Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Business planning from the back of a napkin to a formal and detailed presentation 28

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on March 1, 2019

This is my 28th posting to a series on tactical and strategic planning under real world constraints, and executing in the face of real world challenges that are caused by business systems friction and the systems turbulence that it creates (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3, Page 4 and their Page 5 continuation, postings 578 and loosely following for Parts 1-27.)

I have been addressing a set of topics points since Part 19, that collectively raise closely related issues that become important in any business, and certainly when it is facing change and a need to effectively navigate it:

1. More systematically discuss how business operations would differ for businesses that follow one or the other of two distinctively different business models (see Part 19 through Part 21 for a selectively detailed outline and discussion of those businesses),
2. How the specific product offering decision-making processes that I have been making note of here would inform the business models pursued by both of these business types, and their overall strategies and operations and their views and understandings of change: linear and predictable, and disruptively transitional in nature (see Part 22 through Part 25.)
3. And I added that I would discuss how their market facing requirements and approaches as addressed here, would shape the dynamics of any agreement or disagreement among involved stakeholders as to where their business is now and where it should be going, and how.

My primary goal for Part 26 was to recapitulate and summarize a perspective to my approach for addressing the above Points 1 and 2, and with a goal of addressing some real world impediments that founding teams can encounter as they seek to understand and resolve the challenges and opportunities they face in their collectively managed business. I explicitly stress “collectively managed” and its implications there, and even when a business venture has a chief executive officer leader who is always going to make any finalizing decisions. In that, I only assume here that even they would need to achieve some level of more overall buy-in when working with other stakeholders who they and their business have to be able to depend upon.

Then I built from that organizing summary, as a new starting point for this developing narrative, in Part 27, where I reformulated the above Point 3 in more explicit communications and negotiating terms and from an assumption that they would at least be achievable. My reformulated Point 3 coming out of that was:

• Point 3 (take 2): … And I added that I would discuss how a combination of stakeholder-held perspectives and understandings of the business as a whole, as shaped by their own more individual work responsibilities and perspectives there, would in turn shape the dynamics of any agreement or disagreement among them as to where their business is now as a whole and where it should be going, and how, as those individuals arrive at mutually agreeable accommodations that would balance overall business needs and their own individual stakeholder needs.

My goal for this posting is to continue addressing that topics point, as so reformulated. And I begin doing so by citing a separate series that I have been concurrently developing alongside this one, that explicitly discusses negotiations and negotiating processes in the workplace: Dissent, Disagreement, Compromise and Consensus, as can be found at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, as postings 484 and following.

Most of what I have offered in that series and in this one at least up to now, has been predicated on an assumption that people have relatively consistent views, opinions, priorities and goals in their own thoughts and plans and that differences that do arise can be reconcilable. I updated my above Point 3 as a topic point to essentially require, for purposes of this narrative, that any conversations and any negotiations entered into here have a significant chance for success as all involved have sufficiently open minds to allow for that possibility.

I at least begin my continuation of this Point 3 (as reformulated) discussion by raising and questioning that consistency assumption too, and by raising two principles that might both illuminate inconsistencies there, and help resolve them: “education”, and “shared insight.” But let’s start with the basic underlying issues and then consider those more-resolution oriented terms and what they would bring to this discussion, next.

I raise here and challenge one more assumption that I built into the above Point 3 and both as originally stated and as “take 2” reformulated: the question of organized consistency in the thinking and decision making of the individual stakeholders involved as they participate in developing the overall strategy followed and its overall execution. The key term that I would cite here is cognitive dissonance. And I would argue, and certainly from my own experience and from observing others, that the primary cause of the simultaneously held points of disagreement that lead to it stem from provisional thinking: incomplete thinking through of the issues involved, as points of disagreement and of prioritization still have to be fully identified and considered by the individuals involved. And when individual stakeholders involved in a decision making process here, cannot consistently, clearly make up their own minds on pertinent issues involved, this whole negotiating process as discussed here can break down, and certainly when undecideds hold gatekeeper or key decision making responsibilities (and on either a necessary What or How basis.)

• Can people hew long-term and adamantly to internal inconsistencies and even stridently so? Yes and I have had to deal with this challenge as proof of that, at least for me, and on a number of occasions. But I would simply classify this as resistance to facing unpleasant and undesired disconnects and inconsistencies and the consequences their acknowledgment would compel – and particularly when that would by ripple effect challenge fondly held beliefs or opinions.
• I assume here that the individuals involved in these negotiations are capable of and willing to reach at least a measure of agreement and consistency in their own thoughts and perspectives that they would bring to the table for any discussions that would take place.

The challenges that I write of here can and do arise in both reactive and proactive planning and particularly when involved participants need more information if they are to sort out their own internal uncertainties and differences, and when they might feel pressed for time in that. And with that noted, I add that:

• The more novel and divergent from standard and expected, a planned change or its building block decisions and actions would be,
• The less certain its execution steps and their benchmarks would be,
• And the more likely it is that people involved would focus more on intended goals and less on the how of reaching them, the more likely it becomes that this type of internal disagreement will arise. (Think of this third bullet point as representing one of the sometimes traps of “big picture” thinking, where at least some effective consideration of the underlying details is always going to prove essential.)

Together, these points and their underlying issues all make cognitive dissonance and its underlying causes, both more likely to arise and a lot less easy to characterize and address in any given specific-instance, case in point example, and with all of the potential for goals, process steps, scheduling and prioritization collisions that that can bring. (Think of this assertion as representing one of the challenges of being too close to a problem, as in being too caught up in it – and think of it as the flip side to my just stated assertion of the danger of taking too much of a “big picture” approach. This paragraph raises the possibility of getting too lost in the details too.)

I am going to continue this discussion of Point 3 issues in a next installment, where I will allow for both firmly held (but internally consistent held) points of disagreement between involved stakeholders, and the possibility that key stakeholders have not been able to consistently make up their own minds yet. And I will explicitly address this complex of possibilities in proactive and reactive terms. And yes, I will at least begin to address all of this from a remediative perspective and in terms of “education”, and “shared insight.” In anticipation of that line of discussion to come, any such positive resolution can depend entirely on developing an open and non-confrontational setting and one where the people involved can think out loud and discuss provisional possibilities, and ask and answer questions freely in doing so.

Then as promised in Part 26, I will discuss the issues that I have been raising here from the above Point 1 on, from a larger context than that of the individual business and its stakeholders, where individual businesses enter into larger supply chain and related collaborations, and as businesses seek to operate in larger contexts in general. And I will return to my initial case study examples as I complete this discussion thread to tie this developing narrative together as a more organized whole.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory.

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