Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 46 – the issues and challenges of communications in a business 13

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 6, 2019

This is my 46th installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-45.)

And this series is about people and enabling them in a workplace, and to the benefit of both the businesses that they work for and the benefit of those hands-on and managerial employees too. But a great deal of what I have been writing of and addressing here, has focused on what these people do and how, and as viewed from due diligence and risk remediation and management perspectives. And as part of that ongoing narrative I have been discussing two specific topics points, since Part 44, so far primarily focusing on the first of them:

1. Offer an at least brief analysis of the risk management-based information access-determination process, or rather flow of such processes, as would arise and play out in a mid-range risk level context, where I sketched out and used a simplified risk management scale system in Part 39 for didactic purposes, that I will continue to make use of here and in what follows.
2. Then continue on from there to discuss how that type of system of analytical processes (or rather a more complete and functionally effective alternative to it as developed around a more nuanced and complete risk assessment metric than I pursue here), can and in fact must be dynamically maintained for how the business would address both their normative and predictably expected, and their more novel potential information sharing contexts as they might arise too. I note here in anticipation of that, that when innovation is involved and particularly when disruptively novel innovation is, novel information sharing contexts have to be considered the norm in that. And that significantly shapes how all of the issues encompassed in these two numbered points would be understood and addressed.

More specifically, I began discussing the first of those points in at least some detail in Part 44, then digressed from my initially planned, more abstractly framed line of discussion of them to develop and begin to consider a more specific case study-oriented example of how the issues that I would raise here would play out. And developing that for subsequent use is what I primarily focused upon in Part 45, where I briefly outlined a business software development process as might take place within an organization for its own use, and with specific low, medium and high-risk scenarios offered as possible elaborations to it, all based on how this basic development process might be followed – or short circuited in the case of my more fully high-risk scenario.

My goal for this posting is to complete my discussion of the above Point 1, bringing that more out of the abstract by considering how its issues take shape in the type of real-world contexts that I raise with my software development example. And after that I will continue on to specifically address Point 2 and its issues as well.

I began addressing the issues of Point 1 in Part 44, by focusing on how risk is in fact determined on a potential-event by potential-event basis. And as part of that, I briefly outlined how risk management assessments can be made for known unknown possible events: adverse event types that are understood in principle and that are even statistically predicable for their likelihood of occurring, through application of an actuarial process, but that are unknown in detail and in advance of when they would occur. And I went beyond that to at least note the impact on risk management systems and their actionable implementation, by considering unknown unknowns too: here, adverse events that would arise as disruptively novel so it would be unlikely that anyone facing them could predict their likelihood of occurrence even if they do think that they know at least a minimal level of impact that they would have, if they were to occur.

• In simplest form at least, known unknown event risk calculations would be arrived at on an event-type by event-type basis, as a mathematical product of the probability of an adverse occurrence actually happening, and the level of adverse impact that would arise if it did. So for example, if a specific adverse event might have a 5% likelihood of occurring in the course of ten years of business operations, and it could be expected to cost the business a net amount of $100,000 per occurrence if it did, minimum, then its risk assessed cost (as would be added into an overall risk assessment model) would be at least $2,500 per business quarter and with that calculation entering into a determination of the minimum liquid reserves that should be maintained in the event of problems arising. (Note that to simplify this, I assume binary occurrence possibilities with an event type either happening once and just once, or not at all. Real world calculations would be more complex, allowing for a variety of deviations from that and other simplified assumptions that I make here.)
• And realistically, given an inevitable lack of complete knowledge, both of those measures: event likelihood and cost of occurring, would be calculated as range values, or as minimum ones and with that alternative offering a specific minimum risk per event type calculation that could then be used in planning and in business development and execution.
• Unknown unknown adverse events serve as true wild cards in this as it is impossible to calculate the actuarial table requiring, mathematical products that a more a priori knowable risk assessment of the type just discussed here, would require in its known unknown setting.

My abstract discussion goal for this posting is to expand upon and discuss a point of detail that I just added to this narrative in the above explanatory bullet points: “… with that calculation entering into a determination of the minimum liquid reserves that should be maintained in the event of problems arising” – where overall determination of the level of funds to be held in such reserves, and decisions reached as related business-wide decisions would be based on the coordinate determination and evaluation of suites of possible events that might arise: positive, negative and mixed in value there, as their risk and benefits implications are considered.

Yes, there are definitely circumstances where individual event types need to be separately considered and evaluated, as for example when their apparent likelihood of happening or their likely outcome if they do happen, appear to be changing. And these changes can visibly arise for any of a wide number of reasons. A need to make individual event type evaluations can also arise if a once assuredly known unknown suddenly starts to look more disruptively unexpected, or if a previously disruptive possibility as discussed here, has become more predictably familiar. But ultimately risk management looks at larger contexts and at overall risk and opportunity assessments, and at how different event and outcome types can and do interact and even fundamentally shape each other. And it is in the context of this very abstractly stated risk management understanding that I finally turn to consider my software development example.

Think of my Part 44 discussion as expanded upon here, as laying a foundation for more fully considering the above Point 1 by outlining, at least for purposes of this series discussion, what “risk” actually means there. And my continuation of that here, at least briefly scales up this set of issues to “business size” and the consideration of what at least ideally would be relatively comprehensive suites of potential risks faced and certainly for the more predictable among them. Now I would at least briefly and selectively set out to apply all of that in a specific case-in-point example setting. And for that, I turn back to Part 45 and to the low, medium and high risk scenario examples that I explicitly raised there. (I recommend that you at least briefly review that posting and those case in point example scenarios as I will refer to them here in what follows without repeating what would amount to a significant portion of that posting.)

First of all, as a matter of overall comment on the four scenarios offered there, all of them hinge for their significance on the use or potential use of personally identifiable customer data as would be provided to a business as it carries out sales and related transactions.

• For my low-risk example scenario, this means customer data-like information: fake customer data that is not based on the information provided by any specific real people, that would not and could not compromise anyone as an individual if it were to be more publically released. And my higher risk scenarios all involve access to, and use of real customer data.
• Such data is explicitly legally protected with specific regulatory guidelines as to how this information should be safeguarded, at least as far as specifying minimally required information security outcomes for it. And this in-detail overall framework and the correspondingly specified set of publically visible legal consequences for allowing breaches to this mandated information security, make collecting, processing, storing, accessing and using this data a source of definitively known unknown risks as I use that term here.
• In principle then, it should be possible to risk manage this type of event, and the types of business activities that might lead to such a breach as I have been discussing this set of issues here, and certainly for known unknowns. But specific real-world examples always add caveats and unexpecteds to any in-principle, abstractly stated considerations. And this example and source of them is no exception there.
• To illustrate that point of observation, and in a way that historic records can only serve to verify, one of the most important sources of hacking risk that businesses face and certainly large ones with large employee headcounts, comes from data misdirection and even outright data theft from the inside. This can mean intentional, malicious theft of and use of confidential information as for example when a disgruntled employee seeks to take and sell it. But exactly as impactfully and certainly on an incident by incident basis this can mean loss of control over such information, where for example an employee who has even large amounts of sensitive information on their work laptop computer – that they probably have been told not to keep there, takes this computer off-site and looses it. And this type of unintentional breach can happen entirely in-house in a business too, if an employee who has legitimate access to such data, shares it with others who do not.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will explicitly consider the four example scenarios themselves from Part 45, as the issues that I have just raised here would apply to them. Then, as promised above, I will continue on to discuss the above repeated topics Point 2. And after completing that, at least for purposes of this series, I will tie this back to the basic issues of information access and its more open and its more restrictive imperatives, as arise in a general business context, and in an innovative business context.

In anticipation of discussion to come, I will at least briefly discuss risk sharing and the role of insurance and third party indemnification there, and the impact of ripple effects in all of this, where for example hiring policy, employee benefits and corporate culture as it impacts upon and shapes the employee experience can significantly shape information security risk.

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

Hands-off management, micromanagement and in-between – some thoughts on what they mean in practice 2

I offered a thought piece on better management practices just over a month ago, as a Part 1 to what I expect to develop into a short series. And my goal there was to at least briefly broach and start to outline a discussion of a basic challenge that essentially any manager can fall into: knowing when to step-back and allow for learning curve inefficiencies and related performance issues on the part of people who report to them, and when to step-in and even if that means actively intervening and seeming to at least situationally take over.

There is no simple, one size fits all answer to this type of question, and understanding the possibilities and the possible consequences there, and on a specific context by specific context basis is a core lesson that goes into becoming an effective, experienced manager and leader.

I tried to keep my initial Part 1 discussion of this in clearer focus, by building some basic assumptions into the range of contexts that I made note of, where the types of step-in or step-back decisions that I write of here, would be made. And my goal here in this continuation posting is to expand that initial line of discussion for its range of acknowledged applicability by adding in some basic complications to its narrative. More specifically, I start ou there by acknowledging that:

• Sometimes hands-on employees and lower level managers who a more senior supervisor manages, can perform certain types of tasks but not others, at least with sufficient speed and effectiveness to meet ongoing business needs. And this is not always something that more training or more learning curve time can correct. What should a supervising manager do in this type of situation? If the tasks and potential tasks involved are central to that person’s job description and their expected areas of responsibilities there, that is very different than would be the case if these performance issues just involve new work that would expand the job and job description of an employee in question. And even then, are the performance problems that are now observed, problems in addressing work responsibilities that of necessity have to become part of that employee’s job description as the business and its needs change and evolve, or has this arisen essentially entirely in the context of add-on tasks that it would be nice if this employee could fulfill, but where those tasks are still separate from what this person would more routinely be expected to do?
• But what of training and offering opportunity to learn new skills? I just dismissed that as a possible solution to this problem in the above bullet point, but sometimes offering training opportunities, or time and opportunity to pursue them to an employee can make all the difference and to the good for all involved. Does this business allow for employee training or related improvement as an employee benefit, or support employees who would seek out such opportunities and who actively strive to become better, more valuable employees there? Does it support and encourage employees who would be willing to put in the time and effort to achieve that?
• But this brings me back to problem employees who cannot in fact sufficiently carry out their assigned and expected work assignments, and on time and correctly, for them to be seen as fully doing their jobs. Any step-in or step-back question always carries within it, a retain-as-is, or reassign or let go question too.

Context and effective communications are crucial here; the questions and issues that I raise here, in fact cut to the heart of what it means to be a manager and supervisor, and a leader in general. And with that noted, I take this line of discussion out of the abstract by offering and at least briefly considering a specific case in point example of how this works. And in anticipation of offering it, I add that my above-offered three point list of alternative context details, was drafted with this example in mind.

You are a mid-level or senior executive at a business that is actively striving to get out from under a history and reputation of being legacy-only, and for what traditionally has been its brand-defining, key production and product line for the business as a whole. And that area of the business is in fact your area of responsibility there now. Some of the people who have been doing this work, and both hands-on and as production line managers are approaching retirement and are deeply set in their ways, and would be good candidates for early retirement with incentives offered to leave now. Pursuing this approach for dealing with them would show a very positive message to all who remain and to any new hires that might be brought in, that this is a great place to work, where employees and their loyalty are rewarded. And it would create openings for bringing in new people with new skills and workplace experience too. But some of the people who have in effect become pigeonholed for the type of legacy work that you have to move the business beyond now, are younger and a lot earlier in their careers, and would in fact like to start working on more current and even cutting edge products and their development and manufacture too. They are not legacy-only, like their more senior peers. And it is these employees who I write of here, and the issues of dealing with them where they cannot simply move into New as a matter of course and immediately be up to speed on their now-expected tasks.

I assume here that it would be better long-term to retain and support these people, instead of simply taking a “simplest resolution” downsizing approach for anyone and everyone who has worked in this key and even defining area of the business, and in effect starting over as if from scratch there.

People who work in legacy areas of a business are all too often automatically typecast as only being able to do that, and essentially as an axiomatic assumption. But I am writing here of employees who in fact do not fit that stereotype and who could in fact move on to become valuable assets for an employer that seeks to retain and benefit from its people, and that can see real potential from achieving that.

How should a manager address this possibility, so as to retain and develop and not discourage and thwart and either by being too hands-on or too hands-off? How should a more senior manager or mid-level executive work with more junior line managers who work under their supervision who actively, day-to-day manage and supervise these people? Once again, simply laying them off, or alternatively frustrating them so much that they look elsewhere and leave, would create a shared message that everyone working there has to be expected to hear of. And downsizings are never exactly supportive of good morale, to put it mildly.

This is a situation where training and even the development of a business updating-oriented training program, probably organized and run by a third party service provider with relevant experience, can offer real value. And the issues of stepping-back or stepping-in and of knowing best when and how to do this, become crucially important during the transition period that attempting this type of change is certain to create for this business.

I end this posting by noting two further details that I will delve into in my next installment to this series:

• You have to expect that any decision you make here will have repercussions and ripple effects that run throughout the business, and that everyone there will come to know about. And if they only hear about this second hand and as rumor, they will only hear versions of it that are negative and worse.
• And with both that and my above example in mind, a key part of actually addressing this type of management challenge is one of understanding, conveying and managing expectations.

You can find this and related postings and series at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, with this put into its addendum section (and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3.) And you can also find this at Social Networking and Business 2 (and also see its Page 1), and at HR and Personnel – 2 (and see its Page 1.)

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 45 – the issues and challenges of communications in a business 12

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 29, 2019

This is my 45th installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-44.)

I began explicitly discussing the first of two topics points in Part 44 of this series, after developing a foundation for that starting with Part 39. And with this orienting background material noted, I begin this posting’s line of discussion by repeating both of those points here for smoother continuity of narrative as I continue addressing them:

1. Offer an at least brief analysis of the risk management-based information access-determination process, or rather flow of such processes, as would arise and play out in a mid-range risk level context, where I sketched out and used a simplified risk management scale system in Part 39 for didactic purposes, that I will continue to make use of here and in what follows.
2. Then continue on from there to discuss how that type of system of analytical processes (or rather a more complete and functionally effective alternative to it as developed around a more nuanced and complete risk assessment metric than I pursue here), can and in fact must be dynamically maintained for how the business would address both their normative and predictably expected, and their more novel potential information sharing contexts as they might arise too. I note here in anticipation of that, that when innovation is involved and particularly when disruptively novel innovation is, novel information sharing contexts have to be considered the norm in that. And that significantly shapes how all of the issues encompassed in these two numbered points would be understood and addressed.

My initial goal moving forward here, was to continue and for purposes of this series, and complete my above-repeated Point 1 discussion and then at least begin to delve into Point 2 and its issues too, in this posting. And as noted at the end of Part 44, completing my Point 1 discussion as intended here, means that I will specifically turn to consider information sharing and the innovative context, as considered from the perspective of an organizing model of risk determination that I developed in Part 44 as an eight point, bullet pointed list of factual and observational detail (as can be found towards the end of that installment.) And as a key part of that, I said that I will more fully explain and clarify the last bullet point of that list regarding mid-level risk events and their possibility too (doing so in an information sharing context):

• Lowest and highest risk possibilities are in most cases going to remain the same whether or not known unknowns are added to the mix, given the low likelihood of their creating unpredictably disruptive new risk increases. But when you add the possibility or even a significantly concerning likelihood of unknown unknowns into this, they add a level of impact to any overall risk determination, and a maximized level of overall risk increase for any possible events that would fit into a mid-range risk category in particular. And they specifically add whole new layers of uncertainty as to what is likely to arise as an adverse event or outcome of that categorical level too.

And to further complicate matters here, I have also planned on continuing and completing my Point 1 discussion here, in terms of a real-world at-least categorical-level example, to take this narrative at least somewhat out of the abstract. But with the added complexities that involves, addressing all of this would mean my continuing consideration of Point 1 alone, beyond the end of this installment and into a next, and before I can even begin to consider Point 2 and its issues. So I change my posting development schedule here, as tentatively offered at the end of Part 44, accordingly.

All of this noted, and to begin this posting’s main line of discussion, let’s consider some real-world information sharing situations, as can and do arise when a new piece of in-house developed software is being developed, tested and refined for use in business systems that would make use of customer data. And I cite this as being realistic because I have been directly involved in this type of in-house information technology project and as lead for its quality assurance testing, where risk management as well as functionality challenges would emerge and have to be addressed.

First some briefly stated background as to how this type of work is devised and organized, and carried out:

• New software, and particularly new impactful software that would be used for managing important tasks, and that might impact with other business systems, is never added into the active, live, working information technology system at a business unless and until it has been developed and tested and refined to a point where it can be considered reliably safe for inclusion there, as a risk management consideration. Development work of this type is essentially always carried out on separate server computers, even if virtual servers as set up on hardware that is also – and very separately used for more routine business use, with virtual drive partitioning set up to ensure necessary isolation.
• And the first step here, as used for initial software development and as a proof of principle and a first software coding and testing stage, is usually carried out on what is fairly commonly called a sandbox server. These are often stand-alone devices and if they are “network connected” beyond a minimum number of software developers as might be required depending on the precise nature of the project and its intended productive goal, that is going to mean firewall limited connections to specific tester computers and their users only.
• Software that has reached a stage of development that would call for more advanced and realistic testing, gets moved to an alpha server. And this is where at least somewhat larger numbers of testers try to use (and try to break) this new software. And the “try to break” half of that can be more important than the try to use half, as real-world users do not always use the software on their computers at work, as expected by the programmers who developed it, and real-world usage software has to be robust enough to keep running even if unexpected commands are attempted in it. The goal of alpha testing, as is done on this type of server-based system, is to identify and fix any and all places where actual expected user-entered commands would break something and make the program crash. And on top of that, its goal is to identify places where users might, or overtly and reliably would try doing things differently than the programmers had intended, so they can be accommodated too (and once again in ways that do not lead to the program crashing.) I note in this regard that “software written by programmers and for programmers (only)” is something of a pejorative, as it refers to software that is so fragile and limited that if anything is attempted outside of the programmer’s initial intent and understanding, the program will go down and fail – and even if that initial intent and understanding was grounded in a fundamental misunderstanding as to what this software would actually be used for, by real-world end-user stakeholders.
• This is also carried out on separate servers but with larger networks and wider ranging tester access required, and with that including participation of at least some select real-world users from the functional areas of the business that would actually use this new tool and even day-to-day once it is ready for that.
• Beta testing comes next, and that is where progressively less likely problems are searched out and addressed. And beta testing in fact should continue, at least as a system for reporting problems to the Information Technology help desk, on an ongoing basis and even after this software has gone into general use.
• Rarer event problems can only be expected to emerge when and as more and more people spend more and more time using that software. So really rare ones for likelihood of showing, are most probably only going to emerge after everyone at the business who would use it, is using it.
• And this is where software patches and other updates enter this narrative, as emergingly uncovered problems are reported and addressed, and as new features are added and older ones are made easier to use and both individually and in combination.
• There is obviously more to this, in real-world practice than is covered here. Larger, more functionally wide-ranging software is, for example, usually at least early beta tested on a functionally coherent section by section basis, with everything coming together as those larger pieces are found ready for that. And early beta test software can be brought back to the sandbox server if wider, though presumably still early testing proves that necessary, with a return to the blackboard to try another approach. This is an incomplete and glossed-over account of a more complex and nuanced process and system of them, but it should suffice for what is to follow here.

For my low risk example, where that would be determined according to the simple risk management scale system of the above Point 1, consider sandbox and alpha test stage customer relations management software (CRM) tool that is being developed and tested using completely made-up, imaginary customer data at those early develop and test stages. Here, it would in most cases not matter if this data were to become public knowledge, except perhaps insofar as it might be problematical to a business for it to reveal more openly that it is in fact developing its own new in-house CRM system, or at least some functionally significant part to such an overall system at all. And some of this made-up data testing might take place in at least early beta testing too, with this data taken from what amounts to a dedicated sandbox database and its server.

For my mid-level risk example, consider at least somewhat later beta testing than would take place in my low risk example, where real testing is called for using real data. Eventually that has to happen, and real-world testing starts in beta testing and often relatively early on in it and before this new software is deemed fully ready for general use. This represents a more mid-level risk because everyone carrying out this testing is going to be drawn from a pool of hands-on professionals for this type of tool and this type of data usage, who are already vetted as being reliable for using the here-CRM software already in place, and on actual ongoing business-to-consumer transactions, and with data drawn from essentially the same pool of customers.

For a higher risk example, even if hopefully only a somewhat higher risk one than just offered, (and certainly if properly managed), consider a CRM-including software package as a development goal, and one that connects into and supports a wider range of business functionalities and needs than more usual standard, third party provided CRM solutions could, and in ways that specifically fit into and support the developing business’ operations and strategies and its particular business model (which might very well be why this is being developed in-house in the first place.) This now means bringing new stakeholder groups into this software development and testing effort with new categories of software testers and potential users involved, and with many of them only seeing specific customer data there for a first time. That means a potentially much wider data exposure, and that increases overall risk to the business as a whole and for possibility of an adverse event occurrence even if without changing the adverse-consequence impact if such a data breech were to occur. And this is an example of how the disruptively new and novel and addressing its needs can increase risk faced over what might be expected from a more routine evolutionary change, in a here-more routine CRM software package or significant functional component there-of, context.

For a (preferably avoidable but nevertheless very real) high risk example, consider the impact of impatience on this software development and testing process flow, where pressures to move this new and even disruptively new software from initial development into live, real-world use as fast as possible are great – and even if that means moving this along faster than the people who are hands-on managing this project would see as being prudent.

• In the real-world, complex and wide-ranging software and certainly such software where it accesses and uses confidential or sensitive data, carries information systems security risks with it. I cited human usage and risk of their inappropriately sharing data and by intent or accident (from for example, how they store data used on their own work computers and as they are networked in.) Here, I add more strictly information technology level risks too, with wider access meaning wider vulnerability to malware and other challenges too.

And with that, I conclude the now extended background preparation that I have decided to add in here, as necessary foundation material for actually addressing the topics and issues that I initially intended to delve into here. My now one posting displaced goal for the next installment to this series is to address the above repeated Point 1 and its issues, as outlined for discussion towards the start of this posting, and centering that narrative around the software development example and its low to high risk scenarios as offered here. Then, I will turn to and consider Point 2 and its issues, as a real-world elaboration of and continuation of my Point 1 discussion.

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

Hands-off management, micromanagement and in-between – some thoughts on what they mean in practice 1

One of the most difficult issues that managers face – essentially all managers and regardless of their industry or their titles or scope of responsibility, can be found in simply knowing when to actively supervise and manage, and when to step back. Most managers spend essentially their entire careers and work lives, working in the context of their own specific areas of hands-on experience and training, whether that means working in technical and related areas such as Information Technology or Finance, or in soft people-skills areas such as Marketing and Communications or Personnel. They, as such, have training and experience that would at least offer a foundation for addressing challenges and opportunities in the functional areas that they are responsible for, and even when facing what to them personally are the new and unexpected. The challenges and the at least potential opportunities that I write of here are, however, essentially pure management in nature. And they are of a type that is not generally addressed all that effectively in standard MBA and related programs with their all but laser-focused subject area orientations and specializations. These issues do not, after all, clearly fit into any particular arena of business-defined functional area expertise or responsibility.

• When should a manager step back and even knowingly allow at least more minor mistakes, delays and related learning curve inefficiencies?
• And when should they step in and more directly intervene, and even if that means they’re in-effect taking over from a hands-on employee or a lower level manager who reports to them? When does this become micromanagement?
• When does hands-off mean giving others a chance to make mistakes and learn and grow professionally from them, and when does it mean leaving them hanging and without the support that they actually need, and that they might even actively want?
• When does more actively hands-on mean actively helping and when does it more primarily become an otherwise avoidable challenge to those so “helped,” and of a form that undercuts those subordinates and limits their ability to do better on their own the next time?

I have in effect already at least partly addressed those questions from how I phrased them, when I raised the possibility of at least more minor mistakes, delays and related learning curve inefficiencies, and by implication the possibility of more impactfully significant challenges that would require more immediate and effective response and resolution too.

• If a new, more junior manager is slower than might be desired at first, when using a new-to-them administrative tool and its online screens, and when they are still figuring out where everything is in it on their own, it can be better to wait for them to ask questions if they hit a wall in that, instead of automatically, in effect taking over. They might take a little longer at first, in effectively completing the tasks that they would use this tool for. But you’re making the investment as a more senior manager, of letting them learn this new tool as a matter of ingrained hands-on experience, and at their own pace can really pay off for you and for your business later on, and certainly if this means they’re learning their next new software tool that much faster, and if they learn this one better from how they learned how to use it by doing with it, too.
• If, on the other hand, that new more junior manager is on the brink of making a mistake that would create serious problems for a major business client, that would probably call for a more immediate and direct intervention.

But that, at least categorical level context in which a step-in or step-back decision would be made, only represents one of several possible arenas where the questions that I raise here, as to how to better manage, actually arise. What are the work performance issues involved that a step-in or step-back decision would be made about? But just as importantly, who are the people involved in this and what are the most productive ways for working with them, and certainly when everything is not moving ahead like clockwork for them?

• And it is important to note in this context, that addressing the who side of that, can and generally does call for more individualized management approaches and more flexible ones at that, than a focus on business tasks and goals would call for, and certainly as a general rule.
• Business tasks and goals, and certainly as organized and called for from a big picture perspective, are laid out in business plans in place, or at least in effectively drafted ones. They are formally understood for what they would accomplish and how, at least for an organized and efficient business and for its ongoing business systems.
• But few if any businesses have anything like formal guidelines in place for working more effectively with others, depending on their personalities and on what specific ways of completing tasks work best for them. Few if any businesses have anything like formal guidelines in place for working more effectively with others in addressing how they would work when facing special-to-them needs: short term and time-limited or ongoing, and with only a few special exception circumstances such as parental need guidelines, and disabilities accommodations standing out as exceptions there.

Actually addressing the issues raised here as a senior manager, means thinking through the tasks and goals involved and the priorities that they carry, while also thinking and acting with a matching awareness of the other people involved in carrying them out – as well as maintaining an active awareness of other involved parties, including third party stakeholders who need to have the tasks involved, completed correctly and on time. And at least as importantly, this also means better understanding ourselves as the senior managers in charge in this too.

• Management is about organizing and coordinating what has to be done, to get it done and as smoothly and effectively, and cost-effectively as possible. But it is also about working with and enabling the people involved in carrying this work out. Managers are people, who work with, and in this context supervise other people.

Personality and management style, as shaped by it, enter this narrative here, and a need to be able and willing to work with others in ways that they can be positively receptive to, and in ways that can help bring out their best. This means finding the right balance between challenge to perform, and the opportunity for professional growth that the right types and amounts of such challenge can foster, while giving others both the opportunity and the tools needed to get their work done, even as they learn from trying and doing.

I have seen way too many managers who do not allow for any error or delay (from others). And that lack of flexibility and yes – lack of adaptability, makes it all the easier to fall into one or the other of the two chasms of problematical management that I have been discussing here: hands-off that can and will leave subordinates twisting in the wind, or its overly involved counterpart of longer-term performance-thwarting micromanagement. And this brings me to the final point that I would raise here in this brief note: the final point of challenge that not finding the right balance between hands-off and hands-on can bring.

• Whether a senior manager steps back and remains uninvolved as their default and automatic response to work performance problems in their team (taking a sink or swim approach),
• Or whether they make the mistake of stepping in too often and on problems and issues that do not genuinely call for their direct intervention, leaving no room for errors or delays and even when a subordinate is learning, or when they are trying to navigate the unexpected or unusual,
• They make the path that they themselves would follow as a more senior manager in charge, that much more difficult too. The more they just automatically default to either of these two approaches and certainly if they vacillate between them, the poorer their own work performance is likely to be from their failure to focus on and expend effort, and time and other resources where their effort is really needed, and where it would have been expected in their own performance reviews.

And the types of problems that I write of here can radiate down the lines of a table of organization from more senior managers on down. At its worst, poor managerial decision making of the type that I write of here, can come to shape and damage entire corporate cultures, and businesses as a whole, undermining morale at a business as a whole in the process.

I offer this posting with a goal of explicitly raising and outlining a type of management problem. And I will return to this topic area in future postings, with a goal of offering some thoughts on how to better address it.

In anticipation of my next posting on this, I note here that I have made a number of assumptions in this one that are true for many involved participants and across a range of real-world scenarios, but without their being universally true, or even close to that. As an example of that, I have assumed that all of the people involved in the scenarios that I have touched upon here, are good employees who can do their jobs effectively or even exceptionally well, even if they do face at least occasional learning curve slow-downs in that. And I have assumed that such learning would be more autodidactic in nature. But not all employees are as effective as others and not all show the same levels of potential for developing into the good or even great there. And some need and really benefit from more formal training and particularly on more complex training issues.

The devil, it is said, is in the details and that definitely applies for the issues and at least potential problems that I write of here. And the detail-of-necessity nature of the issues that I raise here, explains at least in part why this is not necessarily a topic area that is addressed as effectively as might be needed in at least most MBA and related degree programs. The details that arise here are all experience based, if they are to be fully learned and understood. My goal here is to offer tools that might help to shorten this type of learning curve. And I will continue this effort in a next installment to what will become a short series.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, with this put into its addendum section (and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3.) And you can also find this at Social Networking and Business 2 (and also see its Page 1), and at HR and Personnel – 2 (and see its Page 1.)

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 44 – the issues and challenges of communications in a business 11

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 24, 2019

This is my 44th installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-43.)

I have been at least relatively systematically working my way through a series of background issues since Part 39, with a goal of using that foundation-forming narrative as a basis for addressing two topics points and their issues, that I have held forth as organizing goals for this overall narrative. And my primary goal for this installment is to at least begin discussing those topic points directly now. That means I will at least begin to:

1. Offer an at least brief analysis of the risk management-based information access-determination process, or rather flow of such processes, as would arise and play out in a mid-range risk level context, where I sketched out and used a simplified risk management scale system in Part 39 for didactic purposes, that I will continue to make use of here and in what follows.
2. Then continue on from there to discuss how this type of system (or rather a more complete and functionally effective alternative to it as developed around a more nuanced and complete risk assessment metric than I pursue here), can and in fact must be dynamically maintained for how the business would address both their normative and predictably expected, and their more novel potential information sharing contexts as they might arise too. I note here in anticipation of that, that when innovation is involved and particularly when disruptively novel innovation is, novel information sharing contexts have to be considered the norm in that. And that significantly shapes how all of the issues encompassed in these two numbered points would be understood and addressed.

I concluded Part 43 of this series with some general comments regarding new employee selection, and working with people already on-staff at a business, so as to bring in the right creatively innovative people and support them for what they can bring to the business. Then after (presumably) finishing that discussion thread, at least for purposes of that posting, I said that I would turn to discuss the above-repeated topics points and essentially from the start of this one. But I have decided since writing that, to at least selectively expand upon the complex of personnel related issues that I was addressing in Part 43 first, to further complete the foundation that I will begin addressing the above Point 1 from. This, I add, is particularly important and relevant here given the overall thrust of this series as a while, with its personnel-oriented focus.

I begin this posting-starting digression by explicitly noting that when I refer to creative hands-on and managerial staff and the innovation that they can bring to a business, I am not just referring to innovation as it can arise in marketable products or services; I am writing of innovation in general as it can more widely hold potential for enriching a business, with that including business process innovation, innovation in how a business reaches out to and connects with its markets, or with possible supply chain partners or other business-to-business collaborators, or in any other context where such creativity might arise – or be thwarted. And I am writing of innovation as a product of individual effort, and even when it requires coordinated effort of several or even many to bring an innovative insight to meaningful fruition.

If you are a business owner or a more senior executive there, or a lower or midlevel manager there for that matter, who finds yourself having to hire a new employee and at whatever level in the organization, what should you look for that would go beyond your already current and ongoing routine and normal? And what should you do to identify, support and encourage such potential in the people who you already have working with you on payroll? Going beyond that, and in acknowledgement of the constraints that businesses both face and create for themselves from bringing in people part-time and short-term, and as part of a gig economy approach to hiring, where and how should you look for innovative potential and other sources of value that would make it more worthwhile for all involved, to actively bring people onboard as full time in-house employees, who prove themselves as good candidates for that from their performance in more transient positions there?

Some qualities and habits come immediately to mind that would offer worth from essentially anyone who a business would seek to bring in and keep, and actively support for their abilities to create new sources of value for an employing business. And this would just start with recognition of a driving curiosity that would bring an employee or a prospective employee to look beyond their own particular day-to-day routine to see at least something of what might be possible beyond that. And it would also include a willingness and ability to connect the dots, seeing how what might at first seem to be unrelated needs and resources might be brought together in unexpected ways. Communications skills enter in here too, as do what might perhaps best be considered marketing skills, for sharing and arguing the case for possible innovative insights that have been realized.

There are, of course, a number of other traits that could be added to that list as offering at least supportive value to what I have just outlined here. But for purposes of this posting and the above-repeated Point 1 that I will at least begin addressing here, these are the key characteristics and qualifications that I would start the main line of discussion of this posting from, here.

At the risk of repeating myself on some key points that I have already discussed in this blog, and even at least touched upon in this series too, I offer the following as context in which possible innovation and possible innovators might be addressed:

• The more standardized and the more routine a business process, or a product and its manufacturing are, or any other area of business activity that might be considered here, the less new information is actually going to be required to carry it out. And I even include operational possibilities here such as customized manufacturing, where customization per se is usually still tightly constrained and where options are in most cases routinized with customers selecting from suites of already-prepared-for options.
• The more standardized and the more routine here, the less new information, and at least as importantly the fewer the number of types of information have to be explicitly shared in order to carry it out. And the second half of that bullet point even holds true when considering big-data intensive operations, such as Customer Fulfillment Center operations where employees have to be able to access large amounts of data concerning the specific customers they are dealing with, in order to set up and complete sales or other transactions with them. They might see a diversity of specific data through this, but it is essentially certain that they will primarily if not exclusively see this coming up through specifically formatted and populated database tables that they have specific vetted access too, and with the same data fields tapped into for this every time and without exceptions. So even there, they are only seeing and working with a limited set of types of data for this.

Innovation, and looking beyond the standard and routine, calls for wider vision and understanding if it is to bring relevant value to a business or to the people who work there as they carry out their workplace responsibilities. So when I initially wrote and offered the above Point 1, I was setting up what can become a fundamental conflict that can play out in a business. And it is one in which the default decision making option is one of simply pursuing standard and routine, and the cost of that can easily become a loss of creative opportunity – and of overall opportunity that in the long run might have proven essential to the business as a whole for its ongoing success.

I explicitly framed Point 1 in terms of a simplified risk management tool that I have offered in recent installments to this series in a few progressively more refined iterations, for use as a didactic tool. And I continue this discussion from that point where I will focus on mid-range risk scenarios as discussed in the context of that tool.

Why mid-range risk issues and scenarios? I have already touched upon that question and its answers when initially offering the above cited risk management tool that would be used for managing this area of consideration, or at least for organizing its management. But I will address that complex of issues again here, this time expanding on what I have already offered on this topic, embedding my earlier response to it in what follows:

• Risk management is all about limiting the possible negative impact of uncertainty and the unexpected.
• In a standard business-as-usual context, and when standard and routine processes and flows of them are carried out in the performance of required tasks, this uncertainty fits essentially entirely into the category of known unknowns. You might not know when an adverse event will specifically arise but most of the time, and with only rare exceptions, you will start out knowing basically what types of such events can and with time will occur.
• Under these circumstances, the primary difference between low risk, mid-range risk and high risk events would be that progressively higher overall risk here, can be represented as a calculated mathematical product of progressively higher likelihood of an adverse event occurring, and a progressively higher negative consequence if one does, or some other overall higher value combination of these factors.
• In practice, in mathematical terms this is going to actually mean a calculated product that is weighted towards progressively more adverse outcomes, per incident as the risk assessed increases. And it is a key outcomes consequence of risk management, that efforts be made to reduce the calculated risk values as determined here, moving forward. Quite simply, a business process that fails too often is going to be replaced. A marketable product that does so is going to be recalled and the business will stop producing or selling it, at least until it can be redesigned or until its production line quality control can be improved.
• But even rare events can call for such change if their negative consequences rise to a sufficiently high level. Consider the recall of playpens and other items for infants and toddlers when a child dies as a result of a product failure.
• The key here, summarizing across the preceding bullet points is that when risk is essentially entirely driven by known and familiar unknowns, it becomes possible to in effect establish actuarial table approaches to dealing with it. And it becomes possible to comparatively set up tables of low risk to high risk activities and their outputs that can be supported or avoided too, as a matter of business routine. And the mid-range risks and the activities that they arise from, that I cited in Point 1, do not hold any particular significance beyond that of how they fit into larger, overall business-wide risk determination schemes.
• Now add in the additional uncertainties of innovation and of the disruptively novel and new. This is when unknown unknowns enter this narrative. And bottom line, that makes this source of uncertainty and the actual uncertainty that arise from it fundamentally qualitatively different from the known unknowns and their risks that I have just been writing of here.
• Lowest and highest risk possibilities are in most cases going to remain the same whether or not known unknowns are added to the mix, given the low likelihood of their creating unpredictably disruptive new risk increases. But when you add the possibility or even a significantly concerning likelihood of unknown unknowns into this, they add a level of impact to any overall risk determination, and a maximized level of overall risk increase for any possible events that would fit into a mid-range risk category in particular. And they specifically add whole new layers of uncertainty as to what is likely to arise as an adverse event or outcome of that categorical level too.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will specifically turn to consider information sharing, and the innovative context, as the underlying logic of the above set of bullet points plays out. And as a key part of that, I will explain the immediately preceding bullet point as just offered here regarding mid-level risk events and their possibility too. Then I will turn to consider Point 2, in light of this still ongoing discussion. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 43 – the issues and challenges of communications in a business 10

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on March 19, 2019

This is my 43rd installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-42.)

To put this posting in perspective for how it fits into this series as a whole, I have at least relatively systematically been preparing, since Part 39 to address two topics points and their issues, that I have held forth as organizing goals for this overall narrative, where I will:

1. Offer an at least brief analysis of the risk management-based information access-determination process, or rather flow of such processes, as would arise and play out in a mid-range risk level context, where I sketched out and used a simplified risk management scale system in Part 39 for didactic purposes, that I will continue to make use of here and in what follows. (Note: see that posting for an explanation of why I would focus on mid-range risks here, rather than on risk in general, or on mid-range and higher risk level possibilities.)
2. Then continue on from there to discuss how this type of system (or rather a more complete and functionally effective alternative to it as developed around a more nuanced and complete risk assessment metric than I pursue here), can and in fact must be dynamically maintained for how the business would address both their normative and predictably expected, and their more novel potential information sharing contexts as they might arise too. I note here in anticipation of that, that when innovation is involved and particularly when disruptively novel innovation is, novel information sharing contexts have to be considered the norm in that. And that significantly shapes how all of the issues encompassed in these two numbered points would be understood and addressed.

I began to take out of the abstract, this foundation-building background discussion that would lead up to a more detailed consideration of the above two points, in Part 42, when I began to flesh out and discuss two specific if selectively offered case study-formatted business examples, which I repeat here for their single bullet point summary descriptors, for smoother continuity of narrative:

• ClarkBuilt Inc.: a small to medium size business by head count and cash flow that was initially built to develop and pursue a new business development path as built around its founders’ jointly arrived at “bold new innovative products” ideas. The Clark brothers, Bob and Henry came up with a new way to make injection molds for plastics and similar materials that would make it cost-effective to use injection molding manufacturing processes with new types of materials, and cost-effectively so. They have in fact launched their dream business to do that, and have developed a nice little niche market for their offerings, providing specialized-materials parts to other manufacturers.
• And Kent Enterprises: a larger and more established business that in fact has at least something of a track record of supporting, or at least attempting to support innovative excellence within its ranks and on a larger, wider-ranging scale.

My goal for this posting is to continue and conclude, at least for purposes of this discussion thread, my analyses of these two businesses and certainly insofar as they would seek out innovative potential in their new employee hiring processes, and as they would seek to cultivate and retain the innovative potential that they do bring onboard. And I begin by repeating a more general business model-oriented point of intent that I addressed for each of these enterprises at least in passing, in Part 42:

• ClarkBuilt was initially conceived and founded, and has been built with a goal of realizing the fullest, most business-effective possibilities that its founders: Bob and Henry can develop out of a single initial game changing insight and innovation that they had arrived at with their new approach to injection molding in the manufacture of special materials, specialized parts. And the entire thrust of their enterprise moving forward has been to realize that goal: that shared dream that they hold to, and with any and all new innovation that would be added in, evaluated for its relevance and value to them according to how it supports this business, and its core defining innovation.
• And Kent Enterprises, has at the very least grown and developed towards a more widely, openly innovative business model approach as it seeks to remain competitively relevant in a changing industry and in the face of a change-demanding marketplace. To be clear here, Kent does not and probably never will in any way fit the type of research-as-product business model that is addressed in my concurrently running series: Pure Research, Applied Research and Development, and Business Models (as can be found at Business Strategy and Operations – 4 and its Page 5 continuation, as postings 664 and loosely following there.) This is not a business that would pursue pure research or even just more openly framed and considered applied research – except insofar as its leadership might be able to envision up-front of that, a likely practical application that they could cost-effectively develop and bring to market from it, in-house. But they do see and feel the pressures of change as it is taking place around them and they do see a fundamental need for them to change too, and certainly if they are to reach and stay at the forefront of their industry, among their competitive field.

Both businesses face gray area decision making requirements and challenges, for who they would look for categorically when hiring, when evaluating possible job candidates by skills and experience achieved and by observable indicators of innovative potential. And both face gray area decision making in how best to make use of the skills, experience and enthusiasm to build and create new that they do bring in-house and into their systems

And the lack of sufficiently complete knowledge that they both face and both for planning out their more immediate here-and-now and for moving forward longer-term, can serve to bring these two enterprises to arrive at what might be essentially identical personnel and hiring policies and practices. ClarkBuilt might focus on bringing in and retaining people who in some way specialize in areas that directly relate to injection molding technology or to better understanding and making use of the wider range of materials that they would process through their business defining proprietary technology that centers on it. And Kent Enterprises might at least nominally throw a wider innovation-seeking net insofar as they are not as tight bound to any one particular technology or its specific area of application. But both seek to remain applied-focused, and with that driven by and shaped by what they already do as a foundational starting point for all that they might pursue and do next.

And this brings me from the issues of job descriptions and the hiring processes that these businesses would carry out in building their professional staffs and in bringing in new lower and mid-level managers, to the issues of what they would do with the people they have, and of how they would work with and support them in what they do. And that takes me directly and specifically to the above repeated topics Points 1 and 2, that I will finally begin to explicitly address starting in my next installment to this series. And in anticipation of further discussion to come, I will pursue those topic points exactly as I have when preparing to discuss them, beginning in Part 39 and starting there with a more abstract line of discussion and then considering them in terms of my two here-still advancing case study examples.

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

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 42 – the issues and challenges of communications in a business 9

Posted in book recommendations, HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on January 12, 2019

This is my 42nd installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-41.)

I initially posed two topics points, both developed around strategically and operationally framed issues that can be expected to arise when moving forward innovatively in a business, in Part 39 of this series. And I have repeated them in Part 40 and again in Part 41 as an orienting framework for how to think about this narrative and as indicators of where it is headed.

I repeat those topics points here, as I continue laying a foundation for specifically addressing them, turning in this posting to consider two specific case in point business examples that I would address them in terms of. That noted, the two points that I have been preparing for through all of this, are:

1. Offer an at least brief analysis of the risk management-based information access determination process, or rather flow of such processes, as would arise and play out in a mid-range risk level context, where I sketched out and used a simplified risk management scale system in Part 39 for didactic purposes, that I will continue to make use of here and in what follows. (Note: see that posting for an explanation of why I would focus on mid-range risks here, rather than on risk in general, or on mid-range and higher risk level possibilities.)
2. Then continue on from there to discuss how this type of system (or rather a more complete and functionally effective alternative to it as developed around a more nuanced and complete risk assessment metric than I pursue here), can and in fact must be dynamically maintained for how the business would address both their normative and predictably expected, and their more novel potential information sharing contexts as they might arise too. I note here in anticipation of that, that when innovation is involved and particularly when disruptively novel innovation is, novel information sharing contexts have to be considered the norm in that. And that significantly shapes how all of the issues encompassed in these two numbered points would be understood and addressed.

And with these here-goal oriented topics points offered again in this still developing narrative thread, I repeat my single bullet point-framed opening descriptions of the two case study businesses themselves, that I would raise and discuss here:

• ClarkBuilt Inc.: a small to medium size business by head count and cash flow that was initially built to develop and pursue a new business development path as built around its founders’ jointly arrived at “bold new innovative products” ideas. The Clark brothers, Bob and Henry came up with a new way to make injection molds for plastics and similar materials that would make it cost-effective to use injection molding manufacturing processes with new types of materials, and cost-effectively so. They have in fact launched their dream business to do that, and have developed a nice little niche market for their offerings, providing specialized-materials parts to other manufacturers.
• And Kent Enterprises: a larger and more established business that in fact has at least something of a track record of supporting, or at least attempting to support innovative excellence within its ranks and on a larger, wider-ranging scale.

And I begin that by pointing out what might for many readers be a fairly obvious point. Both of these businesses start out as innovation oriented ventures. But ClarkBuilt is built around an initial core innovative insight and its realization, and with a long-term goal that would focus essentially entirely on that.

• Bob and Henry Clark are not planning, at least as a core element of their overall business model in seeking out or developing entirely new sources of disruptively novel New to supplement or even replace their initial injection molding technology innovation. So while they would most likely be expected to continue at least something of an innovative effort in their business, this would be more evolutionary and fine-tuning and upgrading in nature, and not revolutionary and game changing.
• Kent Enterprises, on the other hand is more of an innovation factory, at least as a matter of intent. And it is, as intimated above, open to innovative ideas and innovative potential as they might arise through larger swaths of their organization than might be contained in a designated in-house research and development department, or through an innovation outreach office that would buy rights to New from outside sources (e.g. university-based research labs.)

This point of distinction is very important here, as the decisions that inform it for these two enterprises, and the actions and subsequent decisions that each would follow in pursuit of their own particular vision, effectively shape and define what meaningfully relevant research and meaningfully relevant innovation might even be considered by them.

ClarkBuilt very specifically seeks to become and remain the leading manufacturing business in its entire industry and sector and both when competing against rival manufacturers and when facing and meeting the needs of its market. And that industry and sector, and that marketplace are organized around and effectively defined by injection molding parts manufacturing and any immediately competing technology alternatives that a business such as ClarkBuilt might come to face. Innovation that would take essential resources from that defining focus and its realization, and that would arguably compete with their effort to achieve this goal, would be problematical at best and certainly as an initial and essentially default response to it.

Kent Enterprises, on the other hand, is more fundamentally aware of overall change, and of the longer-term need for them to keep exploring and developing towards new markets and types of them, as current ones mature and opportunity to innovate in them begins to dry up – because their more comfortably established markets and their buying participants have become less and less interested in next-step new for what to them might even just be legacy system products.

If you were to ask the leadership of these two businesses what they read for inspiration as they plan for and lead their businesses, which set of them would be more likely to have read – and taken to heart, the more expansively innovative messages of a book such as:

• Gertner, J. (2012) The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Golden Age of American Innovation. Penguin Books?

And the points of distinction that I raise here, have immediate and direct impact on both the hiring and retention policies of the managers and leadership of these businesses, and of their Human Resource departments as each of them variously develops and makes routine, the personnel side of their business plans and strategies.

Both of these businesses need creative, innovative people on their staffs, and in both hands-on and managerial positions. But ClarkBuilt is more likely going to be much more focused in precisely what they look for, and both in specific job-related skills and experience sets that they desire to bring in, and for the perhaps less easily defined communications and other soft people skills and qualities that they might look for in a good-fit new hire. And at least if they are managing and growing their business effectively and with an eye towards their actual needs, Kent Enterprises should be looking for innovative potential, using more open and flexible filters and wider good-candidate identification criteria.

• Overly narrow job description filters that would most likely discard anyone as a possible next hire who does not fit their job description postings in some fixed and limited, key word matching manner,
• Would be too likely to eliminate the good and even the best possible candidates who have applied for that job from the applicant pool that is available, and for any given position they have open
• This obviously applies to a business such as Kent Enterprises, with its business model orientation to finding and developing the New and even the disruptively game changing New. But ultimately, the types of hiring process blinders that I write of here, can become just as problematical for a more tightly defined business such as ClarkBuilt too.

I have raised this type of concern in earlier postings, and both in this blog as a whole and in this series itself. And I raise it again here, for its crucial importance, and certainly for any business that would, or should see innovation as its best path forward. (And yes, broadening this discussion for a moment at least, that ultimately means any business that would seek to endure and even thrive longer-term and in the face of the ongoing flow of change that it is certain to see.)

I am going to complete my discussion of these two case study examples in my next installment to this series, at least for purposes of its line of discussion. And then I will at least begin addressing the above by now oft-repeated topics questions that I offered at the top of this posting. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 41 – the issues and challenges of communications in a business 8

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 1, 2018

This is my 41st installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-40.)

I offered two to-address topics points in Part 39 and again in Part 40 that I have been preparing to discuss in at least some detail for several months now, through a succession of series installments:

1. Offer an at least brief analysis of the risk management-based information access determination process, or rather flow of processes, as that arises and plays out in a mid-range risk level context (where I sketched out and used a simplified risk management scale system in Part 39 for didactic purposes, that I will continue to make use of here and in what follows.)
2. Then continue on from there to discuss how this type of system (or rather a more complete and functionally effective alternative to it as developed around a more nuanced and complete risk assessment metric than I pursue here), can and in fact must be dynamically maintained for how the business would address both their normative and predictably expected, and more novel potential information sharing contexts as they arise too. I note here in anticipation of that, that when innovation is involved and particularly when disruptively novel innovation is, novel information sharing contexts have to be considered the norm in that. And that significantly shapes how all of the issues encompassed in these two numbered points would be understood and addressed.

And I posed a simple-seeming question and briefly sketched out two case studies in Part 40, that I would address those topics points in terms of, in order to keep this series in focus here. The question itself was:

• Is a business under consideration here, that faces at least a potential for developing and capitalizing on some new innovative opportunity, new to addressing innovation per se as a possibility for it, or is it a business that has developed at least something of a genuine research and development capability already?

And the two case study examples that I would address that and the above-repeated topics points in terms of, to take this narrative at least somewhat out of the abstract are:

• ClarkBuilt Inc.: a small to medium size business by head count and cash flow that was initially built to develop and pursue a new business development path as built around its founders’ jointly arrived at “bold new innovative products” ideas. The Clark brothers, Bob and Henry came up with a new way to make injection molds for plastics and similar materials that would make it cost-effective to use injection molding manufacturing processes with new types of materials, and cost-effectively so. They have in fact launched their dream business to do that, and have developed a nice little niche market for their offerings, providing specialized-materials parts to other manufacturers.
• And Kent Enterprises: a larger and more established business that in fact has at least something of a track record of supporting, or at least attempting to support innovative excellence within its ranks and on a larger, wider-ranging scale.

I briefly discussed that question in Part 40, and certainly as far as making note of how different organizations could construe innovation readiness differently. But going beyond that, and the timeframe issues that I also noted in that Part 40 context, I raise this question here for its relevance in how different businesses and different business models that underlie them might prepare for innovation.

I raise two possibilities here, to further characterize this basic question itself. A business might intentionally prepare itself for innovation, and as an explicit part of its business model DNA. Or a business can in effect be preadapted for being able to innovate more effectively, from its more general efforts to be agile and adaptive in the face of change and its possibilities: positive and negative. To keep the two of these possibilities clearly identified and understood, I will refer to them as preplanned innovative potential and preadapted innovation potential respectively. And I would argue that in practice, these represent what amount to end point idealizations that represent benchmark point extremes along a preparedness continuum, and that real world businesses that are more readily capable of innovation, generally contain elements of both within them – or they are more readily able to develop them.

And that brings me very specifically to the two business model examples that I would address here. And I begin addressing both of them by noting that even just given their brief single bullet point descriptions, it should be fairly obvious that both include in them elements of both preplanned innovative potential and preadapted innovation potential. So my discussion of them, at least for purposes of this series, will hinge in large part on the details as to where they are and are not so prepared, and by either of these mechanisms. And it will be about where they are not ready to innovate and by either of these mechanisms too.

I am going to explicitly address those points of consideration as they would play out for these two specific business case study examples, beginning in the next series installment. And when I have completed that level of analysis and discussion, in preparing to address the two information sharing risk management questions that I repeated towards the top of this installment, I will finally turn to address them too, also in terms of the case study examples. I compared the overall analytical process that I have been pursuing here in this series, to peeling back the layers of an onion (in Part 40.) This is where I will begin examining its core.

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

Intentional management 51: reconsidering the basic approach in light of more detailed preceding discussion of it

Posted in book recommendations, HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 14, 2018

This is my 51st installment in a series in which I discuss how management activity and responsibilities can be parsed and distributed through a business organization, so as to better meet operational and strategic goals and as a planned intentional process (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 and Page 5 continuations, postings 472 and loosely following for Parts 1-50.)

I began writing and posting to this series in early 2014, with its Part 1: mapping management systems by default and through simple repetition of a basic oversight model going live in February of that year. I in fact wrote that posting in early January, 2014, given how I always write and upload new postings in advance of their going live to the site. So I have been working on this series for almost five full years now, and for more than half of the time span that I have been writing to this blog at all, as of this writing.

So it is fair to state that the issues that I have successively, and for some of them recurringly addressed here, are more central to what I have been developing in this blog than they are peripheral to that. My continued long-term writing about them proves that if nothing else does. Ad hoc and certainly when pursued as a standardized approach, an unconsidered one or both, can be seen as an acknowledged and considered bête noire to all that I have been proposing and offering here in this blog. And I acknowledge that while placing ad hoc per se, in contrast to innovation and the development, vetting and implementation of New, with all of the allowed for and planned out novelty that that brings with it. I acknowledge that in recognition of how ad hoc can be backed into, and in stark contrast to the prototyping and other intentional process and review driven mechanisms that New would be arrived at and developed into, in a more intentionally considered context.

Stable businesses that operate in stable and reliable marketplaces and other external contexts (e.g. established supply chain and related systems), might at least occasionally see and have to deal with the consequences of what I referred to as Type 1 ad hoc in their systems, as defined in Part 50:

• “Localized and specific occurrences of this phenomenon, where specific business processes and their associated tasks come to be understood, managed and carried out in some particular, and at least relatively consistent “nonstandard” or work-around manner, and locally within an organization.”

It is in fact all but inevitable that at least elements of Type 1 ad hoc will arise at least locally and in some areas of its overall system in essentially any business if it endures long enough. And to pick up on the driving force examples that I offered in Part 50 that lead to that happening, this form of ad hoc can arise from any of a seeming multitude of reasons, or combinations of them with that including among others:

• Training gaps as to how particular tasks should be addressed, and certainly for employees and their managers who work more independently and without immediate home office supervision.
• Resource access gaps that would hinder if not prevent managers and hands-on employees from following expected procedures, and even if they wanted to more strictly follow them, while still meeting imposed completion deadlines,
• A lack of fit, where home office approved and even home office-mandated might not work as effectively in the culture and setting of a distantly placed office than it would in the home office culture and setting.
• And the people at such a perhaps geographically distantly placed office who can find themselves operating without direct day-to-day supervision, might have arrived at what for them at least, are simply better ways to carry out specific tasks and reach specific expected and even demanded goals. They might in fact have found better ways to carry out specific tasks or closely aligned sets of them that the business as a whole would benefit from and even throughout its system.

Yes, ad hoc can be and often is a bête noire and something to be avoided. But as the last of the above partial list of causes for it illustrates, ad hoc and certainly unconsidered ad hoc can be in the eye of the beholder, with more senior management in a home office in that case, starting out presuming the worst while the people who arrived at their New, doing so through careful planning and review processes and with new process refinement and tuning as a part of that: prototyping, and even carefully considered prototyping. The home office might see this as breaking away from their standardized and expected, while the people who have arrived at it might see this as the fruit of carefully planned out innovative development.

I have touched on an at least fairly wide set of work performance issues and on the challenges and opportunities that can araise with them, in the course of developing and presenting this series. And I have kept cycling back to a set of shared issues that conceptually bind them together, and on an ongoing basis, throughout this series. And I freely acknowledge that my selections there have been at least someone idiosyncratic, as ultimately I have had to base them on my own experience and on what I have seen and worked on in my career. I am sure that others might have come up with at least somewhat different lists of specific issues and that they might have focused upon in this type of series, and even if they started out with what amounted to the same basic overall understandings of management and of business systems that management would work within, that I hold to.

My primary goal here has not been embedded in the specific example issues that I have been addressing from an intentional, carefully considered management systems perspective. It has been, and is one of presenting and analytically discussing an overarching understanding: a business weltanschauung itself.

So I conclude this series here with some overall organizing thoughts as to what intentional management is, as a dynamic and changeable, evolvable system of processes and approaches, and as an adaptive system that if pursued, can facilitate lean and agile capacity to respond to the unexpected, as well as to the normative and expected.

• If you really know what your business is doing and how and why, and with a great deal of emphasis on you’re thinking through your why of that, you create opportunity for your business to hold real strength in depth and throughout its systems, that will give you the flexibility to be competitive, and to remain so.
• Unconsidered ad hoc, by contract can only lead to systems and resource base disconnects, and to a fragility that can come to haunt a business when and if it does find itself facing a need to change and adapt, and certainly if the timeframe that they would face in that is short – as can be expected when the disruptively unexpected arises.

Let me at least somewhat tie together what I have been offering here in this series with a briefly and perhaps overly compacted set of concluding points:

• Intentional management is all about facing change and thriving from it, and from a stable and understood vantage point.
• The primary goal of the intentional management approach in one of developing and maintaining a flexible, adaptive management system that can keep a business strongly competitive and even when confronted by disruptive uncertainty – an essential and even defining element of any truly revolutionary, disruptive change.
• And this means a system that can accommodate both ongoing consistency, and carefully considered change and adaptation too.
• Evolutionary change, whether focusing on products and services or on business processes followed, tends to be steady and predictable, and certainly over time. And it tends to stay in pace with the rate of change of marketplace expectation and can even drive that; marketplaces and customer demographics tend to stay relatively stable and predictable too with essentially the same types of customers and end users looking for that next step in product or service development as they continue buying in that marketplace – at least until they face new possibilities and compel a disruptively new change in response to that.
• Revolutionary, disruptive change often defines itself by breaking that more evolutionary, predictable pattern, and both for how it redefines competitive positions in the industries or business sectors in which it emerges, and for how it in effect redefines its marketplaces too. For working examples of that point of observation, see C. M. Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma (1997, Harvard Business School Press) for its discussion of how disruptive next generation electronic memory chip technology has seemingly always found its strongest markets in entirely new customer bases and for both new and disruptive types of customers and in new and disruptively novel applications.
• Addressing ongoing continuity and its issues as that plays out, and change and for both of these forms of it as just touched upon here, calls for fundamentally different types of management adaptability than most businesses would more automatically follow. That fact and the challenges that it raises, have informed my selection of topics of this series, and they raise issues that I will continue pursuing in this blog, in other series contexts.

So I am ending this series with this final closing installment, but I have in a fundamental sense just begun addressing the issues that I would raise in this complex and rapidly changing context. I will continue to refer to this series in future writings, just as I have already cited it in other series here. And I will continue to expand upon its narrative in other series too.

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

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 40 – the issues and challenges of communications in a business 7

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on August 18, 2018

This is my 40th installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-39.)

I offered the following overall assessment point at the end of Part 39, that I repeat here as a starting point for further discussion:

• This (nota bene, the potential for structural-level failure in risk management and information systems security as sketched out in Part 39) can reflect how specific access decisions if explicitly made at all, are made on an individual information sharing detail by individual information sharing detail basis, and without regard to or even awareness of the larger innovation-to-product process (and without consideration of the business as a whole or its larger contexts too.) Risk management itself can become too compartmentalized and walled off for it to be able to make effective big picture-aware decisions.

And I add here, to that:

• Risk management can also concurrently become rigidly static as a system of rules and procedures that are never adequately reviewed or updated – except perhaps retroactively and only after a drift in them from actual business need, has led to a significant lost opportunity or similar problem.

Think of the above as representing what are essentially two sides to a same coin:

• Rigid compartmentalization and both for the information in question and for where and how it might be considered for use,
• And for how rigidly codified and even calcified business rules arise for managing approved information access there.

And from a prescriptive, remediative direction my goal here is to at least lay a foundation for more fully discussing how risk management and information access security systems should be developed and maintained with a goal of achieving greater agility and responsiveness, and with a capacity to be more proactively-capable and throughout the organization, in the face of those always-potential challenges.

I concluded Part 39 with the following list of to-address points that I more formally begin this posting with, with the above repeated and expanded-upon note serving as foundational orientation and starting point for what is to follow:

1. Offer an at least brief analysis of the risk management-based information access determination process, or rather flow of processes, as that arises and plays out in a mid-range risk level context (where I sketched out and used a simplified risk management scale system in Part 39 for didactic purposes, that I will continue to make use of here and in what follows.)
2. Then continue on from there to discuss how this type of system (or rather a more complete and functionally effective alternative to it as developed around a more nuanced and complete risk assessment metric than I pursue here), can and in fact must be dynamically maintained for how the business would address both their normative and predictably expected, and more novel potential information sharing contexts as they arise too. I note here in anticipation of that, that when innovation is involved and particularly when disruptively novel innovation is, novel information sharing contexts have to be considered the norm in that. And that significantly shapes how all of the issues encompassed in these two numbered points would be understood and addressed.

Let’s begin addressing those two topics points and the above offered context note that I would propose considering them in terms of, by considering the businesses that all of this would play out in. And I begin that with a cautionary note:

• One of the most serious mistakes that even experienced professionals can make in developing and carrying out risks and benefits analyses of the type that are under review here, is to approach them wearing the blinders of one’s own more limited scope of action and responsibility, and with one’s own more specialized range of hands-on and managerial expertise serving as decision framing parameters for that. Risk management and information security professionals of necessity need to rely on their own expert training and their own experience. But it is vitally important that they also look beyond and listen beyond that scope too, to more effectively encompass the particularities of the contexts that their decisions and actions would play out in and impact upon.
• And equally significantly it is important that they take care not to be peripheral vision blinded by only looking to the functional areas where the information in question would normally go, and their function area experts, for essentially all insight into what might be allowable and done in a more novel here-and-now that those experts might not be in a best position to more fully address. This means bringing what might at first seem to be wild card input from less usual sources into these conversations.

The questions and issues that I raise here, of necessity call for a more business-wide analytical scope of consideration, and even a business plus wider context scope of consideration too. Blinders in perspective as noted here, can in fact become the most significant risk factors in place in an innovation context, and can play the role of the 800 pound gorilla in the room for that: present and very real but unacknowledged for all of that.

Ultimately that is where all of the challenges and potential challenges that I have been writing of here in the last few postings of this series, grow from. So let’s step back and consider the business as a whole. And for purposes of this discussion, I would suggest doing so beginning with a particular point of focus and orientation that I can largely summarize with a single, seemingly simple-to-answer question:

• Is a business under consideration here, that faces at least a potential for developing and capitalizing on some new innovative possibility, new to addressing innovation as a possibility, or is it a business that has developed at least something of a genuine research and development capability already?

That is obviously a simple question insofar as answering it at least in general outline would only call for:

• A review (with information access clearance to do this) of possible R and D and related capabilities as laid out on the table of organization,
• And a review of the business’ capital expenditure and other dedicated resources that that management and supervision listing reflects,
• With findings from those reviews, coupled with a review of any specific project and related development work that is actually being carried out or that is at least formally being considered for that, or that has taken place and certainly recently as that is identified and prioritized, funded or not, and actually carried out or not. (Note that what constitutes as “recently” here can be open to interpretation, so the meaning of that word has to be clarified here too. A big and impactful innovation (or a big project that fails to complete and is dropped) can remain in everyone’s minds as if recent, and a lot longer than a more minor change improvement would that might grow stale as far as this business and its markets are concerned by the end of a current business quarter.)
• Think of this collectively as a review of what can be done and by whom, and certainly at a core resources needed, and a managerial and oversight level, with that coupled to a review of what is considered and what is actually done with those (and other supportive) resources in place.

But I have to add a cautionary note here. Any answer arrived at for the above “simple” question, as thought through according to the bullet pointed analyses just offered above or through comparable analytical means, might in and of itself be misleading at best, for actually understanding this business and how it in fact consequentially faces and acts upon the innovative potential that it has before it.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment, picking up on that admittedly cliff-hanger ending, by at least briefly discussing two specific business scenarios. More specifically, my goal for what is to follow in this series is to explain that last paragraph, cautionary note and as such, the bullet pointed question that preceded it too. Then after developing and discussing the two business models and their case in point implementations that I make note of here, I will more directly address the two to-address points that I repeated towards the top of this posting as the core topics I am working towards addressing in this narrative. Think of this narrative progression as being comparable to peeling back the layers of an onion to get to the core of what is there, but hopefully without any eyes watering.

In anticipation of that, I note here that:

• The first example that I will pursue in this is a business that I will refer to as ClarkBuilt Inc.: a small to medium size business by head count and cash flow that was initially built to develop and pursue a new business development path as built around its founders’ jointly arrived at “bold new innovative products” ideas. The Clark brothers, Bob and Henry came up with a new way to make injection molds for plastics and similar materials that would make it cost-effective to use injection molding manufacturing processes with new types of materials, and cost-effectively so. They have in fact launched their dream business to do that, and have developed a nice little niche market for their offerings, providing specialized-materials parts to other manufacturers.
• The second is a business that I will refer to in this as Kent Enterprises, and it is a larger and more established business that in fact has at least something of a track record of supporting, or at least attempting to support innovative excellence within its ranks and on a larger, wider-ranging scale.

There are, of course, catches in both of these businesses that would likely impact upon and even force a reframing of those two brief bullet pointed descriptions, and I will develop and explore those details as a means of more fully addressing what will turn out to be the two main to-address points that I essentially began this posting with, as I finish laying out and delving into the onion layers as a whole.

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

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