Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

On the importance of disintermediating real, 2-way communications in business organizations 6

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on December 14, 2017

This is my sixth 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 1-5.)

And I have been discussing stakeholders and stakeholder groups through most of this series, as a defining and orienting line of discussion, and how differences arise both between and within those groups. This is ultimately a series about communications between and within stakeholder groups. Similarity and alignment of goals and perspectives, and of needs and priorities are always matched at least in part by differences there, and with all of this burdened by at least a measure of miscommunication and incomplete communication, and by the friction that this engenders. It is perhaps the most important defining goal of this series, to discuss and offer remediative approaches for limiting that friction and for more effectively bringing the right people into the necessary conversations, that both those participants and those stakeholder groups that include them, and the business as a whole need to have take place.

To take that out of the abstract, consider my union negotiations example from Part 5, where I have in fact seen union negotiators “throw selected groups of members under the bus” as expendable negotiating chips, disowning what had been union supported work categories and job titles, and all who would be included there in order to gain a margin of benefit for those who would remain in the union and continue to benefit from it. I chose that particular stakeholder category for this type of review precisely because I do value unions – and because I and most anyone else would at least start out presuming that unions, by their very nature seek to protect their own, and with that held as a unifying vision and understanding throughout the entire stakeholder group. But even there, differences, and exclusion of essentially impacted upon participants from crucial conversations, can and does happen.

Think of the above comments as my effort here to more effectively tie my discussion of stakeholders and the demographically defined groups that they fall into, to the overall discussion flow of this series as a whole. And in anticipation of discussion to come here in this series, I explicitly invoke the term “disintermediation” here. When certain union members with their more limited by numbers representation in that stakeholder group, are both categorically singled out as bargaining chips in this manner and left out of the conversations within that union and at the bargaining table – when they are talked about but not talked with for this, that extra “intermediary” layer added into the conversation, excluding their direct voice and participation, can only sow the seeds of at least concern if not outright distrust and for any who might wonder if their turn for this might come up next with the next round of union/employer negotiations.

Part time, temporary and other employees who are explicitly brought in and retained, for however long that lasts, who are explicitly not hired or treated as in-house employees and as insiders there, never have reason to see their employer as “their” employer; they never take on a sense of pride of ownership that a well run business enables and encourages for its in-house staff, and as one of their defining sources of strength. I intentionally left “consultants” out of that here and for a reason. People who work as outside consultants enter into this more voluntarily and they generally have separate and at least somewhat distinct positions there that set them apart, and even if the intent on the part of a hiring business is to retain them on a same assignment and with that same employer long-term and in an essentially open-ended manner. Part time and temporary employees often find themselves doing essentially the same types of work that their in-house colleagues do, who they often find themselves working side by side with. And it is common for them to seek opportunity to go in-house there and to become regular employees of that business. In that, temp to perm is a common goal with starting as a temporary employee can be seen as a way into a business, and an opportunity to prove oneself as a valuable asset there.

Some businesses, and even some major corporations do or at least have brought in long-term temps and other outsider employees, routinely and at least seasonally for significant numbers of workers. Fed Ex for example, routinely hires expansion-staff temporary employees during peak workload periods such as the year-end holiday season. And they wear ID tags that identify them as such. But for a more extreme example, I would cite Microsoft, for how it at least used to have large numbers of long-term outsider employees who worked as if in-house members of their staff but who did not have, or have opportunity to gain in-house benefits. Their Microsoft ID tags were color coded, making it easy to identify who was who for this and even at a distance, with orange reserved for those brought in from outside agencies or as stand-alone consultants or through other outsider mechanisms, and blue reserves for in-house people. I cite this as a more extreme example because it was common for orange badge people to continue working at Microsoft and at the same positions there for years and a great many of them did.

Temporary employee ID and orange ID people and their counterparts through an increasing number of gig economy hiring businesses, do not receive the benefits that accrue to their in-house counterparts, which can be very substantial as was the case for Microsoft’s orange name-badge employees who did not get the long-term savings and investment options, with stock share options that in-house employees received: a very significant compensation difference for the same work performed by different people. And they have never for the most part seen themselves as having any real stake in any such employer either. For purposes of this series and its discussion, they do not belong to any organized involved stakeholder category within the business per se, even as they work there and directly do. How can you systematically give them more of a direct voice there as a group, and how can you better manage the communications flows in place to include them? At least for here and now, I leave those as open questions that merit thought.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next installment where I will at least begin to tie the narrative and its set of issues as raised in this posting, to the questions and issues of information access and communications and their challenges. And as called for in the title to this series, I will also discuss all of that in terms of communications organization and layers of accessibility, and communications disintermediation as it can simplify them. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. And also see Social Networking and Business 2 and that directory’s Page 1 for related material.

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Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and lessons from the Whig Party, Part 2

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on December 11, 2017

This is my 28th installment to what has become an ongoing series of postings in which I seek to address politics in the United States as it has become, starting with the nominations process leading up to the 2016 presidential elections. See my series: Donald Trump and the Stress Testing of the American System of Government, as can be found at Social Networking and Business 2, posting 244 and loosely following.

I initially offered a brief early-stage discussion of the issues that I would address here, in Part 4 of this series when watching the Republican Party convulse its way, first through its presidential candidate nominations races and then through its presidential election campaign for 2016. And perhaps the most significant message that I sought to convey there was an assertion that the Republican Party as we have known it, and certainly as a voice of reasoned conservatism is now dead. The name of the party lives on but the substance of what it once stood for is now a largely distorted memory. And Donald Trump and his assent into becoming their party standard bearer simply serves to drive that message home, and in ways that any open acknowledgement of empirically reality would compel.

I wrote that earlier posting and added it to this blog in October, 2016 and I have shared its basic message in other contexts since then. But a part of me has always drawn back from completely, fully believing it even as I wrote and posted it; call that proof of wistful thinking on my part, or even of my being in denial until forced to abandon old hopes of the reasonable and rational. I am not a Republican and certainly not as that political party has become. And I find it impossible to believe that my father or his father or his or his could comfortably wear Republican affiliation or support as part of their identities or their belief systems either, and certainly as I see what was once their political party, for what it has become. But I come from a Republican Party family that goes back that far, and in fact to the very beginning at their founding convention on a farm outside of Ripon, Wisconsin in 1856.

The Republican Party was founded in large part out of the ashes of a then recently dead Whig Party. What will come out of the ashes of the Republican Party of today? I would not assay a guess as to how events to come will answer that. I wrote my similarly named to this, October, 2016 posting wondering if I was calling a time and place of death prematurely. The momentum of national history, and of family history does that; it creates that type of uncertainty. But seemingly every day since then, events have simply served to reinforce that 2016 message for its underlying validity. And I offer this posting as both an update on that, and as an assessment on my part of the Trump presidency as it has unfolded and on what he has done to both his country and to what is at least nominally his political party.

I begin this posting’s update with what I see as the fundamentals, and both for this particular narrative and for at least my understanding what American politics and political parties should be based upon, and certainly insofar as this nation seeks to become a more inclusive democracy as the fulfillment of an ideal. And I begin this by noting a point that should be obvious to anyone who has even briefly studied United States history. Our country has essentially always been divided politically and ideologically into two major competing camps at any given time, as supplemented by an array of changing but always present smaller third party alternatives, and usually several or even many of them at once. The two major parties hold governing influence and control between them and their smaller counterparts serve to widen the range of ideas and the range of issues that are nationally addressed. They in effect serve to keep the major parties honest, or at least more inclusive and broad based in what they address and in what they seek to accomplish.

The issues of the day have changed over the years and so have the names of those leading parties. And the basic tenor of the leading two parties have changed and evolved too. But historically one or the other of the two leading political parties here has always claimed the mantle of what would traditionally be called conservatism and the other, the mantle of what would traditionally be called liberalism. And however much they differed on the details as to their precise goals or priorities or agendas, the underlying intent of both was always basically the same. However they differed as to how to accomplish this, both parties sought to lead the nation as a whole and with all of its diversity, and to offer moral as well as governance leadership in doing so. Both sought in their own way to achieve a vision of the common good. Policy and the details of politics differed but both parties were shaped and guided by moral and ethical principles and sought to be just, and for the nation as a whole. They were grounded in underlying principles and on a vision of political and governmental leaders leading principled lives. This goal has been honored in the breach more than in the promise at times, and certainly for some in their ranks. But ultimately, both of the two leading political parties of any time in American history, have been willing to clean house when needed, and have seen that need when publically confronted by a need to do so.

Donald Trump did not begin the challenge to that ideal that we see so predominating now: a basic and fundamental challenge to civility and integrity and intellectual honesty that we see enacted around us every single day now. The foundational grounding that used to underlie both of the major political parties of the United States, and certainly their more conservative alternative began to unravel and certainly for the Republican Party, beginning at least as far back as the Nixon presidency and its aftermath, as party leaders sought to pick up the pieces of his and vice president Agnew’s being forced from office, with both facing likely impeachment trials and convictions. That, as I have noted elsewhere, is when and where the Republican Party and its spokespersons began their first campaigns to attempt to regain power by taking control of the political dialog in this country. And they sought to accomplish that by systematically changing and adulterating the meaning of the very core vocabulary terms that their opponents used to describe themselves and their values, gradually corrupting words like “compromise” as well as words such as “liberal.” It was inevitable that this would lead to the adulteration of meaning in their own core value words too, including but not limited to “conservative” itself.

When Henry Clay, a founder of the Whig Party and in many ways a true conservative in thought and action, was called the “great compromiser” that was deemed an all but supreme complement as he brought people together in working agreement despite significant and even fundamental differences of opinion. Clay was awarded that title by politicians on both sides for his ability and willingness to find workable middle grounds that they could all agree upon: workable compromises that would meet their core priorities and needs and serve the needs of the nation in doing so. With the way that words such as “compromise” have been compromised from anything like their original, traditional meanings, that label has became a pejorative and to the belittlement and loss of all of us. And with that I return to the first posting that I offered in this series too: Thinking Through the Words We Use in Our Political Monologs. And I cite how the more recent ratcheting up of the rhetoric that we all face as current political-speak, challenges all meaning and all evidence of any sort and in any context and regardless of source, in favor of ideological purity and opportunism. I cite here the emergence of alternative facts and of fake news as a thought and evidentiary proof-denying substitute for what should be thought and reason, political dialog and consensus building.

But my goal here in this posting is not to recapitulate the narrative of how we have arrived as a nation, where we are now. My goal here is to discuss how the leadership of the Republican Party has lost its bearings, and its moral and ethical compass, and certainly as we have all lost our tools and resources for speaking with each other across our differences, with short term expediency and ideological sloganeering allowed to replace all else. To be fair, I have to add here that this is not entirely and uniquely a Republican Party problem either. Donald Trump is rightly excoriated for his sexual predatory boasts and actions as women have stepped forward to claim that he had assaulted them; he even bragged that he acts this way, in his on-air interview with Billy Bush. Bill Clinton should have been, and should now be held to that same standard for his “escapades,” and certainly for when he acted out his disregard for women while actively serving in office as the president of the United States. My goal here, I add, is not to broaden this discussion and see how widely the mud of this can and does stick, either. It is to address the ills of what was once the Party of Lincoln, and the political party of a great many other men and women of principle too.

I will return to this complex of issues in future postings to this blog, and to this series. But to ground what I add to this narrative here, in a news and views context larger than my own individual understanding and perspective, I end this by offering some recent news and news analysis references. And I begin that by noting an in the news scandal that is playing forth before the world, as I write this, with what is arguably a serial sexual predator pedophile, Roy Moore, running for election to the United States Senate in a special election to fill a vacancy – and with the support of both president Trump and the Republican Party leadership in general. This man has all but publically admitted in detail to what he has done, even as he has renounced all claims against himself in general. And he has a publically visible record of having for example, been barred from entering at least one shopping mall for stalking high school girls as a man in this thirties. But as long as he claims to agree with the right ideological talking points, nothing can or will be done to in any way thwart his political ambitions from his Republican Party and its leadership.

And with that noted as background, I cite this David Brooks op-ed piece and two differently sourced but similarly concerning news pieces:

The G.O.P. Is Rotting.
Trump’s Endorsement of Roy Moore Points Up a G.O.P. Problem: Chaos and
Trump Throws GOP into Chaos.

I have increasingly found myself hearing similar sentiments from people who would associate themselves with conservatism as well as with a more liberal and progressive position in recent months, and with varying mixtures of contempt and concern tingeing their basic opinion as coming from both camps. But even so, there is and will remain a hard core seeming third of the country that comprises a faction what would, as then-candidate Trump proclaimed forgive and forget if he were to walk out in the middle of Fifth Avenue in the heart of New York City and shoot someone.

The Republican Party that we have before us now, is their party and it represents their values. And those values have taken over that political party, and the nation and for all of us. And even if the name still lives on, the moral and ethical core and the intellectual core of that party is gone.

Meanwhile, you can find this posting and related material at Social Networking and Business 2, posting 244 and loosely following.

Addendum, added soon after this piece first went live: I focused in this posting on just one of many disruptive and disturbing ways in which Donald Trump and Roy Moore are similar: their propensity toward being sexual predators. I did not forget as I wrote of that, of how both are also xenophobic, religiously intolerant bigots and I did not forget their grandiosity or their propensities to lie and often by all appearance, of their not knowing where fact gives way to hyperbole or when that gives way to complete fabrication and falsehood. None of these additional points, however, add to or detract from the basic message offered here, except insofar as they supplementally reconfirm the basis of my overriding concerns here. I add this closing note as an afterthought, in case a reader might wonder why I did not even mention any of these other shared traits in the body of this posting itself. I come back to acknowledge them now.

Finding virtue in simplicity when complexity becomes problematical, and vice versa 7

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on December 4, 2017

This is my seventh installment to a brief series on simplicity and complexity in business communications, and in 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 1-6.)

I began an at least brief and selective discussion of Information Technology department help desks in Part 6, as a means for taking discussion of within-house business communications out of the abstract. I chose that approach for a variety of reasons, some of which I would enumerate here, as:

1. Familiarity: most anyone reading this has had to turn to IT help desks for assistance in resolving problems at least occasionally. So essentially all of us have direct experience of and knowledge of their area of involvement in a business and their basic workplace processes and practices. I add that I have familiarity with them from both sides of the client-facing desk, so this is an easy example for me to offer, and from my own direct experience.
2. The simple fact that IT help desks are communications and information sharing-driven, and in the face of possible sources of friction such as differences in functional area jargon in use. The need to be able to translate even complex issues out of the usual specialty-speak that develops within functional areas in a business, is important for in this specific example, and for this series and its narrative as a whole too.
3. And I will come to argue the case that systematic approaches that can facilitate and improve communications and resultant work performance in this example: for help desk systems and their personnel and for their clients, are more generally applicable too. These functional resources in a business might be specialized and have their own sets of issues to resolve for their in-house clients, but most of their information framing and communications issues are generic for basic need and for basic form, across organizations as a whole.

I focused in Part 6 on the absolute fundamentals, and on understanding the nature and the priorities of the problems that employee clients bring to their IT help desk system. And my goal for this posting is to build from there to consider communications itself as would take place in and through such a business resource. More specifically, I stated at the end of part 6, in anticipation of this posting that I would:

• “Address speeding up and disintermediating help desk communications, and particularly when a business and its information systems users confront the disruptively unexpected, with all of the non-standard features and requirements that that brings.”

Then I added that after addressing this, “I will also pick up on and discuss customer service and support desks, as cited in passing above as a source of working examples, in order to more fully discuss this series’ set of issues. I add in anticipation of that, that I will explicitly consider how the issues of this series play out when services such as Information Technology help desks, and Sales and Marketing supportive customer services are maintained and run in-house and when they are outsourced.”

My goal here is to focus on the issues and challenges of that above-repeated to-address bullet point. And once again, I begin with the fundamentals: standard problems and issues of the type discussed in Part 6 do not generally offer much if any surprise and for anyone involved in them – unless that is, they turn out to actually be disruptively novel and only appear to be standard, because the people bringing them to the help desk, and the first people to see this event there, are looking for the familiar and expected and this one seems at first glance to fit such a pattern.

But even then, standard and routine as for example listed in a standard help desk top 10 list of recurring issues, and disruptively new and novel tend to be self-sorting as to basic category and fairly quickly as initial effort to resolve them is attempted. I focus here on those rarer long-tail issues and on the truly disruptive, and regardless of how they initially seem to present themselves. And I begin with the basic assumptions implicit in my above to-address bullet point.

• The truly new and disruptively novel arrives without prior known context or precedent to help understand it. And it usually arrives as a visible consequence, only – which among other details is why an initial viewing of it might lead people to assume at first that it is more familiar than it actually is.
• Resolving symptoms only, which leaves underlying causal mechanism problems might limit or even for the time being stop the problematical symptoms that an underlying problem can bring. But actually resolving a problem requires understanding and addressing underlying causes too.
• And underlying causes are almost never immediately apparent in a newly emergent, first time visible disruptively novel problem.
• The question then can be one of who to bring in with what specific areas of experience and expertise to both fully characterize and then solve such a new problem. Keep in mind that the worst (though not necessarily the rarest) of the disruptively new and novel problems that arise, can be multi-specialty in nature and require at least something of a team effort to fully understand and resolve, and hopefully with what can become a now-standardized approach for dealing with a now-known problem.

This is where “speeding up and disintermediating help desk communications” comes in where that means reaching back to the people who first brought this problem to the help desk for further details, and reaching out to the right people with the right technical skills and experience to help address it. The Tower of Babel problem enters this narrative here, where the people who first report a new and disruptively novel problem do not in most cases have the technical skills, or vocabulary to be able to adequately discuss this, at least from a technical perspective, with help desk and related staff. They cannot directly address anything like causality for what has happened. They might, on the other hand be able to offer real insight on what happened functionally, from the perspective of their work and their area of expertise, and precisely where and when this new type of problem happened and what they were doing when it did so.

• Better knowing what happened and when and in what work context, can help pin down where and how to look for more underlying and causal details and mechanisms.
• I am writing here of finding ways to more effectively bring the right people into these conversations, and with all of them at least hopefully communicating with each other with genuine mutual understanding – and not just barrier reinforcing jargon.

I have been setting up a problem here, in better understanding and solving problems: presenting a meta-problem if you will of resolving the new and novel per se. I am going to turn in my next series installment to the issues and challenges of more effectively resolving these and other rare (at least at first) event challenges. And in anticipation of discussion to come, I add that this will mean my reconsidering the issues and opportunities of intranets and of how social networking and interactivity can bring them to life for addressing needs such as this. Then I will turn to and address the follow-up issues noted above in this posting as topics to follow.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its Page 2 continuation. And also see my series: Communicating More Effectively as a Job and Career Skill Set, for its more generally applicable discussion of focused message best practices per se. I offer 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.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century – 2

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on November 19, 2017

This is my 27th installment to what has become an ongoing series of postings in which I seek to address politics in the United States as it has become, starting with the nominations process leading up to the 2016 presidential elections. See my series: Donald Trump and the Stress testing of the American System of Government, as can be found at Social Networking and Business 2, posting 244 and loosely following.

This can also be considered to represent my 56th installment to an ongoing series that I have been offering here concerning Xi Jinping and his still emerging and expanding leadership role in China. See China and Its Transition Imperatives, as it can be found at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, as postings 154 and loosely following.

I began a comparative discussion of Xi Jinping and Donald Trump and their respective understandings of leadership in Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century – 1, with a brief and in-effect summarizing statement addressing this for Xi. I have been offering supporting background to what I offered there throughout the China series that I connect this posting to.

If I were to further and more tersely summarize even Part 1’s paucity of detail in this leadership diptych, it would be to say that Xi Jinping displays a seemingly endless ambition, coupled with an acute ability to both create and capitalize upon opportunity to achieve his goals. And he has the shrewd intelligence and the drive and determination needed to do that, unburdened by anything like excessive conscience to hold him back.

That said, and with my Trump series as a source of carefully considered supportive evidence, I begin this posting with a corresponding summary statement regarding Donald Trump, and certainly as he seeks to lead and govern as the 45th president of the United States. And I begin offering this summary by citing a basic point of observation that I have made in both job search and career development contexts, and in personnel and Human Resources contexts too. Self-evaluations rarely offer any real value in employee performance evaluations. The best employees with real skills and expertly meaningful professional experience rarely if ever rate themselves at the top of their performance evaluations; they know enough to see and remember where they could have done better – and where they have learned from that. And they know that there is always room for improvement. And the worst employees at any given business rarely know enough of what they are doing and of what they should be doing to be able to offer any meaningful response there. So they frequently assume that since they were hired and since they are still working at a business, they must be doing a great job there. They are in fact more likely to give themselves more top marks on the performance evaluation form questions that they answer, than the best and most skilled of their colleagues would. And this brings me to Donald Trump and his ongoing flow of self-evaluation praise. Donald Trump is tremendous as president – the very best ever. If you don’t believe me, just ask him, or rather just listen to a few of his self-evaluations for yourself, about how tremendously well he is doing (and even when he has proven unable to convince a US Congress that is led by members of his own political party to pass and enact even just one significant piece of legislation and in what is now over 300 days of his having held office, and when he has alienated essentially all of the traditional allies of the United States, and hopelessly divided our nation and over seemingly every single issue that he has spoken or tweeted about!)

To keep my supporting evidence for that as found in my Trump-related series up to date here, the House of Representatives did very recently pass a “tax reform” bill and pass it on to the Senate. But the House bill was filled with what are sometimes called poison pills, as far as the Senate is concerned and with objection from that coming from more than enough Republican senators to essentially guarantee that this fail to pass and be enacted into law too. I have to add that at Trump’s request, senators who are still supportive of him have added a significant amount of poison of their own to their touted version of this piece of legislature. And Trump lacks the vision or understanding to realize how this will impact on any possible success in his getting tax reform passed that is to his liking. And he lacks the leadership skills or ability to do anything about that, even if he were to come to realize where this legislative effort is headed.

And with that in-the-news background material update in place, I turn to the set of issues that I would really focus upon here: how easily and fully Donald Trump can be manipulated and particularly by national leaders whose interests gravely diverge from what would be best for, or even just good for the United States. And in keeping with my above summary statement regarding Xi, I note here that he has been particularly adept at manipulating Donald Trump for that.

I back up those assertions with some recent news stories of note. And my first is:

Trump, Aiming to Coax Xi Jinping, Bets on Flattery.

Donald Trump assumes that if he flatters others, they will simply go along with anything that he says. But if we have seen one irrefutable fact coming out of his recent visit to Asian nations, and repeatedly, it is that if their leaders flatter him and give him a good time, appearing to really appreciate him, then Trump will do precisely what they want him to do. And with that I offer:

Trump’s ‘Tremendous Success’ Abroad Is Overstated.

This is a fact check news piece that speaks for itself from the succinct cogency of its title. And with that news piece noted I offer:

Trump Declares ‘America First’ Policy a Success After Asia Trip.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump’s “America First” policy has in large part made the United States more irrelevant where he has pursued that goal, than anything else. And with that stated, I offer:

Vietnam, in a Bind, Tries to Chart a Path Between U.S. and China,
Seeing U.S. in Retreat Under Trump, Japan and China Move to Mend Ties and
Trans-Pacific Trade Partners Are Moving On, Without the U.S.

I simply add here that president Trump’s “America First” policy has had this type of negative impact for the United States, globally. It is not just the Trans-Pacific Trade Partners and their treaty-based open trade system that have continued on without the United States – and with Xi Jinping and his China taking the leadership role that the US would have been expected to assume for that. The Paris Climate Accord has also continued on, as a globally reaching effort to more effectively limit adverse climate change from human pollution. And yes, even with their environmental disaster of a track record and their still-over reliance on coal fired electrical power, Xi and China are taking a leading role there too – and with the United States left out and on the sidelines of any decisions reached or actions taken.

And with that, I turn back to reconsider my comments as offered above, regarding workplace performance self-evaluations. The only people who can legitimately proclaim Trump’s successes to date as president to be tremendous and the best ever, are Vladimir Putin and his colleagues, who arguably put in a great deal of effort to suborn the 2016 US presidential elections to put Trump in the White House in the first place.

Should I prefer to have Xi or someone like him to be president of the United States? Should I prefer to see China having to deal with a Donald Trump as their supreme leader? Personally, I see both as offering genuine cause for concern that either is in high office and anywhere, and effectively uncontrolled and uncontrollable in that. So I end this two posting, series joining sequence at a point where I do in fact view these two men in the same way. Meanwhile, we have to deal with both in office and at the same time and with each helping to bring out the worst in the other.

And meanwhile, I am certain to continue adding new installments to both Donald Trump and the Stress testing of the American System of Government, as can be found at Social Networking and Business 2, posting 244 and loosely following, and to China and Its Transition Imperatives, as can be found at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, as postings 154 and loosely following.

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 5

Posted in book recommendations, social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 10, 2017

This is my fifth 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 1-4.)

I have been discussing two very different business scenarios in this series since its Part 2, which I repeat the basic starting descriptions of for purposes of clearer continuity of narrative:

• A new, young, small startup that seeks to leverage its liquidity and other assets available as creatively and effectively as possible, and from its day one when it is just starting to develop the basic template that it would scale up from,
• And a larger, established business that has become at least somewhat complacent and somewhat sclerotic in the process, and with holdover systems and organizational process flows that might not reflect current actual needs or opportunities faced.

And in the course of my ensuing discussion of them up to here, I have at least briefly sketched out why a new and still small business would be drawn to resource expenditure approaches such as gorilla and viral marketing, and disintermediated communications marketing in general. And at the same time I at least briefly sketched out why a business that fit the pattern of my second bullet point there, would face challenges if it tried pursuing that type of approach, at least if it did not make some fundamental changes in the systems that its marketing would have to fit into, in-house and on its side of the conversations entered into there.

It is also possible to note and discuss the in-house problems that startups can face when attempting to effectively deploy these marketing approaches, and how and why a larger and more settled business would need to pursue that type of marketing approach in the face of its resource and other limitations too. My goal for this posting is to at least begin to address this set of issues, and certainly from the larger and more established business perspective. And I begin that by repeating some questions that I posed at the end of Part 4 in anticipation of this next series installment:

1. How best can an established business that is set in its more traditional ways, break away from their perhaps long-established patterns as necessary, to bring in innovative new approaches such as disintermediated marketing?
2. How can such a business make this work for them, and in ways that do not simply leave any value potential created, lost in the complexities of the rest of their business?
3. And can an established and even at least somewhat sclerotic business use the introduction of new and different, such as gorilla or viral marketing as a starting point for reinvigorating and updating the business as a whole, and if so, how?

I begin addressing Point 1 of this list, by raising a set of points of observation and conclusion that should sound familiar to anyone who has followed my blog here, and certainly insofar as I have addressed the issues of change management and course correction in a business, or the issues of bringing a business to be more agile and resilient in the face of change. Ultimately, the only way that a business that fits the pattern of the second scenario as offered at the top of this posting, can make effective change of any type, is if it starts out by more fully understanding where it is now.

• “Long established” as a business process or business strategy descriptor is usually at least to a significant degree, and alternative way of saying “taken for granted and invisible for that.”

Established and settled businesses become sclerotic precisely because they become calcified in their networks of unconsidered and even effectively invisible systems, that with time are certain to drift out of effective relevance for never being updated to keep them current and relevant. I have written about this set of issues in detail, on a number of occasions over the years now in this blog, and simply cite one relevant source of such references here, for anyone who would wish to explore that complex of issues in more detail: my currently running series Building a Business for Resilience (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 542 and loosely following for its installments.)

Knowing where change in business systems might be both necessary and possible in such a business, can and often does begin with a vision of how an alternative to their here-and-now is both possible and effective in other businesses, and for direct competitors in particular that are not burdened with their levels of systems and processes calcification: their levels of business sclerosis for at least some significantly important, value creating set of processes in their business systems. Think of this series as taking that general business-wide point of observation out of the abstract, with the specific example of moving their marketing out of the staid and routine and yes … “functionally dysfunctional,” and away from what might seem boring and disconnected to any target audience, and into New and more actively engaging for them. Effective marketing has to be fresh, and certainly to any target audience, if it is to work effectively. And that does not just mean fresh for its specific message content. It has to mean fresh for its overall format and its way of communication too.

Think of Marshall McLuhan’s famous dictum: “the medium is the massage”, in this regard (here is a link to a free PDF formatted copy of: McLuhan’s original book by that name where he first introduced this understanding.) The emergence of the interactive online experience as a means of effectively anywhere to anywhere, anyone to anyone communications capability, and of direct connection media has brought change to his basic message, but mostly by making it more compellingly direct and meaningful and for all of us, than McLuhan himself could have ever imagined, with a myriad of media channels: standard and generic, and customized and personalized to the tightly defined demographic and even to the individual, all competing for our attention, and all of the time. No wonder, staid and taken for granted and at least a bit sclerotic tends to get at least somewhat lost in all of that! And that circumstance is just going to become more and more likely in the coming years too.

A business that needs to break out of such a rut has to be able to see a need for that and it has to actually do so, and through specific actions that they can bring into focus for specific prioritization, planning and execution. They need, baring disruptive insight from among their own ranks and a capacity to recognize and develop that, at least a basic outside role model that they can build towards and make their own in the process. And they need a willingness to actually take the risks involved in stepping out into what for them is the unknown, to actually do this: and in the face of resistance and friction and misunderstanding on the part of those who are afraid of change and its impact on them in the business, and its possible impact on the business as a whole too. And this brings me directly to Point 2 from the above to-address list. I will continue this discussion in a next series installment with that. Then after completing a discussion of that topic point and Point 3, I will turn back to reconsider startups and how they can face challenges attempting to use disintermediated marketing approaches such as gorilla and viral marketing, with consideration of both potential problems and potential opportunities that can arise there.

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

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century – 1

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on November 9, 2017

This is my 26th installment to what has become an ongoing series of postings in which I seek to address politics in the United States as it has become, starting with the nominations process leading up to the 2016 presidential elections. See my series: Donald Trump and the Stress testing of the American System of Government, as can be found at Social Networking and Business 2, posting 244 and loosely following.

This can also be considered to represent my 55th installment to an ongoing series that I have been offering here concerning Xi Jinping and his still emerging and expanding leadership role in China. See China and Its Transition Imperatives, as it can be found at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, as postings 154 and loosely following. I began writing about Xi in this series after his elevation to a position of supreme leadership in the Communist Party of China and of China’s government and military.

I began thinking and writing about Trump and his effort to achieve national prominence and power in the United States before his nomination as a Republican Party candidate, and well before his election to power, as addressed in my above cited series. And in a similar manner I began following Xi’s rising career path from before his ascension to supreme power in China too. And since Trump’s assuming power as the president of the United States I have written a few postings to each of the above cited series that in fact at least selectively discussed both of these people. But I have been thinking of the points of similarity and of contrast that they present to the world and I have been considering for months now, the possibility of writing about these two men in that vein, and in a more systematic manner than I have up to now. I at least begin doing so here, in this series-joining installment.

I fully expect to continue both of those series, each with basically their same original area of focus and each with their own separate narrative line. But here and for purposes of this posting and with our current, as of this writing context as it is, I begin to write of where those narratives of necessity have to overlap. And I begin doing so with Xi Jinping and with China, at a point in time in which Xi is beginning to fulfill what might be his ultimate political goal: that of becoming the next Great Helmsman in the all but deified image and stature of Mao Zedong himself. Then after offering this posting as a discussion of him, I will follow it with a next dual-series installment in which I will focus on Trump and will offer some thoughts comparing and contrasting the two. But first Xi and China, and I begin consideration of him with the one valid point of comparison for him in China and its history that I could turn to here: Mao Zedong.

Mao, as I have noted before in this blog, is still revered in China in a way and to a degree that overshadows any positive regard in the United States for any of that country’s founding fathers. But at the same time, and with Mao’s disastrous excesses through protracted events such as his Cultural Revolution, China’s senior Party and government leadership have actively sought to prevent any one individual from ever again rising to the level of limitlessly uncontrolled power there, that defined both Mao and his image, and Mao and his government.

A key element of that can be found in what up to now have become firmly entrenched term limits and upper age limits for positions of great power. And supreme leadership of their Communist Party, and of its centrally controlling Politburo Standing Committee, and through that of their national government and their military has been particularly controlled and time-limited in this manner. Their supreme leader cannot, according to this pattern of precedent and expectation, serve in that position for more than two five year terms, at which point they would be expected to in effect, retire from active service.

That has not meant former supreme leaders disappearing; several have in effect become behind the scenes power brokers and advisors. But it has meant their once-power being turned over to the hands of successors who in general guard their newly endowed power prerogatives jealously and who make their own decisions there. And a leader who seeks out their second term in supreme power has, since the end of the Mao era, always announced their choice of a possible (probable) successor as part of the panoply and pageantry of their being reelected to their office for their second (and last) term by the Party elite. They themselves are expected to formally begin the succession process that would replace them with this announcement.

It might be argued that I jumped to conclusions prematurely for Xi but I have already stated here and for many months now, that not only would he be reelected to that second term (which was obvious), but that he is likely to run for and serve an unheard of third term too. It is very recent news as I write this, that Xi Jinping has been reelected for that second term. But he did not in any way name or even suggest a favored successor in that, or even the possibility of such a successor for when his second term approaches its end. That omission is in fact, probably one of the two most important details to come out of this otherwise largely stereotypically scripted, staged showcase event. The second of those crucial details is one that I have seen touched upon in the news in passing but without real, at least publically discussed attention paid to its overriding significance. And I will end my at least initial discussion of Xi for purposes of this series with a discussion of that event.

The New York Times, to cite one of many possible news sources, made note of what at first glance might seem to be more of an honorific bestowed, than anything else in their October 25, 2017 news story:

China’s ‘Chairman of Everything’: Behind Xi Jinping’s Many Titles.

Mao held the title of Core Leader: an honorific that in effect designated him as representing the living heart and soul of China and of Chinese Communism incarnate. Since then, only two others have been granted that title: Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin. But they were only awarded this honorific as they formally agreed to leave power and as they were doing so, making this “advancement” more of a retirement gift than anything else – like awarding a long-term employee a gold watch upon their retiring and for good from a business. But this was Mao’s title and now Xi has been awarded it when he is going to be staying on in a position of supreme power and with nothing in place that might indicate any end to that. That difference makes this honorific more than just an empty if appreciative title.

I fully expect to see Xi Jinping take on the fuller mantle of Mao with his being awarded two other titles that up to now at least, only Mao himself has achieved: Chairman of the Communist Party (which he in fact already is in practice) and State Chairman. Xi was explicitly addressed as China’s Helmsman when being reelected, in keeping with Mao’s special title of Great Helmsman. But shared special titles only constitutes a small portion of what Xi Jinping and his predecessor Mao Zedong hold in common:

• Both assiduously cultivated cults of personality to create widespread admiration and support throughout China and across its many peoples. And both have achieved dramatically greater success in this than have any other head of state since the founding of the Peoples’ Republic of China. This means building what can amount to an unassailable power base.
• Both just as assiduously and systematically have rooted out and destroyed any potential opponents in their rise to power. Mao used both mass purges and show trials that made special examples of particular enemies, and Xi has pursued a largely similar course with his anti-corruption campaigns, among other competition limiting initiatives.
• Both collected titles as suggested above, and Xi already has amassed more of them than any of his predecessors in power in China since Mao himself. But more importantly, both cultivated positions of direct power and direct influence in all potential power bases with each of those titles representing mastery over one more of them, with that including China’s Communist Party, their government, their manufacturing sectors, and for Xi their growing private sector, as well as a host of specific power centers within these larger entities.
• And both Mao and Xi proved themselves to be ruthlessly systematic and calculating in all of this. I have posed this bullet pointed list in the past tense in honor of Mao, but all that I cite here represents Xi’s still emerging present too and his likely pattern of decision and action moving forward as well.

I could cite any of a large number of recent news stories that highlight aspects of this set of claims. But I chose to limit myself to sharing one such news piece here, that reflects how Xi has taken his second term reelection as a renewed starting point for building and consolidating his power from:

China Sets Date for Major Communist Party Reshuffle.

Xi Jinping really is in the process of rebuilding the Communist Party of China of today and tomorrow in his own image, much as Mao did in his day. And this brings me to the last point that I would raise here. Xi also has Donald Trump as a perhaps unwilling asset, but nevertheless as a very real one. I have discussed the problems and challenges that China has faced for a number of years now in this blog, with their Party and government corruptions and inefficiencies and with their fractured economy. Ultimately centrally controlled command economies that are ideologically driven cannot successfully compete and endure. If Donald Trump has done nothing else in his foreign “policy” it has been to create a power vacuum that has taken a tremendous amount of pressure off of both Xi as an individual, and China as a nation. He has opened the door for China to more fully lay claim to what amounts to ownership of the South China Sea and the East China Sea and all of their resources. Trump has opened the door for China to claim strength and hegemony in many directions, with that including China more effectively glossing over its economic weaknesses and failures as Xi has sought out and pursued all possible opportunities for him to fill those power vacuum gaps that Trump has created. And in that regard I offer one more news story reference here, switching discussion from a Xi perspective to a Trump one:

Trump Heads to Asia with an Ambitious Agenda but Little to Offer.

The power vacuum from the West continues on. And with this point raised, I turn to more explicitly consider Donald Trump in this series. And in anticipation of that, I note how the Trump administration has been hamstrung by largely self-inflicted chaos since its beginning and that it is increasingly attempting to function under a cloud of possible impeachment charges. So the differences between Xi and Trump are fairly clear at least in broad outline here. But the points of similarity between these two men bear noting too.

I will turn to that set of issues in my next, here dual-series installment. Meanwhile you can find my Trump-oriented series at Social Networking and Business 2 as noted above, and my Xi-oriented series at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation.

Rethinking national security in a post-2016 US presidential election context: conflict and cyber-conflict in an age of social media 5

Posted in business and convergent technologies, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on November 6, 2017

This is my 5th installment to a new 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, postings 354 and loosely following for Parts 1-4.)

I have been addressing change in this series, and disruptive change, and in both the positive sense of improving and expanding the information technology and communications systems that we rely upon, and on the downside vulnerabilities side that these innovations bring with them too. And I have also and in that same context, been addressing how many of us, and both as individuals and as participants in organizations, keep failing to even address old and known cyber-risks and even when effective means are readily available to patch them. I add that that circumstance continues to hold, even when effective risk reducing measures are readily and even freely available and when warning signs are developing that those risk sources are being systematically exploited already.

I begin this series installment by citing some recent news pieces that might focus in on specific events and specific organizations, but that hold warning for all. The three news stories that I would cite here, address very different seeming events, but I would argue that they hold more in common than might be apparent, as explicit examples of realized vulnerabilities to the issues that I raise in this series. So I offer them with that point in mind:

Identity Thieves Hijack Cellphone Accounts to Go After Virtual Currency,
Equifax Says Cyberattack May Have Affected 143 Million in the U.S. and
Every Single Yahoo Account Was Hacked – 3 billion in all.

Focusing in on the last of these three as a starting point for follow-up discussion of these events, I note that at its peak, Yahoo was valued at just over $100 billion as a company. It has lost value since then, over a period of some 15 years and for a variety of reasons. But this event had to have contributed to its level of devaluation from that high point, as of when Verizon bought out Yahoo – for only $4.8 billion. Not to belabor the obvious, that sale price was less than 5% of Yahoo’s peak value and even then, right now Verizon executives must be thinking that they still paid way too much for what they got.

And turning to the first two of those news stories: the first of them simply adds to already existing concerns as to the safety and reliability of virtual and crypto-currencies such as bitcoin. And this successful hacking of the Equifax database system, with the loss of control over personal confidential records for so many: records with data in them that can be used for identity theft, has become an all but existential threat to that organization as a whole: one of the three major credit reporting agencies globally.

And this brings me to the core point that I would raise here in this posting, which I offer here in the form of a brief set of bullet points:

• The more globally interconnected we all become, and both in general
• And through the elaboration of specific organization-to-organization information sharing and communications channels,
• And through the elaboration of deeper and more pervasive organization-to-individual and individual-to-organization data sharing,
• The more difficult it becomes to both prevent security breaches there,
• And the larger they can expect to become when and as they do arise.

Quite simply, a malicious hacker does not have to be able to breach any and all possible points of connection and entry into an organization to steal or suborn the keys to its information holding kingdom. They only have to find one route in that they can identify and exploit system vulnerabilities through. And if that represents a source of vulnerability that would not readily raise red flags if probed and exploited, so much the better for the hacker and so much the worse for all of the rest of us. And one of the core consequences of the above bullet pointed observations, is that every one of these new technologies created both new points of connection and new types of points of connection: each potentially having within them their own set of still to be discovered zero-day vulnerabilities.

• Ultimately, it is our race to ubiquitous connectivity and our race to build newer and better tools and approaches for achieving that, that become our truest vulnerability here. And the pace of technological advancement in all of this, with its steady flow of new and of disruptively novel and different, simply represents the new area of an already large map for where to look, when seeking to protect and safeguard all of those communications and information systems that we have come to absolutely rely upon.

I want to be as clear as possible here. I am NOT in any way espousing a turning back from the emerging technologies of the 21st century. Their positive value is way too great, for blocking or even just significantly limiting them as a general cutting-off due diligence measure to make sense, and ultimately for any of us. What I am proposing here is that we need to find better, more real-time effective, more resilient and more consistently followed approaches to safeguarding these systems and the resources they contain so they cannot so readily be turned against us for malicious reasons. And I am writing of a need for greater resiliency and flexibility in the systems that we do have in place, so we can more rapidly and effectively expand them to accommodate new challenges and their security needs.

I have written in this series, among other places, about how any such solution has to include new types of technology components in its coverage. But at least as crucially importantly, it has to have human, and human behavior accommodating (and shaping) components too. I am going to continue discussing the issues and challenges and problems faced here in this posting, but I am also going to at least begin to more explicitly address approaches for resolving them in my next installment to this series.

I wrote at the end of Part 4 that I would:

• “Discuss threats and attacks themselves in the next installment to this series. And in anticipation of that and as a foretaste of what is to come here, I will discuss trolling behavior and other coercive online approaches, and ransomware. After that I will at least briefly address how automation and artificial intelligence are being leveraged in a still emerging 21st century cyber-threat environment. I have already at least briefly mentioned this source of toxic synergies before in this series, but will examine it in at least some more detail next.”

I will explicitly discuss those issues next. Then after more fully discussing the problems faced that I have been examining here, I will turn to consider approaches for better addressing these challenges. And in anticipation of that, I note that:

• On the human side of this conundrum, that has to mean shaping effective information security enhancing options that mesh with basic human behavior and with what we tend to do by default. And that challenge is daunting.
• And on the technology side, this means trying to stay at least one step ahead on the white hat hacker side, in the technology arms race that we are in here, vying effort to secure and safeguard against effort to breach and challenge,
• And all while making legitimate system usage easy and in accordance with the “human side of this” challenge as just noted.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 continuation. And you can also find this and related material at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1.

On the importance of disintermediating real, 2-way communications in business organizations 5

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 31, 2017

This is my fifth 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 1-4.)

A topic of the type addressed in this series, cannot be addressed and even just with marginal adequacy if all possible participants in the communications under consideration are thought of as if interchangeable nodes. Their goals and priorities, and their assumptions and presumptions, and their details in at least categorical terms have to be taken into account too, as they shape both what they share in those communications, and as they variously interpret and understand the messages that they receive. So I have been addressing different and even fundamentally differing stakeholder groups in this series narrative, and certainly from its Part 2.

I concluded an at least preliminary discussion of a set of both in-house and within-business, and external but still significantly involved stakeholder groups, as would be considered as distinct categorical types, in Part 4, with an at least brief orienting discussion of outside regulatory voices and their agency in shaping business activity and its outcome. And I concluded that posting with the following anticipatory note as to what I would follow that with, at least starting here in this posting:

• “I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will consider communications within businesses, and both along and across the table of organization.”

I then added that I will “also delve into the issues of publically traded companies communicating with shareholders, where traditional annual reports and legal document formatted stockholder reports and updates are only one approach that can be pursued – and particularly in an increasingly ubiquitous interactive online, social media driven context. Too many businesses still communicate at their stockholders as if they still lived in a pre-internet world and in too many ways and with too many limiting presumptions. That can be improved upon and it has to be for 21st century businesses.”

I begin all of that here with the above repeated bullet point formatted to-address point, and internal communications, within the organization. And I begin addressing that by directly challenging a basic assumption that might be construed from how I have divided stakeholder types, categorically in this series.

When you organize and discuss an assemblage of stakeholders into distinct categories and according to a perhaps brief set of group-defining features, it can be easy to at least tacitly assume that all members of those groups are in some sense stereotypically consistent and similar within their assigned group. But ultimately, that cannot hold true as individuals always see and hear and understand and act upon what they gain from communications received, through the shaping filters of their own personal experience and their own knowledge and understanding and their own priorities.

I add with that point noted, that I explicitly challenged any presumed homogeneity in Part 4, of the specific category of “outside regulatory” stakeholders, when I divided it into more finely defined subgroups, which themselves are complex and varied for membership in any real-world case in point examples that might be cited here. But even then and with more explicit subgroups in place, you still have to allow for the unexpected as different individual members of those more refined groups might differ and even fundamentally in how they would participate as individual stakeholders: each with their own goals, purviews and perspectives. For regulatory stakeholders that means specific regulatory agencies with their individual charters and their own ranges of activity and authority. But it also, and at least as significantly means individual people who function in those agencies and make the binding decisions and take the specific actions pursued in their name.

I begin this posting’s discussion here in-house, and with communications that take place there. I will follow that line of discussion with a case in point example of business communications with a specific generally stated external stakeholder group: shareholders in a publically traded company, as noted above. But let’s begin all of that with the “perhaps simpler” context of strictly in-house communications, where everyone involved is working full time at a single same business, and where everyone can legitimately claim that their personal success and certainly long-term as employed individuals, rests at least in part on the long-term success of that business.

I wrote a brief series in 2013, titled The Importance of Taking Ownership in Your Work and Your Business, on the importance of taking a more proprietary sense of pride and responsibility in what we do professionally in our jobs and careers and regardless of equity ownership stakes held or not (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3, posting 445 and following for Parts 1-7.) And I in fact have at least briefly touched upon this set of issues on a number of occasions in this blog, and both from the perspective of the employee who takes pride in the quality of their work, and from the perspective of the manager and owner who should respect the people who work for them, and value their critically important contributions towards making that business succeed. One of my early postings to this blog, going back to 2010 was, for example: Building a Sense of Ownership and Responsibility into Business Operations and Processes, and into Core Business Culture.

The reason why I wrote those postings, and more along the same line as well, is simple. Employers, and business leaders and senior managers too, can and all too often do come to confuse height of position along a table of organization with value to the organization, and even with their intrinsic value as people. I repeat here an oft-repeated mantra that I have recurringly made note of in my writing and in my business practice, that all of my working life has proven to be true:

• The single most valuable asset that most any business has or can have, is its dedicated, skilled employees and managers, and from their non-managerial hands-on employees who do the vast majority of the work of the business, on up. Automation might shift that balance of value at some future point, but it hasn’t up to now and will not through any readily foreseeable future, and certainly not in general. The single most valuable asset that most any business has, really is its people.

But this is often overlooked, leading to friction and resistance, and inefficiencies for all concerned. Different in-house stakeholders and even relatively broadly defined stakeholder groups then come to view the business that they work for differently and even very differently, and certainly for how they see themselves as having a stake in the business and for now they see the business having a stake in them and their success too. To highlight a specific, though very relevant point of example there, to bring that point out of the abstract, I cite another posting that I added to this blog early on in its assembly:

Downsizing and Mass Lay-Offs as a Symptom of Strategic Failure.

Look to virtually any business that has a strong and vocal union presence, and you will probably have identified an enterprise where different stakeholders take very different positions as to whether or not their place of work employer, supports them and their interests. Though they might in fact hold essentially identical views with their managers on whether they can and should take ownership pride in the business they work for.

The first thing to leave a business when a downsizing is first announced is trust, and from people working there at all levels from the newest entry level hires on up: trust in their employer valuing them and their contributions there. And this creates division and divisiveness and fundamental disparities as the social contract of employers supporting the business and the business supporting them, collapses.

Up to here, I have addressed the issues of unions and management from a strictly stakeholder-categorical perspective. But individual member differences arise within stakeholder categories too, and even in as polarized a context as under consideration here. Just considering the union side to this here, I have seen unions in effect throw entire job categories that have been included in their organizations, and all of the people who hold those jobs, under the bus in labor negotiations. As a consequence, many and in fact most members of those unions see their own salary and benefits increased or at least held steady coming out of those negotiations, but at the expense of some of their now former fellow union members, who had paid their dues and supported their union just like them, being abandoned as expendable bargaining chips.

Disparities of this type always arise in context of differences and inconsistencies in how the stakeholder groups involved, see and value their individual members, and in the context of differences and disparities in who among them can and do get to communicate their positions and their causes in any decisions that would be made concerning them.

I have intentionally framed this in extreme terms, but the basic outcomes that I write of there, have come to hold true in general and even absent more extreme dislocating events such as downsizings.

How does this apply to the context of this series? What I write of here is a context where differences can and do arise and both between in-house stakeholder groups and within them as well, where for example different hands-on employees might see different pro and con value when considering possible union action, depending on their precise individual positions in the business.

I am going to discuss how hiring and employment trends, with an ongoing erosion of long-term employment with a single employer, are expanding the diversity in view and judgment that you find in-house. And I will move on from there, citing this posting and that start to the next as a source of examples as to how the nature of business systems friction is changing, and as a commonly recurring pattern and in many industries. Then after concluding my in-house oriented narrative here, at least for purposes of this series, and that more general explanatory model for understanding it, I will turn to consider the external stakeholder example noted earlier in this posting: shareholders in a publically traded company.

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

Finding virtue in simplicity when complexity becomes problematical, and vice versa 6

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on October 23, 2017

This is my sixth installment to a brief series on simplicity and complexity in business communications, and in 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 1-5.)

I began discussing business communications processes and practices in Part 4 and Part 5 of this series, in terms of how they would fit into and support business needs. And to be more specific here, I did so in terms of an organizing model for thinking about and understanding business processes and practices, that aligns them along a very specific type of spectrum, that runs from:

• Type 1 business processes that are essentially rote-standardized and for what is done and how and by whom, and with what expected inputs and outputs, through to
• Type 2 business processes that have to explicitly accommodate change and even explicit uncertainty – and that can even be in place and use in order to help the business to flexibly accommodate change.

I briefly discussed both these endpoint types as well as more intermediary possibilities in Part 5: processes and practices that are not entirely routine and standardized and that are not entirely change-driven either, but that have to be able to accommodate elements of both. And then at the end of Part 5, I made note of a point that would probably be obvious by now to anyone more actively following this series: I have been writing about these issues here, in an almost entirely abstract manner and without specific referencing consideration of any particular examples, and either for specific businesses or for specific functional areas or activities within them.

I stated at the end of Part 5 that I would address that gap here, at least beginning to take the issues raised up to here out of the abstract. And I do so by citing a type of example that I have dealt with many times in my own professional career, and both from working with and running such resources and for accessing them as a service customer: in-house Information Technology department help desks. I add in anticipation of what is to follow, that virtually all that I will offer here in the way of detail and analysis applies to outwardly facing and interacting customer service and support desks too. But to keep this simpler for how I phrase what follows, I will express this posting in terms of the one type of working example.

• Information Technology help desks service the needs of essentially everyone and anyone in their business organization, where questions and issues might arise regarding the computers, tablets, handhelds and other information technology or communications hardware in use, that is provided or supported by the business for business use, as well as computer network and login issues regarding online connectivity through in-house systems such as intranets, and through the more general internet, or through more protected outwardly connecting channels (e.g. virtual private networks (VPNs).) And they generally hold as wide-ranging a responsibility for business-provided and supported software in use there, as they do for hardware or networking capability supported. This means that help desk personnel at least collectively have to be able to address and resolve problems and issues that cover a tremendously wide array of separate areas of professional expertise. And this range is only expanded when cyber security is added to the just-offered list, where this has to enter into all of the areas of possible activity and impact listed there.
• I have at times in this blog, noted how some 90% or more of the work tickets that are opened for resolving help desk requests, generally fit into a “top 10” or “top dozen” list of recurringly common problems. And to cite an obvious entry for most businesses and for most “top” lists that their help desk personnel could compile, I cite the questions that arrive regarding new and lost passwords, and helping people login to their computers, their email, and any of a wide range of other resources (e.g. their intranet account, or the online message sharing group set up there for some committee that they have just been assigned to.)
• But let’s set aside the issues of how common or rare a particular type of help desk request is. In principle, a well run help desk has to be prepared for the rarer outliers too. And I have to add in this context, that a once rare outlier can suddenly become a recurring challenge and for many reaching out to that help desk, and particularly if some area of the business has just found itself facing a single point of failure or other sudden disruptively challenging event. So for purposes of this discussion, I would set the commonest recurring problems faced and the more outlier, “long tail” events that also arise on an equal footing and as holding an event-type by event-type, equal value and significance.
• Some of the problems that arise and to a level of significance as to prompt a call to the help desk are going to be more type 2 in nature, to cite my above-repeated scale and its endpoint terminology. And given the change and the uncertainty that would be expected there, that is to be expected and even routinely so and certainly for businesses that have significant numbers of type 2 processes, and systems dependent on them, to contend with. But more problematically, some will involve more genuinely type 1 processes too.
• These are tightly structured processes that should in principle be all but bullet proof against breakdown. So when one of them does break for a user and to a degree that calls for corrective help, that should raise a red flag. Either at least some aspect of this process is broken, or training for using it is. And if several calls suddenly start coming into the help desk regarding the same or very similar issues for what should be a type 1 process or set of them, that can only mean one thing: the business is facing an emerging disruptive problem such as a single point of failure, or a tipping point has been reached where what should be a slow breakdown, has reached a point of no return from not having been preemptively addressed soon enough.

This line of discussion addresses the What issues that I would raise here. Now let’s consider the communications issues that go into smoothly and efficiently identifying and understanding all of this, and knowing when even a seemingly routine “top 10” help request might really represent the tip of the iceberg of what is actually a more complex and serious problem. And with that, I turn back to a point that I made earlier in this posting about the complexity and diversity of what a large help desk covers, technologically and how this calls for a wide diversity of expertise and of information technology specialists. And all of them have to be able to effectively communicate with each other and even when they tend to use differing jargon: differing specialized terminology in their separate areas of expertise.

• Long tail, rare events happen and with time are guaranteed to do so, and the same can be said for disruptively emergent problems and challenges.
• The true measure of how well a help desk is run, and of how effectively it functions, is not in how quickly and efficiently it handles its flow of known and expected “top” list help requests. It is in how quickly and effectively that help desk identifies and clarifies and resolves the less individually predictable problems that it is called upon to help with, and with all of the help desk ticket escalations and all of the less routine communications that enter into resolving them too.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will address speeding up and disintermediating help desk communications, and particularly when a business and its information systems users confront the disruptively unexpected, with all of the non-standard features and requirements that that brings. And I will also pick up on and discuss customer service and support desks, as cited in passing above as a source of working examples, in order to more fully discuss this series’ set of issues. I add in anticipation of that, that I will explicitly consider how the issues of this series play out when services such as Information Technology help desks, and Sales and Marketing supportive customer services are maintained and run in-house and when they are outsourced.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its Page 2 continuation. And also see my series: Communicating More Effectively as a Job and Career Skill Set, for its more generally applicable discussion of focused message best practices per se. I offer 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.

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 4

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 1, 2017

This is my fourth 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 1-3.)

I initially made note in Part 2 of this series, of two specific business scenarios:

• A new, young, small startup that seeks to leverage its liquidity and other assets available as creatively and effectively as possible, and from its day one when it is just starting to develop the basic template that it would scale up from,
• And a larger, established business that has become at least somewhat complacent and somewhat sclerotic in the process, and with holdover systems and organizational process flows that might not reflect current actual needs or opportunities faced.

And I focused, and certainly in Part 3, on the second, larger and more established business type, under consideration here.

The first of these business scenarios is relatively obvious and intuitively so by comparison. New, small businesses have very little in the way of liquidity and either for reserves or for more immediate day-to-day operations, marketing included. So anything that they could do, that would favorably extend their marketing reach and their overall name and brand recognition would be for the good. Bringing marketplace participants into this effort, with their personal name recognition in their circles of friends and acquaintances, and as supporters and endorsers of a new business would be all but invaluable to that enterprise in helping it gain traction, and market share and more quickly than they could ever achieve on their own. So gorilla and viral marketing, as supported by the always connected, anywhere to anywhere of online social media, are obvious and increasingly essential resources – disintermediating the marketing process by eliminating third party publishing gatekeepers and directly connecting with and collaborating with the marketplace itself.

That is simple and straightforward. So I focused in Part 3 on the second scenario, which is much less so, where I offered an intentionally planned out digression into how these businesses are structured and into how they function per se. Why did I do that? My goal for this posting is to at least briefly explain that, and to complete this background foundation-building note, if for no other reason.

Let’s begin with that first, simple startup and early stage business example, as a point of comparison for what is to follow here. I just noted that they have little liquidity available, and either for reserves and for dealing with possible set-backs, or for maintaining their ongoing day-to-day activities with the expenses involved there. This is true, and essentially by definition for such enterprises and even if they do have outside investor backers as that type of funding can get burned through very quickly if it is not carefully managed and if its use is not stringently limited. But for purposes of this discussion, it is more important to note that with very small headcounts and with more direct communications throughout the organization, organizational systems are simple and direct and the effective table of organization, as actually followed operationally can be relatively flat and even entirely so for a variety of business functions and purposes.

Gorilla and viral marketing approaches can be viewed as simply following this same basic approach, and both as a necessity and as a source of opportunity, while limiting expenses in direct cash and in timing-delay forms. A larger and more established business might have greater reserves and larger and more reliably established cash flows that could be used in support of ongoing business activity. But more importantly here, they are also essentially certain to have much more complicated organizational structures with many, many more organizational layers and a much more complex and settled system of distinct supervisory and management led teams – and with all of the partitions that this creates, and barriers to smooth and friction-free communications and decision making. And I stress here that the boundaries separating these partitioned off table of organization layers, and the presence of all of those separate groups within the organization all offer opportunity for business friction with reduced and slowed down communications, and with all of the adverse consequences that this can create and certainly where a business seeks to be agile and resilient in the face of possible change. This impacts upon both internal, within-business communications, and on externally facing and connecting marketing and related communications efforts too.

One of the foundation-building observations that I made in this series and early on in it, which I repeated at the start of this installment, is that “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.” Here is where that becomes explicitly important:

• It cannot make a positive, value creating or enhancing difference to disintermediate and simplify operational processes and the communications that enable them in one area of a business (e.g. in marketing), if that more streamlined subsystem fits into and works within a larger overall business that is overly complex and bogged down with business systems friction and related inefficiency-producing barriers that undo any possible benefit so gained.

Small businesses such as startups and early stage businesses can find it a lot easier to make options and approaches such as gorilla and viral marketing work for them, because they do not attenuate and lose any potential value advantage so gained in a veritable swamp of overall inefficiency and delay, which can arise and certainly as a worst-case situation.

• And with that type of change management requiring example in mind, I note that simply adding in or attempting to add in new and exciting innovations such as gorilla and viral marketing, and without reviewing and correcting the inefficiencies and disconnects that this would have to work through, cannot help.

In a more normative context, with fewer and much less severe slow-downs and their inefficiencies, any advantage from directly connecting into the marketplace and with real participants there, can still easily be attenuated away and lost to the business – with that leaving dissatisfied members of those marketplace communities, when and as their efforts to positively communicate with the business seem to drift off into the twilight zone.

And with this offered as background material for thinking through these two business types, I return to the types of issues that I raised towards the top of this posting regarding how and why they would turn to approaches such as gorilla and viral marketing. And I pose two questions that I will at least begin to address in my next series installment, which I raise here in anticipation of what is to come:

• How best can an established business that is set in its more traditional ways, break that perhaps long-established pattern to bring in innovative new approaches such as disintermediated marketing?
• And how can such a business make this work for them, and in ways that do not simply leave any value potential created, lost in the complexities of the rest of the business?

In anticipation of this, and addressing these questions, I add in one more, as a point of orienting focus:

• Can an established and even at least somewhat sclerotic business use the introduction of new and different, such as gorilla or viral marketing as a starting point for reinvigorating and updating the business as a whole, and if so, how?

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

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