Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is my 18th installment to a series on simplicity and complexity in business communications, and on carrying out and evaluating the results of business processes, tasks and projects (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 257 and loosely following for Parts 1-17.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment where I will begin challenging the basic discussion framing business outline that I just offered here. And I will revisit my due diligence exercise of this posting in that expanded context as part of that next step discussion. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its Page 2 and Page 3 continuation pages. And also see my series: Communicating More Effectively as a Job and Career Skill Set, for its more generally applicable discussion of focused message best practices per se. I initially offered that with a specific case in point jobs and careers focus, but the approaches raised and discussed there are more generally applicable. You can find that series at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, as its postings 342-358.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 35 – the jobs and careers context 34

This is my 35th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-34.)

I have been successively addressing each of a set of six workplace challenges that would explicitly call for negotiating skills and effort and that can arise for essentially anyone who works sufficiently long-term with virtually any given employer (see Part 32 for a full list of them, with appended links to where I have individually discussed those negotiations-demanding contexts up to there.) And as part of this narrative, I began discussing the sixth and more complexly comprehensive final entry to that list, and its issues in Part 32: a negotiating challenge that in a fundamental sense encompasses all of the first five already considered here, and more:

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

Perhaps the single most important point that I have raised so far in this series, and certainly in this negotiating context is that “one size fits all” approaches do not and cannot work for you, and certainly if you seek to reach a best for you possible resolution from your communications and negotiating efforts. I outlined in Parts 32 and 33, at least in brief sketch format, a series of specific scenarios that can bring an employer to consider and even actively pursue a downsizing, and why they would do this. Then I stepped back to consider a set of more generally stated, “points held in common” issues that, all of my more specific downsizing scenarios come to share, and both for how they arise and play out and for how you as an impacted-upon employee there might better respond to all of this.

I concluded Part 34 by stating that I would add more detail to that set of more general principles and then turn to consider individual scenarios when delving into the details of how best to negotiate them. But on further reflection, I have decided to start with the individual downsizing scenarios that I will cover here and then tie that flow of discussion together with further higher level, more general principles-oriented comments. So with that noted I begin this core discussion of this posting by briefly listing the scenarios again, referring back to Parts 32 and 33 at this time for anyone who would want to read more of their details. And I do so with the following, admittedly general principle in mind, that I have found to be vitally important in any negotiating context, work-related or otherwise:

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

I have offered this point of multiply validated observation, several times now in this series. And I repeat it again here. This is, among other things, where you would calculatingly, strategically break away from the trap of going into a potentially crucially important negotiating opportunity unprepared, and where you can break away from whatever your unconsidered default approach to that, might limit you to. And with that in mind, the specific downsizing scenarios that I have raised in this series and that I will at least begin to specifically address here, are:

1. A business’ markets have dried up and can no longer generate and maintain the revenue flows needed to maintain it, at the scale that it has operated at. And to distinguish this from other possible scenarios to come, I approach this one as a response to challenges arising from outside of the business itself, as for example might occur during a trade war and as a response to tariff barrier-limited trade and market activity.
2. A business is no longer competitively up to date for its ongoing reliance on what have become competitively obsolete legacy technologies. And its senior management is going to have to make fundamental changes in what the business does and how, if it is to remain viable as an ongoing enterprise.
3. A business sees need to bring itself into better, more competitive focus where that can mean outsourcing functional areas that offer value, but that might not be cost-effective to maintain in-house.
4. A business is facing a possible or even inevitable merger or acquisition with another business, where staff rightsizing, to use a popular euphemism, is going to mean eliminating what will become redundant work positions and dismissing the employees who hold them, and at essentially any and every level of the new combined table of organization that would be created out of this.
5. A new, more senior manager or executive who wants to do some personal empire building within their new employer’s systems can use a downsizing and reorganization in their area of oversight responsibility to put their name on how things are done there.

These scenarios all address circumstances where good employees who have offered real value from their work at a business, can be caught up in layoffs. But that noted, they are all separate and distinct from each other too. Let’s begin addressing them for purposes of this ongoing line of discussion, by considering who at least categorically might be at risk in them.

• Scenario 1 (an outside-challenged narrative) as offered above, might very easily come to impact upon essentially every area of the table of organization and certainly if this challenge persists. A first wave of layoffs might focus on a first affected area of the business such as production and distribution. But prudence would dictate that employees in essentially any and every part of the business might at least categorically find themselves at risk there too, and certainly with time. This, for example, is where you might find overlap between the above-offered Scenarios 1 and 3, though that is only one way in which ripple effect layoffs might be considered in a more-Scenario 1 context.
• Any Scenario 2 (inside-sourced challenge) event is certain to directly affect employees who hands-on carry out what have come to be seen as sources of avoidable loss and inefficiency: in this case for performing legacy technology work and not necessarily just in production itself. Obsolete and competitively limiting back-office support, and parts and supplies inventory management can come under fire here too, and so can the people who work in any part of this business who come under review, when the types of change management evaluations that are called for here are made and when any inefficiencies that they are involved in are brought to light too. There, downsizings that take place are almost certain to proceed in waves, with an increasing range of impact as successive layoffs coming from them that begin with the most overtly problematical parts of a business, expand out to address what are seen as more peripheral but still significant problem areas there too.
• Scenario 3 (the in-house versus outsource scenario) tends to follow business sector and industry-wide patterns and certainly as what begin as in-house specialty functions become more standardized and when they develop into business sectors and industries in their own right. Consider the emergence of cloud storage and computing options as a by-now standard alternative to in-house networked server farms for businesses as a working example of that. Though this scenario can and does sweep up those who work in more traditional areas of a business too. Consider benefits and pension management, among other activities that would fit into Human Resources as a service, that can readily be outsourced to a support providing specialist business for that, as a working example of this phenomenon.
• Scenario 4 is likely to sweep up people working in essentially any and every area of a business, for those enterprises that enter into the mergers or acquisitions that drive them. The only exception to that essentially open-ended reach of impact that might realistically arise, would be found in services of one of the businesses involved, that in effect drive these business combinings. That, for example, might very well include specialized product development or production capabilities in a business that is being acquired by a larger corporation, where that business is entering into this primarily to acquire that functional competence: that excellence in its own systems and for what it can bring to market.
• And Scenario 5 is, in contrast to the first four, a more localized phenomenon and even if it can only take place if a would-be empire builder can convince senior management as a whole, and probably the board of directors too, that their plans would benefit the business as a whole too.

And with that noted, I have to add that no one at a business can or should feel complacent if there is talk of a possible or impending downsizing. As proof, consider Scenario 4 and the functional parts of a smaller but already-successful early stage business that has and owns a core innovation and a specialized production capability for exploiting it, that a larger business sees absolute need to bring into their own systems if they are to remain competitive and certainly if they are to expand their lead for that. In principle, such an acquiring business would take more of a hands-off position in working with this high value acquisition, so as to avoid challenging and limiting, or even killing off the source of new value that they have decided to buy and perhaps pay dearly for. But I have seen acquiring businesses step in and all but squash the value out of such acquisitions, in an attempt to bring them into conformity with their own corporate cultures in place and their own corporate visions. And this can mean clearing out, or driving out employees in that type of acquisition who do not seem to fit into the new systems and ways that they would now have to work within.

• Never take your continued employment with a business that is facing a downsizing, automatically for granted and regardless of whatever reasoned workplace vulnerability analyses you can arrive at or that you might hear floating around, that might indicate that others would be at greater risk from this than you.
• That noted, such analyses can prove useful, as I will discuss further on in this posting progression, when negotiating your position there.

Up to here, this narrative has at least briefly addressed the Why of downsizings, and something of the Who of them and certainly for who would more likely be vulnerable for getting caught up in them. I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment where I will more directly consider who, on the business side of these events, decides on pursuing a downsizing and how, and who there would actually carry this out. And after that, I will use this overall understanding of the Who, What and Why of these downsizings, to discuss negotiating tactics and approaches per se, that you might want to consider when facing what would hopefully be more fully known and understood circumstances that this would take place in.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. And you can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 19: some thoughts concerning how Xi and Trump approach and seek to create lasting legacies to themselves 7

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on August 5, 2019

This is my 19th installment in a progression of comparative postings about Donald Trump’s and Xi Jinping’s approaches to leadership per se. And it is my 13th installment in that on Trump and his rise to power in the United States, and on Xi and his in China, as they have both turned to authoritarian approaches and tools in their efforts to succeed there.

I have been focusing on Xi and his still actively developing narrative for this since Part 16 of this series, with a goal of offering an historically grounded framework for thinking about and understanding his goals and ambitions as a legacy builder. And that has meant my at least briefly and selectively outlining two sources of overriding influence: one positive and the other negative, that Xi and in fact all in China’s leadership face, and whether or not they would all explicitly pursue them as role models for future planning and action:

• The mythos and realities of China’s Qing Dynasty during its Golden Age, as a source of visionary legacy defining possibilities (as briefly discussed in Part 16, and
• What has followed that period in China’s history, leading up to the reign of Mao Zedong as China’s first de facto communist god emperor, and with particular emphasis on the humiliations that China has endured at foreign hands, starting with the events of the First Opium War (第一次鴉片戰爭) of 1839-1842 (with this line of discussion starting in Part 17 and Part 18 and continuing here.)

And to be explicitly clear here, I am not simply offering my own outsider’s-view or analysis of what might be motivating Xi Jinping in this, and even driving and shaping his plans and ambitions. I am in fact outlining something of the history and context of what Xi himself has openly, publically proclaimed to be his source of driving inspiration as China’s supreme leader, and certainly when he proclaims his China Dream: his Zhōngguó Mèng (中国梦) as his policy shaping vision.

Xi focuses in his Dream, on righting the wrongs and removing the unjust and unwarranted shackles of foreign domination that he still sees China as being burdened with, that had their origins as far back as the First Opium War as it was imposed upon his country by the British, and the Treaty of Nanking that formally ended it, and entirely to the benefit of that and other colonially ambitious foreign powers. And I hold up the Qing dynasty and certainly in its years of greatness as an exemplar, if an idealized one of what an unshackled China could and can achieve and certainly as Xi sees things.

I focused in Part 17 on the declining years of the Qing Dynasty and on its increasingly isolating and fragmenting weaknesses, that both insiders from within China’s state bureaucracy and foreign powers could and did exploit. Then I used Part 18, as a perhaps-digression from this largely-historically framed narrative here, to more fully discuss and clarify what “us” and “them”: “true” Chinese and foreigner (guizi in Mandarin Chinese; gweilo in Cantonese slang – 鬼子, and words like them), even mean in this overall context. My goal for this posting is to continue the historical narrative that I offered in Part 17, from an awareness of the line of discussion offered in Part 18, and to at least begin to explicitly discuss Xi’s China Dream as he shares it with China and the world. And in anticipation of what is to come here, I will at least initially focus on trade as a compelling source of interaction and influence and both within China itself and with the outside world. And while Xi himself begins his Dream narrative, for the most part with the events of that First Opium War and its aftermath, I will begin my narrative here with an at least acknowledgement of earlier foreign trade and interaction.

I could in fact delve a lot farther back then the days of Marco Polo (1254-1324), and the writing of his eye opening book: Livre des Merveilles du Monde (Book of the Marvels of the World) , as first written and offered to the West, circa 1300. He and his travel accounts opened the eyes of the merchants and of the public in general in Europe, to the wonders of China and the orient. But even there, Marco Polo was not in fact the first to have built at least transient trade connections between East and West.

For purposes of this discussion, I begin pursuing this narrative in 1514 with the arrival of the earliest Portuguese traders to visit China and with their initial commercial ventures there (see China–Portugal Relations. Portuguese traders and I have to add, Dutch traders who followed them were not primarily bent on building empires. They sought out trade and business opportunities that they could develop and profit from, and without their having to make more than whatever more minimal effort was needed in order to develop stable and reliable trade systems. If that meant their negotiating access to and use of a particular trade port where they could build a local base of operations in a country that they would do business with, that was acceptable. But they did not seek to dominate or control, and either new lands and peoples or the governments that held sway over them. For a relevant more-general Dutch trade reference see this piece concerning their Dutch East India Company ( the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, or VOC), and for a more market and trade-specific example see Early 17th Century Chinese Trade Ceramics for the Dutch Market: Distribution, Types and Consumption.

This, it is important to note did not mean that this early trade was free of all conflict, as the Ming Dynasty rulers and their government functionaries who these Western traders and merchants had to deal with, were reluctant at best to the prospect of having to deal with such foreigners, and even when they did agree to follow China’s tributary system rules. See, for example Sino–Dutch conflicts. What this means, was that the conflicts that did arise were context-specific and that they were kept within bounds, and of a type that imperialist ambitions would not have supported.

To add one more relevant source of references here, that later experience should be compared to, I would cite the Qing Dynasty’s experience with their neighbor to the north, Russia, and how those two governments came to sign, and adhere to the Treaty of Nerchinsk of 1689. This was the first Westphalian treaty that any Chinese government signed and it was in fact more of a treaty between equals than later treaties signed with the British would prove to be. So, for example, under the terms of this treaty, Russia agreed to both stop their incursions into adjacent Chinese territory and to pull back from such lands as already taken, in exchange for trade rights and opportunities through a system of designated open Chinese cities.

Not all European nations to follow, were as interested in trade alone, and as free of empire building ambitions. The British were not the only such power to break from the above noted pattern, but they were perhaps the most influential of them and certainly for setting the stage for reimaginings such as Xi’s China Dream. It was, after all, the British who forced the Opium Wars on China.

• Opium was China’s scourge. And opium addiction and its consequences were seen as a demeaning problem, with widespread use of this drug in communities that spanned the nation, fueled from opium grown and processed in China itself and primarily in its Szechwan and Yunnan Provinces.
• The national government of China, under Qing rule finally sought to stop this, by enacting new law in 1729 that went so far as to impose a death sentence on those caught and convicted of participation in this business.
• Then British traders arrived and began forcing their way into China, bringing a by then already weakened succession of Qing emperors to allow them to carry out their business through more and more Chinese treaty port cities. But China’s citizens were not buying enough of their European-sourced goods. So they looked for an alternative form of marketable products that they could secure inexpensively and reliably and that a Chinese market could be brought to want to buy and with big profitable markups.
• Indian opium, with the majority of that coming from the Bengal region, proved to be the best and certainly the most profitable solution to that problem that they could arrive at. India was not formally designated as a British Crown Colony until 1858 with the formal beginning of the Raj. But the entire subcontinent was already effectively under British control and its foreign trade was just as firmly under the control of Britain’s large merchant empires such as Jardine, Matheson & Company, and Lancelot Dent and Company. They were the largest importers of Indian opium into China, and their trade in this commodity was viewed as a humiliating, and a devastating form of challenge to Chinese sovereignty and to the Chinese people as a society.
• China sought to thwart and even stop this trade. These merchants brought in their government’s military, and China was resoundingly defeated in what turned out to just be the First Opium War of 1839-1842.
• And that ended with China being forced to enter into what became known as the first unequal treaty (不平等條約), of a series of them that were imposed on the Qing Dynasty and on China. This event, and humiliations included in it such as a requirement that China cede Hong Kong over to British control, is widely seen as constituting a formal, historically framed start to the challenges that Xi, among others still seek to redress. See my two recent posts regarding Hong Kong’s current unrest, and the conflict that continues to take place between the Beijing government of China and the local Hong Kong government that was forced upon China in 1997, as a condition in yet another treaty between those nations: Xi Jinping and His China, and Their Conflicted Relationship with Hong Kong 1 and its Part 2 continuation.

Trade and foreign relations that China entered into during the Qing era’s golden age are looked back upon in today’s China, in idealized form and as validation of how China has been, can be and should be honored and as a leading power and authority, and even globally. The events that I write of here in this posting and this treaty that came out of them, and foreign relations that China has entered into subsequent to that with its succession of subsequent uneven treaties, are seen as a demeaning counterpoint to that, to be overcome and vindicated. And that pattern has, in the eyes of China’s current leadership, continued through a succession of challenges as arising both from within and from the outside the country. And it is only really being redressed now through their current leadership and policies.

I am going to continue this narrative by briefly considering a succession of debilitating rebellions that China went through, citing the Us versus Them discussion of this series’ Part 18, where for example, the then-ruling Qing emperors themselves, came to be vilified as foreigners and as unworthy from being so, and as not being truly Chinese at all. Then after that I will at least briefly outline some of the events and developments that followed the formal end of the Qing Dynasty in 1912, up to the founding of Mao Zedong’s Communist China in 1949. And I will round out this historical narrative by at least briefly and selectively discussing how Xi Jinping developed his China Dream and his vision of leadership out of Mao’s dreams and ambitions and out of his policies and his practices.

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

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 34 – the jobs and careers context 33

This is my 34th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-33.)

I have been successively addressing each of a set of six workplace issues and challenges that would explicitly call for negotiating skills and effort since Part 25 of this series, the first five of which can arise for essentially anyone who works sufficiently long-term with a given employer (see Part 32 for a full list of those topics points, with appended links to where I have discussed them up to there.) And as part of this narrative, I began discussing the sixth and more complexly comprehensive final entry to that list and its issues in Part 32 and Part 33:

6. Negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them, and how you might best manage your career when facing the prospects of getting caught up in that,

More specifically, I discussed in at least some detail, more precisely what downsizings are in Part 32 when they are considered beyond their bottom-line outcome to a business’ employees of what can become massive layoffs. And I built from that starting point discussion in Part 33, to lay a foundation for explicitly discussing negotiating approaches and tactics that individuals can make use of in order to at least better manage the impact of this type of event on themselves and their jobs and careers.

My goal for this posting is to at least begin to explicitly discuss negotiations and the negotiating process in this challenging and stress-creating type of context. And I begin that phase of this overall discussion by repeating a crucially important point that I made in Part 33, that success in any negotiating effort of the type that I address here would hinge upon your understanding as a matter of basic principle, that:

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

This means that negotiating in a complex and options-constrained context such as that of an impending (or already occurring) downsizing, can never be carried out as a “one size fits all” effort on your part. Effective negotiations in this context, have to be explicitly framed and carried out on a specific-scenario by specific-scenario basis and according to precisely what type of that you face. And even there they need to be flexible and adaptable from your side of this conversation, and certainly when and as your negotiating efforts bring the people who you would negotiate with, to reconsider their initially planned decisions and actions as they would impact upon you, or alternatively if and when they begin to show increased resistance to that possibility.

Note: I am discussing this set of issues in this jobs and careers oriented first half of this series, from the perspective of how you as an individual would best manage and seek to manage your own work and career context. I will also, further on in this series, reconsider this overall challenge from a business negotiations context too, where I will discuss what at least begin as the same set of issues but from the perspective of negotiating for others too, and when working with others who would negotiate on your behalf.

All of this, of necessity means both reconsidering negotiations from an employee perspective, and addressing them from the business side of the table too. And in anticipation of that line of discussion to come, I note here that effectively negotiating from either an employee or a business side requires as clear an understanding as possible of the other side’s perspective too, and in both directions for these negotiations to succeed. And in that, negotiations can become what amount to teaching exercises as well as exercises in persuasion, as assumptions held walking into them arise in explicit discussion.

That noted, and turning back to focus on the employee side of the negotiating table again, my goal for what follows here is to at least begin addressing the individual employee side to this, with more general comments on negotiating a better jobs and careers path through overall change at a place of employment, such as a downsizing event. And that starting assumption: an assumption of individual negotiating in a context of overall business change, can be the best way to approach these conversations in a downsizing or downsizing-like context.

• The type of negotiations process that I am discussing here is not just about you and your direct supervisor and how you work together, or about you and other colleagues with them included there, and how you supportively and productively fit in and offer value.
• And certainly when considered from the other, business management side of the table for this; it is not just about your employment and its terms there, as a center of attention or concern.
• This is about how you would navigate a larger and more widely involving and impacting context of change as a whole, as it is taking place at the place where you work, and even where that might mean your specific situation being treated as an exception to some more generally considered personnel policy-based decision that is otherwise being followed as a more determined rule.
• But that noted, effective negotiations on your part in this are still going to have to significantly focus on what you individually offer and can offer, do and can do for your employer moving forward.

After completing a more generally orienting half of this line of discussion, I will successively discuss how the basic principles that I have been discussing here, and since Part 25, can be applied to the specific business-needs defined downsizing scenarios that I raised in Parts 32 and 33. And with that orienting point noted and the above negating context-clarifying bullet points offered, I begin addressing more general principles as to how to negotiate better terms of employment, or even just continued employment with a business here, beginning with the absolute fundamentals and by noting that:

• It is vitally important as a matter of basic career planning due diligence, that you be as generally informed as possible and on an ongoing basis, as to what is going on at your place of employment as a whole, and that you not just focus on your own work and responsibilities or your own part of the table of organization there, and on what you and your team does. You need to know and understand the larger context that you face where you work and on an ongoing basis. And this means seeing and thinking through what might be the unpleasant and the undesirable sides of that too, and certainly as they might arise and involve you, your job and your career path. This type of proactive preparation certainly holds value if you are to effectively negotiate where possible and where doing so might offer benefit to you, if events are developing that might adversely affect you.
• At the same time you reach out to better understand the business that you work at, you also need to know and really understand what you seek to achieve from any such negotiations that you might enter into here too. It is just as important that you be thoughtfully aware of your own needs and issues too. You need to think through and understand both your own needs and desires, and your priorities and what you can and cannot comfortably give ground on and make concessions on, if and when jobs and career supportive negotiations become necessary.
• And with an at least significantly considered set of answers in place for the questions that those first two bullet points raise for you, and with a clear understanding of what specific questions you need to ask given your particular circumstances, you need to have at least broadly considered your Plan B options in case you cannot in fact find a way to mutually agreeably reconcile your own negotiating goals with those of the people who you would negotiate with. What are your best options, absent you’re being able to achieve an acceptable negotiated agreement there? The issues and questions that I raise here in this bullet point, at least should come into sharp focus if you do in fact see challenge to your continued employment from an impending downsizing on the horizon.
• And in anticipation of discussion to come, you have to assume that you start out any negotiations that you can enter into here, from a completely asymmetric position with your employer, where it comes to leveraging influence and power. You have to assume that you start out wanting to stay on at a current job or at least with a current employer, even if with a new position there, more than they start out at least, wanting to see you stay. And as a result, you want to think through and be prepared to negotiate from a perspective of how you can establish your value with this employer and from as early on as possible, so as to tip the balance there to one of more equal perceived value.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment by expanding upon these more general organizing notes, fleshing them out to form a more organized foundation for dealing with the specifics of the particular downsizing contexts that you might face. Then as promised, I will take this more general narrative out of the abstract by applying it to the specific downsizing scenarios that I have already mentioned in Parts 32 and 33. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. And you can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 16

Posted in social networking and business, startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 26, 2019

This is my 16th posting to a series on disintermediation, focusing on how this enables marketing options such as gorilla and viral marketing, but also considering how it shapes and influences businesses as a whole. My focus here may be marketing oriented, but marketing per se only makes sense when considered in the larger context of the business carrying it out and the marketplace it is directed towards (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 278 and loosely following for Parts 1-15.)

I have been working my way through a to-address topics list since Part 11, that would apply to the analysis and planning efforts of a still resource-lean startup, as an important at least categorical business type here. And I have been addressing the first of those points since then, leading up to an initial discussion of a Marketing and Communications oriented, working example that in practice has become important for a great many ventures and certainly as they seek to connect with their markets online and through social media: gorilla marketing, and the sometimes closely related phenomenon of viral marketing. And I repeat that list here, for purposes of smoother continuity of narrative as I continue and complete my discussion of the following Point 2, as begun there:

1. What types of change are being considered in building this new business, and with what priorities? In this context the issues of baseline, and of what would be changed from become crucially important, and even for startups where that means building new with an awareness of past experience elsewhere.
2. Focusing on the business planning and development side to that, and more specifically on high priority, first business development and operations steps that would be arrived at and agreed to for carrying out, and setting aside more optional potential goals and benchmarks that would simply be nice to be able to carry through upon too,
3. Where exactly do those must-do tasks fit into the business and how can they best be planned out for cost-effective implementation (in the here and now) and for scalability (thinking forward)? Functionally that set of goals and their realization, of necessity ranges out beyond the boundaries of a Marketing or a Marketing and Communications context, applying across the business organization as a whole. But given the basic thrust of this specific series, I will begin to more fully discuss communications per se, and Marketing, or Marketing and Communications in this bullet point’s context. And I will comparatively discuss communications as a process, and as a functional area in a business there.

The core of my gorilla and viral marketing example and its analysis for how these approaches work, or fail to work in practice, as begun in Part 15, was on the uncertainties that arise when measuring performance, or of even knowing how best to try to develop and gather data for the right performance metrics there.

I made note of the novelty of these marketing approaches and how that can contribute to uncertainties here, but I also and primarily raised the issues of how their real activity, and certainly for genuine viral marketing, takes place and takes shape outside of the business that is at least presumptively at its center with its marketable, consumer-facing products or services. And in the course of that, I both raised and challenged a “standard business process or business systems example,” based on gathering in and reviewing and analyzing sales and related data for marketplace insight, in order to set an initial starting point benchmark to measure the success of such a campaign from. And to complete the cycle, this insight would serve as feedback for shaping and refining next step products and how they would be marketed and sold too, and with any refinements added to customer service or support that this insight would suggest as needed, included there too.

I added at the end of Part 15 that I would continue that series-relevant example here, by at least offering some thoughts on how to make the measures and metrics used for this type of marketing analysis more rigorous and more definitively useful as a result. And I begin discussing that by explicitly acknowledging an admittedly largely reputed early online marketing data collection and analysis approach that I of necessity at least touched upon in that posting, but that I intentionally refrained from naming there for the baggage that that label carries with it: marketing for a maximum number of eyeballs reached and with that sought after as a performance goal in its own right.

Ultimately, marketing is all about message – and how many people receive it and how they respond to it, and it is about shaping that message to both maximize reach: that number of eyeballs here, and its effectiveness as a call to action. So the number of eyeballs reached here is vitally important. The problem with the earlier eyeball capture metric of online marketing’s birth and neonatal phases, was in how those numbers became essentially everything, and precisely because no one knew how to translate them into a more complete, realistically actionable understanding of the market and its participants, or of how to more effectively respond to that type of number.

I reprise this already ancient online marketing history, to highlight a challenge that the newer and still emerging opportunities of gorilla and viral marketing of today carry with them, that in fact has roots that go back to the early successes and failures of online marketing in the age of maximizing eyeballs reached, as a goal in and of itself.

Do some businesses already carry out successful gorilla and viral marketing campaigns now? Yes, definitely, and the same could be said for early online marketing, when way too many businesses were being misled by eyeball counts, but some thrived anyway. Success happens. But lost opportunities and failures do to, and businesses that seek to create effective gorilla marketing campaigns and that seek to create effective online contexts that would draw in and involve positive market participation, might benefit from the learning curve lessons from the “eyeball age” of their profession, too.

• What can you accurately measure? And by extension if nothing else, what types of at least potential metrics would more likely give you squishy, equivocal numbers that you would find difficult to pin down for their actual meaningful values?
• How much measurement precision do you in fact need, and from what types of data and for what types of analytical use?
• And what actionable insight can you directly gain or consistently and reliably develop out of the data gathered there, as per the first of these three bullet points, that would acceptably meet the accuracy limitation requirements of the second of them?

Eyeballs were easy to count, and simply by tracking the number of times in a period that a given page or other content unit was clicked to online by a site visitor. But few really knew how to effectively go beyond simply gathering data according to that first step metric, to develop actual market insight that a business could use, going forward.

• Should you track how long a site visitor stays on a page?
• Should you track where they arrive at that page from, or where they click to when leaving that page?
• Obviously, a click from, into a sales process on that site and initiating a transaction process there, conveys a different message and holds different marketing outcomes value, than clicking from a marketing-oriented page on a business’ web site to return to an outside search engine.
• There are, very clearly, a great many coordinate types of data that can be gathered in and collectively analyzed, in developing real and even profound insight from online marketing, and certainly from the more standard and established forms of it that we have all come to know. And most businesses now know how to develop real value from eyeball counts – when gathered in combination with suites of other data types that collectively can tell a very meaningful story with that.
• But the novelty of gorilla marketing with its more free-wheeling structures, and its dependence on outside and largely market-driven and market-shaped participation, creates new gaps in what needs to be measured and in what even some of our by-now standard metrics mean. And viral marketing with its fundamental grounding in the uncertainties and vagaries of the marketplace, simply confounds that challenge, and particularly when trolls, on the negative messaging side, and their equally false-flag positive message counterparts, enter this narrative.

And even if you discount what are essentially fake negative and positive messages and their impact on a viral marketing campaign, including where “honest broker” marketplace participants can and do pass along less reliable messages in good faith, you still face the metrics uncertainties that I raised in Part 15, and other challenges too.

I said in a Point 2 context that I would address the issues of better metrics. And up to here, I have primarily just focused on clarifying an understanding that this is in fact something that is still needed, and that we still face real knowledge and understanding gaps from the limitations of some of the marketing data that we gather, at least through more standard Marketing and Communications means. This brings me to the issues and challenges of big data, and to a point of assumption, or presumption if you will that I see as holding a key to doing better here. And that at-least piece to this puzzle that I would raise here, has both business effectiveness and overall societally challenging aspects, for how it is grounded in the open-ended data collection that drives it.

I begin this phase of this developing narrative by offering what might be considered more of a point of conclusion that I will work my way towards reaching in what is to follow, as organized into four bullet points:

• If you want gorilla marketing to work effectively for your business, as a generally developed creative ongoing effort, you need to know the market that you would reach out to and connect with, from your business’ side of the conversations that you seek to develop there.
• And you need to know that same market as its actively involved participants at the very least, help co-create this marketing reach with you from their feedback and reviews,
• And you need to know this, your market as well as you would know your own Marketing and Communications staff and the guidelines that they work under in a more traditional, business-centric orienting marketing campaign.
• And the urgency of these points of observation doubles, at the very least in a genuine viral marketing context, as does the degree of challenge in helping to make this type of marketing campaign work, and reliably and effectively so.

I am going to continue this narrative in the next installment to this series, where I will at least begin to offer an analysis of how big data enters into this line of discussion and why. I will at least briefly explain how and why I see this as an essential piece of this problem’s solution. And I will also at least briefly outline how and why I would cite its use here as holding potential for creating both business systems-positive and societally-negative impact, depending on how it is done and on how it is regulated.

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. You can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2. And I also include this posting and other startup-related continuations to it, in Startups and Early Stage Businesses – 2.

Rethinking national security in a post-2016 US presidential election context: conflict and cyber-conflict in an age of social media 16

Posted in business and convergent technologies, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on July 20, 2019

This is my 16th installment to a series on cyber risk and cyber conflict in a still emerging 21st century interactive online context, and in a ubiquitously social media connected context and when faced with a rapidly interconnecting internet of things among other disruptively new online innovations (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 354 and loosely following for Parts 1-15.)

I have been developing this series as an ongoing connected narrative, building next installments on prior ones. And this posting, as such is a direct continuation of the immediately preceding one offered here (see Part 15.) But this is also a direct continuation of the two installments that immediately preceded that too: Part 13 and Part 14. So to put this posting into clearer perspective, I would at least briefly note what I offered in those three postings, and how they relate to each other.

I have recently been at least selectively exploring Russian history, as a basis for understanding their current and at least near-future anticipatable national defense activities, and certainly as they would arise in a cyber-context (as Parts 13 and 14.) And my goal for that was to offer a longer-term perspective on the concerns and the fears of the Russian people and of their succession of governments as have held power over the centuries, in the face on an ongoing succession of invasions from the outside and of threats of their happening.

I began that narrative with the 12th century Mongol invasions of what is now a part of Russia in Part 13, and continued that up to the beginning of the post-World War II, Cold War between the Soviet Union and its allies of the Warsaw Pact, and the West as led by the United States and Western Europe with their NATO alliance (in Part 14.) And my initial thought for Part 15 was to simply continue that historical narrative up to the present, as a foundation piece for more fully understanding Russia’s current behavior as that nation acts both defensively and offensively in cyber-threat and cyber-warfare contexts. But to put that continuation of narrative into clearer perspective, I decided to step back first, offering a wider perspective framework for considering essentially any specific case in point examples that I might offer here, as to how cyber-weapons might be developed and used. I decided to offer a more general approach to thinking about challenges of the type that Russia creates, as it reactively responds and proactively acts given its history and the assumptions that would create for its leadership, as they at least consider risking “politics by other means” to quote von Clausewitz.

More specifically, I decided to in effect, jump ahead in Part 15 to more directly consider how the type of historical narrative that I have been developing here can offer actionable insight into how perceived national threats are understood, prepared for and responded to in a more current here-and-now setting. And then I would complete my Russian based case in point example, with this commonly held basic understanding and its related defense doctrines in mind. So I briefly outlined what I would argue to be the commonest and even an essentially universally followed cyber-doctrine as at least appears to be followed in practice, and very widely so, and regardless of any collateral side-commentary that might be offered as it is pursued, as to its limitations in practice. And I proposed offering a more proactive alternative to that approach there too, which I will outline in detail in upcoming installments after completing my Russian case study example.

And with that noted, I would suggest at least briefly reviewing Parts 13 and 14 for the historical narrative that I will continue building from here, to put this posting into a fuller timeline perspective if nothing else. And I suggest that you at least briefly review Part 15 for its approach to thinking about, planning for and reacting to cyber-threats and even overt cyber offensives, where the essentially-doctrine level approach that I outline there reflects the realities created by and faced by all involved parties, and certainly as if this writing – and where expectations of that have come to shape today’s Russia’s cyber-doctrine as they have developed one for a more militarized context.

I begin this posting’s main line of discussion here by briefly summarizing a few points from the end of Part 14 and building from there, beginning in the 1940’s. Russia: the then Soviet Union, suffered wide-ranging devastation from Nazi Germany’s invasion of their lands during World War II. Up until then, the most impactfully wide-spread invasion that the country had faced, was quite arguably Napoleon’s invasion of Mother Russia in 1812. All out relentless warfare on the part of the Nazis, coupled with the Soviet Union’s own scorched earth policy to deny those invaders any resources that they might capture and use against Mother Russia, led to an essential annihilation of all infrastructure, including agricultural capabilities and food supplies, for most all of Western Russia, and all the way east to the outskirts of Moscow itself. Villages, towns and even entire large cities were all but razed to the ground from the thoroughness of their destruction. Critically important agricultural lands were overrun and food supplies destroyed. And in the course of this war and as a direct consequence of it, and as a result of failed government policy and actions in Russia leading up to this war, from Stalin’s effort to essentially recreate the nation in a new communist image, tens of millions of Russia’s people died.

No one in fact actually knows the real numbers involved there, and even from the records kept in Moscow by the Soviet government itself, for its own directly carried out activities prior to the war. But best estimates tend to conclude that some 20 million people died in Russia in the years immediately leading up to World War II, and particularly from their government’s failures in their attempts to move virtually all of their food production to communist party controlled collective farms, with the annihilation of Russia’s small landholder Kulak farmers carried out in the process. Russia killed the people who had raised their food and who knew what to plant where and when if they were to plant and harvest successfully. And they put Party apparatchiks in managerial oversight for those critical decisions, who were mostly giving their orders from Moscow, up to thousands of miles away and who knew nothing about actual farming. And then the war happened, and Moscow and Berlin signed a non-aggression treaty – and Berlin’s Nazi government then invaded. And current estimates would suggest that at least 27 million more Russians died from that war and from the starvation and other massively scaled challenges that it brought with it.

According to official Soviet figures, in 1939, the total population of the Soviet Union was 109.3 million people. This would put their total from before Stalin’s farm collectivization and related failures at something closer to 127 million, allowing for an overestimation of up to 2.3 million lives lost during those lean and challenging years (which would be an overstatement here.) But using that number as a here-conservative baseline, and assuming an actual loss of 27 million more from the war, Stalin’s government in Moscow faced the end of World War II with a largely devastated nation and with a population that had been reduced in a few short decades by some 35%! And while the nations of Western Europe were heavily damaged by the war, the United States was left intact from that, and all geared up for war-time level military production and action. And the United States now had the atomic bomb too.

• The Russian government had signed a mutual support treaty with the West as allies in conflict with a shared enemy: Germany’s Nazi government and their armed forces. But the same people in the same Russian government had signed a treaty with Hitler’s government: the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, and consider how that was violated.
• So Russia took advantage of the post-war agreement with their Western allies as to which victorious national partner in that treaty would oversee what lands and what nations of Europe: East and West. And they actively sought to bring the nations of Eastern Europe under their control as vassal states, under the organizing structure of what quickly formally became their Warsaw Pact. And the West, alarmed by that, began responding almost as quickly to develop a mutual defense against any possible further expansion of the Soviet sphere of influence and control, by initiating their NATO alliance. And this led to increased suspicion and fear on both sides, and the positive feedback of fear and reaction to it and still more increased fear, that quickly became the Cold War and with anti-Soviet, anti-communist rhetoric dominating the public image of one side and anti-western anti-imperialist rhetoric dominating the public image on the other – and with all presuming the worst from all of this.
• And that was the world that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was born into. This was the world context and his country’s context within that, that set the basic axiomatic assumptions that he was born into and that have underlied his thoughts and his decision making since then.

Putin was born on October 7, 1952 in the city of Leningrad: a city that was essentially annihilated – leveled to the ground from siege attacks in the war that had only so recently ended. He studied law at the Leningrad State University, graduating in 1975, and according to the official narrative as offered by his government he was recruited into the Russian KGB soon after graduating. More realistically, he was probably in fact initially approached by the KGB for this, before he graduated. College and university faculty were paid by that agency to scout out potential candidates for recruitment and young Putin showed the political reliability, the intelligence, and yes – the ruthlessness and the ambition needed to succeed as an agent of the state, and as a working member of their principle security organization.

Putin joined the KGB in and trained at their 401st KGB school in Okhta, Leningrad (which has a Facebook page now, as of this writing.) After completing his training there, he was assigned to work at the Second Chief Directorate (which was primarily responsible for internal security matters), to carry out counter-intelligence activities. Then after an initial period there he was transferred to work at the First Chief Directorate, for whom he monitored the activities of foreigners and consular officials in Leningrad. Then in September 1984, he was sent to Moscow for further training at the Yuri Andropov Red Banner Institute: their premier training school for spy craft and espionage, and the active side of their national intelligence system as that faces outward to the world at large.

He graduated from that training facility in 1985 and was assigned to East Germany from then until 1990, where he carried identification papers as being an officer in the East German Ministry for State Security (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, MfS) or State Security Service (Staatssicherheitsdienst, SSD), commonly known as the Stasi. And this is where this briefly and selectively stated biographical note concerning Russia’s current leader, specifically connects with this historical to current events case study example as developed here for purposes of this series.

Putin served as a KGB agent in Dresden, East Germany 1985 to 1990, using a cover identity as a translator. He is fluent in Russian, German and Swedish so this was a realistic cover for him to use. I have read that he and his colleagues there, were reduced to “mainly to collecting press clippings, thus contributing to the mountains of useless information produced by the KGB.” And that would make sense if he and those colleagues could not find any direct new sources of confidential information from any informants or others, that would not be publically known. But a great many of the KGB and at least some critical parts of the Stasi records of that period were in fact destroyed. And according to Putin’s official biography, he himself burned KGB files during the fall of the Berlin Wall (starting November 9, 1989) to keep them out of the hands of demonstrators. For a fragment of what is left of the Putin record from this time, see this PDF file of relevant surviving documents: Stasi Documents about Vladimir Putin.)

Vladimir Putin served in his nation’s KGB for six years and finally ended that part of his professional life by resigning from the service – officially on August 20, 1991 on the second day of the uprising that overthrew the presidency of Mikhail Gorbachev and ended the communist led Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. He resigned from service with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (Подполко́вник – Podpolkóvnik.) So it is unlikely that he only collected and forwarded newspaper clippings while serving for his government in East Germany: the Warsaw Pact nation member that Russia feared more than any other, and that they most actively sought to control and dominate, and certainly since their recent Nazi Germany history with its peoples.

• Six years and a few months: less than a career, but a duration and intensity of experience that could shape a life for all that follows.

And what did Putin learn from this? What of this in effect entered his DNA for its depth of subsequent influence upon him? The motto of the KGB was Loyalty to the Party – Loyalty to Motherland (Верность партии – Верность Родине.) And the KGB that he served in blended defense and offense, and proactive offense where that might create advantage, as its basic modus operandi. Threats and both internal within Russia and external, facing inwards toward the Motherland are real and implacable and must be dealt with and as forcefully as needed. And part of what the Vladimir Putin of today, seeks to do is to reestablish the old protective buffer zone, or at least part of it, as that reached its greatest scope under the Warsaw Pact and certainly when considering Western threats. And as a continuation of old approaches of developing such protective buffer zones, the Putin Policy as it has emerged, also calls for the creation of what amount to cyber buffer zones too: areas of Russian dominating cyber influence and control.

Russia’s recent expansion into neighboring territory in the Ukraine at the very least, to reestablish physical world territorial buffer zones there, exemplified the more traditional side to this Putin policy. But his intelligence services, as supported by armies of non-Russian agents in fact, have also carried out extensive defensive and overtly offensive cyber-warfare actions too, and both to disorganize and weaken foreign opposition and potential foreign adversaries, and to build a cyber buffer zone to protect their own interests. And as their incursion into the Ukraine, with its mixed, traditional military plus “local” militia, plus cyber-warfare elements illustrates, Russia is actively developing and testing hybrid defensive and offensive strategies and doctrines for planning and carrying them out.

I am going to at least briefly and selectively discuss this Putin Defense Policy (as I would explicitly name it for purposes of this series) and its implementation in hybrid, traditional military plus cyber, defensive and offensive strategies and doctrines in the next installment to this series. Then I will reconsider the traditional reactive de facto cyber doctrine that seems to dominate planning and action today and certainly in the West, and I will at least begin to discuss a more proactive alternative to that, that I have cited as coming in this series. And I will continue from there as outlined at the end of Part 15. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3, and at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. And you can also find this and related material at Social Networking and Business 3 and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

On the importance of disintermediating real, 2-way communications in business organizations 16

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 17, 2019

This is my 16th installment to a brief series on coordinating information sharing and communications needs, and information access filtering and gate keeping requirements (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 275 and loosely following for Parts 1-15.)

I began working my way through a briefly stated to-address topics list in Part 12 that I repeat here for smoother continuity of narrative, as I continue addressing its issues (with links to the postings that I have already discussed these points in, appended to them):

1. Reconsider the basic issues of communications and information sharing and their disintermediation in light of the trends and possibilities that I have been writing of in this series, and certainly since its Part 6 where I first started to more explicitly explore insider versus outside employee issues here. (See in particular, Part 12 and Part 13 for an initial orienting discussion of that set of issues.)
2. Begin that with a focus on the human-to-human communications and information sharing context (see Part 14 and Part 15.)
3. And then build from that to at least attempt to anticipate a complex of issues that I see as inevitable challenges that we will all come to face as artificial agents develop into the gray area of artificial intelligence capability that I made note of earlier in this series (n.b. in Part 11). More specifically, how can and should these agents be addressed and considered in an information communications and security context? In anticipation of that line of discussion to come, I will at least raise the possibility here, that businesses will find themselves compelled to confront the issues of personhood and of personal responsibility and liability for gray area artificial agents, and early in that societal debate. And the issues that I raise and discuss in this series will among other factors, serve as compelling bases for their having to address that complex of issues.

I focused for the most part in Part 15 of this series, on what can be considered more individually focused and more societally reaching challenges to the open sharing of information and opinion, primarily citing state created and enforced restrictions and the mechanisms that governments would impose in creating limits in a Point 2, human-to-human context. And I went on from there to at least lay a foundation for addressing the still largely terra incognito of working with and communicating with artificial intelligence agents, building from a point that I would take as a realistically necessary axiomatic starting assumption:

• It is never going to be possible to achieve a freer or more open and enabling reality when dealing with and accommodating the needs of true artificial general intelligence agents, than we can achieve and maintain when dealing with other biologically human people.

And that initial orienting discussion and its logical development led me to an elaboration of an assertion that I would begin this posting with too (as slightly expanded upon here for greater clarity):

• An inclusively democratic principle of presumed value and significance in all people, and with an openness to accepting Different from others as a realization of that principle, is a fundamental goal that humans and human societies can and too often do find difficult to achieve, and even when significant effort is made to do so.
• And it is going to be necessary to both rethink and expand upon all of the assumptions and decisions that we could or would make in achieving that principle, as the emergence of new forms of intelligence and of personhood arise.
• That emergence will, of necessity mean revisiting issues and even basic understandings where this principle has already been realized in practice, as those understandings have to be stretched and reframed in new, larger contexts.

I added in a business context at the end of Part 15, that this is where an affirming and supportive corporate culture enters this narrative. And I will more specifically consider at least some of the implications that the issues that I raise here hold, in a business and a workplace context. But to start, and to put that line of discussion to come into a more explicit context, I will at least start out addressing the above Point 3 from an overall societal perspective, as I have pursued when discussing Point 2 issues and the human-to-human side of this. And I begin addressing Point 3 and its elaborations here by citing a source of possible contention that we do not generally see as holding importance in a more strictly Point 2 human-to-human context, except perhaps when dealing with the rights of the physically handicapped for access and enablement, or when confronted by what would best be considered overt bigotry as based on visible physical differences: a challenge that I would refer to here as the mind/body problem.

Fundamentally more minor distinctions and differences aside, humans are humans are humans … and all are organic life forms that share the vast majority of their genetic heritage in common. We all have basically the same genes, with many of them allowing for little if any variation and with the rest showing specific types of allelic differences between individuals and between ethnically and otherwise characterized groups, that do not either individually or collectively change our shared, commonly held human nature. So for all of the genetic, and I add environmentally shaped differences that arise between people in human populations, we all have basically the same types of bodies. And while we do differ for measurable intelligence and cognitive capability, we do all show measures of this, that seem to follow a single defining pattern, even if consensus has not been reached as to the exact nature of how mental capacity should best be defined and measured.

• But what happens when we, in a larger emerging societal context, no longer do fit a single basic pattern, at least as we have come to understand that? What happens when our bodies can and do differ between us, and between different type of arguably-people, and on a more fundamental level than we have ever experienced, societally or culturally or as a matter of our religious and other defining beliefs?
• Do we push back against a perceived threat of different, and deny personhood for those who do not fit our own perhaps largely self-understood norms? Do we embrace and include different in the face of that, and if so, in the face of what supportive and challenging voices with the pressures that they can bring to bear on this? Ultimately, should we define personhood in terms of mind, and in terms of capacity for general intelligence and simply set aside physical differences per se for that? Is there any fair or just alternative to that, and who would even make that determination? With that question in mind, should personhood ultimately be a matter of self-evaluation and self-determination, and not a matter to be constrained by or decided by others and according to their perhaps parochially limited perspectives?

And how will we respond to the challenge as artificial agents arise that can pass essentially any test that would be used to identify such mental capability and certainly for analytical and related reasoning – but where those agents are artifactual, and not organic life forms, and when they have definitive origins separate from any evolutionary lines of decent that human people can claim as their defining heritage? And what happens when such minds, differ from evolved human minds even as they can pass such general intelligence tests? We as a species are only just beginning to think through and understand what intelligence per se even is. It is very likely that all of our current, automatic assumptions as to the nature and meaning of general intelligence, are overly restricted from our limited experience with its wider possibilities.

• It is, unfortunately, all too easy to imagine pushback against acceptance when artificial general intelligence agents enter this type of narrative, and certainly when their less developed gray area counterparts seek to be included in the larger society as people too.

I have already raised the issue of personhood and of how the emergence of true artificial general intelligence will force a reconsideration of what it is and what it means. And I have already noted that one of the places and one of the contexts where this will come to most pressingly demand resolution will be in the workplace and in business settings. This truly disruptively New will force us to think through and fundamentally define what intelligence actually is, and in ways and in directions, and taking into account issues and capabilities that we cannot even begin to see now, in a strictly human-to-human setting – and precisely the way we do not and cannot see past the expected commonalities of our physical forms as representing true persons now, to more fully understand the alternatives there.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, where I will explicitly discuss how the human (Point 2) and artificial intelligent agent (Point 3) issues that I raise here, might take shape, and certainly as artificial, at least more-generally intelligent agents begin to appear. And in anticipation of that, I note that while I have posited my above-discussed Point 2 and Point 3 distinction as one that reflects non-overlapping differences, we have to expect the emergence of gray area overlaps between them too. To take that possibility out of the abstract, consider the cyborg-like possibilities of artificial replacement, or even enhancement parts in people. And consider the implications there, of replacement parts to the central nervous system – and I refer there to the likelihood of the development of artificial replacement or augmentation parts that would impact upon: restore or improve mental functions of types that would fit into a general intelligence definition.

Finally, in keeping with the basic thrust of this series, I will discuss the issues that I have been raising here at a societal level, in the context of communications and information and processed knowledge creation and sharing and in a more locally structured business and organizational context. And of necessity, I will also continue from there to consider actions taken consequential to the information sharing and communications that I write of here.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. And also see Social Networking and Business 2 and that directory’s Page 1 for related material.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 33 – the jobs and careers context 32

This is my 33rd installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-32.)

I have been successively addressing each of a set of workplace issues and challenges since Part 25 of this, that can arise for essentially anyone who works sufficiently long-term with a given employer (see Part 32 for a full list of those points, with appended links to where I have discussed them.) The first five of those entries represent very specific, focused sources of possible challenge and opportunity, and the final, sixth entry offered there is a more general and wide-ranging one that can encompass all of the others that I have raised and discussed here:

6. Negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them, and how you might best manage your career when facing the prospects of getting caught up in that.

I began preparing for a more detailed discussion of this last topics point in Part 32 by outlining in at least a measure of detail, exactly what downsizings are, at least when they are considered beyond the simple fact that they are events where people, and even large numbers of them can lose their jobs and essentially all at once. As I stated in that posting and in the context of that discussion-organizing explanation:

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

Getting caught up in a downsizing can seem like getting run over by a truck, and when there is no way to get out of the way to avoid that happening. But this perception, while commonly held and understandable, is essentially always wrong and usually for several or even many of its at least assumed details. My goal for this posting is to briefly discuss and explain that, and then at least begin to discuss the options and possibilities for effective negotiations that you might have – that you might be able to create for yourself, when facing this type of challenge. And I begin addressing this set of issues with the basics – with points of readily visible fact that are in practice overlooked or pushed aside and by precisely the people who most need to be aware of them, and as fully and as early as possible:

• Downsizings essentially all come with advance warnings, and after a relatively long series of warnings have been made general knowledge and certainly throughout the workforce that would be affected.
• First of all, they often arise as what amount to Plan B or even Plan C or D options, turned to after other attempts to regain fiscal balance have failed. Everyone at a business, probably knows if its markets have dried up and they can no longer bring in the revenue flows needed to maintain the business they work for at the scale it has operated at. Everyone knows if the business they work for is no longer competitively up to date and if its senior management is going to have to make fundamental changes in what the business does and how, if it is to remain viable as an ongoing enterprise. They know if they have legacy skills that are not going to fit long-term into their employer’s future, and if they have become pigeonholed there as only being able to perform that type of work. They can and probably should know if their employer is looking to outsource what they do as their area of expertise. Everyone there generally knows if their employer is facing a possible merger or acquisition, where staff rightsizing, to use a popular euphemism, is going to mean eliminating what will become redundant work positions and dismissing the employees who hold them. The basic challenges that lead to downsizings are virtually always out there and visible, and in at least enough detail to indicate that downsizings are at least possible.
• And secondly, downsizings are rarely once and done events. They take place in stages, with groups let go and pauses and then with next groups let go. And it is not at all uncommon for businesses that are facing a need to downsize, to bring in outside specialists as business consultants to help manage all of this. So this can mean the employees there seeing colleagues disappear from their workplace in groups (and most commonly on Fridays), while seeing new faces walking around seeking information on what everyone does there.

And this brings me to the great unspoken: the issues and challenges of directly, objectively, openly facing these possibilities, when and as they become realities for an employer and for the people working there. Too many of us look away from the uncertainty and threat of all of this, as if our not seeing it and not considering its possible impact on us, might make it all go away. You have to at least consider the possibility that you might be caught up in this type of a tidal wave type event too, if there is evidence of it happening or of its likelihood of happening. And it is never safe to simply assume that this cannot happen to you because you are a loyal and effective employee or manager there, with skills and experience that the business needs. You can never simply assume that this cannot happen to you because you consistently get excellent performance reviews, or because your colleagues and supervisor like you and value having you there. People are fired for specific reasons that would put them at the center of a target for that type of dismissal. Problem hands-on employees and managers are fired and for specific cause. But good and even great employees and managers can and do get caught up in downsizings, as they are never (at least in principle) carried out on a fault or deficiency determined basis. Good people: good employees and managers are let go, and even despite their value to the business, to keep a business viable and competitive and to meet larger business needs. And that point of fact can serve as the basis for essentially all of the negotiating arguments that you could raise, in support of your being retained by an employer facing this type of at least perceived need.

• The question, which I will explore in at least some depth in the installment to come here, is one of how you can best present yourself as an asset that your employer would want to keep on, coming out of the staff reductions and reorganizations of a downsizing. And that means negotiating in terms of what you can do that will offer value through this type of transition and as your employer moves past it. And that means you’re negotiating in terms of the specific downsizing you face, and how and why it is taking place, and with as clear an understanding as possible of what this business seeks to achieve from it (and avoid from it.)

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, where I will expand on that bullet point, discussing negotiations goals and priorities as they arise for you, depending on your job and career objectives, and the driving reasons for a possible, or ongoing downsizing that you might be caught up in. And in anticipation of that, I will consider all of the downsizing-cause scenarios that I have noted, at least in passing here and in Part 32.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material.

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