Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Business planning from the back of a napkin to a formal and detailed presentation 30

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 8, 2019

This is my 30th 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, Page 4 and their Page 5 continuation, postings 578 and loosely following for Parts 1-29.)

This is in large part a series about communications, shared understanding and the search for agreement, and follow-through – and repeat. It is about communication and its actionable context as an ongoing process. And as an emerging thread in that larger narrative, I have been successively discussing each of a set of three closely interrelated topics points here, since Part 19, that become important in any business and certainly when and as it faces change and a need to effectively navigate a path forward through it:

1. More systematically discuss how business operations would differ for businesses that follow one or the other of two distinctively different business models (see Part 19 through Part 21 for a selectively detailed outline and discussion of those businesses),
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 (see Part 22 through Part 25 and for more of a “big picture” discussion of this also see Part 26 and Part 27.)
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 now and where it should be going, and how (see Part 28 and Part 29.)

Crucially importantly here, for purposes of what is to come in this discussion, I have focused since Part 19, essentially entirely upon the individual business and its organization and management, and on its more within-house communications and business execution. And that has been true even when I have explicitly raised the issues of markets and of a business’ connections with and dealings with participants there too, and when noting outside connections in general through that progression of postings. Even there, my real point of focus has been on the single business and its in-house stakeholders and on their roles in all of this, and I have treated that group of participants and their enterprise as if collectively forming a center of their own little universe.

My goal now is to step out beyond those constraints to more explicitly consider and discuss wider contexts, starting here at least with business-to-business collaborations as perhaps most commonly found in organized supply chain systems. And I begin addressing that topic area here by making what I would assert to be an arguably quite defensible axiomatic assumption:

• Effective business-to-business collaborations can only be sustainably developed and maintained if the businesses involved in them can and do each speak with a single, consistently organized overall voice, and certainly at any given time and when addressing any given mutually significant issue.

This does not mean that all communications should go through single individual spokesperson agents. And this does not mean that a business’ basic message or its context-specific elaborations cannot change with time or circumstance. What is does mean is that conflicting messages can and do sew chaos, and longer term doubt as to how reliable a business partner is and can be, if it becomes known for conveying them.

Conflicting messages create uncertainty, and that creates or at the very least increases the overall level of risk as perceived by other businesses that need to know with certainty what is being offered or agreed to, and the actual terms of such agreements that they would enter into. The uncertainty that I write of here creates financial risk and liability exposure at the very least, and additional cost; here, risk can legitimately be seen as a categorical form of cost and of cost exposure. And like business systems friction, as is repeatedly discussed in this blog in a strategy and operations context, all of this deters and slows down business transaction flows but without creating any direct corresponding positive value in return.

• Conflicting messages make it more expensive to do business, and on several levels for a business that finds itself dealing with such an inconsistent supply chain partner, making them less competitively valuable or value creating as supply chain or related-system partners in the first place.

I have written up to here in this posting and in more recent installments leading up here (and certainly in Parts 28 and 29), in abstract terms of the value of consensus or at least reaching working agreement. Think of this posting and what is to follow in it as a starting effort to take that line of discussion out of the abstract, with a very real world example of how and where a failure to come together within a business, can and will create problems, costs and a loss of potential competitive strength and position. And I begin exploring these issues in what admittedly are still more general, abstractly stated points by noting that:

• The communications challenges issues that I have been raising here only start to play out and take on practical meaning and significance in the executive suite, and even when a business is essentially entirely top-down organized and run. A more complete answer to the challenges that I would raise here depends on the actions and the messaging of the full range of non-managerial hands-on, and managerial employees who would actually directly deal with supply chain partner businesses and their employees, and carry out specific transactions with them. And this leads me to some specific due diligence questions that would profitably be thought through and actionably addressed when developing and performance evaluating these business-to-business relationships and the actions of the businesses that enter into them.

Let’s start with the types of transactional communications that would have to be considered here, that I would categorically divide as a matter of hands-on practice into three at least relatively distinct types. And to be explicitly clear in what follows, organizing the questions that I would offer here as a planning and evaluation exercise, the goal here is to identify and characterize business activity as actually carried out – not just as intended on paper, to see what of that would fit into each of the following categorical types:

1. Fully standardized recurring transaction types that would essentially always be form-templated for what types of information would be shared and how, and where precise detail would be specified for all of the basic steps of these business processes: Here, the questions that would arise concerning these transactions are essentially all going to be performance-based for how well they actually work, as set up and carried out through the employee usable forms in place as data entered is shared in them Are these transactions and their implementing forms quick and easy to carry out, and with minimal mistakes or need to correct and resubmit? Are they effectively designed and particularly for initial action attempted by front-line employees who would routinely carry them out? Are they organized and carried out in ways that would make it easier to identify need for exception handling escalation, and in ways that would facilitate exception handling hand-offs and execution if that proves to be needed? And are they flexible enough and adaptable enough if change is needed in them, so as to limit the likelihood of need for more impactful exception handling later on, at least for whatever specific issues have led to a need for a specific exception handling response in some here-and-now? Are, in other words, next required exceptions or problems escalations more likely to be repeats of old problems, or are they more likely to mostly just arise when more entirely new problems and challenges do?
2. Standardized transaction types that can be seen as variations on the above, but where escalation to a manager or supervisor would likely be required, and where additional documentation would be required as to the What and How and Why of what happened: Effective due diligence processes begin with the more normative standardized transactions and their ongoing execution as touched upon in the first of these bullet points, to make sure that processes followed are and remain effective and effectively connected to the business model and the business plan in place, and in the face of ongoing change, and ideally for both businesses involved in any given supply chain transactions here. The transactions that I write of here are more unusual or even unique, calling for more customized transactional processes, and probably more unusual types of information sharing. And more particular individualized attention as offered on a more case by case or at least a more recurring-type basis, would be paid to these transactions.
3. Essentially entirely non-standard transactions that would be of sufficient scale and impact for their costs and profits potential or for their direct resource requirements so as to call for managerial oversight and decision making, and possibly more senior level approval: Effective due diligence of these events would be carried out on an entirely case by case basis, with an understanding that an excess of the second type of transaction as noted here, calls for redesign of and updating of the forms that would be used, the training of the people who would carry out this work, or both, in order to shift them into the first of these three categories. And anything in the way of excessive numbers of these third category types of exceptions would indicate genuine gaps and disconnects in the basic transactional process systems in place and of a level of significance that would call for fuller corrective measures. These types of impactfully non-standard events and the transactions they can call for, can arise in any business and in any business-to-business collaboration. But if they keep coming up that indicates what are most likely significant underlying problems in the businesses involved.

As an aside here, that might address a point that many readers would have noticed by now, I did not raise the issues of information security or its management as part of either the basic transactional processes under discussion here, or in how exception handling would be carried out. For purposes of this line of discussion, I simply include that into the more generally stated framework that I have been developing here.

And with that perhaps-clarifying note added, and in at least selective summarization of a key point that I have been raising here, I observe that in a business-to-business collaborative context, transactions between organizations and their staff members and managers can break down from any of several possible directions. And this means that the more the exceptions that arise, and of a Type 2 form, as listed above, and certainly from a Type 3 form where they arise, the more important it becomes that effort be made to standardize, or re-standardize how the two halves of these process-based transactions take place, so efforts made on both sides of them fit together more smoothly and efficiently. And with that I directly bring this discussion back to an explicitly business-to-business collaboration focus.

Now let’s consider the people involved in these transactions, starting with what in most cases and for most businesses and transactions would be non-managerial employees who have, for example, specific accounts in their hands and who would primarily if not exclusively focus on carrying out their sides to the Type 1 transactions as discussed above.

• Who does this work and what are their training and supervision requirements for being able to do so?
• Who would they turn to, to report, address and resolve exceptions when and as they arise?
• And which of those (here at least categorically anticipatable exception types would be handled by those same hands-on employees, perhaps with just an acknowledgment of occurrence and a quick authorization to proceed? (There, as a possible case in point example, an exception might mean finding a non-standard but available logistics and delivery solution for shipping and delivering a particularly fragile or perishable product to an unusual location – non-standard but not wildly so.)
• Which and how many of the exceptions that do arise would call for at least a more substantial hand-off to a supervisor and a true process escalation in order for it to be completed? And who would be responsible for carrying out this next step up work: a manager, or a hands-on specialist or who? And how and where would that be decided?
• How would basic workflow numbers and their statistics at the very least, and exceptions as identified by type, be reported in as ongoing due diligence input data?
• And who would be responsible for that? Would they be afforded the time and opportunity to carry out this essentially-documentation work on top of their regular duties, or would this be added onto their required workload and in ways that might make it easy for this not to be managed in as effective and timely a manner as would be wanted and even required?
• How would feedback from this due diligence information gathering and analysis be carried out and by whom?
• And how would the ongoing results of this at-least ideally ongoing review and analysis process flow, be reported back to the people they first arose for so these findings could be made use of? And who would do this and who would they share this information with and how? Who, at least as a matter of level on the table of organization, would develop and institute change as a means to reduce exceptions, and certainly ones that call for escalation to management or to middle or even senior level management? And what feedback would be gathered and from whom, bringing what involved stakeholders into these remediative processes so that any changes that are made are more likely to the right ones and not just sources of new problems in and of themselves?

The three questions that I started this posting with: there still in a more within-business context, and their business collaboration supply chain level counterparts, are mechanism and What oriented. And that is a valid point even as I have of necessity delved into at least a few Who issues when addressing them. The due diligence questions that I raise here, as a continuation of that narrative, are more personnel and Who oriented, even as they in turn of necessity raise mechanism and What issues too. Think of all of this as fitting together into a single due diligence approach, and one that would connect into larger more widely ongoing strategic and operational business review and management systems.

I am going to, as noted above, turn back to the two case study businesses that I began this series progression with, at least starting in my next series installment. And in anticipation of that narrative to come, I will reconsider both of those businesses in light of the issues and topics points and the business practice approaches that I have raised here since first offering them. 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.

Rethinking exit and entrance strategies 33: keeping an effective innovative focus while approaching and going through significant business transitions 23

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on July 5, 2019

This is my 33rd 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 and Page 5 continuations, postings 559 and loosely following for Parts 1-32.)

I have been working my way through a to-address list of closely interrelated topic points since Part 28 that address a set of issues fundamental to that overall business challenge. More specifically, I have discussed its Points 1-3 in a relatively significant level of detail and have offered at least preliminary, orienting comments on its Points 4 and 5 too. My goal here is to at least begin to more fully discuss those last two points here, and I begin doing so by repeating this topics list as a while, for smoother continuity of narrative and for greater clarity as to what, overall, I am addressing here:

1. Reserves as a cost because they represent assets and in fact liquid assets that cannot be turned to and used, except in what might be more emergency situations – and the need for larger reserves as risk increases: a situation that arises when facing the novelty and the unknowns as would be found in true transitions.
2. Changes in goals and scope of action, and in the level of detail of processes under consideration that have to be monitored, and how that overall form of course correction can be intentionally proactively sought out and developed, and how it can be reactively forced upon a business and its leadership.
3. And in a more strictly project context, or at least in more strictly project-oriented terms: consider scope creep and scope expansion in general, and its opposite with scope compression and simplification where details are dropped and goals reduced …
4. With and without organized, strategically aware planning and forethought to back such decisions.
5. I added that I would discuss these issues at least in part in terms of goals and priorities collisions, where more strictly cash flow and financial considerations, and risk and benefits considerations, and overall business goals can all come into conflict and even direct collision with each other. And my goal there is to at least begin to offer some approaches for both better understanding these scenarios and their dynamics, and better addressing and resolving them. And then after addressing all of that, at least for purposes of this series, I will proceed to reconsider exit and entrance strategies per se again, this time from the perspective of this developing narrative.

To be more specific as to what I have offered up to here in at least starting to address the above Points 4 and 5, I raised a complex topics points in this context that I have in fact explored on multiple occasions in this blog, from a variety of perspectives and that all related to the challenge of balancing consistency in what is done in a business and how, with flexibility as that would be called for when addressing change and particularly the more disruptively unexpected. And perhaps more to the point, at least for what I would offer here moving forward, I wrote in Part 32 of change in the basic intentions of the business itself, that might arise as the cumulative consequence of drift and that might be entered into in more definitive steps as well. And in this context, I offered the following question and accompanying comment:

• What is the overall goal of the business model in place? (Note: this is not a trivial question; answering it is not just an exercise in blowing the dust off of an old and even original business plan document from this business’ founding to repeat whatever was offered there. This is a question of what the business does now in practice and with what actual current goals and priorities.)

I said that I would address this question and its issues, among other topics in this and upcoming series installments and I said that I would do so in the context of an at least briefly and selectively sketched out working-business example. And I at least begin doing so here, by turning back to reconsider a business example that I have already offered in another series in this blog:

• ClarkBuilt Inc. is a small to medium size business by head count and cash flow that was initially built to develop and pursue a new business development path as built around its founders’ jointly arrived at “bold new innovative products” ideas. The Clark brothers, Bob and Henry came up with a new way to make injection molds for plastics and similar materials that would make it cost-effective to use injection molding manufacturing processes with new types of materials, and cost-effectively so. They have in fact launched their dream business to do that, and have developed a nice little niche market for their offerings, providing specialized-materials parts to other manufacturers.

I initially began actually discussing this business in Don’t Invest in Ideas, Invest in People with Ideas 41 – the issues and challenges of communications in a business 8 and in subsequent installments to that series, there focusing on how the founders and owners of that venture sought to maintain their initial vision, focus and goals. And I pick up on that case in point example again here, reconsidering it from a somewhat different perspective: one of change and of what can with time become compelled response to it.

To start this narrative thread, let’s consider a phrase that I added into this posting and its initial orienting note, as to the nature of the types of change that I would address here: change “that might arise as the cumulative consequence of drift and that might be entered into in more definitive steps as well.”

I have written in my Invest in People postings, about how the Clark brothers have actively worked to keep their business centered, and essentially entirely so, around their initial injection molding technology, only actively considering and supporting change in what they do or in how they do it there, that would serve to keep their specific innovation as competitively close to cutting edge as possible. But this, of necessity means allowance for drift in what they do, and particularly if they find over a period of years, that essentially all of the key steps and processes that enter into using their innovation as an ongoing manufacturing process, have been changed from what they did when first opening their doors for business.

Change happens and both by proactive intent and reactive response. In this case, let’s assume that the materials that they manufacture their parts from are different from what they initially used, and for the vast majority of their productive output, with only a few legacy-support requiring customers still asking for their earliest products and even product types for that. They make their molds out of different materials in all cases now. They use a new centrifugal casting technology now, that did not exist when they first started out but that they added in, in order to stay current and relevant. They use different tools and types of them for final product smoothing and processing prior to packaging and shipping after removing them from their production molds. And at least as importantly: aside from their few legacy clients and for when they are explicitly making legacy orders, ClarkBuilt is now manufacturing different types of products: a different assortment of replacement and customization parts than they did when starting out, and for business clients in different industries than they ever would have expected, and certainly at first.

So ClarkBuilt is still in the injection molding business, but as a different business than they were at first, and with different types of clients than they began with too. And to round this out, their underlying business processes have significantly changed through all of this too, as their growth as a business has called for more than just a simple linear, same path forward expansion in scale for how they manage sales and even just their basic business operations. This has involved creating a few new, at least small but still significant services in-house that began more as single step processes. They have expanded these aspects of their business into small organized services and even into what amount to small departments. And this has meant outsourcing a few functional areas that they had initially carried out entirely in-house too, including on the production side, the preprocessing of some of their now-key building materials that go into their injection molds, where it is now more cost-effective to leave that to specialist partner-supplier businesses.

But let’s go back to the issues and challenges of their manufacturing processes and the business that they have built around them. And let’s add time and its complications into this step-by-step evolving story. The Clark brothers started out with a novel approach to injection molding manufacturing, and a disruptively new one at that. Let’s assume that they were able to secure patent protection for their core innovation, that would fit into what might be considered the Goldilocks limits of scope: not too narrow so their patent could not easily by circumvented by making what in principle might even just be relatively minor adjustments to what they have on record as theirs, but not so broadly staked out where any serious legal challenge to their patents would lead to at least parts of them being found overly broad and invalid. If their basic innovation really offers value: their particular approach to injection molding and basic variations on it, other competing businesses will find ways to match what they do. And if they operate out of sites where labor costs are lower and they are satisfied with producing and offering acceptable but less polished final products, and if they specialize on lower-end products and on quick production and delivery of them, they might significantly eat into what had been ClarkBuilt’s basic market and its market share there. So ClarkBuilt has two basic options:

• Their design teams are the best in their industry and they are known for that. Anything that comes out with a ClarkBuilt label on it, for its basic design is going to be seen as offering premium quality (even if, on the low end and for more routine parts this might not be seen as necessary by a wide range of at least potential-client, purchasing businesses.) So they could focus on design and even on outsource their actual manufacturing and certainly of low-end products to remain competitive there. Or they might even walk away from that end of the business, and
• Focus on high-end and specialty products and their design and production, and particularly where this involves use of more exotic materials.

What happens to ClarkBuilt Inc. if it turns into a design shop as its primary source of incoming revenue, trading on its name brand and its in-house design excellence, and perhaps its supply chain excellence too, for bringing all of the pieces of the manufacturing and distribution puzzle together for the types of products that they are involved in manufacturing? And this brings me back to a question that I offered here, towards the top of this posting:

• What is the overall goal of the business model in place? What, in fact is the actual current business model that is actually in place there now?

The answer to the second of those questions, and by extension the answer to the first of them as well, might be very different from what the Clark brothers started out with. But more importantly, realistically current answers to them might be different from what the Clark brothers still see in their business, and different from how they at heart, still think about it and plan for it. I point out here that this is a series about exit and entrance strategies and business transitions. Game changing events can be backed into or they can be entered into with open eyes and on the basis of careful planning. My goal in bringing up this case study example again, has at least in part been one of laying a foundation for that type of discussion.

I am going to continue this posting’s discussion in a next series installment, where I will at least begin to address that complex of issues and in the context of the above-repeated Points 4 and 5. Think, in that regard of this posting as setting out to reframe them in terms of longer-term change and ultimately in terms of the exit and entrance strategy issues that even just small, cumulative incremental change can come to compel – and change in general as it informs this series and its overall narrative as a whole. And as part of that discussion to come, I will raise and address at least a few more basic questions, adding them to ones that I have considered up to here in this and recent series installments, and offering them both as business analysis tools and as a means for further clarifying the basic business planning and execution approach that I am outlining here. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Business Strategy and Operations – 5, and also at Page 1, Page 2, Page 3 and Page 4 of that directory.

Meshing innovation, product development and production, marketing and sales as a virtuous cycle 19

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 29, 2019

This is my 19th 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 and its Page 3 continuation, postings 342 and loosely following for Parts 1-18.)

I initially offered a set of to-address topics points in Part 16 that I have been discussing since then. And I repeat that list here as I continue doing so, noting in advance that I have in effect been simultaneously addressing its first three points up to here, due to their overlaps:

1. What does and does not qualify as a true innovation, and to whom in this overall set of contexts?
2. And where, at least in general terms could this New be expected to engender resistance and push-back, and of a type that would not simply fit categorically into the initial resistance patterns expected from a more standard cross-demographic innovation acceptance diffusion curve and its acceptance and resistance patterns?
3. How in fact would explicit push-back against globalization per se even be identified, and certainly in any real case-in-point, detail-of-impact example, where the co-occurrence of a pattern of acceptance and resistance that might arise from that might concurrently appear in combination with the types and distributions of acceptance and resistance that would be expected from marketplace adherence to a more standard innovation acceptance diffusion curve? To clarify the need to address this issue here, and the complexities of actually doing so in any specific-instance case, I note that the more genuinely disruptively new an innovation is, the larger the percentage of potential marketplace participants would be that would be expected to hold off on accepting it and at least for significant periods of time, and with their failure to buy and use it lasting throughout their latency-to-accept periods. But that failure to buy in on the part of these involved demographics and their members does not in and of itself indicate anything as to their underlying motivation for doing so, longer term and as they become more individually comfortable with its particular form of New. Their marketplace activity, or rather their lack of it would qualify more as noise in this system, and certainly when anything like a real-time analysis is attempted to determine underlying causal mechanisms in the market activity and marketplace behavior in play. As such, any meaningful analysis and understanding of the dynamics of the marketplace in this can become highly reactive and after the fact, and particularly for those truly disruptive innovations that would only be expected to appeal at first to just a small percentage of early and pioneer adaptor marketplace participants.
4. This leads to a core question of who drives resistance to globalization and its open markets, and how. And I will address that in social networking terms.
5. And it leads to a second, equally important question here too: how would globalization resistance-based failure to buy in on innovation peak and then drop off if it were tracked along an innovation disruptiveness scale over time?

My primary goal for this series installment is to focus on Points 3 and 4 of that list, but once again, given the overlaps implicit in this set of issues as a whole, I will also return to Part 1 again to add further to my discussion of that as well.

To more formally outline where this discussion is headed, I ended Part 18 with this anticipatory note as to what would follow, at least beginning here:

• I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will make use of an approach to social network taxonomy and social networking strategy that explicitly addresses the issues of who networks with and communicates with whom, and that also can be used to map out patterns of influence as well: important to both the basic innovation diffusion model and to understanding the forces and the dynamics of global flattening and wrinkling too. In anticipation of that discussion to come, that is where issues of agendas enter this narrative. Then after discussing that, I will explicitly turn to the above-repeated Point 3: a complex of issues that has been hanging over this entire discussion since I first offered the above topics list at the end of Part 16 of this series. And I will address a very closely related Point 4 and its issues too, as already briefly touched upon here.

I will in fact address all of that in what follows in this series. But to set the stage for that, I step back to add another layer of nuance if not outright complexity to the questions and possible answers of what innovation is in this context, and to whom. And I will very specifically use the points that I will make there, in what follows in addressing the issues of the above-added bullet point.

• As a first point that I raise here, a change might arise in its significance to be seen as an innovation because “at least someone might realistically be expected to see it as creating at least some new source or level of value or challenge, however small, at least by their standards and criteria” (with “…value or challenge” offered with their alternative valances because such change can be positively or negatively perceived.)
• But it is an oversimplifying mistake to only consider such changes individually and as if they only arose as in a context-free vacuum. More specifically, a sufficient number of individually small changes: small and even more cosmetic-in-nature innovations, all arriving in a short period of time and all affecting a same individual or group, can have as great an impact upon them and their thinking as a single, stand alone disruptively new innovation would have on them. And when those people are confronted with what they would come to see as an ongoing and even essentially ceaseless flood of New, and even if that just arrives as an accumulating mass of individually small forms of new, they can come to feel all but overwhelmed by it. Context can in fact be essentially everything here.
• Timing and cumulative impact are important here, and disruptive is in the eye of the beholder.

Let’s consider those points, at least to start, for how they impact upon and even shape the standard innovation acceptance diffusion curve as empirically arises when studying the emergence and spread of acceptance of New, starting with pioneer and early adaptors and continuing on through late and last adaptors.

• Pioneer and early adaptors are both more tolerant of and accepting of new and the disruptively new, and more tolerant of and accepting of a faster pace of their arrival.
• Or to put this slightly differently, late and last adaptors can be as bothered by too rapid a pace of new and of change, as they would be bothered by pressure to adapt to and use any particular new innovation too quickly to be comfortable for them, and even just any new more minor one (more minor as viewed by others.)
• Just considering earlier adaptors again here, these details of acceptance or caution, or of acceptance and even outright rejection and resistance stem from how more new-tolerant and new-accepting individuals and the demographics they represent, have a higher novelty threshold for even defining a change in their own thinking as actually being significant enough to qualify as being more than just cosmetic. And they have a similarly higher threshold level for qualifying a change that they do see as being a significant innovation, as being a disruptively new and novel one too.
• What is seen as smaller to the earlier adaptors represented in an innovation acceptance diffusion curve, is essentially certain to appear much larger for later adaptors and for whatever individual innovative changes, or combinations and flows of them that might be considered.

And with that continuation of my Point 1 (and by extension, Point 2) discussions, I turn to consider how a flow of new innovations would impact upon a global flattening versus global wrinkling dynamic.

While most if not all of the basic points that I have just raised here in my standard innovation acceptance curve discussion apply here too, at least insofar as its details can be mapped to corresponding features there too, there is one very significant difference that emerges in the flattening versus wrinkling context:

• Push-back and resistance, as exemplified by late and last adaptors in the standard acceptance curve pattern, is driven by questions such as “how would I use this?” or “why would I need this?”, as would arise at a more individual level. But resistance to acceptance as it arises in a wrinkling context, is driven more by “what would adapting this new, challenge and even destroy in my society and its culture?” It is more a response to perceived societal-level threat.

This is a challenge that is defined at, and that plays out at a higher, more societally based organizational level than would apply to a standard innovation acceptance curve context. And this brings me very specifically and directly to the heart of Point 4 of the above list and the question of who drives resistance to globalization and its open markets, and how. And I begin addressing that by noting a fundamentally important point of distinction:

• Both acceptance of change and resistance of it, in a global flattening and wrinkling context, can and do arise from two sometimes competing, sometimes aligned directions. They can arise from the bottom up and from the cumulative influence of local individuals, or they can arise from the top down.
• And to clarify what I mean there, local and bottom up, and (perhaps) more centralized for source and top down can mean any combination of two things too, as to the nature of the voice and the power of influence involved. This can mean societally shaped and society shaping political authority and message coming from or going to voices of power and influence there. Or this can mean the power of social media and of social networking reach. And that is where I will cite and discuss social networking taxonomies and networking reach and networking strategies as a part of this discussion.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will focus explicitly on the issues and challenges of even mapping out and understanding global flattening and its reactive counterpoint: global wrinkling. And as a final thought for here that I offer in anticipation of that line of discussion to come, I at least briefly summarize a core point that I made earlier here, regarding innovation and responses to it per se:

• Change and innovation per se, can be disruptive and for both the perceived positives and negatives that that can bring with it. And when a sufficiently high percentage of an overall population primarily see positive, or at worst neutral there, flattening is at least going to be more possible and certainly as a “natural” path forward. But if a tipping point level of overall negative impact-perceived response arises, then the acceptance or resistance pressures that arise will favor wrinkling and that will become a societally significant force and it will represent a significant part of the overall voice for those peoples too.

I will discuss the Who of this and both for who leads and for who follows in the next installment to this narrative. 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 see also Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time and its Page 2 and Page 3 continuations.

Hands-off management, micromanagement and in-between – some thoughts on what they mean in practice 1

One of the most difficult issues that managers face – essentially all managers and regardless of their industry or their titles or scope of responsibility, can be found in simply knowing when to actively supervise and manage, and when to step back. Most managers spend essentially their entire careers and work lives, working in the context of their own specific areas of hands-on experience and training, whether that means working in technical and related areas such as Information Technology or Finance, or in soft people-skills areas such as Marketing and Communications or Personnel. They, as such, have training and experience that would at least offer a foundation for addressing challenges and opportunities in the functional areas that they are responsible for, and even when facing what to them personally are the new and unexpected. The challenges and the at least potential opportunities that I write of here are, however, essentially pure management in nature. And they are of a type that is not generally addressed all that effectively in standard MBA and related programs with their all but laser-focused subject area orientations and specializations. These issues do not, after all, clearly fit into any particular arena of business-defined functional area expertise or responsibility.

• When should a manager step back and even knowingly allow at least more minor mistakes, delays and related learning curve inefficiencies?
• And when should they step in and more directly intervene, and even if that means their in-effect taking over from a hands-on employee or a lower level manager who reports to them? When does this become micromanagement?
• When does hands-off mean giving others a chance to make mistakes and learn and grow professionally from them, and when does it mean leaving them hanging and without the support that they actually need, and that they might even actively want?
• When does more actively hands-on mean actively helping and when does it more primarily become an otherwise avoidable challenge to those so “helped,” and of a form that undercuts those subordinates and limits their ability to do better on their own the next time?

I have in effect already at least partly addressed those questions from how I phrased them, when I raised the possibility of at least more minor mistakes, delays and related learning curve inefficiencies, and by implication the possibility of more impactfully significant challenges that would require more immediate and effective response and resolution too.

• If a new, more junior manager is slower than might be desired at first, when using a new-to-them administrative tool and its online screens, and when they are still figuring out where everything is in it on their own, it can be better to wait for them to ask questions if they hit a wall in that, instead of automatically, in effect taking over. They might take a little longer at first, in effectively completing the tasks that they would use this tool for. But you’re making the investment as a more senior manager, of letting them learn this new tool as a matter of ingrained hands-on experience, and at their own pace can really pay off for you and for your business later on, and certainly if this means their learning their next new software tool that much faster, and if they learn this one better from how they learned how to use it by doing with it, too.
• If, on the other hand, that new more junior manager is on the brink of making a mistake that would create serious problems for a major business client, that would probably call for a more immediate and direct intervention.

But that, at least categorical level context in which a step-in or step-back decision would be made, only represents one of several possible arenas where the questions that I raise here, as to how to better manage, actually arise. What are the work performance issues involved that a step-in or step-back decision would be made about? But just as importantly, who are the people involved in this and what are the most productive ways for working with them, and certainly when everything is not moving ahead like clockwork for them?

• And it is important to note in this context, that addressing the who side of that, can and generally does call for more individualized management approaches and more flexible ones at that, than a focus on business tasks and goals would call for, and certainly as a general rule.
• Business tasks and goals, and certainly as organized and called for from a big picture perspective, are laid out in business plans in place, or at least in effectively drafted ones. They are formally understood for what they would accomplish and how, at least for an organized and efficient business and for its ongoing business systems.
• But few if any businesses have anything like formal guidelines in place for working more effectively with others, depending on their personalities and on what specific ways of completing tasks work best for them. Few if any businesses have anything like formal guidelines in place for working more effectively with others in addressing how they would work when facing special-to-them needs: short term and time-limited or ongoing, and with only a few special exception circumstances such as parental need guidelines, and disabilities accommodations standing out as exceptions there.

Actually addressing the issues raised here as a senior manager, means thinking through the tasks and goals involved and the priorities that they carry, while also thinking and acting with a matching awareness of the other people involved in carrying them out – as well as maintaining an active awareness of other involved parties, including third party stakeholders who need to have the tasks involved, completed correctly and on time. And at least as importantly, this also means better understanding ourselves as the senior managers in charge in this too.

• Management is about organizing and coordinating what has to be done, to get it done and as smoothly and effectively, and cost-effectively as possible. But it is also about working with and enabling the people involved in carrying this work out. Managers are people, who work with, and in this context supervise other people.

Personality and management style, as shaped by it, enter this narrative here, and a need to be able and willing to work with others in ways that they can be positively receptive to, and in ways that can help bring out their best. This means finding the right balance between challenge to perform, and the opportunity for professional growth that the right types and amounts of such challenge can foster, while giving others both the opportunity and the tools needed to get their work done, even as they learn from trying and doing.

I have seen way too many managers who do not allow for any error or delay (from others). And that lack of flexibility and yes – lack of adaptability, makes it all the easier to fall into one or the other of the two chasms of problematical management that I have been discussing here: hands-off that can and will leave subordinates twisting in the wind, or its overly involved counterpart of longer-term performance-thwarting micromanagement. And this brings me to the final point that I would raise here in this brief note: the final point of challenge that not finding the right balance between hands-off and hands-on can bring.

• Whether a senior manager leaves no room for errors or delays and even when a subordinate is learning, or when they are trying to navigate the unexpected or unusual,
• Or whether they make the mistake of stepping in too often and on problems and issues that do not genuinely call for their direct intervention,
• They make the path that they themselves would follow as a more senior manager in charge, that much more difficult too. The more they do this, and certainly if they vacillate between the two, the poorer their own work performance can be from their failure to focus on and expend effort, and time and other resources where their effort is really needed, and where it will have been expected in their own performance reviews.

And the types of problems that I write of here can radiate down lines of a table of organization from more senior managers on down. At its worst, poor managerial decision making of the type that I write of here, can come to shape and damage entire corporate cultures, and businesses as a whole, undermining morale at a business as a whole in the process.

I offer this posting with a goal of explicitly raising and outlining a type of management problem. And I will return to this topic area in future postings, with a goal of offering some thoughts on how to better address it.

In anticipation of my next posting on this, I note here that I have made a number of assumptions in this one that are true for many involved participants and across a range of real-world scenarios, but without their being universally true, or even close to that. As an example of that, I have assumed that all of the people involved in the scenarios that I have touched upon here, are good employees who can do their jobs effectively or even exceptionally well, even if they do face at least occasional learning curve slow-downs in that. And I have assumed that such learning would be more autodidactic in nature. But not all employees are as effective as others and not all show the same levels of potential for developing into the good or even great there. And some need and really benefit from more formal training and particularly on more complex training issues.

The devil, it is said, is in the details and that definitely applies for the issues and at least potential problems that I write of here. And the detail-of-necessity nature of the issues that I raise here, explains at least in part why this is not necessarily a topic area that is addressed as effectively as might be needed in at least most MBA and related degree programs. The details that arise here are all experience based, if they are to be fully learned and understood. My goal here is to offer tools that might help to shorten this type of learning curve. And I will continue this effort in a next installment to what will become a short series.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings and series at Page 4 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, with this put into its addendum section (and also see its Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3.) And you can also find this at Social Networking and Business 2 (and also see its Page 1), and at HR and Personnel – 2 (and see its Page 1.)

Planning for and building the right business model 101 – 43: goals and benchmarks and effective development and communication of them 23

Posted in startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 2, 2019

This is my 43rd 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 and Page 5 continuations, postings 499 and loosely following for Parts 1-42.) I also include this series in my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory and its Page 2 continuation.

I have been discussing three specific possible early stage growth scenarios that a new business’ founders might pursue for their venture, in recent installments to this series, which I repeat here for smoother continuity of narrative as I continue addressing them:

1. A new venture that has at least preliminarily proven itself as viable and as a source of profitability can go public through an initial public offering (IPO) and the sale of stock shares. (See Part 33 and Part 34.)
2. A new venture can transition from pursuing what at least begins as if following an organic growth and development model (as would most likely at least initially be followed in exit strategy 1, above too) but with a goal of switching to one in which they seek out and acquire larger individually sourced outside capital investment resources, and particularly from venture capitalists. (See Part 35.)
3. And 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. (See Part 36 through Part 39.)

And more recently here, I have been analyzing and discussing these business development possibilities, for how they would address a set of three specific business performance requirements that are important for long-term success:

A. Fine tuning their products and/or services offered,
B. Their business operations and how they are prioritized and carried out, and certainly in the context of this Point A, and
C. Their branding and how it would be both centrally defined and locally expressed through all of this.

I at least preliminarily finished discussing the first of those due diligence issues: the above Point A, in Part 42, for all three of the above listed business development scenarios, briefly touching on Point B and C while doing so for how the three functionally interconnect. My goal here is to more fully and specifically address Point B and its issues as it plays out for the three business models under consideration here. And I begin by noting a point of comparison:

• The selection and fine tuning of what a business would bring to market as its defining source of revenue generating value might be influenced by outside forces, with that including market demands and pressures from their competitors. But ultimately, the most compelling drivers for this come from within the business itself, from its founders and owners and from its ongoing leadership as codified by them in its ongoing business model. And standardization of marketable, sellable production tends to be held as essential. So for example, if a business bakes rolls, all of its product should be of the same size and shape at least within very narrow preset limits and all should be made according to the same recipe for any given roll type offered and with tight quality control over ingredients used. And all should be cooked the same way and to the same doneness and all should packaged, and easy to package quickly for shipment and sale, in the same way too (bringing Point 3 into this narrative here too.)
• Higher level, internal to the business decision making plays a very significant role in the What and How of their business operations as actually carried out too. And that can mean standardized work performance patterns that significantly mirror those just noted for what the business would offer to its outside world. But when you look beyond the officially expected as detailed there, to see how business processes are actually carried out, you can often find that determined by a much wider range of in-house participants, with that larger stakeholder group also including mid and lower level managers and even non-managerial hands-on employees who actually carry out much of the work so specified. And this at-least capacity for variation, can be necessary and even essential if a business is to be flexible enough in order to be able to accommodate change and the unexpected, and certainly as it might more locally arise and even in day-to-day operations. Setting aside the questions and issues of when variation here is a positive and when it is a negative, it does happen and in ways and to degrees that would not be allowed for, or even make sense for products shipped out the doors and certainly within a single business and within a single one of its production runs.
• And outside considerations can and do have very significant impact on the operational What and How of a business too, and with a higher level of functional significance than might be expected in a marketable product context, and for entire functional areas of a business. Consider Finances and the outside mandated requirements of generally accepted accounting procedures (GAAP) as a perhaps best known example there, though outside regulatory forces can and in fact do reach into most if not all aspects of business operations, and for many types of businesses and for essentially all industries.

But for purposes of this discussion, let’s set aside outside-mandated, standardized demands and their pressures (as just exemplified here by adherence to GAAP) that all businesses would face, as leaving competitors on what at least in principle would still be a level playing field competitively. (Here, I set aside biased regulatory requirements that might for example explicitly favor larger already established businesses in an industry or sector, while thwarting possible new entrants there with new competing products or services that their more established peers would be less able to directly compete with.)

All three of the basic business scenarios that I have been discussing here since Part 33 are built around a premise of long-term stability and business strength, and all are built around a basic assumption of overall completeness in what they would carry out and be prepared to carry out operationally, in order to insure that happening. So for example, I did not include here, a fourth business development scenario in which a business founder, or founding team might build a new business venture with an explicit goal of selling it to some larger business entity through a mergers and acquisitions process, where:

• Some of the functional areas that they would assemble in it,
• And at least proof of principle development of all of its key marketable and sellable products or services might have to be very robust
• But where other more supportive capabilities might be left more vestigial as they would be provided by an acquiring entity that would be less inclined to have to pay for what to it, would be unnecessary duplications. (Think here in terms of founders who have ownership to a key next-step advancement patent or set of them, that seek to develop and prove the value of that holding in order to maximize its value to a buyer and its profitability to themselves.)

I offer this build-to-sell scenario, in the context of at least briefly mapping out something of a fourth case in point business development alternative. But the core details included in my tripartite description of it, also offers a simplified and even simplistic outline to what has become an increasingly complex options-rich range of business development possibilities and for a wide and growing range of business types: the three that I have primarily been addressing here included. And I at least acknowledge the legitimacy of that view of matters by posing some Point B oriented questions that the strategic decision makers of a new and forming, or more established and growing business might very well find themselves facing, which I phrase here as being asked of you, the reader:

• What are the core functionalities in this business that you would have to keep in-house, and develop and expand there as your business as a whole scales up (assuming once again that you would retain ownership of this enterprise and continue to lead it)?
• And what more supportive and ancillary functionalities and services might best be outsourced to third party provider specialists, where doing so would be more cost-effective and not carry additional new risk management issues? (And when and how might you do that and under what terms?)
• And focusing on functionalities and services that really should be maintained in-house, and particularly in distributed business systems, which of them should be managed from a home office or other more central facility and which of them should be managed and effectively owned, more locally?

At least aspects of what have traditionally been seen as Information Technology in a business are now routinely outsourced with that including server farms and enterprise-wide cloud storage and access management solutions, and the vast majority of web site and online presence support, or at least their more technical hardware and software underpinnings. And this type of outsourcing can and often does include call center operations and certainly for off-hours coverage when 24/7 customer assistance is a desired goal. And outsourcing can become an attractive option for at least areas of Human Resources and Personnel management too, to add a third increasingly common example of this here (see my series When and If It Might Make Sense to Outsource Human Resources, as can be found at HR and Personnel as postings 134 and following.)

I have in fact pushed this in-house versus outsourced dynamic to a lean and outsourced extreme in one of my earlier series: Virtualizing and Outsourcing Infrastructure, as can be found at Business Strategy and Operations as its postings 127 and loosely following (for its Parts 1-10.) More specific in-house versus outsource decisions become important in the types of context that I raise here, because they have stakeholder-responsibility and stakeholder-autonomy implications that can be shaped by a determination of precisely what type of business model and business development plan is in place. And to take that out of the abstract, consider the above-repeated business development Scenario 3, and at least potential areas for home office/parent company versus franchise facility/franchisee conflicts. What would and in fact should best be carried out and controlled system-wide from a parent company controlled and managed facility, and whether that means in-house maintained and operated or centrally contracted and managed-outsourced? And what should best be done by, and best be considered a responsibility of the individual franchisees in place and their local business outlets in these larger systems?

• Both overall cost-effectiveness and consistency, and market-facing standardization and the branding that serves as a public face to all of this, would enter into any realistic answer to those types of questions, and certainly as best for now solutions to them are to be sought out and implemented. And with that, I tie this back to the above stated performance Points A and C.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment with an explicit focus on those market-facing issues, and with particular attention to Point C and its implicit questions and issues. And in anticipation of that discussion to come, I note here that we live and work in contexts that have increasingly come to expect and even demand social and environmental responsibility from businesses, and good corporate citizenship from them. So actually addressing the demands of Point C, of necessity have to include active consideration of Point B issues as well as Point A ones.

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 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 35 – open systems, closed systems and selectively porous ones 27

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 30, 2019

This is my 35th 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 and Page 5 continuations, postings 542 and loosely following for Parts 1-34.)

I began working my way through a brief to-address topics list in Part 32 of this, that I repeat here for smoother continuity of narrative as I continue discussing its points:

1. Even the most agile and responsive and effectively inclusive communications capabilities can only go so far. Effective communications, and with the right people involved in them, have to lead to active effectively prioritized action if they are to matter, and with feedback monitoring and resulting reviews included.
2. Both reactive and proactive approaches to change and to effectively addressing it, enter in there and need to be explicitly addressed in rounding out any meaningful response to the above Point 1.
3. And I will at least begin to discuss corporate learning, and the development and maintenance of effectively ongoing experience bases at a business, and particularly in a large and diverse business context where this can become a real challenge.
4. In anticipation of that, I note here that this is not so much about what at least someone at the business knows, as it is about pooling and combining empirically based factual details of that sort, to assemble a more comprehensively valuable and applicable knowledge base.
5. And more than just that, this has to be about bringing the fruits of that effort to work for the business as a whole and for its employees, by making its essential details accessible and actively so for those who need them, and when they do.

I have offered at least preliminary responses to the first two of those points since then, leading up to this series installment and a more detailed discussion of the above Point 3.

I in fact began addressing that in Part 34 and recommend you’re reviewing that as offering an explicit orienting foundation for what is to follow from here on in this narrative. As I noted there, Point 3 is the farthest-reaching, most complex of the five topics points that I am seeking to successively address here, and as at least partial proof of that, Points 4 and 5 can be seen as specific aspects of it that have been spun off from it for more focused attention.

I begin, or rather continue addressing this complex of issues by at least briefly turning back to Point 2 again, where communications and the data and processed knowledge that it conveys is turned into action and activity, and either reactively or proactively, or what is perhaps most common, as some combination thereof. And I begin addressing that by adding one of the villains of this type of narrative into it: business systems friction with its at least largely unconsidered, background static-like limiting restrictions on both the development of organized actionable information in a business, and on its effective communications to the stakeholder who need it, and when they do.

I said in Part 35 that reactive and proactive per se both become more important, and I add more meaningful as points of distinction when the people involved – or who should be involved, are dealing with the non-standard, the non-routine, and have to find more creative solutions to the problems they face than can be encompassed in their usual day-to-day task level approaches.

• As a caveat to that, I have to add here that one of the first victims of business systems friction, is that anything like a before the fact understanding that stakeholders are in fact facing the unexpectedly different, can become lost. Reactive often starts from what has suddenly been found to be the unexpected, as standard operating practices as rote-followed suddenly break down and in unexpected but significant ways and with what are proving to be significant consequences from that.

Proactive as such arises when at least one key stakeholder spots something unusual or unexpected, and early on and in a way that highlights its novelty to them. And it actually takes place when they can and do start informing others who would also have to know of this, so they can begin addressing this unexpected but real new circumstance and from early on too, rather than having to play reactive catch-up for their part of the overall task and process performance flow that they would be responsible for in all of this.

I have on occasion written here in this blog of reactive and proactive occurring in a blend, and I add in what can be a confusing blend of them. All relevant stakeholders are not always brought into these now very necessary conversations. And even when such a stakeholder is included, that is no guarantee that they will actually chose to deviate from “tried and true” and even as pursuit of that might have already proven problematical for others involved in these overall cause and effect cascades.

Point 1 as listed above, addressed follow-through and action but it also focused on communications and on what is communicated. Point 2 as started for discussion in Part 34 of this series and as continued here, is all about what would, or would not be done with that knowledge, assuming that it can even be made available in a timely manner. And localized breakdowns there can contribute to the pursuit of mixed reactive plus proactive, as much as conservative insistence on following routine practices does, in the face of new and emergent issues and challenges. And Point 3, and by extension Points 4 and 5 as well, all deal with the basic issues on raw data, processed knowledge and its organized assembly and communications again, though I will also reconsider usage and follow-through issues when discussing Point 5, as begun here when considering Point 2 of the above list. And with that orienting note added, I turn here to address Point 3 again. And I do so by delving into a fundamentally important issue, and one that is often overlooked for its prevalence and significance when discussing the types of technology-based approaches to information and knowledge management in a business, that I touched on here in Part 34: version 2.0 intranets and related capabilities for bringing people together in needs-focused ways.

• The issue that I refer to here is that of nuanced, experience based judgment and the simple fact that all processed knowledge in a business cannot simply be typed into a database and in a form that can always, automatically be used and to full benefit by anyone tapping into it as a shared resource.

Let’s consider a judgment call example here, to illustrate the point that I am trying to make with that assertion. And I offer it as a realistic if stylized feedback-framed verbal response. “The problem that you’re telling me about sounds familiar even if it isn’t exactly common here. And it sounds like you are going to need X to handle it (where X is a resource that is “owned” by a manager on a different part of the table of organization.) And you might very well need some specific help in both accessing and using it. Watch out for A. He might or might not be able to help you access X but he doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does and certainly when doing anything here that falls outside of his more day-to-day routine. B, on the other hand is a lot more widely experienced and he can think outside of his day-to-day box. He’s not as easy to work with; he is not all that outgoing and he tends to keep pretty focused on his immediate tasks at hand. But if you could get him to help you, and if his boss C will let him take the time to do that, you are going have a lot better chances of success here than if you let A try and take over on this for you. And he will try and take over.”

It is essentially guaranteed that any advice: any insight of this type, focusing on interpersonal issues and on individual strengths and weaknesses, is going to come with an at least strongly implied “… but don’t tell any of them that I told you this. I have to work with A and B and their manager too!” So this might be crucially important information for successfully carrying out an important task, and a high priority novel one. But how would anyone put this type of judgment-call insight as to who is best and who is worst to work with, into a database? So I will focus in what follows on what might be deemed more operational insight and knowledge – data and processed knowledge that does not carry this type of interpersonal judgmental quality, that might be so codified, organized and shared. And with this caveat offered, I will begin addressing that complex of issues in my next series installment, turning back to my Point 3 notes of Part 34 as an organizing framework, or at least as the start of one for doing so. 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.

Reconsidering the varying faces of infrastructure and their sometimes competing imperatives 7: the New Deal and infrastructure development as recovery 1

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning, UN-GAID by Timothy Platt on May 27, 2019

This is my 8th installment to a series on infrastructure as work on it, and as possible work on it are variously prioritized and carried through upon or set aside for future consideration (see United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN-GAID), postings 46 and following for Parts 1-6 with its supplemental posting Part 4.5.)

I have already briefly discussed four infrastructure development case study examples in this narrative. And my goal for here is to at least begin a similarly brief and selective discussion of a fifth such case study, large scale infrastructure development (or redevelopment) initiative, as drawn from at least relatively recent history:

• US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and related efforts to help bring his country out of a then actively unfolding Great Depression.

Then after discussing that, I will turn to consider a sixth such example, with an at least brief and selective accounting of how:

• A newly formed Soviet Union sought to move from being a backward agrarian society, or rather a disparate ethnically diverse collection of them that had all existed under a single monarchical rule, to become a single more monolithic modern industrial state.

And I will of necessity find myself referring back to two other infrastructure development examples that I have already cited and explicitly discussed here, continuing them for purposes of comparison to these two: the Marshall and Molotov Plans as can be found in Part 4 and Part 5 of this series respectively.

My overall goal for this series as a whole has been to successively explore a progression of such current and historic large scale infrastructure initiatives, with a goal of distilling out of them, a set of guiding principles that might offer planning and execution value when moving forward on other such programs. I continue developing this narrative as a foundation building outline, as based upon real world experience at infrastructure development, with that goal in mind. This type of more organized consideration, I add, will prove to be of crucial importance as we all face and societally so, an imperative to more effectively address large-scale and even globally spanning challenges that only begin with global warming and its already visible impact: challenges that history will all but certainly come to see as defining a large part of this 21st century experience and the legacy that we will leave moving forward from that. Ad hoc and one-off cannot offer lasting sustaining value for that, so regardless of where a more organized understanding of large scale infrastructure development comes from, such an understanding is needed.

I write a lot in this blog about the new and unexpected and about the disruptively new as that would call for entirely new understandings of challenges and opportunities faced, and of best ways to address them. There were a variety of issues that led to the Great Depression that people in elected office and that people with training in economics and related fields thought they understood, from their apparent similarity to at least seemingly parallel events from their past. And they were correct on some of those points, even as they were hopelessly wrong about others and with great consequence for how they sought to correct for them.

I begin this posting’s main line of discussion here by citing two such factors: one effectively more understood at least in principle if not in practice, and the other much less so and certainly when effective action could have had a positive impact:

• Pre-Great Depression bank holding companies and their acceptance of their own stock shares as preferred collateral when making loans, creating vast liquidity and reserves gaps in their systems in times of stress (and also see Banking Panics of 1930-31.)
• And tariff barriers with their effect of killing overseas markets that American industry depended upon for its very survival, and particularly at a time when local and national markets were drying up for lack of available liquidity. See in particular the Hawley–Smoot Tariff Act of 1930 for an orienting discussion as to how these business challenging and economy breaking barriers were erected.

Both of these developments happened: the first as a leading cause for what became the Great Depression for its bad banking practices consequences, and the second as an ill-considered response to a deepening recession, that made it the Great Depression for its duration and for its depths of severity.

I just identified the first of those two contributing factors: bad banking practices, as having been understood in principle if not in practice, and the second of them: tariff barrier protectionism as being less fully understood of the two. But in all fairness, faulty assumptions and fundamental misunderstandings contributed to both, and both for their occurring and for contributing to their consequences. And as I will briefly note in what follows here, these and other related failures in understanding and action fed upon each other and over a course of overlapping timeframes. And those toxic synergies made the Great Depression into the systemic collapse that it turned into. But let’s start with the banking system and its challenges.

Even the leadership of the bank holding companies that failed during the Great Depression knew and understood that they should not make unsecured loans and certainly not as a matter of routine practice. They required collateral on the part of businesses and other entities that would take out loans from them, as assurance that if those loans were in danger of defaulting, they could recover at least significant amounts of their invested capital. Their mistake, or at least the fundamental one that I would cite here: the point where their understanding of this type of due diligence as a matter of principle, broke with their understanding of it in practice, came from what in retrospect can only be called their hubris. They saw themselves as absolutely secure and stable, and as a result saw themselves as organizations as being immune from market-based stress or volatility. So when their customers saw the economy that they had invested in begin to collapse and when those customers started going to their banks that they had put their savings in, and in increasing numbers, those banks were unprepared. And as their customers started lining up at their doors to take their money out, more and more of them panicked and joined the lines until their banks’ cash holdings were so depleted that they could no longer function.

I cited in my above bullet point how these holding companies had accepted shares in their own business as even preferred collateral for the loans they made. As their own systems began to fail, one member bank at a time, they found themselves as having in effect made vast numbers of loans without requiring any real collateral at all – or at least any that could still hold outside-validated value. So a bank in such a holding company might fail with others in that system finding themselves in distress but still remaining recoverable, at least in principle. But the house of cards nature of how they had all managed their businesses, in-house, as their own collateral valuation standard meant that those banks folded too. Their customers knew they had nothing real backing the loans they had entered into and they knew that the banks they had entrusted their savings in were now unreliable for that. And there was no Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or similar outside supportive agency in place, at least yet, that might have quelled the panic and stopped the cascades of failures that quickly brought down entire bank holding companies and all of their member banks.

The dynamics that led to these banking system collapses were understood in principle and in the abstract, even if no one in those bank holding companies seemed capable of turning that abstract understanding into prudent due diligence and risk management practice. The second of the pair of examples that I cite here was, and I have to add still is a lot less well understood and certainly as the current presidential administration in the United States is playing with the fire of trade wars and tariff barriers even as I write this.

Ultimately, there is no such thing as a national economy. Nations operate in larger contexts and they have financially for as long as there has been international trade, and with the roots to that going back to before the dawn of recorded history. And ultimately, economies are liquid reserve and cash flow determined, and with trade shaping and driving all of that. Stop trade and you stop the flow of money and you challenge and even kill the economies involved. And that holds when considering the overall and even global economy as a whole, or when considering the portions thereof that are based in some particular country or region, but that depend for their existence on the ongoing functioning health of the larger economy that they are part of.

As just noted, even today there are people in positions of real power and authority who do not understand this. And a lot fewer seem to have understood this in 1930 when the Hawley–Smoot Tariff Act was put into law and into practice, and the American economy and other national and regional components of the overall global economy began to really collapse.

I at least alluded to timing overlap and toxic synergies in these systematic challenges in the above text, and explicitly make note of that point of detail here. The stock market of the Roaring 20’s was impulse driven for the most part and with seemingly everyone investing in it looking for quick riches. And investing in it was comparable to walking a tightrope without a safety net. But the structural instabilities and the lack of anything like regulatory oversight to limit if not prevent bad business and investment practices that characterized this early stock market, only constituted one of several systematic sources of failure, that all came to collapse together, with a pattern-setting start to that developing over a period of about one year starting in October, 1929 and continuing on to the Fall of 1930.

• To explicitly connect two points of detail just touched upon here, stocks and other investment instruments that might be counted as representing saved and invested wealth, were not necessarily considered to be reliable sources of collateral to individual banks or to their parent holding companies, for their volatility and their potential for it. But these banking institutions thought that they at least knew and could trust their own paper: their own traded stock shares as reliable collateral when making loans. So many if not most came to preferentially keep this “in-house” and asked for proof of ownership in their stock and with it used to back loans signed for through them.
• My point here is that all of the factors and considerations that I make note of here, and a lot more that also contributed to the Great Depression, interacted and reinforced each other for their toxic potential and for their eventual consequences.

The American economy and other national and regional economies in general, all took a real beating in late 1929, and with the US stock market collapse only serving as one measure of that. But these markets were actually beginning what would have seemed a long slow path back to stability and recovery. Recessions end and more recent ones of note in particular, had generally begun to significantly turn towards recovery within about 15 months from their visibly impactful starts. As one admittedly limited and skewed measure in support of that claim for what might have happened here too, consider the collapse of the New York City based stock market itself as tracked by an already relied upon and trusted Dow Jones Industrial Average as a measure of stock market performance and of public confidence in that. The stock market crash began on Thursday, October 24, 1929 with nervous investors trading a single day record 12.9 million shares and with many more trying to sell than to buy. The overall market valuation at measured by the Dow Jones average began falling precipitously.

The weekend that followed did not have a positive impact, in giving investors time to reconsider and settle their nerves. Tuesday, October 29: Black Tuesday came and by the end of that trading day, the overall Dow Jones average had fallen nearly 13%. And the stock market was effectively in freefall as investors panicked, losing their faith in the value of their investments, and any sense of safety in the security of their life savings insofar as they were invested in stock shares. (For further background information on this see for example, this piece on the Wall Street Crash of 1929.) But even the stock market was beginning to recover by March 13, 1930 as the Hawley–Smoot Tariff Act was first put into effect, as investors began buying stock shares again, looking for undervalued ones and real bargains to be gained from them. Then international trade effectively died as nation after nation began raising their own retaliatory and presumed self-protective trade barriers in response to what was going on around them and from their erstwhile trading partners. And that, to my thinking is when the actual Great Depression itself actually began. That is when what might have been just another significant recession became The Great Depression.

That overall systemic economic collapse did not take place all at once; it took a number of months for the real impact of this decision and action on the part of the US Congress to be realized. So for example, US based banks began to be stressed from panicked customer withdrawals and from larger numbers of their customers no longer being able to pay back loans, in late 1929. But many of the larger bank holding companies that failed from this onslaught of challenges, did so in the Fall of 1930 and over the next two years as the strangling of international trade really took hold with so many of their business customers – so many employers facing bankruptcy from loss of business and incoming revenue. And they continued to fail for years to come and at an incredibly impactful rate.

My goal for this posting has been to outline something of the challenge that Franklin Delano Roosevelt faced when first taking office as the 32nd president of the United States. I will continue its narrative thread in a next installment to this series where I will among other things, quantify the bank failures and their timeline to put what I am writing here into clearer perspective. And I will then discuss Roosevelt’s New Deal as a massive recovery effort, and one that had within it a massive infrastructure redevelopment effort too. Then after completing that narrative thread, I will continue in this series as a whole, as briefly noted above. But in anticipation of the next installment to this to come, I step back from the details to reframe this discussion in a second, and here-crucially important way. What Roosevelt faced, underlying and infusing all of the toxic details of policy and practice and on so many fronts, was a complete failure of an underlying world view as to how businesses and economies run, and of how and why they fail when they do that too. Roosevelt faced the problem of a broken puzzle with its pieces having to be reconnected. But at least as importantly he faced a problem of a broken and failed puzzle where its business as usual assumptions and understandings could no longer be made to apply. He had to find a way to fundamentally reshape and redefine the overall image in that puzzle too. And that is the challenge that I will write of in my next installment to this series.

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. I also include this in Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time 3, and also see Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. And I include this in my United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN-GAID) directory too for its relevance there.

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 44 – the issues and challenges of communications in a business 11

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 24, 2019

This is my 44th 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 1-43.)

I have been at least relatively systematically working my way through a series of background issues since Part 39, with a goal of using that foundation-forming narrative as a basis for addressing two topics points and their issues, that I have held forth as organizing goals for this overall narrative. And my primary goal for this installment is to at least begin discussing those topic points directly now. That means I will at least begin to:

1. Offer an at least brief analysis of the risk management-based information access-determination process, or rather flow of such processes, as would arise and play out in a mid-range risk level context, where I sketched out and used a simplified risk management scale system in Part 39 for didactic purposes, that I will continue to make use of here and in what follows.
2. Then continue on from there to discuss how this type of system (or rather a more complete and functionally effective alternative to it as developed around a more nuanced and complete risk assessment metric than I pursue here), can and in fact must be dynamically maintained for how the business would address both their normative and predictably expected, and their more novel potential information sharing contexts as they might arise too. I note here in anticipation of that, that when innovation is involved and particularly when disruptively novel innovation is, novel information sharing contexts have to be considered the norm in that. And that significantly shapes how all of the issues encompassed in these two numbered points would be understood and addressed.

I concluded Part 43 of this series with some general comments regarding new employee selection, and working with people already on-staff at a business, so as to bring in the right creatively innovative people and support them for what they can bring to the business. Then after (presumably) finishing that discussion thread, at least for purposes of that posting, I said that I would turn to discuss the above-repeated topics points and essentially from the start of this one. But I have decided since writing that, to at least selectively expand upon the complex of personnel related issues that I was addressing in Part 43 first, to further complete the foundation that I will begin addressing the above Point 1 from. This, I add, is particularly important and relevant here given the overall thrust of this series as a while, with its personnel-oriented focus.

I begin this posting-starting digression by explicitly noting that when I refer to creative hands-on and managerial staff and the innovation that they can bring to a business, I am not just referring to innovation as it can arise in marketable products or services; I am writing of innovation in general as it can more widely hold potential for enriching a business, with that including business process innovation, innovation in how a business reaches out to and connects with its markets, or with possible supply chain partners or other business-to-business collaborators, or in any other context where such creativity might arise – or be thwarted. And I am writing of innovation as a product of individual effort, and even when it requires coordinated effort of several or even many to bring an innovative insight to meaningful fruition.

If you are a business owner or a more senior executive there, or a lower or midlevel manager there for that matter, who finds yourself having to hire a new employee and at whatever level in the organization, what should you look for that would go beyond your already current and ongoing routine and normal? And what should you do to identify, support and encourage such potential in the people who you already have working with you on payroll? Going beyond that, and in acknowledgement of the constraints that businesses both face and create for themselves from bringing in people part-time and short-term, and as part of a gig economy approach to hiring, where and how should you look for innovative potential and other sources of value that would make it more worthwhile for all involved, to actively bring people onboard as full time in-house employees, who prove themselves as good candidates for that from their performance in more transient positions there?

Some qualities and habits come immediately to mind that would offer worth from essentially anyone who a business would seek to bring in and keep, and actively support for their abilities to create new sources of value for an employing business. And this would just start with recognition of a driving curiosity that would bring an employee or a prospective employee to look beyond their own particular day-to-day routine to see at least something of what might be possible beyond that. And it would also include a willingness and ability to connect the dots, seeing how what might at first seem to be unrelated needs and resources might be brought together in unexpected ways. Communications skills enter in here too, as do what might perhaps best be considered marketing skills, for sharing and arguing the case for possible innovative insights that have been realized.

There are, of course, a number of other traits that could be added to that list as offering at least supportive value to what I have just outlined here. But for purposes of this posting and the above-repeated Point 1 that I will at least begin addressing here, these are the key characteristics and qualifications that I would start the main line of discussion of this posting from, here.

At the risk of repeating myself on some key points that I have already discussed in this blog, and even at least touched upon in this series too, I offer the following as context in which possible innovation and possible innovators might be addressed:

• The more standardized and the more routine a business process, or a product and its manufacturing are, or any other area of business activity that might be considered here, the less new information is actually going to be required to carry it out. And I even include operational possibilities here such as customized manufacturing, where customization per se is usually still tightly constrained and where options are in most cases routinized with customers selecting from suites of already-prepared-for options.
• The more standardized and the more routine here, the less new information, and at least as importantly the fewer the number of types of information have to be explicitly shared in order to carry it out. And the second half of that bullet point even holds true when considering big-data intensive operations, such as Customer Fulfillment Center operations where employees have to be able to access large amounts of data concerning the specific customers they are dealing with, in order to set up and complete sales or other transactions with them. They might see a diversity of specific data through this, but it is essentially certain that they will primarily if not exclusively see this coming up through specifically formatted and populated database tables that they have specific vetted access too, and with the same data fields tapped into for this every time and without exceptions. So even there, they are only seeing and working with a limited set of types of data for this.

Innovation, and looking beyond the standard and routine, calls for wider vision and understanding if it is to bring relevant value to a business or to the people who work there as they carry out their workplace responsibilities. So when I initially wrote and offered the above Point 1, I was setting up what can become a fundamental conflict that can play out in a business. And it is one in which the default decision making option is one of simply pursuing standard and routine, and the cost of that can easily become a loss of creative opportunity – and of overall opportunity that in the long run might have proven essential to the business as a whole for its ongoing success.

I explicitly framed Point 1 in terms of a simplified risk management tool that I have offered in recent installments to this series in a few progressively more refined iterations, for use as a didactic tool. And I continue this discussion from that point where I will focus on mid-range risk scenarios as discussed in the context of that tool.

Why mid-range risk issues and scenarios? I have already touched upon that question and its answers when initially offering the above cited risk management tool that would be used for managing this area of consideration, or at least for organizing its management. But I will address that complex of issues again here, this time expanding on what I have already offered on this topic, embedding my earlier response to it in what follows:

• Risk management is all about limiting the possible negative impact of uncertainty and the unexpected.
• In a standard business-as-usual context, and when standard and routine processes and flows of them are carried out in the performance of required tasks, this uncertainty fits essentially entirely into the category of known unknowns. You might not know when an adverse event will specifically arise but most of the time, and with only rare exceptions, you will start out knowing basically what types of such events can and with time will occur.
• Under these circumstances, the primary difference between low risk, mid-range risk and high risk events would be that progressively higher overall risk here, can be represented as a calculated mathematical product of progressively higher likelihood of an adverse event occurring, and a progressively higher negative consequence if one does, or some other overall higher value combination of these factors.
• In practice, in mathematical terms this is going to actually mean a calculated product that is weighted towards progressively more adverse outcomes, per incident as the risk assessed increases. And it is a key outcomes consequence of risk management, that efforts be made to reduce the calculated risk values as determined here, moving forward. Quite simply, a business process that fails too often is going to be replaced. A marketable product that does so is going to be recalled and the business will stop producing or selling it, at least until it can be redesigned or until its production line quality control can be improved.
• But even rare events can call for such change if their negative consequences rise to a sufficiently high level. Consider the recall of playpens and other items for infants and toddlers when a child dies as a result of a product failure.
• The key here, summarizing across the preceding bullet points is that when risk is essentially entirely driven by known and familiar unknowns, it becomes possible to in effect establish actuarial table approaches to dealing with it. And it becomes possible to comparatively set up tables of low risk to high risk activities and their outputs that can be supported or avoided too, as a matter of business routine. And the mid-range risks and the activities that they arise from, that I cited in Point 1, do not hold any particular significance beyond that of how they fit into larger, overall business-wide risk determination schemes.
• Now add in the additional uncertainties of innovation and of the disruptively novel and new. This is when unknown unknowns enter this narrative. And bottom line, that makes this source of uncertainty and the actual uncertainty that arise from it fundamentally qualitatively different from the known unknowns and their risks that I have just been writing of here.
• Lowest and highest risk possibilities are in most cases going to remain the same whether or not unknown unknowns are added to the mix, given the low likelihood of disruptively risk increasing circumstances and the events they lead to. But when you add the possibility or even a significantly concerning likelihood of unknown unknowns into this, they add a level of impact to any overall risk determination, and a maximized level of overall risk increase for any possible events that would fit into a mid-range risk category in particular. And they specifically add whole new layers of uncertainty as to what is likely to arise as an adverse event or outcome of that categorical level too.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment where I will specifically turn to consider information sharing, and the innovative context, as the underlying logic of the above set of bullet points plays out. And as a key part of that, I will explain the immediately preceding bullet point as just offered here regarding mid-level risk events and their possibility too. Then I will turn to consider Point 2, in light of this still ongoing 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. 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 15

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

This is my 15th posting to a series on disintermediation, focusing on how this enables marketing options such as gorilla and viral marketing, but also considering how it shapes and influences businesses as a whole. My focus here may be marketing oriented, but marketing per se only makes sense when considered in the larger context of the business carrying it out and the marketplace it is directed towards (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 278 and loosely following for Parts 1-14.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pure research, applied research and development, and business models 18

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 15, 2019

This is my 18th installment to a series in which I discuss contexts and circumstances – and business models and their execution, where it would be cost-effective and prudent for a business to actively participate in applied and even pure research as a means of creating its own next-step future (see Business Strategy and Operations – 4 and its Page 5 continuation, postings 664 and loosely following for Parts 1-17.)

I have been discussing a particular type of disruptively novel business and its business model in this series, that would specifically realize in day-to-day and ongoing practice, the issues raised in this series’ generic title: businesses that would offer research and its informational products as marketable, value creating offerings in a business-to-business context and marketplace (see in particular, Part 15, Part 16 and Part 17 for this.)

In the course of developing that narrative, I offered a basic business analysis tool that can be used in both ongoing strategic planning and when improving and refining the operational processes and practices that are in place, in order to keep them as flexibly effective as possible for the organization. I offered a first, simplest case iteration of this tool in Part 15 and then refined it in Parts 16 and 17, in the context of raising and discussing a set of basic questions that a business leadership team would address and certainly in this type of change-driven context.

• My focus in all of this has been on more effectively developing and creating the disruptively New as a source of defining value for the organization, and on doing so in a strategically considered, organized manner.

Then I concluded Part 17, stating that I would further develop a set of basic due diligence questions that I offered there, in terms of a specific set of business performance-related issues of importance to essentially any business, and how they would be addressed in the context of change and of disruptive change in particular:

• Negative and positive cash flows with their loss and profits considerations,
• Cost and profit centers, and
• Strategically rebalancing and improving risk load.

Then and as a continuation of that line of discussion, I said that I will at least selectively discuss business transitions as they would arise for an enterprise of this type, and the challenge of even just knowing precisely when one business development stage is ending and a next one is beginning. (See the end of Part 17 for a more complete version of this anticipatory note.)

I begin addressing all of this by repeating the basic due diligence questions that I included in Part 17 and that I will at least begin to expand upon and discuss here:

1. What specifically are the work process systems that define this enterprise as a research-as-product enterprise?
2. And what resources: specialized skills personnel definitely included, would be needed to carry this out with whatever necessary levels of what might at times be resource over-capacity allowed for, in order to accommodate at least more readily predictable fluctuations in resource requirement levels needed?

It is important to think about the issues raised in those questions, in terms of how friction and the information and communications limitations that create it, can compel you’re following a more conservatively prudent approach when answering them. And it is important to think of them with an understanding of risk awareness and risk accommodation, with that entering into how you would think these questions through and understand them too. I add this explicitly risk management oriented perspective to this overall due diligence exercise as representing yet another source of impacting factors that have to be taken into account in navigating the issues raised in the above questions. And with this added, let’s consider the above-repeated Question 1. And I do so by in effect dividing it into three parts:

• With one part consisting of what should or at least might be done at the business,
• A second part considering the specific cash flow and other cost/returns valuations of actually carrying out those activities (or of explicitly setting them aside and not doing them),
• And a third part to this that complicates the first two as a matter of practice, arises when adding in limits to how fully and effectively possible resolutions to them can be predicted (proactively) or evaluated (reactively) and certainly in anything like an actionable manner (as a result of business systems friction if from no other causes.)

I begin my discussion of this set of issues by pointing out an assumption that I have built into it, and that I would immediately challenge at this point in this overall discussion. I approached the two here-numbered due diligence questions of above, as a “a set of basic questions that a business leadership team would address.” But noting that as an in-practice possibility and acknowledging that such a leadership team, or even just a single overall leader in it might make all final determinative decisions here, I caution that decisions made as if in a vacuum are rarely good, and certainly long term and as more generally applied across a business as a whole. With that noted, I turn here to set the stage for addressing the bullet numbered questions and pointed issues just cited here, by offering an at least brief discussion of the Who side of carrying all of this out. Certainly in the business planning that is called for here, a wider and more effective inclusiveness of input and insight should be supported and encouraged if nothing else:

• Focusing to start on the first above stated “what should be done” question, I tend to approach that as a hands-on exercise. And I approach it as one that becomes more value-creating when approached and worked through as a team effort, and with that including input and discussion from a widely inclusive range of key involved stakeholders – and with that definitely including people who would have to make buy-in decisions here at a managerial and senior management level, but with that also including at least some direct input from people who would actually carry out this work too. Those potential participants in this type of discussion, I add, would most often be in a best position to actually directly see what does and does not work and in a way that more senior managers would not be. And they are also most likely going to be the people who would be most directly held accountable for that in their performance reviews too. This way, any analyses entered into and any decisions arrived at from this exercise, can at least start out with a better chance of being grounded in the more practical and realistic.
• Positing this in committee terms, bring a large enough group of people into the conversation so as to at least categorically include representatives from a fuller range of the people who will have to face the consequences of any decisions made here, and directly so and as drawn from whatever levels and branches of the table of organization as would make sense. And carry out this type of conversation with all included participants given a real voice. It does not for example do anyone any good to bring directly involved hands-on employees or lower level managers into the room, who would have to directly carry out whatever processes and practices are agreed upon there, if they are only expected to remain silent and if they cannot actually have an unimpeded voice. That would only lead to frustration – and on everyone’s part and certainly if a failure of actual participatory inclusion there leads to what should be avoidable breakdowns and other challenges moving forward. (Note: I have definitely seen that happen where senior management makes binding decisions as to operational processes and practices, that others will have to actually carry out but without the benefit of any real input from them, as to what would and would not work as a practical matter, and how and why. Cutting ahead, think of this as an example of gratuitously self-inflicted business systems friction with all of the possibility for problems that that can create and sustain.)
• A defining goal of this effort is to make this type of committee sufficiently inclusive. At the same time it is also important to keep its size to an overall level that can facilitate easier and more efficient discussion and certainly for any regular members who would be there for most if not all meetings of the group. So start smaller with the initial organizers of this committee and build from there, bringing in members as needed and letting them go from this responsibility when they are not. And be prepared to add in participants who would only be invited in for specific committee sessions in order to help clarify and resolve specific issues as necessary, and on an explicitly as-needed, and as-relevant basis. (For a basic reference of committee best practices, see: Joining, Working On and Leading a Committee as can be found at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2 as its postings 206-220.)

Now moving from consideration of the Who of this, let’s consider the What of it as explicitly raised in the first bullet pointed set of issues that I have divided Question 1 into, above. That means thinking through what can and should (and might) go into creating a flexibly sustainable complete research-based innovation development capability, that can be organized for specific use as required to address the needs of specific business clients and then be repurposed from there as new assignments are taken on. But it also means devising the specific processes and supportive systems of them that would be needed in order to make that type of ongoing research system work. Gap-free connectivity is vital there, and a new process or system of them in any given area of a business can have ripple effect impact on other parts of that business, that are now going to have to effectively accommodate and support that New too. And all of this should in turn fit into and actively support complete business-wide process cycles that would among other functional considerations also include client needs capture and analysis on one end and marketing processes and sales-oriented ones on the other, and back office functionalities and more too, to complete this cycle and connect it together as an organized ongoing whole. Let’s at least start addressing all of this in more general business process terms, and in terms of initially developing, and updating and fine tuning such systems.

• And in this, research and sales and marketing and all other necessarily involved functional areas that are not traditionally included in operations per se but that would have to be developed to make this specific type of business work, will be collectively identified in what follows as if fitting into operations per se, as a single categorically labeled, interconnected system of processes and shared (or at least sharable) understandings. Why? I will do that to simplify this discussion in its phrasing if nothing else. To be more explicitly precise here, I will use that more general term: operations, or overall operations when having to discuss all of a business’ activities as fitting into a single categorical whole. But I will continue to identify specific functional areas and areas of specialized business activity by their more usual terms when specifically discussing them in particular.

I assume here that everyone involved in this business development and improvement effort sees value in pursuing at least some level of novelty and New in how their business is run, if it is to develop and offer disruptively New as a source of revenue generating products and services, and particularly when that New is not simply a next step update in an already well known and developed industry or business sector, and as a general pattern for what this business would offer to its business clients:

• Put all of the ideas and possibilities that initial brainstorming session components to this exercise can bring up. And then discuss and refine what has been tossed on the table this way. Clarify and filter and set aside possibilities for inclusion in whatever new or updated processes and practices that would come out of this. And be prepared to bring back possibilities that had been set aside or even seemingly discarded in earlier discussion, as now necessary too, as understandings and perspectives change. The goal here is to start out considering as wide a range of possibilities as can be thought up here, in order to come up with an at-least provisional processes and procedures list that is not simply mired in the “tried and true,” and with that at least provisionally organized as to how combinations of these pieces included here might fit together in meeting larger defined business needs and goals.
• This approach holds value when a business faces change and particularly when it has to change at least aspects of its underlying business model, its strategic vision and approach, and/or its basic operations in order to more effectively address the challenges and opportunities of the disruptively novel and new that it faces – and that it seeks to constructively create too. (And I add parenthetically if nothing else that this approach also holds value in a more change management context too.)

That sort of motivating factor aside, this is where costs and benefits enter this exercise, where overall costs only begin with the more immediately visible up-front fiscal expenses and the more obvious revenue generation possibilities that would come to mind. I will assume in what follows that possible operational level approaches have been proposed and at least conceptually analyzed for how they would work and for how they would fit into larger overall business systems, and into the business model in place. This is where real effort begins in selecting and filtering from among the pile of options and possibilities on the table. And with that noted, I am going to start explicitly addressing the second of the three functional goals parts that I listed above when initially expanding out and starting to analyze Question 1 and its possible answers:

• Considering the specific cash flow and other cost/returns valuations of actually carrying out those activities (or of explicitly setting them aside and not doing them).

I will address that complex of issues in my next installment of this series and will proceed from there to discuss bullet point three of that list and then the above stated Question 2. And I will continue from there as noted above and in Part 17.

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.

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