2013


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Dear Colleague,

At no other time in record history has the effects of change been so great that it puts at risk existing paradigms.  Methods, practices and even decisions that were once viewed as iron clad have been thrown into a state of undependability.  As C-Level Executives or people in service to strategic decision makers the need has never been greater for reliable and responsive analytics.  In looking at present practice it has become apparent that spot/ad hoc quick studies and benchmark performance comparison can no longer be solely depended upon.

Quick Status

Companies depend on data and the shear volume reflects what has now been called “Big Data”.  Big Data is the confluence of raw data coming from a variety of sources.  Cleansed and made ready for processing into assembled “Data” it becomes highly dependent upon filters of legitimacy.  If these filters are too fine they strand mountains of raw data and contributes to a lag in getting vital near to real-time information.  However if left virtually unchallenged it will contribute to information contamination.  I’m sure that some of you have heard of GIGO (garbage-in/garbage-out) and in the case of data control an imbalance results in only one thing… missed strategic opportunities.

As qualified processed data moves along the pipeline and becomes ‘information’ its first view can be seen in reports.  The reporting process becomes the view window into operational behavior.  While used to support basic business functions it’s real value has not been fully exposed.  Its only when brought together with expectations, known as KPIs that we start to see whether we are on track with expectations or not.  In the mix of KPI to information comparison we have the ability to cease the opportunity to take proactive measures that are totally within the grasp of the organization.  We are not looking at what others are doing per se but are looking at a reflection of ourselves in terms of what we have accomplished vs. what was expected.   Self-improvement or as some might call continual improvement is essential to achieve gains that are total within our internal grasp.  One must also understand that there are limits to optimization, over optimization can retard performance and thus create a new issue that must be dealt with.

Going beyond KPI/comparative control is measuring against the world we live in.  For some, this can simply be local competitive performance whereas to others it may be more about regional events, technology trends and even consumer behavior.  It requires a step beyond the comfort of our own operational understanding and reaches inside of the community to which we are a part.  Companies have a wide range of dealing with this watchdog element.  For many its done on a somewhat casual and certainly inconsistent, erratic, and unsystematic fashion.  While others attempt to put their hands around these aspects but doing so using humans and not technology to enable the endeavor.  Staffing changes, person dependent diligence and the lack of separation between collection and analysis makes the results somewhat ineffective.

KPO Dance

Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) is not a new thing.  It has however been slow in coming because of it being stuck at stage 2 (internal KPI monitoring and advisory).  To get to the next stage, intelligent analytics, requires the use of technology and the construction of global analytic indicators that are employed for gathering and analytics. This is not a simple task, nor is it one that can be relied upon if given to amateur professionals.  It requires, especially at the onset, the skills of those that;

  • Know the variety of external information sources (e.g. news sources, market information, trend data, …),
  • Understand the level of source reliability, timeliness and access means (e.g. automated and manual collection, hash tags, keywords, …),
  • Have the ability to conceptualize how strategic needs can be equated to analytic resources, and
  • Can innovate a framework that is both consistent/pragmatic as well as finely tuned to the needs of the client business.

One might ask why KPO has not advanced from, at best, their their middle stage position?  Largely the advancement has been hindered by labor arbitrage (cost) and talent pool (developing nations).  If you were to ask  yourself what is the value of this information many would relate it back to cost which is further hindered by a question of certainty.  Since many companies have only a vague value understanding about intelligent analytical information it then becomes overshadowed by risk uncertainty.  Maybe the more practical means to achieve an answer to the question is to measure the value of what your decision making abilities and with what level of risk.  While I have lots of respect for people willing to make decisions, I also have an equal level of disrespect when it comes to people making them with little, limited or no information.  In times past the stability of business and our world allowed us to craft our instinct and insight.  Today, the game plan has changed and there is nothing we can do about this condition except to operate from a basis of knowledge (aka intelligence).

What To Do????

We always have options.  All options are plausible but the come with conditions.  These conditions reflect what we are willing to accept based on risk.  Up to now many would have been satisfied with simple KPI enabled indicators.  The ‘intelligence’ vested with a person who is responsible to make decisions based on them.  Some go so far as making these decisions afford flexibility to changing conditions but fail to recognize that these situations produce opportunities as well as hazards.  Its best to leave the heavy lifting to pragmatic technology supported processes and relieve us of unintentional human error/intervention.   With the difficult work consistently applied decision makers can then focus on remedial adjustments, model improvements and strategic opportunity pursuits.

Of late I have had the opportunity to work with a well established company that started as a simple information technology outsource service provider.  In their initial days they provided help with reports that evolved into a business providing business intelligence.  At first I was skeptical because the term ‘business intelligence’ was thrown about but failed to contain much if any intelligence.  In the case of this service provider (Red Core Solutions – RCS), they were taking the fundamentals of report generation to the next level by embracing not only proactive KPI intelligence but also had made steps into the utilization of information from outside sources to create a powerful ‘Intelligent Analytic’ offering.  What is most interesting is that the framework is both pragmatic as well as adaptable, yet is not a commodity solution.  As we all know our businesses are unique and the needs varied with the challenge that what might have worked well for our competition is most likely not going to work for us.  Its for this reason that plug and play customization against the backdrop of a solid backplane produces highly reliable consistency.  It should also be noted that a leading issue with the use of technology in combination with highly important information, that is time sensitive, is reliability.  The need for exacting qualification is essential and if not carried out has the ever present potential for catastrophic decisions being made.

Reflected below is the RCS model for Intelligent/Smart Analytics.   For more information refer to their website at http://www.RedCoreSolutions.com .

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Stretch Your Imagination

Everyone believes in themselves when it comes to making decisions.  Some rely on instinct while others depend upon others to fuel support for them to make choices and set direction for the company.  Even the most experienced and successful leaders  have had both fame and failure.  Often this is at the hand of wrong decisions based on bad information and time driven urgency.  But we can also fail simply because we are limited in our abilities to imagine.  The box we have worked within for decades is no longer the same and in some ways we have not been able to liberate ourselves from the comfort that it has created.   “Green” thinking means that we need to clear the table and to recast the way we set direction while never forgetting the many varied journeys that we have taken.

Some of the possibilities (as a mere sample) where intelligent analytics can be invaluable include,

  • Hospitals:  Examining outpatient care within service area vs. service area exploited by other medical institutions,
  • Banks:       Measuring new product penetration against age groups and their social satisfaction,
  • Aviation:    Customer profiling as compared to age group and earning index,
  • Retail:        Revenue creation via location (mall vs. standalone) in comparison to sale vs. normal sales (incl. seasonal),
  • Manufacturing:   Product throughout and waste bi-production reselling vs. refactoring, and
  • Government:       Education – Cost increases vs. discipline results (student grades) and compared across institutional market
  • Pharma:      New product offering – clinical trials – success deliveries/failures – success ROI (compared to others in same drug classification)

These are but a few examples.  The possibilities are endless, the needs are immense, and the gains are beyond what many would view as attainable.  The choice is clearly up to you but beware.  Driving with vision impairments is an endangerment to your family and in this context your business/institutional family.

ImageAs a parent, as a business person but more importantly as a human being I plead with each and every adult of this world to grow-up.  Most of us use years or stature as a means of measuring maturity but as the old saying goes… “actions speak louder than words”.  I admit that I have had those moments of immaturity, driven by the euphoria of the reaction from those around us.  While I didn’t put on a suicide vest, set myself ablaze or started a shooting rampage from the top of a building I am sure that I have none the less caused personal pain on others.  It would be nice to think that it would all stop there but a catalyst creates an ensuing action that can take either a righteous or a disastrous path.   Being the catalyst you aren’t always around to the the result.  But is it worth the energy and the glory to inflict negative possibilities?

Here and Now

I sit as a foreigner in a region where conflict, corruption, natural calamities and thinly veiled irreverent behavior exists.  I’m not sure its a whole lot different in other areas and certainly not the case in my home nation.  The reasons are many:  survival, local custom, a bigger cause and is often the case blind followings.  We look to others to legitimize our action and endorse efforts.   We use this to compel us to act where they would not.  One needs to consider why they aren’t?   Why should they after all YOU are the instrument and thus in a somewhat reckless way you are a disposable experiment.

A World for Children (elders and women)

Actually the world is for everyone but the actions of man, in the general sense of the word, is driven by MAN.  I am not trying to be sexest in using or implying that all acts are don by ‘man’ but you can’t over look the predominance of such.   Maybe you aren’t a parent, but a parent does not mean that you don’t have a parental obligation to society.  Almost any act can be justified but this does not make it right, it only means that it supports YOUR reason for acting upon your motives.

As a parent, of children and the global community, I spend allot of my time trying to change the way we think and the way we react to things.  Whether this is a business issue or one that touches societies it is my obligation to share in a respectful and heartfelt way.  I don’t need to inflict anger, generate chaos or inflict death upon the innocent to share my views.   It is troublesome to think that in today’s world we must be continuously on the defensive.  We must cast aside life enjoyment for safety and survival.  To a much larger extent we must extend this umbrella of protection around our families (related and in the global context). 

Bringing Sanity Back from Insanity

There is not a religion, social norm or legal system that permits killing or legitimizes corruption.  These unsubstantiated acts are the will of man.  Mankind that that has a much larger and personalized self-interest at heart.  It overlooks the future generations, the respect of past generations and pains a somewhat convincing picture that it is for the benefit of all.  I would like to think that this was true but undoubtedly look at where we are today and the level of chaos that exists.  Are your children safe, are your parents (and their peers) better off, and has mankind created a world without chaos?   Can you allow your children to play and enjoy their childhood or are they, even the poorest sense, forced to hide in self-protection? This is a sad testimony on our advancement as civilized societies.  No matter how many technological advances are made they become tools for insane behavior.  Whether it is cell phones to activate a road side bomb, remote controlled aircraft to enact humanless bombing on targets, or the internet to send coded and  oftentimes inaccurate propaganda to the ill informed.  All for what??    A personal agenda, the manipulation of the educated and unsuspecting mercenaries or the misguided belief that world domination will mean peace when in fact that peace cannot even be achieved within the ranks of mission driven regimes?

So GROW

Don’t be insulted by this humble and sincere request.  Our actions speak not to change in a positive way but leads us in a direction where our children, or parents and those around us in a global context are at risk of peril!  Its time that we started to use our energies and our time to transform the world into a better place.   Casting aside the ill fated direction of ‘labeled leaders’ and start acting in such as a way where our faith and our families become the reasons why we act in positive and responsible non-destructive fashion.   Our first steps will set us free from fear, from living an unfilled life, and from the shackles of poverty and ignorance.  Today can be the start and if this touches but one soul will have become  a positive start for all of mankind.

FREELY DISTRIBUTE AND MAKE IT VIRAL!

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imagesWhat is ‘chaos theory’?  According to Wikipedia (and other sources) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaos_theory its a branch of mathematics that has application in such fields as meteorology, engineering, economics and biology.  Using a series of complex formulas it attempts to bring order from chaos, or rather help to understand what is happening in order to predict what is possibly going to happen.  It is a non-linear, relationship based model that illustrates how the multifaceted factors interact.   Sounds complex but in the upcoming sections we will simplify and provide guidance on its essential application.

I believe that those who have used, understood and applied the concept of Chaos Theory have not considered its possible implication on life as it exists today.  We live in a world of chaos whether it be personal or in business.  As I pondered the subject I could help reflect on my early involvement with fractals (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractals).  At the time a colleague of my, Bill Silver, was fervent about fractals as it related to software quality and testing.  Sound, appropriate and applicable its failed to take flight amongst companies who could have truly brought understanding and order to the particular situations.  Chaos theory is best illustrated as a fractal, a multi-branched illustration of the many elements surrounding a particular situation (which can be good or bad).  It is not the simple linear Ishikawa (Fishbone) diagram that is easy to understand, but forces a serial string of event line of thought.  Fractals consider the timeline but truly try to establish the lay of the land and how these various elements interplay.

Today (2013) we live by advise and parables, we use these to attempt a short cut to a particular outcome.  Two people having a disagreement over remuneration, a company and government in the throws of regulatory compliance, or a company attempting to gain a foothold in a market are driven by an environment of fractals but conceptually are a working example of chaos theory.  As humans we are driven by experiences, education and intuition.  Have we considered that when resolution or outcomes struggle to gain a positive direction that its possibly the chaos theory model is a bit larger than what we have extracted from those human virtues we hold as most important?

Let’s admit a few things,

  • the complexities of our world creates a much more complex degree of chaos,
  • understanding as much as possible about the chaos will help us to more accurately craft and implement a durable/working outcome,
  • history, axioms, experience and education are valuable but when applied in a random fashion they contribute to chaos,
  • there is no such thing as a commodity solution (eg. if this happens do this).  Few things in life are binary and there are always some factors that can and will occur at random and
  • chaos will always be with us.  We need to employ ways to minimize chaos effect, take chaotic situations and fully understand the interplay before solutioning and solution(s) are always the result of understanding and not a random choice of options.

The ‘Human’ Tendency

imagesWe often to rely upon on ourselves and our instincts.  These are legitimize through the use of collaboration with others who are also using their talents and instincts.  One could argue that there is nothing wrong with this but then lets look at the outcomes.  Do we go from one problem to another and do solutions work but later fail?  Are these excused away as simply a common occurrence taking place?  If chaos theory is the answer then in and of itself does it also have a limited life therefore is it any better?  To answer this question its a matter of understanding the concept of chaos theory in a simply way.  Chaos theory as was previously mentioned is a complex model (fractal) of interrelationships.  The more complete the model the better we are at understanding the issue(s) and their conflicts.  The sticky part is on how conflicts get resolved, and usually this entails both compromise as well as balance.  This is achieved through objective awareness.  I had a very interesting discussion with the United Nations over the peace process in the Middle East.  It seems we bounce from promise to doom with each passing press release.  Nothing really changes, the solutions become more and more complex and yet no attempt has been made to chart the chaos that exist.  Energized by passion, resentment and hatred simple mention the names like Israel, Palestine, settlement or even arbitrators (like the US) bring immediate negative reactions.  This condition immediate generates opposition to proposals and a legitimizing of our personal agendas.  The chaos model with all of its power to generate durable solution cannot reach those until the higher order chaos issues are resolved.  In this particular case hatred coming from both sides (… it takes two to tango).  For this reason we proposed a ‘blind’ arbitration system where the issues could be fleshed out with total anonymity.  An Israelite would not know that something was submitted from a Palestinian and vice versa.  It would remove identities and even the mere sight of each other.  It would provide a means to get the all of the issues on the table and these could then be brought forward into the chaos model to create an sterile understanding for peace solutions to be considered (but again in a totally blind fashion).  Some of you might wonder whether this is being considered by the U.N. and that I don’t know.  Maybe they are still thinking about it or possibly they have already written it off as unneeded since reliance on persons, skills, education and abilities are hardened favored items.  But ideas have a profound way of becoming possible when the level of pain and desperation reach a critical level (so time will tell).

Trickle Down Effect

imagesPeople and organizations operate from the top down.  Innovative thinking leads to Strategies that then lead to Tactics, and Tactics lead to operation delivery.  Innovative creativity is an unrestrained and open field of curiosity, reaction and free thinking.  Reality comes in to play when these free range thoughts are then considered to be strategically important.  Jumping forward means careful analytic examination whether it be predictions supported by analytic studies or possible a survey of some sort.  The question always becomes whether the studies and surveys are sound enough to give fair answers vs. justification?  Almost all of the ones we have seen over the last 40 odd  years have been more in favor of justification rather than to legitimize a move forward.  In fact most aren’t even scientifically sound enough to take any action at all.  Don’t get me wrong… there are exceptions to this.  I too have fallen prey, for the sake of expediency, to act on an idea only to realize that while the idea itself is sound the understanding of the full reasonable extent of chaos theory overlooked critical elements that reduce plausibility.  So as some would say… misery love company is true, but true in this case doesn’t mean that success was achieved.  There are also those who would say I didn’t do any chaos theory like thinking and I was lucky.  In this case the key word is ‘lucky’ and I guess if I had nothing to lose and everything to gain I think their choice to venture forward is extremely important.  But for most companies and organizations luck, while accepted graciously, is not what we should become totally reliant upon.

So Where From HERE????

imagesReaders and those that pass this on to others are most likely going to read, digest, take-in and utilize to varying degrees.  Its often so so easy to continue as is despite the keen interest of today being ‘change’.  We are stuck and our chaos continues to grow.  As a serial entrepreneur we are pursuing new ventures to guide the development of strategies, tactics and operational solutions.  An instrumental part of this is chaos solutions.  Some might view this as arbitrators but the usual arbitrators simply sit between two opposing parties and make a decision based on what they hear and know.  Seldom does arbitration dig deep into the chaos landscape to fully understand the landscape.  This is essential to stem the growth in the chaos we live in, the unproductive energy we exert (most managers say their job is dealing with problems/chaos) and the string of failed attempts in regaining control.  We see this all the time that people are replaced with new people who then lead to similar (or worse) outcomes.  Its not their are bad people, its not that a known is being replaced with an unknown.  It is a matter that we have failed to understand chaos and to enact a solution based on credible sound chaos fractal understanding.

SHARE FREELY… MAKE IT VIRAL!

ImageSo how well is the world doing?  Are we in a state of chaos or emerging from it?  These are all valid and vitally important pieces of information because our feelings and impressions have been conditioned to take in lots and lots of information.  At one time the news could be viewed as a reliable source.  Based upon facts and not opinions.  Credible sources were the order of the day, the mandate of management in order to provide credibility to viewers, listeners and readers.  Today I’m not so sure.  Obviously I suffer from the opinion that anything and everything you get exposed to must be filtered, studied, measured and analyzed against what you know, feel or have knowledge about.  For that reason one cannot being accepting but it also means that you are responsible none the less to use this information in a proper way.

Predictions are the last thing we need in business.  While it might give us promise that we are on track (possibly because we are the track to which the predictions are being made) we have to consider it in the much large category of ‘information’.  To the extreme this might be used to promote and elevate our agenda, but certainly it should never be used to justify the commitment.  We need definitive and concrete information that can then examined and evaluate for the possibilities that it contains.  Even then we adopt an element of risk because we are conjecturing about what might happen.  If we are able to leverage the ‘happen’ element then we are more apt to have information that can be used to lay strategy groundwork.   Be cautious however, the best laid plans do not always materialize size your range of control is limited to what you do and not that of the consuming public.

A fundamental rule is the order of control.  Control over analytics should follow the Prevention, Detection and Correction paradigm.  I would that only after these steps have been followed Predictions can occur.  We must,

  • Prevent predictive analytics being used beyond their level of authentication.  Will useful in making public announcements and sparking curiosity that can be examined further they simply too unreliable to bet your entire business on.  If you think I’m blowing smoke on this take any if not all of the analytic company predictions and see for yourself what the reliability factor has been based on actual historical outcomes.   then predict with improved reliability.
  • Detect the level of use and the need for added study or possibly collaborative comparisons.  Blind acceptance is again not an option for rational things.  You are risking allot to possible gain allot but don’t be fool hearty.  Don’t bet on a high pair in your hand if you haven’t seen what cards get shown on the table.
  • Correction is probably the most time consuming aspect.  Correction is about making change to the predictions but adapting the conclusions drawn into a strategic approach to follow in a ‘guarded’ way.  Never go all in when there remains some significant unknowns that make all of your ambitions a waste.
  • The preceding three points can then lead you to a point where predictive predictions can occur.  Taking what you have, what you know, what actions might be taken and melding them all together you arrive at actions plans and adaptive predictions that serve to guide your business.  These provide the necessary bullet proof protection necessary to make ‘right’ movements in ‘right’ directions with ‘right’ measures of control.

Predictions are guesses.  Like the news they were to be based on facts.  But as we have seen the complexity and the number of factors grow we have seen a similar response in limiting the sources for analytic purposes.  Some would ask why do this in the age of technology?  Couldn’t we just amalgamate this all and come up with more accurate results?  The answer is yes… we could, however we face the economics of analytics.  I am tempted to call it as a lean approach but would prefer to call it brand leverage lean.  Companies rely upon their name to care the information, absent of sufficient analytic depth but opportunistic enough to sell for a hearty sum.   I’m not really certain how long the charade will last.  The economic reason for it retains popularity is that its sold at the top of organizations whereby the analytics can be used for the purpose supporting a public campaign they cannot not, should not and must not be relied upon at face value.  Reckless abandonment puts business at risk.  You might have nothing to loose professionally, maybe the golden parachute will do you just fine but my gosh give consideration to the role that you have and the impact of your decisions on others.  When I look at real leaders their righteous role is defined by the consideration of the entire community that surrounds them.  They often place themselves well down on who gets pleased,  As leaders I plead with you to be responsible (some of you may blow this off or quickly discount this request because you feel  you are… but please-please-please reflect for just a moment as to whether you or not).  Behavioral redemption is possible even at the late hour in your career.

Predictive power is driven by the means/methods, data, source, age/timing and motives.  We  have all heard of creative statistics the permit just the right pieces to shine through to achieve a purpose.  Real truth based analytics are near real-time (event based and is current as possible), defined by appropriate methods including both mathematical and population selection, and must articulate the limitations.  If these steps are not being followed then the numbers are just the numbers.  They are unreliable and essentially unusable in any form.   What would you say that 99 out of 100 CEOs wore socks would you agree?  Would  you ask what was the 1 that didn’t, what country or region was this information taken from?   But more importantly would  you go about making socks for CEOs without understanding that the climate in which they live or even travel to.  This will and should impact the way you use analytics.  On the predictive side of the house, if I was to say that 3 million out of 25 million graduates will not have a job upon graduation in 2017 would this compel you to create jobs or would you see this as an opportunity to serve this unemployed population with career entry preparation before reaching graduation (to drive the 3 million jobless down)?   These are examples that help to illustrate the power of numbers but also the risk when blindly using them.

Their precision is grounded upon the means/methods, data, sources, age and motives.  We have all heard of creative statistics.  These can and often create suggestive answers that pander to goals but fail to sufficiently reflect complete truth.  Applied to strategic and tactical missions they run a deplorable high risk of failure.

imagesIts hard to imagine but over four decades ago I stepped off a plane and on to Asian soil.  Little did I know that a region would be the opening and the ending to a life long journey.  Maybe it was the opposing contrast between my life in rural New England (USA) or simply the fascination with the way Asians embrace existence.  Amidst the current day barrage of food critics, travel correspondents and the seamless introduction of Eastern communication into the West, Asia is and will remain a continent of diversity and intrigue.

As I wander about both rural and urban settings I am confronted with smells, sights and the curious looks of people.  A foreigner in a land that views me as different and yet willing to embrace most anything that comes my way.  Food that would grossly fail Western health standards, law and security forces that wear a belt devoid of a weapon, smells that would leave an uneasy belly queasy, and sights that cause you to wonder whether its poverty or normalcy.   Many Some while back I had to adjust to viewing things differently.  Westerners who visit or stay in Asia struggle with adjustment.  Its not uncommon to hear laments that usually start with “back home…” or “in {Australia} or {USA} or {London} this would…”.   I’m not saying we have to case aside our history but rather we must give way to these feelings that things in Asia must be like our past.

Economic Calamity

Asia is booming.  Fueled by low wages and massive capacity it is set against a humble, almost survivalistic based life style.  Aside from a growing class of people who seek some of the more Western lifestyle privileges most remain content to enjoy a simply upgrade.  Those added fruits are diverted toward family, investments in education for the next generation, and possible some fundamental health care options.  I sometime feel that maybe they got the right attitude… live life right today because tomorrow may bring a return to where we may have come from.

Looking about the not so Western sections of these Asian countries, both urban and rural, you see communities.  The often ramshackle dwellings, naked children, stray pregnant mangy animals and the scavenging for cast offs isn’t poverty…. its a normal way of life.   Even Asian governments who cast attention to these situations come to realize that their windfall attention only fuels more wanting.  The result will remain the same and continue to do so because its the real tapestry of Asia.   Efforts targeted at groups of society will not work, they must embrace the the entire population to make a sustainable difference.  Infrastructure, services and food supply are just a few examples where efforts pay dividends.   As a businessman the development of these universal focal points are essential for country growth.  Protectionist policies, intended to insulate populations from competition in and of themselves creates an atmosphere where foreign capital investment doesn’t occur and the population remains captive to limited options.  In this world we can no longer be independent and not a part of the global community.  Like it or not we have as much of a role to play as we have a need to embrace the desires of others.

Food Is the Primal 

A not so profound statement but it has a much deeper meaning that one might expect.  Whether its rice in Asia, yams in Africa or potatoes in Ireland basic foods make a society.  It serves as the fuel from which work and societies are built.   It reflects the character of the available food chain and it preparation based on available means.  Last summer while at the Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio Center, I had an interesting discussion with some experts on nutrition in the global context. Their work was focused on tackling the daunting challenge of healthy eating.  Although not being a nutritionist I do have a general understanding of what is healthy and what is a bit decadent.  While I listed to the goals, purpose and direction that they were pursuing I couldn’t help but share that a Western perspective on what is right or wrong with nutrition wasn’t right for the Asian (or for that matter African) context.  Nutrition is a matter of survival and not necessarily means for enjoyment.  Options are limited in every aspect of the nutritional landscape from preparation to choices.  Western societies attack the African and Asia food priority based on models that run contrary to reality.  Except for possibly urgent starvation nutritional needs almost everything else is grossly converse to being a workable solution or model.  This brings me full circle back to perceptions vs. reality about Asia.  One cannot simply read a book, make a couple (dozen even) visits and say they new Asia.  Whether you backpack around a country, visit as a business person or endure a stint as a resident expert you are still a foreigner.  In this context I mean a foreigner not in being but in the sense about understanding.  Asia is as diverse as Georgia is to New York or London is to Munich.  It takes time, maybe even a life long one, to understand and appreciate the full range of happenings that affect change but also the interplay with Asia.  Over and over again attempts to be a part of the Asia scheme have not turned out as planned.  Their closely guarded secret of non-success gives way to convenient excuses that legitimize the reality but turns a blind eye towards the real truth…. Asia is different from YOUR place in this world.  Just within the Asiatic region the variations in every single aspect of life is different.  Food, culture, languages, economic and governmental climates and the ways of doing things are different.  In all fairness sometimes us foreigners come off as all knowing and this doesn’t fit well in Asia since these are ancient societies.  But because the West has rapidly developed we have also learned and experienced some of the developmental mistakes that the Asian emerging nations are now facing.  Traffic, public safety and commerce are a few of the areas where experience is driven by experience and not based on historical longevity.  But for those looking or making an emerged presence in Asia it takes understanding.  It will require local perspective but that same perspective must be carried out by those that have Western or global intimate understanding.  This transcends a foreign derived education, a visit to the West or even a relationship abroad…. it demands much much more.  Time and again those that have been successful in Asia have this characteristic or have sought out expats who are now within the Asia region to bridge the gap.  But caveat emptor all parties need to appreciate the context of both worlds and cast authoritative opinions with a plural focus, ignoring all the while the temptation to become over reliant on one or the other.

ImageFor more than 2 decades companies have sought help ranging from sales to software engineering.  The proposal enriched with ‘potential’ but absent of the basic support required to set the course for potentially amazing success.  In those years past it wasn’t all that unusual to accept such an offer, after all the ability to create outcomes was for the taking.  Services were in demand, software could be created nearly instantaneously (possibly even using some prior non-proprietary work performed) and it could all be done at the bat of an eye.  Since those early years allot has changed and not for the betterment of those asked if they wish to be involved in a pay for performance contract.

I think just about anyone can appreciate the fact that when we pay someone based on delivering a service this is a very favorable position.  If I contract to paint a house and perform the work then I expect to get paid.  But here are some of the issues with the ‘pay for performance agreements’.   First of all you have to purchase materials, hire workers, perform the work and possibly even have to rent some of the speciality equipment to do the job.  You perform this work to an exacting standard that is limited to choice of paint color for the property.  Now the day of payment comes along and either the property owner doesn’t have the money, doesn’t like the work because they were expecting something different (which they hadn’t specified) and has now told you that they will pay as soon as they sell the property.  While this may be the tactic used by those who are trying to take advantage of your services its often the case that the property owner is in fact financially inept.   Almost all contracts driven by the ‘pay for performance’ paradigm sit in this very state.  They find it a convenient way to get work done and you the contractor assume all of the relationship risk.   Reflected below are some of the real issues,

  • weak, inadequate and non-existing operating investment, by the contractor, spill over to those that may engage to perform ‘pay for performance work’,
  • ‘pay for performance’ contracts overlook fundamental time and cost investments needed by those doing the work,
  • ‘pay for performance’ often presents a glorious future but fail to show the rocky path to get to that point.  Such matters as pay to be received after customer payment to the contractor and contractor delivery performance itself can put your payment at risk.  You did  your part… but now you are deprived because of matters outside of your control.
  • To further sweeten the deal is renewals and what you will get paid without any real additional work.  This is a shot in the dark… it again depends on service delivery and outcomes both of which may be a bit misguided and represented by the contractor.

As a person or company considering ‘pay for performance’ its best to use these as a fill in when you have a lead as a part of your normal business that might provide value to the particular client.  But its the result of cast off opportunities and not proactive pursuits.   For all others the concept of ‘pay for performance’ simply doesn’t make sense because you are taking all of the risk that isn’t being shared by the direct beneficiary of the work performed.

I know allot of companies use this model to remove uncertainty and to force performance.  But keep in mind that if you are asking someone to float your business pursuit on their backs it will seldom work.  People and companies can only be so benevolent and when doing so they wish a bit of leeway in terms of payment certainty.   Recently I was asked to do a ‘pay for performance’ engagement.  My first inkling came from the fact that an opportunity was offered but no financial terms discussed.  Its sweet tone, driven by responsibility and title, was set as a bait for me to take (but too many years, despite friendships, have taught me to be cautious).  When I presented the question directly was when I was first told that it was a commission only, another name for ‘pay for performance’, arrangement.  To soften the negativity accolades were given about my talents, abilities, experience and client connections.  Again I refrained for falling for these appeals to my ego, after all if all this was so special then why wasn’t some stipend paid to cover a portion of my out of pocket expenses and a wee bit of my time?  It is once again… a part of the ‘pay for performance’ dance.   One has to make a decision whether to say NO or whether to ACCEPT.  In my case I chose to strike a solution in between which pointed to an inadequacy in the success formula of the contracting company…. that is lead generation.  They had no lead generation, market promotion or even specific focus on who they were wishing to specifically attack.  Aside from the most general of general field views one could not possibly consider it any shape or form a plan for success.  I suggested that if they would generate leads I would followup and sell into these organizations for a straight fee to cover my time and expenses.  You only pay for what you use and create.  As an additional suggestion I proposed a monthly stipend that would entitle them to a fixed number of contacts, again generated by them, but would also include serving as a regional representative for their entrepreneurial enterprise.   In short, both were rejected.   I don’t think that the numbers were out of line and in fact they were quite reasonable in the face of local labor standards.  It seems that their ambitions are captivated around a model that doesn’t work and they can’t see their way to consider alternatives in which they take on a portion of risk to their own benefit potential.

So, where does this all leave us??

  1. Companies must realize that fundamental capitalization is required for ALL endeavors.  If you don’t have the funds obtain them, generate them or avoid the pursuit (regardless of the merits).  I suspect that the pursuit, while being a great idea, still has some doubts in their mind that the markets will accept them.
  2. Individuals must understand the degree of risk they wish to undertake.  In doing so also be willing to take on the costs, which in real terms are the out-of-pocket expenses.  Your time… well you have to decide whether you wish to put that at risk or not.  For me if I have the choice of working for nothing and spending money that I may not be able to recover I just as soon do something that will put food on the table.
  3. Pay for Performance isn’t all bad.  Its only bad when conditions are such that readily available cash flow can not be achieved to recover personal investment risk.   Rapid turnaround, ready market, and commodity sales are all types that may be suitable for ‘Pay for Performance’.  Even then you still need to ascertain the extent of risk and personal self investment that will be required.
  4. The value of Pay for Performance is not with skilled, experience and professional resource candidates.  The disconnection between the question of performance and the elevated performance potential carried by professionals is significantly different and must give way to model concessions.

In short, am I in favor of ‘Pay for Performance’?  I would have to say no, even as an entrepreneur who might wish to defer risk to the candidate.  It is my feeling that even when done that it doesn’t create a climate that will optimize potential.  Robbing innovation, creativity and ambition the candidate becomes fixated on survival and personal cost recovery.  This does very little to creating a durable pipeline of opportunities or to endear a lasting relationship that affords experience development.

ImageToday is my birthday and while youthful in mind I am far less so as to the number of years that I have accumulated in life.   As I sit thinking about the power, influence and possibilities for the youth that will lead tomorrow it seems befitting to share some wisdom.  Some will simply read this and move on knowing much better than I as to what needs to be done and how it should be carried out.  Others will give some consideration but unfortunately most won’t read this post at all.

Being in the youth category is a measure set on age and not based on experience.  Sometimes armed with a sufficient amount of formal education one often thinks (as I remember back to my early adulthood) that you have the magic answer that none of your elders have.  This might be true but one must also consider the impact of change.  Change can be exciting and might even be viewed as the miracle to solve all issues.  Yet change carries with it downside risk, challenges in securing adoption (which leads to concessions which then creates added problems and unfortunately chaos).  Although the Arab Spring wasn’t a  youth movement it can be seen as an example of what change can do.  It hasn’t been positive and although a President has been ousted from office the economy and society lies in shambles.  Blame runs rampant an excuses can be found on every street corner.  What was touted as positive is far from that today… it will take decades to return the countries involved to a state of tranquility and sustainable economic stability.

As the youth of today you have mass, this is a power and one that should be exercised with responsible care and refrain from reckless abandonment.  One must develop abilities, commit to intense evaluation, and formulate a direction that the masses can follow.  A former boss once told me that you can’t have knowledge about everything but you can utilize the know how of those that do.  I encourage this and to chart a course to which you will be proud of the results and not simply a catalyst that produces results that will burden you.

Crisma is a naughty sin.  We fall prey to its grasp and a sense of self-worth when we align ourselves around popularity.  Maybe its a movie star or a singer, possibly its a sport figure or someone that has high name (brand) recognition.  The charismatic individual is you, not who you aspire to be like or idolize.  These individuals success can be attributable to allot of factors, some in luck others in talent but certainly these tracks of success often have little to do with social reform, only social activism.  I sometimes wonder how these people can possibly image that they speak on behalf of others or what gives them the ability to exercise judgements that are based on inadequacies.  It is their opinion certainly, and this carries with it a degree of impact to followers, but is the privileged platform being exercised responsibly?  I don’t think so…. pick you poison and deliver it by using the power in a beneficial way.

In closing…. may International Youth Day 2013 be productive, beneficial and one that reflects responsible behavior and not one marred by power misuse.

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