Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Finding virtue in simplicity when complexity becomes problematical, and vice versa 17

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on June 23, 2019

This is my 17th installment to a series on simplicity and complexity in business communications, and on carrying out and evaluating the results of business processes, tasks and projects (see Social Networking and Business 2), postings 257 and loosely following for Parts 1-16.)

I have been discussing trade-offs and related contingency issues in recent installments to this series, regarding:

• Allowing and even actively supporting free and open communications in a business, in order to facilitate work done and in order to create greater organizational agility and flexibility there while doing so …
• While also maintaining effective risk management oversight of sensitive and confidential information.

I have in fact turned to consider this particular due diligence and risk management, versus competitive efficiency balancing act in a number of contexts and from a number of perspectives in the course of developing this blog. To be more specific here, I addressed this dynamic in Part 16 of this series from an outside regulatory agency and legal mandate perspective, on the access and control side of that two-sided challenge.

I begin this next installment to that narrative progression, by picking up on a key point of distinction that I have at least made note of in this series but that merits specific attention here. I often find myself writing of strategy and strategic approaches to thinking, planning and executing in a business. I begin here by raising a very basic question, that when more fully addressed, highlights aspects to that set of issues that can easily be overlooked. What, at least in this series’ type of context, is the difference between strategy and tactics?

I would argue that ultimately the most important differences between them are ones of scale. Tactical is essentially always and by definition, here-and-now oriented, and local and immediate in both planning and execution. Strategic automatically means inclusion of a contextually significant combination of two wider-ranging types of considerations:

• Planning and execution along longer timeframes, and/or
• Planning and execution with an active and engaged, and inclusive awareness of the fuller range of interactive scope that decisions and actions in one part of a larger system might have elsewhere in that system.

Business systems are essentially always interconnected, and even when the process flows under immediate tactical consideration in them, cannot be readily connected to each other through the types of direct and immediate dependencies that might for example appear in a project work flow Gantt chart or related planning tool. Slowdowns and related challenges, to express this in terms of possible problematical consequences, can and do arise unexpectedly, and certainly when wider perspective consideration of possible complications as would enter into due diligence-based strategic planning, is not done.

And this leads to a fundamental truth and a fundamental problem: standard operating procedure rapidly becomes rote and routine, and any actual still-ongoing planning that enters into it tends to become tactical, and terse and even essentially pro forma tactical at that. This might not at least seem to matter in general, and certainly when everything is proceeding as (essentially automatically) expected. But change and the unexpected, and from any impactfully significant source, can derail that. So how can you instill looking as if with fresh eyes into the routine and standard? How, in fact can you do this as a matter of more usual practice, even if just as a sampling and reviewing process, and even when a business at least nominally should be prepared for the unexpected and even the disruptively so?

To take the issues that I raise here out of the abstract, I have seen emergency response systems that have come to take way too many things for granted and both for what they look for and for how they normatively operate, just to see unexpected and un-prepared for contingencies and occurrences bring them effectively to a halt, and precisely when they are suddenly most needed. And yes, I have some very specific instances of this in mind as I write this posting and this part of it, that still bother me for their consequences.

• Twenty-twenty hindsight and recriminations do not in fact help there. Better: how can this possibility for what amounts to a fundamental breakdown in capability, be more proactively managed and both to reduce the chances of this type of off-the-rails challenge happening, and to speed up an effective corrective response when the unexpected does happen?

Wider timeframe consideration here, is if anything even more complex for its potential increases in reach and inclusion and both in planning and in targeted execution. This means looking out further in time per se, but it also includes consideration of process lifecycles and related consequentially recurring patterns, and separating them from trending and non-trending but non-recurring patterns. And it means discerning these and related patterns out of the more random background static that arise in the ongoing output of essentially any recurring task as it is successively carried out. Tactical-only, with its here-and-now, more blindered focus does not deal with anything like longer-term patterns, and in its pure form tends to function as if “current” was in a fundamental sense “always.”

Strategic also means looking for possible change events that can have what at least amounts to retroactive impact, and certainly where prior decisions and actions have set up resource bases and process systems related to them, that would now have to be rebuilt and with data and other resources already in place affected accordingly. I focused in large part in Part 16 of this series on regulatory law. First of all, not all legal systems explicitly bar ex post facto laws. And second, even legal systems and jurisdictions that do explicitly bar them can still allow changes in interpretation of existing law as initially legislated and passed, through court decision and case law. And that can still create immediate if not effectively-retroactive pressures to change and correct systems in place.

There, remediation might not mean being fined for actions taken and business practices and processes followed prior to a definitive case law decision that would demand change. But a business might have to be prepared to change and remediate from a previously at least tacitly accepted and even presumed-required prior, to a now demanded new, and very quickly and even where this would mean updating or even fundamentally replacing complex deeply integrated-in systems – such as large parts of the database query and data access systems in place in a big-data accumulating, processing, and using business, and processes in place for making use of data from this critical resource.

I stated at the end of Part 16 that I would turn here to consider the issues of information management from a more strategic perspective, and I have begun doing so here with this more general discussion. I am going to switch directions in my next installment to this series, to more explicitly discuss information management strategy as a specific area of overall business strategy and planning per se. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its Page 2 continuation. And also see my series: Communicating More Effectively as a Job and Career Skill Set, for its more generally applicable discussion of focused message best practices per se. I initially offered that with a specific case in point jobs and careers focus, but the approaches raised and discussed there are more generally applicable. You can find that series at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, as its postings 342-358.

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