Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Building a startup for what you want it to become 27: moving past the initial startup phase 13

Posted in startups by Timothy Platt on October 19, 2017

This is my 27th installment to a series on building a business that can become an effective and even a leading participant in its industry and its business sector, and for its targeted marketplaces (see Startups and Early Stage Businesses and its Page 2 continuation, postings 186 and loosely following for Parts 1-26.)

I wrote in largely abstract terms in Part 26 about data and data analysis in a business, as a foundation for developing and pursuing a consistent, effective strategic and operational approach, only briefly citing and selectively developing a quick sketch of a retail store case study for clarification there. And more specifically for that, I cited a still young and still small retail store with a complex inventory, as for example would be found in a grocery or hardware store with its potentially complex sales and inventory-oriented data collection and analyses.

I then stated at the end of that installment that I would at least attempt to bring its discussion into clearer and more actionable focus here, by addressing (by way of working example) how a business might add greater rigor and structure into its systems, to facilitate its orderly development and growth as it moves forward.

• Everything, or at least seemingly everything in a business might start out looking ad hoc and new and novel at first, and certainly for a business such as a startup, and certainly if its founders are new to actually building and running a business venture of their own.
• When and how should organized system and structure first begin to be developed and added to this mix, with its at least up-front additional costs and complexities and certainly for a business owner who has never had to manage inventory, to further pursue this working example, in a structured data-driven manner?
• When and how should that more rigorous, data driven approach to running the business take over and become the basic rule for how things are done there?

I tend write about organized and systematically structured systems, and about the ad hoc approach as an often problematical alternative. My goal for this installment to this series is to at least begin addressing how that circumstance arises. And I begin doing so by directly challenging a statement that I offered in Part 26, in a new and small business context, with the limited financial, personnel and other resources available to it:

• “… And costs and timing demands would constrain them to at most, doing only simple and even cursory data analyses and business performance modeling … and with that largely based on aggregate analysis of product categories and not of individual item types. That definitely holds for smaller and even for medium sized businesses. Massive retail business systems, tend to be the ones that truly dive into the data, and with all of the effort and expenses involved as mistakes or lost opportunities take on scales of impact, financially, that they cannot leave to chance.”

There is still, as of this writing, a significant element of truth to that presumption and certainly for startups and other more cash-strapped businesses. But the advent of big data and of secure outsourceable data storage and analysis in the cloud, as a disruptive source of business practice change, is altering the balance of when complex data collection and analysis becomes cost-effective and even an essential driver of business success. I write this series, at a transition point in the history of how businesses can and do effectively operate. And in a few years every business will have to be effectively data driven and big data driven if it is to competitively succeed, and certainly in the face of an increasingly globalized bricks and mortar plus online context.

With that stated, I offer my case study example for this posting, as promised above: a still small and young retail business that fits the complex inventory criterion of the grocery or hardware stores already cited here, but that as a still early stage business, seeks to develop along a post-transition approach for its data collection, analysis and use, and in planning and carrying out its here-and-now and its next-step development. And to make this more interesting, I will focus on a boutique business that would offer a fairly wide and diverse range of home goods and related items, many of which would appeal to people looking for gifts and well as for making purchases for themselves and their own families. That means this store, which I will refer to as HomeWorks Fashion, has to maintain a much more fluid inventory than a grocery or hardware store would, with their much more standardized basic, core inventories of long-established products.

• A retail business such as HomeWorks Fashion carries a larger percentage of its goods for sale as seasonal and otherwise cyclically sellable stock, than a grocery or hardware store would, and both for their selection of distinct stock keeping units (SKUs) (or range and diversity of distinct types of item carried and sold) and for overall volume of items carried and sold (where numbers of each of those distinct item types are considered too, where that represents the proportion of overall shelf space devoted to seasonal and related items.)
• And at the same time, a store such as HomeWorks Fashion, would be expected to carry a much larger percentage of fad and other short-term readily marketed and sold products than any grocery or hardware store would.
• All of this makes detailed analysis of sales performance on an item-type by item-type basis both more complex and more necessary, than would be the case where a perhaps very large percentage of all SKUs sold, are year-around, steady sellers (e.g. such as eggs, milk and bread in a supermarket.)

This is where capability for outsourcing access to the more expensive to buy and maintain infrastructure for detailed data analysis, through use of cloud based resources, begins to really make sense and both for data collection and storage, and for data analysis using cloud based software as a service resources for carrying out the necessary statistical and related tasks. Effectively organized third party systems of this type, I add, also offer a great deal of help in both determining what types of statistical and related tests should best be performed to address what types of business analysis and planning questions, and how much data and of what types would be needed for those tests to be able to yield actionable solutions. A number of large online businesses, such as Google have in fact actively developed this type of service and supporting resource base for it, as a to-them, marketable product in a business-to-business marketplace. And they definitely target medium sized and small businesses as potential clients for these services.

I am concurrently writing another series in this blog: Career Planning, in which I explore and discuss disruptive change in the workplace as it is reshaping jobs and employability (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 459 and following for its installments.) The emerging disruptive changes that I write of there, all impact upon what it means to work and to be employable. But they also, and just as significantly impact upon the businesses that those people work in or at least potentially work in too, and generally in ways, as implemented in them, that in aggregate benefit those businesses in significant some way. That is why they, in many cases are brought in and intentionally so. Big data could very reasonably be added to the list of examples cited and discussed there too, and as a rapidly and impactfully emerging disruptive change to what businesses can do and cost-effectively, that would even dramatically change how they do business, if they are to remain competitive in the face of other businesses in their industries that might embrace this change more effectively.

I am going to continue this example in a next series installment where I will consider in-house generated, and outside-sourced business intelligence as marketable commodities, and for how they would be used in business planning and for how this type of resource might be selectively commoditized and sold. And I will do so in large part in terms of the cloud-based approach to this type of data storage and analysis that I have at least begun addressing here. Then after completing that line of discussion, at least for purposes of this series, I will reconsider these issues but from a more business-development timeline perspective, bringing in the issues and challenges of cost-effectively developing a business and how and when, so as to bring in necessary change while controlling possible risk. That will, among other things, mean reconsidering outside funding and organic, strictly in-house sourced funding where capital development expenses would be faced.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory and at its Page 2 continuation.

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Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 18: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 10

Posted in blogs and marketing, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on October 17, 2017

This is my 18th installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-17.)

I began addressing one side to a commonly encountered workplace dynamic in Part 17, which I restate here for purposes of narrative continuity:

• As beginning, with the individual job seeker and career developer, and the hiring and promotion-directed strategies that they follow when seeking out a new job opportunity,
• And ending with the approaches that those same individuals follow when actually working at a business after achieving their next step goals in this.
• And as part of that, I will also consider the strategies and the tactics of others who work with them or who otherwise become stakeholders to these transaction flows (games.) This obviously has to include the hiring manager who would act as gatekeeper in bringing or not bringing them into this business as a new hire, and I will at least start discussing their role here when addressing the issues of the would-be employee themselves, but it of necessity also has to include a wide range of others as well. And I will address them and their issues here too, in this series.

I said that I would address this list of issues, starting at the top, from the perspectives of both the would-be hire and then ongoing in-house employee, and from that of the hiring manager who in most cases becomes their workplace supervisor once they are brought in and onboarded as an employee. I would treat in-house promotions in this sense as in-house hirings, and certainly when those seeking promotion do so in competition with would-be hires from the outside. But setting that specific case scenario aside for the moment, I said that I would address all of this from both the new hands-on non-managerial employee perspective, and the new-hire manager perspective as well. And as just repeated, I said that I would at least begin to discuss all of this from the perspective of a wider range of stakeholders who would be affected here too and from the interviewing process on.

I began all of this in Part 17, focusing on the pre-hire job candidate and the hiring manager who eventually selects them and offers them a job. And I finished that installment at the point of hire, stating that I would continue from there in this posting from day one as a new in-house employee, and how perspectives change and for both the new hire and for their manager and for other stakeholders involved there.

• When a would-be employee, seeking a new job applies for work, they essentially always arrive as largely unknown commodities for consideration, and for all details as to who they are and what they are like to work with and regarding how well they work, that cannot be captured in a resume or cover letter, or in brief and highly choreographed interviews. And given the dynamics of the hiring process and certainly as they are shaped by the flood of often largely irrelevant resume submissions sent out en mass to all hiring businesses, the basic goal from the hiring side in this is largely one of weeding out and eliminating wrong candidates, and not on finding reasons to hire what might be good ones (see Part 17 for a more detailed discussion of background issues relevant to this assertion,)
• There are exceptions to that more general approach of course, and certainly when a business specifically seeks out a particular possible new hire, who they might even court to try to entice them away from a current employer. But this is the basic pattern for all who send their resumes in on their own initiative, in response for example to online jobs postings.
• When a business does hire: when a hiring manager agrees to hire a particular job candidate, making that commitment on behalf of their employer and on behalf of the team they supervise that this new hire would join, the dynamics of this shift, and certainly as that new hire successfully completes their (usually at least approximately) 90 day probationary period, during which time they could be dismissed without a need for well argued justifying cause. Now the basic default is not to find justification not to have this person on payroll as an employee: it is to justify keeping them on and certainly if they do not behave in a manner that would make that explicitly untenable.
• A less than fully successful employee might never get a promotion, or a raise that goes beyond any required cost of living or related pay increases. And they might be among the first out of the door in the event of a downsizing, where dismissal would take place absent any onus of poor performance. But absent more special circumstance processes such as downsizings, an employee who at least meets their basic performance goals in their ongoing performance reviews is likely to stay on there, unless they choose to leave – or unless their job requirements and those of all others in their job category are changed in ways that they cannot even minimally successfully perform at.

All of these are business decisions that at least formally, ostensibly come from the business as an organizational whole and in accordance with its policies and practices as generally understood and carried out. But all of these decisions and actions are made and carried out by individuals who are balancing their own needs and their own agendas and their own workplace contexts in shaping them, as well as attempting to meet overall business needs as they individually perceive and understand them. And this includes addressing the needs and the desires and intentions of the people they report to and those of other stakeholders as well, and certainly where they wield power and influence in the business hierarchy and its networks of alliances that are in place.

Note that “business hierarchy” as used above, need not follow a simple linear, top-down command and control pattern, and many businesses disperse such authority and influence through more complex networks in actual practice, and even when the basic systems in place are presented as being top-down organized and run (e.g. as would be found in a military command structure as a perhaps extreme case in point example.) There, to pick up on that example, young Lieutenants would be foolish at the very least to not listen to their more experienced noncoms as sources of long-term experience and insight. Even good senior officers know when to listen to highly experienced, high ranking noncommissioned officers who in official practice report to them.

What I am doing here in this posting, is to at least briefly and selectively discuss the dynamics of agreement and of conflict, and connect and disconnect between the individual participant in these systems, and the overall organization and its needs and intent, as are variously understood throughout the business. And in that, and to repeat a point already made in this series, at least in passing, all of those individuals who work in that business, do so and see and understand “their” business from the perspectives of their own jobs and responsibilities there, and their day-to-day functional and organizational positions there.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment where I will continue to flesh out the new hire to in-house employee transition scenario and start to more fully address the issues that a wider range of stakeholders bring to this transitional process. And I will explicitly discuss how all of this plays out (think game theory there) for non-managerial and for managerial level employees, executives included. And I will also, over the course of the next several installments, explicitly discuss promotions and both as carried out strictly in-house and as arise de facto from strategically moving on to work for a new employer where suitable job openings are not and cannot be available where an employee works now. In anticipation of that, I add here that I will frame this flow of discussion, at least in significant part in terms of two behavioral dynamics:

• Fear of the potential negatives of change and of the unknown, and focus on the positive possibilities of change and an embrace of the new and at least in-part unknown, as those job and career strategy-shaping presumptions arise and are followed and
• The potential for alignment and for discord when different stakeholder participants in a business interaction pursue different game theory strategies as they each attempt to reach their own goals.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, as topics section VI there, where I offer related material regarding theory-based systems. And I also include this individual participant oriented subseries of this overall theory of business series in Page 3 of my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, as a sequence of supplemental postings there.

Innovation, disruptive innovation and market volatility 36: innovative business development and the tools that drive it 6

Posted in business and convergent technologies, macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on October 15, 2017

This is my 36th posting to a series on the economics of innovation, and on how change and innovation can be defined and analyzed in economic and related risk management terms (see Macroeconomics and Business, posting 173 and loosely following for Parts 1-5 and Macroeconomics and Business 2, posting 203 and loosely following for Parts 6-35.)

I have been systematically working my way through a to-address list of topics points in recent installments to this series, that I repeat here for purposes of continuity. Note that I append reference links to the ends of the points on this list that I have already addressed, indicating where I did so):

1. Innovation and its realization are information and knowledge driven (Part 32).
2. And the availability and effective use of raw information and of more processed knowledge developed from it, coupled with an ability to look beyond the usual blinders of how that information and knowledge would be more routinely viewed and understood, to see wider possibilities inherent in it (Part 33),
3. Make innovation and its practical realization possible and actively drive them (Part 34 and Part 35).
4. Information availability serves as an innovation driver, and business systems friction and the resistance to enabling and using available business intelligence that that creates, significantly set the boundaries that would distinguish between innovation per se and disruptively novel innovation as it would be perceived and understood
5. And in both the likelihood and opportunity for achieving the later, and for determining the likelihood of a true disruptive innovation being developed and refined to value creating fruition if one is attempted.

I began addressing Point 3 of this list, as just noted above, in Part 34, and continued that in Part 35 by raising a set of three issues that I would argue, need to be addressed in order to even just preliminarily resolve Point 3 for purposes of this series:

• A basic assumption as to what types of already-held and routinely used business information would be required in a genuinely disruptively innovative context, as for example might be explored and pursued in an innovation-supporting service, department or more separate facility within a business.
• An implicit financial assumption that runs counter to what would more generally be automatically assumed when innovation, and the research and development that it calls for are considered. I will at least briefly address that “starter” assumption here, offering some references that delve into its issues. And I will offer a basic rationale for justifying this alternative point of view assumption that I offer here for purposes of this series.
• And a fuller reconsideration of timeframes in all of this, where outside forces can easily become the driving shaping factors for all of this but where within-business factors always have to be accounted for too – and where they can be less examined in any planning that takes place.

And I delved into and discussed the first of these sub-issues there. My goal for this posting is to address the second of them and at least start addressing the third and final of them here too. Then when I have addressed all of them, as required in the context of this series discussion, I will continue on to Points 4 and 5 of the main to-address list as repeated above.

And I begin all of this with financial considerations, and a set of points that strikes to the heart of this series, and certainly as organizationally summarized in the starting paragraph here. And I begin that by reframing and reconsidering what applied research and pure research actually are, at least when considered from a more strictly financial perspective.

• Applied research and its most directed practical extreme of specific product development, are channelized in what can be considered at least somewhat tested and validated directions, and with the more product-specific end of that short spectrum quite securely reliable for that. Success there can mean adding new life to an already developed and successful product or product line, and failure: if an attempted upgrade or advancement does not cost-effectively work out, will at least offer practical insight for further next-step product advancement.
• Applied research, as considered here, offers what might be greater uncertainty and definitely when a new, next generation product is being attempted that would call for rethinking, and for manufacturing line retooling. But conversely, this also carries potential for proportionately larger rewards too. In any case, and focusing on that word “applied”: this type of research, like still more focused product development, follows a more linear development change and modification and upgrade pattern and with lower levels of overall risk associated with it, in keeping with the incremental improvements, profit and value creation potential of simply working to create a next generation upgrade.
• Pure research on the other hand, carries more dramatic value creation and loss possibilities, with its potential for developing successful disruptive innovation and game changing new product development ¬ or dead end failure if that does not work out. Yes, sometimes failed pure research does bring insight that can be turned into next attempt success, and often in completely new and otherwise unexpected directions when that happens. But this delayed and alternative success cannot be counted on.

Let’s start addressing the finances of this, with an explicitly stated assumption that can be considered a basic if mostly just presumed mantra, for those who run and lead corporate research and development facilities:

• Appropriately scaled and selected innovation that is kept in focus (no scope creep) can be cost-controlled and within budget.

This, in practice, means balancing the costs and benefits: profit and risk potentials included, of suites of pure and applied research projects and initiatives, with the more secure and reliable of them as found towards the specific product development and improvement end of this, in effect bankrolling the more pure end of this overall effort and certainly for constraining overall risk faced.

I said above, that I would offer an alternative financial model here for understanding and managing overall research for an organization, and I do so with this perhaps-baseline, more standard approach held up for comparison. And I begin this by noting a detail in the above, standard-cant approach that I intentionally failed to acknowledge there, and that tends to be lost in most such policy and practice development: the role of timelines in all of this, and particularly timelines that extend beyond reporting quarters.

• A business that assiduously seeks to pursue stable, risk limiting and controlling safety in how it selects and benchmarks and carries out its research, and in how it seeks to balance its overall books for its research facility, will probably do very well from that in any given short term timeframe. It will probably succeed there in middle-range timeframes too, where short and middle-term are measured in terms of the rate of advancement in their overall industry for new product development, and in their markets for the pace of change in consumer demand.
• But that same business has to assume that pursuing a simpler short-term oriented approach here, will only lead to increased risk, and even what is essentially a certainty of failure long-term. The only way that a business, and certainly one in a rapidly advancing industry that is driven by disruptive change, can succeed long-term and in the face of this ongoing flow of challenge faced, is if it is willing to become more risk tolerant in its own next steps forward, building for its future through research and development.

This is important enough to bear repeating. Businesses that cannot and do not take this leap into the admittedly unknown, ever, might be secure in their current here-and-now for right now and in their immediate and shorter term future. But they also run the risk and certainly longer-term, of being blindsided by their competitors who do innovate and who do support the potential for innovation that their employees can offer.

How can an effectively, efficiently run business manage this and still remain stable and resilient? I offer an at least easy to state possibility here, and a thought point and a starting point for more focused discussion. A business can in fact set up and run a stand-alone research facility in-house and basically in accordance with the above stated research finances mantra with its risk and costs balancing. But it can also support a level of special research projects that might be carried out within this same facility, but that would be separately financed, from a reserves account that would be set up for this purpose. And researchers who were so interested, would compete for these special blue sky research funds and for the necessary space and other resources needed to carry out their projects.

Note: this can mean enlisting and developing research excellence from in-house, but it can also at least include search for new talent and new potential from outside of the business, that could be brought in with contractual promises in writing to support the research that these professionals have been striving to be able to carry out.

And with this, I have at least briefly discussed both of the remaining sets of issues that I cited early in this posting as being necessary in order to complete discussion here, of Point 3 of the basic to-address list under consideration. I am going to turn to consider Point 4 and Point 5 of the basic list from the top of this posting, at least beginning that in my next series installment:

4. Information availability serves as an innovation driver, and business systems friction and the resistance to enabling and using available business intelligence that that creates, significantly set the boundaries that would distinguish between innovation per se and disruptively novel innovation as it would be perceived and understood
5. And in both the likelihood and opportunity for achieving the later, and for determining the likelihood of a true disruptive innovation being developed and refined to value creating fruition if one is attempted.

And yes, I will also offer the reference links that I promised in this posting, regarding research financing, in the next installment too, where they will prove relevant in the contexts of Points 4 and 5 too.

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

Planning for and building the right business model 101 – 32: goals and benchmarks and effective development and communication of them 12

Posted in startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 13, 2017

This is my 32nd posting to a series that addresses the issues of planning for and developing the right business model, and both for initial small business needs and for scalability and capacity to evolve from there (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 499 and loosely following for Parts 1-31.) I also include this series in my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory and its Page 2 continuation.

I began discussing three specific exit strategies in Part 31, in the context of discussing exit strategies per se and what that term actually means as a stage of development, fundamental change-based transition point:

1. A new venture that has at least preliminarily proven itself as viable and as a source of profitability can go public and with all of the organizational change and all of the transparency and reporting requirements that this entails as they begin offering stock shares.
2. A new venture can transition from pursuing an organic growth and development model (as in exit strategy 1, above) but to one in which they seek out and acquire larger outside capital investment resources, and particularly from venture capitalists as briefly touched upon in Part 28, Part 29 and Part 30 of this series.
3. A new venture, and certainly one that is built around a growth-oriented business model, might build its first bricks and mortar site, in effect as a prototype effort that it would refine with a goal of replication through, for example a franchise system.

And at the end of that series installment, I stated that I would continue its flow of discussion here, examining these same three transitional changes in greater detail and in terms of goals and benchmarks, and communications issues as they play out in businesses going them.

• If I were to summarize the basic set of topics that I will at least begin to address here, in a single brief phrase, it would be to note that my goal here is to at least briefly outline the core generic elements of the How, of strategically mapping out and evaluating basic business transition options moving forward, on the basis of specific, carefully gathered, organized and evaluated and communicated empirical evidence.

This overall flow of business process and review steps has, or at least should have its roots in the normal and normative day-to-day practices followed by business owners and their leadership teams as they manage their businesses in the face of more routine change and uncertainly. Efforts to develop and follow effective review and evaluation processes in the face of impending disruptive change, which true business transitions always involve, cannot work for people who have not already built an effective foundation for that from well considered evidence based business management practices, as carried out in the face of simpler, routine change and variety as arises every normal business day. And I will add that the data and insight gained from this more normal and every day review and analysis practice, serves as essential baseline data and both for identifying need for more significant change and early on, and for more effectively planning and preparing for it.

In the context of this series and this portion of it, that means knowing when and how one or another, or one or more of the above three listed exit strategies might be starting to make sense, and how and why. And this posting is all about looking at and measuring and tracking the right performance metrics and looking for and documenting exceptions and exception handling, as need for that arises, and as a part of that same business analysis process.

The goals and benchmarks of this, need to be realistic and that means they need to be clear and precise and framed in terms of the business performance measures actually followed. Subjective can be vitally important here, and certainly when that means coming to an awareness that not all of the right types of data and insight are being considered here. But ultimately, this analysis and the raw data that enters into it need to be objective and specific; subjective impressions and estimates cannot offer any real value and certainly when it comes to the supposedly raw business data that is going to be used for this type of business analysis.

What should you look for here, as measured objective data and as sources of it? Look to the basic business model and what the business does that collectively would, or at least should make it profitable and effective enough in its marketplace to reach that goal and stay there. And at least start addressing all of that, in the financial terms of cash flow and availability, and costs and returns on investment and how systems fit together in those terms. And as this is a business transitions type of analysis under consideration here, look both short-term and longer-term, and project outward according to two distinct models:

• What happens if the business simply continues on with a business as usual approach for the area of the business under immediate consideration here?
• What options might be available for disruptively breaking away from that old pattern and in a new way?
• And what would variously happen if one of these transitional changes were entered into, pro and con, short-term and long?

Ask this of each of the options considered in the second bullet pointed question here, in terms of the basic metrics used for your ongoing business analyses, as augmented where and as gaps in what they can tell you become apparent. And remember: any gaps and uncertainties in how you would answer these questions, represents risk faced from pursuing whatever approach: whatever next step development model that is under direct consideration at the moment. Here, risk represents cost and potential loss faced, and at least ideally for capability to measure and determine, as a product of the sum of direct and indirect costs faced if an adverse event were to occur, as multiplied by the chance that it would take place (as measured as a proportion – e.g. a 1% chance of occurrence represented by the fraction .01 and so on.)

This addressed what is considered, and certainly as a first step analysis where it would become clearer that problems and challenges might be arising. Now consider which stakeholders are included in these conversations, and really involved in them: not just in the room but silently so.

• Effective inclusion here in these conversations is essential for finding better approaches for addressing the gaps and challenges identified here, where a best path forward might mean pursuing some particular type or combination of basic exit strategy options as noted above, by way of those three possible examples.
• It means more effectively and fully characterizing and understanding the gaps and problems faced that would go into that type of determination.
• It means more effectively arriving at workable approaches for carrying out any necessary changes that are agreed to.
• And this is essential for gaining buy-in so the necessary changes and all the work that enters into them, are actually done and in a coordinated manner by all necessarily involved stakeholders.

I have been writing here in general and relatively abstract terms. I am going to delve more into the specifics in my next series installment where I will consider exit strategy 1 from my above list of three in detail: the fundamental change scenario of a business going public with all that that entails. After that, I will more specifically consider each of the other two exit strategy scenarios under consideration 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. And you can find this and related material at my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory too and at its Page 2 continuation.

Building a business for resilience 24 – open systems, closed systems and selectively porous ones 16

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 11, 2017

This is my 24th installment to a series on building flexibility and resiliency into a business in its routine day-to-day decisions and follow-through, so it can more adaptively anticipate and respond to an ongoing low-level but with time, significant flow of change and its cumulative consequences, that every business faces in its normal course of operation (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 542 and loosely following for Parts 1-23.)

I have been working my way through a communications and information sharing-oriented to-address list in this series, since Part 20, which I repeat here as I continue analyzing and discussing its issues:

1. Thinking through a business’ own proprietary information and all else that it has to keep secure that it holds.
2. While reducing avoidable friction where there can be trade-offs between work performance efficiency, and due diligence and risk remediation requirements from how information access is managed. This, in anticipation of discussion to come, means consideration of both short-term and long-term value created and received, as well as short-term and long-term costs.
3. And this means thinking through the issues of who gathers and organizes what of this information flow, who accesses it and who uses it – and in ways that might explicitly go beyond their specific work tasks at hand.
4. What processes are this information legitimately used in, and who does that work? With the immediately preceding point in mind, what other, larger picture considerations have to be taken into account here too?
5. And who legitimately sees and uses the results of this information as it is processed and used and with what safeguards for the sensitive raw data and the sensitive processed knowledge that are involved, where different groups of people might have legitimate need to see different sets of this overall information pool?
6. Think in terms of business process cycles here, and of who does and does not enter into them.

More specifically, I began addressing Point 3 of this list in Part 23 , doing so in terms of two categorically distinct types of communications channels that arise and flourish in business contexts:

Hard communications channels are formal business process and official communications pattern-driven, and become rules defined for what information can be shared with whom and under what circumstances, and essentially whenever an information access due diligence or risk remediation system is put in place.
Soft communications channels arise as employees network with and share information with colleagues outside of the scope of any formally considered hard communications channels in place, in order to more effectively carry out their jobs. These communications channels can be thought of as representing work-arounds of convenience and even of necessity. And they can become highly standardized too, and certainly where they are consistently found to work.

I suggest you’re reviewing that installment for a more detailed discussion of these business communications approaches and how they arise and function. I simply assume those details as offered there in this posting, as I continue my discussion of Point 3 of the above list.

I stated towards the end of Part 23, that I had been addressing the issues of Point 3 and in fact of Points 1 and 2 as well, from an essentially entirely in-house perspective and in terms of full time employees at a business: hands-on non-managerial and managerial included. And I said that I would shift directions here, to consider a wider range of possible participants and certainly for how they would enter into a Point 3 discussion, including “part-time and temporary help in general and outside-sourced consultants in particular, and how they do and do not enter into essential conversations.”

I begin this by frankly acknowledging that I framed that in a manner that is becoming at least incrementally more obsolete, every single day. That point of observation: that claim and its consequences is in fact crucially important to this posting and this series. So I begin the core discussion of this posting by at least briefly explaining how and why it is valid, and by sharing some thoughts as shared with me by others, from conversations that I have had with colleagues going back as far as a dozen years and more now. The issues that I would raise here are not so much new and sudden, as they are developing and emerging, and with that meaning their just starting to reach an unavoidably impactful threshold of significance that can no longer safely be ignored.

I have never specifically worked in Human Resources or Personnel, even if I have at times held positions that included those services in my overall area of responsibility. And I have worked closely with specialists and generalists in those areas of expertise, and in a variety of businesses and industries, and have some experience helping them develop and improve their systems.

The professionals who I cite here for those telling conversations are all people who have worked in-house in established businesses, as senior HR professionals, who have gone on to work as job search and career development professionals. And as long as a dozen years ago and more now, we have found ourselves comparing notes – and at least informal research findings on how often professionals have to change both jobs and even career paths in the course of a work life. When my father and his began their work lives most people could expect to stay in essentially the same field of work and in the same industry until they were ready to retire. It was in fact still common for a professional to work for the same business from early on in their work life until they reached retirement. But by the time I began working it was increasingly common for professionals with specialized and advanced training and experience to have to make at least some fundamental career changes, and into new to-them fields, at least once and even a few times in the course of their work life. The steady predictable path of my father and my grandfathers is long gone now and a recent college graduate can expect to make fundamental changes in what they do and in the types of businesses and organizations where they do that, six, eight, ten and more times over the course of their work lives. And a dozen and more such changes will not be uncommon.

Long term stability and constancy in work and employment has given way to ongoing change and an ongoing need for resiliency and adaptability. And I have written several series to this blog with titles such as:

• Bringing the Job Market and Marketplace into Focus (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, postings 89-102),
• Career Changes, Career Transitions (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 285-305), and
• Developing a Career out of Gigs and Short-Term Work (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 368-675)

as well as a fairly significant number of stand-alone postings that also appear in those three directory pages that address this emerging fact. And my goal in them has been to both identify and discuss how the workplace and employability are changing, and to offer best practices approaches to more effectively navigate the jobs and careers challenges that this “fluidity” in the workplace creates.

My overall point here is that people as individuals cannot realistically think of themselves as working for any one employer long-term and seemingly forever. And no one can safely assume any workplace: any employer as their sole employer for as long as they work. And they should expect, and they should be continually preparing for change and in both where they work and in what they do when working. And turning this discussion around, to return it to the orientation of this series: businesses have to think and plan in these terms too when thinking and planning for and in terms of their ongoing workforces. And they have to find ways to both function and to succeed in the face of this churn in their personnel and at all levels and for all types of work positions offered, and where even their best employees might be looking for better opportunities elsewhere; this churn does not all arise from employer-sided decision making.

I have been writing about non-compete clauses and agreements in this series, and I cite them again here, to put them in a perhaps clearer perspective. Businesses that use and in fact overuse and misuse these legal mechanisms are not necessarily doing so with a goal of attacking or harming or limiting their employees or would-be employees, and certainly not as a general rule. They are attempting, however awkwardly, to protect themselves in the face of what they can and often do see as a hemorrhaging of necessary skills and experience from their workforce, and certainly in seller’s job markets where there are more positions in need of good people than there are really good potential hires to fill them: an essentially constant situation for rarer high demand and high need skill and experience sets as arise in any rapidly changing industry or field.

And this brings me back to that quote from the end of Part 23, regarding “part-time and temporary help in general and outside-sourced consultants in particular, and how they do and do not enter into essential conversations.” I have been arguing a case in this blog and throughout its Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development for people to take a consulting approach to their work and to jobs held and in their career development. This does not mean explicitly working as an outsider and never taking an in-house job. As an intentional and long-term consultant, to cite my own experience there, I took in-house jobs a number of times, with open-ended opportunities for continuing on there, at least in principle, as well as going to work for employers as a consultant and one who would work there only until specified goals or benchmarks had been reached. This does mean never thinking “permanent” as a part of any job description agreed to, and with an up to date resume and an active professional network reach to prove that – and even if you only look for in-house full time positions.

• Let’s reconsider the basic arguments and points of Part 23 from the perspective of ongoing change that I raise here, as my next workplace and terms of employability disruptive change that I would discuss in this series:
• A blurring of what in-house full time employment, and outsider consultant and part time mean.

I am going to build from that and from Part 23 of this series as originally stated in a next series installment, where I will reframe business communications from a wider perspective where in-house and outside-sourced are becoming increasing fluid and blurred for who works where, and certainly as traditionally conceived. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory.

Career planning 16: career planning as an ongoing process of analysis and synthesis 10

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on October 9, 2017

This is my 16th 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 1-15.)

I have been discussing a set of four sources of disruptive change in the workplace in recent postings to this series, that all significantly impact on employment and even on the meaning of employability (see Part 14 and Part 15.) And for purposes of increased continuity of narrative here, I repeat them as offered in Part 15:

1. Non-compete clauses in hiring and employment agreements,
2. Automation and the spread of artificial intelligence and robotization into the workplace,
3. Telecommuting and the emerging capabilities for people and for businesses to conduct work online and from anywhere to anywhere, and
4. The workplace impact of the cloud on all three of the other sources of change that I make note of here.

Then at the end of Part 15, I stated that I would continue its line of discussion here, where I would:

• Expand the set of specific disruptive changes under specific discussion in all of this, and
• Address these issues in timeframe and related contexts as viewed from the individual participant perspective.

I at least begin this, by adding a fifth fundamental source of change into this narrative, that like the above restated fourth change: the advent of the cloud, impacts upon and shapes all of the others here listed:

• Legally mandated and enforced regulatory oversight and its case law history as that shapes how regulatory rules are interpreted and enforced.

And I begin addressing this, by noting that regulatory oversight, and particularly as explicitly mandated and enforced by weight of law, is probably the furthest reaching and the most impactful of all of the change drivers that I have been addressing here, and particularly:

• When businesses increasingly do business across national boundaries and even globally,
• And when at least one of the legal jurisdictions involved, is actively and even proactively regulatory in its approach to managing a level playing field.

This state of affairs is quickly becoming the new norm, in an increasingly globally interconnected day-to-day business context. And this certainly holds true from an employment and employability perspective when telecommuting and similar options can mean people working from anywhere to anywhere. Legally mandated workplace and employment regulatory protections offered in one locale, can and will impact upon businesses in others too – and certainly across international borders.

Let me start addressing that with a seemingly unrelated example that applies strictly within a single nation: the United States, but that can be seen as representing a somewhat developed-in-practice role model for what we can expect to see emerging in a workplace and employability context. And the example that I would cite here is the State of California’s legally mandated definition of what it means for food to be organic, as specified by the US federal government’s Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, and the California Organic Products Act of 2003.

The California standard for designating food as organic is one of the most stringently demanding and far-reaching in the United States. And California’s position as a leading grower and provider of fresh produce nationally – and a leading consumer of food products from its population size, means that its definitions and its regulatory requirements, have impact that extends way beyond its state borders. People in other states and even in other nations who buy California organic, know what that means and they come to demand the same quality control levels for food produced in their own states and their own legal jurisdictions too, and even outside of the United States itself. And growers who operate outside of California face pressures to conform to those standards too, and certainly if they seek to ship their products to that state and with an organic designation. California’s approach to defining organic food, has become the gold standard and the benchmark that others have come to use in defining and enforcing food quality control elsewhere too. Their clout and reach in agriculture has made that all but inevitable, and certainly given their pro-consumer position in this.

Let’s consider how the basic principles there, might be applied to an employment and employability context. And I begin with my first change driver from the above list: non-compete clauses and agreements. And I start by repeating a point that I have already made in this blog in regard to that terms of employment approach, and by citing a recent news story that I have made note of in other series. Even just within the United States, different states with their separate laws and case law records, approach non-competes differently from each other. See:

Noncompete Pacts, Under Siege, Find Haven in Idaho

Idaho’s state legislature, as influenced by “pro-business” lobbyists, have pushed through some of the most draconian anti-employee legislation in the United States for enforcing non-compete clauses in hiring and job retention agreements. If would-be employees could not move out of state to find new opportunity, and current and former employees couldn’t move out of state either, and if the job market was, and was always going to favor employers with many more qualified applicants for any given type of work opportunity than there are positions open for that work, and as the basic rule and for all types of jobs, then this might mean Idaho employers gaining and holding a stable advantage in employer/employee negotiations there. Add to that, enforceable barriers against telecommuting and against court challenges and either within-state or beyond as would arise through appeals to higher courts. But none of those qualifiers can be relied upon and certainly not long-term and definitely not for the types of positions that employers might more legitimately need that type of protection for. Like organic produce, job availability faces porous borders and competitive pressures that can and do cross them too.

And I stress here that even when employees and would-be employees cannot realistically cost-effectively and affordably move, at least for securing lower level and lower overall pay jobs, this type of measure still creates real instability for those employers, as the experience of looser and less restrictive laws in other jurisdictions shapes employee expectations and even in the heart of a state like Idaho itself. Loose and lax and even effectively nonexistent regulatory law governing and restricting use of non-competes can be challenged in court, and effectively changed in legal decision and in case law precedent moving forward. And the more win-lose and anti-competitive it is the more likely it is that that will happen.

So flipping around a basic point of conclusion that I made late in Part 15:

• The more win-lose a terms of employment change is as a business practice, the more unstable it is going to prove for the businesses that come to rely upon it,
• And the greater the resultant risk it will create for them for doing so, as reactive change developed in response to it can break it, and certainly as currently pursued, and with all of the direct cost and all of the indirect cost (e.g. bad publicity) that this would create.

With that stated and argued, let’s step back to reconsider change that would impact on employability in more general terms again, and how regulatory and other factors external to the business collectively help shape them. I am going to delve into that in my next series installment, addressing interaction issues. And in anticipation of that, I note here that I will add in one more fundamentally important emerging source of change to this narrative:

• The emergence of the lean and agile business model as an increasingly important strategic and operational approach, and one that will become essential for seemingly all types of businesses in our increasingly globally interconnected and globally competing markets.

I have been writing in positive terms of lean and agile businesses for a long time now in this blog. And in anticipation of discussion to come here, note as a starting point for that, that the lean and agile business model does offer both risk and positive opportunity in an employment and employability context. But capturing the positive opportunity in this change, means embracing its possibilities and in some specific types of ways; it means planning and developing career paths in terms of an explicitly lean change-driven business model. I will discuss all of this, at least in part in terms of timeframes too.

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.

Technology as the tide that raises all boats 11 – but often unevenly 8

Posted in outsourcing and globalization, reexamining the fundamentals, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 7, 2017

This is my 11th installment to a discussion that I initially began as a single stand-alone posting in April, 2012, but that needs reconsidering. I focused in that posting, on a key issue that enters into a determination of how and when change rises to a level of significance so as to qualify as true innovation (see Outsourcing and Globalization, postings 25 and loosely following for Parts 1-10, and Part 1 of that in particular as the foundational urtext for this narrative.)

The at-times conflicting dynamics of innovation entry into, and acceptance in the marketplace are crucially important to the narrative that I have been developing here in this series. So I explicitly addressed two of the more overtly significant aspects of that in Part 9 and Part 10:

• Availability and accessibility of New in the marketplace (at all, and at an affordable cost there),
• And level of comfort and of willingness to adapt New, and how soon after it first appears as a marketplace possibility.

My goal for this installment is to address something of the underlying mechanisms of these dynamics, and certainly in an increasingly ubiquitously connected context, with a focus here on friction in these systems. And in the course of discussing and analyzing that, I will explicitly consider how both cultural and socioeconomic forces impact upon and help to shape innovative change and the opportunity for it as it advances forward all around us.

I begin addressing all of that by posting a basic and even fundamental question, that I have in fact answered at least in part, a number of times in the course of developing and writing postings and series to this blog:

• What is friction in this context?
• I start with a well established approach to answering that: with friction as that term is used in economic theory and as a general organizing principle there. Economic friction is resistance to systems efficiency as that arises from a lack of essential information, clearly stated and available when and as needed. Friction is the consequence of having to make economic and financial decisions absent even crucially necessary information at the time of decision making, that would be required in order to knowingly make a best decision then. Think of this as sand thrown in the gear box of Adam Smith’s invisible hand, where marketplace and economic system participants cannot make what would be the best decisions for themselves or for others (who for example, they might hold fiduciary responsibility toward), as they lack the information and insight that would be required for that. Economic friction is a measure of the consequence of faulty and limited information and its communication and it shapes the overall systems that it arises in, and the outcomes and consequences of decisions made in them.
• I adapt that basic term and its definition to the organizational level of the individual business with a matching term: business systems friction. And I apply that term at the level of the overall business or organization as a whole, and at the level of functional and other supposedly tightly connected functional subsystems that arise within the complete organization (e.g. as separate and distinct lines on a table of organization under single lines of leadership there, or as separate and distinct offices or facilities that formally belong within the business but that also function at least somewhat autonomously within it.) Looking outward and in the other direction for organizational scale, I also apply this term in the context of supply chain and related value chain systems, with the functionally interconnected and interacting businesses that enter into them, all collectively brought under direct consideration here.
• And here and in this context, I continue expanding the range of organizational levels that I would apply the basic term “friction” to, to consider individuals and social network and marketplace connected groups of them. Yes, the basic issues that I would encapsulate in what I will say here and in this context, have their counterparts within businesses and in groups of employees, and I would tend to include that context within the general rubric of business systems friction too. Here, I will focus on what I will categorically carve out as a more consumer and marketplace manifestation of friction. (Yes, this could reasonably be folded into the general economic friction definition, but I separate it out to consider this set of phenomena from an explicitly more micro-level.)

Consumers and marketplace participants in general, make their decisions to purchase or not to purchase on the basis of limited information, and in the face of faulty and at times even significantly limited and even contradictory communications. This is obvious when considering rapidly changing industries and their products, where consumers do not for example necessarily know when a newer and better next technology updated product will come out as they make their next purchasing decisions now. It also applies to the questions of quality and reliability, ease of use, and value of the features offered, in what they have to consider for purchase and even when they know that a new purchasing option is available to them. That is why crowd sourced and other (presumably) consumer product reviews are considered to be so valuable as an increasing common due diligence resource, and for so many. But even then, how can you tell if a negative review is the legitimate expression of opinion of a real product user, or just a troll attack fraud and perhaps one posted in subversive support for a competitor? How can you tell if a glowingly positive review is legitimate, or a fraud too, and even one directly posted by the product manufacturer or provider, or posted for-fee on their behalf? Information is always going to be incomplete and imperfect. And it can be difficult and even impossible to know precisely what to make of the marketplace information and perceived knowledge that is visible and available, that could be applied to purchasing decisions.

But this tells only one half of the story that I would make note of here. For purposes of this narrative, the second half might be even more important: the asymmetry in both the information available to, and the levels and types of information accessed by individuals in the overall marketplace, depending on where they most comfortably fit into a relevant innovation acceptance diffusion curve.

I admit that I am offering a more stereotyped assessment here, but add in its defense that in this case that simply means accepting the basic functional definitions of terms like pioneer and early adaptor on one end of the scale, and late and last adaptors on the other.

• When a new product, and particularly a disruptively novel one first arrives in the marketplace, the first people to see it are often published new product reviewers who tend themselves to be early and even pioneer adaptors. And they focus on all of the new details and their strengths and weaknesses, but from a New accepting and even New-embracing perspective. Pioneer and early adaptors who are drawn to the New and Different, tend to be drawn to these reviews and to make their own reviews and assessments of the product details offered too, through online social media. So their decisions to buy in or not, tend to be granular and detailed and on a specific New product level. And they tend to be shared through like-minded communities.
• Late and last adaptors do not generally read these types of reviews – ever. And they do not in general post or share their specific reviews or opinions either, and certainly not online in the manner that early adaptors do. They start out with a presumptive, more categorical bias against New and Different per se, at least until value has been proven in others’ hands as safe and reliable enough to meet their due diligence requirements and on a “once new” by “once new” basis. So their approach here is essentially by definition anything but fine grained and granular in nature and it does not enter into widely shared review and evaluation conversations. Outside sourced information that they would seek out and accept in this, is in large part evaluated in terms of how it does or does not support their basic a priori conclusion-based due diligence approach which is more risk aversive than benefit accepting in nature.
• And mid-stage adaptors fit in the middle there, looking both outward for details of the specific products that have come out to see how they might work for them, and both outward and inward for threat assessment driven risk management decision making. They also want to see at least some prior user experience as necessary input for their risk and benefits evaluation, but they are not entirely driven by that in their purchasing and usage decisions.
• That raises an important point. Both early and earliest, and late and last adaptors carry out risk and benefits assessments (and so do middle ground adaptors.) It is just that early end of the spectrum adaptors tend to weigh possible benefits more heavily than they do risks and late and last adaptors tend to reverse that. For a very real world, clarifying example there, consider government agencies such as the United States FBI and particularly when they seek to upgrade their computer network and file and data management systems. They do in fact look into the technical details and in more detail than essentially any early adaptors would or could. It is just that by the time they have finished their multi-stage vetting process for that, what began as new and cutting edge can have become old and even obsolete. This is not a fictionalized example; I am in fact briefly recalling a specific failed attempt at a massive, information systems upgrade in the FBI that collapsed around the time I first began writing to this blog. Possible risk was viewed as so outweighing possible benefit that nothing positive was, or could be achieved from that upgrade attempt, that ended up costing the US government well over a third of a billion dollars and with nothing to show from it in the way of new technology in place and in actual use.

There are a number of salient conclusions that could be drawn from this comparison between early end and late end adaptors as considered from an innovation diffusion and acceptance curve perspective. One that I would point to here is that most late adaptors seek out much less outside information and much less new product-specific information than do early adaptors ( my FBI example notwithstanding, as a perhaps rule-clarifying exception.) And this difference in the levels and range of sources of information sought out, and of the range of conversation flows entered into, mean fundamental differences in the types and sources of friction faced when making these purchasing decisions, and when determining the timing of those decisions, for those two groups.

I said towards the top of this posting that I will consider “both cultural and socioeconomic impact as innovative change and the opportunity for it advances all around us.” I will more explicitly delve into those issues and into the issues of early and late adapting communities in my next series installment. I simply add here and in anticipation of that, that this set of issues becomes definingly important in a ubiquitously connected, social media driven context that we now live in. (I will question that assertion in my next installment too, as part of its discussion.)

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

Balancing innovative change and ongoing reliable stability and consistency 8: strategic thinking, planning and execution 5

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 5, 2017

This is my 8th 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 1-7.)

I have been successively discussing a set of to-address points in this series since its Part 5, that I repeat here for purposes of smoother continuity of narrative:

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

I have delved into each of the first three of these points since then, leading up to and including my Part 7 discussion and analysis of Point 3 and its issues. And that has brought me to a set of specific topic points that I would turn to here in this installment, that all fall in at least large part within the aegis of a single overarching label: the challenge of remediation, in explicitly identifying and correcting strategy/tactics disconnects.

My goal for this posting is to at least begin to address this thread to this series’ overall discussion. And then when I have the basic foundation in place for continuing on from there, I will address Points 4 and 5 from the above list, returning full circle to the case study example that I began all of this with, in its Part 1. But I begin all of this with an at least starter discussion of remediation here, and with the fundamentals for that, as would be more generically applicable and for most any business context where strategy as centrally planned, and tactics as specific-point-of-action are carried out, collide. I begin this with the issues of communications.

Business communications have become one of the central organizing themes for this blog as a whole, and with that in mind, I offer some orienting reference links that clarify my basic approach to it. I begin that by noting a specific series that I offered from the perspective of the individual as we seek to secure and thrive at specific jobs and as we develop and pursue longer-term career paths:

• Communicating More Effectively as a Job and Career Skill, as can be found at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 342-358.

Ultimately, all communications in businesses take place between individuals – and even when you consider documentation that is developed and entered into archived storage as part of an ongoing permanent record. True, the creator of a given message might not know who or when their documents might be accessed and used, or the circumstances in which this might take place. But ultimately, it is individuals who enter into even these communications processes and on both the message creation and the message receipt and use sides of any communications transactions that ultimately arise. So I focus on the individual here, when focusing on the communications process per se.

And the other basic reference that I offer here is one that I first wrote as part of a longer, loosely organized series on leadership per se, with each installment examining that general, overall topic through the lens of a single, distinct quality or circumstance that a would-be leader might face.

When Leadership Means Accepting the Need for Unpleasant Conversations.

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

Resolving, and even just effectively identifying strategy and tactics disconnects depends entirely upon effective communications. And that definitely applies when the challenges in place include strategy/tactics disconnects, where professionals who have invested in the approaches they follow, find themselves in this type of disagreement in understanding and action. I will continue from that starting point observation in my next series installment, where I will more fully delve into the issues of finding a common ground of understanding, and actually remediating these challenges.

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 33 – bringing innovators into a business and keeping them there 16

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 3, 2017

This is my 33rd 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 1-32.)

I focused in Part 32 of this series on the issues of encouraging and supporting, and retaining creative employees that you might already have in your business – who all too often are typecast as if they could only do well at the routine and even rote tasks that they are doing now.

• Businesses can and all too often do hemorrhage talent from their ranks, and without even knowing what they are risking and losing as they do this, as managers in pursuit of the routine in their task completion lists, fail to look beyond that to see what their teams and the people in them could do.

So I wrote about non-managerial, hands-on employees in Part 32, as a source of what could be innovative excellence and for at least some crucial fraction of the workforce in place. And I ended that by noting that I would at least begin to discuss how to better address this challenge here. I will do that. But first, I need to expand out the range of the Who side to this topic as considered here, by including frustrated managers who are stymied as their creative drive and potential go unrecognized too.

Non-managerial employees who do essentially all of the direct hands-on work at any business of any size, are an obvious fertile ground to look through for unrecognized and unappreciated creative potential. There are, after all, usually more people in that overall category than there are people with managerial and supervisory responsibilities in a business. So this is an obvious place to begin – and certainly as hands-on employees tend to have a lesser voice and a shorter reach in expressing it than managers do, and certainly when mid-level and higher level managers are considered. But it is vitally important to look for and identify, encourage and develop and support the innovative potential in the management team too, and certainly in the pool of lower level and mid-level managers in place, who take more orders overall than they give, and certainly within the managerial ranks where their own areas of responsibility and action are determined.

What do you look for there? I would begin answering that question by noting what you should look for in non-managerial employees too, who have managerial and leadership potential, as that means looking for the same traits that you should look for in already-managers who have real potential for further professional growth and advancement. Look for people with:

• Good, strong communications skills,
• Who can work well with others,
• And who do not work in a rut of only seeing their own here-and-now immediate tasks at hand.

Look for the people in your business who routinely see and think in terms of bigger pictures, and how individual efforts fit together, as well as the details that they have to work on. And look for the people there who think in terms of how larger parts of the business do and do not fit together effectively and how and why: larger ranges of the business than are encompassed by their own direct workplace responsibilities.

Note that I did not add wider hands-on expertise or unusually impressive technical skills there as general identifiers of leadership and management potential. And I did not include anything like an ability to expertly do a wider range of jobs hands-on themselves, than they are held responsible for now in that either. This is because good managers and leaders facilitate the people who work with them and under their supervision, to do better at their areas of expertise. And they help them to work together more effectively, and in a more smoothly coordinated manner. A good leader: a great leader excels in organizing larger efforts to meet larger goals in carrying out larger tasks and even when they do not have the hands-on expertise needed to actually take over for anyone on their team.

They do need to know the basic issues and the language of their area of responsibility and well enough to be able to ask the right questions and convey the right information to others. And they need to know enough of the more technical side to what is being done for them to be able to tell when they are being given good answers, incomplete answers that need to be further developed … or obfuscating jargon and the ineffectual and non-answers that sometimes also arrive on a manager’s desk.

• And in the context of this posting, a good manager has to be able to work effectively with the new and the uncertain,
• And when and how to support and advocate for those who seek to create new and positive through innovative effort, and when to more highly prioritize more basic and routine tasks that others in the business depend on their doing and completing.

Look for non-managerial staff with the capability and the interest in moving into positions where they would manage and lead others, developing and exercising their potential in that direction. Look for mangers who could effectively advance to greater and more wide-reaching levels of authority and higher up on a table of organization. And strive to facilitate this and even if you do not have a simple solution as to how right now, with a clearly defined opening on your table of organization at this time, so you do not end up watching your best walk out the door in frustration – and certainly not avoidably.

And with Part 32 and this installment up to here in mind, I add:

• Look throughout your organization for unmet potential that can be developed and encouraged and supported as sources of positive value for your business,
• And look for ways to more effectively capitalize on this potential – and even when that means you’re being creative in finding new ways to do that, that do not simply fit your perhaps cookie-cutter, linear business growth pattern in place.

This does not mean you’re never losing talent and even extraordinary talent from your workforce; it does mean striving to limit that loss and at all ranks in your business where that can realistically be achieved.

And with this 900 plus word start to this posting, I finally at least begin to address something of the How of all of this. And this means delving into two basic categorical types of communications that shape the employee and the manager experience, and what they are allowed to do, and what they are required to do at work:

Structured and even formally structured communications, as arise for example in the context of annual performance reviews with their pre-vetted review forms and protocols, and
Unstructured communications, as tools for arriving at unexpected insight and types of it.

I am going to delve into those issues in my next installment to this series, and use that as a starting point for discussing best practices in identifying and cultivating innovative potential in a business. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 4

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 1, 2017

This is my fourth posting to a series on disintermediation, focusing on how this enables marketing options such as gorilla and viral marketing, but also considering how it shapes and influences businesses as a whole. My focus here may be marketing oriented, but marketing per se only makes sense when considered in the larger context of the business carrying it out and the marketplace it is directed towards (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 278 and loosely following for Parts 1-3.)

I initially made note in Part 2 of this series, of two specific business scenarios:

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

And I focused, and certainly in Part 3, on the second, larger and more established business type, under consideration here.

The first of these business scenarios is relatively obvious and intuitively so by comparison. New, small businesses have very little in the way of liquidity and either for reserves or for more immediate day-to-day operations, marketing included. So anything that they could do, that would favorably extend their marketing reach and their overall name and brand recognition would be for the good. Bringing marketplace participants into this effort, with their personal name recognition in their circles of friends and acquaintances, and as supporters and endorsers of a new business would be all but invaluable to that enterprise in helping it gain traction, and market share and more quickly than they could ever achieve on their own. So gorilla and viral marketing, as supported by the always connected, anywhere to anywhere of online social media, are obvious and increasingly essential resources – disintermediating the marketing process by eliminating third party publishing gatekeepers and directly connecting with and collaborating with the marketplace itself.

That is simple and straightforward. So I focused in Part 3 on the second scenario, which is much less so, where I offered an intentionally planned out digression into how these businesses are structured and into how they function per se. Why did I do that? My goal for this posting is to at least briefly explain that, and to complete this background foundation-building note, if for no other reason.

Let’s begin with that first, simple startup and early stage business example, as a point of comparison for what is to follow here. I just noted that they have little liquidity available, and either for reserves and for dealing with possible set-backs, or for maintaining their ongoing day-to-day activities with the expenses involved there. This is true, and essentially by definition for such enterprises and even if they do have outside investor backers as that type of funding can get burned through very quickly if it is not carefully managed and if its use is not stringently limited. But for purposes of this discussion, it is more important to note that with very small headcounts and with more direct communications throughout the organization, organizational systems are simple and direct and the effective table of organization, as actually followed operationally can be relatively flat and even entirely so for a variety of business functions and purposes.

Gorilla and viral marketing approaches can be viewed as simply following this same basic approach, and both as a necessity and as a source of opportunity, while limiting expenses in direct cash and in timing-delay forms. A larger and more established business might have greater reserves and larger and more reliably established cash flows that could be used in support of ongoing business activity. But more importantly here, they are also essentially certain to have much more complicated organizational structures with many, many more organizational layers and a much more complex and settled system of distinct supervisory and management led teams – and with all of the partitions that this creates, and barriers to smooth and friction-free communications and decision making. And I stress here that the boundaries separating these partitioned off table of organization layers, and the presence of all of those separate groups within the organization all offer opportunity for business friction with reduced and slowed down communications, and with all of the adverse consequences that this can create and certainly where a business seeks to be agile and resilient in the face of possible change. This impacts upon both internal, within-business communications, and on externally facing and connecting marketing and related communications efforts too.

One of the foundation-building observations that I made in this series and early on in it, which I repeated at the start of this installment, is that “my focus here may be marketing-oriented, but marketing per se only makes sense when considered in the larger context of the business carrying it out and the marketplace it is directed towards.” Here is where that becomes explicitly important:

• It cannot make a positive, value creating or enhancing difference to disintermediate and simplify operational processes and the communications that enable them in one area of a business (e.g. in marketing), if that more streamlined subsystem fits into and works within a larger overall business that is overly complex and bogged down with business systems friction and related inefficiency-producing barriers that undo any possible benefit so gained.

Small businesses such as startups and early stage businesses can find it a lot easier to make options and approaches such as gorilla and viral marketing work for them, because they do not attenuate and lose any potential value advantage so gained in a veritable swamp of overall inefficiency and delay, which can arise and certainly as a worst-case situation.

• And with that type of change management requiring example in mind, I note that simply adding in or attempting to add in new and exciting innovations such as gorilla and viral marketing, and without reviewing and correcting the inefficiencies and disconnects that this would have to work through, cannot help.

In a more normative context, with fewer and much less severe slow-downs and their inefficiencies, any advantage from directly connecting into the marketplace and with real participants there, can still easily be attenuated away and lost to the business – with that leaving dissatisfied members of those marketplace communities, when and as their efforts to positively communicate with the business seem to drift off into the twilight zone.

And with this offered as background material for thinking through these two business types, I return to the types of issues that I raised towards the top of this posting regarding how and why they would turn to approaches such as gorilla and viral marketing. And I pose two questions that I will at least begin to address in my next series installment, which I raise here in anticipation of what is to come:

• How best can an established business that is set in its more traditional ways, break that perhaps long-established pattern to bring in innovative new approaches such as disintermediated marketing?
• And how can such a business make this work for them, and in ways that do not simply leave any value potential created, lost in the complexities of the rest of the business?

In anticipation of this, and addressing these questions, I add in one more, as a point of orienting focus:

• Can an established and even at least somewhat sclerotic business use the introduction of new and different, such as gorilla or viral marketing as a starting point for reinvigorating and updating the business as a whole, and if so, how?

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.

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