Musings on decisions and factors that drive them.

Life transitions, and are but part of the job hunting solution.

We were asked by a good friend to help them in contemplation of one of life's big decisions. Changing jobs after decades with one company. Such a decision is not just about a job, or about comparing one's current job with an opportunity that suddenly appears.

Embedded in all important life decisions are unique underlying elements that define one's own particular philosophy of life. Qualities or aspects for an individual that make "life good." Without clarity of these elements and their relative importance, one runs the risk of moving from job to job, and of having one's life defined for one, instead of choosing one's own path.

A job can appeal for being a "stepping stone" or because one "needs the money." Such reasons need to be viewed in the overall context of one's desired happiness in life. The argument against such contemplation, especially during tough economic times, is that it is a luxury. One hour for one's happiness? A small luxury indeed. The framework one creates structures the discussion of the particulars of any job. Without it, a job selected may not be part of a chosen "path" to the future. One may indeed be only taking the next step to "wherever one winds up." Big difference.

One hour. Write down what is important in one's life, not just one's job. Determine the relative importance of each statement written. Assess job opportunities in terms of those statements. Which opportunities are most supportive, cumulatively, in helping achieve all your desires? In tough economic times, temptation will be strong to take the job offering the most money. But roads "diverge in the yellow wood," and we know that things "lead on" from choices made. It may not always be an option to retrace one's steps. Better to know the desired destination, and have it frame the choice one makes and the paths one chooses.

Flavor of actions

The "cash for clunkers" program stimulated the Asian automakers more than our own. Although the nation gave 700,000 people a break on a car purchase, did the program meet the objective of creating American jobs? Was significant progress made towards the objective to eliminate the nation's dependency on foreign oil? Has it helped the U.S. economy get back on track for sustained growth? Did this bit of news surprise anyone?

Actions that are undertaken without assessment in terms of a complete set of weighted objectives, usually have a small positive effect for a few, often for merely the near term only. Rarely do they live up to the expectations of the many.

At this juncture, it would be wise for the Big Three to document and weight the criteria by which automotive customers decided to buy Toyotas over American-made cars. Additionally, these customers should be asked what their criteria will be for their NEXT purchase five years from now. The manufacturers need to align their processes to produce with an eye to satisfying such criteria, as weighted by the customer.

Of course, this should have been done decades ago (the 1980s) when "Japanese manufacturing" was the buzzword rage and American CEOs from all industries were heading to Toyota to personally "drink from the well." The pity has been that the returning manufacturing pilgrims seemed to have learned new buzzwords, and merely "talked the talk." Programs were implemented instead of needed cultural changes in thinking. Each succeeding generation used but a new name for the same good ideas, countering their actual effectiveness by inadvertently causing them to be viewed as "flavors-of-the-month." "Quality," "CQI," "Lean," etc. With "spin" being manufactured, the products themselves fell behind.

With only words changing, did anyone really expect something different?

Defining "quality" for your life

Health care reform discussion, particularly about "end-of-life" medical care, has put center stage a subject about which many Americans are phobic. Death. I know many otherwise highly intelligent people who do not have wills or trusts (including persons with children). Still others do not even wish to discuss fatal illness when it occurs. This avoidance merely allows others to manipulate one through fear, and worse, make decisions for one.

It appears many people have also forgotten the fiasco over Terry Schiavo. It prompted many, at the time, to draw up an "end-of-life" plan or directive for their own medical care. It seemed, for a moment, that we were getting wiser. Simple forms exist in many states to be completed when one enters an assisted living facility or hospital. At these points it is still somewhat late in the day for such planning. Much wiser to think through the aspects of such a decision before it is thrust upon one.

Many forms for medical directives have a box to check that states "choose quality of life over longevity." The difficulty remains for the individual completing such a form to define clearly for a medical team what "quality" of life is for oneself, reflecting one's own unique perspective. Many aspects unique to each person comprise a personal view of "quality of life."

List the aspects of "quality of life" for you. Depending on one's age, longevity could be one of the criteria. Ascertain the relative importance of those elements . This will then be a clearer framework for assessing types of medical treatments, while one is still in health, or at the time when a medical team needs to follow your instructions.

Those who must carry out your directive will be most grateful. And your desires will be less likely to be interpreted by others with possibly differing value systems.

Safety in numbers

A 2008 legal settlement gave Google the rights to create a Book Rights Registry, and to digitize works whose rights-holders are unknown (50-70% of books published since 1923). Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo recently countered by joining the Open Book Alliance led by the Internet Archive . The three companies' objections have largely centered on potential lost profits and market share. The non-profit Internet Archive speaks more about open public access and free availability.

An additional concern exists. Software applications (such as Photoshop) not only have provided us with enormous ease to achieve "perfection," but they have engendered in us an acceptance for alterations. Private, personal and innocuous manipulation.

Alteration, however, has gone public. The love handles of a French President disappear, a magazine changes the swimsuit color of a U.S. President . It still seems innocent enough.

Less innocuously, the Bush adminstration cut the embarrassing "Mission Accomplished" banner from the video of that speech for the then-White House site's version of that event. Others with the original film clip ensure that piece of history remains intact.

Pressure was put on the TV media to adopt government terminology for the reporting of the war in Iraq and upon businesses who held information. A step further, revising what is written, would effectively create Orwell's Ministry of Truth.

Cause-and-effect thinking is essential to promoting good use of technologies, at the same time prohibiting misuse... in business planning, passing of regulations, and at the time of legal settlements. Technology solutions should be assessed using a disciplined, transparent integration of multiple constituencies' rights, responsibilities, desires and concerns. Finding common ground for business, public, and government interests. Seeking to balance viewpoints, honoring values and rights.

Profits as a factor in determining access to on-line writings is an important issue. Integrity of those writings as authored is a still more important issue. Plato stated that "Those who tell the stories rule society." A balance is fundamental for all voices to be able to speak--one of our most precious rights. Monopolies are the antithesis of balance.

Bill of Rights, National Archives of the United States of America

The cost of being different in a green world

In general, we seem more conscious today of environmental ramifications of our decisions. Yet, we may find moments when novelty takes not only our breath away, but sometimes our good sense as well.

The new LCD advertisements beginning to appear in printed magazines are an example. It seems that the novelty of technology took precedence over many other aspects of the decision. Touted to have a 40 hour battery, each LCD advertisement is designed to be recharged. How many of us look at an advertisement for hours? Why would we wish to recharge an advertisement to view it for more than the initial 40 hours?

Did the decision to use these LCDs for advertising include an analysis of end-user behavior at the end of life of the product? Studies are currently being conducted on recycling LCDs, but it does not appear that all the waste from them is currently recyclable.

What will happen to all these tiny magazine LCDs when the magazines no longer can be disposed of along with regular paper recycling (a behavior itself that took time to be adopted)? Will the magazines be pitched into recyclable papers regardless of this introduced toxicity? Will they wind up in landfill-destined trash? Did the decision-makers believe people would make the effort to remove the LCD advertisements from their magazines for separate special recycling?

If the purpose of this decision to utilize the LCD advertisement was "to differentiate in order to boost sales," the decision-makers seemed to have passed over some other important criteria and risks surrounding the decision. Novelty is but one criterion. Being environmentally responsible probably should have been another. Risks associated with novelty that were overlooked included the short period it would exist as a competitive advantage before being copied, and the effect of putting additional "work" onto the consumer for the disposal of the end-of-life product.

Without having identified a full set of criteria and risks, without understanding the relative importance of all criteria, as well as the relative degree of harmful impact in combination with the probability of risks, the greater danger is that one's purpose may never be achieved.

Curiosity about these LCD advertisements may cause a brief boost to sales. However, the "work" of disposal may offset that novelty shortly thereafter. After all, if the competition to printed magazines is the internet, well, clicking a window shut on the internet doesn't require much work in terms of "disposal." Especially when it is an advertisement.

Farewell free on-line press?

The BBC and the New York Times recently reported that well-known newspapers may start charging (by subscription or pay-per-story) for their on-line publications, as has been the strategy of the Financial Times since the start of its on-line presence. Oft-cited reasons are the decline of on-line advertising revenue and the need for revenue to assure quality. Certainly, when one hears about the latest analysis of most Twitter "tweets," one would concur that "free" could be seen to promote "pointless babble."

From town crier, to print, to radio, to television, to online news access, the platform for news delivery continues to evolve.

On-line news providers' strategies must consider differing parameters and expectations of the Internet from print or TV. And certainly more criteria exist than "revenue generation" for making decisions. Objectives that pertain to quality, availability, accessibility, reach, differentiation and scope should be clarified and weighted.

If the ultimate purpose of an Internet news provision strategy were to "Expand influence through a growing readership base, while securing sufficient revenue to continue highest-quality operations for the long-term," the following questions, could become the basis for further disciplined analysis, and a more robust overall strategy:
  • Why would a person prefer to obtain news from the Internet rather than by print or TV?
  • What captures on-line reader loyalty? How might this change in five years time? What will be the factors that drive that change?
  • What differentiates the provider's coverage of news from other sources, from the reader's viewpoint? What is their relative weighting of these factors of differentiation? ("Quality" is a nebulous term. From the readers' perspectives (grouped by type), what are the reasons why they choose one news source over its competitors? Elements that comprise their definition of "quality" must be delineated and weighted.)
  • How well does each type of group deem that the provider satisfies those qualities? Where do qualities the readers deem most desirable need strengthening?
  • Where does advertising fit into the users' (readers') view of value of the provider's product? Is advertising more valuable than the absence of advertising, from a user's perspective?
  • What barriers to reporting does the provider currently have, which may be caused by existing revenue generating avenues? If any existing revenue generating method were removed, what benefits might occur?
  • Are there means other than reader-paid fees or corporate advertising that could be pursued to generate revenue, i.e. methods completely outside these traditional areas? Would these new approaches enhance abilities to report the news, in addition to supporting the achievement of the provider's full list of objectives? How will each reader type react to each of these types of new revenue generating avenues?
Understanding what one's customers value, how they see the relative importance of those elements and how they see one's performance against those elements are essential to any decision-making. Organizing, exploring and assessing alternatives in that context then helps one move to a new paradigm.
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