Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 18: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 10

Posted in blogs and marketing, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on October 17, 2017

This is my 18th installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-17.)

I began addressing one side to a commonly encountered workplace dynamic in Part 17, which I restate here for purposes of narrative continuity:

• As beginning, with the individual job seeker and career developer, and the hiring and promotion-directed strategies that they follow when seeking out a new job opportunity,
• And ending with the approaches that those same individuals follow when actually working at a business after achieving their next step goals in this.
• And as part of that, I will also consider the strategies and the tactics of others who work with them or who otherwise become stakeholders to these transaction flows (games.) This obviously has to include the hiring manager who would act as gatekeeper in bringing or not bringing them into this business as a new hire, and I will at least start discussing their role here when addressing the issues of the would-be employee themselves, but it of necessity also has to include a wide range of others as well. And I will address them and their issues here too, in this series.

I said that I would address this list of issues, starting at the top, from the perspectives of both the would-be hire and then ongoing in-house employee, and from that of the hiring manager who in most cases becomes their workplace supervisor once they are brought in and onboarded as an employee. I would treat in-house promotions in this sense as in-house hirings, and certainly when those seeking promotion do so in competition with would-be hires from the outside. But setting that specific case scenario aside for the moment, I said that I would address all of this from both the new hands-on non-managerial employee perspective, and the new-hire manager perspective as well. And as just repeated, I said that I would at least begin to discuss all of this from the perspective of a wider range of stakeholders who would be affected here too and from the interviewing process on.

I began all of this in Part 17, focusing on the pre-hire job candidate and the hiring manager who eventually selects them and offers them a job. And I finished that installment at the point of hire, stating that I would continue from there in this posting from day one as a new in-house employee, and how perspectives change and for both the new hire and for their manager and for other stakeholders involved there.

• When a would-be employee, seeking a new job applies for work, they essentially always arrive as largely unknown commodities for consideration, and for all details as to who they are and what they are like to work with and regarding how well they work, that cannot be captured in a resume or cover letter, or in brief and highly choreographed interviews. And given the dynamics of the hiring process and certainly as they are shaped by the flood of often largely irrelevant resume submissions sent out en mass to all hiring businesses, the basic goal from the hiring side in this is largely one of weeding out and eliminating wrong candidates, and not on finding reasons to hire what might be good ones (see Part 17 for a more detailed discussion of background issues relevant to this assertion,)
• There are exceptions to that more general approach of course, and certainly when a business specifically seeks out a particular possible new hire, who they might even court to try to entice them away from a current employer. But this is the basic pattern for all who send their resumes in on their own initiative, in response for example to online jobs postings.
• When a business does hire: when a hiring manager agrees to hire a particular job candidate, making that commitment on behalf of their employer and on behalf of the team they supervise that this new hire would join, the dynamics of this shift, and certainly as that new hire successfully completes their (usually at least approximately) 90 day probationary period, during which time they could be dismissed without a need for well argued justifying cause. Now the basic default is not to find justification not to have this person on payroll as an employee: it is to justify keeping them on and certainly if they do not behave in a manner that would make that explicitly untenable.
• A less than fully successful employee might never get a promotion, or a raise that goes beyond any required cost of living or related pay increases. And they might be among the first out of the door in the event of a downsizing, where dismissal would take place absent any onus of poor performance. But absent more special circumstance processes such as downsizings, an employee who at least meets their basic performance goals in their ongoing performance reviews is likely to stay on there, unless they choose to leave – or unless their job requirements and those of all others in their job category are changed in ways that they cannot even minimally successfully perform at.

All of these are business decisions that at least formally, ostensibly come from the business as an organizational whole and in accordance with its policies and practices as generally understood and carried out. But all of these decisions and actions are made and carried out by individuals who are balancing their own needs and their own agendas and their own workplace contexts in shaping them, as well as attempting to meet overall business needs as they individually perceive and understand them. And this includes addressing the needs and the desires and intentions of the people they report to and those of other stakeholders as well, and certainly where they wield power and influence in the business hierarchy and its networks of alliances that are in place.

Note that “business hierarchy” as used above, need not follow a simple linear, top-down command and control pattern, and many businesses disperse such authority and influence through more complex networks in actual practice, and even when the basic systems in place are presented as being top-down organized and run (e.g. as would be found in a military command structure as a perhaps extreme case in point example.) There, to pick up on that example, young Lieutenants would be foolish at the very least to not listen to their more experienced noncoms as sources of long-term experience and insight. Even good senior officers know when to listen to highly experienced, high ranking noncommissioned officers who in official practice report to them.

What I am doing here in this posting, is to at least briefly and selectively discuss the dynamics of agreement and of conflict, and connect and disconnect between the individual participant in these systems, and the overall organization and its needs and intent, as are variously understood throughout the business. And in that, and to repeat a point already made in this series, at least in passing, all of those individuals who work in that business, do so and see and understand “their” business from the perspectives of their own jobs and responsibilities there, and their day-to-day functional and organizational positions there.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment where I will continue to flesh out the new hire to in-house employee transition scenario and start to more fully address the issues that a wider range of stakeholders bring to this transitional process. And I will explicitly discuss how all of this plays out (think game theory there) for non-managerial and for managerial level employees, executives included. And I will also, over the course of the next several installments, explicitly discuss promotions and both as carried out strictly in-house and as arise de facto from strategically moving on to work for a new employer where suitable job openings are not and cannot be available where an employee works now. In anticipation of that, I add here that I will frame this flow of discussion, at least in significant part in terms of two behavioral dynamics:

• Fear of the potential negatives of change and of the unknown, and focus on the positive possibilities of change and an embrace of the new and at least in-part unknown, as those job and career strategy-shaping presumptions arise and are followed and
• The potential for alignment and for discord when different stakeholder participants in a business interaction pursue different game theory strategies as they each attempt to reach their own goals.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, as topics section VI there, where I offer related material regarding theory-based systems. And I also include this individual participant oriented subseries of this overall theory of business series in Page 3 of my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, as a sequence of supplemental postings there.

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Platt Perspective at eight years

Posted in blogs and marketing by Timothy Platt on September 14, 2017

This is posting number 2363 in this blog. And with that piece of bookkeeping trivia noted, I turn to consider where this blog is as I reach, and prepare to pass by this anniversary for its formally and officially going live online.

I finally feel a measure of confidence in being able to state that I have completed at least most of the foundation for what I would write of here. This is an open ended writing endeavor so I have not felt any pressing constraints to be as brief and as focused as possible in working towards that goal. So I have taken side paths. And I have made digressions. And I have posted about specialized issues as I have deemed to be contextually appropriate, and about issues and topics that I have at least found interesting, while working towards a basic foundation building goal too.

At what I currently estimate to be something over three million words posted here, I have finally (I think as of now) assembled much if not most of a foundation to what I construe to be a general theory of business. That said, I will probably be filling in gaps there for at least a few more years to go, before moving on to focus more entirely on emergent and more specialized topics and issues that would arise from that foundation.

I offer this brief note as a benchmark in what I am doing here, and from its day one up to now and as I look ahead from today.

Tim Platt, September 14, 2017

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 17: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 9

This is my 17th installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-16.)

I began this series with a discussion of general theories and what they consist of, as a matter of general organizing principle (see Parts 1-8.) And after laying a foundation in that, for focusing in on a general theory of business as a special case, I began addressing the more specific intended topic of this series as laid out in its title. And I have focused essentially entirely since then on the organizational level of the business as a whole. I then switched orientation, and level of organization in Part 16, to consider business theory from the perspective of the individual participant in these systems. I offered Part 16 as a whole, as an orienting start to that discussion thread, and in the course of that offered two basic approaches that can be and that frequently are pursued:

• That of the entrepreneur who takes a more consultant approach to their work and to dealing with their employer,
• And that of an employee who in effect leaves their own longer-term jobs and career planning to their employer and in the hands of the people who they report to there.

I at least briefly argued a case for pursuing the first of these approaches but acknowledged both, and a need for a general theory of business to accommodate and include both as well. And with that stated, I offered a brief to-address list of points in Part 16 that categorically list how different types of stakeholders would participate in business systems. And I added that I will at least begin to address those topic points here, which I repeat for purposes of continuity, considering businesses:

1. From the perspective of the individual employee, whether hands-on and non-managerial or managerial, or executive or owner, and with consideration of a still wider range of stakeholder types as well.
2. From the perspective of how each of these groups of stakeholders see themselves and other stakeholder types, and in both risk and benefits, risk management terms and in game theory terms,
3. And according to how the members of these groups see themselves as strictly in-house employees with their leaving their longer-term planning in the hands of their employers, or as more independent entrepreneurs and consultants who take direct ownership over and responsibility for their own work and career planning and its execution.

And I said that I would begin doing so by way of offering an orienting scenario, which I framed in general terms that “begins with the individual career developer and the hiring and promotion-directed strategies that they follow, and ends with the approaches that those same individuals follow when actually working at a business. And as part of that, I will also consider the strategies and the tactics of others who work with them or who otherwise become stakeholders to these transaction flows (games.)” And I said that I will approach this from both the individual and the business perspective. I begin that here.

When you are looking for a new job and you put at least a measure of thought and effort into that proposition, you seek to find an organization to work at in which you can gain value for yourself in meeting your own needs, while offering value in return that would make you an attractive hire and a valued employee. This means you’re having and effectively presenting skills and experience that you would want to use and build upon in a next job and as you pursue further development of your overall career. And it means presenting them to potential employers who would find value to themselves and to their enterprises, in what you can demonstrably do.

This is not a friction-free system and particularly in an age and an employment context where so many would-be job seekers send out hundreds and even thousands of copies of the same generic resumes electronically, at no cost or additional effort on their part to essentially every business that might be hiring that fits within what might be a very vaguely defined target audience. The result is that essentially all hiring businesses these days, push all resumes received into digitalized database systems and effectively filter out and discard all that do not meet the initial screening criteria of automated search queries. No human ever reads the vast majority of the flood of what is essentially spam and background static that goes into those systems, and all of the submissions that are received that do not make any first cuts, is generally mass-deleted after some set period of time in limbo in them, never to be considered there again.

I would argue, in a more explicitly jobs and career best practices context that this means we should all be more focused in what we submit and where, and that we need to know and use the same wording that the businesses that we would apply to, use in their posted job descriptions that we would apply to, and both for the skills and experience that we offer and for precisely how we phrase them. From a business theory perspective, I focus here on how the hiring process takes place in the context of what communications theory would refer to as noisy channels that are filled with background static, and in a context that I refer to (in more economics theory terms) as being limited by business systems friction.

This flood of often and even usually non sequitur resumes would overwhelm the hiring process if it were not for automated, database screening filters. That work-around can and does add entirely new forms of constraint on those who seek to find work and certainly for any position that is not entry-level or otherwise highly standardized. I write here of the emerging 21st (and undoubtedly beyond) context that hiring now takes place in and increasing as a universally applicable source of constraints and for any job offering that would draw in wide ranging interest and response of any type.

If as a job seeker, you send out enough copies of your e-resume to enough businesses you will probably, eventually get something of a response – but the level of chance in where that comes from and in what you might achieve as a next job out of that will be very limited, and certainly insofar as you would seek to strategically pursue a longer-term career and advance in what you do. So I will presume in what follows that you take more of a planned approach, as I discuss in my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development in its postings and series (see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 listings.) And I presume that any hiring manager and other stakeholders who screen and select applicants, and who help determine who a final selection hire will be, are equally systematic in their hiring processes and decision making too.

• Basic underlying assumptions made are important. And I assume here, as an at least for-now axiomatic assumption that the people on both sides of a potential hiring process are following something of an at least relatively consistent and rigorous logic in what they do and how, and that they act accordingly.

This is very important. I will delve into the issues of reductionism and of emergent properties and processes as they arise at higher levels of organization, later on in this series and in some detail for that. But hiring new employees and I add the management of ongoing employees at a business is always carried out by individual people, and even if and when they do follow detailed strategically organized approved business-wide operational processes and procedures.

There is a dynamic balance in that. Most hiring managers in general, do seek to pursue courses that would benefit the businesses that they work for. But at the same time, they also seek to take actions that would facilitate their own personal success in their jobs too, and ones that would help them to advance their own careers, and to maximize their own job security and their own compensation received for what they do in the process. And they interpret what is best for their employer at least in part in terms of that.

The people on both sides of a hiring process participate in it as individuals, and even when they are also serving as agents for the hiring business when on the hiring side of that table. And this enters into their thinking and into their decision making, and both as they perceive and evaluate possible risk and possible benefit as they make their hiring decisions. And this shapes any emergent, higher level organizational factors (e.g. the overall business side to hiring here) that they might enter into.

Turning back to consider the employee side of this again, this addresses the emerging situation for employee participation in a business up to the point when they are first hired. Now let’s assume for purposes of continuity of discussion, that they prove themselves as a best candidate, are offered the job and accept it for the terms of employment and of compensation offered. I am going to switch directions in my next series installment here, and consider this narrative from their day one as a new hire, and how perspectives change, and for both the new hire and for their manager and other stakeholders involved. In the course of that, I will begin to more explicitly discuss the issues raised in the three numbered to-address points listed at the top of this posting.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, as topics section VI there, where I offer related material regarding theory-based systems. And I also include this individual participant oriented subseries of this overall theory of business series in Page 3 of my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, as a sequence of supplemental postings there.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 16: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 8

This is my 16th installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-15.)

I began this series with a discussion of general theories and what they consist of, as a matter of general organizing principle (see Parts 1-8.) And after laying a foundation in that, for focusing in on a general theory of business as a special case, I began addressing the more specific intended topic of this series as laid out in its title. And I have focused essentially entirely since then on the organizational level of the business as a whole, first treating these entities as if they were essentially monolithic in nature, and then opening the box a little to consider their functional and organizational structure too – at least at the level of granularity that would appear on a standard table of organization. But even there, my focus was on how they fit together and functioned together in collectively comprising the business organization as a whole.

As a matter of organizing this series and its narrative if nothing else, I have chosen to address this fundamentally single business level of conceptual organization as a baseline that I would organize the series as a whole around. And then in the course of writing Part 15, I stated that I would turn from that to:

1. Consider the basic issues raised and considered in this series, from the perspective of the individual business stakeholders.
2. And then I will expand the scale of consideration outward from that of the single complete business enterprise to consider supply chain and related value chain systems and I add, business and marketplace ecosystems.

I will, of course recurringly return to reconsider the baseline middle ground organizational level of the individual business organization, and both when focusing in on the individual and when telescoping out to consider the larger business and economic contexts, that businesses reside in and function in. But I offer this as a brief anticipatory outline of what is to follow.

I begin all of this with Point 1, as restated and reorganized from Part 15, above. And I begin that by at least briefly connecting what I will offer here, to a progression of series and individual postings that I have been offering in this blog as my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development (see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 listings.)

My goal for that Guide is to offer what experience and insight that I can, on finding and securing jobs and working successfully in them, and both at the individual job and career step level and in an explicit career and overall career development context. I have worked with a fairly wide range of businesses and in a variety of industries and in a fairly wide range of types of positions, and I have actively sought out opportunity to learn from others in this. As such, I probably have seen first-hand and directly experienced a wider range of job and career possibilities than most. But I am still just a single individual and offer what I can there, as filtered through the biases and assumptions of my own experience. As such, I still offer a limited perspective there, and even if a relatively comprehensive one with over 550 short essays included in it as of this writing. But there are a few fundamental points of observation and experience that underlie all of that, that I would start from here as essentially axiomatic assumptions, going into this general theory discussion:

• Even when we work for a single employer as an in-house employee and throughout our work life, we should still think of ourselves as if we were consultants, who might find ourselves having to work with a next employer and a next consulting client as developing and emerging circumstances dictate. No job or job opportunity can safely be presumed to last forever, as a tacit and unconsidered assumption.
• An employing business and its underlying assumptions and sense of self-interest are separate and distinct from those of our own. And while our employment with such an enterprise might seem long-term and even open-ended, we can never assume that as an absolute given. Business employer, and personal employee needs and interests can come to differ and diverge and change, and even disruptive change in employment options and possibilities can arise.
• So always think of yourself at least in part as an independent consultant, even if you are working in-house and long-term with one “client” employer. And always think of yourself at least in part as an independent small business, and with your own needs: short-term and immediate, and long-term firmly and clearly in mind.

This is important, and I add this is a point of observation and of conclusion that underlies how I address Point 1 of the above list. Any general theory of business that seeks to address the organizational level of the individual needs to address this type of consideration, and both for those who are entrepreneurial (i.e. who take this approach) and for those who simply see themselves as someone else’s employee.

And with this in place, I offer here, an at least preliminary to-address list of Point 1 oriented issues and perspectives that I will delve into in this series as I consider its level of organization:

• From the perspective of the individual employee, whether hands-on and non-managerial or managerial, or executive or owner, and with consideration of a still wider range of stakeholder types as well.
• From the perspective of how each of these groups of stakeholders see themselves and other stakeholder types, and in both risk and benefits, risk management terms and in game theory terms,
• And according to how the members of these groups see themselves as strictly in-house employees with their leaving their longer-term planning in the hands of their employers, or as more independent entrepreneurs and consultants who take direct ownership over and responsibility for their own work and career planning and its execution.

I am going to begin addressing these points and their issues in my next installment to this series, with a discussion grounding scenario that begins with the individual career developer and the hiring and promotion-directed strategies that they follow, and ends with the approaches that those same individuals follow when actually working at a business. And as part of that, I will also consider the strategies and the tactics of others who work with them or who otherwise become stakeholders to these transaction flows (games.) My goal there will be to ground a perhaps more abstract line of discussion in more real world jobs and careers terms, and with a more familiar experience-based foundation point that I will be able to refer back to while discussing Point 1 issues in general.

And I will discuss all of this from the perspective of:

• The individual as they work and plan and carry out their careers, and
• From the business process and execution side as individuals work to achieve goals and priorities and stretch goals and their priorities, in meeting business needs.

And as my goal here is to offer a general theory of business that would offer value in an emerging 21st century, and not just serve as a retrospective on the 20th century, I will of necessity also address:

• The issues of globalization here, where outsourcing is just one piece to that puzzle,
• And workplace automation, where a combination of artificial intelligence and robotization are reshaping what employment and even employability mean.

I am going to begin all of this in my next series installment, with the above-cited grounding scenario and will proceed from there to address in turn the rest of the issues noted here. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, as topics section VI there, where I offer related material regarding theory-based systems. And I also include this individual participant oriented subseries of this overall theory of business series in Page 3 of my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, as a sequence of supplemental postings there.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 15: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 7

Posted in blogs and marketing, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on June 13, 2017

This is my 15th installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-14.)

I began addressing business strategy and operations from a game theory perspective in Part 12 and Part 13 and continued that in Part 14, successively examining win-win, win-lose and mixed strategies and how they arise as best perceived approaches in business contexts. And my primary focus there was at the level of the complete business enterprise, as a more monolithic entity that would follow a single, if mutable strategy and game theory approach. I have at least touched on how different areas of a single business can pursue differing game theory-based approaches to meet their specific needs, and in support of a single overarching business strategy. But I have mostly focused on businesses as a whole there.

1. I am going to more explicitly consider how different areas of a single business can pursue differing game theory approaches, and even in support of a single shared business mission and vision and a single overarching strategy and business plan. And I will at least begin doing so here in this installment.
2. After that I will consider the basic issues raised and considered in this series, from the perspective of the individual employee, whether hands-on and non-managerial or managerial, or executive or owner. I add here that a still wider range of stakeholders has to be considered here so I will throw a wider net when delving into this set of issues, than would be included within the boundaries of any one organization.
3. And then I will expand the scale of consideration outward from that of the single complete business enterprise to consider supply chain and related value chain systems and I add, business and marketplace ecosystems. If Point 1 here addresses a baseline middle ground level of consideration, Point 2 focuses in to a deeper, finer grained level that underlies it and this Point 3 telescopes outward to consider the wider context that Point 2 issues take place in.

But I begin this at the organizational level of functional areas and separate offices and related facilities within a single business entity as they might pursue different mixes in an overall mixed game strategy approach.

I begin this with the fundamentals, as initially laid out in a complete business-as-single-unit context in Part 14, where I repeated how and why a business would pursue a win-win approach, and why it would preferentially find greater value and reduced risk from pursuing a win-lose approach:

• Win-win makes the most sense, offering higher overall value and reduced risk, long term when a business, or in the context of this posting, a unit or functionally distinct element of that business, faces long-term stability, and with reciprocity for value offered where it is shared. I couched this in supply chain and similar business-to-business collaborative contexts in earlier series installments as listed above, and in terms of business-to-market and business-to-customer dealings where positive value shared and offered lead to increased business and increased revenue and profits generated.
• This same basic paradigmatic model applies essentially entirely as-is, within businesses too and certainly when a functional unit or area under consideration is viewed as working with other areas of their own overall business as if in a supply chain system with them, and when they are viewed as serving the needs of a marketplace, and even if that means in-house clients and customers.
• Win-lose on the other hand, applies and both for entire businesses and for functionally separable units of them, when they enter into value creating transactional processes with other areas of a business that would only be expected to continue for a limited duration,
• Or that would be carried out under conditions of greater perceived risk and uncertainty as to how value would be exchanged (where that, for example can mean either uncertainty as to payout, or limitations to the overall pool of value that could be paid out that would not necessarily cover all value owed),
• Or for some combination of these win-lose oriented strategy-shaping constraints.

Win-win would probably seem fairly obvious as an approach within a business, and certainly when the success of any given unit or functional element in an enterprise is tightly linked to the success of the business it is part of as a whole, and to the success of all other areas of that larger entity. Where would you expect to see a more win-lose game strategy apply here? I have in fact discussed businesses and business contexts where win-lose is the only approach that would make sense within a business, on a number of occasions in assembling this blog. And I begin addressing this general area of consideration by citing a few of those relevant contexts here, at least in general terms:

• Consider the perhaps all too familiar situation in which a business has at most a limited level of some critical resource that would have to be shared by multiple employees and even by multiple here-competing teams or other units within a business (e.g. a single very expensive and costly to maintain piece of equipment that has become a functional bottleneck for the business as a whole, but that it cannot readily afford to buy more copies of.) Now consider what happens when the various business units and their managers and staffs compete for access to this one crucial resource and with all involved facing very tight completion deadlines for their work that calls for it, and with intense pressures from higher up on the table of organization for everyone to meet their performance goals and on time if not before then.
• Even if the business as a whole seeks to pursue a more purely win-win approach with other collaborating businesses, circumstances that would be difficult to fully control can bring units within it into more win-lose competition. And there, one of the goals of the leadership of such an enterprise would be to limit this, and to find a way to resolve the resource bottlenecks in place in their systems that engender it.
• As a second, in effect intentionally staged example of within-business win-lose competition, I cite an approach to business leadership that I have seen play out. Some business owners and executive leaders intentionally create competitive conflict between the people and the teams of employees and managers that work for them. And this can literally take the form of assigning the same exact goals to more than one individual or team and under terms where everyone involved knows that the winner of these races will be rewarded and the losers punished. Yes, this is toxic; some managers are toxic in how they lead and manage and through setting up win-lose conflicts that are at best only mildly damaging and certainly to morale and to achieving employee buy-in.

I offer that last example for a variety of reasons. First of all, I do so because it does in fact represent a real world within-business win-lose scenario that I have seen play out and even in businesses that by all outward appearance seem to be quite successful. And when other workplace factors are added in that would influence stay or go decision making on the part of employees caught up in these conflicts, this type of competition might not in and of itself lead to a real increase in key employee turnover either. So I am not necessarily citing this as a reason for change management becoming necessary: I am simply citing it as a challenging workplace environment where win-lose competition can become relatively commonplace and certainly on high priority projects.

Beyond that, I also cite this to note a point that should be obvious but that is often overlooked in discussion of business and management practices and processes: a truly general theory of business should address bad and questionable processes and practices and as thoroughly as good and best ones, and how they related to each other and how they would be distinguished from each other.

I am going to continue this discussion and addressing those issues in a next series installment, where I will turn to consider the second numbered point of my above repeated to-address list, and the individual employee, manager, executive or owner and their issues.

In anticipation of that and as a closing comment to my perhaps toxic seeming second win-lose competition example from above, I briefly recount an in-house competition that I have seen and participated in, in a differently run business, which for purposes of this narrative, I identify as an up and coming high tech firm: Alweron Inc.

• Alweron took on a major project as the successful bidder in a competition held by a national government agency. And the initial project proposal that they offered did in fact fit entirely within their current technology and technical solutions comfort zone, which is why they were able to bid to complete at the cost and within the timeframe that they offered.
• Then, as sometimes happens and certainly in a cutting edge technology context, the lead project manager and their team assigned to this work, ran into a roadblock, where they came to realize that a key element of their solution could not be made to work, at least with what for them was their currently available off the shelf technology.
• They got creative and in effect held an in-house stretch-goals contest, coming out of a company-wide brainstorming session that all employees and managers could participate in, as they sought to arrive at a best approach for resolving this impasse. And three teams came together, each attempting to solve this problem with a different, novel innovative solution that they had initially sketched out in principle in that brainstorming session. The winner of this contest would be rewarded with extra vacation days that year and with a cash bonus, upon delivery of their working solution, and with the first to cross this finish line with a cost-effective problem resolution declared to be the winner. Early delivery, ahead of the designated and agreed to deadline for completion, would mean a larger bonus too, as this would help the business as a whole to complete the overall project ahead of schedule and achieve an early completion bonus from the agency that was paying for this project to be done in the first place.

This was as much a win-lose scenario situation, as is presented in the above outlined more toxically presented in-house competition scenario. But rather than being set up to pit employees and teams against each other, to keep everyone a bit scared of possible failure to perform and succeed, this win-lose contest was organized and run to encourage out of the box creativity, and with bonus and longer-term career enhancement potential. The overall orientation of this was positive, rather than negative and affirming rather than threatening.

I am going to discuss business processes and practices from the perspective of the individuals involved, with a focus on assumptions made and the contexts that decisions and their follow-through are made in. Here, to note a point of difference between these two in-house competitions, both of them were set up as competitions between employees and groups of them that would see themselves as opponents to each other. But the second of them was not set up in such a way as to make this a basic workplace norm. And it was not set up with a goal of bringing employees and managers there to see each other as opponents, and even at least potentially as enemies in a drive to meet senior executive and owner expectations. A general theory of business has to include and both descriptively and predictively explain that too.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, as topics section VI there, where I offer related material regarding theory-based systems.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 14: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 6

Posted in blogs and marketing, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on April 22, 2017

This is my 14th installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-13.)

I began to explicitly discuss business transaction flows and the overall business strategy and planning that informs them, in game theory terms in Part 12 and Part 13, focusing on win-win game strategy approaches in Part 12, and offering an at least initial discussion of a wider range of game strategy options in Part 13.

And as a baseline starting point for that, I focused on win-win game strategy approaches as they would apply to ongoing long-term stable businesses that operate in stable ongoing markets and in stable long-term supply chain or similar business-to-business collaborations, insofar as they enter into them at all. I offered this as a baseline business model approach for addressing a game theory approach to thinking about and understanding business strategy and operations. And with that baseline starting point at least briefly discussed, I began an at least initial consideration of other game and business strategy alternatives that would be arise from this more stable scenario as complicating factors are added in. More specifically, I widened the scope of this discussion to consider win-lose scenarios, noting how that type of approach might circumstantially offer greater perceived value, in games (business transaction flows):

• That would only be expected to continue for a limited duration of play (as for example when developing and capitalizing upon short term and even explicitly time-limited seasonal business opportunities),
• Or that would be carried out under conditions of greater perceived risk and uncertainty as to how value would be exchanged (where that, for example can mean either uncertainty as to payout, or limitations to the overall pool of value that could be paid out that would not necessarily cover all value owed),
• Or for some combination of these two strategy-shaping constraints.

More explicitly considering the first of those bullet points for its relevance to what is to follow in this posting, I explicitly note anticipated end-game strategies as they enter into this discussion here. When a player: a participating business faces an end point in what has at least become a time-limited business opportunity, would be more likely to benefit from pursuing a strategy and a game approach here, that would limit the likelihood and scale of what could become a deficit in the receipt of value obtained, as that business opportunity time limit is approached and reached. This certainly applies when considered at the level of the business as a whole, but it can also apply in functionally separate areas of a business that might individually face explicitly time-limited opportunity and even when the business as a whole is an ongoing long-term-stable enterprise that at a higher overall level pursues more win-win strategies and certainly with its long-term ongoing business-to-business and market-facing contexts.

Strategic decisions and their corresponding underlying game strategies would be selected so as to maximize opportunity and gain, and minimize likely risk and cost, and with that determined at whatever the organizational level was most pressingly in need for such consideration. And large, complex enterprises often pursue several such approaches at once.

Win-win essentially axiomatically assumes that if there is a deficit in the balance of value received on one side at any given time, that imbalance can be and almost always will be addressed and corrected for in later transactions. Win-lose is predicated at least in part in terms of there not always being that next time, value creation and exchange transaction that could accomplish this. This constitutes the basic starting point for understanding where these approaches would respectively apply. But as noted in Part 13, time per se is not always the only, or even necessarily an important determining limiting factor there.

I have been addressing this in relatively abstract terms in Part 13 and again here in the opening of this posting. But at the end of Part 13 I stated that I would address this complex of issues in more concrete terms and by at least briefly and selectively discussing a specific, real world business model example. And the one that I will delve into here does in fact call for what would become an essentially pure win-lose game strategy as participating businesses that pursue it approached the very explicitly time limited end points of their business operations and revenue generating seasons. But in anticipation of discussion to come, even a seemingly win-lose game strategy oriented business can have compelling reasons for selectively pursuing a win-win approach too. That type of strategic and operational distinction is contextually grounded and that fact emerges in the case study that I at least selectively examine here.

The businesses that I refer to are small scale seasonal ventures that seek to generate what amounts to windfall revenue opportunity starting soon after Thanksgiving in the United States and lasting up to the day before Christmas. These are ventures that are set up and run by small operation farmers and other small business owners who either grow appropriate species and varieties of pine trees on otherwise unusable land that they own, or they buy trees grown by others in this manner at local rural wholesale cost. And they then bring these product offerings to densely populated urban settings, and certainly to cities in the Northeast of the United States such as New York City. And they set up short-term retail sales outlets to offer and sell those trees at a significant markup, net of all costs incurred from doing this.

This is a short-lived business opportunity that is driven by a need to minimize waste and loss, and to create value and profit generating opportunity at all possible points. So these entrepreneurs also take the salvageable loose branches that they would have to trim off of the bases of the trees that they would sell, and other waste trimmings – waste from the perspective of selling intact tress, and shape Christmas wreaths and other marketable items out of them. And for value added opportunity they often sell inexpensive bases that a newly purchased Christmas tree could be set up in, in a buyer’s home.

Value added, supplemental sales opportunities do not end there for many of these small time-limited businesses. Maple syrup is in fact harvested in the Spring in places like Upstate New York, Connecticut and Vermont, when the sap in those trees starts flowing back up from the roots again to revive them for the warmer months ahead. But a number of these Christmas tree entrepreneurs save bottles and jugs of their earlier harvested and processed maple syrup – or obtain it at lower wholesale cost from local producers, and offer this and similar add-on items too. Maple syrup may be produced in the Spring, but it is consumed more in the Autumn and Winter, and is popular during the Winter holidays.

The entire season for this type of business venture is very brief, and the end point of Christmas day is completely inflexible and unforgiving as far as any tree or wreath or similar left-over inventory is concerned. If an item is not sold by the day before Christmas, it becomes a complete loss and with all expenses and amortized shares of costs covered by it uncovered by any possible recouping sale and even at a discounted price, and with an additional added cost of it having to be hauled away for disposal too.

How does this play out in a win-win and win-lose game and business strategy defining context? As outlined, this sounds at least at first glance like a business situation that would follow an essentially pure win-lose gaming strategy approach. But let me begin with what longer-term, can even become a legitimate win-win source of opportunity for these businesses, and for partner businesses that they enter into transactional agreements with. And in this, I simply assume that while a given seasonal sales opportunity might begin and end at very set and immutable points on the calendar for any given year, an entrepreneur who succeeds in this type of venture one time might want to come back to it recurringly and even on an ongoing yearly basis.

Even if they grow and harvest their own trees from land parcels that are best suited for that purpose and not for farming, they still might want to supplement the selection of trees that they provide from their own effort with additional trees, that have grown out to the right size and that would be particularly popular by type to the end consumer market. If they do sell add-ons such as that maple syrup too, cultivating mutually agreeable business-to-business relationships with local sources of those items might make sense to, and particularly where they have to maintain wider-ranging relationships with the local-to-them providers that they obtain these offerings from.

Plastic tree bases, to cite a different category of add-on product offering, would not in any way be locally produced or wholesale sold. So these entrepreneurs would in most cases obtain them at lowest possible per item cost and through online outlets where transactions tend to be more one-off. Different sources might very well offer the tree bases required at best per unit costs, from year to year and even within a single year if it was necessary to restock during a sales season for them.

And to add one more consideration here that is very relevant to these businesses, consider where they would set up and conduct this business, and the need for their entering into agreements with property owners where they would sell. A smart entrepreneur would seek out a more mutually beneficial agreement there, so as to secure the same location again the next year and at reasonable cost if they chose to enter into this type of business venture again. And they would make the effort to make sure that everything they did in the course of their business there was done in as clean and uncluttered, and as non-disruptive a manner as possible for the owners of that property, and I add to avoid possible complaints that might lead to fines from the city. The difference between success and failure in this type of venture is as much a matter of location as it is of anything, and of being a good neighbor and presenting a good image to prospective customers. So pursuing a more win-win game strategy there can be vital to success for all of these considerations – and even in such a tightly time-limited business venture.

Now let’s consider the more win-lose side to this. All sales are final and while everyone would be polite and friendly, all transactions would be carried off as if entirely one-off and not as a means for developing long-term repeat business opportunity with any given customer. Business-to-business relationships that were entered into that did not explicitly center around building for a next year opportunity or for explicitly protecting that year’s effort would be carried out using a win-lose approach with a focus on revenue and profits received and not on mutual exchange of value in anticipation of ultimate return of value from that. And as the season progresses and the pressures mount to sell off as much as possible of that remaining inventory, this more win-lose approach becomes paramount, to prevent loss of what profitability might have been achieved up to then.

The roughly one month nature of this business opportunity with eleven months intervening helps to drive this too, and even for entrepreneurs who return to the same locations every year to restart their Christmas sales ventures. This scenario is very different from what you would expect or find with a more standard, non-seasonal retail venture such as a bricks and mortar retail store that is built for its strength and profitability around long-term stable supply chain systems, and stable repeat business customer bases.

• Note that as briefly outlined above, even a short term business of the type considered here would use both win-lose and win-win game strategy approaches – at least selectively and even if end-game time constraints would push them to a more win-lose approach and certainly as their season is about to end.
• More stable bricks and mortar retails of the type just noted might primarily employ a more win-win gaming approach. But even they would at least occasionally find more value in pursuing a win-lose approach too. And to highlight that, I note the second bullet point form the top of this posting where I cited reasons for taking a win-lose approach in the first place: uncertainty and risk – and particularly for circumstances such as working with new suppliers and for item types that the business might or might not want to carry for any extended length of time.

In this type of business, and for this type of stable, long-term retail store, it might begin working with a new supplier and might begin test offering a new type of product line that it offers on a more test case and ad hoc basis – and then intentionally and strategically switch to taking a more collaborative, win-win approach with them if their product offerings prove themselves, making a more stable and long-term business-to-business collaboration more feasible and for both parties.

I began this discussion with an expressed focus on win-lose game scenarios but of necessity discussed mixed strategies as well, as real businesses almost always deploy both win-win and win-lose. The defining difference here is in where and how differing businesses would select and follow which of this set of game strategy alternatives, and what proportion of their overall business strategy and underlying business model would best be predicated on which of them. The Christmas sales business is on the whole more win-lose and certainly for large areas of its business operations, while the stable bricks and mortar retail store would be much more win-win oriented. But they would both strategically follow both of those game theory approaches at least where that would make the most sense for them contextually.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will focus on how that balance is arrived at and how it changes with time. So far I have addressed business theory at the complete-business level and at least briefly at the defined functional area/decision making level within single business organizations too. I will continue addressing general theory of business considerations at those organizational levels in my next installment too. But looking further ahead, I am also going to step back from that higher organizational level of consideration and discuss all of this from the individual employee and manager levels, and the business owner level too. And I will do so both from the perspectives of their own work and career planning and from that of how members of these groups each variously work in and support the businesses that they participate in, as they help to meet overall strategic and operational business needs. I will consider a range of possible stakeholders there. And moving outward from the single business organizational level in this narrative – which I would consider here a baseline level of consideration for purposes of this series, and this more individual participant level of involvement in these systems, I will explicitly discuss the issues raised here from a supply chain and related value chain systems perspective, and at that higher organizational level too. I will explicitly discuss business theory at a business and marketplace ecosystem level. This flow of discussion is going to call for a progression of upcoming series installments, and I offer this anticipatory note here to indicate at least in broad brush stroke terms, the basic direction that this series is headed, and certainly as of now in it. I expect to add in more elements to this narrative progression as I proceed, but this is the basic outline that I will add them into.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, as topics section VI there, where I offer related material regarding theory-based systems.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 13: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 5

Posted in blogs and marketing, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on February 11, 2017

This is my 13th installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-12.)

I have been developing an approach in this series, to a general theory of business that is grounded in behavioral terms, and in terms of transaction processes as they are shaped by individual behavior and its expectations (see Parts 9-12.) Then in Part 12, I began discussing long-term sustainable business relationships and the flows of transactions that characterize them, in game theory terms, and more particularly in terms of win-win strategies and their execution (see this piece on game theory strategies per se as an orienting introduction to that topic area.)

Game theory strategies address a wide range of decision making options and their follow-throughs, that address and seek to encompass a wide range of behavioral patterns. And game theory per se addresses both time-limited games that would only continue for constrained periods of time until some specific end-point is reached, and more open-ended games that can at least in principle simply continue indefinitely. And of significant importance for this discussion, games and their strategies as encompassed here can be more fully determined with fixed rules for next steps, or they can be more stochastic and with a range of possible moves and types of move available, each with an at least roughly characterized probability of being pursued. Mixed strategy games fit that basic game paradigm.

Win-win games, as noted in Part 12, follow a strategy in which effort is made to ensure that both/all players involved gain measures of positive value from participating, even as individual participants seek to maximize their own personal gain in this. And I referred to that strategy in terms of “enlightened self-interest”, and certainly when there are potential opportunities for involved parties to continue gaining from this – if the others in these games are willing to keep playing too, and where a game can continue for open-ended durations. Fixed and limited duration games, in which participants can expect to in effect cash in their chips and walk away, cease to remain stably win-win as player-recognized end points for participation in them come close and enter into decision making processes. So I wrote Part 12, essentially entirely in terms of open-ended games as would be expected in the strategies and operational executions of long-term and open-ended continuing business ventures, where participants would see positive incentive to themselves to actively give other participants incentive to keep playing too.
Then at the end of Part 12, I stated that I would consider zero-sum (win-lose) games and other strategies. And I added that I would at least briefly discuss where win-win and zero-sum strategies would make sense and be likely to occur. I have in fact begun to do this already in this posting when I made note of time limited or other constrained game endings and how win-win strategies can break down, losing their perceived advantage for participating players who might be left at the end of a game with a value exchange deficit from that.

• Mixed strategies can include in them, combinations of more win-win play options and tactics, and win-lose play options and tactics, with the balance between them shifting over time, moving more towards win-win when a game seems more open ended, and moving towards win-lose when the game becomes more overtly end-point limited.
• One measure of business strategy effectiveness in this context, can be found in more accurately being able to predict when an explicitly more win-win approach should be followed tactically, to maintain stable competitive advantage as long and as effectively as possible
• And when a more win-lose tactical approach would make more sense (from a risk management perspective.) Change and uncertainty enter in there, as factors that can shift the strategically considered balance from a more win-win to a win-lose approach, or vice versa arise. And effective ongoing strategic planning facilitates and enables rapid reevaluation and pivoting in what types of tactical and operational approaches would best be followed in any given here and now.

To take that out of the abstract, let’s consider a second, also more generally stated working example. As just noted above, time and remaining duration of play – remaining duration of business activity opportunity here, can represent a largely non-renewable resource and certainly if a game need not be open ended. True, decision and actions can sometimes be taken to in effect give a time resource-limited business a new lease on life – and positive incentive to follow a win-win strategy with suppliers and supply chain partners, vendors and customers and more as initially expected end points approach – but in an avoidable manner. But time is only one possible limiting resource here that can define where and how a best strategy would shift between more win-win and win-lose options. So I framed the above bullet points in terms of just one possible decision shaping, limiting resource as a strategy defining factor. The example that I turn to next is a more widely considered resource-limited business, where in-house competition for access to what involved stakeholders need, can be driven in a largely win-lose direction by those resource constraints.

I am going to discuss that strategy shaping, resource limited scenario in a next installment to this series. And in anticipation of that, I would pose a basic question to you, the reader about your own business. What are your potentially critically limiting resources there, that would of necessity impact upon and shape your strategic planning and your tactical and operational follow-through on that?

To be more specific here, I am going to explore a specific business type and business model in my next series installment that would be expected to follow a more predominantly win-lose game theory approach than to follow a win-win one, and how even a business that might be expected to focus on a more win-lose approach might still find significant reason to pursue win-win opportunities too. And after delving into that scenario, I am going to look more fully into mixed strategies, and how business strategy and operations change and evolve in game theory terms. This addresses business theory at the organizational level. Looking further ahead, I am also going to step back from that and consider all of this from the individual employee and manager level too, with a scenario that begins with the individual career developer and the hiring and promotion-directed strategies that they follow, and ends with the approaches that those same individuals follow when actually working at a business. And as part of that, I will also consider the strategies and the tactics of others who work with them or who otherwise become stakeholders to these transaction flows (games.)

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, as topics section VI there, where I offer related material regarding theory-based systems.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 12: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 4

Posted in blogs and marketing, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on December 29, 2016

This is my twelfth installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-11.)

I began this series with a more general discussion of inclusively encompassing general theories as such, in its Parts 1-8. And then I began to focus in on general theories of business as a special category of theory construct that could be developed within that larger framework, in Part 9. And this is my fourth installment in that ensuing narrative.

To be more specific here, I have been developing a general theory of business in this series, that seeks to provide an organizing explanatory framework for other content that I have been developing in this blog, and that is specifically grounded in behavioral theory and understanding. And after developing a basic, if just roughly outlined foundation for taking that approach (in Parts 9 and 10), I reframed business transactions per se in behavioral terms (in Part 11.) There, business processes and systems can be seen as consisting of chains of causally connected business transactions, and transactions per se can be considered fundamental building blocks for all business and marketplace activity.

And then towards the end of Part 11 and as a significant building block point of clarification for this body of empirically grounded theory and experience-based practice, I stated that:

• “When I address business theory in behavioral terms, I am selectively filtering the overall field of behavioral studies per se to focus entirely on the more specific domains of how human behavior shapes and influences business transactions in their broadest sense, and how that behavior is in turn shaped by such transactions.”

So a general theory of business builds from a subset of behavioral theory as a whole that offers clarifying, organizing insight into this more specific arena of activity. And a general theory of business per se, delves into specific issues and topic areas and conceptual distinctions that do not necessarily belong within behavioral theory per se but that can be informed by it.

• A selective if wide-ranging portion of behavioral theory forms a starting point for more business-specific elaboration as they would be tested, and as they are testable in-principle, through empirical observation and experiment and quasi-experiment and through ongoing experience.

And with that stated as connecting background material, I turn to consider the first of a set of to-address points that I started to present here at the end of Part 11, and which I reorganize and expand upon here as a rough guide for advancing this series forward:

• Altruism and self-serving behavior.
• Economic and business systems friction.
• Timeframes, and as promised at the end of Part 10 to this series: change and both in its smooth evolutionary forms and in its suddenly emergent disruptive forms.
• Tactics and strategy as framed from a behavioral perspective.
• Innovation and as both a product of business activity and as a shaper of it.
• And automation and artificial intelligence as they are coming to reshape business processes and business practices and both operationally and strategically,
• And employability in the workforce and what it means to be employed.
• And I will also address automation in general and artificial intelligence-based automation in particular as its reality will reshape what “business” means as a whole. (And yes, this bullet point as stated here, only acknowledges one minor element of what is certain to become our new, fundamentally disruptive game changing reality and well before the end of the 21st century.)

In anticipation of addressing the last of these points, I am offering this body of business theory and practice as a whole: this blog as a whole as we collectively enter a period of profound change, and globally. And my goal in all of this blog is to note and discuss this ongoing progression of change, even as I seek to offer here-and-now tools and resources for businesses and for the people who run them and who work at them, as we all face this.

Stepping back from that higher level point of consideration of this series and this blog as a whole and their motivation, the first of the above to-address points that I just offered here is focused on altruism and self-serving behavior, as these approaches and mind-sets enter into and shape both business and marketplace decisions and activities. And I begin this line of discussion with the fundamentals:

• Ultimately, it is always individuals who decide and act – and regardless of whether that means their taking unilateral action, or following or deviating from decisions and priorities as set by others.
• And ultimately all business activity, and I add all economic activity is transactional in nature, essentially always involving or at least impacting upon others – and even when the specific transactions under consideration initially arose unilaterally on some single individual’s part.
• This is very important. Outcomes achieved in those transactions and the consequences of how they are carried out have impact upon others. Decisions and actions that are carried out might be individually-based, but transactions actually entered into and carried out essentially never are.
• And this is precisely where the issues of altruism and of self-serving behavior enter this narrative: in the sometimes aligning and sometimes conflicting consequences of this point of difference dichotomy, and in how combinations of agreement and divergence play out in it.
• Self-serving behavior is orienting toward meeting the needs of self. Altruistic behavior is oriented toward meeting the needs of others.
• Altruism, I add does not necessarily or even commonly mean self-sacrifice; it can and in a business context almost always does mean seeking out and pursuing transaction outcomes that offer at least some measure of mutual benefit, and even when consideration of others and their needs holds significant priority in them. And in that, effective long-term stable and sustainable business transactions essentially always seek to find at least mutually acceptable balances between self-serving and altruistic needs and desires.
• And I add in this context that the extreme of strictly self-sacrificing behavior is self-limiting by its very nature. Behavior that only helps others and at the expense of those initiating a transaction, limits the likelihood of further such action even being possible, and certainly long-term. And flipping this around completely selfish behavior: behavior that only benefits of the transaction initiator and even at the direct expense of all others is equally self-limiting, and also because of the way that this type of behavior limits the possibilities of further transactional activities and certainly with anyone who finds themselves as having been taken advantage of and as having lost value.

This is where the term “enlightened self-interest” enters this narrative. And this is the context in which participants in transactions seek out and work towards transaction resolutions and conclusions that are more win-win in nature – giving all involved parties reason to reengage in further business transactional activities together, as is essential in this context if stable and sustainable business and marketplace systems are to arise and be maintained.

I just couched a key element of this narrative in terms of the game theory construct of win-win scenarios. I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment where I will consider them and zero-sum (win-lose) scenarios, and at least briefly consider where each of them can be expected to arise in business processes and systems as they are carried out. And after addressing that dichotomy and related issues that enter into a fuller discussion of the first point of my above-stated to-address list, I will continue on from there to the next of those topic points. But in anticipation of Part 13 to this series itself, I note that I have predicated this installment’s discussion on an assumption that all business systems and business relationships would be stably sustaining and long-term. And while many are, some business transactions and business systems are not and by intentional design.

Some business process systems and some business relationships are intentionally and even of-necessity self-limiting and many of those are by their very nature one-off and not expected to lead into directly causally connected next step continuations. I am going to widen this posting’s line of discussion in the next to include wider ranges of needs and of business process types.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, as topics section VI there, where I offer related material regarding theory-based systems.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 11: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 3

Posted in blogs and marketing, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on November 13, 2016

This is my eleventh installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-10.)

I began addressing general theories of business, as a particular type of general empirically grounded theory in Part 9 and Part 10 of this series. And my basic approach there has been one of framing business theory in behavioral terms, and both for descriptive and predictive purposes.

I continue that here, where I begin a discussion of behavioral strategies. And to put this posting into context with preceding installments leading up to it, I begin by reiterating that:

• Both individuals, and groups and organizations: assemblages of individuals follow behavioral strategies.
• Behavioral strategies are assembled out of series of specific decisions and actions. And they serve as organizers of subsequent decisions and actions, as well as determiners of what possibilities among them might be considered, and with what contingencies allowed for (and expected) when doing so.
• And this applies at all organizational levels from that of the individual on up. I note in this regard that at least in business contexts, group and organizational level behavioral strategies are more commonly identified as, and thought of in terms of operational and strategic plans and processes (and as representing deviations from them),
• Though corporate cultures and the assumptions and preconceptions that shape them enter into this too,
• As well as wider cultural and societal norms and expectations, and legal and related regulatory requirements.

I added at the end of Part 10 that I would discuss behavioral strategies from an individual actor perspective in this posting, and I will at least orient my line of discussion here from that perspective. But I begin doing so by noting a terminology distinction that I will follow in all following discussion in this series, from this point on:

• When I refer to behavior or behavioral strategies per se and without group-oriented or related qualifiers to indicate otherwise, I will mean individual behavior and its associated strategies: the behavior of individual employees and managers, consultants, clients and customers and other stakeholders who enter in some way into business transactions.
• And I will refer to organizational and group level behavior as such and in those terms, when not explicitly using more standard operational and strategic organizational terms as used in standard business systems discussion and elsewhere in this blog (e.g. team behavior where I make frequent use of “team” when discussing functionally coordinated groups of people who work together toward same-task or same task-type goals in a concerted manner.)

That noted, I begin by citing a fundamentally important detail relevant to what (individual) behavior means in a business theory context:

• Businesses and their processes and activities are transactional in nature and are rarely contained in the entirely individual context, or in individual behavior as if that might be considered in vacuo.
• Transactional processes, to be more precise there, cannot simply be measured or encapsulated as the simple sum total of individual participant action and response as measured and determined across all involved participants – and even if such data collection could be achieved in full possible detail and without error or friction; transactional processes cannot be fully captured and described for their instances of occurrence without consideration of factors and consequences that arise emergent to the group and organizational level. Rewording that to be as clear here as possible, transactional processes cannot be fully captured or described as if all individual participants in them were acting independently of each other and without feedback or other modulating interaction and their cumulative influence.
• Larger group and organizational contexts influence and shape and even significantly drive individual decision making and actions taken in response to it, and even when all specific individuals involved are primarily seeking to pursue their own conceptions of what would be best possible strategies for themselves and strictly for themselves – a situation that is sometimes approached in toxically internally unstable enterprises.
• Taking a key element of this progression of points at least somewhat out of the abstract, and as the risk of oversimplifying, little if anything that we do in our day-to-day work lives and business contexts would ever even be considered let alone carried out by us outside of an explicit business transaction context. And even when we would be carrying through on some same activity strictly on our own and without the driving influence of a work or marketplace context, specifically what we do and why and with what expectations and follow-through is shaped by the context in which we act.
• So when I address business theory in behavioral terms, I am selectively filtering the overall field of behavioral studies per se to focus entirely on the more specific domains of how human behavior shapes and influences business transactions in their broadest sense, and how that behavior is in turn shaped by such transactions.

Keeping this general theory-defining set of restricted filters in mind, and its ramifications, let me restate the basic premise that I have been developing up to here in this line of discussion. Individuals make decisions and take actions, and refrain from doing so (which is also a decision and action-taking option), in social and group contexts – and as a core consideration that has to be addressed in any overarching theory of business and certainly in any that would be behaviorally grounded. This means addressing perceived costs and benefits individually worked towards, in a socially interactive and transactional context as that would on balance determine, what decisions would best be reached.

Let me take that out of the abstract with a more group-decision oriented example:

• One of the key roles that corporate cultures play, and one of the key reasons why they essentially always arise for organized groups that are maintained over any significant period of time, is that corporate cultures align what members of those groups decide upon, and align their perception of costs and benefits as they do so, so as to reduce friction and discord within the group from otherwise harmfully competing interests.
• This is not a perfect mechanism, but it does serve to channel disagreement and discord as they occur in directions that would limit direct threat to the overall organization itself.
• No corporate culture can prevent disagreement or discord, but an effective one reduces the likelihood of disagreement or discord taking a form or reaching a level of severity that would threaten the group – the organization as a whole. And an effective corporate culture and its ongoing maintenance serve to restore group stability when it is challenged or perturbed.
• Effective corporate cultures help to buffer their organizations from the damaging potential that arises from change.

Now let’s consider this from the perspective of business efficiency and effectiveness per se, and from the more strictly operational and strategic sense:

• Stable well run businesses are so because their systems in place can function smoothly and efficiently, and resiliently in the face of change and challenge. But perhaps more importantly they do so because they align organizational needs and organizational success with the needs and success of the people who work there, and with the members of the markets that they serve. The needs and perceived needs that drive individual behavior and the needs and perceived needs that drive the overall organization and its behavior are aligned, and certainly in general and as an ongoing goal, where all benefit from what can be seen as shared success.
• And when a business or organization begins to lose that alignment, as for example happens when employees are running scared from possible downsizings, or a business leadership presents itself as only looking out for themselves personally, a measure of fundamental stability and resiliency is lost from that for the organization too.

I primarily write of well run businesses and best practices in this blog, only citing problem businesses and practices for their lessons-learnable value in doing better. In well run, stable businesses and their group frameworks, individuals seek to both develop and pursue behavioral strategies that would advance their own goals and objectives and that would best meet their own individual needs – as they see them, and also help advance the organization that they are gaining this value from. People still compete, and even very actively and certainly when there is a perception of scarcity of value to be shared within an organization for its scale. But the implicit standardization of perspective and values that well established corporate cultures create, channel where and how even this type of conflict arises and is expressed, and over what. And well planned and executed strategic and operational frameworks organize how that takes place, creating marketable value in the business in the process.

Note that I have said nothing as to timeframes of consideration there. And I have not addressed altruistic intent, where that and group-supportive goals can be central to what an individual seeks to achieve, just as more self-serving goals can be. And in fact most of us seek out what to us are meaningful balances between outwardly looking and supportive altruistic goals, and more individually oriented and self-serving goals. I will continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will at least begin to explicitly address this set of issues. Then, as promised at the end of Part 10 to this series, that I will discuss change, and in both in its smooth evolutionary forms and in its suddenly emergent disruptive forms.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, as topics section VI there, where I offer related material regarding theory-based systems.

Some thoughts concerning a general theory of business 10: considering first steps toward developing a general theory of business 2

Posted in blogs and marketing, reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on October 8, 2016

This is my tenth installment to a series on general theories of business, and on what general theory means as a matter of underlying principle and in this specific context (see Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, Section VI for Parts 1-9.)

I began this series with a narrative concerning general theories per se. Then I offered a first business-oriented example of how that line of discussion might be applied in a more specific general theory of business context, in Part 8 of this series, in the context of discussing the role of interpretations in general theories. And I offered a second such example in Part 9, when beginning to build a foundation for a specific general theory of business, on a foundation of individual and group behavior and descriptive and predictive theory that might be developed for that.

Then at the end of Part 9, I stated that I would “at least begin to explore business and economic transaction assumptions, as they would enter into this,” here in this installment. I do so from a behavioral perspective.

• People behave both altruistically and cooperatively: in support of individual others and of groups that they see themselves as belonging to, and selfishly and competitively, and often in combinations and at the same time (e.g. when members of a business’ workforce work together collaboratively and cooperatively as a group when competing against other same-industry businesses and their workforces, while still competing with each other within-group for status and position.)
• Any effective theory of business has to centrally acknowledge this, and the sometimes conflicting dynamics between individual drives and behavior, and group behavior.

I begin fleshing out these assertions with a basic axiomatic assumption regarding individual decision making as it shapes ongoing individual behavior, and as that collectively shapes group behavior:

• Individuals conduct at least roughly outlined due diligence analyses of costs and expenditures that they would commit to if taking an action, where overall costs include risk as well as effort taken and monetary and other resource expenditure, and the expected benefits that they would derive from this can include combinations of differing types of perceived gain.
• This analysis can as one extreme be entirely analytical and overtly thought through, for pertinent details and contingencies.
• It can, as an opposite extreme be essentially entirely emotional and non-analytical in nature. And as a group-think example of that, consider “follow the crowd” fad-driven behavior where initial participants might or might not have thought out their actions analytically to at least a degree but where subsequent bandwagon participants more often simply follow along.
• But however this due diligence is carried out and both for form and for completeness, individuals always seek to achieve outcome results from actions taken that at least match and that preferably exceed costs and risks expended – from their perspective and according to their criteria. Here, simply matching and achieving break-even might be an acceptable outcome, but the desired outcome is essentially always one of gain.
• And this brings me to a fundamentally crucial detail: gain, and benefit in general does not necessarily have to be either monetary or monetizable for it to represent real value and even in overtly economic systems. It is not even necessary that its presumed value be readily quantifiable either: only that it be deemed significant and sufficient on the part of the individual who makes a decision to act, and who follows through on that action.
• To take that out of the abstract, for-profit businesses might trade entirely in quantifiable monetary and monetizable sources of value (e.g. transferable liquid assets: cash, and monetizable but not directly monetary business intelligence and related information.) But any general theory of business also has to account for nonprofits that are mission driven in support of societally significant goals, where participants in them find real and even overriding value in seeing their vision of those missions advanced.

An effective theory of business has to be able to allow for, and describe and explain complex and at times seemingly contradictory drives and actions and across the entire range of observed decision making and activity pursued. And an effective theory of business has to be able to accommodate at the very least individual behavioral decision making and the motivators and reasoning that drive it, and group and organizational behavior.

Group and organizational behavior per se, include in them emergent properties that do not significantly arise in individual decision making and behavior, as well as being grounded in individual member behavior. But I start with the individual and build out from there, adding group behavior complications to the model at the appropriate organizational level.

I am going to continue this discussion with behavioral strategies:

• Both individuals, and groups and organizations follow behavioral strategies.
• Behavioral strategies are assembled out of series of specific decisions and actions, and serve as organizers of them, as well as determiners of what actions will be taken, and with what contingencies allowed for (and expected) – and at all organizational levels from that of the individual on up.

I will discuss individual behavioral strategies in both the business place and marketplace, in this context. Then after that, I will discuss group and organizational behavior, and for both businesses as organizations and interacting groups of them, and in their marketplaces. And I will discuss change, and in both its smooth evolutionary forms and in its suddenly emergent disruptive forms. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material about what I am attempting to do here at About this Blog and at Blogs and Marketing. And I include this series in my Reexamining the Fundamentals directory, as topics section VI there, where I offer related material regarding theory-based systems.

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