Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

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

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

This is my sixth installment to a brief series on coordinating information sharing and communications needs, and information access filtering and gate keeping requirements (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 275 and loosely following for Parts 1-5.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

Business planning from the back of a napkin to a formal and detailed presentation 20

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on December 12, 2017

This is my 20th posting to a series on tactical and strategic planning under real world constraints, and executing in the face of real world challenges that are caused by business systems friction and the systems turbulence that it creates (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 578 and loosely following for Parts 1-19.)

I have been developing this series around two alternative business model case studies since Part 17 that I will continue exploring here, and that I repeat in briefly outlining bullet point format here, for smoother continuity of narrative:

• A hardware store: Alpha Hardware, that went through a more fundamental transitional change as it came to outgrow its original single storefront and its space restrictions there, to become a two storefront business with a more specialized Alpha Hardware and an Alpha Home Goods, and
• A cutting edge technology offering, business-to-business software development company: the e-Maverick Group.

And at the end of Part 19, I stated that I would:

1. More systematically discuss how business operations would differ for businesses that follow one or the other of these two basic patterns, starting in my next series installment, further discussing
2. How the specific product offering decision making processes that I have been making note of here would inform the business models pursued by both of these business types, and their overall strategies and operations and their views and understandings of change: linear and predictable and disruptively transitional in nature.
3. And I added that I would discuss how their market facing requirements and approaches as addressed here, would shape the dynamics of any agreement or disagreement among involved stakeholders as to where their business is and where it is and should be going, and how.

My goal for this posting is to at least begin to address all of these interrelated issues and I begin doing so with the first of those topic points. And I begin addressing that with the fundamentals:

• One of the core, defining goals of any effective business model is to clearly lay out what a business would bring to market as a source of defining, marketable value. And as a part of that, it would specify at least in general terms, what products and/or services it would create and offer and it would explain how these offerings would provide sources of unique value to its specific marketplace and its intended customer base. And it would characterize and map out its intended target markets and their basic demographics as a part of this.
• But at the heart of this, is a detailed outline of what that business would offer that real-world consumers would want to purchase and at prices asked for, and with their purchases creating the revenue streams that make the business work. All strategic planning and operational execution that would be laid out in this business plan, and that would be followed in day-to-day and longer-term planned business practice would support that.

And with that stated, let’s reconsider the business models – and the operational practices of the two Alpha stores and the e-Maverick Group.

Operations for a business include within them, essentially everything that a business does in carrying out its basic maintenance and performance functions, at least as a matter of organized and standard practice. My focus here in this posting is much more constrained then that, to keep this discussion relevant to the specific topic at hand. With that qualifier in mind, let’s consider operational processes and organized systems and subsystems of them that directly act upon and either facilitate or in some manner hinder the basic product acquisition, marketing and sales cycles that they and their business models would require.

• For a manufacturer such as the e-Maverick Group, that would mean their product design and testing, production, marketing and sales cycle that I have primarily written in specific terms of in this series and certainly in its most recent installments.
• For a business such as the Alpha stores that do not design or build their own merchandise themselves as much as acquire it from others: original manufacturers, wholesalers or some combination of them, that would mean sourcing from these providers and marketing and selling what is brought in this way, and using the positive branding and brand recognition of their products’ original manufacturers and any relevant outside reviewers where possible to facilitate their own marketing and sales. And their testing and quality control would involve monitoring for possible defect or spoilage in what is delivered for them to resell and through their own reviews and on the basis of customer feedback, as well as tracking the ongoing effectiveness of their business practices and performance with them.

That highlights the differences between these two business types. But the overall points of similarity between those two approaches are more important here than those differences are. Both business model approaches spell out variations on a more underlying and fundamental product handling cycle that these businesses both go through, leading up to sending their products out the door as new purchases, as a mechanism for generating revenue and profits, and with next cycle stages contingent on their bringing in some combination of repeat business and new customer business to continue that.

• What operational processes are directly involved in carrying out these business cycles step-by-step, and for their overall review and evaluation?

That is in fact perhaps the most pivotally important strategic planning and evaluation question that you could ask. The details of a more complete, and I add functionally helpful answer to that are always business-specific and certainly when an enterprise goes beyond simply following a cookie-cutter pattern as laid down by others as for example when functioning as a highly outside-regimented franchise outlet. But there are a number of basic operational details in this that are more generic. I will at least begin delving into some of them in my next installment to this series. And in anticipation of discussion to come, I will also at least briefly delve into the issues of stability and how the two business models functionally define it, as initially touched upon in this series in Part 19.

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

Rethinking exit and entrance strategies 23: keeping an effective innovative focus while approaching and going through significant business transitions 13

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on December 10, 2017

This is my 23rd installment to a series that offers a general discussion of business transitions, where an organization exits one developmental stage or period of relative strategic and operational stability, to enter a fundamentally different next one (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 559 and loosely following for Parts 1-22.)

I have been discussing a set of closely related to-address points in this since Part 20, which I repeat here for smoother continuity of narrative:

1. It can be vitally important to make explicit strategic effort to more deeply understand where your business is now and where that business is headed if it seeks to simply follow a straight-forward more predictively linear path, rather than making a more profound shift and going through a genuine transition such as an exit or entrance strategy.
2. And it is equally important to be aware of the possibilities, at the very least of what types of transitions could be possible, and their implications and consequences.
3. This leads me to the question of what would be planned for in a strategically considered, intentionally entered into business transition, and how such a transition plays out.

And as a part of my overall response to them, I focused in Part 22 on priorities and timing:

• And both for how priorities themselves are organized according to their urgency and their timing requirements,
• And for how changes in business process timing as actually achieved, can help identify when issues are emerging that will require prioritized change or correction.

Then at the end of Part 22, I stated that I would continue its line of discussion here, by more directly consider breakdowns and their indicators. I will address that set of issues, but to set the stage for doing so, I am going to complete my discussion of timing issues here, at least as required for purposes of this series. And I begin that by picking up on a point of detail that I only noted in passing in Part 22: urgency and timeframe compression and extension.

Managers, and I add hands-on employees who report to them are almost always balancing multiple ongoing tasks and their completion at any given time. And breakdowns in their being able to satisfactorily fulfill them: for their here-and-now iteration for recurring tasks, or to reach a more definitive resolution for one-off tasks, have ripple effects. This obviously holds true when for example, carrying out a task B is contingent on a task A having been completed, and either for the resulting output of A or from its completion freeing up a limited availability, bottleneck resource that will be tied up until A is completed. But it is not just critical needs equipment that enters in there: the availability of key personnel does too, and in ways that are not always obvious and certainly if you focus on work done and to be done, and not as much on the human resources who would do this.

As noted above, I wrote in Part 22 of how timing changes in task commencement and completion can and do serve as warning signs that problems are developing in business systems, and that is a valid point. But I want to at least reconsider the above paragraph in what might be a more nuanced light by making explicit note of an at least tacit assumption built into it.

In the real world, there is and has to be at least a measure of flexibility in essentially any business process timetable. If everything required for a task or project is suddenly available earlier than expected, and resources that need to be brought in for specific stages of it are all there at least on time if not earlier, and no complications arise when carrying any of this work out, or at least none do that would slow things down for it, then it is likely this work will be completed ahead of schedule. Now the question is one of whether the people and the systems in that business that require this work’s output are ready for it, or if this in-effect gift of time is going to be lost because next steps cannot start early too, to take advantage of any timing gain offered here. And collateral to that are questions as to whether any bottleneck resources that had been tied up in this work but that are not free for alternative use early, are going to sit idle through this “bonus availability” period too.

Late completion with the delays and other overt challenges that brings with it, have obvious possible downsides and particularly where contingency plan work-arounds have not been at least thought through and in advance to more effectively dealing with and resolving delays. Early completion can and does create at least potential challenges too, and these are also ones that can have wider-spreading ripple effects.

• Few tasks or processes, projects or programs are so tightly choreographed that only one possible completion date and time can be contemplated. The cost of attempting that type of rigidity is an increased overall level of risk to the business and probably to that business as a whole from loss of flexibility and overall adaptability in the face of change and the unexpected.
• So even when a specific completion date is stated, that is or at least should represent more of a tentative, on-paper normative goal and not an absolute, and with capacity build in to accommodate at least a measure of flexibility around that point in time.

Now let’s reconsider my above assertions regarding schedule changes as indicators of potential new or worsening problems. Yes, that assertion is valid and so is my just argued point regarding schedule flexibility as just offered here. How can we reconcile them? That is a question that can be parsed into a set of related questions that would have to be addressed in order to answer it, some of the more generic of which I offer here:

• I write of a timing of completion window, when I write of timing flexibility here. What should this be, as a matter of more normative planning? How wide should it be and where should its start and end points be set?
• Normative here, indicates when genuine problems are arising do to scheduling shifts, from actual work performance drifting outside of that timing of completion window. And once again, this can mean early completion that has not been prepared for and even in principle, if critical bottleneck resources that a business really cannot afford to keep idle, are left that way because no one who should be using them are ready to do so, due to their own current task responsibilities and schedules. There, “… that a business really cannot afford to keep idle” becomes overlty real when schedules tighten up again and those too-long idle resources are now being all but fought over again by competing stakeholders and their competing perhaps all-high priority tasks. Who decides what “normative” means in the context of the above bullet point? And who at least enters into the conversation that sets it and particularly where slippage from planned for normative might have wide-spread ripple effect consequences?

Think of the issues just raised here as representing sources of impact on both direct and indirect costs accrued and on overall value and benefits created. And think of all of this in risk management terms. And yes, this is also all about “breakdowns and their indicators” and making sure that all necessity and required stakeholders in this work are in agreement as to what would constitute red flag warnings of problems arising here, and that they have and use clear communications channels for discussing and resolving them. And with that I explicitly at least begin discussing the issues that I stated I would turn to next in this series, at the end of Part 22.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will continue discussion of breakdowns and their indicators as they arise in the types of work timing planning and execution under consideration here. Then I will consider working capital and cash flow, and reserves in this context, as well as goal planning and goal change and reprioritization. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory.

Meshing innovation, product development and production, marketing and sales as a virtuous cycle 9

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on December 6, 2017

This is my 9th installment to a series in which I reconsider cosmetic and innovative change as they impact upon and even fundamentally shape the product design and development, manufacturing, marketing, distribution and sales cycle, and from both the producer and consumer perspectives (see Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 2, postings 342 and loosely following for Parts 1-8.)

One of my core goals for Part 8 was to in effect force a reconsideration of what “business cycle” means, expanding it out to include impact and influence from a wider range of actively involved stakeholders, within the specific business and its marketplace, and as found throughout the supply chains and other larger value chain systems that it of necessity operates in.

• Quite simply, no business operates in a vacuum. Businesses work with and depend upon other businesses, as well as increasingly complex business-to-consumer systems with increasingly complex and important feedback and two-way communications governing all of this.

But up to here, at least in the narrative of this series, I have cited “marketplace” and “consumer” as largely undefined and uncharacterized markers while focusing on the businesses that deal with them and that seek to connect effectively to them. My goal for this next step installment in this narrative progression is to at least begin to open up the black box construct of markets and consumers, in order to more fully understand them and to more fully understand what those businesses need to do regarding them, to endure and as competitively strong enterprises.

I phrase that in perhaps extreme terms, at least in part because I have been focusing on virtuous and vicious cycle decision and action patterns in business strategy and operations in the past few installments to this series, where extremes become relevant. So I approach this topic from the perspective of how strategy and operations can and do have business-effectiveness and even business-viability defining consequences. And with that noted, I turn to consider markets and consumers, and I do so from the fundamentals and with a statement that will bear explanation:

• When businesses operate in interactive networks of the type under consideration here, the distinction between business and consumer, and that between provider and consumer blur and become more matters of perspective and orientation than anything else.

As an obvious starting point for explaining that point, essentially every business in a supply chain system can legitimately be viewed as a customer and a marketplace participant for at least one other business in that interacting system. Often, in fact essentially every business that participates in this type of system, can legitimately be considered a customer, and a loyal repeat customer of several or even many other businesses there. And at least as significantly, when supply chain systems are robust and stable, the businesses participating in them at least ultimately provide value to the businesses that they service and provide for there, by helping them to more effectively and cost-effectively service the needs of their customers and marketplace: other businesses in those same systems included. So these relationships can come to offer success enabling value for all concerned and in a feedback driven and reinforced manner.

With this blurring in mind, let’s at least conceptually parse the concept of market into two basic categorical subtypes:

• A direct market for a business, consists of its own current actively involved customer base, plus whatever larger demographic that they belong to that could realistically be engaged with by that business, into becoming actively engaged customers for it to – when that business follows its current business and marketing plans as already in place.

Obviously, a business can always at least plan for and attempt to change the target market demographic range that it would be able to effectively draw actively involved customers from, and even very significantly so. But for purposes of this discussion at least, that type of shift would require at least a measure of change in its underlying business model insofar as it specifies target markets, and certainly where more than just minor target market adjustments are being considered. So when I write here in terms of a business’ “direct market”, I do so considering it as if viewed from a snapshot-in-time perspective of where it is now and how it functions. And with that perspective in mind, I correspondingly add that:

• An indirect market for a business, in simplest terms consists of the direct market of a second, customer business that that enterprise services in a supply chain or related system as a client business there.

And the positive value that a business offers in that system, can ultimately be seen as a measure of how effectively and fully it offers value to the indirect markets that it is connected to through its supply chain relationships, as it brings value to its supply chain partner/client businesses. And ultimately, businesses create greater levels of value for themselves through really effective business-to-business collaborations than they could through more strictly stand-alone effort. Value creation directed to direct and to indirect markets in this systems are at the very least additive for businesses in them that receive these benefits.

These points of conclusion fall directly out of the presumption that the real sustaining strength of a business is in how competitively effectively it can bring value to its customer base, and in ways that would prompt its members to keep buying from it, providing it with revenue through that transactional activity. Think of this as a brief discussion as to how collaboration can amplify the maximum possible level of such value creation that could be achieved.

The easiest and clearest way to parse these systems is to consider business-to-business dyads – simplest case two-business interaction models. But realistically, impact here spreads out throughout entire supply chain systems. And both direct and indirect markets can and do overlap too. As a simplest case example there, consider delivery businesses that enter into both business-to-business, and direct business-to-consumer transactions, where at least some of their customers might be members of both their own actively involved direct market and the indirect market that they face through one (or more) of their partner businesses.

If this set of distinctions highlights and at least somewhat clarifies how complex business-to-market relationships can become and certainly in more complex systems as found in supply chains, then it serves its purpose. Apparent simplicity can arise from actual underlying simplicity, but it can also arise from lack of attention to the details too and this is a context where that is readily possible; we all tend to take terms like “market” for granted and as if they were somehow axiomatically unexaminable, where detailed examination can be essential.

I am going to turn to in my next installment to this series, to consider the issues of marketing and sales in the types of complex and multi-layered contexts that I have been addressing here. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. And see also Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 continuation.

Planning for and building the right business model 101 – 33: goals and benchmarks and effective development and communication of them 13

Posted in startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 22, 2017

This is my 33rd posting to a series that addresses the issues of planning for and developing the right business model, and both for initial small business needs and for scalability and capacity to evolve from there (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 499 and loosely following for Parts 1-32.) I also include this series in my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory and its Page 2 continuation.

I offered three somewhat stereotypic if commonly occurring exit strategies in Part 32, that a startup can consider and pursue as it reaches a point in its development where it has begun to be consistently profitable: and when it is now entering its first real growth phase:

1. A new venture that has at least preliminarily proven itself as viable and as a source of profitability can go public and with all of the organizational change and all of the transparency and reporting requirements that this entails as they begin offering stock shares.
2. A new venture can transition from pursuing an organic growth and development model (as in exit strategy 1, above) but to one in which they seek out and acquire larger individually sourced outside capital investment resources, and particularly from venture capitalists as briefly touched upon in Part 28, Part 29 and Part 30 of this series.
3. A new venture, and certainly one that is built around a growth-oriented business model, might build its first bricks and mortar site, in effect as a prototype effort that it would refine with a goal of replication through, for example a franchise system.

And I then focused in that installment on a set of general issues and business analysis and development approaches that would be applicable to essentially any such business transition decision making process. And at the end of that posting, I stated that I would continue its narrative here, by delving:

• “More into the specifics … where I will consider exit strategy 1 from my above list of three in detail: the fundamental change scenario of a business going public with all that that entails.”

And I added that after that, I will more specifically consider each of the other two exit strategy scenarios under consideration here, as also noted in that anticipatory note. I will do all of that in this series, delving in more detail into these three specific scenarios. But I have decided, on further reflection to expand upon the general principles foundation for my Part 32 discussion before considering the specifics. And I begin doing so by acknowledging a point of detail that I have been reminded of by at least a few readers: some very successful startups and online ones in particular, have successfully pursued exit strategies 1, 2, and/or 3 as touched upon above, before showing anything like established consistent profits of the type I indicate as necessary there. And a select few have done so, and have ultimately succeeded as business ventures too, even when they had not fully developed their still just-potential source of defining value into an explicitly monetizable and marketable product or service first, too. But those are in a fundamental sense the exceptions that prove the rule, that prompted me to set up my three scenarios the way I did. Failure to successfully build a foundation for taking one of these three exit strategies, or any comparable-for-stage alternatives to them, are why so many businesses that were started with innovation in mind, disappear when they are still very young and still forming. I find myself thinking of my startup consulting experience with new young online companies, leading up to the original dot com bubble burst as I write this. I know how the dynamics of what I write of here play out, from personal hands-on experience from having served as an outside consultant then, and to businesses that succeeded and to way too many that did not and often in spite of my best efforts to bring more due diligence based prudence into their decision making and spending.

I have written about this in earlier postings and series, so I will only repeat here in this regard that no, it does not make any sense for a new dot com online business to blow essentially all of their cash reserves in a single Hail Mary pass attempt by purchasing on-air advertising time during the ad breaks in a Super Bowl game. Returning this discussion from that line of thought to this posting and its context, I repeat that I chose three exit strategies for discussion here that are grounded in their planning and execution in solid due diligence and risk management planning and preparation, and in building in the resource base needed to support flexibility in the face of the unexpected – which is sure to arise somewhere, no matter what path forward is actually selected and pursued.

I said at the end of Part 32 that I would more specifically turn to consider the first of the three exit strategies that I repeated listing at the top of this installment. And I will do that. But this has turned out to be more of a general principles, background and foundation building posting. So before turning to exit strategy 1, I would continue my more general background discussion for that, by outlining some specific principles that would go into selecting and specifically pursuing any given, at least initially more generically framed exit strategy. And my goal here is to offer points that would apply to any such exit strategy scenario contemplated or pursued.

• If the first general issues half of this posting is about building a foundation in what has already been done at a business, for it to succeed, my goal in what follows here is in building a foundation that is explicitly designed to support the business for what is to come, and particularly where that means entering into the new and unknown.

And with that point in place, I explicitly turn to consider exit strategies as transitions, and as such as representing moves into the unknown. And I do so by posing a basic checklist of issues and questions that should enter into any due diligence exercise there, and at least as a starting point for more focused analysis to come.

• Know where your business is now,
• And for its strengths and the positive potential that is being developed toward, in accordance with its basic business model and its strategic goals in place,
• And for its weaknesses and its resource and operational systems gaps that would affect its being able to realize that potential.
• Inventory these positives and negatives and prioritize them: all of the realistically potential negatives included, and both in terms of need to address them and in terms of capability to do so, if and as they arise. What, among other things would be needed in order to check off and successfully remediate the high priority items on the negatives list, and what would be the costs faced from attempting to do this from assets and resources currently held, and/or ones that would reasonably be expected to become available if the business were to proceed as-is, along its current growth and develop path and without entering into a more fundamental transitional change of any type?
• If it is found that at least a critical threshold of need for addressing already realized gaps or impending ones, cannot be addressed as-is and with the business simply following a “business as usual” path forward, then it is going to be necessary to at least consider more disruptively changing that path forward, and here through pursuing an exit strategy of some sort as a business transition.
• And this brings me at least generically to the issues of what a possible change of that sort might offer and both in its potential positives and in its potential negatives. And that includes understanding any restrictions and limitations that buying into them would bring. And how does this mesh with the business itself and for how it is developing?

I am going to expand upon the narrative that I began in this brief set of business analysis-oriented bullet points, in my next series installment and with particular attention paid to the last of those points. And I will do so in terms of the three specific exit strategies under consideration here, as repeated at the top of this posting, beginning with the first of them as promised above.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. And you can find this and related material at my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory too and at its Page 2 continuation.

Building a business for resilience 25 – open systems, closed systems and selectively porous ones 17

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 20, 2017

This is my 25th installment to a series on building flexibility and resiliency into a business in its routine day-to-day decisions and follow-through, so it can more adaptively anticipate and respond to an ongoing low-level but with time, significant flow of change and its cumulative consequences, that every business faces in its normal course of operation (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 542 and loosely following for Parts 1-24.)

I have been at least relatively systematically working my way through a set of to-address points in this series, since its Part 20, which I repeat here as I continue analyzing and discussing its issues:

1. Thinking through a business’ own proprietary information and all else that it has to keep secure that it holds.
2. While reducing avoidable friction where there can be trade-offs between work performance efficiency, and due diligence and risk remediation requirements from how information access is managed. This, in anticipation of discussion to come, means consideration of both short-term and long-term value created and received, as well as short-term and long-term costs. (As a point of reminder here, risk represents a source of cost here so it of necessity has to be included here.)
3. And this means thinking through the issues of who gathers and organizes what of this information flow, who accesses it and who uses it – and in ways that might explicitly go beyond their specific work tasks at hand.
4. What processes are this information legitimately used in, and who does that work? With the immediately preceding point in mind, what other, larger picture considerations have to be taken into account here too?
5. And who legitimately sees and uses the results of this information as it is processed and used and with what safeguards for the sensitive raw data and the sensitive processed knowledge that are involved, where different groups of people might have legitimate need to see different sets of this overall information pool?
6. Think in terms of business process cycles here, and of who does and does not enter into them.

I have been specifically addressing the third point to that list since Part 23 . And I focused in Part 24, as a key part of that discussion, on how “in-house” and “outsider” are changing and blurring for their distinctions in the emerging 21st century workplace. That becomes critically important when managing, or even just understanding how information is collectively developed and maintained and shared throughout an organization and particularly where confidentiality and security control over access to it, are important.

Let me take that out of the abstract with an only slightly made-up example: a business that offers a proprietary, trade secret secured special formula product as its defining source of value and as the key to its market brand. Think Coca-Cola here as a well known example of that, and certainly as that business was before a world’s worth of alternative cola beverages came out to compete with it. I am not explicitly hewing to the Coca-Cola example as a specific case study here, but cite it for the overtly obvious example of how valuable a trade secret can be in both defining a company as a name recognition-branded entity and in creating its competitive value and strength.

Who holds the keys to the kingdom there, in the form of full and complete knowledge of their trade secret formula? For Coca-Cola, that is at least famously publically known to include some half dozen long-term, career employees of the company who are highly placed there. And they share only narrowly constrained fragments of this overall secret with people who they work with who are also career employees of long-standing there, who manage parts of the mixing and manufacturing process.

The key detail there, from the perspective of this posting and this posting progression in this series, is “long-term, career employees.” And when the Coca-Cola Company was first founded, the core of their employees and at all levels in the organization were all long-term and essentially full-career for their engagement there. Now fast forward to this rapidly emerging 21st century and its more rapidly changing workforces and for what is becoming the majority of all employers. And I repeat the third point from the above to-address list to highlight some key wording there:

• And this means thinking through the issues of who gathers and organizes what of this information flow, who accesses it and who uses it – and in ways that might explicitly go beyond their specific work tasks at hand…
• And I now add … “and possibly with a new and different current employer too”, to that point as well.

The more traditional and perhaps expected understanding of that last grammatically separated-off phrase in that point as originally written is that everyone involved in this is working in-house and at least long-enough term to cover any risk/benefits time frames that would enter into consideration here. What I have been doing since Part 24 of this series, is to challenge those basic assumptions, implicit in that originally stated point and in fact in much of that list of topic points.

The implications of this reframing and reconsideration are breathtaking for their scope and range of significance, and in ways that involve a lot more than just the juggling of due diligence and risk management of crucial proprietary information, while keeping people who need this information effectively enough informed and communicating so they can effectively, resiliently carry out their work responsibilities.

Yes, that phrase can and does address the issue of leakage where people who do not need to know specific work-related information become apprised of it too. But it also means people who might need this information now, and legitimately so, who might or might not be passing through the business too – and either intentionally as temporary help, or as a consequence of business decisions in “right-sizing” or rebalancing their workplaces, or through voluntarily leaving to take a new work opportunity elsewhere.

Yes, legally contractually binding confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements can block employees who sign on with and work with a business from explicitly sharing what confidential and proprietary information they learn while at that business. But this does not and cannot mean their forgetting that knowledge. These agreements cannot mean they’re not taking it into account in their own workplace decisions, if for example they find themselves working for a direct competitor next. And if they go there with more senior managerial authority, their proprietary knowledge-shaped insights and decisions based on that, will have real impact and even if they never in any way say a single word as to how or why they make the competitive decisions that they arrive at, that might be formulated with this knowledge in mind.

• And it is essentially impossible to make significant decisions without in some way taking into account what we know, and even if that includes proprietary information that we cannot divulge to a current employer. Our knowing it will still influence us.

Reconsider trade secrets in that context, and the possibility that a secret holder for one business might in fact move on to work elsewhere, and for whatever reason. That is the stuff of nightmares for risk management for a business that loses such a key figure, and I add that can enter into the development and shaping of “golden parachutes” for key people, and certainly more highly positioned ones who leave a job and employer and move on. Then the question becomes one of “what additional constraining agreements did they have to sign, in order to secure those special benefits in their severance packages.” (This only reflects one facet of the complex of issues that enter into golden parachutes, but it can be a significant one and it is an area of consideration that is not often addressed when these severance packages are discussed for their merits and demerits.)

I am going to explicitly address Point 4 of the above list, at least beginning in my next installment to this series. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory.

Technology as the tide that raises all boats 12 – but often unevenly 9

This is my 12th installment to a discussion that I initially began as a single stand-alone posting in April, 2012, but that needs reconsidering. I focused in that posting, on a key issue that enters into a determination of how and when change rises to a level of significance so as to qualify as true innovation (see Outsourcing and Globalization, postings 25 and loosely following for Parts 1-11, and Part 1 of that in particular as the foundational urtext for this narrative.)

I began discussing economic friction as a basic approach to understanding economic systems, and its more micro-level expression: business systems friction in Part 11, as tools for more fully understanding a global playing field perspective that innovation arises in and spreads through, when and as it does. And I focused there on two specific aspects of this phenomenon, as it plays out in the marketplace:

• How friction can limit the flow of information that would be required in order to make best possible business and economic decisions, by impacting upon and shaping how market participants perceive and respond to, in this case innovation, and
• How the levels and sources of friction vary for market participants depending on where they would position themselves along a standard innovation acceptance curve, running from pioneer and early adaptors on through late and last adaptors.

My goal for this posting is to continue that narrative, here addressing the issues of “cultural and socioeconomic impact, as innovative change and the opportunity for it advances all around us.” And I focus in that on the dichotomy of open and closed societies, and on how they variously allow or limit the acceptance of change and innovation, and the flow of information that would be needed for that to be possible. The forces that arise there, can ultimately override the impact of the aspects to this topic that I have addressed up to here in this series and certainly as addressed in Part 11.

I have at least briefly discussed the issues of open and closed societies per se in this blog, for the impact that more generally closed societies and what might be deemed more “selectively open” ones can have in creating wrinkles and barriers in the global flattening that Thomas Friedman writes of in his books. (See, for example:

• Friedman, T.L. (2007 edition) The World Is Flat. Picador/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. New York. (The first edition of this initially came out in 2005 but I cite here its revised and updated edition.)
• Friedman, T.L. (2008) Hot, Flat and Crowded: why we need a green revolution – and how it can renew America. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. New York. (Available through this link as a free full text PDF download.)
• Friedman, T.L. (2016) Thank You for Being Late: an optimist’s guide to thriving in the age of accelerations. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. New York.)

I address this complex of issues in this posting from the perspective of communications and information sharing across traditional boundaries and the friction that barriers to this can create, reinforcing those boundaries. But perhaps more importantly, I address this set of issues here from a more finely grained perspective than that of entire societies, at least as more traditionally envisioned too. Ultimately, to pursue the message implicit in the first half of the title to this posting, technology can only serve as a tide that can raise all boats, if all boats are floating, and all are equally unencumbered in being able to respond change and innovation and to its potential. And ultimately, that calls for a free and open exchange of information: wide-ranging fact and opinion and all that fits between them as holding elements of both of them.

Where are we now for this, as of this writing, as individuals and collectively? Where are we societally and as members of networking and otherwise connected groups? Is the world currently more actively opening up and both for information sharing from us, and for our open receipt of information that is at least potentially open to us? Right now, and certainly for the foreseeable future as I write this, I would have to answer these questions with more negative answers. And I this regard, I cite a posting that I have offered here in this blog that I based on a talk that I gave during the candidate nominations race in the United States leading up to the 2016 presidential elections:

Thinking Through the Words We Use in Our Political Monologs.

I wrote there of how we have come to speak past each other, and less with each other and most certainly in political arenas and across differences of opinion. I did not explicitly write of epistemic bubbles there as a within-group and outsider to that defining understanding of this phenomenon: echo chamber barriers that we increasingly enter into, within which we only hear what we are already inclined to believe, and opinion and information: true or not that would support it. But I have used that term and I have discussed its issues for their sociopolitical and societal impact in subsequent postings to a series that I have developed from that posting. My point here is that we increasingly live in a world of communities that are splintered by the communications barriers that divide us. And this impacts on politics and trade and everything else. And ultimately, our reliance on those bubbles for our news and opinion sourcing and for our networking and direct communicating, and our increasing existence essentially entirely within them leads to a reduced ability to respond to and live in a wider world. Think of this as an emerging new source of wrinkles and of overt barriers too, in any participation in the larger communities that ubiquitous online connectivity and communications resources should be making possible and for all of us. This series is about innovation and change and this partitioning affects what we see of that too, and how we see the specific changes that do come to our attention.

We are currently living in a decidedly and I have to add increasingly “but often unevenly” world, to cite the second half of the title of this posting. And ironically, this phenomenon is most pronounced in at least some of the most online connected nations on this planet, and certainly in nations like the United States, as those who would battle for openness and connectedness in them confront those who would turn away from all that might differ from them and threaten their beliefs and opinions by offering alternatives to them.

I am going to end writing to this series at least for now, with that note, though I might very well return to it again and certainly as the era of the Trump presidency ends and his vision and his “nationalistic” closing off excesses come into wider and more dispassionate review and analysis.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. I also include this in Outsourcing and Globalization – and see that directory for related material. And I include a link to this posting as a supplemental addition to Section VII: Reexamining Business School Fundamentals (reconsidered), of Reexamining the Fundamentals too.

Balancing innovative change and ongoing reliable stability and consistency 9: strategic thinking, planning and execution 6

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 16, 2017

This is my 9th installment to a series in which I explore tactical and strategic approaches to business management and leadership, and best practices approaches for coordinately pursuing both as context dictates. (See Business Strategy and Operations – 4, postings 655 and loosely following for Parts 1-8.)

I have been focusing in this series on a complex of issues that enter into effectively meshing overall strategy, and more issue and context-specific tactics, and how that can break down leading to strategic and operational disconnects in a business. I set an initial foundation for this line of discussion in its Part 1. Then in Part 8 I turned to the issues and challenges of effective business communications in preventing these disconnects where possible, and in identifying and remediating them and as early and effectively as possible when needed. And towards the end of that installment, I suggested the following, in the context of noting that accomplishing this depends essentially entirely on the development and maintenance of effective communications and communications channels in the organization that specific individuals there can comfortably and reliably turn to and use:

• “It is rare that a conversation about an ongoing problem or challenge at a business would seem pleasant, and whether that means confronting the problems of an individual employee or manager, or facing and addressing a more wide-ranging issue that involves larger areas of the business as a whole. Leadership (sic. in the sense addressed here) is all about more effectively enabling and carrying out conversations about problems and challenges, where people can feel and act defensively, but without recriminations that can only create still greater defensive barriers: barriers that limit or even prevent effective resolutions if unaddressed.”

What is the single greatest impediment to this, that tends to arise in any business or organization, and certainly where these conversations take place between people who function at differing levels on the table of organization? I in effect have just fairly compellingly implied the answer to that question from how I framed it: perceived and realized imbalances in the power and authority of the people who would enter into these conversations.

Yes, differences in communications style and preferences can enter into this too as sources of communications friction, as can reliance on more specialized professional jargon with the obfuscation and confusion that that can bring. And the sometimes mazes of assumptions that specialists can come to take for granted when working with and communicating with fellow specialists in their areas of expertise can too and certainly when they have to work with and communicate with outsiders to these specialized groups. But these challenges can all generally be resolved if the parties involved are willing to acknowledge when they are not sure they fully understand what another participant in these conversations is trying to say or what they are assuming to already be known. And they can all generally be resolved if those participating parties are willing to step back from their automatic assumptions and rephrase and clarify, and with a shared goal of achieving effective communications, guiding how that is attempted and carried through upon.

But the real problem here that those clarifying efforts cannot resolve on their own, arises when imbalances in power and authority of those involved can mean subordinates limiting what they would share from their side of a possible conversation, in order to limit what they would see as possible threat or risk to themselves – and particularly where these conversations involve identifying and clarifying problems and with them bearing bad news.

I find myself thinking back to a classical example of how critical communications can break down in this manner, and with disastrous consequences that comes to us from the writings of Plutarch in his Lives. When a messenger approached the 1st century BC Armenian king: Tigranes the Great to give word that Lucullus was leading a Roman army toward him in an invasion, Tigranes executing him on the spot for attempting to bring such troubling news. After that, everyone was very careful to only give their king positive news or none at all to avoid his wrath, and even as battle came to Tigranes’ lands, and even as it came to take place all around him. Impediments to effective communications that can go both down and up a chain of command and authority, can only lead to greater and greater problems and this has in fact been known through most if not all of history. But this by now ancient story still resonates because we have all seen at least milder examples of it in our own lives.

This type of friction-creating challenge can and does enter into business conversations of the type that I write of here, when fear of possible negative impact on their employment can restrain what a subordinate on a table of organization can say, and even when the information that they could share is necessary or even essential for their managers to know. You have to expect to find at least a measure of this type of friction and with that at least incrementally added into the business and its systems from more senior managers and executives on down, when effective patterns of safety in sharing even unwelcome news or views cannot be routinely assumed and by all.

This primarily addresses the speaking side of these conversations; I could just as easily have framed the friction that I write of here from more the listening side too. The main point here is that power imbalances can shift conversations about problems in the business and about potential problems there, from being difficult to being all but impossible and at least as fully meaningful exercises and with a complete and open sharing of understanding and insight. I write this with the starting example of Part 1 to this series fully in mind, and as a source of concern on my part as to how that business is proceeding in addressing its challenges here, if nothing else.

• How can you resolve this? Ultimately, the only way is to in effect create a safe place that can serve as an open and level playing field where all necessary stakeholders can come together to share their ideas and concerns, and without fear of consequences if they share ideas that others might not be happy to hear – and even if they basically agree with them.

I have been pursuing a specific list of to-address points in this series since its Part 5:

1. I will move on in this narrative to discuss the questions of identifying disconnects between strategy and tactics, and as early as possible when they do arise.
2. And I will consider and discuss startups, as a business context where founding executives can find themselves facing learning curve challenges in understanding and addressing the issues that I raise here,
3. And the sometimes significant challenges that large and complex business organizations can create in aligning strategy and tactics, with effective disconnect identification and remediation implemented, as a core ongoing due diligence process.
4. And I will return again to my starting case study example for this series, to consider lessons learnable and remediative approaches that might be possible for that business – and at least some of the trade-offs that would have to be resolved in that too.
5. And that is where some very specific, crucial negotiations-related issues enter into this series’ narrative.

And this posting and its line of discussion brings me to Points 4 and 5 of that list. I am going to continue in my next installment to this series with Point 4 and a return to the issues and questions that I began this series with, which I will reconsider in light of the discussion that I have been developing this series around as a whole up to here. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory.

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 34 – the issues and challenges of communications in a business 1

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 12, 2017

This is my 34th installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see HR and Personnel – 2, postings 215 and loosely following for Parts 1-33.)

I have been writing about bringing in and retaining creative excellence in a business, and on securing and maintaining a best possible assembly of skilled, experienced and innovative hands-on employees and managers there, throughout this series. And at the end of Part 33 of that narrative progression, I cited two approaches to business communications, as can be carried out in-house and among hands-on employees and managers, that I have previously invoked when discussing business operations per se: two basic categorical patterns of communications that shape the employee and manager experience, and what they are allowed to do, and what they are required to do at work:

Structured and even formally structured communications, as arise for example in the context of annual performance reviews with their pre-vetted review forms and protocols (to couch this in a specific case in point example of possible Personnel and Human Resources terms), and
Unstructured communications, as tools for arriving at unexpected insight and types of it.

And I added that I would delve into the issues and implications of those two modes of communications here, and use those selectively stated points of definition as a starting point for discussing best practices in identifying and cultivating innovative potential in a business.

Let’s begin this by at least briefly reconsidering these modes and patterns of communications in general, and for what they bring with them that would shape how we would think about and understand businesses that employ them in general.

Structured communications systems and the communications channels that they allow and support, are crucial to the day-to-day functioning of a business and certainly for standard and standardized processes and practices as collectively comprise routine business operations in place. There, a same basic flow of work is carried out and tracked and reported on, and by essentially the same people and on a routine basis. Exceptions to that, as arise when employees join a business and enter into these communications flows, or leave it and move on, do occur. And they arise when key participants in these conversations are out on vacation or on sick leave or maternity leave too, to add in three other possibilities here. But however these disruptions arise, they represent types of exception that at least should be prepared for, at least in general terms, and even if specific instances of them can create special challenges – and even for what would nominally seem to be more routine positions.

The term single point of failure enters in there, when for example a business suddenly discovers that some specific manager or hands-on employee was the only one there, who can actually carry out some specific and here-crucial task, at least in a timely manner – and suddenly they are out sick or away and out of touch on vacation, or they have just left the business for a new work opportunity elsewhere. But let’s set aside that range of possible contingencies at least for now, in order to keep this discussion more focused and free of possible digressions from the core topic under consideration here. Structured communications form the information sharing framework for routine business as usual, and certainly insofar as real effort is made to develop and adhere to standard business as usual practice and avoid ad hoc exception making.

And to add in one perhaps complicating detail to that, which in fact always has to be taken into account, this is also essential for maintaining standardized and routine-enabled security control over sensitive information held by the business too. I have only skimmed the surface of this area of discussion here, noting that there is a lot more to it even if this should suffice for purposes of this series and its narrative.

Unstructured communications arise when the more structured approach that I have just made note of, break down and for whatever reason. And I raise this entire line of communications patterns discussion here, to separate out some of the possibilities that can easily become conflated and blurred for their separate types and significance – and to the determent of a business that faces that.

Unstructured communications become necessary, and certainly in the eyes of the people who resort to them, when the systems and processes that they rely upon that should be more routine and standardized, significantly break down and in ways that block their being able to carry out their essential duties to successful completion. This can mean carrying out tasks that they would in fact complete themselves and for use within their own work team, and with little if any direct follow-through consequences for any others if they cannot do so. But more importantly, and I add much more commonly, this can arise in contexts of task completion dependency where a more distant individual or another other work team in the business, here identified B cannot complete, or at times even effectively begin to work on one or more essential tasks that they are responsible for until A has completed some task that they are responsible for, and until it has handed off the results of that work to B and at least indirectly to C and D and others who are waiting further down some task completion dependency track.

If standard and routine break down and others and perhaps many others are depending on work affected being completed, the pressure becomes enormous to find work-arounds to accomplish that. And when this means having to bring in non-standard resources and the stakeholders who would provide or at least control them, that means entering into less or entirely unstructured communications flows too, as roughly defined above.

Here, unstructured reflects a more “shoot from the hip” crisis mode response to the unexpected and unplanned for, and a response to what is now suddenly challenging for that. Compare that with the second basic scenario that I would raise here, for how this type of communications mode can arise, at least as described in general terms:

• The emergence of need for creative and novel communications patterns, bringing together what for that business would be non-standard combinations of stakeholders with their particular areas of knowledge and expertise, and of authority to provide resources and approvals to use them,
• That can become essential when pursuing disruptively novel sources of potential value for the business: possible disruptive innovation opportunity.

What binds these two communications contexts together: one negatively framed and the other positively framed here, and in ways that can make them difficult at times to distinguish between and certainly when attempting to do so without the benefit of hindsight? A succinct starting point to answer that can be found in how different stakeholders and involved gatekeepers can and do see and understand risk, and the relative levels of benefit and risk that might be expected.

I am going to further flesh out my second scenario as started above: the possibilities of positive value creating disruptive change from within a business, in my next series installment. And after that, and building from this posting and that continuation of it, I will more fully consider the issues of risks and profitable benefits and how their evaluation, as variously considered, shapes both communications within a business and its capability to either innovate for itself, or respond to innovation taking place around it.

Then I will step back from that narrative at least somewhat to reconsider innovation and the capacity to innovate, as an at least potentially innovative business moves from early startup to established business: and does or does not develop itself in ways that would make that readily possible. Who is brought in and retained, is only one piece to that puzzle, but it is one that I will explore as a more central point in that discussion to come.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 4, and also at Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

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

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

This is my fifth posting to a series on disintermediation, focusing on how this enables marketing options such as gorilla and viral marketing, but also considering how it shapes and influences businesses as a whole. My focus here may be marketing oriented, but marketing per se only makes sense when considered in the larger context of the business carrying it out and the marketplace it is directed towards (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 278 and loosely following for Parts 1-4.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

%d bloggers like this: