Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 19: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 11

This is my 19th 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 1-18.)

The basic approach that I take to business theory at least begins at a more reductionistic, individual participant and interpersonal interaction level, and expands out from there with allowance for emergent properties as higher levels of organization are considered. And in keeping with that approach, I have in recent installments to this series, been at least somewhat systematically discussing the individual employee, who might or might not have managerial responsibilities as well as directly hands-on ones.

So I focused in at least significant measure in Part 17 and again in Part 18, on the new hire and on how hiring managers and the businesses that they work for as a general rule screen out possible job candidates more on the basis of why they would not work out, and with a goal of eliminating most of them from consideration, than they do from the perspective of looking for how these potential new hires would work out and why they should be hired and brought in. And I at least noted in that context, that when and as a winning candidate is selected and hired, that dynamic becomes reversed. Now the dynamic is more one of looking for reasons to keep an already hired employee on, barring overriding considerations such as complete incompetence or downsizing pressures to reduce the workforce in general in at least their area of the business.

That pre-hire side to this has become more and more pressingly necessary and particularly over the past dozen years or so, and particularly as businesses have come to routinely post job opportunities online and in effect at least, globally, and as candidates have come to routinely blanket submit e-file copies of their largely generic resumes to any and every potential employer that is offering an at least vaguely appropriate job opening for them to apply to. Businesses look to weed out and discard any at least partly inappropriate applicants from consideration first and usually by essentially automated means, and do so as a survival mechanism so their hiring process does not become entirely broken down from the flood of extraneous resume submissions, that their much fewer good candidates at least start out, lost in.

The post-hire side to this makes sense at least as compellingly as the hiring manager who agreed to a particular job candidate brings them in, putting at least part of their own reputation and standing on the line there too. But neither of these process and decision-driven relationships can be meaningfully captured as binary, two person interactions. Wider ranges of stakeholders are always involved and on both pre and post sides of any hiring decision too.

This obviously holds true in the post-hiring context that I just cited for a first hiring and now supervising manager who sees a downside to themselves if they become seen as making faulty decisions here. But other stakeholders are almost always brought into the interviewing process for top candidates, and this can include co-workers who a new hire would work with on an ongoing basis, in-house client stakeholders who a new hire would do work for and who would depend on that being done effectively and on time if they are to meet their own goals and schedules, and others. These stakeholder groups can all come from a single localized area of the overall table of organization, that a new hire would work for but they can and at times do come from more wide ranging parts of the business too. And the more wide-ranging the commitment and buy-in when hiring, the more widespread a sense of buy-in is going to be in place to justify a hiring decision and to help see that it does work out successfully.

This example, as I have been addressing here is important in and of itself. But I would put it in a wider, more comprehensive perspective here by noting that:

• A business can, among other things, be viewed as a dynamic system of overlapping and interconnected stakeholder networks, some assembled on the spot for specific purposes just to dissolve as their sources of impetus for forming are resolved, and some enduring long term.
• And long-term ones, can even become effectively enshrined in the business model and in strategic and operational systems, where membership can become title and position based to allow for smoother member turnover as people come and go in a business’ workforce, and as people there change jobs within the organization. Much of this is in fact laid out at least for likelihood of arising in the table of organization itself, but even stable and seemingly permanent functional networks of this type can systematically cut across the table of organization too, and even intentionally so.
• Ultimately and according to this understanding, business systems and their functioning can be viewed as representing complex and evolving networks of interpersonal interactions, and interpersonal commitments. Think of the hiring process and new employee onboarding process example that I have been focusing on here, as a case in point example of a much more widespread general set of phenomena.

With that larger framework perspective noted, I return to that specific case in point example and to a simplifying detail that I offered (again) in this posting when briefly and selectively discussing it:

• The basic issues that I have raised here regarding candidate hiring and employee retention dynamics as they arise, are essentially the same for most all businesses
• And regardless of whether an individual under consideration as a new hire-turned-employee, would or would not have managerial authority and position.

The principles regarding individual and interpersonal behavior that I have addressed up to here in this discussion, apply in general across businesses organizations as a whole, and for most all businesses. But that said and returning to my new hire to in-house employee example, the type of position that a new arrival would hold in a business, is important here too.

Consider my discussion of this up to here as setting a foundational baseline for what is to follow. And I begin this next phase of this narrative by expanding out a list of criteria that would enter into shaping how different types of employees can face very different situations in their hiring to onboarding to retention or dismissal experience, by offering for consideration:

• More routine hire hands-on non-managerial employees, and I add more routine and entry level and middle managers – versus – the most senior managers and executives when they are brought in, and certainly from the outside.
• More routine positions, managerial or not – versus – special skills and experience new hires and employees, hands-on or managerial.
• Job candidates and new hires and employees who reached out to the business, applying as discussed up to here in this narrative on their own initiative – versus – those who the business has reached out to, to at least attempt to bring them in-house as special hires and as special for all that would follow.
• And to round out this list, I will add one more entry here, doing so by citing one specific and specifically freighted word: nepotism.

I am going to at least begin addressing this list of variations on the baseline model as outlined here in my next series installment. Then, as promised in Part 18 at its end, I will 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:

• A focus on the potential negatives of change and of the unknown, and a focus on the positive possibilities of change and an embrace of the new and at least in-part unknown, as job and career strategy-shaping presumptions arise and are followed through upon, 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.

One of my goals for this posting has been to widen the perspective that this would all be thought in terms of, where for example my discussion here of businesses as overlapping and dynamically changing systems of stakeholder networks, affects how those two bullet points would be considered. I will expand upon this more general understanding in discussion to come too.

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.

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