Business


“A health body involves a ongoing commitment to healthy habits and despite these efforts disease can occur when we least expect it.” – J. Durant

Over the last four decades we have been involved with numerous examinations and initiatives that centered on building business.  Some occurred as a result of issues that arose and others occurred in response to potential opportunities.  Each and every effort had one common element, the lack of an objective assessment.  Now one might wonder why is this at all important?  Flanked by skilled professionals that are intimately familiar with the business why would an outsider provide value?

In this world of opportunists these are very valid questions and often the conclusions reached are abetted by prescriptive solutions of the assessing organization.  We have not seen any marked difference between the big and the small, or the local vs. international organizations performing these so called assessments.   It all comes down to ceasing opportunity when it presents itself and optimizing on existing presence within the company.

I Know My Business

This is a true statement and one that a small fraction of companies cannot attest to.  However, what you know is about what is and not what could be.  Like a person who lives with perpetual pain, they grow accustom to it and will find ways to compensate for it.  Companies will do the same whether its a matter dealing with specific human elements, market issues, product status or even leadership.  Pain becomes a condition and diverted attention is given to other options with the hope that they will replace the discomfort.

Knowing your business is a valuable element in the independent and objective evaluation process.  It solidifies consistency, understanding and harmony of operation but it can also reveal discord.  I’m sure you have heard of difference of opinion that exist between people and even documented processes.  How does this happen?  It is possible that this occurs simply as the result of maintenance attention, but it can also be the result of misinterpretation or disruptive events.  Left unattended the flexibility of adaption creates inconsistencies.  While we would hope that these would have little effect they can turn into full fledged customer servicing nightmares.

Companies that are reticent on the need for some form of independent and unbiased examination are bordering on a state of denial.  Possibly out of fear of the unknown or that they don’t wish to introduce more disruption to the existing chaos.  However in this latter case the chaos is often the result of the health conditions of the organization.

Help-Help!!

An urgent outreach is symptomatic of issues.  It may simply be the lost of insight or it can be the result of a barrage of internal and external challenges.  Think for a moment about the journey of Research In Motion (RIM aka Blackberry) and their boom to bust to recovery scenario.  Here was a company that flourished with a dominating 37% of US market and a commanding presence in almost every business technological arsenal.  It had presence and it had endorsement.  Slowed growth fueled by operational mishaps drove them to the brink of closure.  The recovery was slow, painful and littered with senior corporate replacements upon replacements.  It wasn’t until 2015 that earning returned to a level on par with 2010.   Some would argue that it was a great learning experience, but is it a ‘great’ experience to endure this level of pain and newly created uncertainty?  The future remains still in question for RIM and to a similar extent to what was experienced by Nokia during the almost identical time period.  So what went wrong?

  1. Failure to be objective and consider the ever existing presence of failure.
  2. Measuring and evaluating conditions on a routine basis but denying the reality of threats and obstacles.  You may have a better mouse trap but if you can’t maintain or convert markets it is irrelevant.
  3. Celebrating loyalty and customer support but overlooking sustaining relations.  Many still appreciate the Nokia 3310 and was recently reintroduced in early 2017.  The same holds true with the Blackberry 9800 and has features reflected in some of the new models being introduced.
  4. Narrow examination perspective concentrated heavily on back end sales and promotion and failing to look at operational/research advancements.  Let me state that this isn’t completely and 100% a complete failure.  Rather it was not given the attention that it should have been to measure holistically the health of the business.
  5. Emergence of fire fighting over attention.  As the business started its rapid downward descent more meetings, reporting and analysis took place.  Decisions were made to bring the business back on course.  In direct response to markets and investors drastic steps were taken to replace known resources with unknown resources.  Again unknown as to the context and the abilities as it pertained to each organization (and known to the extent of what they had to offer from another business enterprise).
  6. Total and complete abandonment of existing strategies.  We would call this ground up or zero based approaches.  My concern, and this isn’t a matter of personal style, is that if a total replacement is needed it makes the assumption that there was no redeeming value to what existed.  If this is the case then why did it take so long for the business to raise the flag and embark on a replacement (pride, effort, disbelief, confusion, helplessness, inabilities???)?   Therefore if there was value then why was it subjected to a more pragmatic recasting?
  7. Market conditions were totally overlooked with the belief that market presence and prominence would in fact allow for leadership to exist.   Looking back on the rise and fall of businesses, technology based or others, it all comes down to misguided arrogance and a lack of humility.

Assessment Flaws

Objectivity is an important part of assessments.  A flaw however is to what extent is objectivity is maintained.  For example, assessment organizations often have biases and build their evaluations around those biases.  Maybe its a process or a technique or even what the assessment will concentrate on.  Often is the case that its these very biases that the credibility of the assessor is based upon.  Without prejudice or opinion an example is Gartner’s Magic Quadrant Research Methodology that outlines the way they depict a company’s industry positioning.  Rest assured that all organizations has some linchpin tool.  After all most would not consider any assessor or simply stated that they come in, look about and ask a few question in order to reach as assessment opinion.  So how do you address this prescriptive bias?   One must look deep and hard into what the tool/approach will address and how (aka scope).   Is this really what you are expecting, is it looking at elements that haven’t been considered, and will it provide unbiased insight?

Another flaw in the assessment process is bench marking.  Will the assessment measure your organization on fair terms or on an overly simplistic basis?  If you are a health care clinic are you being measured against research hospitals?  While the information may be insightful it may be a bit out of character to treat all health institutions on the same basis.  It should also be noted however that there may be some elements of similarity that will exist and need to be shown.  This is where our understanding and approval of the approach will come into play as it relates to the assessment model.

Credibility can be a problem.  New entries into the assessment arena suffer from the lack of credible endorsement.  The same can also be true when credible assessment organizations give way to the field personnel that are used on the engagement.  Both require handling with care.  It has been our observation that there have been good and bad situations overall.  The deciding factors involve;

  • Model used,
  • Level of transparency,
  • Degree of involvement,
  • Independent unbiased and adaptable data sources,
  • Field of vision beyond the present, and
  • Interpretation with action plan (which considered right options vs. ‘my’ options).

Conclusion

Humans look for approval, they look for endorsement and we strive for success.  So do companies but unfortunately daily demands get in the way of objective and ongoing self-examination.  The advent of more progressive analytics have made significant strides forward.  Despite data shortcomings many are getting authenticity back on track purely based on contributory value.  An essential part of transitioning on a routine basis and dealing with disruptions is a healthy assessment mechanism.  It cannot be effectively used on a piecemeal basis and needs to be done in a comprehensive fashion.  This is not entirely a matter of performing periodically but can also be embraced with a comprehensive framework of unbiased analytics but further supported by unbiased evaluation.

Know who you are, know where you want to go, be aware of your surroundings (internally and externally) and rapid readiness to transition remains a key component over a plan that needs constant care and attention.


 

“Our depth of adaptability is a condition of time and not one borne from education or sensitivity.” – J. Durant

I recently watching a TV program about a transgender married couple (The Kings) who had formed a lasting relationship from tradition to non-tradition.  What made it work and how did appear to have flourished?   Was it simply a matter of willingness or was there something more hidden?   As I carefully listened to the testimonies from family and friends, watched the seamless change in the relationship it started to become apparent that there were things about the maturity developed through a common bond that emerged.

First of all in this simple yet complex example there was an element of common purpose.  In life we repeatedly become distracted thinking that the ’cause’ is the purpose when it fact it’s simply an element of a common purpose.  We fight wars, loose friendships and fail as teams (and as members of those teams) based on the ’cause’ and failing to objectively understand and commit to a common purpose.

Secondly disruption can occur in a variety of ways.  If it was our desire everything would be known, anticipated and even given some advanced level of notification.  Yet there are those things that come out of ‘nearly’ the clear blue.  I stress ‘nearly’ because there are always telltale hints of what possible may come.  Denial and obstance contribute to realities, and these can also lead to subsequent blind resistance.

For these two reasons that disruption the factor of age can contribute positively but it can also be hindered.

Age as a Factor in Disruption

What is age?  In the simplistic of ways it’s our time clock of physical existence.  It starts as an empty cup and over the course of time it is filled with various exposures.  Education, experiences and environmentally driven opinions.  For the more mature audiences the cup is full enough to drive our abilities to accept disruptive change.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that we accept or even embrace the change, but it can be tolerated and even adapted to when we remained focused on common purpose.  Now there are some who can’t accept or even tolerate and this is the result of suppression of free will.  Many times this is the result of cultural and environmental stigmas that have been cast solid over time.  A lack of diversity exposure creates these factors but also the factor of age.  Unlike mature individuals who have a full cup, emerging youth has only a small amount of content and this lends itself to acceptance based on a smaller content model.  The matter of rightness is therefore inhibited by scope of criteria.

Some would argue that age brings inflexibility and this is partially true.  But it’s not as matter of resistance change as it is about a broader set of conditions under which change is measured.  By way of example let’s take the matter of smart phones vs. a simplistic cell phone.  While younger members look for functional versatility for such things as videos, photography, music and internet access the elder members are more comfortable with the basic foundations of need… calling and possibly email.  It’s not resistant to change, its more about practicality of use for each audience’s specific needs.

One last element that is age/maturity specific is the influence of disruption.  While some would deduce that elders would be more reluctant to change it is a matter of note that they are more apt to embrace change.  Why?  The first reason is that while one might enjoy consistency, it also brings with it a certain amount of acceptance (good AND bad).  Secondly, the test of time has forced by way of survival the ability to adapt to change that can be both unexpected as well as expected.  Therefore the model is much more durable than for those without the benefit of time.  This is not to say that youth is inept, on the contrary, it’s more a matter of not having sufficient exposure to change that may run counter to their ideologies of life and technologies.  You see this in software sectors that face rapid evolving disruption in processes and emerging solution options.  It is severely disruptive on implementors that complain about decisions being made by senior members.

The Mix

I once shared with a group that it would be my hope that we would all exist without personas.  In other words no titles, seniority or even roles.  I pronounce this position because there was far too much contention being generated that served noting but to disrupt success.  This same disruption occurs in change and we know that change is an inevitable reality of existence.   It isn’t about the occurrence of change but its about the disruption caused by the lack of a process to address change itself.  Even planned change meets resistance and most often less than complete adoption.  This relates to a reliance on transitioning to occur as a result of free will and without resistance.  Enablers such as training or details task base plans seem to further alienate staff and not facilitate achievement because they become laws and not guides.

A sound mix in the management of disruption is to;

  1. Have an intake process that guides evaluation and disposition rather than becoming a reactionary exercise,
  2. Operate with a fluid approach to change that permits synchronization that embraces exploration and moderation in deployment,
  3. Commitment to exit points without reprisal,
  4. Staff dynamics that permit committed involvement, not treatment as an extra-credit exercise, and
  5. Keep a watchful eye for impending trends (not necessarily as an action item but as elements for considering their impact).

In the mix should also be the dynamics of young and old, without prejudice to age but with prejudice to contribution.  A contribution that is keenly and intently focused on a common purpose.  Far to much attention is given to the what and how, and not enough is given to credible valued investing.  The disruption is simply the situation and not the means to an end.  There are much more important reasons why and even more significant reasons to do great things despite the flows and counter-flows that may exist.

“The lofty halls are lonely and cold.  With each advancing step we lose those cherished traits that brought you to this level of responsible esteem.” – J. Durant

While the prefix C- denotes the highest level of command it also reflects a rare condition.  Few will achieve it even though they may possess all of the characteristics for being a magnificent leader.  A C-level is a statement in trust by the company, investors, public and other members of the management team.  Trust however may be a fair day condition that is in your favor today and places you on the outside looking in tomorrow.  It is important to recognize that much of what a C-level may do is not on par with the supreme role as CEO.  Each company defines this roles differently but definitively two areas of separation involve the working relationship with the Board and Shareholders, and the other serving as the face before the general public.

Over the course of my career I have worked for, served as and have provided advised to C-Level executives.  Each has a distinctive persona which makes it challenging for lateral C-Level movement.

The C-Level seeking advice is most often cautiously reserved.  It was often driven by fear that caused by a lack of trust.  Don’t get me wrong C-Levels can be some the hardest shells that you will ever come in contact with but one thing is certain they seldom reveal themselves.  In fact some have even expressed that its almost impossible to find a bit of honest and confidential counsel.  It for this reason that many who reach this stature live in the present because the future is often a quagmire.  Whether it be market conditions, global shifts in competition, operational matters, disruptions caused by a number of factors can shift success to ouster overnight.  Those that hold these offices realize this and logically expect to go from engagement to engagement for the remainder of their careers and command unprecedented salaries befitting of tenure expectations. The C-Levels I worked with ranged from demanding to quite personable.  Some of this had to do with  the business climate (geographic and industry type) while the more personable relationships grew out of my core values.  This isn’t a boastful statement but in the case of two companies it was because I gave comfort, honesty, unwavering commitment and make it happen attitude (trust building).  All the while creating an atmosphere in which they could focus on strategic issues which had previously been diverted by attention to tactical firefighting issues.  In retrospect I was very lucky to not only be a comfort but also to build a durable personal relationship (without expectations because of the character traits that I outlined previously).  I also suspect, somewhat reluctantly, that the remained a bit of reserved mistrust that still held them not fully committed to the relationship.  The renegade of the group was the C-Level ‘self’.  It is in this state that we get distracted by the need for self-examination and rely heavily on knowing it all, which is not always the case.  In fact the self C-level is often a founder or first C-level conscript that is filling some very large shoes at a point in time when even the simplest mistakes can be catastrophic.  There is also a tendency to get a bit too immersed in the day-to-day operations which detracts from creating forward progress and may create a dependency that erodes the respect from the operational elements.  It also reflects in an abject personality traits that may endear a few but set off others as abrasive, curt, aloof and even anti social.

Playbook #1 – Truth and Trust

Every C-level needs a trusted partner that will deliver truth.  History can greatly effect how quickly this can be established.  Even assurance are not enough until it is seen and felt first hand.   When I was at AT&T and working as a division director my C-Level and I had a very unique relationship.  We would talk about serious confidential and highly proprietary matters.  There were times when I would have to stop him and get clarification because it seemed at the time to be beyond my level of comprehension.  Like a loving father he would clarify and often smile and say “its good you had me explain these things because I haven’t revisited the reasons for a very long time”.  It was also with great sadness that his passing revealed to me that he not only viewed me as his son (aka protege) but one of the few people he could trust with honest simplistic truth.  While it filled me with pride it also was bitter sweet to think a person could spend a lifetime in a business and at best could only expect guarded half truths.

As a C-Level the lack of trust and truth makes work difficult.  It requires multiple data points to substantiate and often we must revert truth/trust based decisions deeper in the organization in order to distance ourselves from the possible fallout caused by these shortcomings.  This is often the reason when an organization has some sort of newsworthy mishap that the blame rests with a member of staff and not directly attributable to the C-suite.  In a dynamically radical and disruptive world the concept of urgency is paramount.  Having to go through extra efforts to get to decisive information creates at perceived atmosphere of procrastination which is in fact the result of trust and truth reaching the C-Level.

Playbook #2 – Use of Peer Network

As we professional progress our peer network changes.  Some remain loyal friends/confidants and others fade away as a result of dissimilar interests.  Even though it sounds a bit stiff the relationship moves from collaborator to resource.  As a resource it can be as casual as having a chance social meeting to chit-chat to a more formal raiding of them as a employee.  Both the C-level and the peer need to recognize that with the tenuous C-level reality that nothing is long term.  If its casual it may be sporadic even unplanned  meetings and for the resource a life after a C-level departure is a hint to start self-relocation.  Now there are exceptions such as those with specialized abilities but this is becoming less a factor and may even be viewed as a liability.  It also means that despite introvert tendencies that one must force themselves to be a part.  Slow decisive attention to character transformation may be required.   It’s much like the ‘wall flower’ syndrome where you go through stages of observation, reserved interaction, participation and involvement.  Likewise the extrovert C-Levels need to regulate themselves.  Don’t show your cards or alienate before you examine, size-up and inject yourself into a foreign peer network (and never assume that what once was is still).

Playbook #3 – Self Management

When I think of failed C-level situations and even some that failed to offer acceptable adoption advice it all came down to self attitude.   You can easily list an unacceptable behavioral trait and somewhere within the C-suite you will find it in all it’s glory.  There is after all the to fit the role but the question that creates doubt is whether it needs to be manifested in such a fashion?  Is this atmosphere the result of their experience, the climate they operate in or events taking place at this moment?  One of my biggest peeves isn’t always about the C-level but about the arm chair critics that sit there leveling their view on what the C-level should be like.  Yet they have never sat in the chair let alone observed and interacted with the C-level on a routine basis.  These comments, opinions and in some cases revolts, threaten the existence of the C-level.  So what makes the difference?

  • Logical and visionary thinking.
  • Ability to quickly process complex situations.
  • Willingness, by necessity, to delegate downward.
  • Building a trusted and responsible team that is committed and communicative.
  • Frequent revisiting your personal operating model.
  • Remain focused on achievement and avoid social distractions that generate little or no value (and potentially increase risks).

Strong leadership acknowledges the existence of opposition.  It prepares for it, sees it and has adopted a respectable level of response as may/may not be required.  The short fuse and the spontaneity aren’t appropriate regardless of position, confidence or desire to act.  Take a breath and choose you actions with a clear mind and forward looking examination.

Playbook #4 – Personal Persona

In present day social media setting more and more C-Levels are expressing their inner self to the general public.  While mentally releasing and ego boosting there is another edge to the sword.  As a C-level your personal life should be guarded for the benefit of the company and shareholders.  One moment of spontaneity can result in catastrophe.  Be it a political stand, a naive response to a technical or market condition, jokes (which aren’t always received as they are intended) or family matters which pose a security risk care and attention must be always on point.  Those C-Levels that I have advise who have this desire to be in the social media limelight I requested one simple thing, “put your desires in the hands of a medium for social networks”.  This not only includes electronic social media but also with the press and public involved engagement.  It serves as a gate of control,  suitable framing and most effective deployment possible.  In doing so you don’t loose the ability/desire and at the same time the goal remains in keeping you in a light that isn’t damaging.

Playbook #5 – Health

Newly appointed C-Levels are apt to face a level of stress and demand that has never been imagined.  Trading operational stress driven by tactical goals is a world apart from stress guided strategic matters.  Time and attention is seldom the work day, and in the course of staying on top of things the C-Level will be interrupted by routine operational issues that remain important.  Demands become the driving force and in fact many proclaim that they have lost control of themselves to a large extent.  For this reason you must allocate time for your well being.

  • Mentally a moment of meditation and reflection are essential at least twice per day.
  • Physically a routine of exercise is strongly recommended.  Maybe its a simple stretching regiment or a full blown high impact workout the choice remains yours.
  • Nutritional control on both intake, types of intake and the amount of indulgences you permit yourself to take.
  • Recreational wellness.  Taking those moments to take a breath and enjoy the fruits of life.  It might be a simple matter of some recreational reading or writing but a moment invested yields a positive return.

Playbook #6 – Commit Fully

It’s not just a job, it’s not just a role and it’s certainly not just a title it’s a dedicated responsibility.  For many the euphoria creates self-indulged sense of importance which ultimately leads to a shortened career.   In many ways its like an mountain turned upside down.  All that hard work to reach the summit has given way to a stewardship to serve.  To serve customers, investors, general public, communities and the enablers called employees.  Without winning and leading those contingents your career will be short lived.   Some have told me that if they don’t love and promote themselves that no one will.  Yet the way you promote yourselves isn’t about yelling the loudest but showing the value of self.  It is this trait that is most important and yet is woefully under-supported.  Some will require an extensive makeover (most do) and others need to amplify virtues hidden underneath a rough persona.   This is about succeeding and being recognized for abilities, talents and leadership regardless of race, color, creed or national origin.  It also means in a diverse and globally connected world that different skins must be carefully woven to appeal to this condition.

Conclusion

A C-level leader, by title or by role, is a position of responsibility.  It’s lonely, often exhausting and a bit of a gamble in terms of tenure.  But it is the result of success and on top of this more success remains in your hands and no one else.  Do good things for you, your supports, advocates and even your challengers.  Bring to the C-Level position dignity, respect, decisive leadership and a vision towards the future.

“We live in a time where reality and fantasy exist with blurred lines.” – J. Durant

In context of transitional sciences we consider and debate the question as to the adaptability of people to morph from the present state to some aspired to condition.  The journey is often rough as the result of many condition.  Theriantrhropy is the mythological ability of human beings to metamorphose into other animals by means of shapeshifting.  The present day the concept of theriantrhropy can be considered as our ability to change ourselves into different forms, not necessarily in the physical sense but in behavioral/intellectual ways.   Some of this will occur as a bi-product of experience, exposure and learning.  Other changes result from external influences.   During the last decade our ability to transform has been challenged with the rapid changes in our world be it occurring in society, technology, business or the tightened connections within the global community.   We simply cannot curl up into a ball, in the corner of a room and expect to be safe.

First State Condition (Now/Present)

Before we even get started one must give consideration to what state the person(s) are in.  Are they struggling, unmotivated, overachieving, opinionated, persuasive, empowered, bewildered, etc.?   We must never overlook where we are, what is causing these conditions to exists (both good and bad), and what corrections might need to be employed before embarking on a state of transition.  I refrain from relating this to specific genders, age groups or cultures to avoid generalization, but these two can play a hidden but decisive contribution as to what occurs and how these matters must be attended two.

Second State Condition (Compelling Drive)

We must assume that we have taken steps to acknowledge, re-mediate and to address the know conditions that exist in the first state.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that it has been resolved, but it is expected that it becomes an element of attention during the course of transitioning in order to facilitate expedient achievement of planned objectives.  In the second state is when we look to elements to facilitate transitioning.  The most common tactic is to engage ownership.  In today’s business climate it less about assignment and more about taking voluntary ownership.   Some companies have created this climatic condition that can be viewed as customary.  However for others, especially in industries and cultures that are have a strong ‘command and control’ mentality, this will be something very new.  In order to achieve this we must,

  • introduce the concept and all of the beneficial reasons for this change in approach,
  • put forth the elements needing ownership and permitting guided signup for each. Note: it is critical that we guide this in order to avoid over-subscription or taking on roles that  are a mismatch, and
  • go forth, monitor, coach/counsel, reassign if necessary (but with dignity) and update as appropriate.

Third State Condition (Steady State)

Our conditioned ability to reach a steady state in transitioning is not for a single occurrence but one that will survive the potential every changing events that are apt to occur.  It was difficult to suggest that that a steady state would ever be achieve and would most likely be assaulted with new transitional challenges.  Whether these occur as a result of new principals and constraints or whether embodied inside of an element of disruptive change is unknown.  Experience has shown that changes occur, that some of these are apt to fail and then repair sometime later, and others will take the world by storm (duration to be either sustained or momentary).  It’s for these reasons that transitional aptitude and mindset must be keen and responsive.  Reliance on resilience based on the person or intuition are simply added benefits, not a reliable means to achieve positive and lasting flexibility.

The third state has one element that is key, toning.  Like a body builder who achieve a desired stature in order to maintain that they need regular toning physically, mentally and nutritionally.  Toning to achieve a steady state in transitioning (addressing the regular assaults of solicited and unsolicited change) involves toning.

  • Physical transitional toning – Regular involvement, refinement and development of transitional aptitude.
  • Mental transitional toning – Intense topical immersion through educational means.  It is important to utilize a geographically diverse variety that  (formal, informal, reading, classes, mentoring discussions, observation…) fits your learning style.
  • Nutritional transitional toning – Understanding you physiology…. what your application index is, the type of person you are (Myers-Briggs, Colored Brain…) and how to provide a suitable intellectual nutritional balance to maintain proficiency.

As management we are always worried about time and cost.  How much time will need to be dedicated to or how much cost will be involved.  This is not only a very legitimate question but also one that must drive much of what we do.  Instinct is not a sound means to achieve real and last results.

In terms of time, this relates to the three states as previously described.   Lots of issues will require attention even though these are matters that should have been corrected earlier.   Slow progress caused by environment and events will extend time.  However, the payback is found downstream as we start to pace the organization with present day state of changes.  No drag race goes from a standing stop to full speed immediately, and neither should we expect organizations to transition that way.

The cost relate mostly to the cost of time but the offset to the time is a higher degree of control and responsiveness to change.  We can easily dispatch an event to an appropriate level of attention, with a proper support collective in an expedient fashion and do so without be reacting but orderly responsiveness.

In conclusion, what we see happening and what some of you may envision is a lasting change in behavior.  A change that brings pragmatic protocol to embrace habit conditioned to the realities of transitioning, change and expediency.

 

 

The way we act may not be an indication of who we are.” – J. Durant

Throughout the course of our lifetime we will struggle with our identity.  While we may profess that our search has been reached it becomes more of a defensive response than one of deep and committed reflection.

For the last decade the world has rapidly slipped into a contentious state.  The blame cannot rest upon the social media vehicles that carry the message but in the acts of those who feel compelled to express their beliefs.   So who are you anyways?

Retrospective

A healthy part of life is to reflect on who we are.  It isn’t about what we have accomplished, since these are simply momentary acclaims that will carry us forward for a brief bit of time.  If sustained it must be done so in a very purposeful and responsible fashion.  This is where ego can easily take over and responsibility becomes a view of obligation and not one of respectful conduct.  All too many people have fallen out of favor because the legion of minions have moved forward leaving you standing alone on the battlefield that you have played a major role in creating.   Sustained success must remain true to those early ideals set as the reason for making a difference and not get caught up the frey created around us.

I think back in time when engineering was honestly pragmatic and devoid of superficial engagement in debates which diminished our credibility.  It was also a time where pragmatism was constantly assaulted by business decisions that were contextually intuitive and lacked structure.  With the advent of agility we created a framework that offered flexibility, but at the same time this power of capability gave way to some very strong opinions.  At first it was all about the level of agile purity that should be exercised.  Those early days created hard fought turf and as a result we unknowing lost flexibility and created evangelists.

When I look back at myself one of my hardened character traits involves the pursuit of purity and rightness, and this came from my early years as a technology auditor.  Things were looked as right or wrong, compliant or not, and when to the contrary working with the affected parties to gain agreement and create a suitable solution.  Unfortunately, if left unattended this vocation driven trait easily became one that endangered my personal life.   During a recent conversation a person shared with me the unfortunate bullying that some businesses owners were experiencing from customers using their social media clout.   Our emotions take over, professional stature builds momentum and we become irresponsible by acting through our readily available social platforms without considering some degree of professional decorum.   We overlook the need for respect and responsible behavior.  Don’t think for one moment that I have not been out of control and have throw caution to the wind.  Despite that momentary loss of sanity and the momentary euphoria it was soon followed by remorse.  The remorse wasn’t just about the loss of control but the possible damage it may have caused (directly and indirectly).

Change The World

For more than a century we have been ingrained with the ability to change the world.  We subconsciously believe that we will make a difference.  What we don’t realize is that a difference isn’t always a positive one but can be damaging and counteracted by others responses to their drive to make change.  These points of contention can be as simple as a difference of opinion on approach, a twist of outcome based on perspective, cultural vantage point or simply a discord relating directly to you sole based on you.  The later is the most difficult to overcome but consideration to the use of both ‘blind’ and ‘surrogate’ alternatives when the goal is something of significance.

It goes without saying that we will have have a contribution to the world simply by existing.  The next level is when we contribute as a part of a private closed framework, such as the case with organizations, as a member, or working as an employee for a business.  This is the juncture when we have to start tempering our personal beliefs with those of others.  Tempering is not conceding but adapting to conditions.  We face the challenge of authenticating our belief systems while processing what other beliefs we become expose to.  Baring in mind that these beliefs may be just as fragile as the ones we have been closely guarding during the course of our lifetime.  Its at this point we need to shape our personalities and our behaviors in such a way that it reflects who we are.  It becomes a contradiction of sorts when we say we are our own person when we chose to lead, follow, meld or decent into the pact.   Going back to our school days there was always a person or two that we would consider to be the bully.  In those formative years it was usually based on size, age or some urban myth of their bullying abilities.  Later on we discover that these things, while risk factors, had a fairly low probability of reliability or occurrence potential.

But have we advance from being in the shadows of fear of the bully on the playground to now the bully in life (or in business or in the profession we are associated with)?

Professional Bullies

There is a saying that “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing (A. Pope)”.  It isn’t just about the knowledge we have or the moment of notoriety we have achieved, but its the way we responsibly use it.  If you look back on contacts that you have made you may hold certain people in high adoration because of this trait.  You may also feel a bit misused by being a minion to that ‘one hit wonder’ who is loud and self righteous, but has absolutely no respect for anyone.   It is also likely they don’t have self-respect because they have not taken the time to look within, hear around, consider the obvious and ignore the potential of their harmful and destructive patterns.

Today disrespectful contention (aka bullying) abounds.  Contention between generational groups, social and leadership debates and the ongoing riff over religion.  Where has it taken us?  To wars with no winners, the loss of cooperation and the abundance of hate.   So if we want to make a change we need to start with understanding the difference we are making that is possibly not a constructive one that can also be self damaging.

A client had a problem with one of their teams.  They felt that the team was not functioning as a team and that there were certain members that we in fact not contributing in a positive fashion.   While the customer felt that training was the best opinion there were open to suggestion.   After careful observation and bit of stealth listening there were several discoveries.

  1. The chief compliant about non-team minded members proved to be the case that it was those complaining were the problem.  Further examination revealed that they were under performing and needed the support of the others who they were complaining about.
  2. Much of the work that was being done did not require a ‘team’ approach.  A simple blueprint for connectivity was all that was needed.
  3. The concept of self-empowered created an atmosphere of righteous indignation towards their fellow teammate.
  4. The team was undersized and over managed.  While we can’t always get the resources we need the solution became more managing our of fear of failing.  Re-scoping what could be delivered and to what extent became a more durable and mutually agreed to decision.
  5. Management viewed the turmoil within the team as a failure of the team.  Thus confidence was lost even though it was recovered with a few simple adjustments.

The biggest takeaway was that a plan is only achievable if one understands the transitional changes necessary to retain focus.

Responsibility

Nothing succeeds without people, not as a resource or a talent, but in attitude.  As I was told the other day that you develop an impression of a person but its not until you have social interaction that you really understand who they are.   “You can’t just a book by it’s cover” is apropos in this case.  So what kind of revealing characteristic do you want for ‘you’?   Is it a good cover with horrible content, is it a suitable cover but with sincerity and respectful guidance, or is a book with no cover and the content is still awaiting a first draft?    During the course of a lifetime we are in search of this answer.  There is no rule that prescribes that a certain trait should occur at a point of time in your life.  Lessons and change occurs based on the progression of life and it affects us based on our span of openness.  This span may simple be in a small hamlet or on the world stage.  With each span of openness our responsibilities increase.

Thinking can be a good thing but sometimes it can also create amazing gut wrenching conflict.  In preparing to write these thoughts I went through a moment of retrospective as to who I am.   A narrow path of this reflection involved the question, “am I a conservative or a liberal”.  I resorted to looking at the definitions of these two opposing ends of the belief system and came to realize that I am neither.  In fact I have become balanced (purely coincidental and not by design) having beliefs in both domain.  How did this happen since I always considered myself a conservative?  What I have discovered is that while my regional/social upbringing created the starting point that life presented to me opportunities to change.  Not always willfully, sometimes out of necessity and at other times the result of a massive exposure to different things.  These things involved people, places, technologies, viewpoints, awareness, research, self-discovery, marriage and children.  In short, life experiences.  The things I avoided were the result of restraint and respectful responsibility.  The things I didn’t avoid created lessons and also a sense of accomplishment.  But with these achievements came a massive responsibility to not be a bully but be a guide.  It’s a privilege that commands self-restraint and a willingness to avoid false pontification.   The label we carry is not one bestowed by the masses but the gift we give to ourselves.  We share this with others for the advancement of civilization and not the destruction of hard work.

 


 

“Fear is debilitating and causes irrational thinking.  We need to back up a couple of steps and look at things in a better light before we throw ourselves from the building.” – J.Durant

For quite sometime we have been bombarded with articles and news about the coming of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and all sorts of other ‘human replacement’ tools.  As I am sure some of you are aware there are just some things that these things can’t do or at least we would not permit them to do just because they might be a bit more reliable, efficient and consistent.   There again we have walked on the border with such controlled experimentation as cloning and various other forms of neuro response solutions so who knows just what kind of mad scientist may be lurking to set forth their madness in intellect driven machine.

So let’s take a moment and accept a few things…..

  1. Some form of intellect driven solutions will be put into play and these will replace legacy solutions that involve a human component.
  2. Most like intelligent solutions will embrace a consumer-to-business (C2B) paradigm.  This will ultimately reduce costs and expediate the formation of relationships.
  3. The care and oversight for such solutions will require humans.  However, rather than relying upon casual oversight they will be nurtured by intelligent analytics either in the form of predictive or preemptive forms.   And,
  4. Robots are apt to be involved in order to serve as a service conduct into the interaction with the AI environment.

Now for the really questions that never seem to get mentioned from those expounding on the AI exploits of leading companies like Google, SalesForce, DeepMind, Facebook, OpenAI, Baidu, Microsoft Research, Apple, IBM and Remark.   But in delving into these deeper it is clear that there are a few elements to recognize.  Some of these are noted as AI involved based purely on name and maybe a slight be of tinkering with the concepts and technologies.  There are some that are heavily focused on the AI mechanism that would be used to drive an AI like behavior.  Finally there are some that have wrapped the AI wrapper around an intelligent process, possible an advanced analytic element, and labeled it as AI.   You are also apt to see a similar situation with terms such as learning machine and robotics (especially those that are non-mechanical) as well.

Classical Transitioning Concern

An all to common condition that exists in transitioning is having a plan that is doomed before steps are taken due directly as a result of existing issues.  Thus far we have not seen any of these points raised up by the AI and robotics enthusiasts or those who have expressed guarded reluctance to journey toward the utilization thereof.   Some of these existing conditions include,

  • Green field conceptualization of the AI model and the metamorphic conditions one can anticipate.
  • Interface negotiations from sending as well as receivers.  Stakeholders in receiving solutions may be a bit reluctant to accept AI driven infeeds.
  • Verification and Validation (V&V) readiness.  Most recently British Airways had a system wide shutdown that crippled their operations.  If we are experiencing these conditions in complex networked but traditional systems what is it going to be like with flight by automatic systems like AI?
  • What mechanisms will be used to fuel the AI solution?  Will those mechanisms be ready to provide reliable feed information but in doing so be expedient enough to fuel the AI application?
  • Have boundary reach parameters been set?
  • Consideration for security, validation, performance, real-time conflict management, in-flight updating, and some of the more technical elements of AI?
  • Has thinking been toward ‘right solution’ and not remain focused on existing solution?   Again more green field/blue sky thinking.
  • Formulating a growth based design that will engage elements of robotics and analytics.
  • Understanding that the AI solution may be more than just an event driven paradigm and will demand the inclusion of event base stimulation, deductive modeling that builds upon (or adjusts) a rule frame repository, and the concepts of prediction/authentication/ and progressive simulation (apart from the live environment).
  • Destination driven repository containers that are distributed but interconnected globally as opposed to single destination service.  This also brings up the question about non-stop up-time.
  • Extent of human or non-human intervention schema.

And there are allot more that are required in order to insulate from failure and elevate the opportunity of success.

Circle Condition

Unbeknownst to consumer/recipients of change there exists some form of exploratory cycle.  It may be as simple as a survey and an alpha test of market, or as formal as experimental research.   I reread an article (actually from a different source) on TensorFlow Playground a working example of neural technology.  Impressive and stimulating, well illustrated form of scientific/mathematical application to draw deductive suggestive outcomes with a high probability of accuracy (but not at 100%).  Then I got thinking about whether 100% was attainable from humans either, after all we are prone to mistakes whether through random attention or the result of circumstantial conditions that exist.  Clearly the purpose is to build a sense of trust and understanding, as a commercial effort for the market place.  It also illustrates that the technology was being applied to the known science of math and to legitimize its ability.  What we have seen however is that the line between research and usable solution is often a fuzzy line.  The jumping from concept to application overlooks some grooming required and especially in this case the need for a science that has an element of runaway evolvement based on conditional stimulation and seed data.

In some respects the concepts and principals of AI follow a similar path as is the case with compilers.  There are a finite set of conditional parameters that can be involved based on formalized criteria, set by the institution, to produce and outcome.  What creates the circle is that the outcome is then feed back in the process to which some events may be repeated and others taking a totally different path.  The fear isn’t in the use of the technology it’s all of the possible things that can go wrong.  To understand their potential and to determine what the appropriate level of care that must be exercised should be.   This is not a path in which we have seen similar debates about before.  Space programs, nuclear reactors and fly-by-wire systems have all had their moments of glory and those times when intervention (and often spot creativity) must be exercised.

So Where Are We Now?

We are in some interesting times.  It remains uncertain the degree and speed in which AI will advance.  My suspicion is that for some that are already poised with intellectual driven tools, whether it be predictive analytics (ready for preemptive forms), robotic clusters looking to advance from rule based paradigms or semi-thinking information technology solutions looking to employ a bit more merging of trends with behavior change they definitely will have a leg up.  For the rest it will become a decision as whether to wait or to start taking some of those formative steps now that exists for the organizations that are poised.   Looking at past failed attempts at AI it was the result of institutional support (left mostly to universities and the Department of Defense with Ada).  Today respected institutions, like Google, provide a groundswell of interest and support by association.  Whether its rightly so is not up for debate but rather to be acknowledged as a fact.  It is not without risks but as long as we humans have control we can do what is needed to insure that our AI will succeed in a controlled and appropriate fashion.

“A thousand jumps without a mishap is no basis to decide to abandon your reserve parachute.” – J. Durant

There are several assumptions that I’m not going to make.  One is that there isn’t some sort of contingency plan and secondly that the plan (if it exists) is actually plausible.  The existence of a Plan B may very well exist and was thought to be durable enough to work in the event of the unexpected.   It is also quite possible that anticipated projects of markets failed to recognize that there were not only fatal flaws in service offerings but also had not considered the potential rapid acceleration of disruptive technologies.  These situations are all possible and realistic so where does this leave us in the world known as ‘outsourcing’?

The Here & Now

I should come as no surprise about certain conditions existing that leads us up to today.  Nearly 7 years ago President Obama was threatening H1b visa reform so it should become as no surprise that it would again regain visibility under President Trumps initiatives to put America back to work.  Nationalism whether in the US or India is always of utmost concern.  Employed workers reduce the possibility of civil unrest and if band-standing about the topic brings support from citizens.  But the US is not the only ones in the throws of employment concerns as you look about all of the other nations.  Some nations, such as the Philippines, who gained BPO notoriety in 2010, continues to struggle with providing sustainable employment opportunities and relies heavily on the export of human capital.

There here is that as nations of service providers we need to earn revenues in order to provide employment and foster continued growth.  What happens however is as the revenue streams shift the organization becomes challenged to remain in step.  It is possible that the size of an organization can hamper its ability to be nimble in this situation but it can also be a case that the labor force is too narrowly skilled to adapt to the rising challenges.  As a result labor falls under direct attack through downsizing.  It isn’t always about tenure but it can also be about skills and the ability to advance those skills in a reasonable time frame.

What were some of the sourcing challenge that sat in abeyance waiting for a tipping point?  As I stated back in 2011 (Frost & Sullivan/Manila), ‘The celebration of successful BPO supremacy must be short lived.  The time is NOW to transform and advance the services provided by the BPO community whether it be in Information Technology (IT) or Knowledge Processing (KPO… which we now refer to as analytics).”   The message while loud and clear went unanswered until now and the reaction has been anything other than chaotic.   In large part, the absence of a Plan B is becoming more and more apparent as a rush is being made to educate up.   Unfortunately equally concerning is that education is but an introduction and a far cry from the level of expertise that this new wave of technological disruption is causing.

Woulda-Shoulda-Coulda

What is a Plan B?   Not to sound too parochial, it a preconceived game plan that addresses anticipated and unanticipated conditions.  Often it is considered as having a Plan B when we feel amply equipped to make decisions at a moments notice.  This is not planning, this is reacting.  As with most reactions they are best serving in the moment but in the long term (and that could be as short as a couple of days).  A reaction is intended to be exercised by skilled and experience personnel who are willing to be accountable for their decisions.   The question is whether this is taking place or not?

For employees that are most apt to say NO.  This response is influenced by fear and uncertainty caused by a situation that is beyond their ability to in control of.  It may further justify or erode confidence in those making these decisions.  What is however within the control of the employee is to be aware and ready of the changing world that they are employed in.  Accepting a complacent role is not going to insulate you from the havoc caused by change and is most likely going to put you in jeopardy.

For the decision makers, the leaders, and the visionaries of the company its a profound wake-up call.   There may be a multitude of sins that has place the business in a vulnerable position,

  • too much time and effort place in self-promoting and not enough time keeping your ear to the ground for change,
  • thinking that you are a leader when in fact there is a void in the sound ability to deliver and thus creating trust issues in the market,
  • riding out the good ride as though it will never end and when it does end finding plausible but untrue reasons why it happened,
  • failure to plan, anticipate, monitor and adjust.  This is not an ancillary or optional element but one that serves as your reserve for adapting to change, and
  • viewing a plan as the end and overlooking the elements of transitioning as a part of a success formula.

It should however come as no surprise that these small elements with high impact are but the tip of the iceberg in terms of critical failings in outsourcing.  Don’t view my words as too harsh but simply a reality check and the opportunity for companies to reinvent their role engagement.

Metamorphism

It is far to easy to either live life in the moment or react to the ebb-and-tide of change.  But nearly a decade ago the word in favor was ‘sustainability’ and it didn’t just pertain to startup enterprises it served equally well for established institutions.  It was however difficult to envision sustainability when you were living in that moment.  Probably for that reason alone the notion of considering a Plan B was viewed more as an opinion than as a necessity.   Looking over thousands of Plan A’s and B’s they fail on content but do exceedingly well on form.  The plans also tend to portray the world as some sort of orderly process that takes place and relies heavily on past performance, despite changing social and consumer interests that add the element of context.  These and the lack of diverse thinking, because of confidentiality trust concerns, has created a storybook saga where the element of realism was more wishful that plausible.

Not everyone has been doom and gloom on either not having or having but poorly orchestrated plans that address planned and disruptive change that has been tempered by current situations.  The few companies are surprisingly small but are riding the wave of current success and in doing so are forced by institutional investment circumstances to think ahead and anticipate.  They have also, possibly caused by having done this for a period of time, has immortalized planning and specifically a plan B mindset into their regular protocol.

Circling Back

Let’s return back to outsourcing and where we go from here.  Whether you have a plan, a Plan B, it’s not working or it is the reality is what we face and what the clock looks like.  In all cases we have a small amount of time to transform and perform.  This opportunity is fueled by the customer and their drive to embark on significant technological change.  It is a bitter pill for the customer to swallow when shifting off of legacy linear solution technology in favor of more aggressive, machine driven solutions.  Not only does risk need to be mitigated but trust needs to be earned through concept, technology and custodians.   Secondly, there is an opportunity for adaption of present intervening environments.   When dealing with such elements as machine learning, artifical intelligence, robotics (both mechanical and intellectual) and advanced analytics these do not permit a lift and drop approach.  They must be carefully crafted, deployed, adjusted and grown in order to further reduce the impact of risk that they introduce.  This provides both a service opportunity to providers but also invaluable time to grow accustom to a greatly different paradigm.   Despite what one might think humans are resistant to change.  A study by the University of North Carolina (USA/2000) illustrated that people resist change, despite unhappiness with present circumstances, based on known vs. unknown trust.  A lack of participation in change only added to the reservations that they had that change could take place and if not that they wouldn’t be held to blame for it failure.

For sourcing companies there are immediate course adjustments that will be necessary.  Obviously resource levels will require adjustment, locations modified, work modes modified and reinvestment employed with these only being a few of the many things that need to be put into play.  It will however also require a shift in thinking about the role of the business, the attitude towards labor resources and even a willingness to trust from both within and from outside.  Historically openness has been cautiously provided when it came to business relationships, but the door of local proprietary behavior has been shut on operational improvements.  If at all, it has been relegated to a simple one way providing of inward value without the opportunity for shared and mutual inclusion.

Is there hope for the future, of course there is always hope.  Is it too late to make change?  Let’s just say we need to get moving and not adopt a wait and see.  It will be too late if the need is already here and you have nothing to offer except hopes and promises that can’t be fulfilled.

 

Next Page »