Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Leveraging social media in gorilla and viral marketing as great business equalizers: a reconsideration of business disintermediation and from multiple perspectives 17

Posted in social networking and business, startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 3, 2019

This is my 17th 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 1-16.)

I have been discussing gorilla and viral marketing in more general terms in this series, laying a foundation for more detailed analysis as to their reach and effectiveness, and for even knowing how well they are performing for your business –if that is, they are at all. So for example, I explicitly if briefly discussed the issues of outside-shaping control in any genuinely viral marketing campaign, where “viral” in that context ultimately means “coming from members of the consumer community and marketplace” and where publically visible messaging contributions offered from there, might or might not be legitimately grounded and as either false-flag negative, trolling efforts or as equally false-flag positive messages. And even more genuine viral sourced messaging might or might not have real impact potential depending on a variety of factors too, many of the more important of which might be predictively understood.

Then I ended Part 16 by offering the following four point tool set of basic issues for consideration when thinking about, developing, reviewing and refining a gorilla marketing campaign per se:

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

I offered this checklist of value determining, question-raising issues: this analytical tool set if you will, in Part 16, in the context of having just reconsidered one of the early tools that was used in attempts at determining the effectiveness of online marketing and sales, and commercial web design and development per se for that matter and certainly as they would support online marketing and sales success: eyeball counts. And I began addressing that earlier analytical approach by stating that no one knew how to develop actionable value out of the data that they were accumulating from this. No one knew how or when simply viewing online content translated into action and ultimately into successful sales transactions – even as online marketers and web developers touted the overall eyeball count numbers that their clients achieved through their web site and related development efforts.

• No one really knew and certainly at first, when or how to best determine when page views and eyeball counts actually meant anything.
• That meant they did not know how to develop an online presence and design it in detail so as to improve the numbers of consumers who would do more than just look, increasing their conversion rates: the rate at which those page and content viewers actually entered into a sales transaction from this experience, and completed it.

More is known now, of course, as to what those numbers mean and most of that insight comes from developing more nuanced understanding as to what a site visitor and viewer is actually doing, with that including an understanding of metrics such as:

• Where they clicked from to reach a page that is being page view-count tracked,
• What links if any on that page they click to when leaving,
• And where they in fact leave to.

There is a lot more to this, of course, but the basic idea offered there should be fairly clear. Eyeball counts, in and of themselves offer very little real marketing analysis value; it is the context that those views arise in that tells everything. And I offered that perspective there, and briefly recapitulate it here because a very similar set of underlying principles applies in the context of the later generation marketing, and marketing analysis demanding approaches that I have been discussing here: viral and gorilla marketing and their more effective use.

• Context and contextual understanding and the accumulation of data that can support that type and level of understanding is everything here, and exactly as proved necessary in an earlier, simpler eyeball count measured, central broadcasting model online marketing world.

The primary difference here, in fact is that when interactive supplants central broadcasting, and two-way and multi-direction communications and information sharing supplants a simpler one-way information flow model, the level and diversity of detail needed in that contextual data increases by orders of magnitude if any effectiveness at all is to be achieved. And the forces of competition for market share that have continued on and continued growing, and from way before the advent of internet and from the earliest marketplaces, simply make the scale of this data required now, essentially open-ended – and certainly as that imperative might be argued for by market analysts and by the data providing businesses that service their needs. And with this noted, I turn to consider the role of and the limitations of big data in this still rapidly evolving business and marketplace context.

• Eyeball counts and the demand for progressively more complex and comprehensive contextual data that would make it possible to derive meaningful, actionable insight from its numbers, have come to include and even fundamentally require the accumulation of progressively more and more complex data sets, that only began with the three basic metrics that I just listed above here.
• Big data as a business enabler began there, and certainly as online became critically important to business success and for more and more businesses and business types.
• Modern online marketing with its newer gorilla and viral marketing manifestations: forms that can explicitly take advantage of the interactive internet, have made big data a business survival essential, and certainly where a business seeks to do better than simply get by.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will consider a basic conundrum that this dynamic has built into it:

• I have been writing here of the need for more and more data, with more and more variable types to fill their database fields. And I add here a corresponding need for all of this data to be more and more accurate and more and more real-time up to date too.
• And augmenting the number of such variables (and the data accuracy for what populates their database fields) does in principle mean an increased and improved capability to analytically study a consumer and potential consumer base in finer and finer detail, parsing it into progressively more refined demographics and sub-demographics and in ways that would lead to more effective business decisions and of all types.
• But the more data types that would be called upon and used in any given such analysis or set of them: the more variables that would have to be coordinately analyzed in making use of this data, the larger the numbers of consumers that data would have to come from, in order to achieve sufficient data set sizes so as to make the requisite statistical tests that would be used, even just mathematically valid.

My goal for the next installment to this series is to begin with an orienting discussion of these points, and how they arise as valid sources of concern. And then I will discuss data evaluation at the trade-off levels of knowing what of a set of possible information held, holds the most value and would offer the most actionable insight in a given situation: in the course of developing, running and evaluating the outcomes of specific marketing campaigns. And I will also discuss how this opens doors for third party data providers to enter this narrative and very profitably for themselves.

And as already noted at the end of Part 16, I will also at least briefly outline how and why I would cite big data’s use here as holding potential for creating both business systems-positive and societally-negative impact, depending on how it is done and on how it is regulated.

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

Rethinking national security in a post-2016 US presidential election context: conflict and cyber-conflict in an age of social media 17

Posted in business and convergent technologies, social networking and business by Timothy Platt on September 27, 2019

This is my 17th 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 1-16.)

The types of issues that I raise and discuss in this type of series, always have their roots in the histories of the peoples and nations involved in the issues and challenges discussed in them. So I have been approaching the issues and challenges of national security here, with specific relevant historic narratives and timelines in mind, as I consider and discuss specific case study examples. I take that approach in my consulting work and in how I think about these issues in general too, so I offer that as my basic approach here, to put this in wider perspective. And as part of that, I have been exploring Russia’s approach to national security, as a case in point source of working examples for this series, since Part 13.

More specifically, I have been developing and outlining a selectively considered timeline of the threats and challenges that Russia has faced over the centuries now, in Part 13, Part 14 and Part 16 of this, with that developing narrative leading up to and including a brief and selective biographical note concerning Vladimir Putin himself: Russia’s current leader, and with a goal of discussing that nation’s current and emerging national security strategies and how they implement them, as shaped by a combination of Russian national history and Putin’s own personal history and perspective.

I digressed from this largely chronologically organized narrative in Part 15, to offer a more generally stated perspective on how most if not all nations currently see, understand and plan for cyber-defense and offense in all of this. But my goal here is to complete, at least for purposes of this series, my Russian historical narrative, and then turn back to consider some still very open issues and questions that are at least implicitly raised in Part 15, to at least begin to offer some thoughts as to how a better, more resiliently effective national security doctrine might be developed that would more effectively take advancing cyber-dimensions of threat as faced, into account.

I intend to raise and discuss several other case study examples in this series after completing my discussion of Russia as such, to further develop and expand upon that narrative line. But I begin all of this here with further consideration Vladimir Putin and his Russia, and with the world context that he and his country face. And I begin this with an at least briefly selective discussion of what I have come to think of as the Putin Defense Policy and its underlying doctrine, as first cited here in Part 16. And I begin that by noting a point of detail that might or might not seem immediately obvious to a reader:

• When a policy or doctrine, or plan if it is called that (e.g. the Marshall Plan) is explicitly named after a single individual as its defined and defining source, that generally means that it is grounded in their own more individual understandings and their own preferred goals and priorities, and as much so as it is in the needs of whatever societal order that it would be developed for.

And yes – I have written in this blog of the Marshall Plan as an example of a massive, comprehensive infrastructure rebuilding program, but it was at least as much a massive mutual defense initiative too. And that face to it and its imperatives created the support that made its infrastructure redevelopment side possible too.

So what is the Putin Defense Policy and what is its underlying doctrine, and both as Vladimir Putin and his government seek to lay out and prioritize a strategic and operational plan for safeguarding and advancing Russia and that nation’s interests, and as they would advance Putin’s own more individual needs and understandings too? I begin addressing that question by posing a second one, that might at first glance seem unrelated and even non sequitur here. For all of their differences what do Donald Trump, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin most significantly hold in common, and even as share defining traits?

• All three see themselves as the essential leader of their time, and as indispensible for that.
• All three see any posited distinction between their own personal goals and ambitions and the realization of their visions for their nations, as being arbitrary and false.
• And all three pursue their more unified, if sometimes blurred and out of focus plans there, through authoritarian means, pursuing that approach to leadership as a shortest and most direct path to what they see as their inevitable success, and with a minimum amount of resistance or pushback to slow them down allowed for.

I have been addressing Xi and Trump in this regard in a concurrently running series (see Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, and the Contrasts of Leadership in the 21st Century as can be found at Social Networking and Business 2 and its Page 3 continuation, as postings 299 and loosely following.) And I at least briefly consider Putin in this same type of light here, as I raise and discuss his vision of Russia and of how best to safeguard it: his nation, while meeting his own more personal ambitions and needs too.

Ultimately, Vladimir Putin does not see as valid any distinction between his meeting his own needs and interests and his meeting Russia’s. (This same point, I add, could be said about Donald Trump and his vision of the United States, and Xi Jinping and his vision of China, and I explicitly note that here as a brief add-on note to the above cited series about them.) How does that play out as Putin shapes and implements his policies, both foreign and domestic? My goal for this posting is to at least briefly answer that question, and certainly as far as his foreign policy and his approach to national defense as included there is concerned.

I have, of course, already offered a key goals-oriented and goals-defining part of any real answer to that question, in the course of writing Part 16 to this, when I observed that what Putin:

• “Seeks to do is to reestablish the old protective buffer zone, or at least part of it, as that reached its greatest scope under the Warsaw Pact and certainly when considering Western threats. And as a continuation of old approaches of developing such protective buffer zones, the Putin Policy as it has emerged, also calls for the creation of what amount to cyber buffer zones too: areas of Russian dominating cyber influence and control.”

And the second half of that here-repeated point strikes to the heart of what Vladimir Putin has been operationally developing as his defense plan. He has come to see flexible hybrid systems of response and of proactive action that include use of both traditional military and cyber capabilities as fundamentally important, and has actively worked to both develop and use such combined, flexible capabilities as he evolves and advances his foreign policy s a whole.

I cited his government’s moves on the Crimean Peninsula and on Eastern Ukraine in Part 16, and add here that this involved:

• Direct military intervention with Russian soldiers and officers entering into the Ukraine in false flag garb as supposed Ukrainian citizens,
• Support of actual Ukrainian forces whose interests aligned with his own, organized as local “home grown” militias, and
• Provision of military equipment and supplies, military officer guidance and military intelligence findings to support all of this.

But that, in and of itself, only addresses Russia’s deployment and use of more conventional forces in this overall campaign. Putin’s Russian has orchestrated and led a campaign to reestablish a vassal state buffer zone there between his Russia and the West, and one that has just as importantly included a very active cyber component, and both to hinder efforts from the Ukraine’s Western-leaning government from effectively countering this action, and for sewing disinformation and both within the Ukraine itself and in the West as to who has been doing what there and why. That has prominently included enlisting and leading an army of third party social media trolls and related non-Russian, non-Ukranian agents, along with deploying explicitly Russian assets.

Initially, those Russian cyber-assets were organized as smaller specialized units under the command of Russia’s Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (GRU). But Putin’s Russian cyber-warfare capability (thought of there more broadly as an information-warfare capability) has now been reorganized under a single overall unified cyber command. And non-Russian, largely civilian cyber agents and explicitly Russian cyber-assets as drawn from that command and its operational units, have been and are used in parallel with each other and according to a basic doctrinal approach that closely mirrors how Putin and his planners and field commanders have made use of both local Ukrainian and Russian-sourced conventional military assets.

• For a brief but telling discussion of this emerging Russian cyber-capability, see Russia’s Approach to Cyber Warfare: a 2016 CNA Analysis Solutions paper, prepared in collaboration with the US Center for Naval Analyses, for the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.

I began my discussion of Russian cyber warfare and of Russia’s weaponized cyber capabilities here, with a focus on events that have taken place in and near the Ukraine. But this was not Russia’s or even Vladimir Putin’s first use of cyber capabilities as a source of tools for carrying out his foreign policy. This campaign was not his counterpart to the Spanish Civil War, as that was used by Nazi Germany before World War II, to test new weapons and tactics there, and gain real-world proven proficiency in their use. He did that earlier as a key due diligence step, when he had forces developed within his military and his own intelligence service: the FSB (formerly the KGB), carry out cyber-attacks against what he saw as unsupportive and therefore hostile governments in the Baltic States, and against their nations’ private sectors too. Estonia was a particular target there. And Russia’s attacks there have served as test runs for all that has followed elsewhere.

Putin and his government and his military have used a combination of local Russian-supportive citizens of those countries and certainly in Estonia, working in concert there with Russian cyber-warfare and other assets (e.g. Russian operatives on the ground), to disrupt government and private sector functions, as a very direct threat for those nations to stay aligned with Russian interests or else.

• When Putin made his test-case moves on Estonia and the Baltic States, and then when he launched his attacks on the Crimean Peninsula and on Eastern Ukraine, he had his planners and his senior officers in place deploy networked computer resources such as denial of service attack-directed botnets, with them including veritable armies of security compromised personal computers and from all over, globally. And a large proportion of this activity was operationally directed out of a former, once Warsaw Pact ally and vassal state: Rumania.
• His campaign also made use of outsider-sourced cyber-attack assets: cyber-trolls and discontents from a more open-ended geographic range who his people could convince to contribute to this effort, and through the spread of online disinformation directed at them, if nothing else.

I have written of the flexible use of combined forces and asset types in all of this, and if the Putin Defense Policy has uniquely innovative aspects to it, is in how he has developed, and test-fire vetted this and in ways that few other nations can begin to claim to have done to match. That assurance of reliable usability makes these capabilities all the more dangerous in his hands, as Putin can consider them and use them without the pause for thought that attempted use of untested resources would always bring with them. But I would end this posting by raising another point of strategic and tactical consideration that is most certainly as much a part of Putin’s built-in way of thinking as any of the lessons learned that I made note of in Part 16: the concept of correlation of forces. See this now-declassified 1976 United States Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) SRI report on The Soviet Concept of the “Correlation of Forces” as that would have shaped at least Putin’s early understanding of this concept. This is the vision and understanding of this basic military planning tool that would have informed his own training.

• Introduction of cyber-weaponized systems in general, and of crowd sourced weaponized capabilities as a particular advancement there, necessitate a complete reevaluation as to how an accurate risk and opportunity evaluation of the correlation of forces in play could even be determined, as part of a meaningful planning exercise.

And that point of observation at least begins to highlight the measure of significant of the disruptive novelty of what Putin’s Russia is both developing and life-fire testing, and right now.

With that noted, see this 2017 US Military sourced white paper:

Demystifying the Correlation of Forces Calculator for how it has baked into it, so many of the basic force identity and capability assumptions that enter into the above cited Soviet era Russian document on this planning tool, and for how it fails to take new and emerging cyber-capabilities into account. Yes, its more detailed understandings of more conventional forces differ from what was offered there, but its essentially complete focus on them remains the same and even in an age when cyber threat has to be assumed and accounted for too.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will further discuss cyber weapons and cyber weaponization, reconsidering among other issues, what dual-use technologies actually are in this fast changing context. And I will also further discuss the challenge of understanding and calculating correlations of forces and how they have to be redefined for the 21st century, and in an explicitly cyber-inclusive and cyber-ubiquitous context. That among other things will require my discussing symmetrical and asymmetrical conflicts and how they are being fundamentally redefined here too. Then I will at least briefly touch upon Russian efforts to influence and even suborn foreign referendums and elections, and in places like the European Union and the United States. Then, and after offering more summarizing comments on the Putin Defense Plan as a whole, I will turn back to reconsider and expand upon the cyber doctrine issues that I first raised here in Part 15. And I will continue on from there by at least briefly discussing other case study examples of relevance here too.

And as one more anticipatory note as to what is to come here, I will at least briefly address a key detail in all of this that I have cited here without explanation but that does merit more detailed consideration too: the fact that Vladimir Putin does not and probably cannot see any fundamental distinctions between his meeting his nation’s needs and his own. What I write of here is national in scope and focus but it is deeply personal to him too.

All of that noted, I end this posting with one final thought:

• Any conflict or potential conflict, and any use or possible use of force that in any significant way or degree includes use of cyber capabilities, automatically renders the theater of operations involved, global. And it is never going to be possible to meaningfully calculate correlation of forces or force symmetries or asymmetries or any related measures for such contexts if this simple fact is not taken into account and fully so.

I write this posting thinking back to a face-to-face conversation that I have had with a senior officer on the United States side of this, in that nation’s emerging cyber command, that would lead me to question how thoroughly the points that I would raise here are understood for their fuller implications.

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 37 – the jobs and careers context 36

This is my 37th 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 1-36.)

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

• Negotiating possible downsizings and business-wide events that might lead to them, and how you might best manage your career when facing the prospects of getting caught up in that type of circumstance (see Part 32 through Part 36.)

I have attempted, over the past five installments to this series, to lay a foundation for what I would turn to and discuss here, with:

• A more detailed discussion of what downsizings are, as considered from the perspective of businesses that carry them out – the What and Why of this,
• A discussion of Who is at risk of being caught up in these events from the employee side of them, and
• A corresponding discussion of the Who of this from the business’ side.

My goal for this posting is to at least begin to discuss the How of this, and of negotiating in this type of context as that might be made possible. And to repeat a point already made in this narrative, that is crucially important to all that will follow here:

• “One size fits all” approaches do not and cannot work for you, and certainly if you seek to reach a best-for-you possible resolution from your communications and negotiating efforts.

This means negotiating to the specific context and with the specific people who you would meet with, and according to a then-and-there realistic and relevant understanding of both what you seek to achieve, and of what they can and might negotiate on.

And with that noted, I will return to reconsider the specific scenarios that I have raised in this posting progression so far, each based on a separate and distinct rationale as to why a business might have even considered downsizing in the first place. And I will discuss and develop them in this series as working examples for how you might have gotten caught up in this type of predicament, and as working examples of the types of issues you that might have to be able to negotiate on, and how. But before delving into those specifics, I will set the stage for them by considering more general negotiations issues that would apply to essentially any potential or emerging downsizing scenario that you might find yourself facing.

And in that, I start out assuming only one point of detail on your part as a hands-on employee or manager who is facing the possibility of being let go: that you would prefer to stay on with this employer, at least until a time and circumstance of you’re choosing. I assume that you do not want to be let go now and that if you leave you would prefer to do so as a result of your own decision making processes. And I start out discussing negotiations here, by making note of some of the crucially important details that you have to find effective ways to address and regardless of why your employer is considering this type of path forward.

• The first and foremost point to remember here is that when you seek to negotiate to keep your job in a business that is at least actively considering downsizing as a tactical response, you do so in the context of a very real and significant power asymmetry. And you have to at least tacitly assume, unless and until proven otherwise that your employer starts out already at least half convinced that it would make sense for them to let you go as a part of that.
• But even if this assumption is valid, it has most likely been decided upon, on the basis of categorical considerations of job types, and not after considering you in particular. This is crucially important. Yes, downsizings are used to sweep up and dismiss employees who are at least nominally good enough at their work assignments to be retained there, but who do not fit in, in the corporate culture, or who have come to be seen as trouble makers in some way. But the primary dismissal targets for these events, and officially at least the only ones are good employees who that business would otherwise actively want to keep on staff. And they are selected by the numbers and more usually according to job titles and work categories held. So negotiating to stay, has to be grounded in bringing the people you meet with, and ultimately the person or people who make the decisions here, to see you and think about you as an individual.
• What do they most want and need for their business, coming out of this?
• How can you best present yourself as a viable and even necessary part of the answer that they need to be able to find for that question, as they ask it themselves?
• And how can you come to more effectively negotiate with these people as if you were working from the same side of that negotiating table with them, in helping them to better and more easily achieve their goals? I will propose you’re taking a consultant’s approach there, as I will explain in detail as I delve into the issues raised by the points in this list.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, expanding on these and related general principles. Then after doing so I will discuss the specific downsizing scenarios that I have already at least made note of in this series, to take that out of the abstract. And as part of that narrative, I will discuss Plan B options and fallbacks, and both for their own immediate value as offering specific alternative paths forward for you, and for the value that even having other options can give you in an impactful negotiating setting.

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.

On the importance of disintermediating real, 2-way communications in business organizations 17

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on September 21, 2019

This is my 17th installment to a brief series on coordinating information sharing and communications needs, and information access filtering and gate keeping requirements (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 275 and loosely following for Parts 1-16.)

I began working my way through a briefly stated to-address topics list in Part 12 that I repeat here for its last two entries for smoother continuity of narrative, as I continue addressing their issues, and those of the second of them in particular:

2. Begin that (nota bene: a discussion of basic issues of communications and information sharing and their disintermediation) with a focus on the human-to-human communications and information sharing context (see Part 14 and Part 15.)
3. Then build from that to at least attempt to anticipate a complex of issues that I see as inevitable challenges that we will all come to face as artificial agents develop into the gray area of artificial intelligence capability that I made note of earlier in this series (n.b. in Part 11). More specifically, how can and should these agents be addressed and considered in an information communications and security context? In anticipation of that line of discussion to come, I will at least raise the possibility here, that businesses will find themselves compelled to confront the issues of personhood and of personal responsibility and liability for gray area artificial agents, and early in that societal debate. And the issues that I raise and discuss in this series will among other factors, serve as compelling bases for their having to address that complex of issues.

I began to explicitly discuss the issues and challenges raised by the above Point 3 in Part 16, there focusing on acceptance of the Different, and on pushback against that as it arises too. And in the course of raising that complex of issues, I posed a series of open questions that I left to the reader to mull over – as we will all have to and certainly as the gray area artificial intelligence agents that I have been writing of here, become realities that we cannot ignore for their commonality or their impact. And we will see and have to deal with and have to live with: coexist with gray area artificial intelligence agents before we have to deal with artificial intelligence agents that so palpably demonstrate true artificial general intelligence that we cannot ignore their claims to personhood without falling into the self-defeating trap of overt bigotry. So I focus on them, as it is in our dealings with the gray area agents where we will have to rethink and even redefine what words like “person” even mean. It is our experience with them that will shape our learning curves for this, and compel us to pursue them.

I wrote at the end of Part 16 of what might be considered pure Point 2, human-to-human scenarios, and pure Point 3 human-to-artificial intelligence agent scenarios. And I also raised the possibility of gray areas developing between them too, with the development of artificial replacement parts that would be connected into human brains to correct for damage or loss or for augmentative purposes. We are still so early in this, that no one yet can even begin to imagine the range of possibilities that can and will be pursued and realized there. But I am going to step back from that more speculative area of consideration, at least for now, to bring this discussion back to our current here-and-now. And I do so by raising the issues of how our current generation artificial intelligence agents are being responded to now, and how their presence is coming to reshape our human-to-human, Point 2 realities as well.

Let’s start this line of discussion by considering the so widely used talking and connecting agents that have become basic and even seemingly essential elements to our day-to-day lives and for an ever-increasing proportion of humanity: our increasingly ubiquitous virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. And my area of focus here, when considering them is not in what they can do – it is in how we change our behavior and reshape our expectations when using them, to bypass or mask their limitations as we seek to communicate with them as if they were more generally intelligent than they actually are.

I have held up the possibility of open-ended natural conversation as a quintessential artificial general intelligence agent goal in this blog and have discussed that challenge in a certain amount of detail and in several series of postings here. Current virtual assistants do not come close to meeting that type of benchmark goal. So people: human people who make use of these agents quickly learn to speak in the very particularly stilted and limited way that such agent can “understand” now, fitting into their expert systems database-stored conversational patterns that they can act upon as they receive questions or requests.

• Current virtual assistants are at best just still relatively low-end gray area artificial intelligence agents insofar as no one would realistically consider them as displaying anything like general intelligence and even just of a low intelligence quota (IQ) form.
• But those same people go to great lengths to in effect reshape themselves to confirm to the limitations of these systems, so they can pretend(?) they are smarter and more generally so than they actually are.
• I used the word plus caveat “pretend(?)” there with reservations as I am not sure what phrasing would be best for describing this phenomenon. I simply add here that that is only one wording possibility of many that are probably all at least somewhat valid and certainly situationally. Think of that as at least anecdotally supporting evidence of at least my acknowledgment of the nuanced uncertainties with which people, myself included, face when confronting and dealing with the not-this, not-that of the artificial intelligence agents that we see around us now.

Setting that aside and focusing on how the behavior and the limitations of these agents shape our behavior, I explicitly state the obvious:

• We change ourselves in our effort to help our current more limited artificial intelligence agents to function for us as if smarter, and certainly if they attempt to converse with us.

Now let’s consider this reshaping from a different direction. And for that I turn to consider efforts to improve and optimize the industrial shop floor and certainly where manual and repetitive labor are concerned, by requiring that people working there behave more like machines – more like artificial specialized intelligence agents that have been or could be developed to carry out those same specific tasks.

Amazon has come under particular fire for this, and with news stories coming out seemingly globally about their emerging business practices there. See, for example:

I Worked at an Amazon Fulfillment Center; They Treat Workers Like Robots and
Inside an Amazon Warehouse, Robots’ Ways Rub Off on Humans.

But Amazon does not hold a monopoly on this. See, for example:

As Workers Are Increasingly Treated Like Robots Where Will The Breaking Point Be?

And this leads me back to the issues of pushback that I raised as a point of consideration and concern in Part 16, and certainly when coupled with the way that more and more low skill and repetitive tasks that can be encompassed in a set algorithm are being turned over to robotic agents and taken out of human employee hands and both locally within single businesses and globally across entire industries.

• Think of the robotization of low skill and repetitive labor human employees, as an unstable, unsustainable first step towards the robotization of those jobs with their being turned over to artificial specialized intelligence agents and the robotic machinery they run.

And with that, I complete a process of presenting this narrative from a perspective that is more likely to lead to lose-lose results than any other that I can think of – from positing all of this as it would actually play out in zero-sum, complete win or complete lose terms, to phrase this in game theory terms, where either humans in effect dehumanize themselves at least in part so as to be able to accommodate the limitations of their emerging artificial intelligence tools, or they find themselves in a winner take all contest with an opponent who can evolve and adapt so quickly and so fully, and certainly when compared to the pace of biological evolution and more normative cultural change, so as to ensure an eventual human loss.

I developed Part 16 of this series, around a morally and ethically grounded principle, that might in the long run also qualify as a best path forward, survival and success strategy too, and for all involved:

• An inclusively democratic principle of presumed value and significance in all people, and with an openness to accepting Different from others as a realization of that principle, is a fundamental goal that humans and human societies can and too often do find difficult to achieve, and even when significant effort is made to do so.
• And it is going to be necessary to both rethink and expand upon all of the assumptions and decisions that we could or would make in achieving that principle, as the emergence of new forms of intelligence and of personhood arise.
• That emergence will, of necessity mean revisiting issues and even basic understandings where this principle has already been realized in practice, as those understandings have to be stretched and reframed in new, larger contexts.
• And to at least selectively expand upon that point, from what I offered in it in Part 16, this more expansive reconsideration and reframing will of necessity have to include a more expansive revision of the first of these bullet points too, that is not just drafted in anthropocentric terms. As soon as artificial intelligence agents begin to gain cognitive capabilities that even just significantly begin to approach general intelligence, they will face the same issues, uncertainties and challenges that are expressed in that point too and both as they have to coexist and live with each other and as they have to do so with human people.

We have to find ways to reframe all of the issues that we face and that we will come to face in this, in win-win terms, and in ways that would benefit all involved parties: our emerging artificial intelligence agents included, and certainly as they develop levels of information processing capability and reasoning power, as to qualify as having genuine intelligence (and even just deep-end gray area intelligence there.) And we certainly need to at least substantially start developing this new vision and approach by the time that genuine fully capable artificial general intelligent agents start arriving on the scene.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment. And then after more fully exploring the of-necessity changing issues of what personhood and intelligence mean, and how we should approach all of this societally, I will turn to apply that understanding to a business setting and to communications and information sharing contexts as arise in that context.

And with that offered in anticipation of discussion to come in this series, I close this posting by at least briefly turning back to the add-on text that I have appended to the end of the above-repeated topics Point 3, and every time I have offered it.

• Businesses will find themselves compelled to confront the issues of personhood and of personal responsibility and liability for gray area artificial agents, and early in that societal debate.

A complex of pressures arising from many directions will force this on businesses and from early on, and with those pressures coming from as diverse a range of sources as legal mandates to protect sensitive personally identifiable customer information, and civil rights concerns. I will of necessity delve into this complex of issues too, in the course of developing that line of discussion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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