Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

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. I stress here that I am not just referring to changes of employer; I am referring to more fundamental change in the type of work done and in career path too. Change per se has in effect become the new predictably stable.

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 of that several and even many series to this blog now, 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.

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