Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Planning for and building the right business model 101 – 38: goals and benchmarks and effective development and communication of them 18

Posted in startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 25, 2018

This is my 38th posting to a series that addresses the issues of planning for and developing the right business model, and both for initial small business needs and for scalability and capacity to evolve from there (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 499 and loosely following for Parts 1-37.) I also include this series in my Startups and Early Stage Businesses directory and its Page 2 continuation.

I focused in Part 37 of this, on franchise systems as an exit strategy that a young business’ founders and owners can build towards, as their new enterprise exits its earliest stages of business development and starts to become consistently profitable. That financial transition point serves as the starting point for a new business’ first real growth phase, and when viewed from the perspective of a franchise system-facing business model, that is when those business owners stabilize and effectively complete their first storefront that they began their business with, at least to the point where it can begin to serve as a prototype model for overall business systems expansion, through a replication process and through bringing in contractually licensed franchise holders to run these new outlets, as they are developed. (As a point of digression of some relevance here, that means in a would-be franchise systems context that this first storefront has reached a point in its development where it can begin to build brand strength that it can use in marketing its pattern as a viable franchise option, and first growth stage here means both further building out that storefront itself as a business in place, and developing marketing strength and reach from it too, as a basis for wider-ranging growth.)

I discussed founders, and those who would set out to build this type of business empire in Part 37. And I turn here to more directly consider the question of what types of people would seek out franchise opportunities as participants in this type of system. And I begin with the obvious – which I refer to as such because the points I will raise here, enter into essentially every pitch that franchise systems have ever offered as they seek to find and bring in, franchisee managers for their outlets:

• People who seek out, or who can be drawn into the possibilities and potentials of becoming a franchisee in this type of business, seek greater autonomy and independence and greater long-term growth opportunity than they have been able to achieve when working in-house for someone else and under their direct guiding management. Here, the guiding mantra that informs those recruitment pitches is “be your own boss and with a proven brand name and business support system to back you up, and increase your chances of success, and your speed to achieving that too. Come in and grow with this franchise system business, as a key participant in its success and as a key beneficiary of its success too.”

There are of course two sides to that bullet point and certainly to my more generically stated recounting of this basic sales pitch: independence, but in the context of a larger proven and established business and business model. And that means accepting trade-offs, and of a very particular type and blend.

Think of taking on a franchise license opportunity as fitting in between two other distinctive and commonly pursued alternative options:

• Continuing on as an in-house employee and manager, and
• Breaking away entirely from that career path pattern and seeking to build your own startup, and your own business future from it.

At least from my admittedly limited experience, most of the people who would find real appeal in becoming a franchise license holder have worked as managers, and generally lower level managers in more traditional businesses. And they have felt stymied there from a lack of opportunity for advancement, and from a lack of appreciation of what they can and in fact do contribute to the business they work for. And franchise opportunities also appeal to those who actively seek out opportunity to break into management and have more of a say in what they do professionally, and who seek to lead and manage larger efforts than just the work of their own hands. A driving need for the type of independence that I cited in the above bullet point enters into all of this.

And a desire to build towards success with a level of support that can ease the way towards that, and reduce the chances of failure in this, also holds real appeal here too. A well run, franchisee-friendly and supportive parent company does in fact provide stable and supportive structure and help while giving their individual franchisees a great deal of hands-on, day-to-day independence in running their own operations in their own storefront.

This type of career move can, and for many franchisees does serve as their last major career step transition in their work life. Well run and effective franchise businesses actively seek to recruit good people into their systems who can really succeed in this type of work environment as local franchise managers. And they seek to retain them, and their growing knowledge and skills sets for making their franchises thrive. So the approach to understanding these overall business systems and from both an overall business owner, and from a franchise holder perspective that I offered above is realistic, and certainly as an intended goal and for all stakeholder types in this type of venture.

Returning to the two career path alternatives to this franchise option that I noted above: a prospective franchise license holder, or a current one for that matter who might be questioning their decision here, needs to ask some basic questions as part of their own due diligence-based decision making process for their moving forward:

1. Would (or do) you have the level and types of support from the parent business that you need and want?
2. Would/do you actually have the independence that you seek, in being able to be your own boss and run your own storefront?
3. Or are you too hemmed in and in ways that are important to you, by the terms of the contractual agreements that have to be agreed to and signed in becoming a franchisee there, and from either a Point 1 or a Point 2 perspective?
4. In that, and as a specific case in point source of examples, are you required to use specific supportive services (such as, for example parent company provided cleaning supplies and only them) that you could acquire locally on your own and less expensively, improving your own bottom line and without cutting corners on maintenance and storefront appearance?
5. Are some of the centrally mandated and run quality control measures that the parent company provides and mandates, disruptive and in ways that they need not be, from a local franchise perspective?
6. And is the parent company too restrictive in what it allows their local franchisees to offer their customers, denying opportunity to them to effectively address local and regional tastes and preferences that they see real potential in meeting?
7. And this is where local autonomy or at least a measure of it in what is offered to the customer enters this picture too. And I close out this list of points with an open question that I have in effect been leading up to here. How can a franchise system parent company and their perhaps very widely dispersed franchisees with their local storefronts, reach and maintain a more optimized balance between what is systematically standardized across the entire system and in its overall branding and brand value, while also allowing for local diversity to address local community and related marketplace diversity?

And that last numbered point leads me directly to the issues that I will turn to in my next series installment where I will consider the issues of business-wide consistency, as well as storefront-level flexibility, and both in prototyping new product or service possibilities and in addressing local-to-store opportunities and challenges. What is and is not supported and even encouraged and rewarded in this? I will at least begin addressing this complex of issues in my next installment. And 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.

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Building a business for resilience 30 – open systems, closed systems and selectively porous ones 22

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 22, 2018

This is my 30th installment to a series on building flexibility and resiliency into a business in its routine day-to-day decisions and follow-through, so it can more adaptively anticipate and respond to an ongoing low-level but with time, significant flow of change and its cumulative consequences, that every business faces in its normal course of operation (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 542 and loosely following for Parts 1-29.)

I have been discussing an approach to understanding how businesses are functionally organized in practice, and regardless of table of organization considerations for that, since Part 28 when I parsed a basic business model into intra-communicating tiles: groups of employee participants who actively communicate with each other within these groupings and on a regular basis. And as part of that, I discussed the boundaries that arise between these tiles, that participants in them are less likely to effectively communicate across and certainly on a default ongoing basis. Then I offered and at least briefly and selectively explored a case study example of how this type of tiling can lead to breakdowns and disconnects in the face of the unexpected and unplanned for, and when new problems arise that would require wider-ranging communications and action to resolve, of a type that do not more normally take place.

This discussion thread does not presume that such contexts and problems have to be permanently intractable as a consequence of this communications-limiting tiling: only that any effective response to or resolution of them can be delayed and with all of the added ripple effect consequences that delay can bring, and certainly when they involve critically important business flows and effort to achieve important business goals.

• There I assume as an in-effect axiomatic assumption, that when a business process breakdown could realistically be expected to degrade or even break the customer experience with that organization (as a working contextual example), and with anything like a significant potential likelihood of doing so,
• That makes both this breakdown and any business processes that it would arise within, critically important – and both for any overtly fragile or otherwise breakdown-vulnerable business processes involved and for any consequential or collateral breakdown incidents that also arise from this type of event.

Then I concluded Part 29 with the following note as to what would follow that installment:

• “I raised the issue of attention-limiting and communications-limiting tiled operational systems that span larger and more complex work flows in Part 28 and I have continued that line of discussion here (n.b. in Part 29.) And I come back to the challenges that this all-too common a reality creates and both for business resiliency and agility and I add for overall here-and-now business effectiveness too. I am going to turn in my next series installment (this one) to at least begin a discussion of how this type of challenge can be remediated, and both reactively and where possible: proactively too.”

The last sentence of that point fairly neatly summarizes what is to follow here as I continue this narrative. And I begin addressing that with communications and by offering a generally stated, but nevertheless generally valid point of observation that arises in this type of context:

• Improving communications in this is important, but simply addressing that might lead to misleading and functionally disconnected effort.

The key to this is in precisely how and where communications are improved, and with who is involved in that, and with what types of follow-up enabled by it and with what prioritization for that proposed action.

I begin addressing this by citing a point of distinction that I have made on a variety of occasions in this blog when addressing innovation, and particularly disruptively novel innovation and its communications needs. Ultimately enabling, developing and supporting and realizing value from innovation in a business, depends on how effectively that organization can institute an effective back-channel if you will, unstructured, or at least less-structured communications system that can address the novel information flow needs that innovation, and disruptive innovation in particular require, while still maintaining effective risk management oversight of genuinely sensitive and confidential information. And I have posited this in contrast to the more routine, standardized and vetted communications channels that would form the backbone of a business’ information sharing system.

This is not a context where the types of “unstructured, or at least less-structured communications” that I wrote of above can offer positive value, and certainly when their usage would drive a business for how its efforts are coordinated. And turning back to my banking example from Parts 28 and 29: the ad hoc workaround communications and resulting efforts to organize solutions that those bankers had to resort to became part of the problems they were trying to resolve, and not parts of any real solution to all of this, as instances of what should be seen as a single comprehensively recurring single problem and fitting into a single problem type. That point of observation holds true precisely because all of these localized problem remediations as separately carried out by involved bank officers, were always more one-off and disconnected from any larger context, than they were anything else. These efforts did not connect into the more standard communications capabilities or the more standard communications channels that were in place. And that meant they were not tracked for outcomes by any of the business practice due diligence systems in place, and their occurrence was not entered into corporate memory and they did not and could serve to help develop a framework at the bank for more effective, standardized long-term problem resolution. The instance-by-instance solutions that they did lead to simply helped mask the larger underlying problems that had led to their being needed in the first place.

I am not arguing a case for eliminating a less structured communications approach from this type of context entirely, and particularly when the problem itself that has to be addressed is disruptively new and novel. But that approach can play its most valuable role here, in bringing the right people into these problem clarification and remediation conversations so they can continue on from there by bringing these issues into the business’ structured communications channels, and with all of the people needed for this type of resolution formally brought in through that. Both less-structured and unstructured, and highly structured and systematically tracked and documented for that, are needed in a business’ communications system. And this is a case where structured holds paramount importance, and if anything like a long-term and lasting problem resolution can be achieved: and for new and unexpected problems as much as when addressing any more predictably occurring needs.

I use the terms open and closed, and selectively porous in the titles to the postings in this posting progression, and explicitly note that I am writing here of the values and roles that all of those options can play in a same organization and particularly when they are resorted to on an effective context by context basis, and when their use is in some functional sense coordinated as needs arise and change. And I cite two other terms that I frequently use in this blog in this context too: resilience and agility. A business cannot legitimately claim to have achieved either of those two qualities in what it does or how, if it does not cultivate and achieve and maintain them in its communications systems, and by finding and achieving an effective balance of open and closed, and unstructured and less structured, and highly structured and standardized communications capabilities. And a significant measure of what constitutes resilient and agile in this type of context can be found in how effectively participants can switch between these various communication channel types as needs arise and change.

But even the most agile and responsive and effectively including 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, and with feedback monitoring and resulting reviews included in all of that too. I am going to turn to that complex of issues in my next series installment. And I note in anticipation of that, that I will consider both reactive and proactive approaches to change and to effectively addressing it. 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. 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 to assemble more comprehensively valuable and applicable knowledge. And more than just that, this has to be about bringing the necessary fruits of that effort to work by making essential details of it accessible and actively so, for those who need them and when they do.

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 2: adding in a second case study example

Posted in business and convergent technologies, strategy and planning, UN-GAID by Timothy Platt on June 19, 2018

This is my second 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 Part 1.)

I began this series in Part 1 with a negative example of how this type of need and response system can play out, as drawn from recent events on the island of Puerto Rico. That example centered on how that island was devastated by Hurricane Maria in 2017, and how this disaster and its impact on the island’s critical infrastructure was addressed. More specifically there, I wrote of the failure of the United States government to bring their Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its emergency response capabilities to bear on this problem at anything like a significant level of action. And I wrote of the US governmental decision as made by President Trump, to in effect abandon Puerto Rico and its people in the face of this disaster. Puerto Ricans are American citizens; and they have been facing a fundamental need for what amounts to comprehensive critical infrastructure rebuilding in the face of what they have gone through from this storm: the worst historically to have ever hit their island and with records going back centuries now for that, to the time of the early Spanish explorers. And Puerto Rico and its people have been officially and formally left to their fate by this failure to follow through, and in the face of both longstanding American tradition and in the face of FEMA’s basic charter as a government agency.

I stress here that that charter mandates that this agency spearhead national government-led responses to disasters, and that it has in fact stepped forth to do that on numerous other occasions and for other American communities. But this time, President Trump visited the site of devastation to proclaim that any help from his government would be limited and of very short duration, and with nothing else to be expected. That “and with nothing else” has come to include a lack of any federal coordination or support in any longer term recovery effort too. And what effort has been mounted there has been plagued by corruption in how recovery and reconstruction contracts have been doled out, and inefficiency, and by what can only be called large-scale theft of funds that were to go towards this effort where funds have been allocated for it.

• This disaster still continues and for many as I write this, with many on the island still without electrical power to their homes or businesses, and over half a year after the hurricane first hit.

This is a series about infrastructure and its priorities, and politics. I began it with an overtly toxic example of how need and even pressing need, and political ideology and personal political ambition do not always align and in either a functional, or a moral or ethical sense. I picked a very real example to start this series with, that is still painfully playing out as I write this second installment. And it is one that I am sorry to say will likely still be playing out: dragging on, and for as long as I write to this series and beyond. And this still in the news story, is one that highlights how need and justification for action and commitment, and an idealized presumption of how infrastructure development and maintenance should be carried out, do not necessarily hold true in the real, politically charged and politically governed world that we live in.

I finished my discussion of that case study as far as I went with it in Part 1, by offering a somewhat cryptic comment as to one of the consequences of all of this, that I said I would explain and clarify here:

• “The impact that this failure to lead or to act (n.b. in addressing Puerto Rico’s problems), have had significant repercussions in the continental United States too. In anticipation of that, I note here that ongoing and unresolved damage to Puerto Rico and its infrastructure and its businesses, have had repercussions that reach into virtually every hospital in the United States.”

That assertion calls for clarification. And I begin offering that clarification with some ideologically grounded background points that can be found in President Trump’s tweets and in his more lengthy public statements and actions. Trump likes to proclaim that all Mexicans are “thieves and rapists” (though “some of them might be nice people”), to cite a parallel example of his disdain for Hispanics of all sorts. And he likes to say in justification of his decisions and actions in this disaster’s context, that Puerto Rican’s are all indolent and lazy and that they just live off of handouts and welfare from the US government. But Puerto Rico has come to play a significant, and even crucial role in the overall US economy too, and in some very specific areas of its production and manufacturing systems. Pertinently to the above repeated consequences bullet point and as an example of the island’s critical role in American manufacturing, essentially all of the intravenous hydration fluids used at essentially every hospital and clinic in the continental United States were produced by businesses located in Puerto Rico. These are vitally important healthcare resources for treating a very wide range of hospital and clinic patients, and for a very wide range of conditions and in meeting a great many types of patient needs. And those businesses were heavily damaged by Hurricane Maria, and were left without electrical power after that. They still have not recovered and a real, full recovery for them might take years if it is to happen at all. Meanwhile, US hospitals have found themselves rationing the IV fluids that they can acquire from alternative sources, and prioritizing what necessary medical care they can afford to offer that calls for this type of resource, with the more limited supplies they still have. This affects people who have to be able to receive medications that have to be delivered intravenously and with supporting IV hydration, and hospitalized patients who cannot take fluids orally among others, and impacts on the healthcare of many in need.

• When critical infrastructure systems are maintained and even improved to accommodate advancing need, this positively affects individuals and communities and even entire nations. And the ripple effects that spread out from that type of development effort through indirect benefits accrued, can be just as profound as the direct impact of this work being done where it is.
• And a failure to so act, has consequences that are at least as impactful and that can be just as far reaching – just in a different direction.

I said in Part 1 that I would turn to consider a second case study example, after concluding my at least initial take here on what has been happening and not happening in Puerto Rico. And I begin that with the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and its convoluted City versus State politics – and the impact that the tug of war resulting from that ownership conflict have had on this crucial transportation infrastructure system and on its reliability and safety.

I began addressing this complex of issues at the end of Part 1 in my brief anticipatory note as to what I would discuss here. But I begin fleshing out that brief opening note here with some relevant background material that I offer in order to more clearly indicate what is involved in this example. The most recent ridership numbers that I have access to from the MTA itself indicate that as of the end of 2016:

• An average of 5,655,755 rides were taken on this subway system every weekday,
• And average of 5,758,201 rides were taken on it every two day weekend, and
• A total of 1,756,814,800 rides were taken on this subway system for that year as a whole.

This makes the New York City MTA the seventh most heavily used subway system in the world, by ridership numbers (see this MTA facts sheet.) And to share another scale metric, this subway system as of this writing, now includes in it more than 665 mainline miles of track that run along 22 interconnected route lines, along with several permanent shuttle lines added in to more effectively interconnect this system, each with their miles of track too. This system currently includes 472 stations in operation (with a total of 424 if stations connected by transfer walk-throughs are counted as single stations), located throughout the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx and with a line running along the Hudson River-facing coast of Staten Island too. The NYC MTA is the largest metropolitan subway system in the world and significantly so, when scale is determined on the basis of numbers of subway stations included. And New York City would basically grind to a halt if this system were to significantly go down and for any significant period of time. The NYC MTA is very genuinely an example of a crucially important, vital critical infrastructure system.

I stress here that this is the New York City Metropolitan Subway system that I write of here, managed and run by a government agency that has Metropolitan in its title. And this was a City agency and the management and maintenance of it was under City government control and oversight – until that is, the State government moved in to take what effectively amounts to control over the MTA. Why and how did this happen?

I have already at least started to address that dual question at the end of Part 1, in anticipation of this installment, and for continuity of narrative repeat what I said of this there. Then governor Nelson Rockefeller imposed a layer of state control over the city’s MTA and its decision making authority in 1968, in order to garner more votes for his own reelection bid of that year. He saw his polling numbers to be weak in the New York City metropolitan area and decided that if he stepped in and blocked a planned, and I have to add needed five cent fare increase in the cost of a ride on the subway, he would garner more votes from appreciative New Yorkers (see Why Does New York State Control the Subway? That’s the 20-Cent Question.) So Rockefeller stepped in with the help and support of the state legislature in Albany that would suddenly gain veto level control over the New York City MTA and its budget and its planning, and comprehensively for that: not just control over fares charged in that system.

• And yes, Rockefeller did win his reelection bid, so this political gambit did at least seem to work for him. But this change of controlling authority was of open-ended duration, and it still holds as a defining fact for the MTA and for New York City as a whole for its ongoing consequences: 30 years later and with no end to that in sight.

I am going to continue this narrative in a next series installment, where I will at least briefly and selectively discuss how Albany politics, and New York City subway system priorities as set by Upstate politicians who never themselves ride on this subway system, and how their priorities and their resulting decisions are skewed to put that politely when compared to actual need. So, for example, even when a subway station is being rebuilt as a major redevelopment initiative that is approved by Albany, it is rare that any effort be made to comply with the US Federal government’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in that. As a result, most of the subway stations in this system are still not handicapped accessible. And that federal law was passed in 1990, fast approaching 30 years ago too!

I will discuss systems maintenance and how the MTA’s track and signaling systems are in disrepair, and how as a matter of irony the fare for a ride on the subway system has kept going up and up in spite of these and other failures to actually effectively prioritize or maintain this system. And I will at least briefly make note of New York State’s current governor and his political ambitions, bookending the starting point to this example as that began with then Governor Rockefeller and his political ambitions.

After concluding that case study example, I will turn from the negative and the cautionary-note view of infrastructure development and maintenance, to consider the positive side to this. I will discuss the post-World War II European Recovery Program: commonly known as the Marshall Plan. And then I will step back to address the topics and issues of this series in more general terms. As part of that, I will explore and discuss the questions and issues of what gets supported and worked upon and why in this, and what is set aside in building and maintaining infrastructure systems. I will discuss China’s infrastructure building outreach as a part of that, as that nation seeks to extend and strengthen its position globally. And I would at least touch upon and make note of a variety of other infrastructure development and maintenance examples too.

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. I begin this series with an American example, but it addresses globally impactfull issues and events.

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 39 – the issues and challenges of communications in a business 6

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 16, 2018

This is my 39th 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 1-38.)

I began Part 38 with a point of observation that I started addressing there and that I will continue discussing here:

• Ultimately investing in people with ideas and not just in specific ideas, depends on how effectively a business can in fact institute an effective back-channel if you will, unstructured, or at least less-structured communications system that can address the novel information flow needs that innovation, and disruptive innovation in particular require, while still maintaining effective risk management oversight of genuinely sensitive and confidential information.

And I offered in Part 38, as a part of this overall discussion, a simplified, and I admit somewhat simplistic standardized risk assessment scoring system that I am pursuing here for didactic purposes: a score that ranges from zero through 10 inclusively, with all intermediate integer value scores included. I offered a simple-seeming risk = 0 score example and briefly outlined how low probability but potentially impactful events, among other possible complications can force a change in even what would more reasonably seem to be safe low or no real risk, risk management assessments there. And I offered a relatively clear-cut risk = 10 example there too and discussed how complicating factors can force a needed risk reassessment there too. And that left me with the middle ground and events and circumstances that would fit a more mid-range risk score according to this test-case system.

I concluded Part 38 with a briefly stated assessment of that category of mid-level risk events, which I repeat here in part by noting that:

• All of this type of added risk-factor consideration becomes much more complicated with more mid-range information management risk scores. And that is where the type of unstructured, or at least less-structured communications and information sharing issues that I write of here in an innovation context, become both more important for innovation and more nuanced and challenging for their risk management considerations. Genuinely zero risk information sharing does not enter into any access decision making considerations here, and risk of 10 information is in most cases going to be off the table for that and out of consideration too. It is middle ground risk evaluation level data where this becomes important, and at least potentially challenging.

I offered at the end of Part 38, to cite and discuss such a mid-level event. And I do so here, turning to innovation and at least intended efforts to promote and facilitate it, for my here-best possible source of working examples.

I wrote in Part 37 and again in Part 38 about how innovation is information driven and information access driven, and how arriving at a practical innovative insight starting point can be essentially entirely so. Would-be innovators and even the most creative and capable of them can find themselves left in the dark if they do not have access to the information that they would need if they are to shape their innovation starting point concepts in ways that would be amenable to practical development and use. And if they do arrive at such an insight but no one can hear of it because of rigid information compartmentalization – or at least no one can who could help start a process of testing and developing from it, then it is as if no innovative effort were even started. But I am going to turn to a later part of this process, and the step-by-step process flow that would translate and develop an initial innovative spark into a realized disruptively new product, for my core example here. Information access and availability, and access that can cut across the more usual channels and communications patterns in that, are not the only possible bottleneck points that such an effort can face at this stage in the development of New. But it can still be a crucially important one.

Let’s develop this working example from the fundamentals:

• Innovation never takes place in a vacuum and cannot be assumed to be the sole prerogative of any one business enterprise, and certainly when an effort is being made to more effectively manage or resolve a more commonly realized problem or challenge that others see need to resolve too. And this applies for disruptive innovation that would come up with completely new and novel approaches for accomplishing that, just as much as it does for more routine next incremental-step evolutionary development. If you and your business are working on a potentially significant innovative advancement, you have to assume that others are too. And even if your approach is more creative and novel than that of your competition, if they get there first, and bring their New to market first, they start out with a real advantage.
• Let’s assume here that your business is pursuing a disruptively new approach to resolving an open challenge faced by your industry, and the consumers and end users in your marketplace. And your competition is taking a more next-step evolutionary approach and simply seeking to adapt what they already produce and sell, to more effectively address this recognized need.
• For this, their next step-only, more comfortably familiar evolutionary development new product offering might have a real advantage over an at least initially similar for functionality first iteration stage, disruptively new product type, and certainly in anything like first mover timeframes. (Here, I presume “functionally similar” in terms of addressing the initial commonly recognized problem that all of this new product development effort has been at least initially directed toward resolving.)
• Remember, the more comfortably familiar might not have the potential for further development that a newly developed, first take disruptively new product or technology might have – as it is further refined and developed in next products offered and next after that. But the more familiar product option that hits the marketplace can start out attracting the interest and the purchasing power of a wider swath of the innovation diffusion acceptance curve and its participants, with middle and even some later adaptors jumping on early because they see simpler evolutionary change to an already known and familiar to be more reliable, and comfortably so. And meanwhile a disruptively new alternative to that might only capture pioneer and early adaptor interest at first and a significantly smaller initial market share, as these competing new offerings seek to prove themselves.
• With those potential and even likely initial market share constraints and imbalances in mind, I raise the following consequential point. Essentially any delays in development and production, and certainly for the more disruptively novel marketplace option here, and certainly any that would present themselves as being more structural in nature and likely to recur would be problematical at the very least.
• Any real delays or blocks in the process flow that would move an initial innovation concept from the lab to production, and on to market, can rob an innovative business of any window of opportunity that they would need to really succeed with their New. This is a circumstance where first mover effects really matter.
• This is not all information-driven. A potential ground breaking and even blue ocean marketing and sales opportunity can evaporate if for example, the production line that would actually manufacture for it is slowed or stopped because a crucial part or material for this new offering cannot be acquired on time, and with seemingly ongoing failures to meet expected delivery dates for that. Actually, even that type of breakdown can be information-driven if the people at that business, starting with the initial developer of this innovative idea, and including its specific product designers, are left out of those production challenge-addressing conversations. Failure to include these potential participants there might very well preclude this business being able to switch to a Plan B alternative for designing and building this new product, that might bypass this here closed-off parts or materials delivery bottleneck.

I posit this as a mid-level risk example as far as business intelligence sharing and communications are concerned, because most if not all of the essential information details that could be more effectively communicated to potentially crucial stakeholders here, would fit into a mid-level risk assessment range and in any realistic risk management assessment. And if necessary and even essential people are kept out of the loop for these conversations, and their potential insight and solutions to this problem are left out as a result, that is probably more due to the momentum of the standard and routine, than from any specific case in point risk management-based information access assessments that might at least potentially be made too. A and B are not brought together in these types of conversations because they do not routinely need to do so. And if they are not communicating already, they are not going to know when pressing need has arisen where they should so communicate.

And I add that this can reflect how specific access decisions, if explicitly made at all, are made on an individual information sharing detail by individual information sharing detail basis, and without regard to or even awareness of the larger innovation-to-product process. Risk management itself can become too compartmentalized and walled off for it to be able to make effective big picture-aware decisions.

I am going to continue this discussion in my next installment to this series, with an at least brief analysis of the risk management-based information access determination process, as it arises and plays out in this type of mid-range risk management context. And I will continue on from there to discuss how this type of system can and in fact must be dynamically maintained for how it addresses both normative and predictably expected, and more novel potential information sharing contexts. 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.

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 10

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 10, 2018

This is my 10th 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 1-9.)

I have been discussing communications and I add business process disintermediation in businesses from the start of this series, primarily doing so in terms of two specific business model and business type examples:

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

And I have focused most recently in this series progression on the second, more established business example here, considering change and its need and how resistance to it more commonly plays out, and particularly where such change is actively needed but could be viewed as disruptive (see Part 8 and Part 9.)

I began specifically focusing on marketing, and on more effectively identifying and connecting with the right marketing demographics in Part 9, as an arena where these issues and challenges are most likely to critically play out, and certainly in any business that significantly follows the pattern laid out in my large and established, but at least somewhat sclerotic business scenario. And I then concluded that installment with an open question that I offered as a point of thought for the reader to consider:

• If change per se in a business and its ways, is going to engender resistance from the ranks within it anyway, why not focus on making the right changes from a market-facing perspective and certainly going forward, and simply accept a need to bring the people working there along with it, as an unavoidable cost element?

I begin this installment from there and by expanding out at least some of the complex of issues that go into both understanding and addressing a question of that sort. And my goal for this reframing to follow, is to lay out and at least begin to consider some of the trade-offs inherent in any effort to more effectively address it:

• What types of change are being considered here, and with what priorities?
• Focusing on the higher and I add the highest priorities of them: the issues and needs that have to be addressed, and effectively and soon in order to safeguard and advance the business, and setting aside the optional potential changes that would simply be nice to be able to carry through upon too, where exactly do these must-do tasks fit into the business? Functionally that almost certainly ranges out beyond the boundaries of a Marketing, or a Marketing and Communications department per se and even if the issues under consideration are all at least nominally marketing, and marketing approach in nature.
• What costs would their not being corrected create, and what would be saved or enabled in increased revenue generation if they were addressed?
• What costs would arise and both directly and consequentially if they were set aside for future resolution, where a decision might be made to address them but only as holding lower priority need?
• What would the costs of actively pursuing these changes entail? This, I add is a question that of necessity cannot be fully contained in a more routine bookkeeping ledger. Costs there, critically include human impact as well as directly calculable monetary cost, and the costs of resistance to change, and the cost of adaptation and learning curve participation even if a change involved here is fully and even eagerly endorsed.
• Now let’s consider the key stakeholders to these changes, and particularly those whose actions could stymie or enable them, and whose resistance or positive participation would influence overall costs faced, and of all types. Who is significantly going to be involved in this change initiative at that influencing if not outright controlling level, and on a critical needs change, by critical needs change basis? Once again here, I am particularly focusing on those critically important change issues, and with a goal of arriving at as realistic an overall assessment of them as possible.
• And I will be blunt here. If there are crucially positioned gatekeepers of the type noted here, who would actively work against and resist changes that any prudent business systems analysis would show to be essentially necessary, are they the right people for the positions that they hold in the business? Are there others there who should be advanced into, or more laterally moved into those jobs? Is it time to bring in new blood through carefully selected new hires?

Basically, and as a summary answer to the initial bullet pointed question that prompted my offering this list, if there are critical needs changes that have to be entered into, simply following a more passive, let’s see what happens next strategy, is bound to lead to failure. Proactive decision making and follow through are essential in this type of situation. And that has to be information drive, and grounded in an understanding of consequences, and of systems and processes dependencies faced. And as marketing represents the public face of the business as a whole, the potential range of those consequences and dependencies can be widespread.

And this brings me to the issues and questions of startups and early stage businesses and the first of my two, above repeated business scenarios. And I begin addressing that for purposes of this series by reconsidering what change and continuity mean when considering the background experience, preferences and assumptions of key participants in shaping and executing business practice.

When you study and analyze a well established business: a more troubled one included as would fit the terms of the second basic scenario as listed above, you can usually assume that at least significant aspects of a presumed “tried and true and correctly so”, will be shared throughout the organization in accordance with their corporate history and with their deeply ingrained corporate culture and sense of shared identity there too. And that definitely applies to those in position of authority and influence who have worked for significant periods of time there and who have become fully invested in their business’ here and now.

When you look to startups and early stage businesses, you can find a great deal more diversity there in what is believed and in what is all but axiomatically assumed, with all of the founders bringing their own work life histories with them and for aspects of those narratives that they would want to perpetuate, and for aspects of them that they would seek to avoid and even antithetically so in what they do next.

I am going to delve into those issues in my next series installment. And in anticipation of that, I note that this means holding conversations that bring out what everyone involved in the founders’ team assumes regarding their new shared venture, and all of the key points as to what they would seek to achieve through it and how (at least in broad outline and certainly where differences and unstated ones could lead to collisions.) What goals and aspirations do the various members of the founding team hold? And what do these professionals seek out, and I add presume as coming for how they would variously divide up the work and the authority there and for how they would communicate with each other? As this is a marketing oriented series, I will specifically discuss the issues of what would be marketed and how, and how that would be planned out and executed upon. And I will explicitly discuss disintermediation in communications and marketing, as that would impact upon and shape the business plan, and how it is executed and by whom.

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.

Pure research, applied research and development, and business models 13

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 7, 2018

This is my 13th 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 Page 4, postings 664 and loosely following for Parts 1-12.)

I have been discussing each of a set of exit strategies in this series since Part 8, that a new business venture can enter into as possible approaches for raising capital development funds as it concludes and exits it early startup and initial development stages and as it starts to become consistently profitable and enters its first real growth phase. And while I have listed the default, organic growth option at the top of this list up to now, I have held off on exploring that until finishing discussion of the other four: all developed around specific distinctive ways of bringing in outside funding support to accelerate early growth.

My goal for here is to address the fourth and last of those possibilities. And after completing that line of discussion at least for purposes of this series, I will finally turn to consider the default scenario option, and I will do so from the perspective of knowing about and at least considering the other four. And for smoother continuity of narrative, I begin all of this by repeating the four outside funding sourced options under consideration here:

1. A venture capital-backed one,
2. An angel investor-backed one,
3. A crowd source-backed one, and
4. A friends and family-backed one (elements of which might also apply to the basic default model scenario, as will be discussed next after this in this series.)

I begin discussing Scenario 4 of this list by explicitly making note of a detail to it that is obvious when baldly stated, but that can easily be overlooked for its implications in the specific instance. Family and friends are not outsiders or strangers. They share what can be deep emotional bonds with the founders of a new business who they are so related to. And it can be a lot more difficult and a lot less tenable to simply presume that these possible investors can and will carry out anything like necessary due diligence analyses as to the viability of your business, as they would more likely do if approaching a possible investment opportunity as a clear eyed, dispassionately involved outsider. This obviously holds for direct and closely connected family members, but it can also hold for friends too and particularly when a business founder under consideration here, has gone out of their way to be of significant help and benefit to one of their close friends in the past.

To take that out of the abstract, I have seen parents take out home equity loans and draw down from their life savings that had been earmarked for their retirement, in order to help a child to start a business or help them through a turning point as they seek to build their business venture towards larger success. Siblings and other relatives, and friends – and certainly best friends there, can also feel a strong and even compelling need to step in and help in this manner, even if that rarely means literally taking out a mortgage to help raise such supportive investment funds. But the ties that bind there can be strong and they do have to be taken into account. And when friends and family invest and significantly so, this can put a significant level of pressure on the founders and owners of a business venture so supported, to plan and act conservatively, to help protect those investments – and those investors.

I am writing here in this series about a special case category of what would qualify as speculative and disruptively novel business models, and the businesses that would be developed and built out of them. That, by its very nature, militates against taking or even considering an across the board conservative business model or business execution position. So as a first point of consideration here, I point out that leveraging the growth of a business by significantly drawing on Scenario 4 investors, would create conflicts and contradictions for those who see a need to pursue the disruptively novel and in creative ways, while still (at least relatively conservatively) safeguarding these investors against any possible loss and as if they were entering into a conservative, lower-risk investment with a more standard young and growing business.

I am not arguing against allowing in family or friends in as backers and investors. I am, however, strongly arguing the case for only allowing them in according to carefully and clearly laid out ground rules, that all parties understand and can comfortably agree to. And this means laying out the risks as well as the more positive opportunities faced. And this can mean imposing caps on the levels of funds invested by these people, and restrictions on how they would so invest. And yes, I find myself thinking of those home equity loan parents as I propose this as a prudent and even necessary measure here.

To put Scenario 4 and this discussion of it in a fuller operational and financial planning context:

• Develop the rest of (and the bulk of) any outside-sourced capital fund raising efforts pursued, that this now-first real growth phase business would enter into, from one or more other outside funding sourced business development approaches, as for example are listed above
• Or seek to develop and build your new venture through primarily pursuing a more organic growth, internally funded business development approach and one based on drawing development funds from revenue streams achieved by the new business venture itself.

And that brings me directly to the default scenario that I have been at least mentioning in all of this, and certainly since Part 8. That is the topic of discussion that I will turn to in my next installment to this series. Then, looking farther ahead, I will consider and discuss growth and development more generically and regardless of which of these now-five development funding scenarios are followed. I will delve into the issues of growth and development once a business has passed financial break-even and is now actively beginning to grow into its potential. In anticipation of that, I note here that every business, at whatever stage in its development carries its history up to its current here-and-now with it. So I will still find reason to refer back to earlier business development stages, and to the decisions and consequences begun there as they continue to play out.

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.

Intentional management 49: elaborating on the basic model for adding people and their management into the equation 10

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 1, 2018

This is my 49th installment in a series in which I discuss how management activity and responsibilities can be parsed and distributed through a business organization, so as to better meet operational and strategic goals and as a planned intentional process (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 472 and loosely following for Parts 1-48.)

I began Part 48 of this with a to-address list of topic points that I began to discuss there, which I repeat here as I continue that process:

1. What happens to standardized processes and procedures in all of this (n.b. in the complexities of a business’ ongoing processes and practices as intended and as actually carried out)?
2. And who gets to decide, and particularly on a specific-context by specific-context basis, what should be and in fact is standardized for this?
3. The issues raised in that question become both more pressing and more complex as a business becomes more complex and widely geographically spread out.
4. Now, and with that in mind, how can a business and its senior leadership maintain overall organizational consistency while allowing for necessary flexibility and opportunity to at least locally prototype test out new alternatives to what might be more standard and routine?
5. And this brings me to the next to-address point that I acknowledged as coming up in this series towards the top of Part 46: ad hoc and special exception practices, and the emergence of the “ad hoc standardized” and its consequences.

I offered at least preliminary discussion of the first four of those points in Part 48, at least for purposes of this series. My goal for this series installment is to continue from there to consider Point 5 and its issues, doing so from the perspective of the framework that I developed in addressing Points 1-4. And that will mean my delving into the issues of ad hoc and special exception practices and the oft-tangled complex of issues that I raise when using a term such as “ad hoc standardized.”

I begin all of that with “ad hoc” per se, and with the sometimes very distinct issues of special exception practices. And I begin that by acknowledging a basic assumption that I all too often work from when using the term “ad hoc”: unplanned, and unconsidered, and with a presumed high degree of likelihood that any decision made or action taken in that manner is going to be arrived at independently of whatever overall strategic planning or operational practices are in place.

• Ad hoc can in fact prove essential, and certainly when faced with a suddenly emerging, fundamentally unpredictable crisis. But even then and even when such an out of the box, ad hoc approach works in dealing with such an unexpected situation, it is still going to be at least something of a gamble, and essentially by definition. And while gambles do sometimes work out and even very successfully, they do carry risk and their chances of succeeding are not always anywhere close to certain.
• And ad hoc alone and without any incorporation into that business’ ongoing experience-based learning efforts, cannot offer longer-term positive value for its lack of inclusion into ongoing practices and their underlying reasoning, and the planning that determines that.
• That is why I refer to ad hoc resolutions in general, as more negative than positive: that, and the fact that as rule breaking exceptions, they create disconnects in the systems in place that they are exceptions to. And when they become more commonplace the end result can be a de facto dissolution of standard and routine as such, and certainly insofar as that would enact actual strategic planning or intent.

So I began this by raising the issues of ad hoc and special exception business activity, and I essentially immediate turned from there to consider both heightened risks that they can create, and consequences that they can lead to where ripple effects might have to be addressed too, in order to restore operational routines again. And with that noted, I turn back to reconsider Point 4 of the above list, as a starting point for understanding a crucial aspect of Point 5 as I discuss that here:

Ad hoc decisions and actions can, in principle, arise anywhere in a business and anywhere along its table of organization, and both horizontally and vertically along it. But they are in fact most likely to occur and are most likely to be seen as necessary, where the people who would carry them out are not in a position to create or in any official way, shape standard policy and practice as would be expected. But these people are in a position where they would have to carry out the hands-on details-level implementations of those standard and expected business processes in place, and achieve the intended goals that those processes would at least nominally be expected to yield. And it is common that the managers who they report to, focus primarily on goals actually reached and timelines needed for that, in all of this. (Yes, I am setting up what can become a catch-22 style double bind.)

So this type of contingency is more likely to arise lower down on the table of organization – and under circumstances where the people who hands-on have to make these ad hoc decisions, cannot readily effectively turn for guidance or direction from others who would be in a position to organize a more standardized, within-operational planning resolution.

• Yes, sometimes a senior executive has to in effect roll the dice for the entire business, and ad hoc and special exception resolutions can arise from the top of the table of organization and from within a business’ leadership.
• But most of the time, individual ad hoc events are smaller and more localized within the business. And the ripple effect complications that go with them, as additional spill-over from whatever prompted them in the first place, or that have arisen directly from carrying them out might be smaller and more localized too. And this matter of scale and this limited locality of occurrence can in effect keep them below the radar and effectively invisible higher up in the business too.

And focusing here on the second, commoner of these types of occurrence, it is when these individually smaller types of events start to be repeated and as-is and in new variations, that real problems can emerge from them. And this brings me directly to the challenge of “ad hoc standardized.” I am going to address that business process approach in my next series installment, where I will roughly divide it into two categorical types:

• Type 1: localized and specific, where specific business processes and their associated tasks come to be understood, managed and carried out in some particular, and at least relatively consistent “nonstandard” or work-around manner, and
• Type 2: generalized, where ad hoc and non-standard have come to be routinely turned to and relied upon and for what can be a seemingly open ended range of contexts and circumstances.

Then after addressing these issues and their challenges, I will offer what amounts to a summary conclusion to this series as a whole, tying together this progression of postings as I have developed it here as fitting into a single “intentional management” framework. 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.

On the importance of disintermediating real, 2-way communications in business organizations 10

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 27, 2018

This is my 10th installment to a brief series on coordinating information sharing and communications needs, and information access filtering and gate keeping requirements (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 275 and loosely following for Parts 1-9.)

Communications and business transactions in general, have least traditionally taken place on an individual to individual basis, and even when a person sending a message or initiating a transactional business event does so as a representative or agent of a larger group or on behalf of another individual. A communication’s intended content might have been crafted by others, at least for its intended content. But if the message sender does more than simply push a button, expressing that message in their own terms and through their own effort, they are actively sending it.

And I add that this individual-to-individual communications paradigm holds when a communicated message is sent out to a group audience as much as it does when it is sent to a single specific individual, as it is individual recipients who actually take in such messages or ignore them, and they individually process them in their own minds and according to their own understandings and their own areas of workplace responsibility and their own agendas there too. Once again, communications remain fundamentally individual-to-individual in nature.

Automation and the increasing incorporation of artificial intelligence-based systems and agents in this overall communications and work process transactional flow, complicate this. When their form of New is added into these transactional systems, agents can no longer be presumed to be independently intelligent and certainly where that would involve general intelligence, and they can no longer be presumed to have anything like free will on their own part in the decisions that they make or the actions that they take. Then, and particularly as matters now stand as far as the state of development of artificial intelligent agents is concerned, they have to be thought of as following the dictates of rigidly circumscribed outcomes-defining algorithms that do not offer higher level (e.g. general intelligence level) flexibility or creativity as options in how they would be carried out, and either for their information inputs or for their consequential actions.

That changing circumstance can apply, of course, to both the sender and recipient side of a putative communication. But for purposes of this posting, and this series, I presume that any such artificial agent involvement can be seen as invoking the involvement of the original starting-algorithm creator at a distance, where these artificial agents act as if surrogates for them. Then the question here is that of business systems friction, where it cannot be possible for such a represented human agent to anticipate or account for in advance, all possible contingencies or types of them that an artificial agent representing them might realistically have to carry out the terms of its algorithm(s) within. So I make note of these emerging realities here, and both to set them aside for the moment and to predict that a time is coming when an artificial agent versus human agent distinction will become moot, as far as capacity to make internally sourced and arrived at, independent decisions and actions are concerned. Then, the points that I raise here in this posting and series will apply equally to general intelligence-based agents and whether they are human or artifactual in nature.

All of this noted, I have been writing this series in terms of strictly-human agents. That need not be an entirely valid assumption and even now and it is becoming less and less so every year, and for both communications and for actions that might take place in response to them in a workplace. Nevertheless, the basic principles that I raise and address here, will likely apply across this new and emerging workplace context too. And I presume that most if not all of the key issues raised here will continue to apply as valid then too.

I write this for now, in terms of strictly human agents. And with that starting-point contextual framing for this series and its narrative in place, I continue it here from where I left off at the end of Part 9, where I have been writing of full time in-house employees, and outsider-sourced professional help that would include temps and temp workers, gig workers, outside consultants and others – who might in fact be carrying out essentially the same type of work as their in-house employee counterparts do, and who might be working at and for the same employer long-term, but who are nevertheless still considered to be outsiders and who are treated as such. This means they’re not being eligible for in-house employee benefits, and of a scope and range that just begins with company sponsored and supported healthcare coverage, sick days and vacation days and any retirement-oriented benefits offered.

I have been discussing this dichotomy of employee status and standing in this series and how it also impacts upon the issues of how these outsider employees are included or not, in the contexts of within-company, business communications and information access-driven business processes, and particularly where they involve a need to share and make distributed use of sensitive or confidential information. This distinction shapes how these people as at least nominal outsiders would be compartmentalized and treated in risk management-based information access due diligence systems, and both individually, and categorically as a group. And considering the individual employee versus group distinction just raised there, this means how special exceptions for allowing access to sensitive business intelligence, and a need for these special exceptions would be identified and considered.

I began a discussion of game theory strategies in Part 9, as they would arise and play out in enacting the points of distinction that I have just briefly listed here in this officially in-house versus officially outsider employee context. And I stated at the end of that installment that the basic game strategies in place among stakeholders involved in a business, and at all organizational levels in it:

• Are fundamentally driven by risk and trust assessments (as operationally defined and at least briefly discussed there),
• And as predictive assessments as to the actions that would be taken by individuals under direct consideration here, and others who they deal with, and the consequences of who would and would not be included in these business transactions and how.

And I added that I would proceed from there to at least begin to tie this developing line of reasoning back to the issues of communications in a business with an explicit focus on gig and other short-term and outsider employees, and certainly under circumstances in which hiring and onboarding on these and related bases have become the hiring and terms of employment norm at a business. And I stated that I would at least begin that line of discussion next, citing the more traditional stable place of employment context that this type of gig economy and its patterns of employment are developing from, and coming to supplement if not replace, as a source of contrasting reference points.

Let’s start addressing these topic points by considering a brief set of commonly adhered to fictions: points of assumption that are all but axiomatically assumed and by many still, that were once valid as such and all but universally so and across the wide swath of businesses and industries in place, but that have come to be much less certain and much less reliable as working presumptions, and for an ever-increasing range of the workplace experience:

• Full time, in-house employees enter into a business with an intention of staying there long-term and even throughout at least substantial portions of their work lives. And as such, they take on an active sense of commitment and involvement, as they see any success from working there that would accrue to them, as coming from the ongoing success of this, their employer. They assume a buy-in, proprietary position there in their thinking and take on something of an owner’s mentality, where alignment of their own interests and those of their employer, as they see them, come to be mutually supportive. And businesses that see their employees as at least one of their most valuable overall assets, for their experience and expertise there, take on a more collaborative approach towards those employees and certainly towards the more effective and productive of them, and the more important of them for maintaining the business and its competitive effectiveness moving forward.
• And outside help employees, and of whatever specific sub-type form (e.g. temp or outside consultant among other possibilities) are only going to be brought in to address immediate short-term needs. This might mean a more transient in-house staffing shortage in this business’ capacity to carry out some type of basic work that is more routinely carried out in-house, and where it would not be cost-effective to simply hire in-house to address peak period needs. Or this might mean bringing in specialized skills and experience expertise that might be needed now, but that would not be required on-tap, in-house on a long-term ongoing basis.

The longer an employee is going to be there and the longer they are going to be needed at a business, the more deeply entrenched in that business and its ongoing work flows they become, and both as they more deeply learn the systems there and as they become better known for what they can do and effectively so. And longevity of service there creates opportunity to build a foundation of trust when dealing with these employees from a business perspective, and a matching level of trust from those employees too as their employer demonstrates their appreciation for what these people can do.

Short term help is only brought in for specific task-related purposes, according to the paradigm outlined in the above two bullet points and continued up through this paragraph. And while trust might significantly enter into their carrying out their responsibilities there, it is less likely to become more generalized beyond the constraints of that specific task-based work assignment and in either an employer to employee, or an employee to employer direction. And in a practical manner, this might not matter and certainly as a due diligence consideration, and certainly when a temp or an outside consultant who is brought in to work on some specific task and time limited assignment comes into the business, does their planned out work there and then leaves the business to work elsewhere.

I just laid out a foundation in this posting’s narrative, and certainly in its second half for more fully discussing the issues raised towards the start of this narrative: the basic game strategies in place among stakeholders involved in a business, and at all organizational levels in it as they are driven by risk and trust assessments, and as predictive assessments as to the actions that would be taken by others, and their consequences as would arise from those decisions and actions taken.

• And tying together my more here-and-now and still-just-emerging comments regarding what has come to be called the emerging gig economy,
• And my still all too presumed (long term) in-house employee versus outsider help presumptions.
• What actually is taking place and what is more just assumed for that, begin to fundamentally break away from each other in this, as soon as a driving threshold level of employees are and will remain outsiders and never be brought in-house and as a basic business model decision.
• Or a pattern emerges where outsider employees are in fact brought in longer-term and even on an open-ended basis with an employer but with them remaining outsiders by default,
• Or both.

I will complete this posting’s main discussion thread as developed up to here in my next series installment, at least for purposes of this series. And I will then begin to explicitly tie its developing line of reasoning back to the issues of communications in a business with an explicit focus on gig and other short-term and outsider employees, and certainly under circumstances in which they have become the hiring and terms of employment norm at a business. And I will at least begin that line of discussion in my next series installment, citing the more traditional stable place of employment context that the gig economy and its patterns of employment are developing from, and coming to supplement if not replace, as a source of contrasting reference points. I have touched upon some of this here. I will dig deeper into these issues there and then.

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

Business planning from the back of a napkin to a formal and detailed presentation 24

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 23, 2018

This is my 24th posting to a series on tactical and strategic planning under real world constraints, and executing in the face of real world challenges that are caused by business systems friction and the systems turbulence that it creates (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 578 and loosely following for Parts 1-23.)

I began addressing a set of topic points in Part 19 of this series, that I continue working my way through here in this installment too:

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 and Part 23.)
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.

My goal for this installment is to continue my discussion of Point 2 of that list. And I do so by repeating my initial, Part 19 starting description of the two businesses, and business models under consideration here:

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

I focused in Part 23, entirely on the second of those two example businesses: the e-Maverick Group, and how their very success in developing, marketing and selling access to their new software offerings, would force them to develop a realized business model that would in key and systematic and long-term ways, differ from their idealized and intended business model as briefly stated in the above description. In their case an actually realized versus intended and idealized business model distinction would hinge on how such a business would need to develop and maintain a perhaps large and active legacy systems support and maintenance system, in order to meet the ongoing needs of their current customers and keep them actively engaged with the e-Maverick group, while they were seeking to maintain their current technologies and until they were ready to plunge into New there again. And I stress here, and with my ongoing discussion in this blog in mind, a fundamental categorical point of distinction that can be used in classifying and understanding business processes and their support systems, as they fit into an organization:

• Business supportive core functionalities that directly support the core business model, versus
• More cost center oriented, supportive business functionalities that assume what would be considered a more secondary if still necessary role there.

The e-Maverick Group business example and its narrative as it is presented here, indicates at least something as to how business areas that do not fit into an idealized business mission and vision, can in fact still represent a vitally important aspect of their overall core business systems, directly supporting their capacity for market strength and profitability. And the line of distinction drawn between these two business process categories on a business process and resource-base, by business process and resource-base basis, can in fact represent differences in idealized, and actually realized business models and how they would variously – and differently drive resource allocation and business understanding.

The basic and I add default presumption made in many if not most businesses for this, is that the idealized business model and an idealized and even cartoon-like understanding of their mission and vision, are of necessity going to be identical to what is realized and actually pursued in day-to-day and longer timeframe business practice. And that certainly holds true in larger and more complexly structured businesses where their more senior executive level planners can be largely removed in their actual day-to-day workplace experience, from the hands-on details of how their enterprise actually runs, and certainly on a local detail basis.

In reality, and over time, needs and opportunities faced can and do lead to drift there, between what is done and how, and what is expected and how, and certainly over longer timeframes of decision and action. And as an aside that is pertinent to lines of discussion offered elsewhere in this blog but that emerges as significant here too, this is one of the areas of business experience where a need for a true disruptive change business transition can become necessary – to help restore a more effective realized versus idealized business model alignment as I am addressing here, in its drift-apart and divergence alternative context. (See, for example my series: Rethinking Exit and Entrance Strategies, as can be found at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 559 and loosely following.)

And with that offered, I turn to the specific set of issues that I indicated I would discuss here, at the end of Part 23:

• The issues of mapping out and understanding where idealized and realized might differ here, and how and with what impact, short-term and longer. And I will at least begin to address the issues of reconciling all of this, and integrating the functionally best of both current idealized and current realized into a new overall accepted and understood realized business model with its strategic and operational systems that become the new expected and idealized too.
• And as part of that, I will challenge some of the basic assumptions that do arise in businesses, and their consequences, that I sought to capture in my choice of “idealized” as a label here.

And I begin addressing the first of these two to-address bullet points, by focusing on two key words offered in it: “mapping out” where idealized and realized might differ here, and how and with what impact: short-term and longer. Ultimately, both of the above topics points derive their actual practical actionable value from how a business is thought through and systematically analyzed, and for what is in place and for what is done, and for what at least nominally should be in place and done, and for how all of that: piece-by-piece and as systematically organized, works or fails to.

I have discussed detailed business process and business performance review in this blog on an ongoing and recurring basis:

• Variously focusing on the issues of course correction and even overt change management, as it would be mapped out for need and opportunity,
• And focusing on more ongoing strategic and operational review as it would be carried out for longer term business planning and prioritization purposes.

For the second of these possibilities, consider annual four year forward strategic evaluation and planning exercises as would be carried out under the auspices and leadership of a business’ senior executive officers, and both for their own use and as a report to the board of directors. And consider the possible drift in understanding consequences that can and does arise there, when these exercises are even just selectively carried out as if in a vacuum, with gaps in necessary input from lower down on the table of organization allowed for, that no one in the executive suite might even be aware enough of to miss having there.

My goal for the next installment to this series, to return to the second of the initial two-address topics point as listed at the top of this posting, is to address its second half:

• … and their overall strategies and operations and their views and understandings of change: linear and predictable, and disruptively transitional in nature.

Ultimately, this means finding effective, flexible and agile approaches for reconciling idealized and realized into a new emergent planned for and executed norm. This might or might not mean entering into and carrying out a strategically planned for business transition, intended to bring the organization back on track as a more competitively effective presence in its industry and for its markets. Or this might simply be part of an ongoing business-tuning exercise for more dynamically maintaining business alignment and effectiveness and on a smoother, more ongoing basis. I will discuss these issues in the next installment in terms of both of the basic business model examples, as repeated in brief outline at the top of this installment.

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 27: keeping an effective innovative focus while approaching and going through significant business transitions 17

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 21, 2018

This is my 27th installment to a series that offers a general discussion of business transitions, where an organization exits one developmental stage or period of relative strategic and operational stability, to enter a fundamentally different next one (see Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and its Page 4 continuation, postings 559 and loosely following for Parts 1-26.)

I have been focusing on a set of to-address points in this series since Part 25, that I repeat here for purposes of continuity of narrative:

• Realized and possible work scheduling conflicts, and breakdowns as can arise from them, and how they can arise, and how their occurrence can be at least managed and limited, as a risk management effort (with this all at least broadly and categorically discussed in Part 22, Part 23 and Part 24. And I continued that line of discussion in Part 25 too, where I focused on the issues of business process and business systems level stressors, as arise in, and as are in turn caused by the types of scheduling and resource utilization break downs under consideration here.
• And fall-backs and building for a capacity to “fail gracefully”: here in a scheduling and work coordination context, when need for that becomes necessary – as it inevitably does for any business for at least some of its work processes and tasks if it persists long enough. I focused on this point and its issues in Part 26.

Then at the end of Part 26, I said that I would continue that narrative here, with an at least brief discussion as to how risk management approaches would apply to this overall context. And I begin doing so by repeating a point of detail that I have made note of on a number of occasions in this blog, and by offering a logically necessary corollary to it that I have not similarly stressed:

• Risk represents a source of cost, and one that would be calculated on an actuarial basis, which in its simplest form can be represented as a mathematical product of the likelihood of an (adverse) event occurring and the cost that this brings with it if and when it does.
• And cost can correspondingly be seen as a risk factor too, and certainly when it impacts upon a business’ financial strength and/or its reserves in ways and to a degree that would reduce their resiliency and agility, and their capacity to rapidly respond to new and emerging opportunity or challenge.

Low probability of occurrence adverse events, that would bring only modest costs to correct or remediate if they were to arise, would represent circumstances where the first of those two bullet points becomes moot. Similarly, costs that are more standard and ongoing, and that are adequately accounted for and covered within normal cash flow parameters, represent circumstances where the second of those two bullet points become moot. The issues and events that I write of in this narrative, as exemplified in my two above-repeated topics points at the start of this posting, represent scenarios in which both costs and risks rise to a level where they have to be taken into account, under the terms offered here. And for those circumstances, both significant costs and their correlated asset allocation and prioritization issues, and significant risk and their planning and prioritization considerations, enter into this narrative and as what amounts to flip sides to a same coin.

This is where the business systems resource usage and availability approach that I have been developing in this series since its Part 22, enters this phase of this narrative. Risk management and financial planning are both resource allocation decision making processes. And ideally at least, they align with each other and with parallel resource allocation and prioritization conclusions reached from them. Consider that, the normative business process scenario, and I have to add the preferred business planning and execution context. And one way to think about business systems challenges: true crises included, is in how they directly and specifically lead to divergence, and certainly between anything like business as usual resource use and work flow prioritization, and what a risk management-based due diligence finding would show to be needed now.

This is all fairly basic as offered up to here, and certainly when presented in the abstract. These issues become both more complex and nuanced, and more interesting when considered in specific business examples. There risk management analysis and its financial resource allocation counterpart, are both all about thinking through and developing alternatives and finding the most risk reducing and least costly ways around, or if necessary through challenges faced.

I was initially planning on delving into some specific business scenario details here, to take this line of discussion out of the abstract, and will do so in my next installment to this series. And my goals moving forward in that are to expand this narrative by explicitly adding in consideration of:

• 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, as does when facing novelty and the unknowns that that entails – as arise in true transitions.
• Changes in goals, scope of action and detail of process under consideration, and how this can be intentionally sought out and developed, and how this can be forced upon a business and its leadership.
• And in a more strictly project context, or at least in more strictly project-oriented terms: scope creep and expansion in general, and its opposite with scope compression and simplification where details are dropped and goals simplified …
• With and without organized, strategically aware planning and forethought.

In anticipation of the next installment to this to come, I will 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 come into conflict and even direct collisions. 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 I will proceed to reconsider exit and entrance strategies per se again, this time from the perspective of this developing narrative.

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

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