understanding, and within an ongoing strategically considered operational plan.
• Here, ill-considered and ad hoc and a lack of analytical follow-through to track actual results, lead to simplification as hype by way of comparison.

And that set of points at least opens the door to the possibility of how disintermediation per se, and simplification for the sake of simplification can also come to mean creating seemingly simpler but very real inefficiencies in a business too, and even new sources of inefficiency for it, and certainly if the streamlining processes carried out that lead to specific disintermediation steps are not effectively thought through and executed.

Ultimately, what I am writing about here is not structural and organizational simplification per se, though that is a big part of this posting’s goal and purpose. This posting and others to follow it as a new series are also only partly about developing best practices for mapping out and carrying out the right simplification steps: the right disintermediations and in the right ways. I primarily address that set of issues elsewhere in this blog. See, for example, my series: Intentional Management for a more in-depth discussion of that (as can be found at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 472 and loosely following.)

My goal here is one of thinking through what organizational layers and strictures actually are and both as a matter of structure per se as would be represented on a table of organization, and as a matter of business function and how that is parsed and distributed throughout the organization. It is about knowing what might best be maintained or even expanded upon, or simplified or done away with and where, and it is about knowing when layers and structures in place in a business and its systems provide value and reduce risk, and when they simply add costs and potential for increased risk.

I have been discussing this set of issues in fairly abstract terms up to here. But I will continue from this foundational starting point in a next series installment, by offering two admittedly cartoon-like business model caricatures. In anticipation of that next installment to come, I acknowledge up-front that while both are very realistic and describe actual businesses and business approaches actually pursued, both also fit into and support what might be considered the at least potentially hype-end of the spectrum for thinking about disintermediation too. And I add that both case study stereotypes consider wide ranges of specific forms that disintermediation can take (e.g. removing management layers and flattening table of organizations, but also reaching out directly and creatively to the market and its end-users for what a business offers and with a goal of “eliminating the middleman” in both.)

The two scenarios that I will at least briefly explore are:

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

I am also going to continue on from this to indentify and challenge some of the tacit and more usually unstated types of assumptions that usually arise in these types of examples and that I will start from too. And I will pursue that reanalysis as a means of more fully analyzing what the general process of disintermediation actually entails, and what its specific market-facing applications of social media-driven gorilla and viral marketing actually do and can mean, as well as what its more internal-to-the-business applications mean and entail.

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

Career planning 4: learning from the experience of others 1

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on May 18, 2017

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

I focused in Part 2 and Part 3 of this series on two points of discussion:

• Longer-term work life and career strategic planning, and
• Shorter-term, more tactical planning.

I originally offered these to-address topic points and others in Part 1 to this series, and continue in this installment from there, with Point 3 from that initially orienting list of what is to follow:

• Learning from the experience of others: positive and negative and developing your own best practice priorities and goals from the insight that this type of research can bring you.

And I begin by citing an early learning curve experience from my own childhood. I was a grade school student in a fourth or fifth grade science class and the instructor brought in a set of chemical bottles to make a demonstration with. I no longer remember precisely what they wanted to show to the class – their intended demonstration did not present itself as either interesting or particularly informative at the time either. But I do remember a completely unintended lesson that was conveyed, and powerfully so to me. One of the bottles that this teacher brought in was filled with a very strong solution of ammonia, and he took the top off and set it aside, noting that it had quite a strong smell to it. One of my classmates picked it up and took a smell with his nose directly over the open top to that bottle – and almost dropped it from the fumes that came out. I, for whatever reason picked up that bottle and tried smelling it too, but more circumspectly. I still ended up with watery eyes and I add with an admonition from this teacher to not act like an idiot.

I had assumed that if I simply sniffed and at more of a distance, that I would not be hit as hard by the fumes coming out, which was correct but not correct enough in this case. I remember how that teacher in effect set us and himself up for problems by bringing in a bottle like that for his class demonstration and by leaving it within easy reach after making his comment about it. But this also drove home another lesson as well: that of more carefully and fully learning from the experience of others: and in this case from both my fellow student and from the teacher himself from how he set up this situation.

Did this teacher learn a lesson of the importance of learning from the experience of others in planning out his next class demonstration? I do not know. But I learned and as a part of that, this meant both thinking outside of the patterns of my own expectations and agendas, and thinking in terms of wider possibilities.

I have in effect already started addressing this posting’s topic in earlier series installments and certainly in its Part 3 when I wrote of downsizings. If you are working at a business that might be facing possible downsizings, and even just in another area of the business that you work at as a whole, you need to listen and watch and learn from that. What happens as a possible downsizing “there,” after all, can become a possible or even an probable downsizing “here” too, with time – and certainly if a first round of this becomes just that, and with next rounds becoming necessary too.

• My brief whiff of ammonia was a bit unpleasant. But a downsizing and particularly in a weak job market for those suddenly looking for work, can be a lot worse. And if you simply back into that type of event and into finding yourself in an exit interview, that can be a great deal worse.

Learn from others, and for both downside and upside possibilities. Do you need to expand your skill set, and if so how and in what way? What options and opportunities might be available through your employer for this? If you were to take on a special task or assignment that called for these new skills, would your employer help you with that, and either by allowing time for your learning those new skills or by at least helping to pay for your training in them? Has anyone else sought out these or similar skills and if so, where? What support did they receive from their supervisor and from the business for this? Who precisely were they and what was their experience with the training programs that they went through? Were those programs, for example, hands-on practical and did their coursework really fit into and help them meet their own the job needs, or was subject matter coverage spotty and less practically applicable? If so, what would they recommend that you look for in finding a better program, and do they have any names of training facilities or programs offered that they could suggest your looking into? I only raise some of the possible due diligence questions here that you might need to actively consider.

I am in fact addressing several issues here, with strategically planned networking as crucial to your learning curve success as actually reaching out and listening to the experience of specific others. Learning from others, and with an effective reach that would increase your chances of success there, means networking beyond your already familiar circle of immediate acquaintances. It means reaching beyond your usual contacts, for contacts and who they know, who you would benefit from getting to know too – and with a specific goal on your part of learning from their experience.

• This means you’re really thinking through what you need to learn and know next and it means you’re bringing this understanding into a focus that you can clearly and succinctly articulate to others.
• And it means really thinking through who might hold this information, and with direct personal experience validating it for them.
• It means thinking through who you know who would or at least might know these target contacts who you need to meet and connect with. And it means you’re networking through these intermediaries to reach them.
• But most importantly, it means networking with a goal of both gaining and offering value and throughout this process. In that, I suggest you’re at least reviewing my four part best practices series: Jumpstart Your Networking (as can be found near the top of the directory page: Social Networking and Business.) Good networking practices build bridges; bad ones burn them. And this posting is all about building.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment where I will turn to the fourth to-address point from Part 1’s initial series-orienting list:

• Mentors and mentoring and from both sides of the table, and pursuing opportunities to learn and grow professionally.

And remember, as a final thought that I would add to this posting, that is going to be just as important to this next one to follow too:

• Real networking only begins with the second real point of contact with a new acquaintance. That is where any real conversation that could take place is actually started. This is important: a first point of contact helps you to find a doorway to new opportunity. That second point of contact is where you turn a potential conversation that in and of itself could easily end there, into an actual one. This is where you open and go through that doorway.
• And to repeat a point made earlier here, real networking always springs from a real effort to both gain and offer value of at least some sort, and reciprocally. Simply taking and coming across as simply seeking to take just burns bridges and forecloses any real networking possibilities.

How do these points, and particularly the second of them apply in a mentor, mentee relationship? I will discuss that as an area of consideration in my next series installment, among other issues.

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

Pure research, applied research and development, and business models 4

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

This is my 4th installment to a series in which I discuss contexts and circumstances – and business models and their execution, where it would be cost-effective and prudent for a business to actively participate in applied and even pure research, as a means of creating its own next-step future (see Business Strategy and Operations – 4, postings 664 and loosely following for Parts 1-3.)

Every business that is planned out and every business plan that is implemented and carried through upon faces two fundamental financially driven processes that they have to effectively reconcile of they are to succeed: expenses and cash flow out, and revenue generation and cash flow in. A nonprofit business might seek to essentially break even in this with any potential profitability expended towards realization of their founding mission and vision, net any financial reserves set aside for the explicit due diligence purpose of maintaining ongoing organizational stability. And a not-for-profit might similarly seek to balance its books with a minimal-at-most “excess” profit generated, by for example passing on greater savings to its customers or clients to balance its books. But of importance to this discussion, even the most assiduously maintained nonprofit or not-for-profit business or organization faces this cash flow dynamic – and not just their for profit enterprise peers and businesses that seek to maximize realized profitability.

In a fundamental sense this entire series is about finding ways to achieve an effective balance there, when the additional costs and risks of pursuing next-step-forward research are added into the mix of what might be carried out by an organization. I have been discussing timeframe and risk management issues in installments leading up to here in this series. And I step back from that level of consideration here, to reconsider the above-noted accounting balance and its impact on what would and would not be maintained in-house, from what might be the most cogently fundamental level that this can be viewed from: consideration of what makes a unit or area of a business a cost center or a profit center per se.

• As a cartoonishly simplistic starting point, I note that bottom line, a cost center requires more funding in its maintenance and operations than it can or does generate as new revenue generated. More money goes into it than comes out of it.
• And a profit center correspondingly generates more new revenue than it expends in its maintenance and operations, making it a net revenue generator. So the distinction is simply one of overall cash flow balance.

As a first complicating factor that I would add to that in to make this discussion more realistic, I raise the possibility that a putative cost center as determined by this bare bones analysis, might enable that business’ primary profit center for it, to be able to generate revenue. In this case, a valid analysis of that “cost center” area of the business would require a more comprehensive consideration of both that functional areas itself, and analysis of its functionally connected and supporting context. Such a business unit might appear to be a cost center when only considered as if in a vacuum, but a realistic analysis of its true status there might require coordinate consideration of what it has direct and in this case facilitating, enabling impact upon in the business as a whole too. And that can turn a seeming cost center into an enabling profitability center and even an essential one. Conversely, a seeming profit center – when considered in vacuo, might be found to in fact qualify as more of a cost center when considered in its larger context, and certainly if maintaining and operating it as is, simply means that it will continue robbing resources from what could be much larger and more effective profit centers in that business. A marginally effective profit center can, under the wrong circumstances achieve and maintain that status by in effect robbing the business that it resides within from what could be greater sources of profitability potential elsewhere in it.

This second level analysis can cut both ways in forcing a reconsideration of what is and is not a cost or profit center for a business. And effective ongoing strategic business management has as one of its key goals, the identification of the types of inefficiencies that can turn a seeming profit center into a more actual cost center, or a seeming cost center into more of a profitability enabling one, and with a larger overall goal of optimizing within and across the business for greater overall financial effectiveness in general.

But returning from that higher level organizational point of consideration to focus on the individual functional unit or area in a business, let’s specifically consider an organized effort to create new and next for it, and with a goal of keeping that business effectively competitive long term: let’s consider research and product design and development here.

I focused in Part 3 on timelines, and the issues that arise in that context are critically important here. Realistically, a short timeframe, or even a single instant snapshot-in-time approach to evaluating cost and profit center positioning in a business might or might not make sense, depending on the business and its overall business model and its overall expected timeframe of operation.

If the business under consideration is a long-term venture, at least as a matter of intent, then it becomes important to take longer-term time frames into account when balancing overall incoming and outgoing cash flow considerations for areas of it that under analysis for this. To put this into a specific context, consider what might be considered business units that might be considered borderline for their fiscal balance and for whether it makes sense to maintain them as is.

• Would it make sense to keep some particular seeming-borderline unit of a business and its function in-house, or would it be more cost-effective to outsource it to a specialist partner business and not have to pay out all of the maintenance costs for keeping it in-house?

The word “longer” as just used in the preceding paragraph, and what that actually means becomes important here, and certainly for businesses that see cyclical patterns of profitability with for example recurring peak revenue-generating and slow break-even or low level loss seasons. And this analysis would probably be undertaken at least twice: once considering that unit of the business as if in vacuo and entirely on its own, and a second time when taking into account its functionally connected contexts – and here over at least one complete peak and trough cycle for seasonally driven businesses.

But this only applies to long-term ventures and businesses that are at least intended to follow that pattern. And perhaps more importantly it specifically applies to businesses that would be expected to follow more predictable patterns for when they would face high profitability and when they would see business really slow down. Uncertainty there would skew any cost center versus profit center calculations too, making potential cost centers that much more risky for their downside potential and certainly in the face of (less predictable in detail or timing but still quite expectable) lean times.

Scale of operation and particularly larger scale of operation with capacity to build and maintain greater reserves can reduce risk from maintaining true cost centers in a business, by reducing the overall level of risk that they might generate for the business as a whole. But efforts to make the organization lean and agile and functionally efficient might still significantly drive initiatives to the identify and remove or at least limit cost centers per se, except when specific modulating factors would dictate that they need to be maintained and in-house anyway.

Addressing that from the perspective of a specific case in point example: research and development:

• Outside competitive challenge and rapidly changing marketplace demand can create that type of countervailing pressure to maintain in-house new product development, including at least some relatively basic supportive research that could feed into it, as a here-relevant case in point.

As already discussed in this series in its opening installments, short-term businesses, and short-term opportunity ones would be hard pressed to find reasons for ever really looking beyond the immediate here-and-now snapshot view of what is a cost or a profit center for it. And all effort would be made to develop and maintain profit centers and immediately weed out any sources of loss or potential loss, however brief for that. Such enterprises and their business models would never be expected to support research or development efforts and would in most cases seek to start out with essentially their full realizable range of products and services already planned out and ready to provide, market and sell.

Now let’s reconsider the above lines of discussion in a bit more detail, and in a research unit context. And I begin that with a key issue that I have just been citing: “uncertainty.” I briefly sketched out what pure and applied research and targeted product development are in Part 2 of this series. And one of the core distinctions that I made note of between them there, at least from a business perspective is that of uncertainty of pay-out, and both for their overall potential profitability and for their timeframes of that profitability being realized. A larger stable business that can more readily maintain supportive reserves for among other things bankrolling its future through research, and a business that can more reliably long-term predict and manage its revenue flows is going to be in a stronger position to take the risks of maintaining longer-term potential areas that might create profitability at some future date but only then: such as longer-term research. Smaller and less fiscally protected enterprises would be less secure in attempting this. And with that, I have just restated the basic conceptual model underlying the default vision of only large and established corporations being able to develop and sustain real research and certainly anything like pure research in-house.

I am going to examine the assumptions made there in justifying a big business only approach to research, and in this series up to here as a whole, in my next installment where I will at least briefly consider and sketch out a smaller, lean and agile research-focused business model alternative – and how this briefly sketched description of it need not automatically be seen as a contradiction in terms. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory.

China and its transition imperatives 45: thinking through Xi Jinping’s current realities in a larger context 3

Posted in macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on May 15, 2017

This is my 53rd installment, counting supplemental additions, to this ongoing and even open-ended series on China. Basically, what I am doing here is to trace how China has changed under the rule of Xi Jinping, with this series narrative starting approximately one year after he first took leadership of their Politburo Standing Committee, and through that of their entire Communist Party of China and of China as a whole (see Part 1, as written to first go live on this blog on February 8, 2014.)

I have been repeating variations on the above orienting paragraph in essentially every installment to this series, as a means of maintaining a clear continuity of discussion and focus in it. But I explicitly step back from that starting point here, even as I repeat it to note that this series is at least as much about how Xi Jinping has changed in the crucible of his seeking to lead China too. He has had to change and adapt his vision and understanding, and both in response to forces and demands arising from within China and from those arising from the outside world as well. The later source of influencing forces and pressures has included in it at least some factors that have been predictable and certainly categorically if not always in detail. But some of the most consequential of the events and emerging forces that Xi has faced have also been disruptively unexpected and unpredictable too, and even in general terms.

That includes factors such as the “predictably chaotic unpredictability” coming out of Pyongyang and North Korea’s government, as led by number three in the Kim family dynasty there: Kim Jong Un. And that disruptive chaos has become particularly irksome as North Korea has developed progressively more advanced nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and as it has become more aggressive in asserting its independence from China and their strategic needs, and certainly regionally in Asia. But more importantly, this includes factors such as the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States.

When I first began writing of the impact of Donald Trump United States presidency on China and on Xi’s leadership there, in Part 39: rethinking China’s emerging trends and challenges in the emerging era of a United States Trump presidency, I had disruption and uncertainty in mind, and certainly as Xi would seek to plan for stability and both in his country and in his leadership there (and also see Part 40 and Part 41.) President Trump and his brand of chaos and in essentially all areas and arenas that he has influenced at all, have had significant impact and both within the United States and globally as well.

But uncertainty coming out of the US White House, and the risk potential that creates is only one element that a Trump presidency all but compels Xi Jinping to face and respond to. The other really significant element to that, that I would address here is a direct cause and effect consequence of that chaos and uncertainty: a sudden globally impactful power vacuum that a failing and ineffectual Trump presidency is creating, where the United States was a stable source of strength, and globally until Donald Trump’s election and inauguration.

Much of what Xi has faced in China and in his dealings with the world at large are unchanged by this turn of events, and certainly as of this writing at just over 100 days into the Trump presidency. But this power vacuum creates opportunity for Xi and I add for a great many other national leaders and their governments, even as it hinders and concerns others (such as the leadership of America’s traditional allies.) And this brings me to reassess China and where it is headed as a nation, as Xi faces new and disruptively unexpected opportunity as well as risk.

Let’s consider where this new and emerging context is being built from, from a China perspective. And I begin with a consideration of Xi and his agenda and then move on from there to consider China as a whole.

Does Xi Jinping still seek to be Mao Zedong’s one true successor in absolute power in China, and in a way that none of Mao’s successors in Communist Party leadership have been able to even approach? I would contend that the answer to that is still an emphatic yes, and perhaps now more so than ever. Xi clearly sees himself as China’s one and only truly indispensible man and the only person in China who can successfully navigate the troubled and uncertain currents that his nation now faces. Mao was The Great Helmsman in his day and Xi, whether he would use that identifying term or not, sees himself as China’s one true helmsman now in this still early 21st century and with all of the challenges that have been emerging, including ones that have long festered and that are now coming to a head. And he sees himself as the one person who could best lead China in the face of a Donald Trump American presidency.

And if he can succeed in gaining value for China from his dealings with Trump, by a combination of flattery for Trump’s ego and shrewd negotiations in managing the details with Secretary of State Tillerson and others, that would greatly increase his chances of succeeding in staying in office for a third term as leader of China’s Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, and as such of their Communist Party and government as a whole.

A Trump presidency per se cannot alter, let alone eliminate China’s internal challenges, that I have been writing about for years now. So China’s economy is still in many respects a Potemkin village, to use the old Tsarist Russian term, as repurposed and continued under Soviet Communist rule; it is a convenient and attractive fiction in many respects and certainly when its purported underpinnings and its actual fundamentals are considered.

• Their Party bureaucracy is still both powerful and corrupt and inefficient, and tremendously locally self-serving.
• Their centrally managed open and official economy is still burdened by the ongoing presence of a vast black market and related underground economy, and a gray market economy that connect it to their open and official one.
• The most powerful people in China: their top 1% and top 1% of 1% benefit from and even actively support their black and gray economies and to their own personal benefit and even as they run their country. As just one indicator of this, wealth inequality and the flight of privately held wealth out of China and into foreign investments and savings, and into stronger and more stable currencies continues. And China continues to try to control the recognized value of its own currency to reduce the incentive driving this wealth flight, among other problems faced.

And for once this effort has started to actually work for them, at least according to early indicators. See, for example:

Trump Isn’t Wrong on China Currency Manipulation, Just Late.

China has been spending down their foreign currency reserves at a furious and I add completely unsustainable rate to visibly prop up its currency, the Renminbi and its economy as whole. But since the Trump election, they have actually started to build up their foreign currency reserves again. Uncertainty coming from the United States and its leadership can have a positive effect as well as a negative one depending on where you look for impact. See:

China Stanches Flow of Money Out of the Country, Data Suggests.

I have written a number of times in this series of China’ efforts to take hegemonic control over the East and South China Seas and simply note that this effort continues unabated. In fact it is likely that a weak and uncertain Trump presidency, with a disorganized foreign policy that is more ad hoc than anything else, will strengthen China’s hand there. But my intent here is not to focus on China’s foreign policy as it plays out in this one more local region. It is to at least briefly consider China’s growing opportunity for global reach and strength, that this new power vacuum has created. And I cite a recent as of this writing, news stories that both verifies what I am stating here, and shows that Xi is very intentionally, very consciously seeking to fill that gap: that power vacuum with a China alternative:

Behind China’s $1 Trillion Plan to Shake Up the Economic Order and
Xi Jinping Positions China at Center of New Economic Order.

China’s fundamental inefficiencies have not gone away and have not even changed and certainly not in any fundamental sense. But a Trump presidency and the seismic shifting in the world order that this has created, has given China and their system of government and their economy a whole new lease on life where they had been unsustainably propping up their economy and their system as a whole and with limits as to how long they could sustain that. A Trump presidency, to be more specific here, has given Xi Jinping a whole new springboard for both maintaining and even elevating his power and authority and both within China and on a world stage. And he is already actively capitalizing on that. What I am writing of here, is a fundamental turning point for China and for Xi as their leader.

Donald Trump may or may not remain in office, with the possibilities of impeachment dogging his every step even if he does manage to avoid its actual realization. But Xi is now much more likely to stay in power and for longer than anyone would have expected, and certainly when I first began writing about him in this blog.

I will follow up on this with a next installment, in approximately two weeks. And in anticipation of that, I expect to focus on infrastructure development in that posting. Meanwhile, you can find this entire series and all of its postings at Macroeconomics and Business as postings 154 and loosely following for Parts 1-12 and for a supplemental posting: Part 12.5. And see Page 2 to that directory for subsequent main sequence and supplemental installments to this. You can also find other, China-related postings and series at those directory pages, and at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time too. (And as a time stamp, I wrote this as a single draft on May 14, 2017.)

There aren’t any good cold call marketing or sales campaigns anymore: some thoughts concerning general principles

Posted in reexamining the fundamentals, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on May 14, 2017

There are a set of basic principles that keeping proving themselves as relevant and even compellingly so and across wide ranges of potential application. They usually more commonly arise in discussion in specific specialized contexts, but the principles that underlie them keep coming up and in a diverse range of otherwise seemingly unrelated contexts and circumstances besides the ones that they might be best known for. And one of them that is more commonly expressed in a more monetary theory-specific context is captured in an empirically validated finding that is commonly referred to as Gresham’s law.

Gresham’s law states that even a potentially strong currency, with a valuation that is based upon a solid established correlation between unit of currency available, and product and service value available in the marketplace, can become diluted and weakened if too much of it is put into circulation. The more units of that currency that are out there in circulation, for every unit of productive and marketable value available in its national economy, the less those units of currency are or can be worth.

Imagine a nation with a strong currency that suddenly as a matter of policy, turns on the printing presses at its Treasury Department and floods the market with more and more of that money – and without any corresponding increase in the actual productive and market-facing value that its economy can maintain and that this money is supposed to represent in trade and transaction. If this approach is carried out too fully and for too long, that currency can plummet in value until it becomes essentially worthless. And that is why Gresham’s law is often summarized as “bad money drives out good,” and “bad money drives good money out of the marketplace.”

The basic principle underlying this is clear. Valuation and realizable value and their stability, depend on reaching and maintaining a critical balance: here between the levels of actual productive value that is created and maintained in an economy and in its markets, and a transactionally equivalent (monetary) value to that, that is supposed to represent it according to a set and agreed to value-for-value exchange rate.

Now let’s consider how this principle has its counterpart in other business processes and in the relationships that hold between other types of numerically scalable metrics. And let’s consider this in marketing outreach terms for purposes of this discussion. Let’s consider how this might apply in a phone center outreach setting and with a strong valuation baseline as a starting point that would be equated here with the once strong valuation of the above cited currency example, from before its printing presses were turned on and simply left on.

There is no such thing as perfect in the real world, but there are actively and carefully thought through examples of good and of intended best. As a baseline positive example that I am familiar with in detail, I turn here to one from my own work experience as a point of comparison here.

One of the industries that I have worked in as a consultant is automotive retail. And my largest scale assignment in that arena involved my taking an interim Chief Information Officer position with a large, roughly $400 million dollar automotive retail group with both new and used car sales outlets, and auto maintenance and repair shops, and direct business-to-business collaborations with for example, a partner financial service for setting up auto loans for their customers. Their goal was to offer a one stop shopping experience for their customers and both for purchasing a new or used car or truck and for maintaining these vehicles. And one of the core objectives that I went into that job with, was to remediate and expand a new but dysfunctionally disconnected call center that had been set up for the business as a whole.

There were a number of phone system and networked computer system hardware problems that I had to help unravel in turning that facility around, as well as significant software disconnects and related problems. Those issues are all worthy of consideration and discussion in a blog of this type, and I have in fact at least briefly touched upon at least a few of them in this blog. But my focus of attention here is different from that and in fact involves a basic functionality that I was trying to both maintain and strengthen while working there: their customer and potential customer calling system per se, that this new call center was supposed to facilitate and streamline.

Let’s consider the types of calls that the phone representatives working there were expected to make:

• They were supposed to call current customers with cars and trucks under warrantee to remind them when their vehicles were coming due for free services that were included in the terms of their purchase agreements. This included checkups and oil changes and a variety of other manufacturer or dealer provided basic maintenance options. And as these services were already covered and paid for as benefits to these customers, these calls were essentially always welcome and appreciated.
• These call center representatives were also supposed to keep for-fee maintenance and repair customers informed on information that they would need for scheduling work done. So for example if a customer needed repair done on their car that called for a replacement part that had to be special ordered, a phone rep would call that customer to tell them when this part had arrived, and certainly if there was going to be a delay in that so they could schedule their repair work. When special order parts where back-ordered and there might be delays in their delivery, this offered real value to the customer and was also generally appreciated.
• But these phone representatives also made sales calls, and to both established customers as their current vehicles began reaching a certain age, and to new and prospective customers as well.
• Let’s focus here on those new and prospective customers who had never purchased anything from any of the storefronts owned and run by this dealership group. Like essentially every other auto dealership, this business purchased lists of potential customers who were supposed to have been carefully selected and prequalified for inclusion on the basis of their meeting specific demographic and other qualifications. They would for example all live in an area that this dealership had found to match that of its current active customer base. Dealerships would specify where their customer catchment areas were when entering into agreements with these list aggregator businesses that they would purchase these potential new customer lists from, so they would only pay for leads from their area.
• And prospective customers included on these lists would have to fit a realistic profile for income and related criteria that would make them financially capable of buying a new or used car. And they would selectively include people with active driver’s licenses.
• And critically importantly, these lists needed to be up to date as the people most sought after were ones who might be interested in buying a car or truck, but who had not already done so somewhere else. Old listings tended to include people who had done that and who were no longer in the market to buy again.
• This is just a partial list of the types of filtering criteria that these leads aggregators use in assembling the lists that they sell to dealerships. To add one more, dealerships of necessity insist on buying exclusivity in their leads contacts lists; they do not want to buy leads that that aggregator is simultaneously selling to other, competing businesses, or that other aggregators are also selling to their business clients.
• So there were a variety of criteria that would go into assembling these lists, to increase the likelihood that anyone called on one of them would both drive, and would be interested in purchasing a good, reliable car or small truck of the type that this dealership group offered, and that they would want to do so in the right area geographically to make that one of their showrooms a good choice for them.
• In practice, one of my work responsibilities while there was to manage these leads list provider contracts. And I worked with one of my best sales managers there in doing so. The basic questions that came up in this due diligence exercise were very simple:
• How many of the prospective customer leads that were provided by each of the aggregators that they were in contract with, actually turned into completed sales? And what did this business actually pay for these leads when the overall cost of the complete lists paid for was amortized across those much fewer successful sales? And how did this cost compare with the potential profit margin that this dealership group could expect from these completing those sales, net of having to purchase these sales leads in the first place?
• It turned out that many of their leads providers were failing them for the low levels of conversions to completed sales achieved from their lists and a couple of them consistently, month after month failed to yield even one completed sale at all. I had to find ways to get this dealership company out from under the contracts that they had signed with a large percentage of the lead providers that they were buying these lists from because quite literally, so few of the entries on them were leading to sales that the dealership group was losing money on them when leads costs were properly taken into account.
• I worked with some very good people there and both for the managers who I worked with and for their hands-on call center and sales personnel, and together we were able to turn that part of this business around. I add that I got to work with a good attorney on this too, as well as with members of their Information Technology staff and a wide range of others. And I hold that up as my positive example where all effort was being made to only call the people who would be receptive to being called and who would see value in doing business with this dealership.
• Even under the best circumstances, only a relatively small percentage of calls of this type, and certainly cold calls to new potential customers actually work out and lead to completed sales. But all effort was made to at the very least make sure that no perspective customers who were called would have reason to hang up feeling irritated. That, among other things meant not taking a high pressure sales approach and always being polite. It meant listening as well as speaking and it meant knowing when to end a call that was not working too, and doing so with a thank you.

There is no such thing as perfect in the real world but there is and can be good and there is and can be polite, and real effort can be made to limit call lists to target audiences that actually make sense to the merchant calling. And that is my positive end of the scale example for this posting and its discussion. And it brings me to robocalls and badly framed ones that would leave anyone receiving them wondering what type of scam was being attempted on them – or convinced that they already knew.

Think of the seemingly endless flood of those calls as a counterpart to turning on those Treasury Department printing presses and leaving them on, and seemingly endlessly. And this vast toxic background and context that any good practices calling and cold calling in particular would be embedded in, renders them valueless too and to all concerned – and certainly to any business attempting to make them.

And to complete this example’s narrative, I cite businesses such as Nomorobo that provide automatic blocking services to prevent scam, spam, phone phishing and other offensive calls from getting through – and for both robocalls and in-person calls as would come from a call center of the type just described.

Robocallers see their costs per call as being so low that they can make money even if only the tiniest percentage of their calls actually get through and succeed for them. They are not looking for repeat business, and certainly for more dubious businesses that pursue business this way, they are only looking for one time scores from anyone they can convince to buy into their pitch. They, in game theory terms, pursue a win-lose strategy with their prospective “customers” and they only need to win occasionally to win big, overall. So the types of Gresham’s law style calculations that I would cite here do not matter to them. Businesses such as the automotive dealership group that I cited above seek to develop and long-term customers and seek to pursue win-win strategies and those calculations can mean the difference between success and failure for them. And the dynamics of this disparity drive the shift in valuation of customer calls, and of cold calls in particular down towards zero – and even into a “loss at best” territory and for all, and certainly for legitimate businesses.

• Bad money drives good money out of the marketplace.
• Bad calling drives good out of the market too, in this case converting it and certainly in its cold call forms into essentially guaranteed money losing propositions.

You can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1. And I also include this as a supplemental posting to Section VI (Some Thoughts Concerning a General Theory of Business) of my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory.

Rethinking national security in a post-2016 US presidential election context: conflict and cyber-conflict in an age of social media 1

Posted in business and convergent technologies, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on May 12, 2017

We all face two fundamental challenges: two fundamental limitations in our thinking about risk and how to respond to it, and I am not sure which is more problematical:

• We can and all too often do, get so caught up in our standard routines, that we fail to pick up on and see what in retrospect were even clear warnings of new and emerging risks and threat vectors faced from routinely, automatically following them, and
• We can and all too often do overestimate both the range and reach of whatever security and risk management systems that we have in place now, and the range, reach and effectiveness of any newest and best add-on security solutions that we do institute.
• And that second presumption just starts with our tacitly assuming, for example, that if we have just uploaded the newest update patch to our anti-viral and anti-malware software in place, then our computers and networked systems must be essentially completely secure from those types of threat now, as if new and locally known but yet to be exploited zero-day vulnerabilities were now impossible. That second presumption can and all too often does find its way into all of our information systems security thinking, as an at-least starting point default that we have to continually watch out for and challenge.
• The two challenges noted in the first two of these bullet points in fact represent different sides to a single overall security risk phenomenon, and it is one that is much more wide-reaching than would just be encompassed in my simple if commonly familiar anti-virus/anti-malware example. And those two challenges comprise differing sides to that one larger source of risk that can and do interact with each other and build upon each other with an ongoing toxic synergy.

Let’s think past the walls and blinders that this synergy can and does create for us, and in more open-ended and general terms. What do we currently actually face? We might know, for example, of ongoing online problems such as social media troll behavior (see, for example Trolls and Other Antisocial, Disruptive and Divisive Social Networkers – Part 1 and its Part 2 continuation, and Cyber-Bullies, Cyber-Stalkers, Trolls and the Individual Social Networker.) And we might know of ongoing problems that we face societally such as how our online potentially-globally connecting community has been effectively shattered into separate epistemic bubble-limited groups and demographics, each with their own accepted “news” and opinion sharing sources and their own echo chamber validation of all that is known and presumed within them, and with no outside alternatives allowed in (see for example Thinking Through the Words We Use in Our Political Monologs .) And by now everyone should know about computer hacking and how sensitive and confidential information that is surreptitiously stolen from a targeted computer system can be publically posted online and through social media and related channels to cause explicit targeted damage, through resources such as Twitter and through sites such as WikiLeaks. But we do not necessarily connect the potentially connectable dots that emerging problems such as these create, to see how they and a constellation of other closely-related, weaponizable options could be used together to launch and carry out new far-reaching forms of unified cyber-attack, and against a business or organization, or even against an entire nation.

Note that when I wrote my above-cited 2010 cyber-trolling related postings, I explicitly did so in terms of individual online behavior, and in terms of what were for the most part still just lone individuals acting on their own initiative and in pursuit of their own personal agendas. That side to this challenge, of course still happens. But now the disruptive potential inherent in that once more localized and impact-limited form of antisocial behavior, has been weaponized as a key element for launching closely coordinated, targeted attacks too, with networks of trolls working together in a systematic centrally organized manner.

Think of this as scaling up the dark side to online social media for use in cyber-attacks, exactly as taking over veritable armies of individual, otherwise unrelated and geographically dispersed personal computers in assembling malware-controlled botnets can be used in launching attacks against even the largest organizational networked computer systems. And that quantitative shift on the trolling behavior side of this, makes troll behavior and related, a qualitatively new threat element too, just as coordinately suborning control over distant personal computers through assembly of organized botnets, made that a qualitatively new threat – and a qualitatively new weapon too.

And if new arises when the nature and scale of single specific potential cyber-vulnerabilities and cyber-threats such as these are scaled up individually, it also arises as at least initially, seemingly disparate and unrelated attack options and supportive circumstances for them (such as the ones noted above) are brought together and coordinately organized as new overall tools for new forms of potential cyber-warfare.

Let me add a third fundamental challenge, and limitation on our part to the above two that I began this posting with:

• Regardless of how many times we have stumbled for doing so, we all tend to prepare for the last battle faced and fought: the last war that we had to deal with and its learning curves, and not for the one that might be coming towards us.

I wrote a series to this blog beginning in September 2010 that focused on targeted malware, and with the stuxnet computer worm offered as an at least initial poster child example of that, that I built a more comprehensive discussion around. See Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time, and its postings 58 and loosely following for Parts 1-15 of that series, and particularly see its Part 3: Stuxnet and the Democratization of Warfare.) We are all still thinking and planning in large part in terms of malware and target-specific malware as exemplified by stuxnet as a then game changing example. And we all think in terms of big systems attacks, such as large-scale botnet-driven dedicated denial of service (DDoS) attacks on business and government network servers and server farms. Those are still ongoing concerns, as are a great many other older sources of vulnerability that we should be more effectively managing, and limiting for their effectiveness against our networked systems. But the next big cyber-attack faced, and certainly any next such attack that rises to a level of impact so as to qualify as an act of cyber-warfare, is going to be led by and even build around weaponized use of social media and the interactive online, and other new and related, still just emerging threat vectors.

I have written repeatedly in this blog about how we do not learn from threats already faced and certainly when they have only been carried out somewhere else and against someone else, when updating and safeguarding our own computers and networked systems. I recently addressed that issue here in the new and still just emerging context of our still embryonic and forming internet of things, in Rethinking online security in an age of the internet of things: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

And this brings me to two areas of discussion that I have been leading up to in this posting:

• Russia’s recent forays into election interference through cyber-attack and both in the United States and in Europe, and
• A generally stated reframing of the overall cyber-security threat theatre faced and its dynamics, that would include within it an awareness of new and disruptive threat possibilities and influencers such as the ones I have just touched upon here.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will delve into those issues, starting with Russia’s recent interference in the 2016 United States elections, and on Great Britain’s Brexit vote and in recent European elections.

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

Intentional management 40: elaborating on the basic model for adding people and their management into the equation 1

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 10, 2017

This is my 40th installment in a series in which I discuss how management activity and responsibilities can be parsed and distributed through a business organization, so as to better meet operational and strategic goals and as a planned intentional process (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 472 and loosely following for Parts 1-39.)

I began focusing on the Who side of intentional management in Part 38 and Part 39 of this series, building from a more What and How approach to this management systems approach that I have more actively pursued in earlier installments. More specifically, I briefly oriented this more Human Resources and Personnel related side to intentional management, to that process and organizational structure perspective to it and I offered a briefly sketched out, to-address list of at least some of the key points that I will address here and in installments to come.

In the course of offering what might be viewed as this second-perspective restart on this series, I briefly re-sketched out a basic default management approach that I initially offered from a business process and systems side, this time from the personnel side (see Part 1 for my original presentation of this default, baseline model.)

I stated at the end of Part 39 that I would begin adding real-world complexities and requirements, and management approaches for best resolving them into this narrative here, and I will start doing so by posing a set of questions of a type that would come up in any significant review of the management systems in place in a business, and certainly if the leadership of that business were bringing in an outside business consultant to help more fully identify and clarify, and correct problems and challenges in place.

I am, in this, beginning with the absolute fundamentals and at step one to any process of even just understanding where a business is now, independently of whether or not any change might be contemplated too.

1. How is a business under analytical examination being managed now? (Note: this is a complex question because it raises issues of what it is doing in principle and as a matter of intended process and practice, and of what is actually being done and on a day-to-day basis and by whom and where in the organization and under what circumstances, and how consistently. The following questions in effect dissect out what would go into this question and what would go into answering it and from both the intended side and the actual in-practice side to that.)
2. Does this business actually follow a seemingly entirely ad hoc approach as if it had no past and as if the experience of here and now, could hold no informative value in its future either?
3. Or does it more systematically pursue at least a close approximation of the default model approach as laid out in Parts 38 and 39 (and in Part 1)?
4. Or does it in some systematic manner differ from that, with non-default features brought in and included, and for at least specific areas of the business?
5. If this business does at least situationally resort to consistent non-default management approaches, where and how and when does it do so?
6. Is this resorted to in order to address specific perhaps recurring problematical situations or events, or in order to capture available value from specific perhaps recurring opportunities that the “standard” approach cannot handle in and of itself? Does this, in other words, reflect an alternative approach that might be resorted to on a needs and opportunities, functional process-defined basis?
7. Or do one or more specific areas of the business (e.g. specific departments or specific organizationally distinct sections of them, or specific satellite offices in a larger geographically dispersed enterprise) simply pursue their own course in how things are routinely done and across all functional areas and processes carried out?
8. This is only a starter list and one of the goals of any business review and analysis here would be to progressively, iteratively refine and elaborate on what is asked here, drilling down into the specifics of the particular business and away from the more generic as has been offered up to here.)

It is important to note that many businesses at least contextually and circumstantially find themselves in positions where for example, their executive leadership could legitimately answer “yes” to any combination of questions 2, 3 and 4 from the above list – and certainly for how their business is actually day-to-day run and across its entire table of organization. Though I add that a business that actually simultaneously pursues all of those management approaches is in most cases going to be one with an executive leadership that does not fully know that, until that is, that fact is brought to their explicit attention through an ad hoc process and performance review that would be added into their ongoing strategic planning schedule and even as a deviation from it for how it is carried out.

The ad hoc of question 2 in particular, is rarely discussed or even openly acknowledged and certainly if more systematic processes are at least formally in place – and even if ad hoc has become the de facto, actually followed norm for large and significant areas of the business as a whole. And this is where I shift focus in this installment from the What and Where and How of management to the Who of it. And I make this transition by noting that however the above questions are answered, and both for what is formally on paper as to how a business is supposed to be run, and for how it is actually run and day-to-day, its management is all planned out and carried out, and performance reviewed when it is, by specific, real individual people.

So I reframe the approach to management that I just outlined in my above first seven more-generic starter questions, in terms of who decides to do what and how of all of this, and particularly in actual practice and in the face of tight schedules and performance demands and in the face of real-world resource limitations, that might be very different from what is nominally and “officially” expected.

• When on-paper and official processes and official practices give way to alternatives that are actually followed, look for gaps and differences between what “nominally expected and officially followed” expects in the way of resource availability, and what is actually consistently and reliably there. And look for the perhaps even consistently recurring emergence of key resource shortfalls as “exceptions” too, that might in fact be predicable and even very reliably so for their recurrence.
• These gaps and shortfalls in most cases, in effect define the parameters that shape the “what is done” for how it deviates from the “what is formally on paper as being done.”
• When standardized effective processes break down, and for whatever reason in the immediate and often compelling pressure of the immediate here-and-now, ad hoc arises to fill the gap that this creates. This is a first response and the greater the ongoing and recurring uncertainty faced by managers under pressure to perform, the more likely it is to be resorted to and the more likely it is going to become the standard response taken.
• When specific recurring breakdowns become consistent and known for how they will arise and play out, alternative “standard” processes and procedures start to emerge – where they are still deviations from the officially expected.

This progression of points outlines one of the more common paths that would spell out why individual managers, and even particularly the best of them who actively seek to meet all of their performance goals and compete all of their assigned tasks and on time, can find themselves resorting to ad hoc and other non-standard management and business process approaches – and particularly when business systems friction: added in limitations to information availability and to communicated support, force them to decide and act on their own, and with them moving into what for them might be uncharted waters in doing so.

Ad hoc, to focus on that extreme deviation from standard-official here, can arise from sloppiness and ineffectualness, but that is self-limiting and if for no other reason than because poor managers who do it and consistently, tend to stand out poorly in their ongoing performance reviews in general. They make themselves and their job tenures self-limiting so their doing this and their making things up as they go along: their ad hoc tends to go away. But when good and even very good managers do this in order to stay effective in outcomes achieved, and they succeed in that and in meeting their assigned goals, their ad hoc and band aide solutions tend to be overlooked and they tend to go unreported too. That is where hidden but emerging patterns can and do begin to emerge – that come to light only when they are specifically looked for.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next installment where I will more fully consider questions 3 and 4 of the above list, and from a largely Who perspective. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

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