Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Nonprofits as businesses: more effectively connecting mission and vision, strategy and operations 2

Posted in nonprofits by Timothy Platt on September 18, 2019

This is my second installment to a series that I am offering here as a more detailed continuation to a stand-alone posting that I first wrote and posted in 2010, that has recently been garnering a significant amount of attention: Nonprofits and Blue Ocean Strategies. See Nonprofits and Social Networking for links to that earlier posting and topically related ones, and to this series’ Part 1, for relevant background material for what is to follow here.

My above-cited blue ocean strategy posting was about carving out a defining niche in the nonprofit world: as working towards a mission and vision that a significant share of an overall community would find compellingly important to support, while addressing what might legitimately be seen as unmet and unaddressed needs. It was, and is about finding and presenting mission and vision statement goals that a potentially supportive community could see as both important to them, and fresh.

Part 1 of this series, in turn, raised a challenge, there posed independently of any consideration of newness or freshness in what those mission and vision statements would seek to fulfilled, that nevertheless enters into fulfilling the goals of that earlier posting. Shifting its initial line of discussion to a more explicitly better-nonprofit perspective:

• How can you best develop and draft these organizing statements as practical goals and as goals that might realistically be addressed and worked towards, and by you and your nonprofit in particular?

I raised a perhaps more mundane retail store example in Part 1, as a simplified role model example of how an operationally oriented mission and vision statement might be framed, in order to more clearly state my intentions there and for here. And I ended that posting by posing an at least simple sounding question:

• How can the leaders and the employees and the volunteers as well, who contribute so much to their nonprofits, make them more strategically clear-cut and operationally focused too, and in ways that are more effective in working towards fulfilling their missions and visions as a result – like that shoe store, but without sacrificing their overall mission and vision goals and aspirations?
• And matching that question and expanding upon it, how can they do this in ways that would making their efforts more compelling as being worthy of support, to an outside community audience?

I began this series with a focus on the mission and vision statements in place, that would serve as both goal and road map for a business in general and for a nonprofit in particular, or that at the very least would help keep any road map followed, leading in a right direction for them. And my goal here in this Part 2 installment is to step back from the mission and vision statement of Part 1 itself, to at least begin to strategically and operationally map out how to do this, at least in general terms. And I begin this by openly acknowledging a crucially important point, that probably ultimately applies to essentially any nonprofit that seeks to achieve genuinely significant societal goals, and that is not set up as a short-term, here-and-now only, focused venture. And yes, significant societal goals are rarely here-and-now short term focused or limited so that was repetitive.

Bottom line, this means that essentially any nonprofit that is really worth supporting and certainly long-term, is going to have a largely, if not entirely aspirational mission and vision statement- framed, ultimate goal and in spite of what I offered in Part 1. That said, making those statements and all that support them, functionally better organized and both strategically and operationally, can be realistic and achievable goals, even if ongoing process-defining ones.

Let’s at least start that discussion and begin fleshing out the points made up to here in this posting, by taking a more cause- and-effect approach to the challenge that I am raising and discussing here, which I would organize and present in at least loosely time frame terms:

• An initial perception of significant need is brought into a goals-defined focus through the drafting and sharing of an explicit mission statement and its corresponding vision statement, and at least as first draft efforts.
• As a next step, the initial visionary driver, or drivers of this now-emerging imperative, working with others as needed with for example, organizational skills and experience, and initial financial backing, begin to build a strategy oriented map for how to work towards achieving this.
• These steps overlap and from very early on, with a beginning to organization building efforts made and with at least high level operational considerations starting to be addressed as the issues of the first two bullet points here are still being worked upon.
• Iterative co-development of necessary steps here, is a key to what could become longer-term success.
• Mission and vision and their precise details and wording, and organizational strategy and its operational development as both might be executed upon, should all still be in flux here, with the real world constraints of what is and is not possible, at least for now, helping to bring them into practical focus, and with an initial take at mapping out short and longer-term prioritizations started here too.
• Here, idealism and practicality have to be brought into a sufficiently close enough working alignment, so as to allow this venture to actually launch, with longer-term, more idealized and aspirational aspects of the overall goal set aside – for now, but with them always kept in mind nevertheless.
• I always tell people who are starting a new job, to look for and work to achieve early successes and from as early on in their initial new hire probationary period as possible, in order to set themselves up for longer-term success there. That same basic principle applies here too. Look for smaller pieces of the overall puzzle of your nonprofit’s intended mission and vision statement, that you can work towards now and early, and even when you still have a very limited resource base, limited pre-established name recognition definitely included. And cultivate the success that you can achieve in your work towards such an initial smaller-task goal, to both garner name recognition for what you do, can do and seek to do, and to validate your capability of success going forward.
• Start small and focused, and strategically so, and with a goal of making a name for your organization that you can build to justify from.

This is where the approach that I offered in Part 1 becomes important, and for several reasons:

• Well drafted mission and vision statements can in fact serve as the seeds to strategically and operationally expandable, functionally viable organizations, where vague and undirected ones rarely do and certainly on their own.
• And at the same time that such organizing statements can do this in helping to develop a nonprofit for what it does and how, as viewed perhaps from within, well drafted mission and vision statements can serve as effective marketing and outreach tools too, for cultivating and developing community support.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will begin to flesh out the development outline that I have just offered here as a bullet pointed list. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Nonprofits and Social Networking.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 20: some thoughts concerning how Xi and Trump approach and seek to create lasting legacies to themselves 8

Posted in book recommendations, macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on September 16, 2019

This is my 20th installment in a progression of comparative postings about Donald Trump’s and Xi Jinping’s approaches to leadership, as they have both turned to authoritarianism and its tools in their efforts to succeed there. And it is my 8th installment in that, to specifically address their legacy-building visions, ambitions and actions.

I have primarily addressed Xi Jinping’s narrative in this since Part 4, building from a preparatory start to that, that I offered towards the end of Part 3. And my primary focus in all of this has been on Xi’s China Dream: his Zhōngguó Mèng (中国梦), as it has served as an historically grounded, and historically justified foundation for all that he seeks to do.

And then Hong Kong erupted into protest again, in response to actions taken by Xi Jinping himself and by his hand-picked administrative leadership in that city, and with the most egregiously visible of that carried out and pushed forward by Carrie Lam: Hong Kong’s most senior administrator – who Xi himself explicitly had put into office there. So I changed directions in what I offer here, to focus on that immediate here-and-now, actual-legacy-realized news story and its history and context. Xi’s dreams and ambitions are one thing, representing his long-term and overall intentions; Hong Kong and its unfolding events are another as they represent his legacy that he is actually building it. (See my now six postings in the series: Xi Jinping and His China, and Their Conflicted Relationship with Hong Kong, as can be found at Macroeconomics and Business 2, as postings 343 and following.)

I have three specific follow-up postings to that Hong Kong-related series in mind, as of this writing, and may very well add more to that list as ongoing events continue to unfold there. I will simply say here in that regard that Xi’s brinksmanship approach to dealing with Hong Kong is both fueling a questioning of his judgment and his leadership in Beijing now, and fueling ambitions towards full independence in Hong Kong itself. But I will turn to that in future postings, and not today.

My goal for this posting is to turn back to Xi’s Zhōngguó Mèng and to the partly historically real, partly stereotypically fantasy foundation that it is built upon. Think of this as my turning back to more fully consider Xi’s and China’s here-and-now, and both in terms of that Dream itself as it has become Xi’s road map, and in terms of how he seeks to follow it.

Xi’s Dream is built upon two pillars: one positive insofar as it affirms what a China that is effectively led can achieve, and the other negative and grounded in the historical set-backs and humiliations that a great Chinese leader could undo and remediate from, while restoring his nation to its rightful, golden age path. I briefly outlined that positive image, golden age side of this Dream, as a perceived past glory to be restored, in Part 16 of this series. And I began writing of China’s fall from that golden age in Part 17, Part 18, and Part 19.

It is no accident that I have devoted more time and effort into presenting that darker side to Xi’s vision and narrative here, as it is clear that he has focused more on righting perceived wrongs, than he has on the details of that golden age too. And I continue that side of this narrative here, and with a goal of moving it forward along its timeline, from the 1830’s to at least the birth of Communist China and the system that Xi himself leads, and the system that he is at least as constrained by too.

I have already at least briefly raised and discussed the challenges that foreign powers and their commerce and profits oriented manifestations, created for China during this troubling period. More predatory behavior on the part of business-oriented enterprises such as the British East India Company, and more entirely private enterprises such as Jardine, Matheson & Company, and Lancelot Dent and Company, fundamentally shaped British foreign policy and how it was executed throughout Asia, and for generations, and with the British military intervening as needed to support that. And in China, this first-commercial and then military intervention and domination led to the Opium Wars and to the unequal treaties, as they came to be known, that ended them, and with first Hong Kong and then neighboring Kowloon being ceded to Great Britain as foreign owned colonies.

The historic emperors of China lived and ruled under a Mandate of Heaven, and according to a fundamental requirement that they maintain stability throughout their lands and for all of their peoples. The golden age of the Qing Dynasty ended and that mandate unraveled.

Provincial governments no longer turned to or fully supported the Emperor or their court in Beijing and the Forbidden City that was to be found at the heart of that larger urban center. Local governments no longer turned to or fully supported their provincial leadership as had always been both required and expected of them. The Qing Dynasty had a numerically small, lean and agile bureaucracy that developed a tradition of working collaboratively with their provincial governmental counterparts to create and maintain stability and order. And it was those provincial level officials who directly worked with and managed local government officials in a similar manner. But all of this began to unravel, and from foreign sourced pressures and from environmental challenges as already touched upon here, and by challenges to the food supply, and unrest began to grow.

I could write here of war lords and others who set up local and sometimes not so local enclaves within China where the Emperor and his officials had no voice or influence. China became rife with them. And I could write of larger and more individually notable outright rebellions as they arose and played out and particularly during the later Qing Dynasty as it spiraled into decline and failure. This list of rebellions in China at least briefly notes nine of them, and that is in fact an incomplete list, only touching upon more notable possible entries. All of these upheavals, all of this unrest had long-term, debilitating impact and all contributed to the death of both the Qing Dynasty and of dynastic rule per se in China. But perhaps arbitrarily, I cite three of these catastrophes by name here:

• The White Lotus Rebellion of 1796-1804 as a direct attack upon the Qing Dynasty and its legitimacy,
• A messianic uprising that came to be known as the Taiping Rebellion of 1850-1864 that was led by Hong Xiuquan: a self-proclaimed younger brother of Christianity’s Jesus Christ, come to Earth just like his older brother, and
• The Boxer Rebellion of 1899-1901, which was among other things an anti-Christian, anti-foreign influence uprising.

For a fuller and more detailed discussion of Hong Xiuquan and his uprising, see:

• Spence, J.D. (1996) God’s Chinese Son: the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan. WW Norton and Co.

The end result of all of this chaos, as arising from within China and as imposed from the outside was the abdication of China’s last imperial ruler, its last dynastic emperor: Pu Yi, or Henry as he was also called. And dynastic empire gave way to the Republic of China of 1912-1949, with its chaos, including Japan’s invasion and conquest of much of what is now China, with the Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945. And I end this so briefly sketched historical timeline by citing Mao Zedong and his ultimately successful war against the Republic as he established his People’s Republic of China to replace it and all that had gone before, at least in mainland China itself. And then Mao’s version of chaos began.

Xi Jinping has built his Dream: his Zhōngguó Mèng out of this, as he seeks to return his nation and his peoples to the partly real, partly imaginary glory days of China’s golden age past, and with a goal of completing the dreams and ambitions of his country’s past great leaders and to their fullest possible extent. And Xi’s adversaries of today, are cast into the molds of adversaries past, from the years and decades of humiliation that he seeks to redress. And the adversities that these modern day versions of China’s past repressors create, mirror the adversities of that same image of China’s past too.

• Who is United States president Donald Trump in this? He is a wicked reincarnation of China’s foreign tormentors of those troubled and troubling years, that China’s Communism has sought to block and that Xi sees himself as finally completely ending as a source of threat. And Trump’s trade wars against China and the tariffs that drive them are simply a next generation iteration of what past foreign tormentors have inflicted upon China, as they attempted to subjugate that nation as a vassal state.
• And the “agreement”: the treaty that finally returned Hong Kong and Kowloon back to China from British colonial rule, is at least according to this imagining, a next-generation repetition of and continuation of the affronting humiliations that an early generation British government imposed on China, and certainly as far as those lands are concerned, with their Transfer of Sovereignty over Hong Kong.

And this brings me both to the uprisings taking place in Hong Kong as I write this, and Xi’s response to Donald Trump and other foreign aggressors. And this is where Xi’s efforts to control his people and his country, enter this narrative as his Dream plays out both within the borders of his nation and beyond them too. I am going to continue this narrative with a 21st installment to this series, and with a goal of pursuing that complex of issues. And I will also continue my Hong Kong-related series as briefly outlined for moving forward, towards the start of this posting.

In anticipation of that, I add here that I will at least briefly discuss the house that Mao built and that Xi now seeks to rule over: the Communist Party of China and the government that that Party leads and controls, and at least something of the history that this: Mao’s legacy has created. That history constitutes Xi’s fundamental grounding reality as a leader, and it would be impossible to meaningfully discuss his Dream or his legacy building efforts without taking that narrative into account too.

Meanwhile, you can find my Trump-related postings at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation. And you can find my China writings as appear in this blog at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time, and at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation.

Business planning from the back of a napkin to a formal and detailed presentation 31

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 15, 2019

This is my 31st 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 1-30.)

I have been discussing a set of three closely interrelated topics points since Part 19, beginning with a brief and selective discussion of two specific businesses and their business models, that I have offered as sources of specific application here (and with my initial discussion of them going back to Part 17.)

My goal for offering them here, and certainly since Part 19 has been to take my discussion of the other two topic points under consideration here, at least somewhat out of the abstract. See Part 17 through Part 21 for a selectively detailed outline and discussion of those businesses. And with their descriptions and at-least preliminary analyses noted, the other two topics points under consideration from Part 19 on to here, address the issues and questions of:

2. How the specific product offering decision-making processes that I have been making note of here in this series as a whole, 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 27.)
3. And 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 (see Part 28 and Part 29.)

I am in fact going to discuss the above-repeated Point 3 and its issues in greater detail here, continuing my more general line of discussion as I have been offering it. But I will do so in more specific terms too, starting with a reconsideration of the two businesses that I began this overall discussion thread with, each with their own particular business models and business plans in place as anchoring points for their development, and for their ongoing business execution if nothing else. And with that noted, I reintroduce:

• Alpha Hardware: A hardware store that went through a more fundamental transitional change as it came to outgrow its original single storefront and its space restrictions there, to become a two storefront business with a more specialized Alpha Hardware and an Alpha Home Goods, and
• The e-Maverick Group: A cutting edge technology offering, business-to-business oriented software development company.

I have written on a number of occasions here in this blog, about franchise systems, with new same-branded outlets developed and run by franchise rights-buying entrepreneurs, and with all such outlets built and maintained according to a within-overall business, standardized, templated pattern. Think of Alpha Hardware are representing an example of what is essentially a diametrically opposed vision to that, as an overall business model example. Franchise systems expand out by same-pattern replication, and with an at least idealized goal of offering so similar an experience for their customers who walk in through their doors, that as far as they are concerned, they could be walking into any of that system’s outlets. Alpha has chosen to expand in overall business scale and in market reach through specialization, where its outlet storefronts each offer definitively unique customer experiences, and where each of those storefronts addresses and meets very different sets of consumer needs and interests.

Let’s consider these two basic business approaches first. Then after offering an at least initial reconsideration of them, side by side, I will add a corresponding reconsideration of the e-Maverick Group to this mix too, in order to parse my analysis of business communications and execution issues as raised here, in a different way: in a fundamentally distinct but nevertheless complementary second direction. And I will focus in all of this, at least as a starting point for how I develop this set of business analyses, on a continuation of the more explicitly business-to-business, supply chain oriented approach that I offered here in Part 30.

Let’s start with consideration of what might be considered a stereotypic franchise system, as a baseline for thinking about and understanding what Alpha Hardware is doing and why. And let’s start that by considering what business-to-business means in this context, as that term in fact means at least two very distinct, but simultaneously similar things.

• Brand owning, franchise system parent companies sometimes keep individual outlets in their systems, in-house and under more direct management by full time managers who are, and who remain members of their own in-house staff. But the basic pattern here has these businesses selling rights to the use of their brands and their support systems, to entrepreneurs who are and who remain more self-employed than employee. And when those managers reach out to and deal with the parent company that they have bought franchise rights from here, they are entering into what can only be considered a business-to-business relationship with them, and for essentially all transactions involved.
• What I write of here is in fact an example of a very special type of business-to-business relationship given the relationships in place between franchise-owning company and individual franchise outlet, and between the decision making leadership of those parent companies and the individual franchise holders who enter into contractual agreements with them. And this only begins with the power asymmetries and the decision making asymmetries that are fundamental to such systems and to the business-to-business relationships that take place with them.
• In this regard, the relationship between a satellite specialist business outlet in an Alpha Hardware type of business, with its evolved business model, would be much more in-house in nature and would in most cases be that much less business-to-business per se. But even there, a more hands-off overall business leadership that gives its local outlet managers more autonomy, and their executive level leadership approach towards working with these managers, might lead to what amounts to the same thing: de facto business-to-business relationships and transactions, and even at least potentially under terms that a franchise holder might see as being more flexible and accommodating than they themselves experience. The nature of individualized outlet specialization, after all, would change and even fundamentally reduce adherence to at least a comprehensively consistent overall business branding, as a case in point example of where flexibility could enter this narrative, with that allowing room for local-oriented individualization in specialized store branding within a set overall “big picture” standardized framework.
• Think of those as “internal” or “internal-like” business-to-business relationships. But all of these ventures, and all of these perhaps geographically dispersed outlets in them, would also have to enter into and participate in more externally connecting, standard business-to-business relationships too, and with suppliers and third party service providers if nothing else.
• Who would be involved there? Consider a fast food franchise as a working example, though the same principles that I will raise and at least briefly discuss here, in terms of this example, would apply more widely and to other types of business too. Setting aside the issue of what of this would be managed and decided upon by the parent company and what of it would be so determined by the local franchise holder, if a storefront makes and sells sandwiches, it is going to have to have access to supplies of all of the ingredients that would go into them, from fresh meat, fish or poultry if it uses them, to fresh produce, to the bread, wraps or rolls it uses. And it will need correspondingly reliable sources of supply for condiments and other longer-shelf-life ingredients, and for napkins and dining utensils (disposable forks, spoons, knives, etc.) And this up to here only considers their sandwich offerings themselves, and not the beverages they would serve with them. And I could continue expanding out this list to include issues such as the supplies that they would need in order to maintain their storefront and keep it neat and clean, and in compliance with local and more regional health code laws among other requirements. And this is still only a partial list here of what would actually be needed.
• For services and service providers here, consider their water and electric utilities and internet access and more. My point here is that most businesses enter into wide ranging sets of outside-connecting business-to-business collaborations, and in order to function at all, let alone function profitably.

Let’s consider this from the perspective of the two types of business-to-business relationships that I have been addressing here: “internal” or at least internal-like, and more traditionally considered externally connecting. And I begin that by proposing a rule of thumb, as opposed to a more widely applicable axiomatic assumption:

• The total number of, and financial-impact scale of business-to-business transactional activities that any outlet, and of either a franchise system type or of an Alpha Hardware type is going have to enter into and recurringly so, is going to be essentially fixed at any given time. Standardized needs and their purchased fulfillment are going to be set. True, this overall level of resource securing transactional business might shift seasonally or according to other patterns, but at any given time it is going to be determinable and subject to explicit and in most cases reliable planning.
• And one way of looking at franchise outlets and more in-house ones as exemplified by the Alpha Hardware storefronts, is in where the balance is, for who manages and effectively owns these business-to-business relationships and who gets to both select and contractually shape them, from their side of the negotiating table.

I have already at least partly addressed this set of issues from how I outlined the basic franchise system outlet versus Alpha Hardware outlet example that I have touched upon here. That noted, the balance that I write of there, in this conservation law-like emulation, depends on more than just the nominal independence or lack thereof, of at least pro forma authority that might be envisioned within these two business types. I am going to raise and at least briefly address some of the complexities that arise there, in the next installment to this series, where I will discuss conformity and autonomy, and pushback and pressures to limit or at least control it. And I will add discussion of the e-Maverick Group to that line of discussion too, where I will add in a discussion of some of the complexities of change in the business-to-business relationships that I write of here, would add to this.

Then and with that in place, I will more systematically reconsider and expand upon the issues that I have touched upon in the contexts of the above-repeated Points 2 and 3 and with a particular emphasis there on Point 3. 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.

Platt Perspective at ten years

Posted in blogs and marketing by Timothy Platt on September 14, 2019

This posting, as its title indicates, is a marker that makes note of what has now become ten years of my writing to this blog. This is also posting number 2689 to go live in this still ongoing effort. And I offer it with no specific ending to this in sight, or under consideration. And to complete my putting this into some sort of numerical perspective, I add that if you count postings that I have finished writing and editing for publication, as of this morning, that have not gone live yet but that I have uploaded and that are on the server queue and waiting to go live, I have accumulated 2705 postings in total here so far. And the vast majority of those postings: those essays and notes are organized into longer and even book length series.

Why do I start this update to this blog, and this note on what I am doing here with that opening? I am trying to put what I offer here into an at least briefly stated overall perspective for what for me, has become an ongoing imperative in all of this. I write; I have been doing that and both in general, more “executive summary” terms and in more analytical detail, for a long time and certainly as part of my ongoing work and professional life. And I have variously addressed separate parts in all of that, of what I have come to see as a single larger interconnected puzzle. My writing effort here has taken on extra meaning for me from my effort at developing and assembling all of this as an organized, overall effort, and with a goal of outlining and discussing more of that comprehensively organized puzzle as a whole. And my developing and offering this blog and its ongoing flow of postings has become a part of me and of who I am. And right now I am making note of that and more openly acknowledging it because of the perhaps accident, or at least coincidence that a tenth anniversary happens to present itself as a type of round number that would make it notable. I come from a culture that uses a decimal based counting system so ten and tenth stand out.

I have offered what would probably present themselves as similar types of update assessments in earlier anniversary and related updates, as I have looked back at what I have offered here and as I look forward to what I intend to offer. And as a part of that collective if only occasionally augmented narrative, I have generally at least attempted to figure out how much of my “core” material that I would share here, I had already completed and posted. I have decided that is a less than productive approach to take as I do not have any meaningfully valid answer to that type of question – as my earlier predictions and then retractions of what I have offered on that would probably indicate. So I simply note here, that there is more that I would write about that I find to be important enough to organize and include in this effort, and that hopefully at least some others might come to value too. And yes, that includes my still actively unfolding series on general theories of business, as well as at least some of my still actively developing series that I do in fact see as being more core than peripheral, or supplementary to my thinking and to my hands-on practice from my own direct experience. (You can find my series on general theories of business at Reexamining the Fundamentals, Section VI and its Page 2 continuation, Section IX.)

So what should I focus on here, as I look back to what I have offered in this blog, and as I look forward with thoughts of what is to come in it? I already knew when I wrote my ninth anniversary posting that I would start writing more material here that is more explicitly grounded in history and historical narrative. I knew that I would do that as I seek to put more of what I write about of the here-and-now and more of what I write about that I see coming, into a longer-term and contextually richer perspective. And I have been doing that; I have offered historical narratives that connect into specific posting and series contexts on an ongoing basis and for a much longer period of time than that one year observation might suggest, but I have more consistently followed that approach in the last year. And I anticipate continuing that trend in my ongoing writing to this blog too. And at the rate that I am going, I do expect to reach the triple Scheherazade number of 3003 postings and in just a few more years. What can I say? Scheherazade was a lot more succinct in her story telling than I am. And she almost certainly edited better than I do too. (See Platt Perspective at 1001 Postings, and the Scheherazade Number and Some Thoughts Concerning a General Theory of Business 1: a series offered to mark Platt Perspective reaching 2002 postings.)

I still see this endeavor as being open ended, and with no specific goal or end point in mind that once reached would mark and end to it. I still enjoy writing it and at least some people seem to enjoy reading it too, which I find very gratifying. And with that, I continue on here into what will now be year 11.

Timothy Platt, Ph.D.

Rethinking exit and entrance strategies 34: keeping an effective innovative focus while approaching and going through significant business transitions 24

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 12, 2019

This is my 34th installment to a series that offers a general discussion of business transitions, where an organization exits one developmental stage or period of relative strategic and operational stability, to enter a fundamentally different next one (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 and Page 5 continuations, postings 559 and loosely following for Parts 1-33.)

I have been working my way through a to-address list of closely interrelated topic points since Part 28 that I repeat as a whole here, for smoother continuity of narrative and for greater clarity as to what, overall, I am addressing here:

1. Reserves as a cost because they represent assets and in fact liquid assets that cannot be turned to and used, except in what might be more emergency situations – and the need for larger reserves as risk increases: a situation that arises when facing real novelty, and unknowns and unexpecteds as would be found in true transitions.
2. Changes in goals and in scope of action, and in the level of detail of processes under consideration that have to be monitored, and how that overall form of course correction can be intentionally proactively sought out and developed, and how it can be reactively forced upon a business and its leadership.
3. And in a more strictly project context, or at least in more strictly project-oriented terms: consider scope creep and scope expansion in general, and its opposite with scope compression and simplification where details are dropped and goals reduced …
4. With and without organized, strategically aware planning and forethought to back such decisions.
5. I added that I would discuss these issues at least in part in terms of goals and priorities collisions, where more strictly cash flow and financial considerations, and risk and benefits considerations, and overall business goals can all come into conflict and even direct collision with each other. And my goal there is to at least begin to offer some approaches for both better understanding these scenarios and their dynamics, and better addressing and resolving them. And then after addressing all of that, at least for purposes of this series, I will proceed to reconsider exit and entrance strategies per se again, this time from the perspective of this developing narrative.

I have already discussed the above-repeated Points 1-3 in a relatively significant level of detail And I have offered at least preliminary, orienting comments on Points 4 and 5 too, with that narrative thread leading up to a Point 4-oriented discussion of business models actually in place, as based on actual current business goals, priorities and practices followed – where all of these points of action and of assumption can come to differ from what was assumed and planned for in any original business plan, and even if that vision is still officially, at least supposedly being followed.

I developed that line of argument around a specific case study example: ClarkBuilt Inc., and how it came to change with time, and even as it most actively sought to remain true to its founders’ original shared vision. See Part 33 for that. There, and with that case study in mind, I note here that even proactive planning and preparation, as carried out in an at least relatively systematic manner, can lead to skewed results and even systematically skewed ones. And reactive, under those circumstances, that is not grounded as if by force in what might be faulty and conflicted long-held assumptions, might be better – from its focus on the immediate here-and-now and on what that business actually does in its ongoing day-to-day practice.

And this brings me directly to the above-repeated Point 5 and the issues of stakeholder goals, priorities and understandings as touched upon there, and on how they can differ and even fundamentally so, and even if they start out seemingly the same. And addressing that is my primary goal in this posting.

I will continue my ClarkBuilt narrative as a working example of the issues raised in that topics point, and of how they can arise and play out. And I will raise and at least briefly discuss some specific more general principles that this continued specific-case analysis would suggest, at least anecdotally, for their explanatory and predictive fit there, after this continuation of that example.

• I have written at least in brief orienting terms that ClarkBuilt Inc. was founded by two brothers, who together had developed an innovative new form of injection molding as a novel new parts manufacturing technology.
• Bob and Henry planned out and built this venture as coequals and both for their levels of equity held and for their voices in the building and running of this company. And then the changes that I made note of in Part 33 arose and took place. And this all happened over a period of years, as a succession of individually seemingly more minor adjustments and with all of that happening as a result of decisions made and actions taken within the business and as a response to outside-sourced changes and the pressures that they exerted (e.g. shifts in market needs and demands as expressed by their immediate business-to-business customers, and in what their competitors have been doing.)
• Bob still sees this company first and foremost as a product manufacturer, and he sees vindication of that view from how ClarkBuilt has adjusted and evolved, but with a goal of keeping its production lines busy and profitable and as technologically cutting edge as possible. His long-term focus is on their special technologies in place and on profitably making use of them, as a best way to continuing this.
• His brother Henry started out with more of a product design focus in his thinking about their business and what makes it successful. What is possible there, is a direct consequence of the injection molding technologies and techniques that he and his brother and their business have championed and developed. But his focus is and has always been on the end results of what those technologies and their application can do, and on what they can ship out the door that would set them apart from and ahead of their competitors and their offerings.
• Bob sees ClarkBuilt as remaining fundamentally true to their original business model and plan. And he sees that adherence to their company’s original vision as an all but axiomatic given.
• Henry, on the other hand has come to see a fundamental need for their business to change from that and particularly as newer competitors have entered the picture, that have already begun to actively take from their market share for their more low-end product types. He sees that marketplace erosion expanding, and particularly from the activities of competing businesses that can and will outsource their production to countries that can more drastically limit their personnel-related costs through lower wages and the imposition of reduced or even essentially nonexistent employee benefits. Henry sees a need to focus entirely on their more high-end products as a short-term and mid-range option. But ultimately, long-term he sees a likely need for them to switch from being a direct manufacturer themselves, to their becoming more of a design shop where their brand and its value would drive their business.

Let’s consider the above-repeated Point 5 in light of this example, and with one further detail explicitly made note of:

• Bob and Henry are brothers, and they and their immediate families are close. They socialize together, celebrating the major holidays as a combined larger overall family. And they like working together and have generally been able to make that work and very smoothly, day-to-day. And one consequence of this is that the sometimes very real differences that separate them at work, tend to be brushed aside: minimized or ignored or set aside until some unspecified future date.

And given their fundamental differences as to what this business actually is and where it is headed, and even just at a fundamental business model, and an active ongoing business plan level, that has meant their downplaying what with time, have become specific differences for all of the case-in-point functional areas and considerations that I noted in Point 5: cash flow and financial considerations, and risk and benefits considerations, and overall business goals.

• Bob and Henry obviously see at least long-term risk and benefits issues differently as Bob sees their business basically staying as-is, as its best possible path forward, while Henry sees a growing need to embrace more fundamental change as a long term requirement. They mostly gloss this over by focusing on the more here-and-now and on short time frame issues and their resolution, which means that longer-term they are more reactive than strategic in their thinking and action.
• Their basic business plan assumptions and presumptions and their differences there, should be fairly clear, as this discussion with its case in point example has focused on that set of issues.
• And all of those differences have cash flow and finances implications. And with time these differences that I have just written of here, that have arisen between Bob and Henry in their thinking, are certain to lead to differences in how they, as leaders of this business would identify their priorities, and executed upon them.

Cognitive dissonance can bring single individuals to see, understand and champion differing and even conflicting views of the types of operational issues that I raise here, within the scope of their own reasoning. But difficulty in facing, and even acknowledging, let alone resolving such differences can lead to their becoming virtual walls between stakeholders too, and even the most powerfully placed of them and the most influentially connected of them in a business.

I have been raising and at least briefly discussing the challenges of Point 5 here. I will continue that discussion in a next installment where I will at least begin to address the question of how these types of differences might be resolved. In anticipation of that discussion to come, I add that I will return to reconsider and add to my ClarkBuilt case study example for that too. And then as promised above, I will shift from that case in point example to consider some of the more general lessons-learnable principles that it raises. Then after completing that line of discussion, at least for purposes of this series, I will proceed to reconsider exit and entrance strategies per se again, this time from the perspective of this developing narrative.

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.

Rethinking the dynamics of software development and its economics in businesses 6

Posted in business and convergent technologies by Timothy Platt on September 9, 2019

This is my 6th installment to a thought piece that at least attempts to shed some light on the economics and efficiencies of software development as an industry and as a source of marketable products, in this period of explosively disruptive change (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3, postings 402 and loosely following for Parts 1-5.)

I have been at least somewhat systematically been discussing a series of historically grounded benchmark development steps in both the software that is deployed and used, and by extension the hardware that it is run on, since Part 2 of this series:

1. Machine language programming
2. And its more human-readable and codeable upgrade: assembly language programming,
3. Early generation higher level programming languages (here, considering FORTRAN and COBOL as working examples),
4. Structured programming as a programming language defining and a programming style defining paradigm,
5. Object-oriented programming,
6. Language-oriented programming,
7. Artificial Intelligence programming, and
8. Quantum computing.

And I have successively delved into and discussed all of the first six of those development steps since then, noting how each successive step in that progression has simultaneously sought to resolve challenges and issues that had arisen in prior steps of that list, while opening up new positive possibilities in its own right (and with that also including their creating new potential problems for a next development step beyond it, to similarly address too.)

My goal beyond that has, and continues to include an intention to similarly discuss Points 7 and 8 of the above-repeated list. But in anticipation of doing so, and in preparation for that too, I switched directions in Part 5 and began to at least lay a foundation for explicitly discussing the business model and economic issues that comprise the basic topics goal of this series as a whole. And I focused on the above Points 1-6 for that, as Points 1-5 are all solidly historically grounded for their development and implementation, and Point 6 is likely to continue to develop along more stable, non-disruptive evolutionary lines. That is a presumption that could not realistically be made when considering Points 7 and 8.

I focused in Part 5 of this series on issues of what might be called anticipatory consistency, where systems: hardware and software in nature, are determined and designed in detail before they are built and run, and as largely standardized, risk-consistent forms. And in that, I include tightly parameterized flexibility in what is offered and used, as would be found for example, in a hardware setting where purchasing customers and end users can select among pre-set component options (e.g. for which specific pre-designed and built graphics card they get or for the amount of RAM their computer comes with.)

This anticipatory consistency can only be expected to create and enforce basic assumptions, and both for the businesses that would develop and offer these technologies, and for both their hardware and software, and for how this would shape their business models. And this would be expected to create matching, all but axiomatic assumptions when considering their microeconomics too, and both within specific manufacturing and selling businesses and across their business sectors in general.

I included Point 6: language-oriented programming there, as offering a transition step that would lead me from considering the more historically set issues of Points 1-5, to a discussion of the still very actively emerging Points 7 and 8. And I begin this posting’s main line of discussion here by noting a very important detail. I outlined something of language-oriented programming as it has more traditionally been conceived, when raising and first discussing it in Part 4 of this series. And I kept to that understanding of this software development step in Part 5, insofar as it came up there. But that is not the only way to view this technology, and developments to come in it are likely to diverge very significantly from what I offered there.

Traditionally, and at least as a matter of concept and possibility, language-oriented programming has been seen as an approach for developing computing and information management, problem-specific computer languages that would be developed and alpha tested and at least early beta tested, and otherwise vetted prior to their being offered publically and prior to their being used on real-world, client-sourced problems as marketable-product tools. The nature of this approach, as a more dynamic methodology for resolving problems that do not readily fit the designs and the coding grammars of already-available computer languages, at least for the speed and efficiency that they would offer, is such that this vetting would have to be streamlined and fast if the language-oriented programming protocols involved are to offer competitive value and in fact become more widely used. But the basic paradigm, going back to 1994 as noted in Part 4, fits the same pattern outlined in Part 4 and when considering development steps 1-5.

And with that, I offer what could be called a 2.0 version of that technology and its basic paradigm:

6.0 Prime: In principle, a new, problem type-specific computer language, with a novel syntax and grammar that are selected and designed in order to optimize computational efficiency for resolving that problem, or class of them, might start out as a “factory standard” offering. But there is no reason why a self-learning and a within-implementation capacity for further ontological self-development and change, could not be built into that.

Let’s reconsider some of the basic and even axiomatic assumptions that are in effect built into Points 1-5 as product offerings, as initially touched upon in Part 5 here, with this Point 6 Prime possibility in mind. And I will frame that reconsideration in terms of a basic biological systems evolutionary development model: the adaptive peaks, or fitness landscape model.

Let’s consider a computational challenge that would in fact likely arise in circumstances where more standard computer languages would not cleanly, efficiently code the problem at hand. A first take approach to developing a better language for this for coding it, with a more efficient grammar for that purpose, might in fact be well crafted and prove to be very efficient for that purpose. But if this is a genuinely novel problem, or one that current and existing computer languages are not well suited for, it is possible that this first, directly human coder crafted version will not be anywhere near as efficient as a genuinely fully optimized draft language would be. It might, when considered in comparison to a large number of alternative possible new languages, fit onto the slope of a fitness (e.g. performance efficiency) peak that at its best, most developed possibility would still offer much less that would be possible, overall when considering that performance landscape as a whole. Or it might in fact fit best into a lower level position in a valley there, where self-directed ontological change in a given instantiation of this language could conceivably lead it towards any of several possible peaks, each leading to improved efficiency but all carrying their own maximum efficiency potential. And instantiation A as purchased by one customer for their use self-learns and ontologically develops as a march up what in fact is a lower possible peak in that landscape and the overall efficiency of that, plateaus out with a still relatively inefficient tool. Instantiation B on the other hand, finds and climbs a higher peak and that leads to much better performance. And instantiation C manages to find and climb a veritable Mount Everest for that fitness landscape. And the company that bought that, publishes this fact by publically announcing how effectively its version of this computer language, as started in a same and standardized form, has evolved in their hands and simply from its own performance and from its own self-directed changes.

• What will the people who run and own the client businesses that purchased instantiations A and B think when they learn of this, and particularly if they see their having acquired this new computer language as having represented a significant up-front costs expenditure for them?

I am going to leave that as an open question here, and will begin to address it in my next series installment. In anticipation of that discussion to come, I will discuss both the business model of the enterprise that develops and markets this tool, and how it would offer this product to market, selling or in some manner leasing its use. And that means I will of necessity discuss the possible role that an acquiring business’ own proprietary data, as processed through this new software, might have helped shape its ontological development in their hands. Then after delving into those and related issues, I will begin to more formally discuss development step 7: artificial intelligence and the software that will come to contain it, and certainly as it is being fundamentally reshaped with the emergence of current and rapidly arriving artificial intelligence agents. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3, and also see Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 36 – the jobs and careers context 35

This is my 36th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-35.)

I have been discussing a series of workplace issues in this series, since Part 25 that call for effective communications and negotiating skills. The first five of them were all focused and specific in nature (see Part 32 for a full list of them, with appended links to where I have individually discussed those negotiations-demanding contexts up to there.) And the sixth and last was a more open-ended challenge that in fact includes within it, the first five challenges discussed here and more:

• Negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them, and how you might best manage your career when facing the prospects of getting caught up in that type of circumstance (see Part 32 and also Part 33, Part 34 and Part 35.)

So far, I have discussed what downsizings are, when considered in more detail than would be possible when only focusing on their end-result layoffs, and on the risks that they create for employees from getting caught up in them from that. My focus there was on the Why side of this, and on knowing and understanding the reasons why a business might pursue such a course of action, and see it is necessary for them to do that.

I have also discussed the questions and issues of who might be caught up in these events, depending on why the business they work for, would consider downsizing. And I turn here to at least begin discussing the business side of who would be involved in this. And in anticipation of what is to follow here, I stress a crucially important point: timing can be everything.

I offer that point of repeatedly validated observation in the context of repeating the core principles that all of my discussions of this topic, up to here, have been grounded in:

• You cannot effectively negotiate absent an understanding of what you have to, and can negotiate about.
• And knowing that calls for understanding the context and circumstance, and the goals and priorities of the people who you would face on the other side of the table for this, and as well as you know and understand your own goals and priorities here.
• And as a crucial part of that, this also includes knowing as fully and clearly as possible, what options and possibilities they might and might not even be able to negotiate upon.

Timing is everything here. And if you do not, or cannot prepare for the possibilities of an impending downsizing that you might become caught up in and early enough, you might find that the only people who you can meet with on this are ones who cannot in fact negotiate on any of the points or issues of importance to you.

Much of what will follow here will in fact constitute an explanation of that last paragraph with its pair of sentences. And I begin that explanation with the question of who you might face on the other side of what is at least potentially, a negotiating table here.

Who actually manages and carries out a downsizing? There are a number of possible participants there, on the business side of this process. And that list definitely includes lower and middle managers who are to be retained on the job, at least for this round of cuts, and who would have to let members of their direct report teams go. This business-sided participation is all but certain to include their more senior managers too, who would see a fundamental need for them to stay actively involved in this too. You might not see their involvement in this directly. But it is certain that the managers who you do see as being hands-on involved there, see their own supervisors’ guiding hands in this. But even with their inclusion here, this participant list is still far from complete, and even from just a within-business perspective.

Human Resources and Personnel are going to have to be involved, and for planning and paperwork purposes, and for addressing both business and employee needs, and as both a series of procedural requirements and for risk management and due diligence purposes too. This is crucially important for any business that is considering a downsizing, that they not, for example, set themselves up for accusations of being discriminatory in who they select to let go, where people laid off in downsizings are essentially always good employees according to their past and recent performance reviews. Part of Human Resources’ job here is to make sure that grounds for making claims against the business do not arise and that everyone who faces dismissal this way, receive any and every benefit that they are due as part of their severance packages, to help ensure that.

But it is often the case that neither the supervising managers in place, nor their more senior managers, nor the leadership at Human Resources really know the ins and outs of planning and carrying out a downsizing correctly, and certainly where that means making what can become successive waves of layoffs and strategically deciding who to include at all, and who to include when in that. This is where a third party service provider can step in, and offer a more comprehensive package for planning and executing here – with that often including their actually conducting the exit interviews that this all leads to.

Timing is everything; if you wait to act until you find yourself face-to-face meeting with an outsider professional from such a firm, it is essentially certain that it will be too late for you to do anything, except refuse their severance package and walk away, and with you’re seeking legal help (or threatening to do so) in order to try to salvage a better separation package from this situation. Look to my above-repeated core principles statement and its third point here. An outside professional of this type is not going to be in a position to negotiate: to even just potentially say “yes” on any issues that fall outside of the purview of the specific process that they were sent to meet with you on, with you’re signing their papers and clearing out your desk as their one allowed goal.

• The single most important, and challenging point in any negotiations can be in finding and getting to meet with a person – sometimes just the one person who can say “yes.” It is easy to find people who can only say “no” as a safe default. But successful negotiating requires you’re finding and productively engaging with someone who can say “yes” too. And people who can only say “no” are not going to tell you that. This is a type of detail that you, in general, have to be able to figure out on your own.

Timing is everything. If you see an impending downsizing, or one already taking place with an at-least first round of layoffs already started, you need to identify and find people in your business who can say yes and who you can approach and meet with in presenting and arguing your case. You need to know precisely what you want to achieve out of that, and what they seek and what they can agree to. You need to think through how you can align your needs with theirs. But first and foremost you have to find and engage with people who can in fact negotiate at all on this. And if you hear that a specialist outside firm has been hired to plan and possibly carry through on a downsizing where you work, assume that you have no time to lose in actively starting this process, if you have not already done that.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will at least begin to discuss these negotiations themselves. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Xi Jinping and his China, and their conflicted relationship with Hong Kong – an unfolding Part 2 event: 6

Posted in macroeconomics by Timothy Platt on September 5, 2019

This is the sixth posting that I have offered here since June 19, 2019, to address significant and still expanding conflicts taking place in Hong Kong, arising as a response to actions taken by China’s government and by their hand-picked executive leadership in Hong Kong, that would fundamentally limit the legal rights of citizens there (see Macroeconomics and Business 2, postings 343 and following for Parts 1-5 of this.)

I refer to this set of postings as a “Part 2 event” in the working title that I have applied to them, because they represent a continuation of an already ongoing story that I first began writing about here in 2014 with two back-to-back installments concerning Hong Kong’s then still actively unfolding Yellow Umbrella Movement (雨傘運動) (see that first installment and this continuation to it as offered then.)

I have focused through all what are now-seven prior postings there, essentially entirely on Hong Kong and on Xi Jinping and the People’s Republic of China, and on how Xi and his Communist Party and government have sought to control that city and its peoples. And as a part of that narrative, and with Hong Kong’s current unrest in mind, I have offered two open letters in this blog, explicitly written to Xi himself but equally directed towards others in China who I have reason to believe do follow these postings. See Part 4 of this more recent series of postings and its Part 5 continuation. But my goal here is somewhat different. My goal here is to step back from that unfolding news story with its immediate, geographically here-and-now in Hong Kong and Beijing focus, to consider all of this in terms of Xi’s and his China’s policies and practices in general as they seek to control as much of everything and everyone in their nation as they physically and psychologically can, and all of the time and everywhere there.

I have at least briefly and selectively sought to position the Hong Kong and the Beijing of today in this, in terms of their history and in terms of Xi’s China Dream: his Zhōngguó Mèng (中国梦) and his own personal legacy building aspirations. I switch directions from that here, to consider how current decisions and actions coming out of Beijing, directed towards Hong Kong, align with or deviate from what they do and how, elsewhere in their country when all do not simply fit in and conform to the Chinese Communist Party-defined ideal for public thought, speech and action.

Hong Kong is one of China’s special administrative regions. And that in principle means that it and its peoples would be afforded a louder and more meaningful local voice in how that city would be run, administratively. And that status would also at least in principle mean that China’s Beijing-based national government would offer Hong Kong a measure of special autonomy: a measure of private sector independence from government and Party control that might not apply more generally across China as a whole.

And Hong Kong was returned to China as Great Britain ended its colonial rule there, under terms of the Transfer of Sovereignty over Hong Kong treaty, or the Handover of Hong Kong as it is often called. And this agreement, signed off upon and agreed to by China’s government, effectively mandates that the Beijing government adhere to the one country, two systems policy that is at least officially in place there, and at least until the 50th anniversary of when that treaty first went into effect: until 2047. And given all of this, and particularly given the value that Hong Kong holds for China as a connecting gateway to the world as a whole, and to global business and the global economy, Hong Kong might be expected to be afforded a greater level of independence and autonomy than essentially any other part of China as a nation.

• Diversity and even just a possibility of dissent coming from China’s citizens: dissent from the official Party and government line in China by anyone there, frightens their Communist Party and government leadership, and more so than any outside-sourced threats possibly could. Even just a possibility of disagreement and of dissent that might be acted upon, is viewed as an existential threat and to all of China and their Party and government system.

So ultimately, Xi and his colleagues in power in China, cannot simply step aside and even for a specifically time-limited duration with a set and agreed-to end point facing them when their 1997 treaty with Britain will expire.

• What is China’s Communist Party and government doing elsewhere in their nation to quell diversity and compel Communist Party line-defined Good,
• As enforced by its more-local police forces, its paramilitary forces such as its People’s Armed Police, and even by its People’s Liberation Army if needed?
• What are China’s Party and government doing to compel compliance to their will as a pattern for all to follow?
• Alternatively and addressing the same exact issues, what does the Party and government of the People’s Republic fear, and how strongly do they fear it?

Let’s look beyond the confines of Hong Kong, in China’s sphere of national control to put at least something of what I have been writing about here, into a perhaps wider-framed perspective. And to be more specific there, let’s consider one of China’s decidedly non-Han peoples: Uyghurs (ئۇيغۇر in Arabic script, and 维吾尔 or 維吾爾 in Chinese). Let’s consider the Uyghurs of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. But at least as importantly let’s consider the concentrations of Uyghurs who live elsewhere in China, and particularly the large numbers of members of this Chinese minority group who live in north-central Hunan, far to the east of Xinjiang. There is even a significant Uyghur community that lives in Beijing and historically, at least some of that ethnicity have lived there at least since the days of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE).

The Uyghurs are a historically, traditionally nomadic peoples who at one time lived primarily around the oases of the the Taklamakan Desert (the Tarim Basin) and largely in what is now the more northern half of Xinjiang Province: now the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. They are Turkic in origin and they started as a people to follow Islam in the 10th century. They had become predominantly Muslim by the 16th century. And some 80% of them still live in the Tarim Basin, though significant numbers of them live elsewhere in China too, and at least small Uyghur communities can be found in a dozen and more other countries as well.

Uyghurs are recognized as comprising one of China’s 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities – but they are only so recognized if they live in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region itself, and they are not considered an indigenous group even there – and regardless of the fact that they have lived there and in areas that have been part of China going back to before the dawn of dynastic China and the days of the first emperor: Qin Shi Huang (秦始皇). This distinction: this lack of and limitation of official status in China significantly, officially limits the rights of all Uyghurs and regardless of where they live in that nation. Uyghurs are Muslims and they seek to worship their god and observe the teachings and ways of their religion as they and their ancestors always have, going back to the days they first began to follow that faith. This puts them on a direct collision course with the Chinese government’s mandate that all in China faithfully adhere to the teachings and ways of their Communist Party. And China’s government has acted accordingly in its ongoing programs for controlling and dominating the Uyghur peoples.

What does that mean? What has official China done to carry out and enforce this control? I would at least partly respond to that question by offering some recent news and related links to help answer those questions, and to validate that I am not simply offering my own personal opinion here on this:

China’s Prisons Swell After Deluge of Arrests Engulfs Muslims,
World Bank to Investigate if China Loan Funded Muslim Detention Camps and
China’s Orwellian War on Religion.

The third of those links points to an Op-Ed piece that notes how China’s government has not simply singled out the Uyghurs or their religion here. They vigorously pursue any possible source of dissent: any possible source of belief or opinion that they see as competing with those of their Party and government. And religious beliefs and institutions that they cannot directly control, at least within their national boundaries, are among their primary targets there.

The People’s Republic of China officially recognizes only five specific religions in their country, as being legitimate and as being legal to observe there: Buddhism, Catholicism, Daoism, Islam, and Protestantism. And they are generally tolerant of traditional Chinese beliefs and their practice, if they are more privately expressed. But officially, any religious beliefs or practices that fall outside of the official five, are formally prohibited and subject to harsh legal action. Islam is one of the recognized five. So why do I write this in terms of state-versus-faith conflict? The answer to that is very simple. China’s Party and government only accept and allow specific practice of those faiths that they have decided are not a source of possible threat. It may be legal to belong to one of the permitted five, but only if you observe your faith in it the right way there. And any deviation from that is also illegal there.

Catholicism is one of the officially recognized five too, but China’s Party and government only allow it because, for example, they have a deciding voice in who can be allowed to serve as a Catholic bishop in China. And the Vatican has agreed to go along with this in order to maintain a presence in China. See, for example, this piece from The Catholic News Agency:

The Complicated Case of China’s Catholic Bishops.

And China and its Party and government officials, officially determine who is a legitimate reincarnation of a deceased Tibetan Buddhist Lama, and not members of that religion’s own leadership. This source of conflict has already begun to play out with more minor, though still significant lower ranking lamas, as would be recognized in that form of Buddhism as their reincarnated spiritual leaders. But this Party and government control over Tibetan Buddhism will come to a head when the current 14th Dalai Lama dies, and a 15th in succession, reincarnation of him has to be chosen. Whoever decides who that can be, controls the voice and the fate of Tibetan Buddhism as a whole and from that date going forward. See:

The Coming Fight for the Dalai Lama’s Soul.

And I am only addressing the five officially allowed religions here! What of other, unrecognized and therefore entirely illegal religions? I only have to cite one source of examples there, to put a face and name to a recurring if not always well publicized story: the Falun Gong in China. And that is such a wide-spread and long-term ongoing news story that I would cite an encyclopedia reference on it: Persecution of Falun Gong.

What is the fundamental point of similarity here between China’s response to Hong Kong dissent, and their response to the risk of dissent that they face in Mainland China as so briefly touched upon here? I would argue that China’s leadership sees all of these issues and all of the actions of the people who they would confront and seek to control here, as ideological in nature, and whether that means religiously or politically motivated dissent. And ultimately, there are no real distinctions between religious and political in this type of context; Mao Zedong was China’s first true Communist Emperor and the central figure in what has become a true state religion. And once religion and politics become all but one and indivisibly so in your own house and in your own thinking, it becomes effectively impossible to separate them from each other when viewing outward too – in this case towards Hong Kong with its striving for a more Western-imagined form of democracy.

Now what is the fundamental point of difference here between China’s response to Hong Kong dissent, and their response to the risk of dissent that they face in Mainland China as so briefly touched upon here? The world’s public can readily see all that takes place in Hong Kong and real-time and free from the filters of China’s official news agencies, and free from at least direct filtering by their Golden Shield Project: the Great Firewall of China too. And the cost they would face if they were to actively suppress dissent in Hong Kong is so much higher quantitatively there, than a crackdown would be in a place such as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region: the direct costs for a Hong Kong crackdown are so much higher, that this becomes a qualitatively different problem for them.

So Xi’s government has sought to rein in Hong Kong and dissent there by shows of force and by threats of it, and by exercises in brinksmanship as shows and threats that stay that way, tend to get bigger to keep their messages credible. And with that noted, I repeat a point that I have made in the two most recent postings to this progression of them that this updating note fits into, when touching upon the issues of brinksmanship as a means of control. Pursuing that as a strategy, or as a tactic in need of a strategy if you prefer, of necessity means a taking of progressively more significant actions, and:

• “Brinksmanship is like that; if you skirt too close to the edge of a cliff you might inadvertently fall off.”

And with that offered, I return to a point of detail that I at least suggested in my two above-cited open letters to Xi Jinping. If he seeks to be China’s new Kangxi Emperor, its new Qianlong Emperor for the 21st century, leading his nation to greatness the way that they did in the Golden Age of the Qing Dynasty that they created and led, how can he achieve any of that if he continues to gamble everything that he holds as important with “roll of the dice” brinksmanship and with an at least implicit hope that one of the least reasoning members of his forces, does not take a step that would bring real chaos? What would happen if, for example, a young, frightened, inexperienced police officer or paramilitary trooper were to open fire with an assault rifle into a crowd of protestors, and even if that meant his doing so against the orders of his officers in charge?

The greatest emperors of China’s past, who have shown the way by their historic examples of what China can achieve, lived and ruled according to the Mandate of Heaven (天命). And this mandate both guided and constrained the emperors of dynastic China, conferring legitimacy to their rule but only insofar as they could keep and maintain order and stability and for all of their peoples and lands.

• Just rulers and their governments seek to achieve this goal, and so do the unjust. The difference is that the just seek to do this to the benefit of the people who they rule over, and for their communities, while the unjust drift into that from how they seek to develop and maintain order for their own benefit and for that of their political bases and governments.

I have decided not to write this note as an open letter, but I do offer it with the rest of my at least hoped-for audience in mind, in Hong Kong and in China itself, as well as more widely. And I offer this as a response to a request that I not simply set this ongoing series of events aside as I write new postings to this blog. I have not forgotten and I still care, very much. I will not forget. And I will have more to write on this and related matters and soon.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related China and Xi Jinping-oriented material at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation.

Meshing innovation, product development and production, marketing and sales as a virtuous cycle 20

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 3, 2019

This is my 20th installment to a series in which I reconsider cosmetic and innovative change as they impact upon and even fundamentally shape product design and development, manufacturing, marketing, distribution and the sales cycle, and from both the producer and consumer perspectives (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 342 and loosely following for Parts 1-19.)

I have been discussing the issues of what innovation is, and how a change would be identified as being cosmetic or more significant in nature, since Part 16 of this series. And as a core element of that narrative I have been discussing both acceptance of new and of innovation, and pushback and resistance to it, and certainly as members of differing readily definable demographics would make their own determinations here and take their own actions. On the resistance side of this, that has meant by discussing two fundamentally distinctive sources of pushback that can in fact arise and play out either independently and separately from each other or concurrently and for members of the same communities and the same at least potential markets:

• The standard innovation acceptance diffusion curve that runs from pioneer and early adaptors on to include eventual late and last adaptors, and
• Patterns of global flatting and its global wrinkling, pushback alternative.

And I begin this continuation of that discussion thread by briefly repeating two points that I laid out and at least briefly began to develop in Part 19 that will prove of significance here too:

• The standard innovation acceptance diffusion curve and a given marketplace participant’s position on it tends to be more determined by how consumers and potential consumers see New and Different as impacting upon themselves and their immediate families, insofar as they look beyond themselves there to making their purchase and use decisions.
• But global flattening (here viewable as being analogous to pioneer and early acceptance in the above), and global wrinkling (that can be seen as a rough counterpart to late and last adaptors and their responses and actions), are more overall-community and societally based and certainly as buy-in or reject decisions are made.

And social networking can play a role in both, and both in framing how individuals would see and understand an innovation change that confronts them, and in how members of larger communities would see it where that perspective would hold defining sway.

I stated at the end of Part 19 that I would focus here, more on global flattening and wrinkling than on standard innovation diffusion curve dynamics and I will, though more fully addressing the first of those dynamics will of necessity require at least commenting on the second of them too. And with that in mind, and with a flattening versus wrinkling possibility in more specific focus here, I repeat one more organizing point that I will build from in this posting:

• Change and innovation per se, can be disruptive and for both the perceived positives and negatives that that can bring with it. And when a sufficiently high percentage of an overall population primarily see positive, or at worst neutral there, flattening is at least going to be more possible and certainly as a “natural” path forward. But if a tipping point level of overall negative impact-perceived response arises, then the acceptance or resistance pressures that arise will favor wrinkling and that will become a societally significant force and it will represent a significant part of the overall voice for those peoples too.

Unless it is imposed from above, as for example through government embargo and nationalism-based threat, global wrinkling is a product of social networking. And so is the perception of threat of New that it can engender, mainstream and even bring to de facto axiomatic stature across communities. And this brings me directly to the issues and questions of Who and of agendas, that I said at the end of Part 19, that I would at least begin to address here.

Let’s begin by considering the players, and possible players in this, starting with the networking strategies and networker types (as determined by what strategies they use there), that I initially offered in my posting: Social Network Taxonomy and Social Networking Strategy.

I began that posting by classifying basic responses to networking opportunities as fitting into four categories:

• Active networkers – people who are seeking to expand their connections reach and really connect with their contacts to exchange value.
• Passive networkers – people who may or may not be looking to expand their networkers and who primarily wait for others to reach out to connect with them.
• Selective networkers – people who are resistant to networking online with anyone who they are not already actively connected with and networking with by other means.
• Inactive networks – people who may very well lean towards selective networking as defined above or tend to be passive networkers when working on their networks but who are not doing so, at least now.

For purposes of this discussion, I set aside the fourth of those groups: inactive networkers as people who are not likely to be strongly influenced by community sourced pressures towards either global flattening and buying into New, or global wrinkling and messages favoring resistance to New – and certainly if those messages come from strangers. Selective networkers who do in fact connect with and more actively communicate with people who they already know and respect, might be significantly influenced one way or the other if their current contacts bring them into this. And the same holds for passive networkers. And with all of this noted, I would argue that it is the active networkers in a community who drive change, and both for its acceptance or rejection.

Looking to those active networkers, I divided the more actively engaged among them into a further set of groups depending on their particular networking strategies followed:

• Hub networkers – people who are well known and connected at the hub of a specific community with its demographics and its ongoing voice and activities.
• Boundary networkers or demographic connectors – people who may or may not be hub networkers but who are actively involved in two or more distinct communities and who can help people connect across the boundaries to join new communities.
• Boundaryless networkers (sometimes called promiscuous networkers) – people who network far and wide, and without regard to community boundaries. These are the people who can seemingly always help you find and connect with someone who has unusual or unique skills, knowledge, experience or perspective and even on the most obscure issues and in the most arcane areas. And for purposes of this line of discussion, these are the people who can and do bring otherwise outliers into larger community discussions and in ways that can spread emerging shared opinions too.

The important point here, is that people have to widely connect to influence, and if not through one directional message broadcasting, then through more two and multi-directional conversation. That does not mean that any and every hub, boundary, or boundaryless networker is widely influential and opinion shaping: only that those who are more widely influential are also usually widely connected in one way or other too. And this is where agendas enter this narrative. Who is so connected? And what if anything are their agendas that would lead them to seek to shape public opinion, and certainly on matters of community response to change and its possibilities?

• Pushback and resistance and the global wrinkling that it would promote, more generally come from those who seek to preserve a status quo, or to restore what to them is a lost but not forgotten, perhaps idealized order.
• Open acceptance and the global flattening that it would promote, come from those who see greater promise in moving past the current and former realities that they see evidence of around themselves. And this is driven by a desire to join in and to move beyond the perhaps marginalizing impact of separation and even parochial isolation that wrinkling can lead to, and a desire to not be left behind as others advance into New and into new opportunities around them.

I offer this as a cartoonishly oversimplified stereotypical representation, but ultimate all join-and-engage moves towards global flattening and all reactive pushback to that, are driven by readily shared simplifications: all such movements become encapsulated in and bounded by slogans and related simplifying and even simplistic shorthand.

To add one more crucially important factor into this narrative here:

• Pushback and resistance to change and to New and certainly to foreign-sourced new, come for the most part from those who face pressures to change and adapt in the face of that New, where their judgments on this are driven by their fears of the foreign and of the different.
• But pressures towards global flattening can and generally do come from multiple directions, with the communities that face this New only serving as one source of that. Equally large and impactful pressures can come from the original sources of the New that is in play there, and that they might be very actively seeking new markets for. And the active networkers and the engaged broadcast format information sharing channels that they use in their promotion of open markets and global flattening can be very important here too.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment, where I will more directly and fully discuss business stakeholders as just touched on there, as change accepting and even change embracing advocates. And I will discuss the roles of reputation and history in all of that. 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. And see also Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 and Page 3 continuations.

Finding virtue in simplicity when complexity becomes problematical, and vice versa 18

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on August 31, 2019

This is my 18th 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 1-17.)

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.

And as part of that narrative, I discussed in Part 17, tactical and strategic approaches to addressing that complex of challenges, outlining at least in general terms, some of the key issues that arise from pursuing one or the other of those basic approaches there. Then at the end of that installment I said that I would explicitly discuss information management strategy as a specific area of overall business strategy and planning per se in this next installment. I will do so, but before starting that I offer two points of perspective that I find myself thinking of as I write this:

• The first is something that one of my neighbors spontaneously shared with me recently, in the context of acknowledging an issue that can only be addressed by considering some there-pertinent details: “I hate details.”
• And the second is an adage that I find myself quoting from time to time, and in this blog among other contexts: “The devil is in the details.”

I have not asked this neighbor what she thinks of Satan but I expect that her answer would suggest grounds for assuming overlap there.

The point that I would raise here, in contrast to these sentiments if nothing else, is that neither the details themselves nor a big picture understanding of their context alone, can suffice when facing any challenge of any significant complexity. And the more complex and nuanced the challenge: the more far-reaching and impactfully so it is, the more important it is to address and to understand and to account for all of these perspectives. So will I address issues of strategy here? Yes. But of necessity this also means that I will discuss tactics too, and the details as well as the big picture as they arise and fit into both of those contexts. And I will begin by setting boundaries to this discussion, to keep it in more selected and constrained focus for what is to follow here.

In anticipatory summary of this set of details to come, I begin by noting that I will presume, at least for purposes of this discussion thread, a largely idealized business and its planning and business execution:

• I will discuss information management as topically framed and oriented above, from the perspective of what given businesses should do operationally that would most actively, positively and effectively help them to fulfill their current business models and business plans in place, and help them to reach at least their higher priority business goals as outlined there.
• This means, among other things that I will assume that the leadership teams in place there are actively involved and connected into what is actually being done at their businesses, and with two-way communications when and where and as needed – and with essentially all key stakeholders involved who would need to be included there.
• And I assume that while no one, and no organization can achieve perfection, good faith efforts are being made and on the part of essentially all key stakeholders involved in this, to at least keep these businesses as effective and competitive as they are now, and to keep them moving forwards towards greater agility and effectiveness where possible too.
• And I posit in what follows here, an ongoing visible effort to actually carry out that type of ongoing optimization as both within-business and externally-sourced pressures (e.g. competition and market-based change, and outside regulatory requirements) keep changing what such optimization even functionally, operationally means.

As a final piece to this discussion framing (and constraining) orienting note, I add in one more detail that is at least equally pertinent here, and that would in fact apply in more real-world business settings too, that do not as actively seek to approach the above bullet pointed ideal:

• The issue of scale of change-demanding forces and of thresholds to change, beyond which it becomes actionably significant.

I am in fact raising a very complex set of issues there, that I will discuss in more detail later in this series, and certainly as I challenge the basic simplifying assumptions of my above bullet pointed business performance constraints. For now, I will simply note that small shifts in performance and other relevant numbers that are tracked that do not at least appear to lead to, or to be causally connected with specific change that would have significant impact on the business, its performance, or how it should be run operationally, can be set aside as what amounts to background static – usually. Change that overtly appears to surpass that threshold for its significance and impact, calls for concerted, considered action. And in what follows, and certainly in this posting, I will simply assume that any changes that arise are ones that are basically understandable and that can be responded to in an organized manner, and regardless of whether they were initially predictable and subject to proactive planning, or whether they arrived as the disruptively unexpected.

And with this outline of the business context that I will assume here, in place, I begin addressing the challenge of my above-repeated communications-driven business performance, versus information sharing limited information security, dichotomy. And I at least begin this line of discussion here by posing a set of basic due diligence questions, and with a goal of presenting this posting’s core line of discussion as a hands-on exercise that a business’ leadership team can carry out in conjunction with participation from more widely selected pertinent stakeholders. (Note: some and even much of what I offer here should look familiar and certainly to anyone who more actively reads this blog and its business strategy and operations-oriented postings and series. But the points that I raise in the questions to follow are important enough to merit my risking being repetitive here.)

• Operationally and certainly on an ongoing and more routine basis, what do the people at a business under consideration here actually do as their ongoing business processes as they carry out their assigned tasks?
• What information and types of it are in fact actually required for this work?
• And what might be routinely called for that is not in fact actually needed, by the specific employees involved as they carry out these specific tasks?
• Put slightly differently, what consequences if any would arise if specific data or data types were not visibly available to a given employee, carrying out a given task?
• And what if anything is being asked for that might in fact create avoidable risk for the asking business, the original sources of that information or both, and both for asking and for holding this information and with the types of access that a given transaction type would create for it?

To take that out of the abstract, consider a sales oriented transaction set-up and fulfillment center, and the personally identifiable information that sales personnel routinely ask for and receive from online chat or phone-connected customers. It is in most cases going to be legitimately necessary for a sales clerk to ask for a customer’s credit card information in order to set up an account and enter and carry through on a specific sales transaction there. But it is probably neither necessary nor even legal for them to ask for that customer’s social security number (in a United States business context for this example), where laws have been changed that now prohibit businesses from using social security numbers as a routine form of customer identification.

Too many businesses in effect run on autopilot as far as their information management policies and their information gathering, processing, storage and access practices are concerned, with change mostly limited to their gathering in and holding more and more information – not on their holding and using information more selectively and better.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment where I will begin challenging the basic discussion framing business outline that I just offered here. And I will revisit my due diligence exercise of this posting in that expanded context as part of that next step discussion. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its Page 2 and Page 3 continuation pages. 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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