Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Finding virtue in simplicity when complexity becomes problematical, and vice versa 22

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on July 29, 2020

This is my 22nd 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 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 257 and loosely following for Parts 1-21.)

I have been discussing in Part 21 and Part 22, the risk management side to how a business controls access to the confidential and sensitive information that it gathers in or develops, and that it holds. And I started that phase of this series’ overall narrative with a focus on externally sourced, legally mandated and supported challenges to their right to control and limit access there. Then at the end of Part 22, I raised an alternative scenario challenge that is perhaps best seen as a small business and early stage business challenge:

• The possibilities of a business setting up a system of access control for risk managing the holding of sensitive information such as personally identifying customer records data,
• But where more senior management – there the founder and owner, sets themselves as not having to follow that policy, and even when that means they’re violating it on an arbitrary and ad hoc basis.

Let’s assume that the basic facts of the first of those two bullet points is true, with a Chief Information Officer, or a Chief Sales Officer or some other particular administrator officially in charge of and responsible for managing a formally developed policy for information control there. And they are responsible for its being followed, with that including the management of who has access to what specific information and under what circumstances (e.g. customer support center representatives having access to appropriate data fields from the records of specific customers who they are working with through a phone center or through online chat, when they are accessing this through their work computers there.) And that policy serves as a framework for specifying work processes that would be allowed there and with that controlling any confidential information sharing that might be allowed.

Generalizing from the specific scenario of Part 22 and the second bullet point, above, what happens if someone senior on the table of organization seeks to in effect, throw their weight around in gaining special privilege access and either for themselves or for a representative who works for them, and who would not normally be allowed to see this information themselves?

• One obvious at least partial answer to that question is that this beach of formal process and policy can only serve to punch an ad hoc hole into that policy and its intended implementations.
• But when this type of exception creating breach is pushed through with the compelling pressures of rank and position in the business to support it, that effectively ends that information policy as a risk management resource, as a whole.

There is an old adage that comes to mind for me in this context. “You can’t be half pregnant.” Either you are or you are not. Either a business has an information management system that it honors through consistently following it, or it simply claims to have one on paper, where that in practice is no longer actually, consistently or reliably there.

And this brings me back to the issues of intermediation and disintermediation, and the details of the types of control that setting up and making use of a system of information access control actually involves. And that is where simplicity and complexity, and their respective costs and benefits, directly reenter this narrative again. And this is where all of this becomes a risk and benefits exercise and one in which different people can see and understand those issues very differently from each other and on both sides of any given risk and benefits balance.

I am going to at least begin a discussion of that complex of issues, in light of discussion entered into here in earlier postings and in this one, beginning in a next series installment. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its Page 2 and Page 3 continuation pages. And also see my series: Communicating More Effectively as a Job and Career Skill Set, for its more generally applicable discussion of focused message best practices per se. I initially offered that with a specific case in point jobs and careers focus, but the approaches raised and discussed there are more generally applicable. You can find that series at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, as its postings 342-358.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 54 – the business context 3

This is my 54th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with a focus on the employee-to-employee and employee-to-business side of that as found in more individual jobs and careers contexts. See Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-51 for that side to this overall narrative. And in that context, I have also been discussing the business side of negotiating, starting with Part 52 and Part 53, as also found at that same Page 4 directory page.

I focused in Part 53 on what might be considered challenging, or at least potentially challenging contextual issues that can come to shape and even limit possible negotiations and from both sides of the table. Though in keeping with the overall orienting focus of this business-side phase of this series, I raised them in that more particular context:

• The problems that can arise from friction, where essential information that a here-business-side of the table negotiator would need, is not and even cannot be available to them in an error or gap free form and where and when it is needed.
• And how this overall phenomenon: business systems friction, can lead to restrictions on what people who are actually hands-on negotiating on behalf of a business, can even discuss let alone agree to.

And one of the consequences of these restricting processes, and of the first of them in particular, is that negotiations can enter gray areas of uncertainty. Though I have to add that restrictions on what a business-side negotiator can even discuss, and restrictions on what they can even consider addressing in any consequential manner can lead to gray area confusion and its consequences too, and regardless of how or why they become so constrained, too. Gray can flow both ways in this.

And that brings me to a crucially important point, and certainly where a manager has to negotiate under restrictive terms that they have real reason to see as going against their own professional interests, the interests of the team that they work with and lead, and the interests of its individual members – and even against the real interests of the business as a whole, as can happen when senior management in effect ties the hands of those under them, when facing disruptive change and when having to maneuver to accommodate that.

To take that out of the abstract, I began this business-side part of this series by returning to reconsider a particularly challenging negotiating context that I delved into in some detail from the employee side, in the first part of this series in its Parts 32-49: downsizings, where managers can often find themselves forced to in effect follow a set script and with no judgment or input on their side allowed for.

I ended Part 53 stating that:

• One of my primary goals here is going to be to offer approaches for finding if not creating some clarity in the midst of the fog of that grayness – and clarity that you can find useful in reaching better negotiated results that will hold with time.

And I begin addressing that by offering a basic suggestion that might sound more than slightly counterintuitive when faced in specific here-and-now negotiating contexts, with all of the pressures that they bring to bear and on all involved:

• The fog of grayness in this can become one of your strongest tools and certainly when you have to negotiate up a table of organization or chain of command, in order to be able to more effectively carry out negotiations on their behalf, or at the very least with their support.

Let’s take this out of the abstract by considering another real-world example. Corporate decides to end business support for employee development training, as this has been called in that business. Offering this as a special benefit and to both hands-on and managerial employees was a basic policy according to which those employees who meet all of their goals and a significant number of their stretch goals from their annual performance reviews and who score above some minimal high-level on their numerical scaled performance ratings, were given paid work time and tuition funding support, to take professional training courses or programs that would make them more valuable to the company. This might mean gaining new skills or expanding upon ones already held. This might mean gaining new professional licenses. My point is that this supported the business and it supported the people who entered into it; it benefited those employees and the teams they work in as well as the business as a whole. And now this program is going to be stopped, and for what are primarily short-term justified budgetary reasons, to the extent that any such explanations are offered at all.

I picked this example for a reason; it might arguably be seen as a fog and grayness-free decision. But that might only holds true in the abstract, and real uncertainty might arise in the specific instances that it would have to be carried out in.

You are a mid-level manager who has some technically skilled superstars on your overall team. One of the lower level managers who reports to you and who has one of these particularly high value employees on their immediate team, comes to you to tell you that he just got an email telling him that a skills and license upgrade program that that employee was told in writing he could attend under the old terms, was not longer going to be supported for them. This employee had gone to a great deal of effort to make sure that their participating in this would not be disruptive with that including, their having put in a lot of unpaid overtime work in preparation for it. And if this is canceled this way, the business will probably lose them as a result.

Where is the gray fog in this? Start with that written agreement to support this employee in their participating in this training program, that is now going to be overturned. Are exceptions going to be made for people who are already taking such a professional advancement opportunity now? And what of those who have been formally told, and in writing, that they would be able to do this for specific professional advancement courses or programs. Would that qualify as breach of contract, if this was entered into as a formally stated employee benefit for those who qualify for it, and it is suddenly stopped and even for those who were already enrolled – and who might not be able to back out without steep cancelation fees if nothing else? And even if this does not qualify as a legally restricted breach of contract, what am I supposed to do to address this at least breach of trust that all of my best people will see in this?

• Frame your side of this in terms of the uncertainties that can arise, in the specific contexts that you seek to address.
• Be very focused on precisely what you seek to accomplish. In this case that means finding a way to get the business to grandfather in employees who are already in this, and with that including anyone who was told in writing that they have been approved for one of these employee development options, and certainly if they are now financially committed there.
• And frame this in terms of risks and benefits to the business, whenever possible. Do not just make this all about risk or benefits to yourself or to the people on your team – and even if their concerns are in fact what would drive you to attempt this negotiation at all.

I have written in this blog, and certainly in earlier postings to this series, of negotiating with people as if from the same side of the table as them, and with a goal of reaching win-win resolutions from that. That definitely applies here – and with your goal being one of making senior management see a tapering of this program, rather than an abrupt ending, as a win-win with them coming out ahead too.

• If you can define the terms of where issues are gray and foggy, that are consequential to what you seek to negotiate towards, you can significantly contribute to the defining of any new clarity that might be reached to replace it.

I am going to continue adding to a set of more general business-side negotiating tips in what follows, but with this in place I am going to begin to delve into some of the specifics, as at least preliminarily listed in Part 52. And I will begin that with a discussion of a complex of issues that I of necessity pointed to in my working example here:

• Negotiating with peers and negotiating up and down a chain of command, however that might be defined in a business.

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

Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the contrasts of leadership in the 21st century 27: when facing the disruptive challenges of a global pandemic 1

Posted in macroeconomics, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on July 12, 2020

This is my 28th installment in a progression of comparative postings about Donald Trump’s and Xi Jinping’s approaches to leadership, as they have both turned to authoritarianism and its tools in their efforts to succeed there, as can be found at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation. And in a fundamental sense this is also a continuation posting to another series that I have been offering here: China, the United States and the World, and the Challenge of an Emerging Global COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic, as can be found at Macroeconomics and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation.

I have written in some detail of president Trump’s leadership failures and in both of those series, and of how he has created a massive power vacuum from that and both internationally and within the United States too. And I have written in at least as much detail of Xi’s ambitions and of his China Dream: his Zhōngguó Mèng (中国梦), as he has developed and promoted that as both his own and his nation’s road map for restoring a presumed lost golden age of Chinese power and influence.

We are facing a wide ranging and deeply impactful pulling-inwards and disengagement on the part of the United States, that is driven by chaos and uncertainty as that flows and at least seemingly continuously, out of the White House. And as I have noted in the above-cited COVID-19 series, Xi has actively sought to capture every advantage that he can out of that as he advances his own causes.

• COVID-19 is an unmitigated disaster for the United States, and certainly given the complete failure of leadership that we all see coming out of the Trump administration,
• As all fifty states have to find their own separate ways forward with this challenge, and all too often through competing with each other for limited resources,
• And as the numbers of new cases of this disease skyrocket in so many of them,
• And with no real effort made from a federal government level to develop or pursue a coordinated response to any of that.
• And this intranational failure is mirrored by the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine transnational and global efforts to combat this pandemic too, with for example his direct attacks on international agencies such as the World Health Organization.
• Trump attacks his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because he does not like it that they disagree with him as to the seriousness of this challenge. And he takes the same approach when dealing with other nations and when dealing with international organizations too.
• COVID-19, is and has been a source of crisis for Xi and his China, and certainly in the short term.
• But Xi has being turning that into a long-term golden opportunity for himself and his country too, and both within China,
• And with public sector and private sector representatives of Xi’s policies reaching out globally and in all directions in order to develop and sign agreements and long-term commitments of productive engagement, and worldwide. And here-and-now support for more effectively dealing with COVID-19 crises in those countries has opened a great many doors for them in that.

Donald Trump is back to actively denying the reality of this pandemic and even as the number of new cases of it skyrocket in the United States, and particularly in the so called politically “conservative” red states that largely hew to his opinions and advice, and certainly where that means his actively speaking and acting out against containment efforts to limit disease spread, such as social distancing and the use of masks or other face coverings. For a more recent news piece on that, that quantifies this as of July 10th for a whole series of red states that on the whole support Trump politically, see:

How Coronavirus Cases Have Risen Since States Reopened with its tagline:
• “The current surge in coronavirus cases in the United States is being driven by states that were among the first to reopen their economies, decisions that epidemiologists warned could lead to a wave of infections.”

To put that in numerical perspective, citing only a few of the states that really stand out there:

• Georgia has seen a 245% increase in its number of confirmed COVID-19 cases since it reopened,
• Tennessee has seen a 279% increase,
• Alabama has seen a 547% increase,
• Texas, a 680% increase,
• Arizona, a 858% increase,
• South Carolina, a 999% increase,
• Florida, a 1,393% increase and
• Idaho as seen a 1,491% increase.

And those are almost certainly just undercounts as the states seeing those large new case counts, are also facing inadequate testing capabilities for even identifying their new COVID-19 cases. But to be fair, reopening failures are not just a red state issue, so for example, California has seen a 275% increase in its number of new COVID-19 cases. And that is also failed reopening-related.

I discuss this type of finding in my above-cited COVID-19 series, from more here-and-now public health and healthcare perspective, but I make note of it here as well for a different reason. The disorganized paralysis and the partisan ideology-based rhetoric and the coercive political and federal government pressures that that leads to, would be enough to block any real action on the part of the United States now, in addressing China’s or any other outside challenges. And that would continue to hold true even if president Trump were to actually somehow become presidential at this late date. Momentum and his lack of credibility would ensure that. Basically, what Trump has done is to give Xi a free hand, for carrying out all that he would do, and anywhere and everywhere.

I have written in this series of how Trump’s personal behavior, and his decisions and actions as president have undermined and weakened America’s relationships with America’s strongest and most loyal allies while offering comfort to those who would take adversarial positions against the United States. In this period of pandemic crisis, he continues that while increasing the tensions and dysfunctionalities that prevail within the United States itself – and even as his poll numbers drop as a result, lessening his chances of getting reelected.

That pattern continues on, and in fact becomes more glaringly pronounced on a daily basis. And that has consequences that extend way beyond America’s borders.

• While Trump might speak of Xi as an adversary, his actions and his failures to act have in effect made him Xi’s most active and compelling enabler now, and certainly in this time of disruptive change and challenge. If anyone can help Xi Jinping to actually realize his China Dream, it is Donald Trump. And by all appearances he is doing that; at the very least he is really trying.

What does this mean? And what more specifically are Xi and his government and his nation’s closely government controlled private sector businesses doing to take advantage of all of this?

There are two faces to Xi’s China Dream, both of which merit detailed discussion. I have at least briefly and selectively touched upon the internal, within-China face to this in my COVID-19 series and certainly in installments there such as its Part 27 and Part 35, where I raise the specter of China’s Communist Party and government taking giant strides towards achieving a total surveillance state over their people by leveraging the very real threats of this pandemic to justify entirely new levels of tracking and control. And China has in fact been very actively pursuing that course and with great effectiveness.

But for purposes of this series, or at least this phase of it, I will focus on how China is reaching outwards, leaving more internal developments for another time and other discussion. I will focus outwards from China here, and on how Xi defines and would achieve that critically important half of his China Dream. But contrary to the official policies and assertions of the People’s Republic of China and of Xi’s administration there, I will include their increasingly repressive moves on Hong Kong in what follows, as representing coercive attack against a foreign people. I will take that same approach when considering their increasingly actively threatening moves against Taiwan and their government and their people too. So with these points in mind, think of this narrative as also being a continuation of my also ongoing series: Xi Jinping and his China, and Their Conflicted Relationship with Hong Kong – an unfolding Part 2 event, as can be found at Macroeconomics and Business 2 (where I discuss Taiwan too.)

I will in fact begin this part of this overall narrative from there, as China’s officially declared demand for “recovery” of those two lands, officially thought of as having been stolen from China during its decades of humiliation, are a cornerstone to Xi’s China Dream as a whole. (See Part 19 of this series for a brief orienting discussion of what “decades of humiliation” mean there, and both to Xi himself and to the basic Chinese narrative that he is capitalizing on, and its view of this history. I delve into that dark period of China’s history in that posting and in subsequent installments to that series as well as, and in my above-cited Hong Kong series too.) And after addressing that, I will look further outward to how Xi’s China is reaching out to the world at large now, and certainly in this its time of golden opportunity. And I will at least begin to discuss these issues, as outlined here, in my next installment to this series.

Then after completing this pandemic context narrative thread, I will return to a discussion of issues that I left off from at the end of Part 26, as outlined there. The pre-pandemic overall goals and priorities that have underlied Xi’s Dream still hold, after all. Meanwhile, you can find my Trump-related postings at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation. And you can find my China writings as appear in this blog at Macroeconomics and Business and its Page 2 continuation, at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time, and at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation. And you can find further related material as cited here as noted above.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 53 – the business context 2

This is my 53rd installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with a focus on the employee-to-employee and employee-to-business side of that as found in more individual jobs and careers contexts. See Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-51 for that side to this overall narrative. And in that context, I have also been discussing the business side of negotiating, starting with Part 52, as also found at that same Page 4 directory listing.

I began this more business oriented narrative in Part 52, by reconsidering one of the most challenging and consequential negotiating contexts that an employee of whatever rank or title can face in a jobs and careers setting, unless that is they are among the few who find themselves explicitly protected from it by a golden parachute: a downsizing. I addressed this complex of issues and challenges in some detail, from the employee perspective in Parts 32-44, and then in Part 52 from the perspective of a business manager who may find themselves forced into carrying this out and even when doing so goes against their best interests as they see them.

• It is all but universally assumed that an employee facing a possible downsizing approaches that from a position of powerlessness. That can be true; it is certain to become so if it is simply assumed to be.
• But managers who have to select and dismiss there can be acting under orders and under what they see as coercive pressures, if they are to avoid being let go too, that can seen just as disempowering.
• And a manager who does as told there and selects and dismisses is likely to approach that knowing that they may be sitting on the other side of that table if and when a next round of such lay-offs are carried out, too.

One of my more general goals for this half of this series, as stated in Part 52, is to address the challenge of separating personal and individual, from business when representing a business and either as a whole or for some area of it. And I acknowledge up-front, in anticipation of further discussion of this set of issues to follow, that this will mean considering what might best be thought of as gray areas: areas of uncertainty as to how best to proceed, that can and do arise in real world contexts where negotiations become necessary.
• And that point of detail, as noted in Part 52, brings me to the issues of flexibility and of degrees of flexibility in what you can and cannot say, agree to and do, and how you might address that.
• That means understanding the constraints that you face and where you in fact can be flexible in your own decision making and follow-through. And it means finding ways to create greater flexibility for yourself in that, and particularly where you will be held responsible for outcomes realized.

I raised these topics points, in the context of that above-repeated more general goal in Part 52, and my more specific goal here is to at least begin addressing them. And I begin at least preparing to do so by raising the issues of clarity and consistency of message that any business negotiations might be saddled with.

I have repeatedly written of business systems friction in this blog and its series: the more microeconomic counterpart to macroeconomics’ economic friction. In both cases, friction is seen as arising from information and communications gaps and challenges, where consistent, accurate, timely information cannot be developed and shared where it is needed, when it is needed and with who needs it, and with consistent reliability. And this leads to both flawed and limited communications and to message inconsistency and the ambiguity that can come from that. But this noted, friction can also have its greatest impact here, when it means single consistent but less-than-effective messages being shared, and with prescribed actions that they contain within them, enforced.

Let’s consider this from a business negotiating perspective. When you are communicating and negotiating on your own behalf you may be doing so on the basis of faulty and incomplete knowledge, but effective negotiating always assumes that as a possibility so it is at least as much about fact-finding as it is about reach out to persuade and positively influence. But critically importantly from the perspective of this line of discussion, when you are communicating and negotiating on your own behalf, and strictly on your own behalf you do so with a single voice and representing that single voice.

When you approach this same basic task as representing an employer: a business, you have to represent several and even many distinct and separate voices, some of whom you might not even realize have been playing significant roles in shaping the basic messages and directives that you would work from there. And that is where the above-cited business systems friction enters this narrative.

As a set of rules of thumb, if not axiomatic assumptions,

• The larger and more complex the organization – or rather the larger and more complex the areas of it that you would represent in it (with all of those input-providing stakeholders included there),
• The more room and opportunity there will be for friction to arise there and both as information and directions are sent to you, and as you seek to communicate back and both to share ongoing results and as you seek advice, guidance or permissions.
• And added complexity as to what has to be negotiated, and added criticality for successfully completing those negotiations and in what has to be negotiated to accomplish that, all serve as friction creating multipliers there too.

And that is, among other reasons, why events such as downsizings can become so tightly scripted and with so little room to maneuver for anyone caught up in them, and certainly at anything like the level of how and when individual employees are being dealt with – or at the level of the managers who have to directly carry that out.

Friction and the communications and information development and sharing challenges that it creates, poison flexibility with uncertainty and with the pressures to risk-avoid that that creates.

I stated in Part 52 and again here towards the start of this posting that I would of necessity deal with gray area negotiating contexts here in this series progression. To clarify that, one of my primary goals here is going to be to offer approaches for finding if not creating some clarity in the midst of the fog of that grayness – and clarity that you can find useful in reaching better negotiated results that will hold with time.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next series installment. Then after that I will proceed to successively address the other topic point issues raised in Part 52, expanding on that list as I proceed. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 21

Posted in social networking and business, startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 23, 2020

This is my 21st 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 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 278 and loosely following for Parts 1-20.)

I have been discussing data and big data in particular, and its potential benefits and perils in this series. And in the course of that, I have repeatedly touched upon crucially important points of categorical distinction: the conceptual, and I have to add the operationally functional distinctions that can be drawn between raw data and processed knowledge.

To be more precise here, I have repeatedly stated that there are important points of distinction there, but I have not all that fully discussed or analyzed what those distinctions are or what they would mean to a business that seeks to make effective use of business intelligence. My goal for this posting is to at least begin to shed some light on these issues, and both for what they are and for how and why they are important, and certainly in the context of this series and its areas of concern.

To bring that into focus, at least for where I would begin this narrative, I ended Part 20 by offering this anticipatory note as to what I would address here:

• “And this brings me to what can be the refined gold in big data: metadata and the pools of processed and at least situationally validated (and hopefully context benchmarked) knowledge that has already been developed from that raw data at hand. I am going to turn to that area of discussion in my next series installment.”

Let’s begin this by considering what metadata is. In simplest terms, metadata is simply data about data. So for example, a business might develop a database of raw data coming from their sales transactions and their details, and from their individual customers, and their individual suppliers and others. And one of their key goals would be to use this perhaps with-time vast pool of information, to help them make better strategic and operational decisions. But as an unprocessed, unconsidered mass, this accumulation of informational stuff, is probably not going to actually offer them much if any real value for that. Value comes from processing and analyzing it, and from mining it for meaningful patterns that can be used in making specific business decisions. And a significant part of that value creation begins with the development of specific metadata that can be used to organize and functionally characterize that raw data.

• What is metadata? It can be descriptive and serve a role of identifying data fields and the variables they include in them as to basic type. Consider, for example, individual customer sourced data fields that collectively – and specifically, locate where they live or work or where they make their online purchases from. Or consider descriptive data that would categorically identify vendors or suppliers that a business purchases services or goods from, according to whether they bill as 30 days receivable, or 60 days receivable.
• Metadata can also be structural, and as such can serve to functionally define what amount to compound objects. A complete suite of data fields that would characterize a specific online customer, or a specific supplier would fall into this category. So would a functionally significant specific subset of such a data assembly that might hold specific significance in planning or business operations.
• Metadata can be administrative, or risk-management systems based. And as a working example there, it can be used to manage who would have what levels of access to and control over what data types. Consider those two structural metadata examples. Who needs and should have read-only permissions for seeing those types of data? Who needs and should have read/write permissions and be able to both see and change the data that is held there?
• And metadata can be statistical, and this is where a wide range of statistical analytical findings are added into an overall database, as processed knowledge that would hold some combination of descriptive and predictive value.

So metadata is processed knowledge that is developed from what is initially just raw and largely disconnected data. It can be very low level, simply pointing for example to meaningful connections between two or some other low number, few separate data fields, or it can be higher level, organizing and conceptually connecting large numbers of otherwise seemingly unrelated data types: database data fields, in ways that are insightfully informative. And as one other point of general understanding here, metadata as a whole for a big data holding enterprise, offers just as much insight into that business as it does for that data.

Let’s start addressing that last point by more fully considering statistical metadata, or process metadata as it is also called. And I begin that with the absolute basics:

• Businesses, or at least those that are in any way systematically organized and run, develop around business plans, as carried out through specific strategic and operational planning and execution. And they use the data that they bring in, and that they develop from it (as raw data and as metadata) to answer specific descriptive and predictive, business performance modeling questions.
• Those questions and their data-driven answers, hold value for them insofar as they mesh with that business’ overall goals and priorities: short-term and longer-term, and insofar as they would help shape more effective decision making for that.
• An inventory of the precise search queries and the precise statistical and other analytical tests that would be done on all of this data: raw and metadata, would obviously reveal a great deal about that organization and its planning and its priorities.
• But simply knowing precisely what types of metadata are being processed and developed and used, can be very revealing too, and certainly where it is developed for business-specific purposes, and in ways that would fit into and support it in offering unique sources of value to a marketplace. (I draw an important point of distinction there, setting aside more generic metadata types such as standard customer contact information identifier, structural metadata fields.)
• And importantly to this last point, while it is obvious that much if not most of the process metadata that a business holds, would best be considered highly sensitive, at least some of the data developed of all other basic categorical types would be too – and particularly where control over wider ranges of such data might become access compromised. Consider as a case in point example there, structural data specifications, where analysis of unusual combination, composite metadata is used to address valuable but less considered and less understood business development opportunities and how best to develop them.
• And this brings me to a final defining point in characterizing what metadata is. Metadata creates synergistic value for a business or other data accumulator and user, where the act of effective processing and knowledge creation from raw data, creates new value at the metadata level itself, and at the raw data level too.

I added at the end of Part 20 that I would continue on from this line of discussion to:

• Expand upon and at least seek to address possible “needle in a haystack and combinatorial explosion” problems as can arise in big data. And I will do so at least in part in terms of the issues raised in this posting, where I will at least briefly discuss how effectively developed metadata can help organize an overall data pool to help limit that.
• Then after doing so, I will turn back to the issues of intermediation and disintermediation, and of balancing lean and agile, with information security risk managed. I have addressed that complex of issues a number of times in this blog already, and from a variety of perspectives. This time I will do so as they specifically arise in the context that I have been discussing in this series.

And in further anticipation of what is to come here, when Cambridge Analytica gathered in and used its vast stores of data to help throw elections, among other things, they were able to bring as many as five thousand individual data points to bear, concerning virtually every individual who they had captured information about, in doing that. But their real power there was not in the raw data per se that they accumulated, but in the metadata that they developed in order to organize and make sense of that, in descriptively and predictively meaningful, actionable ways.

So I have been adding a new level of explanatory discourse to an already ongoing discussion of big data and its use (and misuse), here in this posting, that I will continue in the next to come.

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

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 52 – the business context 1

This is my 52nd installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in more individual jobs and careers contexts (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-51.) And I continue on from there in this series, starting with this posting, to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations.

I focused on the individual in the first half of this series, as jobs and careers negotiations all take place on an individual level, and certainly when viewed from the employee perspective. But I would argue that ultimately, business negotiations are also more individual in nature as it is people: individual people who enter into them and carry through upon them – not abstract business entities. So my initial goal for the progression of postings that I begin now, is to address and hopefully clarify the particular challenges that those individuals face when they have to be able to negotiate as individual people, but on behalf of larger and at times largely abstract organizational constructs, and at least occasionally where that means they’re negotiating against what they might see as their own best interests.

I write of what is to come here, in those perhaps stilted sounding terms because business systems and their goals can become abstractions. If you have any doubt as to the validity of that assertion, I suggest you’re rereading at least some of my postings in this series that address the issues and challenges of employees seeking to communicate and negotiate in the face of possible downsizings (as offered here as its Parts 32-44.) I addressed that complex of issues there, from the perspective of the individual hands-on employee or manager who might find themselves to have become caught up in one of those events and with them facing possible dismissal as a result; I offered that narrative in terms of directly involving personal impact for them. But consider the same issues and challenges from the perspective of the other side of those negotiating tables, and the other side of the conversations that might lead to them. When a manager faces having to carry out this type of business-side discussion, they might very well see themselves as being forced to harm their own best interests, and certainly if quota based selection and dismissal of members of their own team means they’re of-necessity losing people who they have come to see as being all but essential for their own success.

Those people, representing the employing business in all of this, are still individuals as they participate in those processes. But they are also agents of larger organizations and with that including legally constrained and defined corporate entities. They are there and functioning as agents of others, and of business processes and of the strategic and operational decisions that would invoke them into action. They are there and functioning as agents of business abstractions. And certainly in anything like a downsizing context, they might be constrained in what they can say or do, or agree to, according to highly choreographed guidelines. They might in fact simply be following a script and one that cannot allow for or permit much if any deviation on their part.

That, among other considerations, is why I placed so much emphasis in those earlier postings on finding and entering into conversations with people who can actually say yes: people who in fact can go beyond simply following a set script in what they say and do and even in what they can just listen to, let alone agree to. Reconsider that from the perspective of the business side of the table; consider a manager who has been given what amounts to a downsizing quota to meet, as their specific functional area of a business: their team has to carry its share of the pain from a downsizing, just like every other manager in their overall department has to. And they find themselves forced into following what amounts to a script there. Who can they talk to who might be in a position to enable them in this? Who might be able to give them room to negotiate in, for this?

Most business-sided communications and negotiations are not as inflexibly limited as this, but when someone represents a business and communicates and negotiates accordingly, there are always going to be at least some outside-imposed goals and guidelines: some restrictions. So I begin this new narrative here by raising the issues of range of flexibility when speaking and acting on behalf of others, and on behalf of businesses per se. And I begin this by coordinately addressing the issues of untangling when we speak for ourselves and with our own goals and priorities in mind, and when we are representing others, and larger business entities.

• My goal for this half of this series is to address the challenge of separating personal and individual, from business when representing a business and either as a whole or for some area of it, as begun here. And I acknowledge up-front, in anticipation of further discussion of this set of issues to follow, that this will mean considering what might best be considered gray areas: areas of uncertainty as to how best to proceed, that arise in real world contexts where negotiations become necessary.
• And that point of detail brings me to the issues of flexibility and of degrees of flexibility in what you can and cannot say, agree to and do, and how you might address that.
• That means understanding the constraints that you face and where you in fact can be flexible in your own decision making and follow-through. And it means finding ways to create greater flexibility for yourself in that, and particularly where you will be held responsible for outcomes realized.

Looking at specific situational contexts here, I will at least briefly delve into the issues of:

• Negotiating with peers and negotiating up and down a chain of command, however that might be defined in a business,
• Negotiating across a table of organization and
• Negotiating when that reaches outside of a business.

And as a part of this I will also discuss more general areas of consideration such as:

• The importance of arriving at win-win resolutions for any long-term negotiating success, and the perils of negotiated terms that at least one side would see as having been zero-sum for them and with they’re having lost in that,
• Conflicts of interest and both understanding and recognizing, and addressing them, and
• Negotiating in the context of change and the unexpected.

I will almost certainly add to this to-address list as I proceed in the installments to this series to come. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. You can also find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 3, and also see that directory’s Page 1 and Page 2.

Rethinking national security in a post-2016 US presidential election context: conflict and cyber-conflict in an age of social media 21

Posted in business and convergent technologies, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on June 14, 2020

This is my 21st 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 1-20.)

I said at the end of Part 20 that I would at least begin to discuss the cyber policies and doctrines that at least appear to be in place in the United States and in Russia, as I write this. I will, of necessity, also at least comparatively discuss the People’s Republic of China (China) and the People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) in the process. But before entering into that narrative, and with immediately preceding installments to this series in mind as I prepare to do so, I am going to offer an at least briefly stated framework for that, by considering defense policies, and more specifically cyber defense policies in general. I will then address those specific examples for how they fit into or diverge from that more general understanding. And with that noted as a point of orientation for what is to follow here, I begin with the absolute basics and with a consideration of what offensive and defensive mean, in a practical implementable context.

There is a saying to the effect that the best defense is a strong offense. That is in fact, simply a proffered justification for leading with an offense and for proactively attacking. But there still is at least a gleam of truth buried in that short-term considered, self-serving sentiment. A best defense can in fact be found in visibly having a strong enough capacity for reaching out (or striking back) militarily, so as to deter any proactive offensive action that might be taken by others. A defensive policy as a system of organized capabilities, can be built around that as an underlying doctrine. But that can only work if:

• Potential aggressors actually know that they face both defensive and offensive strength,
• And if they calculate correlation of forces and force symmetry and asymmetry in their decision making, in at least comparable ways to those of the would-be defender.

Miscommunications and misunderstandings in this, lead to what might otherwise be avoidable open, active conflicts. Would the Japanese have even seriously considered attacking Pearl Harbor in 1941 if they had known in advance what they would unleash against themselves, from what began as their “surprise attack” on that sunny Sunday morning? They saw the American public as hewing to a largely isolationist approach when facing the rise of Nazi Germany, and they saw Americans as weak and indecisive. They saw those ships in harbor as being vulnerable to attack and certainly when they had developed their special new shallow water capable aircraft-launched anti-ship torpedoes. And they were confident that if they timed everything correctly they could both attack and destroy America’s aircraft carriers at harbor and block the harbor itself with the wreckage of sunken ships – forcing the United States to a negotiating table that they would dominate as they made their demands on behalf of Japan and their Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

• As history shows, none of that worked out as planned.

Von Clausewitz argued a case for seeing war as an alternative form of diplomacy. But even he would have agreed that visible overwhelming strength in a potential adversary would make that a weak and risky negotiating tactic. And that brings me to the issues that I have raised in the last few installments to this series where the tools used to calculate potentially deployable strength of force, as conceived in a pre-cyber context, no longer offer real value and certainly where cyber weapons are likely to be deployed. We live in a world where Japan’s 1941 miscalculation, or at least its modern equivalents, have to be considered likely and in any potential conflict scenario. But at the same time, we live in a world where a seeming fig leaf cover of anonymity as to the actual source of a cyber-attack, can still make such action seem overwhelmingly appealing, and as “an alternative form of diplomacy” if nothing else.

• Defensive policy and doctrine have to be solidly grounded in empirical fact. And such fact has to be widely enough sourced so that civilian and military planners and strategists, working together, can understand the world as seen through the eyes of their potential adversaries, when arriving at them.
• And the tools that would be used to assess risks faced need to work and reliably so for the contexts in which they would be deployed.

Japan felt itself to be under direct ongoing economic attack from the trade restrictions and embargoes that they and their industrial base faced, coming out of the West and coming out of the United States and their governmental decisions in particular. A US-based decision to cut off their supply of imported natural rubber was in fact a deciding factor leading to Japan’s decision to directly attack American interests in the Pacific Ocean (at Pearl Harbor, the Philippines and elsewhere) that day.

The United States was taking actions such as the imposition of their rubber embargo, in response to Japan’s militarism in its attacks on China and elsewhere, and as a reaction to their realization that Japan’s expansionism could only serve to increase instability throughout Asia and heighten overall global risk.

Neither side stopped to look at the types of consequences that their decisions and actions could and perhaps inevitably would lead to. So in a fundamental sense, both nations backed into the conflict that exploded into being on November 7, 1941, because neither could arrive at a defensive policy or doctrine that were solidly grounded in empirical fact, and in a sufficiently wide understanding of what types and details of evidentiary fact were even needed for that.

Von Clausewitz argued a case for seeing war as an alternative form of diplomacy. It would perhaps make more sense to view the risk of conflict as a diplomacy framing tool, that can be used to bring less directly confrontational negotiations into a higher prioritized focus.

• All of this up to here is predicated on an assumption that the best defense precludes and even effectively eliminates the chance of having to face and deal with an actual offense: an actual attack.
• And the development of weapons of mass destruction and of what would amount to absolute mutual annihilation from their use, have only served to bring that point of understanding into focus as an imperative.

But even there, and with at least the possibilities of nuclear weapons hanging over any possible conflict, both defense and offense will happen. There have been few if any minutes: few if any individual seconds since the end of World War II, when there have been no open conflicts anywhere on Earth.

• While the immediate challenge of an attack can force a defensive response, or a defense followed by or even coordinately accompanied by offensive action, preparatory defensive action should be oriented towards making that type of reactive response unneeded by precluding any offensive attacks in the first place.
• Such defensive planning and preparation needs to be grounded in a clear-cut understanding of calculable risks faced and for both sides of any potential conflict,
• And an equally clear-cut understanding of what motivates potential adversaries and informs their decision making.
• And both sides to that have to include making sure that any potential adversary understands you and in corresponding ways too.
• That level and type of higher level understanding and on both counts, is essential to creating a conflict-free diplomatic framework. But at least selective uncertainty can offer value there too and particularly where that means uncertainty at a specific detail level, and on both sides, as to precisely how strong a potential adversary is and precisely where – with that increasing the presumable risk of any possible offensive action that might be taken.
• That is important. Uncertainty increases risk faced from action taken. It degrades any apparent value or benefit that might be expected from taking what might prove to have been ill considered action.
• So far these points apply with a measure of clarity and certainty in a pre-cyber arena. But when you add an at least likely presumption of realistically possible “plausible deniability” on the part of possible aggressors into that equation, as has to be done in any cyber-conflict oriented defensive planning, it quickly becomes apparent that
• Cyber-conflict capabilities increase uncertainty, but without that corresponding increase in understood risk, and certainly as an automatic given. And the destabilizing consequences of this are not always all that well understood.

I have used the terms reactive and proactive on any ongoing basis in this series, and in this posting itself up to here. And I have written of effective understanding and of blind spots in that, when assessing and planning for possible conflict risks, so as to limit if not eliminate them. But to round out this phase at least, of this more general discussion, I would at least clarify what I seek to encompass in those terms. And I begin doing so by setting as a for-here axiomatic assumption, a presumption that a cyber-attack’s consequences might outweigh for their adverse effects and costs, the costs of any realistic effort to prevent that. So any potential victim of an attack of this sort would see it as both desirable and even prudently necessary to forestall and prevent that from happening – if they can proactively do so.

• Proactive in this case would mean accepting and paying the cost of preventing an attack, and with that lessening the chance of such action being taken and certainly where knowledge of that might forestall action by a potential adversary. So this, from an actuarial, insurance-rate calculation model’s perspective would mean accepting the cost of any defensive preparations and actions taken. But such action might still be taken and a realized attack faced. So proactive as considered here still has to include an added-in actuarially based, risk of likelihood of occurrence-scaled percentage of the likely cost of such an attack if it takes place anyway. (Think of this as a necessary costs plus reserves in case of, calculation where a conservative estimation here would add extra remediation and recovery reserves just in case.)
• Reactive in this case, can mean attempting to be proactive in developing aggression-preventing defensive capabilities, but failing in that due for example to the disruptively unexpected nature of a cyber attack as actually launched and faced. But more generic defensive and related preparation can still in many cases limit the impact and cost faced and even from a more specifically unexpected type of attack. (Consider developing and deployed firewall separated parallel systems for critically important aspects of an overall information architecture as a case in cyber threat, point example there, that could be utilized even if one of those duplicative capabilities was compromised by a novel and unexpected for detail, type of cyber-attack. So this might still mean limiting the impact and the overall cost of an attack, so this and the (now failed) above proactive-attempted scenario would still be cost-limiting.
• But reactive can also mean entirely reactive and with no real defensive preparation or action entered into, that in this case would directly address cyber risk as discussed here. Then the full costs of any conventional-only defensive expenses would be incurred as would the full costs of any attacks actually faced – where a potential adversary might be more likely to attack to the degree that they assume a failure to defend from an attack. (To take this out of the abstract, consider how Russia hacked the 2016 US presidential and congressional elections, and how the Trump administration has actively sought to block both any effective investigation into that, and limit any proactive defense against its being repeated!)

Reactive and proactive carry costs, and can risk more and larger costs depending on how they are carried out. And an awareness of how risks and costs are understood and addressed by a nation (on the part of a potential adversary facing them), can only serve to affect both the range of the risks that are faced and the likelihood of those costs having to be paid. This becomes important when considering which specific defensive approaches and suites of them to take, contingent on their cost-effectiveness, and how concurrent measures might reinforce each other, and when considering:

• Risks faced if an adverse event happens anyway,
• The likelihood of those events happening,
• And the costs that would accrue if they did as balanced against the costs of efforts that might be taken to prevent or limit them.

Note: strictly monetary costs are only part of the actual total costs faced there. Put bluntly, what was the cost of losing those ships and the supportive docking and related facilities at Pearl Harbor on November 7, 1941? Few would argue against a conclusion that those loses only represented a small part of the actual overall costs faced that day, and of the loss that America and Americans actually faced from that event and even just there in the harbor itself.

And this brings me to a final area of consideration that I would include here in this more general orienting discussion of defensive and cyber defense policies and doctrines. That is the issue of systematic versus ad hoc in how all of this would be conceived and carried out. And that will become crucially important as I turn to consider Russian and American policies and practices in the next installment to this series.

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

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 51 – the jobs and careers context 50

This is my 51st 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 1-50.)

And more specifically, this is my second of two summarizing postings that I offer as I complete what has become a progression of fifty installments here, focusing on communications and negotiating in a more individual jobs and careers context. I offered the first of these two: Part 50 of this series as a whole, with a goal of at least briefly, categorically addressing the challenges of change and of the unexpected. Addressing that means rethinking and reframing your jobs and careers planning, and your day-to-day work practices with a goal of being more flexible and more adaptable, while connecting into your workplace community in ways that can make that possible. My goal here is to offer a matching discussion of the “systematic” side to that. And I begin doing so by directly confronting a readily perceived point of misunderstanding that many of us face when considering the two together: flexible and adaptable, and systematic and structured. Don’t they contradict each other?

• In a fundamental sense, my goal for this posting is to argue a case for seeing them as reinforcing and even enabling each other.

Yes, systematic and structured can mean rigid and brittle from that, with any stress, any pressure leading to fracture and collapse. But the systemic of perhaps less individually visible and addressable gaps of ad hoc and one-off as workplace routine can and do become just as risk creating. That perhaps opposite end of the spectrum alternative can and with time probably will lead to the same fractures and collapses. So the two might, at least long-term, be best considered as representing alternative faces to a same underlying planning and execution weakness.

• In a fundamental sense, my goal for this posting is to at least offer some thoughts in the direction of a viable and long-term beneficial middle ground that is built upon a combination of reasoned and considered stability where that would offer the greatest value, and adaptive flexibility where that would.

And I begin that with an essential core element to the stable foundation that I write of here, that I made explicit note of in Part 50: building mutually supportive networks with your colleagues where they would be more inclined to give you support when you need that in the face of change, because they know you are there for them too.

• Think in terms of building for adaptive flexibility from a stable foundation that can help you to be productively flexible.

Then be flexible, with that starting with your not slipping into workplace day-to-day ruts. And build for this with an assumption in place that you can achieve at least some of your goals as they might be challenged by most any circumstance or event that you might face (even if that means you’re being prepared for that with well considered Plan B possibilities in mind as a part of your more “stable” planning.)

• That last point of perspective is important. If you enter a potential negotiations opportunity assuming that it would be impossible for you to gain anything of value to you from it, that presumption will likely become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
• Good negotiations can lead to long term mutual gain. And remember, long-term stable, reliable gains are never zero-sum, winner take all. They are and they must be win-win where both sides see value to themselves in honoring both the terms and the spirit of those negotiations and their at-the-time negotiated agreements.
• And this means knowing your goals and your priorities and it means you’re being willing to compromise and yield on some points in order to gain on others.
• And reaching that means you’re knowing the goals and the priorities of the people who you would meet with and negotiate with, and as they see them.
• Negotiate from a consultant’s perspective and as if you were working together with the people you meet with on this, to help them reach their key priorities, while seeking your own as well. Negotiate as if from the same side of the table as them, in this, taking a non-adversarial approach.
• This means you stepping back from the potential emotions of the moment and of the issues at stake, and it means you’re reaching out to help those who you would negotiate with to reach that perspective too.

All of the above bullet points are about agile flexibility. But they cannot work with any real reliability, where they are carried out in practice, absent a well considered stable framework and approach.

And with that, I end this posting and this half of a basic narrative that I would offer here in this series: its jobs and careers side. I am going to turn to and begin discussing communications and negotiations from a business perspective, starting in the next installment to this.

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

Finding virtue in simplicity when complexity becomes problematical, and vice versa 22

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on May 24, 2020

This is my 22nd 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 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 257 and loosely following for Parts 1-21.)

Businesses are information driven; that is fundamental to the very nature of what it means for an organized effort to be a working business and certainly a successful one in the 21st century context that we now live in. So I have been developing this series in large part in terms of information, and in terms of confidential and sensitive information and how that might best be managed and with a just-right level of complexity in how that would be carried out.

I have been writing much if not most of this series in general business terms that would apply fairly widely, and both in a cross-industry sense and in a small versus large business sense. And I have written a great deal of this with a goal of addressing the impact of the issues raised here, as they would arise and apply regardless of the details of the marketplaces that those businesses face and seek to work with. So I have been offering this as belonging to a more business-details agnostic directory: Social Networking and Business. But I want to bring all of this into an at least somewhat tighter focus here by explicitly considering at least some of the issues that I have been raising in this, in a more specifically startup and early stage business context or at least in an explicitly small business context. And I begin doing so by reconsidering the gray area challenge that I raised and discussed in Part 21.

Apple, Inc. is one of the largest and most powerful businesses on this planet with a capitalization value that is so high that even just attempting to benchmark it as a matter of public record, and certainly from a widely recognized business or market analyst, could affect larger market valuations as a whole. It is a trillion dollar company, giving it a larger valuation than the gross domestic product (GDP) of over 80% of the nations on Earth. In fact, only 17 nations can claim to have a GDP of one trillion US dollars or more (or at least they could, immediately prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that we are all facing now. See this piece on the Trillion Dollar Club (Economics).) So when I write of possible conflicts between that business and national governments, where Apple might come into conflict with the demands of national police forces and courts as they seek to gain access to personal information from that company’s clients, I am actually writing of conflicts of interest and of possible actions taken, between what can be unequal contestants and with that business involved, larger and more powerfully placed than most any national government that might be involved!

How could any example of the type offered in Part 21 apply to or even hold meaning in the context of a more routinely scaled “large” business, let alone a medium sized or smaller one? How could an example like that apply to any startup or early stage business, and certainly if a government and its agencies challenge such an enterprise with what amount to eminent domain access right claims to their customers’ confidential information, and even where that information was initially provided to that business under explicit privacy protection terms?

I offered my Part 21 example to prove a point, if you will, and as at one of its goals. No business, no matter how large and powerful can be considered fully immune from challenge when it comes to the issues of confidential and sensitive information. Apple, as a case in point example, has faced conflict and challenge on these issues from the government of the People’s Republic of China (one of the countries with a larger GDP than their overall valuation.) And they have had to compromise on customer information access issues there, if they are to retain a position in serving the needs of China’s vast consumer market. And they have faced explicit challenge when it comes to access issues regarding specific identified terrorists too and certainly in the context of specific terrorist threats or acts. So all businesses: even the largest and most powerful, need to develop and maintain effective and effectively scaled systems for managing their information stores, and regardless of their size or economic strength. And all businesses need to develop and maintain effective exception handling capabilities there, as crucial elements of their overall information systems due diligence and risk management efforts.

What I will argue here is that smaller and certainly newer businesses:

• That do not have established systems and track records from following them, and
• That do not have established cash reserves in place, and
• That are still just beginning to develop what would hopefully become reliable repeat business customer bases,
• Face correspondingly greater and more impactful challenges there.

So they have to be particularly careful in how they see and understand the risks and benefits involved there. And they have to be particularly careful in how effectively they build so as to address those issues.

Apple, Inc. can go toe-to-toe in a fight, if need be with most any national government in protecting its rights for controlling access to its customers’ information, and few if any national governments can enter into such a conflict blithely assuming that they will automatically prevail and without cost. Smaller businesses in general and startups and early stage businesses in particular cannot claim that and could only prevail in such conflicts and even just in part, if for example, their own national government were to choose to side with them and forcefully so. Consider as a possible example there, an access demand conflict that would arise if an explicitly authoritarian government, as so recognized by the home country government of a business, were to try to force wide-ranging access to that business’ customer data in order to repress specific minority groups. I only assume there, that that business’ home government has been actively promoting human rights and that they have already had reason for seeing the information demanding nation in this, as systematically violating basic internationally accepted human rights principles as a matter of their ongoing practice.

That is an unlikely scenario. Smaller businesses need to take a clear cut and direct approach to the protection of their customers’ data:

• That they will protect its confidentiality as much as they can and under as wide a range of circumstances as possible
• But with an explicit acknowledgment that they would turn over that information to others pursuant to a court order that would mandate their specifically doing so.

I have been discussing this complex of issues in this series in terms of business processes and exception handling, and in terms of finding the right balance of lean and more robustly structured so as to achieve a risk and benefits aware effective scale and complexity, and agility. Small businesses, and startups and early stage businesses with their smaller headcounts and their simpler organizational systems, and their simpler operational systems, at least start out leaning more towards the small and simple side of that lean versus robust balance. But I will challenge that perhaps axiomatic assumption here by raising at least one possible source of extra, intermediating gate keeping that might or might not add in positive value: that might or might not primarily just add in friction and inefficiency and even increased risk, and even when headcounts of a new and early-growing business are still small. And I introduce that here with a question:

• When and how should the owner of a business step in and directly manage and gate keep the access to and use of specific customer data?

My one underlying assumption in that question is that that business has developed a sufficient headcount so that a specific “C level officer” has been brought onboard who would be in charge of sales or related functionalities that would specifically call for this type of information, and that they have been explicitly put in charge of managing customer information pursuant to that, and that the CEO and owner there is no longer directly managing any of this and certainly on anything like a routine basis. (I put “C level officer” in those quotes there because at this point in this business’ development they might be the only member of an intended but still to form separate department and with their title more a promise of what is to come than a reflection of any current reality already in place.)

Under those terms, the above bullet pointed question becomes an exceptions handling one, unless of course that CEO owner has come to such profound disagreement with their sales (or related) executive in place that a separation of some sort is in the offing.

I am going to continue this line of discussion in a next installment to this series, with a goal of discussing and analyzing some of the possible contingencies that might develop there, and their possible remediations. Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its Page 2 and Page 3 continuation pages. And also see my series: Communicating More Effectively as a Job and Career Skill Set, for its more generally applicable discussion of focused message best practices per se. I initially offered that with a specific case in point jobs and careers focus, but the approaches raised and discussed there are more generally applicable. You can find that series at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, as its postings 342-358.

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 50 – the jobs and careers context 49

This is my 50th 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 1-49.)

I devoted Part 1 of this series to offering a brief general orienting note as to what would follow it here as an organized series per se. And I did so with a goal of discussing more general issues and approaches and more specific contexts in which they would variously arise as important, where negotiating skills and negotiating approaches would offer value in a business setting.

I have attempted to at least selectively address both sides to that in what has followed, albeit with the resulting overall narrative often focused more on the specific than on the general. My goal here is to step back from what have often been those largely special case and specific circumstances, to offer something of a more general framework that they and other possible scenarios that I could have included here, would all call for and fit into. And I begin doing so by explicitly noting two points of detail:

• I selected the specific issues and scenarios that would arise around them here, because I saw them as holding value to a potentially wider audience, and because I have had specific experience with them so I could more knowingly address them, and
• I selected them in full awareness that I would of necessity leave out a great many alternative selection scenarios that could just as reasonably been chosen and developed here.

My goal for this posting is in effect, to at least categorically address those left-outs of that second bullet point and as a source of critically important if generally stated importance. And I begin doing so by acknowledging what should be an obvious reality. No matter how many specific business context issues I include here and no matter how comprehensively I seek to do so, I would still leave critically important gaps in what I would cover in this series – and even if I were to attempt as comprehensive an effort here on this as possible. So with that noted, I begin this posting’s main line of discussion by noting some crucially important facts that we all need to keep in mind:

• You have to be ready to face and address the unexpected and even when that means facing and acknowledging the reality of issues and challenges that you would prefer not to have to deal with. I have made note of this point a number of times in this series already, and certainly in the contexts of the specific types of negotiations requiring scenarios that I have raised and discussed here. But it is a generally applicable principle too.
• It is vitally important to be prepared and to be flexible in what you can be prepared for, from your ongoing work performance and from your ongoing workplace communications efforts. This means thinking through and performing on a day-to-day basis at work, in ways that can create and sustain supportive connections with others there. It means working and communicating more effectively. It means building bridges. And it means creating shared value, and it means you’re being a source of value that others can and do appreciate.
• And it is important to be agile and flexible in your thinking, and that you not simply slip into a day-to-day routine rut – as is all too easy a trap for any of us and certainly as our more routine day-to-day workplace experience smoothly proceeds. There, all last week, all last month, all last year … cannot reliably mean forever moving forward, or even just next year or next month or even next week. The disruptively unexpected can happen and with time it will.

Which of those points is the most important? My routine, less considered response to that question would probably be the third and last of them, as I have seen way too many people miss seeing what in retrospect should have been the obvious and essential, because they never look up to see what is, and is not taking place around them. But all three are in fact just elements of a larger and fundamentally indivisible whole. And with that noted, I add that I am writing this posting at a time when the entire United States national economy and essentially all businesses involved in it, are facing catastrophic change and uncertainty, and stress and challenge from the COVID-19 pandemic. I write this when essentially every nation is facing that, or will face it depending on where they are now as far as disease spread is concerned for them. Six months ago, COVID-19 did not exist and certainly as a pandemic, or even as just a more localized epidemic. Now it has virtually shut down entire business sectors and certainly where employees and managers would have to work together and with their clients and others, in person and face to face.

I raise this here, as businesses that can in principle operate remotely and via teleconferencing, video chat, web-based and other online sharable channels and approaches, and that have the capability actually do that, attempt to remain open and functioning and even with social distancing and other disease transmission containment efforts in place. And many are now attempting this and related disease containment-supportive efforts and often for a first time. And that brings me to the questions and issues of who would do this work and under what conditions and with what resources –and with that often meaning what online-connectable resources they individually have or can access at home.

• How would these hands-on employees and managers do this work, and when? Would they still work at least more or less “regular hours” or would they be expected to change or add to that in some significant way? As an extreme case situation would “work from home” come to mean “always on and always on-call for more work”?
• What would they be expected to do, or even provide in the way of information security in all of this? What of that would they be held responsible for and under what terms and conditions?
• What would their employer cover for expenses, of the resources that at-home, telecommuting employees or managers provide, that would be used for their work?
• And how would the novelty of what is required of these people be addressed as far as their compensation and related matters are concerned, where that can mean anything from determining overtime to managing sick time allowances? Should, for example a key-skills salary employee who would not usually be eligible for anything like overtime per se, be awarded what amounts to that as special compensation if they in fact do have to work significantly longer hours than usual, in order to address special critical needs issues?

These briefly stated questions only begin to touch upon the terms of employment and work-related benefits issues, that this sudden and unexpected shift to telecommuting and away from in-workplace work has brought us. And few if any of us, could have imagined the new employee-with-employer conversations and negotiations that must arise from all of this either, and certainly not that six months ago in our then still at-least seemingly pre-COVID-19 world.

I write a lot in this blog about change and about disruptive change and the emergence of the novel and the unexpected. That applies in the context of this series too, and that is a fact that cannot be forgotten except at peril.

I said at the end of Part 49 that I would turn here to “reconsider jobs and careers-oriented and supportive negotiations and negotiating processes as a whole.” And I have in fact been doing so in what I have offered up to here in it. But to complete my addressing that, I add one more key word to that here-repeated line of text: “systematic.” I am going to complete this more general discussion of negotiating in an employee-with-employer context in the next installment to this series. And then I will switch directions to consider business negotiating from a business perspective.

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

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