Honest Diplomacy

​Honesty is a policy
not the best diplomacy
Truth is
yet not the whole of it
For “the simple
when silent
is counted a sage.”

PS: the quote is a paraphrase of the first part or Proverbs 17:28

The Growth That May Not Show

What do you call growth? Increase in size and scope of operations? What is the hope in this kind of growth? Increase in market share? But market share is relative, meaning that you can’t grow larger than 100 percent, the pure monopoly. Is it continued increase in profits — the proper motivation for the growth obsession? One can also imagine a limit or supremum to how much profit can be made, even in a perfect monopoly, because resources are finite. So when you tank at 100 percent market share and are very well profitable, what is left is to leave, expand your portfolio, maintain your position and/or become totally tyrannical. It’s a nice place to be.

But if the structure of society/nations doesn’t permit that, you could either try to restructure society and the nations, and/or enjoy the vagaries of competition and chance in business. The point we’re making is that everything tanks somewhere or at some point. So we ask, is it possible to chose your size and maintain ‘successful’ operations despite the operating environment? What conditions would be necessary for this.

Most organisations have a growth obsession, and perhaps, rightly so. Because growth may be translated to profit. And even where it doesn’t translate to profit, a ‘good’ objective is to have minimal competition, insuring dominance and long term profitability and existence. Every going concern has to have a strategy to remain so. Every one, we assume, wants to be successful. And more, to be seen to be successful. These are the origins of the growth obsession: power, pride, survival.

If survival is the primary and overarching motive, then business growth, as is commonly understood, isn’t a necessity. How many profitable one-man or small businesses do you know or see around that have been operating for decades without visibly growing. On a bigger scale, the Semco group of Brazil deliberately control their size, minimizing the temptation to get acquired or to acquire new operations. It is said that they’ve implemented sales and human resource policies that have ensured profitable operations in their environment without over-expanding, for decades.

Could we choose where to tank per time whilst ensuring sustained success, without the pressure to survive and complicate management by expansion. It would at least mean respecting our abilities and capacity as a person or organisation, understanding the competitive and operating environment, potential/likely industry trajectory, and committing your objectives to wisdom.

This brings us to the notion of ‘invisible’ growth, something akin to maturity and the realities of our human experience. We all stop growing physically at some time, but our bodies continually regenerate cells, flushing out the old and bringing in the fresh. We also grow in knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. So that there’s a constancy to our appearance and a growth within that can be seen in the fruit we yield and that we still live.

If we hold on to that which is true, our tenacity keeps us from falling; we’re growing against a decay, so that people see a constancy. The underlying growth is hidden. Therefore, it is an attribute of growth to not regress from our current states when true and good. We may thus regard the act of maintaining sound practices as growth in itself. This growth is the growth of renewing and refreshing (i.e. a cultivation), not of change in height or status. Clearly, creating and maintaining some special relationships require the cleverness of renewing and refreshing those relationships (as with CRM). That is cultivation that leads to growth, a growth within constancy or permanence.

This is a growth where one is still: we aren’t stagnant since the cells of your bodies are continually renewed even while one greys. Procter and Gamble have rebranded a lot of their products countless times. It helps to keep and renew a product in the face of the people to keep it going. That’s the benefit of having traditions. It keeps hope alive. Products and services do not need to suffer from the decay that is of nature. They can be cultivated and made into a full grown tree, bearing fruit in its seasons.

Footnote/Asides:
CRM = Customer Relationship Management.

Growth is always at something’s expense. So we may choose to consider whether the expense is worth it. A number of environmentalists are of the opinion that the price we pay as a biological system for mining and burning fossil fuels at the current rate is too high for our future to bear.

If like Apple you have tens of billions in cash, most of which you choose not to share, and supposedly more than enough to maintain your competitive edge, what do you do? Buy up/into your supply chain, making you vertically integrated. Buy RIM and IBM if you could? Go into supercomputers? And then what? What about digging deeper roots in order to tank? Perhaps it’s some credit to apple they’ve been growing without radically expanding their their core businesses. And both them and Microsoft etc. are looking for new core businesses—and more importantly, relevance for the future.

Tanking requires strategic positioning and perpetual vigilance; it’s an equilibrium state that is potentially highly dynamic. So situations may not be right achieve and maintain it.

Couldn’t your businesses grow and maintain great market share and profits without necessarily growing its size. Let’s try to be as effective as possible, then as efficient as possible, before probably deciding that we need a new house. But why strain ourselves if we can already get the new place? Probably because we need to have learned some lessons from experience.

Social Organization Design: The CIA Framework

This is an acronym for three essential things to maintain in a human system. It also serves as a guide to defining responsibilities and the kinds of actions and interactions that should describe a ‘good’ working system.

CIA, here, isn’t for the Central Intelligence Agency, rather it’s an acronym for Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability. Three words that characterise and/or are fundamental in human relations, risk management, and organisation design. CIA represents a framework for principle centered design and decision making, particularly as it relates to human social systems.

All business organization is social because business is a social activity. Even the one man business has to relate with customers. In fact many businesses factor in the customer in their organisation design by defining rules, explicitly or otherwise, for the customers to follow. The understanding and correct treatment of the customer as an essential part of the social organisation of a business makes the business appear more responsive (in general) to their customers.

Think about the rules you might have been taught (or learned ) to follow by (or because of) the people and businesses you relate with.

In the ‘business’ of the marriage relationship, the husband and wife would have to maintain each other’s confidentiality since many things between them are for their ears/lives only. Each one keeps a personal integrity and helps the other with keeping theirs to ensure they both maintain their marital and family integrity. Also, they’d both ensure their availability, physical and otherwise, to each other. Hence, considerations of CIA affects when, how, and why they relate in different situations relevant to the context of marriage.

Picture the stereotypical three-girl group of (TV) friends in their friendship; that close-knit all female clique with passionate-cum-fearsome loyalty to one another, to their gang, and to certain ideals. CIA is implicit in their actions and interactions.

With reference to Information Technology (IT), system and data confidentiality, integrity, and availability (CIA) drive some business policies and practices. We can see how redundant systems, and the frequency, types, and location of backups support system integrity and availability. Also, it’s obvious how encryption, certificate authorities, user/login authentication etc promote confidentiality and integrity. Control processes and monitoring systems are there to ensure adequate confidentiality, integrity and availability are maintained.

So, with CIA, and adequate background knowledge or experience, one could write an IT policy document in about an hour, or, say, for operations at a tranport terminal …. And since IT policy is essentially risk management, the CIA criteria that drive it could also be used to drive risk management in other areas.

The use of CIA in the context of risk management necessarily runs on the assumption that the person, interaction (man-man, man-machine, machine-machine), or machine can be compromised or may act undesirably. Its output would thus try to achieve the implementation of systems/structures to guarantee—if at all possible—the acceptable behaviour. It would seek to minimize weaknesses and threats and/or maximize strengths and opportunities. In all this, the underlying assumptions matter greatly. And this is perhaps where experience or domain expertise matters most.

Because human systems are everywhere and exist in various contexts; because man, and man-made systems may fail; and because potentially influential interacting systems exist or may be encountered, we innately or explicitly perform risk management. To be truly conscious of this is to be conscious of our assumptions.

The wisdom of the separation of powers in government and governance is first in the need to preserve the integrity of the constitution. That a judiciary, legislature, and executive, are independent, and are not concentrated in one person, is deemed generally sufficient (as assumed) to mitigate the risk of elected leaders letting loose an inner tyrant or thief or fool over the nation. It hasn’t always worked, but it is good design. It doesn’t seem to work well every time, but the design works.

Designed organizations, whether consciously so or not, are everywhere. Recognizing this, we may see a place for us to act so that the system functions ‘better’. Looking around, we may come to see CIA as the basis of the decision making or operation structure of the Mafias, intelligence agencies, secret societies, sororities, fraternities, the Roman Catholic Church institution, G8 meetings, Bin Ladin and company, Harvard admissions etc—basically every company, institution or group. The good use of it is implicit in all-human sub-systems that survive the long walk.

Is this utilitarian business?

… listening to the news with one ear, one report spoke of the record revenues from excise duties in a particular region paid largely by three companies. Two were in the alcohol business (brewery/distillery) and the third was BAT (with the last ‘T’ for tobacco). This report was, on the surface, okay until the next one which spoke of the need to enlighten the people, smokers in particular, about the downsides of smoking, and the need to stop (or never start).

First you keep them in production, mass production, with near unlimited distribution (convenience stores everywhere), and then you try to restrict their market(ing) and limit product take up by teens especially. What other examples are there?

It’s the manufacturing value chain that needed digital terrestrial TV first.
The government is always happy to do spectrum allocation and licensing.
Broadcasters and customers spend on new equipment.
We want more options.
We want more convenience.

Has it been more hype than substance?
What other examples are there?

In addition to the widely reseached health effects of smoking which acknowledges it as very contrary to the physical man, smoker and inhaler alike, it has severally been said to increase the governments’ healthcare burdens significantly. We choose to let them live. They/we/you keep them, and bear with them, at least for the tax that they pay, first. Second, for the fear of a fight against the ‘powerful’—and very rich— companies involved. (Don’t play with a man’s livelihood where he’s got clout that includes an addicted crowd and a happy supply chain.)

Economics sways emotion.
Emotion sways economics.
Who arbitrates?

Maintain the programs to deal with withdrawal symptoms and end addictions.
Control via legalization. Get some money on top of it.
You don’t want to have to find people new jobs for the ones that would be lost if the industry is shut down.

How powerful is the money motive?
But, they who are determined to be rich, fall into temptation, and a snare, and many foolish and hurtful covetings, the which, sink men into ruin and destruction,— For, a root of all the vices, is the love of money, which, some, being eager for, have been seduced from the faith, and have pierced, themselves, about with many pangs (Rotherhams Bible, 1 Tim. 6). Thinking motivations and contexts.

Who doesn’t like to look good.

You want to belong to a group and still maintain your independence and freedom to break the rules of the group.
One of the dilemmas of governments. And to think of it, some married folks too.
Is there necessarily a dilemma?

Finally, in the extreme (limit, in mathematics), if everyone were smokers then the problems we see with smoking would be amplified. If no one smoked, then what could be the loss or gain to individuals, communities and nations in the long run.

From Old to New

If old is that which was and no longer is, except in memory, then, new is what is, regardless of how long it has been. It is current.

If old is what is fading away; visible but no longer the fad or fashion, then, new is what seems to be becoming common, coming into fashion, or becoming the fad.

So that what is new might remain so or become old.
So that what is old might remain so or become new.

There’s a war now, evolutionary in nature, where the aspiring new seek to replace the current new, to so make it old; where the old seek to come back as new.

Marketers, advertisers, fashion houses and change seekers ask themselves these questions: How do we make the now new old? How do we make the old new again? How do we keep the new, new, and the old, old? How do we maintain our relevance, and business?