Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 32 – the jobs and careers context 31

This is my 32nd installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-31.)

I have been successively addressing each of a set of workplace issues and challenges that can arise for essentially anyone who works sufficiently long-term with a given employer, that I repeat here in list form (with appended links to where I have discussed them) for smoother continuity of narrative:

1. Changes in tasks assigned, and resources that would at least nominally be available for them: timeline allowances and work hour requirements definitely included there (see Part 25 and Part 26),
2. Salary and overall compensation changes (see Part 27),
3. Overall longer-term workplace and job responsibility changes and constraints box issues as change might challenge or enable you’re reaching your more personally individualized goals there (see Part 28),
4. Promotions and lateral moves (see Part 29),
5. And dealing with difficult people (see Part 30 and Part 31).

And while all of these issues can arise and can need to be addressed in combination with others on the list, they can also all be seen as separate and distinct jobs and careers issues that can call for largely separate negotiations to resolve. I have in fact discussed them separately up to here as more stand-alone topics. But I added one more issue: one more increasingly common challenge to this list that of necessity involves all of the above, simultaneously, and more. And that is:

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

I added this example of a negotiations-requiring workplace situation last on this list, because navigating this type of challenge as effectively as possible, calls for skills in dealing with all of the other issues on this list and more, and with real emphasis on Plan B preparation and planning, and on its execution too as touched upon in Part 23 and again in Parts 30 and 31. And my goal here is to at least begin a discussion as to how you might better approach this challenge or its possibility. And as a starting point that means more clearly stating what downsizings are, as cause and effect driven processes.

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

I begin this first step discussion for addressing the above Point 6 by acknowledging that I have personally been caught up in two downsizings so I write from direct experience here, and not simply from the perspective of abstract principles. And I have seen them play out when I was not an in-house employee or manager too. And that perhaps-relevant piece of my own workplace experience shared, I begin this posting’s main line of discussion by at least briefly outlining some of the details of the heart of this challenge itself: what downsizings are and what leads to them.

• In principle, this is simple and straightforward. Essentially any business that grows in scale beyond that of a single proprietor owner has at least some hands-on working, non-managerial employees. And as a business grows in scale it generally takes on managers who supervise them and coordinate their efforts towards the resolution of larger tasks than any single individual could carry out on their own. And next level up managers come onboard too if this trend towards growth continues. And payroll and benefits expenses can and often do rise in scale and significance to become among the largest ongoing expenses that most businesses face. So if a business has a set-back in its incoming revenue and they have to cut back on their expenses, staff and directly staff-related expenses are usually one of the first possible places considered when cutbacks in expenses paid and due are on the table.
• This can mean last in, first out and certainly in business contexts where seniority of employment has to be taken into account. Businesses with a strong union presence often follow that approach. But this type of retain or let-go determination can also be skills-based, or location based if for example it is decided to close a more peripheral office that might not have been as much of a profit center as desired or expected.
• Downsizings, while more usually driven by revenue and expense imbalances, can also be driven by pressures to phase out old systems and install new ones that might be better fits for the current business model in place. Think of staff reductions there, as they can arise when a business decides to outsource a functional area and its work, making it unnecessary to keep the people who have done that in-house as ongoing employees. To take that out of the abstract with a specific example, there was a time when large numbers of businesses had their own in-house teams for developing and maintaining the more technical side of their websites and online presence. It is now much more common to outsource that type of specialized work to third party providers that only do this type of work and that can more cost-effectively provide these services. And that widespread change in organizational perspective and priorities lead to a significant numbers of downsizings for people who had worked in-house in Information Technology and related departments, and with those businesses shifting their in-house focus there, essentially entirely to a more Marketing and Communications or other content-oriented focus.
• But to be blunt, and I will add a lot more candid than most senior managers are on this, downsizings are not just about cutting down on staff to reduce redundancies and to bring the business into leaner and more effective focus for meeting its business performance needs. Downsizings can also be used as opportunities to cut out and remove people who have developed reputations as being difficult to work with, or for whatever reasons that the managers they report to would see as sufficiently justifying. They are used as a no-fault opportunity for removing staff who do not fit into the corporate culture or who have ruffled feathers higher up on the table of organization and even if they would otherwise more probably be retained and stay.
• People can be and sometimes are fired with cause. But a business that pursues that path needs to be able to back up any such actions with fact and evidence-based reasons that they could offer to justify those dismissals. Otherwise they run a risk of facing unlawful termination law suits, and with a distinct possibility for that happening if they operate in any of a great many legal jurisdictions.
• Downsizings, on the other hand are entirely no-fault in nature, at least as formally defined. They can and do sweep up skilled workers who have proven their value to the organization and who have supportively fit into it and contributed to it. They can and do sweep up people the business would otherwise want to keep on-staff and long term. But downsizings can also be used, and are used to get rid of people who do their jobs and at performance levels that would mitigate against their being fired per se, but who at least someone in management would like to see leave anyway. All such a manager would need there is the cover of their business seeing need to enter into an actual downsizing, for reorganizational purposes.
• The point that I have been leading to in the past three bullet points of this list is simple in principle, even as it is complex and largely opaque in the details of any given actual downsizing events. People are let go for any and usually all of a complex mix of reasons with that including financial need on the part of a business, with that meaning dismissal of good and desired employees, with that meaning reduction in or elimination of functional areas in-house that could more cost-effectively be outsourced, and with that meaning “housecleaning” out employees who while effective at their jobs, do not fit there. And ultimately, all of these decisions are judgment calls on the part of managers who are involved in carrying these actions out. I will come back to this point and its possibilities, later in this series when I begin to discuss negotiations in this context. But to round out this bullet pointed list of downsizing-clarifying points, and to bring this point itself into clearer focus, consider the following scenario: the CEO of a business that has suddenly found itself in severe fiscal stress tells the C level heads of its functional arms on the table of organization that all of their departments and services are going to have to make reductions in scale, sharing the pain. No one service or functional area will simply take the hit there. So word goes down through middle and lower management that they have what amount to quotas to fill, and then they have to choose who is to be let go. If you work there and can see this coming, what can you do and how can you best present and represent yourself if you in fact want to stay working there? That is where your negotiations and your skills at that enter this narrative.

There are of course, more possible reasons and rationales for downsizings that I could have raised in my above list; my above-offered outline of what downsizings are is just a simplified cartoon representation of a more complex and nuanced process that is essentially always riven by pushback and challenge. Just consider my last bullet point and its “share the pain” example. Every senior manager and certainly every C level officer who is challenged to make their share of these cuts will want to argue the case for why their services should be spared, or at least allowed to make smaller cuts.

I will consider at least one more reason for downsizing at all as I continue this narrative, which I will identify here in anticipation of discussion to come. And it is one that I have seen play out first hand so I know from personal observation how real and how impactful it can be. A new, more senior manager who wants to do some personal empire building within their new employer’s systems can use a downsizing and reorganization in their area of oversight responsibility to put their name on how things are done there. Consider this a confrontational career enhancement tactic, and I will discuss it in that context. And consider this as an arena where a prepared skilled employee or manager can negotiate their own circumstances with this type of empire builder too.

And with that noted, I have at least laid out the basic issues leading up to a downsizing here, and the basic issues of who gets swept up in them too. I will continue this discussion in the next installment of this series where I will begin addressing preparation and response options that hands-on employees and managers can use when facing these types of possibilities.

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

Finding virtue in simplicity when complexity becomes problematical, and vice versa 17

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on June 23, 2019

This is my 17th installment to a series on simplicity and complexity in business communications, and on carrying out and evaluating the results of business processes, tasks and projects (see Social Networking and Business 2), postings 257 and loosely following for Parts 1-16.)

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

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

I have in fact turned to consider this particular due diligence and risk management, versus competitive efficiency balancing act in a number of contexts and from a number of perspectives in the course of developing this blog. To be more specific here, I addressed this dynamic in Part 16 of this series from an outside regulatory agency and legal mandate perspective, on the access and control side of that two-sided challenge.

I begin this next installment to that narrative progression, by picking up on a key point of distinction that I have at least made note of in this series but that merits specific attention here. I often find myself writing of strategy and strategic approaches to thinking, planning and executing in a business. I begin here by raising a very basic question, that when more fully addressed, highlights aspects to that set of issues that can easily be overlooked. What, at least in this series’ type of context, is the difference between strategy and tactics?

I would argue that ultimately the most important differences between them are ones of scale. Tactical is essentially always and by definition, here-and-now oriented, and local and immediate in both planning and execution. Strategic automatically means inclusion of a contextually significant combination of two wider-ranging types of considerations:

• Planning and execution along longer timeframes, and/or
• Planning and execution with an active and engaged, and inclusive awareness of the fuller range of interactive scope that decisions and actions in one part of a larger system might have elsewhere in that system.

Business systems are essentially always interconnected, and even when the process flows under immediate tactical consideration in them, cannot be readily connected to each other through the types of direct and immediate dependencies that might for example appear in a project work flow Gantt chart or related planning tool. Slowdowns and related challenges, to express this in terms of possible problematical consequences, can and do arise unexpectedly, and certainly when wider perspective consideration of possible complications as would enter into due diligence-based strategic planning, is not done.

And this leads to a fundamental truth and a fundamental problem: standard operating procedure rapidly becomes rote and routine, and any actual still-ongoing planning that enters into it tends to become tactical, and terse and even essentially pro forma tactical at that. This might not at least seem to matter in general, and certainly when everything is proceeding as (essentially automatically) expected. But change and the unexpected, and from any impactfully significant source, can derail that. So how can you instill looking as if with fresh eyes into the routine and standard? How, in fact can you do this as a matter of more usual practice, even if just as a sampling and reviewing process, and even when a business at least nominally should be prepared for the unexpected and even the disruptively so?

To take the issues that I raise here out of the abstract, I have seen emergency response systems that have come to take way too many things for granted and both for what they look for and for how they normatively operate, just to see unexpected and un-prepared for contingencies and occurrences bring them effectively to a halt, and precisely when they are suddenly most needed. And yes, I have some very specific instances of this in mind as I write this posting and this part of it, that still bother me for their consequences.

• Twenty-twenty hindsight and recriminations do not in fact help there. Better: how can this possibility for what amounts to a fundamental breakdown in capability, be more proactively managed and both to reduce the chances of this type of off-the-rails challenge happening, and to speed up an effective corrective response when the unexpected does happen?

Wider timeframe consideration here, is if anything even more complex for its potential increases in reach and inclusion and both in planning and in targeted execution. This means looking out further in time per se, but it also includes consideration of process lifecycles and related consequentially recurring patterns, and separating them from trending and non-trending but non-recurring patterns. And it means discerning these and related patterns out of the more random background static that arise in the ongoing output of essentially any recurring task as it is successively carried out. Tactical-only, with its here-and-now, more blindered focus does not deal with anything like longer-term patterns, and in its pure form tends to function as if “current” was in a fundamental sense “always.”

Strategic also means looking for possible change events that can have what at least amounts to retroactive impact, and certainly where prior decisions and actions have set up resource bases and process systems related to them, that would now have to be rebuilt and with data and other resources already in place affected accordingly. I focused in large part in Part 16 of this series on regulatory law. First of all, not all legal systems explicitly bar ex post facto laws. And second, even legal systems and jurisdictions that do explicitly bar them can still allow changes in interpretation of existing law as initially legislated and passed, through court decision and case law. And that can still create immediate if not effectively-retroactive pressures to change and correct systems in place.

There, remediation might not mean being fined for actions taken and business practices and processes followed prior to a definitive case law decision that would demand change. But a business might have to be prepared to change and remediate from a previously at least tacitly accepted and even presumed-required prior, to a now demanded new, and very quickly and even where this would mean updating or even fundamentally replacing complex deeply integrated-in systems – such as large parts of the database query and data access systems in place in a big-data accumulating, processing, and using business, and processes in place for making use of data from this critical resource.

I stated at the end of Part 16 that I would turn here to consider the issues of information management from a more strategic perspective, and I have begun doing so here with this more general discussion. I am going to switch directions in my next installment to this series, to more explicitly discuss information management strategy as a specific area of overall business strategy and planning per se. 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 initially offered that with a specific case in point jobs and careers focus, but the approaches raised and discussed there are more generally applicable. You can find that series at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, as its postings 342-358.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 31 – the jobs and careers context 30

This is my 31st installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-30.)

I have been working my way through a to-address topics list since Part 25 that addresses a succession of workplace challenges and opportunities that can and often do arise when working for a business for any significant period of time. And my goal for this posting is to continue that process, completing my discussion, at least for purposes of this series, of Point 5 and continuing my discussion of Plan B approaches as I began addressing in that context. After that I will turn to and discuss Point 6 and both as an important source of relevant issues in its own right and to illustrate how the types of issues and approaches that I have been discussing in this series can and do fit together in real life.

To put what is to come here and what will follow this installment in clearer context, I begin by repeating this topics and issues list as a whole, with parenthetical references as to where I have already discussed its first five points:

1. Changes in tasks assigned, and resources that would at least nominally be available for them: timeline allowances and work hour requirements definitely included there (see Part 25 and Part 26),
2. Salary and overall compensation changes (see Part 27),
3. Overall longer-term workplace and job responsibility changes and constraints box issues as change might challenge or enable you’re reaching your more personally individualized goals there (see Part 28),
4. Promotions and lateral moves (see Part 29),
5. Dealing with difficult people (see Part 30),
6. And negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them. I add this example last on this list because navigating this type of challenge as effectively as possible, calls for skills in dealing with all of the other issues on this list and more, and with real emphasis on Plan B preparation and planning, and on its execution too as touched upon in Part 23 and again in Part 30.

And with that orienting and series-connecting text in place I turn to further consider Plan B approaches, starting with a point of detail that might seem obvious:

• Standard and routine tasks, processes and work flows, as carried out by the people expected to do them, rarely call for negotiations and of any sort, except insofar as it might prove necessary to argue a case against sudden disruptive change. But that exception cannot be expected and certainly very often; most of us never in fact find ourselves having to negotiate that type of scenario and certainly given the day-to-day momentum of simply pursuing and doing business as usual.
• So it can essentially be taken as a given, that when negotiations of some sort are needed as to the what, how and who of work, that means that at least one critically involved stakeholder in an involved part of the business sees need for change and for trying a more non-standard approach, or for reaching agreement on new goals or benchmarks that would be used to gauge and performance track outcomes and results achieved.
• So as soon as a sufficiently compelling need arises so as to make negotiations per se, tenable or even necessary enough to pursue them, the people involved are already facing what might be considered at least something of a Plan B situation: a shift to the less known and the less comfortably familiar of breaking away from normal routines at all. And when I write of Plan B approaches in this series and in this blog as a whole, I am primarily if not exclusively writing of situations where both standard and routine, and the more obvious alternatives to it all would fall by the wayside as not adequately meeting perceived needs.

I briefly outlined an alternative approach that might at least in principle be attempted to avoid a Plan B requirement, and certainly as just specified there, where negotiating an acceptable alternative to whatever would be default, cannot be made to work. And that is a key defining feature of Plan B approaches as more stringently defined here and in my earlier writings to this blog.

I would start to more fully flesh out what I am discussing here as Plan B options, by picking up on and continuing discussion of a tactic that I raised later on in Part 30, and only made note of there for its potential risks:

• The negotiating tactic of selecting, where possible, who you actually have to and get to negotiate with, and certainly when attempting to work with more obvious first choices for this as based on their job titles and positions at the business, could not be made to work.

If you do attempt to work your way around one or more people who are legitimate stakeholders in whatever matters that you would see need to negotiate over, and if they come to see you as having bypassed them because you would not like what they would have to say on that, then you run a significant risk of burning bridges that you might have found useful to have intact, later on. And you will have probably created animosity and of a type that can have radiating impact on your overall reputation there at that employing business, and certainly insofar as you would seek to be viewed as a supportively involved and connected team player.

Circumstances are important there, and both as far as the ongoing actions and decisions and reputations of the people who you would not want to get involved in this are concerned, and in the people who you would turn to as alternatives in this type of negotiating context. As a perhaps obvious example, if the person with a gatekeeper, decision making title and position who you would want to avoid having to negotiate with has a terrible reputation for their short sightedness and their lack of professional capability, and you seek out alternatives who are well respected for getting the right things done, then a lot less harm is likely to arise than if you seek to shift who you would negotiate with in the opposite direction to this.

But regardless of that type of consideration, assume that you and the people who you would prefer to negotiate with and those who you wish to avoid in this are all going to be around at that business, longer-term. And one way or the other you will have to deal with all of these other stakeholders and with their friends there and more, longer-term too.

I note the likely need for what amounts to bridge mending when negotiating around a difficult stakeholder and certainly in this type of longer-term context. And I point out in this context that as soon as I begin taking and proposing a longer timeframe approach to job performance as I do here, I am actually discussing careers and a longer-term career perspective as well.

• Plan B approaches: Plan B strategies and tactics and related negotiating for the long-term, always bring career considerations into your planning and into your follow-through of it. And that is even true, and it can even be particularly true when you find yourself more mentally oriented towards the here-and-now and when you are in the midst of job-level navigating, where that more immediate perspective and its imperatives might be more overtly pressing and attention demanding.

And with that last detail added to this posting’s narrative, I turn to the above repeated Point 6 of the to-address list that I have been working my way through here:

• Negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them, with all of the issues and complications that this type of situation brings with it.

I am going to at least begin to explicitly discuss that complex of issues in my next installment to this series, simply repeating for now, that this represents a type challenge, and a type of opportunity that brings essentially everything that I have been discussing here up to now, into active consideration again. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material.

It’s not who you network connect with, it’s who you actually know and who knows you

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on June 4, 2019

I am in part at least, offering this note as a brief follow-up to a recent posting that I wrote to this blog on social networking strategy, where I focused on better practices for achieving specific goals from your online efforts (see It’s Not Just Who You Network Connect With, It’s How You Network With Them.) And as its title indicates it is objectives and priorities and purpose oriented.

But to round out this opening remark to this posting, I based that posting at least to a significant degree on a particular type of “who to network with” analysis, as developed around the particular individual networking approaches and strategies followed by others who you might try networking with (as outlined by type in a still-earlier posting here: Social Network Taxonomy and Social Networking Strategy.)

• If you want your social networking strategies and the practices that you use in pursuing them to work for you, you need to know how the people who you would network with, think and act there too. You need to know and understand what they would and would not do and what they would and would not favorably respond to when facing the prospects of initiating or continuing an active social networking relationship. You need to be able to mesh the What and How of your networking efforts with the basic strategies that they follow.
• Crucially importantly here, you should reach out to connect with others in ways that fit into their social networking comfort zones, as mapped out by their networking strategies and as demonstrated by any visible networking activities that you can see them carrying out online through the social networking sites that you would reach out to them through. This is certainly important if you intend to achieve your basic goals from your efforts there.

And I in turn offered that posting as an analytically reasoned line of argument in favor of open networking, as a means of finding the right people and being able to actively connect with them as needed. My focus there was on finding people who can help you find and open doors, and the more such doors the better. So if you peel back the layers to this briefly-stated progression of postings, and if you include others that also fit into this same pattern that can also be found at Social Networking and Business 1 and its Page 2 continuation, most of that is in fact grounded in the issues of who to network with, and in open networking per se.

To be clear here, I still see positive meaning and value in what I have successively offered in those and related postings. I have explicitly, directly gained from pursuing the strategies and tactics laid out there.

• I have in fact found people who I have needed to meet professionally through them, with unusual skills and experience that I have needed to tap into, who I would never have learned of let alone met, absent networking help from people who follow the types of open networking strategies that I cite in my above referenced social networking taxonomy posting.
• And I have found the networking reach that I have been able to develop through LinkedIn, to cite a particularly valuable resource here, has been an invaluable source of insight when doing my preparatory homework too, when for example working with and pitching for opportunities to work with businesses as a consultant. I have literally at times, found myself walking into a room to meet with startup founders (to cite one source of possible examples here) where I have been able to uncover information and insight that would be of crucial importance to them concerning what they were doing and seeking to do, but that those founders did not know about. To take that out of the abstract, by way of real world example, there are times when I have learned of and about expected backers who a new venture’s founders were negotiating with, when they were seeking out angel investor support to jumpstart their effort. There, in those instances, I have been able to figure out who they were turning to for that type of support from my networking and from study of the personal profiles that I have been able to see and assemble insight from. I have been able to walk into those meetings knowing that they were in fact were considering that type of move. And I arrived there knowing things about those specific potential backers and their professional backgrounds that the people I was meeting with did not know but would benefit from knowing.

No, that type of value creation from online social networking tools and their use was not and still is not a common situation, and either for me or for any other consultants who I know. But it and similar instances can and do happen and at least eventually for anyone who effectively systematically networks and who approaches that as a source of learning opportunity as well as a source of introductions opportunities. (And yes, it can take real thought as to how or even whether to reveal that type of knowledge, as simply throwing it on the table can easily kill a possible consulting opportunity for how off-putting that might make it. Never, ever come across as not respecting the people who you would work with, and even if you know up-front that they have not done their necessary due diligence – their homework, and even when gaps in what they know and should know would have significant adverse consequences if not addressed and remediated. So share selectively so as to enable conversations and follow-through, and save any further details for later as areas that can be worked on, on the job there.)

So open business oriented social networking can work; it can offer really positive value, and value that can be shared at that, in creating mutually beneficial opportunities. But having acknowledged that, I also find myself looking at the accumulation of social networking “contacts” that cumulatively pile up through processes such as Facebook friending too; I find myself looking at and thinking about that form of open networking too. And to pick up on, and continue a thought expressed in one of my above-cited earlier postings, I find myself thinking …

It’s not just who you network connect with, it’s how you network with them … but it is also really about who you network with too

… and in ways that cannot always simply and automatically be contained or defined by the types of reasoning and strategy that I lay out in postings such as my above cited taxonomy note.

So I find myself writing this as a thought piece on what arguably might be considered the challenge and the trap of Facebook friending, to focus here on that social networking venue, and on networking by the numbers … and even when doing so for explicit strategic and tactical reasons on your own part.

Let’s consider Facebook friending and let’s consider posting to the walls of your contacts on a site such as Facebook, and the consequences and impact of their so posting to yours, as a direct manifestation of how friending works in practice. And let’s at least start with what can rapidly become all but overwhelming Facebook “wall” clutter. Personal home page clutter: “wall” clutter in Facebook terms, can become overwhelmingly impactful and in both your personal home page on a social networking site as a whole, and certainly as essentially all of the social networking pages of people who you might need to connect with become overwhelmed by incessantly steady floods of stuff, as shared by and from others and often simply to share and be seen. And this point of concern certainly applies when that flood of content includes vast amounts of marketing and advertising material that is for the most part both unsolicited and unwanted by any real individual human site member. And yes, I express this in that way because sites such as Facebook, and Facebook in particular appear to have more robo-members: artifactual fake account members, set up for trolling and other message manipulation purposes, than real accounts – and they post and post and post and share and share and share too.

• Developing and maintaining a clear, effectively working focus on what you would network for and how and why, in the face of this deluge of distraction can quickly become impossible,
• And regardless of your intended social networking approach and strategy,
• And certainly when this same type and level of content flood is hitting anyone and everyone who you might want to reach out to, and at least as much as it does your own social networking site home page.

And if you need to reach out to, or find people through really widely open networkers of the type that I cite and discuss in my above-noted social networking taxonomy paper, and even if they actively work to reduce the clutter on their own social networking site pages and show a proportionately lower level of this type of deluge per contact than usual, the increased number of contact that they make can still effectively kill any business oriented social networking strategy for you, and for your contacts too, and for them as well. Clutter, like background static, can kill any intended meaningful signal and essentially every single time, and certainly when and as it comes to effectively overwhelm for its noise to signal intensity.

Can a site such as Facebook offer business networking value? Yes, if you are an advertiser there, and if you can cost-effectively purchase access to a sufficient volume of site members who fit into effectively targeted market demographics that would constitute a viable market for you. And if you do not have reason to feel concerned about a possible downside from coming across as spamming a perhaps large percentage of the people who you do wall post to. But it does not and even fundamentally cannot offer a correspondingly positive value to you if your goal is to actually network there, initiating and cultivating a wide, effective reach of genuine two way conversations out of that effort. And this leaves out essentially all of the types of targeted networking that would go into promoting and advancing your jobs and careers efforts as successively discussed in this blog in my (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development and its Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 continuations.)

It also leaves out a lot of the types of online social networking that you might seek to pursue if you work as an outside consultant, with a small or stand-alone shop, to cite one possible career path where effective online social networking can offer essential value. And it can effectively eliminate at least significant possible sources of value for small business participants too, unless that is they follow a strictly opt-in networking and posting approach with their customers, and if they do not come across as seeking to buy support or positive reviews that might indicate it.

A high volume and scale of business can compensate for these potential downsides for high volume businesses and advertisers, bringing value to Facebook wall sharing to them and even as part of an overly open (e.g. non-opt-in here) networking strategy. But even there, returns on marketing and advertising investment are not going to be guaranteed and they will probably not actually come to match what a Facebook would claim as possible there. And other business social networking participant types cannot always realize anything like corresponding levels of positive value from this.

And with that offered, I return to reframe and complete my works in progress conclusion note for this posting as already offered here in two iterations: once as a posting title and again in bullet pointed italics:

It’s not just who you network connect with, It’s how you network with them … but it is also really about who you network with too, where that can be fundamentally determined by where you online network and their business model and practices.

The title of this posting is “it’s not who you network connect with, it’s who you actually know and who knows you.” And ultimately, if you do not or cannot get this right, you cannot know the people you friend, or otherwise seek to network with and they cannot get to know you. And I finish this posting by acknowledging that Facebook is currently updating their user interfaces and at least some of their business practice details with an at least stated goal of addressing at least some of the challenges that I have raised here. But their basic business model is still centered on monetizing and selling access to their member users’ data and access to their eyeballs. So I do not expect the basic issues that I raise here to change, and certainly not any time soon.

You can find this posting and related material at Social Networking and Business and its Page 2 continuation.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 18: some thoughts concerning how Xi and Trump approach and seek to create lasting legacies to themselves 6

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

This is my 18th installment in a progression of comparative postings about Donald Trump’s and Xi Jinping’s approaches to leadership per se. And it is my 12th installment in that on Trump and his rise to power in the United States, and on Xi and his in China, as they have both turned to authoritarian approaches and tools in their efforts to succeed there.

I focused on Donald Trump and his legacy oriented narrative in Part 14 and Part 15 of this, and have continued from there to correspondingly consider Xi Jinping and his legacy oriented actions and ambitions too:

• In Part 16 with its focus on the mythos and realities of China’s Qing Dynasty during its Golden Age, as a source of visionary legacy defining possibilities,
• And in what has followed, leading up to the reign of Mao Zedong as China’s first communist god emperor, with that narrative thread pointed to at the end of Part 16, and with an initial, more detailed discussion of it continuing on through Part 17.

I began that second narrative thread in 1830’s China as the Qing Dynasty began what became a slow but seemingly inexorable decline that led to its end in 1912 with the abdication of its last emperor: Puyi. And I focused in Part 17 on challenges and responses to them that China and its leadership faced through at least the first decades of that period, that can for the most part be seen as endemically Chinese and as arising from within their nation and their system of governance.

That, I explicitly note here includes my Part 17 discussion of a source of challenge that in all fairness at least originated outside of the country and outside of anyone’s control there, and either individually (as for example through the actions or decisions of an emperor) or collectively (as for example through the actions or decisions of a state bureaucracy that would, or would not function in accordance with the dictates of a more central authority in creating a commonly held, unified response to larger scale societal challenges faced.) That source of challenge consisted of the twin stressors of climate change and of environmental degradation as they adversely impacted upon agricultural productively and the basic food supply that China’s many millions would turn to. The adverse climate changes that I wrote of came from outside of China, or at least from outside of any possible direct human control there, even as they took explicit shape there for how they specifically affected that nation and its peoples. But their government’s failure to effectively respond to this seemingly ever-expanding challenge and in a way that might have at least limited its negative impact, was in fact endemic to the nation and its leadership. That failure of effective systematic response was human created and sustained.

And a great many of the environmental challenges faced, and certainly in China’s agriculturally most important lands, were in effect home grown too and even more so than any climate level changes were. But that only tells one half of this story; I focused in Part 17 on endemically Chinese pieces of the puzzle of what happened to end the Qing Golden Age and bring China as a whole into decline, and I have continued addressing that side of this here too, at least up to now in this posting. But China’s history and certainly since the Qing Dynasty cannot be understood, absent an at least equally complete narrative of and understanding of their relationship with the world around them. And I begin addressing that set of issues with some demographics and with what for purposes of this series and its narrative flow, can best be seen as old and even ancient history.

The Ming Dynasty ruled China from 1368 to 1644, and it was the first ethnically Chinese led dynasty to rule that nation in centuries. And it also proved itself to be the last ethnically Chinese dynasty to rule there, at least if “ethnically Chinese” is construed to mean Han Chinese; the Qing Dynasty that followed it as China’s last hereditary dynasty was led by ethnically distinct non-Han outsiders as well. But this is not the type of outside influence that I would primarily write of here when raising and addressing the issues of foreign influence and impact upon and within China.

Still, officially, according to the Beijing government of Xi Jinping, China currently contains within it 56 separate and distinct ethnic groups as of their Fifth National Population Census of 2000, with Han Chinese accounting for approximately 91.59% of the entire population and with the remaining 55 ethnic groups accounting for the remaining 8.41% (and also see this official government release on China’s 2010 national population census.)

Yes, there are grounds for debate there, where a variety of smaller ethnically distinguishable populations are not afforded separate recognition in those demographics surveys and their accompanying official analyses. And that lack of official recognition means a lack of legal protection of those ethnically distinctive groups and their peoples, as such. But even so, China includes within it a range of ethnic diversity that it does officially recognize and that it does offer officially protected status to, for their unique cultural identities. And the non-Han peoples that emperors of earlier dynasties sprang from, that have in their days ruled over China, have for the most part been assimilated as recognized minority groups in what is now the official 56. And they can be and are seen as belonging to a larger single, overall Chinese citizenry. China’s current government certainly sees matters that way, as is recurringly indicated by their efforts to retain and control and mainstream any and all ethnic diversity within their country, and certainly where that might be seen as representing separation in self identity that might become a push towards some form of independence.

And with that all noted, I raise three crucially important points:

• For all of the official acceptance and inclusion of the official census in China with its 56 culturally and ethnically distinct recognized groups, the Han Chinese are still considered in a very fundamental sense to be the only “true Chinese,” and in a way that members of the other 55 have never been afforded. They have always been seen as being different and other, and even when members of those groups have gained hereditary dynastic leadership over the country as a whole.
• And even as the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party that leads it recognize a controlled measure of diversity in their nation and its overall citizenry, they still consider as a matter of paramount importance that all Chinese citizens and of whatever ethnicity or cultural persuasion must be Chinese first and foremost, and that they must believe and act accordingly and with their primary loyalties aimed towards China’s one government and one Party.
• But at the same time, Han primacy of place as representing the true Chinese people, places very real practical day-to-day and ongoing constraints on what members of the other 55 minority groups can achieve, and both as measured by Party membership and opportunity to join, and by opportunity to advance up the Party’s ranks if allowed in as card carrying members. And these de facto restrictions have impact on status and opportunity in general, and throughout Chinese society. For a particularly striking example of how this plays out in practice, and certainly as of this writing, consider the restricted status and the restrictions on opportunity faced in China by their Uyghur minority today.

I am not addressing the issues of ethnic diversity here as a primary source of us versus them of foreign impact on China. But I offer this discussion thread here in specific preparation for delving into that complex of history and ideas. And I do so because it would be impossible to fully understand that, let alone address it absent a clearer understanding of what “us” means in China with at least an outline awareness of something of the historically grounded nuances that enter into that determination. Are Han and Chinese synonymous? No, but there are contexts where they become close to that, even as Party and government calls upon all Chinese nationals to be Chinese, and effectively entirely so and regardless of ethnicity or local cultural self-identity.

I will come back to reconsider the complex of issues that I have raised and at least briefly touched upon in this posting, later on in this series and its overall narrative, and certainly in the context of Xi’s within-China legacy building ambitions and actions. But for what is to more immediately follow now, I am going to focus on what might be considered true outsiders, some of whom as national and culturally distinct groups are and will remain outsiders and foreign nationals (e.g. European and American trade partners and their governments) and some of which, at least for my earlier historical references to come here, were eventually brought in and assimilated – but with nothing like that possible during the times under discussion. And I begin addressing that by turning at least closer to the beginning in China’s early history.

China has faced challenges from outside peoples and foreign cultures that go back at least as far as the construction of the first sections of fortifications that were eventually incorporated into their Great Wall (their 萬里長城), that were themselves initially built starting as far back as the 7th century BCE. (Construction of the Great Wall of China itself is generally dated as having been started by the historically acknowledged first true emperor of China: Qin Shi Huang (220–206 BCE), expansively building out from those earlier more locally limited protective efforts.) I say “… at least as far back” here because foreign attacks and incursions and even outright invasions, were a scourge to the people of then China for a long time before the building of those early walls and their supporting fortifications.

Stepping back from this China-focused narrative for a brief orienting note: I have written in this blog of Russia’s long history of invasion and threat of invasion and from many directions. See in that regard, my posting Rethinking National Security in a Post-2016 US Presidential Election Context: conflict and cyber-conflict in an age of social media 13, where I lay a foundation for discussing Russia’s current foreign policy and some of the essentially axiomatic assumptions that help to shape it from that nation’s past. Foreign invasion and threat of it have held powerful influence there for a great many centuries now. China is not unique in having faced foreign invasion and threat of it, any more than Russia is, or any of a wide range of other nations and peoples that I could cite here. But this history and this type of history is and has been an important source of influence in shaping China for its ongoing impact and persistence, and certainly over the years that I write of here, from the 1830’s on where threat and possibility became an ongoing reality.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment where I will look at China’s international trade and other relations starting in the Qing Golden Age, and how they spiraled out of Chinese control for their side of all of that as the Qing Dynasty began to fail from its center outward and from its periphery inward. I will of course, continue that narrative thread with an at least brief and selective discussion of the first Republic of China, as formally existed from 1912 until 1949 with its final overthrow at the hands of Mao Zedong’s communist forces. And I will equally selectively discuss the Mao years of his Peoples Republic of China, as he developed and envisioned it as a response to what had come before, and that in turn helped shape Xi Jinping into who he is today, with his legacy goals and ambitions and with the axiomatic assumptions that he brings to all of that.

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

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 30 – the jobs and careers context 29

This is my 30th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-29.)

I have been working my way through a to-address topics list since Part 25 that addresses a succession of workplace challenges and opportunities that can and often do arise when working for a business for any significant period of time. And my goal for this posting is to continue that process, here focusing in its Point 5. To put what is to come here in clearer context, I begin by repeating this list as a whole, with parenthetical references as to where I have already discussed its Points 1-4:

1. Changes in tasks assigned, and resources that would at least nominally be available for them: timeline allowances and work hour requirements definitely included there (see Part 25 and Part 26),
2. Salary and overall compensation changes (see Part 27),
3. Overall longer-term workplace and job responsibility changes and constraints box issues as change might challenge or enable you’re reaching your more personally individualized goals there (see Part 28),
4. Promotions and lateral moves (see Part 29),
5. Dealing with difficult people,
6. And negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them. I add this example last on this list because navigating this type of challenge as effectively as possible, calls for skills in dealing with all of the other issues on this list and more, and with real emphasis on Plan B preparation and planning, and on its execution too as touched upon in Part 23.

I initially mentioned Plan B approaches to jobs and careers planning and execution in that list in the context of its last, sixth entry. But this basic due diligence, and yes … risk management-aware jobs and careers approach can be just as important for consideration here in an explicitly Point 5 context too. So I begin this posting’s discussion by offering systematically organized references regarding Plan B thinking and execution, and about working with difficult people in general, as a starting point for what is to follow here:

• Finding Your Best Practices Plan B When Your Job Search Isn’t Working, as can be found at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development as postings 56-72, and
• Should I Stay or Should I Go?, as can be found at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 as postings 416-458.

I focused on a job search context in my above-cited Plan B series, highlighting this basic jobs and careers approach in terms that would perhaps more directly relate to Parts 2-12 of this series. But the flexibility of thought and action that that series discusses, and that Plan B approaches are built from in general, apply here too. And when you apply them in this type of context, where you are already working with a business that you would prefer to stay with, the negotiations options and processes of this series become particularly important there.

With that noted, I cite in particular, Part 2: interpersonal conflict and related challenges of my Stay or Go series here, though I in fact raise the issues of difficult, or at least potentially difficult people in other installments in that series too. Positing that series’ narrative in terms pursued in this series, best practices for working with difficult, challenging people are all about finding ways to forestall conflict where possible, where that can mean preventing at least avoidable difficulties from arising. And barring that possibility, it is about limiting and diffusing conflict and finding ways to constructively work with those difficult people where possible. And Plan B approaches enter into all of this, forming a third basic possibility for dealing with circumstances where such favorable resolutions might not in fact be possible.

That noted, let’s start addressing this complex of issues from the beginning and with the fundamentals:

• Really think through and understand what you seek to achieve here, and for your goals and your priorities and for what you would acceptably be willing to offer in exchange for achieving at least your core requirements there.
• And get to know and understand the people you work with, and seek to at least catch glimpses of the world around them as they see it, and certainly when they are at work. What do they seek to do and what do they seek to avoid? Where do they see opportunity and challenge? What are their goals and where can you see possible conflicts or congruences of interest as they might arise between you and them?
• Think of this as background preparation work for when you specifically have to negotiate an agreement with one or more of these people. The more clearly you have thought through your own position on matters of importance to you, the more clearly you can articulate it and present it. And the more clearly you understand the people who you work with, and certainly gatekeepers and stakeholders who you might have to gain some measure of support from, the more easily and effectively you can negotiate mutually acceptable agreements with them.

The key to effective negotiating is in understanding the people you would negotiate with, and any third parties who they might have to accommodate as they argue what would ostensibly be their case. And with that I add a new layer of complexity to this. Sometimes, the driving force behind the positions and the demands that you hear from the other side of a negotiating table, come from people who are not even in the room, who the people you are meeting with have to answer to.

That noted, if you know and understand something of who is involved in this, and perhaps from behind the scenes, and you know and understand them and the people you are actually meeting with, and if you can understand these people well enough to be able to predict how they might raise and promote their positions when negotiating, and how they would likely respond to you and your positions, the better off you will be.

What terms: what wording do these people use when discussing matters, and certainly where their preferences, needs and priorities are concerned? What are their hot button words and phrases that might elicit more of an emotional response than anything else, and a negative one at that?

• Know and understand the people you need to communicate with and particularly when and as you need to negotiate with them, with all of the establishment of common grounds that this can call for.
• And use the terms and phrasings that they would find more comfortable where possible, avoiding options that would raise extra, avoidable complications for you in this.

And with that noted as background for how I would address Point 5 itself, I ask an at least seemingly simple, basic question:

• What does “difficult people” mean?

For purposes of this discussion, I would argue that this means people who:

• You have, and are likely to have need to negotiate with and on at least some issues that are of significant importance to you,
• But who you are also likely to come into disagreement with over those issues, or even outright conflict if you cannot effectively negotiate a common ground with them,
• And where navigating your way to that point of agreement with them, would be difficult at the very least – and even particularly difficult.

Sometimes this means you’re needing to negotiate more effective and equitable ways of working with people who do not see value or significance in others in general, or their issues. But more often than not this means they’re not seeing areas of overlap where they would benefit, or at least not lose if they were to agree to anything that they would see as making a concession to you.

• Are they concerned that if they give ground to you in some way that might create a precedent that would somehow come back as a problem for them later on?
• Do they take a zero-sum approach where anything short of a total victory for them is a loss for them and any victory for someone else must be a loss for them too?
• Turning back to consider outside influencers here again, do they see themselves as being fundamentally blocked from making any concessions, and even ones they would otherwise agree to, because of outside pressures from other parties (e.g. their own supervisor and direct in line boss there, or with that pressure coming from other powerfully placed stakeholders?)

The goal in working with difficult people is to find ways to present your case, in ways that would bring them to see what you want to get done as offering value to them too, and in ways that they could favorably present to anyone else who they have to answer to as well, if needed. Or at least, your goal here would be to create grounds for these stakeholders gaining to value for themselves, and to see themselves as gaining such value, later from favors owed that will be repaid, and under conditions that would make them be willing to “pay it forward” for you.

• Do you have potential allies here, who could help argue your case for you,
• And either directly or from how they might influence outside decision makers who the people who you meet with would have to secure approval and agreement from: the involved parties who are outside of the room but still crucially involved in this as already noted here in this posting?
• Who are these negotiations enablers and how could you best negotiate their supporting you, or at least not hindering your efforts here? In this, sometimes remaining neutral can be supportive too.

Stepping back from the specifics as I have been discussing them here: all of the approaches and tactics that I have just raised here, and more that would be thought through and attempted might fail. You always have to start out and proceed from there with a very real additional outcomes possibility in mind: the prospect that all of your negotiation efforts might not work and no matter how you approach them or prepare for them or seek to carry them out. And this means you’re thinking through and preparing for a possible best alternative to negotiated agreement and a Plan B option that would at least reasonably work for you.

To be clear here, I am assuming that you have at least thought of and considered all viable negotiating approaches and tactics here, that might in principle help you to reach an agreement that would work for you. So for example, can you find an alternative to having to deal with a particularly difficult stakeholder who you would more normally seek to negotiate with here, due to their position or title, but who you do not see as being amenable to any offer or suggestion, no matter how presented? You have at least considered that too. (Note: If you do want to try this type of work-around here, do so first if at all possible so you do not avoidably put yourself in a position of burning future bridges by insulting and challenging that stakeholder with a probably public declaration that you are explicitly going around them, when working with them does not meet your satisfaction. If you try negotiating with someone and that falls through and you turn to others to bypass them, this will only create lasting animosity and resentment and from all parties involved in this – and even when and if they were responsible for the vast majority of the problems that you had with them in your attempt to negotiate with them in the first place.)

• But what happens if you do try negotiating with such a difficult individual and then find out this could not have worked and certainly with them,
• Or if circumstances are such that you have no choice but to work with them on this and even when you know up-front that your chances of success with them are slim at best?
• Then what is your best fall-back non-negotiated position?

The entire thrust of this posting can be summarized with a single piece of advice: think through what you seek to achieve, and how the people who you need to negotiate with on that will perceive matters and act. And do so with an open mind and both when thinking through your own position and how you would best present it, and when thinking through the options and tools that you have as you present and argue your case. And be prepared to be flexible and at all stages of this – and with the possibility of having to pursue a Plan B, best alternative to negotiated agreement alternative too.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, starting with a more detailed discussion of Plan B options as they arise in this type of context. And with that laid out I will turn to and begin to discuss the above-repeated Point 6 of the to-address list that I have been working my way through here. In anticipation of that line of discussion to come, this series installment and the next to come are going to be particularly pertinent for that.

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

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 15

Posted in social networking and business, startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 18, 2019

This is my 15th 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 1-14.)

I began working my way through a to-address topics list in Part 11, that would apply to the analysis and planning efforts of a still resource-lean startup. And I repeat the first three entries in that list as I continue addressing them:

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

My goal for this narrative-continuing posting is to complete my discussion of the above Point 2, at least for purposes of this series. Then I will build from that discussion thread and from what I have already offered concerning Points 1 and 2 in earlier installments, to delve into Point 3 and its issues. And I add to that, in further anticipation of what is to come here, that I have been discussing those and related topics in general business planning and development terms and certainly in this series. But this is a marketing and communications-oriented series at heart:

• Even when I write in the starting paragraph to each of its installments that understanding Marketing and Communications in a business, and making them work for it, requires an understanding of the business as a whole and its contexts, so everything can fit together and work together.
• So I will begin offering a specifically Marketing and Communications focus here too, in anticipation of pursuing that approach in a Point 3 discussion.

I begin all of this with the above-repeated (and here simplified) Point 2 as carried over from Part 14, by reconsidering its set of issues from a strictly here-and-now implementation perspective. And that means adding consideration of benchmarks and of explicitly specified final goals to this narrative.

Let me take that out of the abstract with a very real-world example, of a type I have seen play out many times in real businesses that in general have been well managed – but not for some specific “this.” That anticipatory starting sentence, indicating what is to come here, is probably too general and open ended, as I could easily and realistically cite any of a very wide range of familiar strategic and operational blind spots to this narrative here, that I have seen and that I have had to work with and work through, and with that type of discussion still meeting its vague goals. For a more “business functionality” example, I could cite and at least briefly discuss an inventory management problem where there are at least contextually recurring disconnects between in-house employee end users of stock or supplies held in inventory, and the ultimate suppliers of these items. But I will set that and similar case in point examples aside here, and simply note that for purposes of this narrative they are probably too obvious – and I have to add too easy, at least in principle to both proactively prevent and reactively correct from. Quite simply, these are types of issues that would be closer to the hands-on and more routine management experience of the mid-level and more senior management there, so they should start out better understood, and both for any problems in place and for finding effective ways to prevent or resolve them.

So I will pick a Marketing and Communications example here, and more explicitly, I will pick gorilla marketing as a working example (with a few references to viral marketing too):

• In a standard business process or business systems example, everyone involved generally knows the precise starting points and end points that should parametrically define what should be done and how and when, and certainly at a task-by-task or set business process by set business process level. This certainly holds for processes and tasks comprised of them, that fit into specific planned-out business operations chains and with those functionalities serving as tightly connected links in them. In that context, these functionalities should begin and quickly pickup in activity carried out, starting from the point in the overall work flow that they get their initial performance requests from and with any material, informational or other input that they would work from, coming to them from already completed work in that chain too. And they should in turn pass on their output to other next step processes or tasks in that chain and to the people who would carry them out as needed and expected too.
• But now let’s consider a gorilla marketing campaign, or an effort to jump start and encourage market-sourced and supported viral marketing on the behalf of a business. What is the starting point that you would use and what end points do you seek to reach, and how would you best benchmark performance in between those endpoint defining marks?

In principle, this might mean reviewing sales and related data to set an initial starting point benchmark to measure the success of such a campaign from. And this would take seasonal and other predictable cyclical sales patterns into account as well as any observably known longer term (non-cyclical) directional trends too. And goals would be set (e.g. to at least triple the number of positive shared messages about the company’s premium, up-market oriented widgets on Facebook in the next six months, with that translating to at least a doubling of sales for them by the end of this period.) Then performance tracking benchmarks would be selected and measured during that trial period to see how this marketing campaign is working, and to provide input for course correcting it if needed.

That sounds both reasonable and doable, and it should be on all measures as touched upon there, and certainly in principle. But in practice, all of these measures and the metrics that would track them can get very soft and uncertain. For an obvious example of how that can happen, consider the above-cited “positive shared messages … on Facebook.” What type of shared comment or update note, qualifies here as meeting that criterion? Is it sufficient to simply name one of the company’s widget models in text format, as long as nothing negative is said about it? Does it qualify as a positive if one of those widgets is prominently visible in a shared photo, as a matter of viral marketing product placement? What if it is just sitting there as what amounts to background clutter? How would that compare to photos where a widget is being actively used, and appreciatively so? What of mixed message updates that might include images or text that involves the company’s widgets, but in a partly favorable, partly unfavorable way? And how would the company take into account issues of visibility for any of this? Should they consider how many direct contacts such a content poster has on the site, and score higher value to marketing references that show on Facebook pages of account holders with larger numbers of Facebook “friends”? And I have not even mentioned the issues of robo-accounts and fake friending connections here, even though that has to be considered when somewhere over two thirds, and even something over three quarters of all Facebook accounts are almost certainly automated fakes, abandoned and unmaintained ghost presences, or both.

My point in all of that is very simple. Look over my original “reasonable and doable” benchmarking and goals description as offered just before the above paragraph. What defining elements of it can legitimately be assumed to be clearly defined and unequivocal besides the six month duration of this trial campaign? And objectively and given the uncertainties in everything else noted there, how realistic can that be too, and certainly as a meaningful timeframe for gathering in actionable value creating information and insight?

Gorilla marketing is nonstandard in nature. And that means at least some of the types of metrics that would be used, and that a business would want to use for performance tracking it, are going to nonstandard too, even as others will be completely familiar and well understood. Viral marketing might be initially instigated by a company that seeks to benefit from it, and people from their Marketing and Communications might even in fact seek to in some way steer it by selectively sending out marketing updates that would fit into it as fuel for further consumer sourced messages. But viral marketing per se is outside created and maintained, if it actually is viral in nature. And that adds novelty and a measure of the nonstandard to it too, and from the lack of message shaping control that that brings with it if anything. Outside sourced messages amplify and fade, and mutate and in unpredictable ways.

What I am saying here, in both continuation of what I have already offered in a Point 1 and Point 2 context in this series, is that while it might be both possible and easy to set endpoint goals and performance benchmarks for standard processes and procedures, the more novel they become, the more uncertain all of this becomes too. I am going to conclude my discussion of that set of issues in my next installment to this series, where I will at least offer some thoughts on how to make them more rigorous and more definitively useful as a result. And that will bring me directly to the issues raised in the above noted Point 3. Then after completing my discussion of that, I will turn back to Part 11 of this series to continue addressing its topics list as noted above here.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory. You can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1. And I also include this posting and other startup-related continuations to it, in Startups and Early Stage Businesses – 2.

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 17: some thoughts concerning how Xi and Trump approach and seek to create lasting legacies to themselves 5

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on May 14, 2019

This is my 17th installment in a progression of comparative postings about Donald Trump’s and Xi Jinping’s approaches to leadership per se. And it is my 11th installment in that on Trump and his rise to power in the United States, and on Xi and his in China, as they have both turned to authoritarian approaches and tools in their efforts to succeed there.

I focused on Xi Jinping and his story in Part 16 of this series progression, and on the first of two historically based narratives that I would argue fundamentally shape Xi’s image of the possible and the necessary for China, as he seeks to build his own personal legacy there as an historically significant leader in his own right.

That first narrative thread can be found in the history and the myth of the last hereditary dynasty to have ruled China: the Qing dynasty, and certainly as it held sway during its now recognized Golden Age as the Great Qing. This was a period of expansive reach and authority, when China as a whole reached one of its apex points of power, size and influence. And the other equally impactful narrative thread that I would cite here is one that in a fundamental sense came to a head during the reign of Mao Zedong as the founding leader of Chinese Communism and of the Peoples Republic of China as a nation.

The golden age of Qing greatness, and certainly as presented in its idealized form as outlined in Part 16, can be seen as representing a pattern that any modern leader of China with global ambitions would seek to emulate, and even hope to exceed. I briefly and I admit, very selectively outlined some of the defining-ideal features of this Great Qing myth (and something of its actual reality as well) there, as representing one half of the dynamic that drives Xi as he seeks to reach beyond his current self to become the center point of China’s next Golden Age mythos.

I also at least briefly began setting the stage for outlining what in many respects can be considered a model of dystopian possibilities there too, and of how China has both suffered from challenges faced, and risen above them. And that historically grounded narrative is one that I would argue has held at least as powerful an influence over Xi Jinping and his thoughts and actions as this positive image of Golden Age Qing greatness has.

My primary goal for this posting is to at least begin to outline and discuss this second side to the influence creating dynamic that I write of here. And as I noted at the end of Part 16, I will begin that at a turning point in history that arose during the same Qing dynasty that I have just written of in its Golden Age context. But for purposes of this narrative thread I begin in the 1830’s when the power and authority of that dynasty had already very significantly begun to wane. Some of the details that I will make explicit note of in what follows here, have direct counterparts in the China of more recent years, as have taken place under Chinese Communist rule, and I will at least briefly acknowledge that in order to highlight their relevance and as more than just details of academic historical note.

I wrote in Part 16 of the Kangxi Emperor, his son the Yongzheng Emperor, and his son the Qianlong Emperor, and of their collective reign as it lasted from 1661 through 1799 (counting five years at the end of that period when the Qianlong Emperor remained de facto ruler of China from when he formally stepped down from the Dragon Throne until his death. The China of 35 and 40 years after his death was very different than that of his lifetime, or that of his two immediate predecessors in power.

• The China of the Qing Golden Age was, as noted in Part 16, a nation of law and not just of men with most all legal and other matters adjudicated according to the Great Qing Legal Code. But the emperors who ruled over that China were directly involved, and they ruled through clearly defined lines of authority as validated from above, and ultimately from the Dragon Throne on down to local governmental levels. This system began to significantly break down in the years immediately following the death of the Qianlong Emperor and there were significant disconnects in what had been a more solidly dynastically, centrally controlled system of governance by the 1830’s and certainly by the end of that decade – just 41 years after the Qianlong’s death.
• This represented an at least damaging blow to the power and the longer-term prospects of the dynasty as a whole, and particularly given the way that local self-interest and the local accumulation of power outside of the Forbidden City (故宫) and throughout China at large, continued to expand and at the cost of the emperor losing both power and authority, and real understanding of the true state of his nation. The people who came to hold more significantly regional and local autonomy at the expense of the emperor, did not in general keep him or anyone directly reporting to him informed on what they were doing or how or why. And they did not share information regarding challenges faced and throughout China, as will prove important later in this posting.
• But this only represents one piece to a larger toxic puzzle. And I add a second piece to that here, noting that while it might sound unrelated to the first, these now-two puzzle pieces strongly interacted, and with a very damaging synergy. The overall population of China was dropping. The how and why of that are important, but I would set that narrative aside here, however interesting it is in its own right. Importantly for this narrative, that led to significant drops in the taxable revenue that government officials could collect as this population drop expanded out demographically to include Chinese citizens of working and peak working ages. This would have adversely affected the then sitting Qing emperors in place if tax revenues were following their expected, centrally mandated routes. But an increasingly locally autonomous, fissiparous bureaucracy with its increasing number of increasingly more and more independent local power centers, all took larger and larger amounts of what monies where going into government coffers for themselves, further bleeding and weakening the center.

I noted above, that I would draw points of comparison between the China of that era and the China of Mao’s time and of post-Mao China as well. And I will begin doing so with those two challenges. I have in fact been writing of local control and autonomy in China, as masked by proclaimed loyalty to and adherence to centrally controlled Party rule, for as long as I have been writing about China at all in this blog. See for example my 2010-2012 series: The China Conundrum and its Implications for International Cyber-Security (as can be found at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time, as postings 69 and loosely following there) for its discussion of China’s open “white” market, its “black” market and its vast “gray” market, each effectively supported by its own entire economy. Even a cursory study of rare earth minerals mining in China as discussed there, should suffice to justify my assertions as to the power disconnects that China still faces, where the vast majority of that globally impacting industrial effort has been black market and black economy in nature.

I have written of Mao’s Cultural Revolution and of his Great Leap Forward. And both of those ultimately self-destructive initiatives, and more of what he started and led as well, can in fact be seen as attempts on his part to assert centralized authority over a vast system that was if anything more disruptively disconnected from central control than could be found in the Qing dynasty and even at its ultimate weakest. And it was self-interest, plus fear on the part of more local rule that held China together under Mao’s rule, and certainly under the rule of his Party chairman successors.

That only notes one area of similarity between one fundamental problem that wracked the late Qing dynasty, and a more recent iteration of it that is fundamentally built into the current Peoples Republic of China of Mao’s days and of today as well. The Mao era and its more recent counterpart to my second, demographic implosion puzzle piece as drawn above from the late Qing era, is the stuff of nightmares for today’s China leadership. And it stems from their disastrously failed one-child policy, as I have written about in detail in earlier series here.

But those two puzzle pieces to understanding the late Qing and its downfall, only begin to address a larger set of issues that collectively made that dynasty’s failure essentially inevitable. I continue this narrative by citing one more out of many possible puzzle piece entries here that added to the toxic synergies that I noted above: climate change and environmental degradation.

• China can be roughly divided into two large regions as far as climate is concerned: its vast northern plateau and plains that tend to get too little rain even as they are a major source of food supplies for the national as a whole, and their vast southern reaches that tend, if anything to get way too much rain and certainly in their agricultural areas. Their North is always challenged with the possibilities of devastating droughts, and their South with floods from the overflowing of their many rivers. Good years, and even challenging years can yield good harvests – at least if those challenges are limited enough in scope so that irrigation in the North and flood control in the South can be made to work. But the decades of the late Qing were marked by climate challenges that could not be so controlled. And at least as importantly, very challenging problems began to emerge that could not be ignored or glossed over, coming from inefficient and even directly environmentally damaging farming practices in place, that in good climate years had reliably put food on China’s table, but with growing, accumulating damage consequences. And these agricultural practices as handed down from generation to generation from when China was more sparsely populated, began to more overtly fail as climate shifts continued and good farming years became rarer.
• I mentioned drops in both population and taxable revenue sources that might go towards government funding. Those changes in China’s circumstance and this are related. And modern China’s counterpart to that, and certainly where damage to it environment is concerned, is more extreme than anything faced by the Qing dynasty or any of its predecessors in power. The possibility of climate change and a sudden succession of years with significantly reduced agricultural crop yields is another nightmare for China’s current leadership as that, like the climate shifts of the late Qing, could push their country over the edge into unrest and societal instability. And with global warming as a general global issue facing every nation on every continent, this is a prospect that today’s China has to address, if it is to avoid the type and degree of decline that led from the end of its Qing Golden Age and to the end of the Qing dynasty itself.

I have only considered three pieces to a larger and more comprehensive puzzle here, and all of them have been China-sourced, arising for the most part from within the nation itself. That perspective, I would argue, largely applies to my climate change puzzle piece as offered here too. The fragility and instability built into China’s essential agricultural base and related critical infrastructure systems, leading up to and continuing during the years of the Qing dynasty, were all China-sourced; climate change per se that the late Qing faced was not endemically Chinese but their failure to in any way prepare for it or deal with it with any real overall national response was.

I am going to look outward past China’s borders in my next installment to this series where I will discuss challenges and resulting breakdowns in China and its rule, as coming from their contacts with the outside world. And after discussing how this played out in the late Qing, I will at least briefly outline some of the relevant history leading from the abdication of the last Qing emperor: Puyi in 1912, up through Mao’s rule as China’s first communist god incarnate. And I will reconsider both of these influence-defining historical patterns for how they shape modern China and its leadership and for both the positive aspirational possibilities they bring and for the cautionary notes they bring too.

Then I will more directly discuss Xi Jinping and his legacy aspirations. In anticipation of that, and with the issues arising from my here-noted historical puzzle pieces in mind, I will among other details discuss three recent developments in China as they enter into Xi’s own emerging puzzle:

• Xi’s campaign against crime, and particularly against crime that has a significant politically challenging element to it at that,
• Xi’s Little Yellow Book and his collected thoughts: his counterpart to Mao’s Little Red Book, and
• China’s new cult building and reinforcing, indoctrination as online game app: Study the Great Nation.

I will also, of course discuss his inwardly facing China rebuilding ambitions and his foreign policy-oriented Belt and Road Initiative too.

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

Rethinking national security in a post-2016 US presidential election context: conflict and cyber-conflict in an age of social media 15

This is my 15th installment to a series on cyber risk and cyber conflict in a still emerging 21st century interactive online context, and in a ubiquitously social media connected context and when faced with a rapidly interconnecting internet of things among other disruptively new online innovations (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 354 and loosely following for Parts 1-14.)

My goal for this installment is to reframe what I have been offering up to here in this series, and certainly in its most recent postings up to now. And I begin that by offering a very specific and historically validated point of observation (that I admit up-front will have a faulty assumption built into it, that I will raise and discuss later on in this posting):

• It can be easily and cogently argued that the single greatest mistake that the civilian and military leadership of a nation can make, when confronting and preparing for possible future challenge and conflict,
• Is to simply think along familiar lines with that leading to their acting according to what is already comfortable and known – thinking through and preparing to fight a next war as if it would only be a repeat of the last one that their nation faced
• And no matter how long ago that happened, and regardless of whatever geopolitical change and technological advancement might have taken place since then.
• Strategic and tactical doctrine and the logistics and other “behind the lines” support systems that would enable them, all come to be set as if in stone: and in stone that was created the last time around in the crucible of their last conflict. And this has been the basic, default pattern followed by most and throughout history.
• This extended cautionary note applies in a more conventional military context where anticipatory preparation for proactively addressing threats is attempted, and when reactive responses to those threats are found necessary too. But the points raised here are just as cogently relevant in a cyber-conflict context too, or in a mixed cyber plus conventional context (as Russia has so recently deployed in the Ukraine as its leadership has sought to restore something of its old Soviet era protective buffer zone around the motherland if nothing else.)
• History shows more leaders and more nations that in retrospect have been unprepared for what is to come, than it does those who were ready to more actively consider and prepare for emerging new threats and new challenges, and in new ways.
• Think of the above as representing in outline, a strategic doctrine that is based on what should be more of a widening of the range and scope of what is considered possible, and the range and scope of how new possibilities might have to be addressed, but that by its very nature cannot be up to that task.

To take that out of the abstract, consider a very real world example of how the challenges I have just discussed, arise and play out.

• World War I with its reliance on pre-mechanized tactics and strategies, with its mass frontal assault charges and its horse cavalry among other “trusted traditions,” and with its reliance on trench warfare to set and hold front lines and territory in all of that:
• Traditions that had led to horrific loss of life even in less technologically enabled previous wars such as the United States Civil War,
• Arguably led to millions of what should have been completely avoidable casualties as foot soldiers faced walls of machinegun fire and tanks, aircraft bombardment and aerial machinegun attack and even poison gas attacks as they sought to prevail through long-outmoded military practice.

And to stress a key point that I have been addressing here, I would argue that cyber attacks and both as standalone initiatives and as elements in more complex offensives, hold potential for causing massive harm and to all sides involved in them too. And proactively seeking to understand and prepare for what might come next there, can be just as important as comparable preparation is in a more conventional warfare-oriented context. Think World War I if nothing else there, as a cautionary note example of the possible consequences in a cyber-theatre of conflict, of making the mistakes outlined in the above bullet pointed preparation and response doctrine.

Looking back at this series as developed up to here, and through its more recent installments in particular, I freely admit that I have been offering what might be an appearance of taking a more reactive and hindsight-oriented perspective here. And the possibility of confusion there on the part of a reader begins in its Part 1 from the event-specific wording of its title, and with the apparent focus on a single now historical event that that conveys. But my actual overall intention here is in fact more forward thinking and proactively so, than retrospective and historical-narrative in nature.

That noted, I have taken an at least somewhat historical approach to what I have written in this series up to here and even as I have offered a few more general thoughts and considerations here too. But from this point on I will offer an explicitly dual narrative:

• My plan is to initially offer a “what has happened”, historically framed outline of at least a key set of factors and considerations that have led us to our current situation. That will largely follow the pattern that I have been pursuing here and certainly as I have discussed Russia as a source of working examples in all of this.
• Then I will offer a more open perspective that is grounded in that example but not constrained by it, for how we might better prepare for the new and disruptively novel and proactively so where possible, but with a better reactive response where that proves necessary too.

My goal in that will not be to second guess the decisions and actions of others, back in 2016 and leading up to it or from then until now as of this writing. And it is not to offer suggestions as to how to better prepare for a next 2016-style cyber-attack per se and certainly not as a repeat of an old conflict, somehow writ new. To clarify that with a specific in the news, current detail example, Russian operatives and others who were effectively operating under their control for this, hacked Facebook leading up to the 2016 US presidential and congressional elections, using armies of robo-Facebook members: artifactual platforms for posting false content, that were set up to appear as coming from real people and from real American citizens in particular. Facebook has supposedly tightened its systems to better identify and delete such fake, manipulative accounts and their online disinformation campaigns. And with that noted, I cite:

In Ukraine, Russia Tests a New Facebook Tactic in Election Tampering.

Yes, this new approach (as somewhat belatedly noted above) is an arms race advancement meant to circumvent the changes made at Facebook as they have attempted to limit or prevent how their platform can be used as a weaponized capability by Russia and others as part of concerted cyber attacks. No, I am not writing here of simply evolutionary next step work-arounds or similar more predictable advances in cyber-weapon capabilities of this type, when writing of the need to move beyond simply preparing for a next conflict as if it would just be a variation on the last one fought.

That noted, I add that yes, I do expect that the social media based disinformation campaigns will be repeated as an ongoing means of cyber-attack, and both in old and in new forms. But fundamentally new threats will be developed and deployed too that will not fit the patterns of anything that has come before. So my goal here is to take what might be learnable lessons from history: recent history and current events included, combined with a consideration of changes that have taken place in what can be done in advancing conflicts, and in trends in what is now emerging as new possibilities there, to at least briefly consider next possible conflicts and next possible contexts that they might have to play out in. My goal for this series as a whole is to discuss Proactive as a process and even as a strategic doctrine, and in a way that at least hopefully would positively contribute to the national security dialog and offer a measure of value moving forward in general.

With all of that noted as a reframing of my recent installments to this series at the very least, I turn back to its Part 14 and how I ended it, and with a goal of continuing its background history narrative as what might be considered to be a step one analysis.

I wrote in Part 13 and again in Part 14 of Russia’s past as a source of the fears and concerns, that drive and shape that nation’s basic approaches as to how it deals with other peoples and other nations. And I wrote in that, of how basic axiomatic assumptions that Russia and its peoples and government have derived from that history, shape their basic geopolitical policy and their military doctrine for now and moving forward too. Then at the end of Part 14 I said that I would continue its narrative here by discussing Vladimir Putin and his story. And I added that that is where I will of necessity also discuss the 45th president of the United States: Donald Trump and his relationship with Russia’s leadership in general and with Putin in particular. And in anticipation of this dual narrative to come, that will mean my discussing Russia’s cyber-attacks and the 2016 US presidential election, among other events. Then, as just promised here, I will step back to consider more general patterns and possible transferable insights.

Then I will turn to consider China and North Korea and their current cyber-policies and practices. And I will also discuss current and evolving cyber-policies and practices as they are taking shape in the United States as well, as shaped by its war on terror among other motivating considerations. I will use these case studies to flesh out the proactive paradigm that I would at least begin to outline here as a goal of this series. And I will use those real world examples at least in part to in effect reality check that paradigmatic approach too, as I preliminarily offer it here.

And with that, I turn back to the very start of this posting, and to the basic orienting text that I begin all of the installments to this series with. I have consistently begun these postings by citing “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. To point out an obvious example, I have made note of the internet of things 15 times now in this way, but I have yet to discuss it at all up to here in the lines of discussion that I have been offering. I do not even mention artificial intelligence-driven cyber-weaponization there in that first paragraph opening text, where that is in fact one of the largest and most complex sources of new threats that have ever been faced and at any time in history. And its very range and scope, and its rate of disruptively new development advancement will probably make it the single largest categorical source of weaponized threat that we will all face in this 21st century, and certainly as a source of weaponized capabilities that will be actively used. I will discuss these and related threat sources when considering the new and unexpected and as I elaborate on the above noted proactive doctrine that I offer here.

And as a final thought here, I turn back to my bullet pointed first take outline of that possible proactive doctrine, to identify and address the faulty assumption that I said I would build into it, and certainly as stated above. And I do so by adding one more bullet point to that initial list of them:

• I have just presented and discussed a failure to consider the New when preparing for possible future conflict, and its consequences. And I prefaced that advisory note by acknowledging that I would build a massive blind spot built into what I would offer there. I have written all of the above strictly in terms of nations and their leaders and decision makers. That might be valid in a more conventional military sense but it is not and cannot be considered so in anything like a cyber-conflict setting, and for either thinking about or dealing with aggressors, or thinking about and protecting, or remediating harm to victims. Yes, nations can and do develop, deploy and use cyber-weapon capabilities, and other nations can be and have been their intended targets. But this is an approach that smaller organizations and even just skilled and dedicated individuals can acquire, if not develop on their own. And it is a capability that can be used against targets of any scale of organization from individuals on up. That can mean attacks against specific journalists, or political enemies, or competing business executives or employees. It can mean attacks against organizations of any size or type, including nonprofits and political parties, small or large businesses and more. And on a larger than national scale, this can mean explicit attack against international alliances such as the European Union. Remember, Russian operatives have been credited with sewing disinformation in Great Britain leading up to its initial Brexit referendum vote, to try to break that country away from the European Union and at least partly disrupt it. And they have arguably succeeded there. (See for example, Brexit Goes Back to Square One as Parliament Rejects May’s Plan a Third Time.)

If I were to summarize and I add generalize this first draft, last (for now) bullet point addition to this draft doctrine, I would add:

• New and the disruptively new in particular, break automatically presumed, unconsidered “axiomatic truths,” rendering them invalid moving forward. This can mean New breaking and invalidating assumptions as to where threats might come from and where they might be directed, as touched upon here in this posting. But more importantly, this can mean the breaking and invalidating of assumptions that we hold to be so basic that we are fundamentally unaware of them in our planning – until they are proven to be wrong in an active attack and as a new but very real threat is realized in action. (Remember, as a conventional military historical example of that, how “everyone” knew that aircraft launched anti- ship torpedoes could not be effectively deployed and used in shallow waters as found in places such as Pearl Harbor – until, that is they were.)

And with that, I will offer a book recommendation that I will be citing in upcoming installments to this series, adding it here in anticipation of doing so for anyone interested:

• Kello, L. (2017) The Virtual Weapon and International Order. Yale University Press.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3, and at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. And you can also find this and related material at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1.

%d bloggers like this: