Saturday, December 27, 2008


As a Jewish Israeli child that has been brought up in US, I remember back at home, the same songs, played repeatedly on my parents' gramophone. One of the songs I remember brightly is "Tradition" from "Fiddler on the roof". The musical is a personal story in a world of traditions, back at the beginning if the 20th century in Russia: The Jewish tradition, the classes' status tradition ("If I were a rich man"), the tradition that grants different rights and different authorities to genders, and the tradition of matchmakers, a tradition that Tzitel, the fiddler's daughter, tries to break.
The song on "tradition" returns to me, again and again, and leaves me with nostalgia and a good feeling. Yet, if I stop and listen to the words, there is not even one sentence that I can see that I identify with. The issue folds in it a conflict: On the one hand, tradition produces feelings of a warm and friendly environment; on the other hand, as the Etnix band have sung: "tradition is the enemy of advancement and progress".

What is the place of tradition in organizations? Is it right to nurture it and how should it be done?
I am celebrating, these days, ten years of running my company. A decade. I have gone through a long journey and yet it went so fast, and seems rather short. Again, the conflict rises:
On one hand, there is so much yet to do. we came here to work, innovate, earn and lead a change. Why look at the past? Why spend time and effort on traditions and memories that take us back? What could it help?
On the other hand, I feel, both as a manager, and as a person, that tradition and memories do have their place in the organization and should be honored rather than swept out.

Tradition has clear advantages: It enables people to strength their belonging feelings, to feel part of the organization in another dimension: Not only part of some offices; not only tools and methodologies; and even- not only values. Tradition is something shared that passes in the air very simply. It makes us feel better. It makes us feel belonging to something bigger.
Tradition also crystallizes.
Tradition, so I hope, is another factor that makes people prefer and stay in the organization and not look for other opportunities outside the organization. Tradition makes the people, when they are part of the organization, deal better with daily difficulties (and we have no choice, difficulties always exist). Tradition makes them feel better. Tradition.

How does this stand in one line with "the enemy of advancement and progress?" We, as human beings, need probably both: both Tradition and revival; both anchors and stability together with the ability to change; both the feelings that tradition produces together with legitimization to create and fly high and far.
The challenge of tradition, therefore, is more complicated. It should enable, but not block; It should be part of the background but should not gain control. We have to remember that few are the organizations that survive due to tradition only.

How do we produce tradition in the organization? I will start from the bottom line: Money here is not the main issue. One cannot order tradition, pay for it, and mark it with a V sign. One must invest. Invest and be consistent. And after all these- wait. Time is an important part when speaking about tradition.

What and how? Hereby are several factors that produce and nurture tradition:
Holidays. Naama, one of the managers under me, taught me and insisted repeatedly, until I understood and assimilated that every holiday must be celebrated. I always came with a pragmatic attitude that every company meeting, and every minute in it, should be utilized: More methodologies, more teaching people, more professionalism. Tradition is important, so she always reminded me: It is important to eat an apple with honey together before the Jewish new-year, and we must finish eating together all the ""Hametz" before Passover. From year to year, the place of tradition in the company, based on celebrating Jewish events, grows greater. From two celebrations a year, we started celebrating more holidays, and in between, we find new opportunities for additional celebrations, from all kinds of types.

Tradition can also be nurtured through simple ceremonies and customs that are repeated from time to time. The ritual produces the tradition. Smoking breaks, of part of the people together produces tradition (in this case, tradition has also disadvantages). Tradition evolves through our monthly ritual of giving, every month, a symbolic prize as to something special he or she did the passing month. Tradition evolves only because it is done consistently every month, already for years.

Tradition evolves through building new memories together and speaking about existing memories. We see to it that in every company trip or company event, we take pictures (so easy nowadays), and in the last years it even turned more sophisticated as we make a clip after each event. It is much more pleasant to remember, and much easier too. In relevant events, we turn back to the past and share the memories. Share those who took part in past events, and share and explain to those who were not there yet. Share through stories, through pictures, through feelings. Build and strengthen the tradition.

I am celebrating, these days, ten years of running my company. I surely can say that we produced a company tradition. A tradition inside the company and a tradition in larger groups, both with our customers, both with the Israeli Knowledge Management community. We went a long way, but do hope that the main way is still in front of us. We hope we smartly combine tradition and advancement. We hope to continue marching in the pace, and making others follow. We hope to produce many more (good) traditions that make all feel belonging, feel sharing and feel good.

Sorry for being so sentimental today. I promise to come back to myself in the next posts.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008


A known saying among management people, speaks about measurement:
Whatever cannot be measured cannot be managed.
The importance of measuring is obvious.

Measurement enables us, first if all, to examine if an activity we held, succeeded. We measure whether we succeeded in achieving targets we defined in advance. As our world is not white and black only, measurement deals not only with examining if we reached targets, but also, as a way to measure how close have we reached.

However, measurement has several additional advantages, above the measurement of success and targets achievement:

Measuring is our way to examine the path we have chosen, in order to help ourselves refining the path and learning how to proceed, instead of waiting for the end, and possibly even fail. Early measurement can point out ways how to fix problems before they grow large, and show us the way for improvement; Measurement, hereby is defined against methods and techniques, not only against results.
Measuring is our way, on the ongoing, to identify trends and changes that pass nearby, without us noticing them otherwise.
Measuring is our proof to authorities or customers, external and internal ones, that we act as declared.

Measurement is a positive step. It takes us forward and is a base for comparison.

Yet, a few points should be noticed, clarifying the essence of measurement and the way it is obtained far more complicated than we would like it to be:

Albert Einstein said: "Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted…" What can we learn from this sentence?
We have to be cautious not to search the coin under the street lamp. Too many times we rush our way to measure, ending with a set of indicators and measurements that measure what is simple, rather what is important. Start with targets, and measure the important factors regarding these targets; do not yield for the easy way.

Another complexity drives from it being easy to measure results, but not as easy to segregate the various factors of the result and understand how much our activity contributed to this result. For example, if there was a successful activity held by the company, yielding positive business results, and we decided to reward all employees involved. A month later, we measure the employees' satisfaction and find it high. How can we know, from the satisfaction measurement only, whether satisfaction is triggered from the bonus or maybe from the professional success they took part of? Moreover, the opposite can happen as well: We can proceed successfully, yet an external result, such as the economic crisis we are experiencing now, will shade turning the business results negative. It is possible, that if we would not hold the company activities, results were worse, but we really cannot know; segregating is difficult. This complexity is one of the reasons that drive qualitative measurement. Qualitative measurement deals with the impression created: What impression did people get from the activities held? To what point did the activity contribute to success? To what point was it successful, even though failure? In most case, people are intelligent enough to segregate factors and give us a reliable answer.

Complexity drives also out of the measures and measures' indicators we set. Naturally, we as people are subjective, and our assessment differs from the one of our colleagues. If they would run the activity, possibly we would have a different list of measurements, and a different list of results yielding. This challenge turns greater when we evaluate people, rather than activities. A person that may think he is friendly and a teammate can be considered from the viewpoint of his manager, as a soloist. And this is only one example among many.

A last tip regarding while managing people and activities:
Measure values, at least as measuring the results. Values represent the strategy by which we wish to act. If these are correct, and people work by them, we are on the right road.

After all these, I wish to end with a proverb. This time, not a quote of Albert Einstein, rather a old Indian proverb: "You can measure how deep is the well, but cannot measure the deepness if the heart".
The people and their hearts are important as least as the activities (the well).
Let us measure; however, let us remember and cherish the deepness of the heart.


Sunday, November 30, 2008


Conflicts are natural; it is natural that different people will have different opinions; it is natural that different people will have different agendas which they wish to promote. Therefore it is natural that conflicts will take place.

We all tend, and so do I, to refer to conflicts as a negative issue. Nevertheless, as our world is complicated, we must notice, that there are also good results caused by conflicts (and I wish to thank the leading and control guide and the free library of management):
Conflicts help to sharpen and to bring some issues to our awareness;
Conflicts drive people to act upon their truth;
Conflicts trigger organizational and personal energy; if it is channeled correctly, it leverages us.

Yet, if conflicts are not handled and managed, we loose control, and the conflicts can damage both the activities as well as the organization's morality.
Hereby are several factors that can cause higher level conflicts in organizations:
Competitive atmosphere in the office.
Encourages conflicts.
Uncertainty period (low level of security).
Enables conflicts' eruption, caused by the high level of tense.
Unclear definition of job definitions and overlapping between jobs.
Causes people to interfere one in each others job, because of the unclear definition and sooner or later, drives many conflicts.
Low level of communication between people.
Does not cause conflicts directly, but surely enables it, as when there is any suspicion, it turns into an unwanted direction if it is not clarified fast enough,
As best as you can, examine this list and see how you can deal with it. Prevention is always far better than dealing with an existing problem.

Many people speak about finding a win-win situation as a way of resolving conflicts. The idea is based on that, that many times contradicted opinions come from personal interests of the people holding them, but analysis of the interests can build some new shared decision that does not oppose (or only opposes a little) each sides' interests. The idea of mediation is based significantly on this concept. What do I think? A great idea, but surely no "magic maker" as people may tend to believe. Sometime it resolves the conflict, sometimes partly and sometimes it does not do the job. In some cases the conflict is deep-seated and win-win solutions do not exist.

Of course that speaking one with another helps to handle every conflict, and could be a very effective tool. A tool for communication; a tool for being attentive; a tool for understanding differences; and even… a tool for ventilation. Simple- but works.
And, of course that preventing a conflict from being spoke loudly can help, as well as preventing blaming, preventing turning the conversation form issues to people, all these are trivial, yet always correct and surely do their job.

Two tips, I found, that help me:
First, willingness to concede and to give up upon part of the issues that I think are right, not because I am convinced that I made a mistake, but as part as showing the person with whom I am in a conflict that I am trying to find a way to go towards him or her. People act reciprocity. If we go towards them, in many cases, they will come towards us. Simple, but works. This way the conflict can turn smaller and may be handled.

And secondly, another tip, that helps me: Respecting the other person and opinion, even if I disagree with them and do not resolve the conflict itself. There is some issue, which I disagree with one of my workers, how and in what way it should be handled. I tried, two years ago, to give up and let that person handle some big project according to her way. I won't say that there were not good aspects and good results. Yet, as I believed in the first place, there were aspects that I liked less. Now, when a similar project, with the same issue, is again to be handled, I decided to lead it my way. But I do it, both then and now, while respecting the opponent opinion and the person holding it. I am not trying to state that there is no conflict; there certainly is, and we live with it. Not even bad, I believe.

As I said in the beginning of my post, life is complicated. Us understanding the complication and that we have to live and strive not always resolving every issue, and not always having win-win solutions, turn down part of the frustration, and assists us with living with conflicts. Maybe it even weakens some of them.

I wish us all pleasant life, and if possible- Good energy driving conflicts, not annoying ones.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

A good manager

I am writing this blog, now, over a year. Every time, looking at another aspect, another issue concerning management, trying to highlight it for myself, as well as for the readers. Doing so, I find myself wondering: If we collect all the written literature, here, in other blogs and over the web, in hundreds and thousands of management books, it seems as if, the list of skills required for being, what is called, a "good manager" are...endless.
I feel as if anyone who wishes to fulfill this list and turn into a good manager, should be a superman; some virtuoso that is a and b and c, and so on.

It is important, I believe, to discuss the issue, for two complementary reasons:
The first, as a tool for examining myself, seeking where I should focus my efforts on improving; the second, in order to better choose the subordinate managers and help them develop better, so they best manage their employees.

If I would have to choose five and only five skills of a good manager, I believe I would choose the following list:

A manager is a person who knows to take decisions. To listen, to understand, to ask; to agree, to disagree. But at the end of the day- to take a decision. And to know, that I am responsible and later on, I will not blame my partners nor my employees; not my customers and in no way shall I blame the weather. To take decisions and to be responsible for these decisions.

A manager is a person who knows how to motivate people. Motivate people to act; motivate people to act effectively; motivate people to work with sparkles in their eyes and enthusiasm in their hearts. Motivating people is important in a stable environment of work, however it is much more critical in a changing market as we are experiencing, now, in the 21st century. The changing market causes us to check and recheck our decisions, to refine or even change them due to the circumstances, and to motivate people to act upon these changes.
A manager is a person with a presence; a person, that people actually want to listen to what he or she says, and to follow.

A manager is a person who acts. This has several aspects: Acts- does not find it undignified to work, and to even to perform some dirty jobs. Acts- is connected to the field and continues to deal, even though less, but deals, with the professional discipline, in which the company specializes. Acts- analyzing the past and bringing the future.

A good manager is somewhat different. Creative, knowing how to think out-of-the-box, sometimes thinking otherwise than other people think. Your employees do not expect you to think exactly as they do; the organization needs you to think somewhat different in order to burst out and lead. Moreover, you have to find the right way to proceed, however not always the trivial one. Willing to take risks, and knowing that sometimes we will pay for taking them. Innovative.

A good manager is a person. Empathic, attentive, laughing sometimes, other times angry. Also, having weaknesses. Externalize the person whom you are.
Some of the readers may ask: Does humanity (us being people) compensates for professionalism, for the skills of taking decisions, etc.? The answer is, definitely, no; with no doubts. Being human, and even externalizing it, resembles the attitude to the aero digit. A zero, if it comes before a number (01, 079, 013456), adds nothing. However, a zero digit, added after a number (10,790, 134560) adds a magnitude. It multiplies by factor 10. I believe that humanity acts in a similar way: Without the other skills, it is useless. When it comes above them, its what makes the difference.
Be human. Teach your employees whom you manage, to do the same.

If I succeed to stick even only to this list of skills, I hope and believe that I can be in a situation where I navigate the ship, in the right speed, having smiling sailors on my deck.

I surely try.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Shaye Feingboum, a known Israeli Football couch, once explained the reporters: "People say I am a 'motivator'; that means someone who injects motivation to his players".
No doubt, that in every profession, starting from football and reaching teachers, through manufacturing, medical cares and art, the worker's motivation is an essential factor of his or her productivity. No doubt, that motivation cannot be purchased, by a check any manager is willing to sign.

There are many theories that speak about motivation that triggers activity, and hopefully, assists in achieving desired goals. Two of the more famous related theories are Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory and John Adam's equity theory. Maslow defined a pyramid of needs, starting with physiological needs, through safety needs, love/belonging needs, esteems' needs and up to self-actualization needs. The individual's behavior is influenced from all. In order to achieve motivation, we should fulfill all five levels of the individual's needs. The lowest level of unfulfilled needs will be the one to block the individual's motivation. For example, if an individual will not feel safe in the place he or she work, then they can be respected thoroughly (esteems' level), yet will not feel motivated. And vice versa; The more we invest in supplying the necessities of the individual, in more levels, our chances to gain motivation of our worker, will rise.

Adams speaks about another aspect: equity. In order to achieve job motivation, the individual wants fair treatment. Fair is defined by comparing what the person invests in the organization, to what he or she receives; and fairness is defined by comparing what the specific person receives comparing it to what other colleagues receive, the near colleagues (in the same team / place of work) and the more far defined colleagues (working in the same profession / friends, etc.). The Adams theory enables us to better implement Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory: Also, when we give the workers a partial answer for their needs, if they feel that what they receive is relatively fair, these partial answers may be enough for triggering motivation. Even if the business is experiencing difficulties (economical or others), what is important is the relative answer we give to the individual rather than the absolute one.

Above all these wise and important theories, I use various tools in order to motivate people:
First, I understand that there cannot be a uniform level of motivation for all employees and for each employee every day in the year. Motivation is triggered also from character, and people are different one another. Motivation is also influenced by external factors, factors that we cannot control: Coming angry to work, someone in the family sick, separation, etc. We have to be empathic to our employees and compare each one of them only to himself and to no one else. If we feel a motivation decrease, we should give it place, and watch in order to learn if it is an external passing problem, or a trend teaching us there is a motivation problem of the employee in the organization.

On the individual level:
I try to delegate authority. When a person knows that he or she are trusted, motivation increases. Of course, we have to prevent them from feeling "suckers" or helpless. Delegating authority must be accompanied with guiding, and should be conducted in an atmosphere of "big thinking"; not abuse.
I try to challenge my people. Challenges draw motivation;
I try to fit part of the assignments to things I know the person to fill it relates to, or likes to do. I try to highlight these aspects in existing activities;
Moreover, I try to respect and thank. Cherishing people for successful activities and good results is the fuel for motivation in the next activity to come.

On the personal level I try to show people how motivated I am, as much as possible. I try to show a good example, to serve as a role modeler. If we, as managers, are motivated, and if we are out there with sparkles in our eyes, we enhance the chances of our people to be motivated; and vice versa.

On the organizational level:
Two related tips;
First, a good organizational climate; the second, Share the employees in what is happening.
There are only few things better than causing our employees to want to come every morning to work, smiling and with motivation to work. In the company I manage, we held, a few months ago, our yearly satisfaction review. Naturally, the people included criticism too, and naturally, even though the "big picture" was good, these comments turned me sad. The day after we published results, one of the employees knocked on my door. He said: "I want you to know, that even though people included also less favorable comments, I come to work every day, smiling; I like to come to work; and I certainly am not the only one that feels that way". We cannot always have people only say good things and thank us. People tend to want better, and that is a good thing, because it turns the organization into a better one. Yet, we have to remember, to see that the climate is good, that the atmosphere is positive. We have to see to that, that our employees are happy to work in our organization, and happy to start their day with us.

What has it to do with sharing the employees? Employees that are shared in what is happening, feel more safe and less threatened (rumors are a recipe for trouble) and feel more belonging to the organization. Safety and belonging drive motivation. Did we mention, by any chance, Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory?


Saturday, October 11, 2008


"Life and death are in the power of the tongue", said King Solomon, in the Bible (Proverbs 18:21). Sages of blessed memory added: "silence is a fence for wisdom". Not always, speaking is the right thing to do. Not in all cases, using words, adds.

No doubt, that words are significant. They always had. However, it seems, that regarding to work, the power of words turns to more powerful. Why is it so? For two reasons:
First, in the reality that existed one hundred years ago, the employee had less interaction with his manager. Therefore, also if words were powerful, there were fewer opportunities for using them, when speaking about employee-manager communication. Secondly, the relationship between the manager and the employee have turned in the last years, in some aspects to be symmetric, and in others not. This lack of balance drives the word said or written to have much more influence. I will explain:
Today, employment is symmetric. This issue has been dealt in previous posts, but I wish to return to it and explain its consequences on use of words. In the past, a place to work was a choice for life. Today, people are regular to move on every few years, changing their employment. The initiative for such a change could be the manager, but could come also from the worker. This is the symmetry. If, as a manager, you have said something non-positive to an employee, or even you have been understood that way, it is easy for the employee to remember and turn angry and bitter. These can be translated, within time, to people not wishing to stay in work. It is not easy to know about such things. As in other aspects of life, it is easier to rune than to fix. In the former situation, also if such feelings would exist, their influence on the employees stay was minimal. As employees know that they are staying for many years, they knew how to ignore, not to take every issue and empower it. It resembles the relationships between a married couple. We know that the relationship is important; we know we want it to last. So we learn, as adults, not to get insulted from every said by the other. It is obvious that two grown people cannot see everything in the same way, yet it is not worthwhile heart breaking. The fact, that we see a specific place of work as a stage only, eases its breaking.
Yet, there is the a-symmetric part of the manager-employee relationship that was and is to stay: The word of a manager has more power. It has more influence. It flies far.

The combination of these two factors, the symmetric and the a-symmetric, makes life non-balanced. Make the power of the word more significant.

A few things I have learnt, part of them, the hard way:

Beware what you write to your employees. Especially when using email. Formal documents are in most cases professional, and rarely serve as part of the communication between a manager and his or her employee. When we speak with our employee face to face, we see them, hear them and sense them. It is easier to fix mistakes, if we failed in choosing our words. If we write a mail, backing off and rephrasing is much more complicated. Emails tend to be one dimensional, and the employee's impression is not supported by our facial expression, by the tone we use when we speak and by all our body language, which are, as researchers claim, the main part of what we understand in any message.
The use of email in the 21st century flattens the organization in some aspects, and should be considered as a blessing, yet it has potential faults as well. The flattening enables a channel of communication between various levels in the organization, communication that does not exist in other channels. The impact of every written word empowers, as it is not supported by the frame of all other accompanying channels, leaving the communication manly one channel, with one dimension only. Therefore, be careful! Even though it is tempting to write short and straightforward, when writing emails, consider every word and write what you decide- in more than in one way. That way, the chances of misunderstanding, decrease. Of course, we should memorize, time after time, that many issues should not be dealt by mail at all.

When you talk, and even more important, when you write, consider avoiding criticizing together with giving compliments. It is possible, but we should take in mind, as managers, that in many cases the compliment turns transparent. Nobody notices it, even if it was the major part. It does not matter if the complement precedes the critics or comes after. One time after another, I have learnt that people are selective in what they decide to catch. What do I recommend? To decide what is more important in each case, and stick to it, without adding the other part; or, take the risk, those things will be disregarded.

This is the place, before continuing, for an important tip. It is somehow natural for us to criticize, less natural to appreciate and value good things done. Appreciate your employees! When someone does a good job, do not treat it as obvious. Tell him or her, what you think, even better in writing. Even a short mail will do the work. It does not cost, but it is worth, and a lot. You would not believe as how much our employees are yearning to hear something good from us; how important it is to them. They deserve it, so give it! Say something good.

However, do not exaggerate. Write and say only the truth. The words we use, their value is subjective. If we reuse to much the term "excellent", for example, its value, as to the listener, will decrease drastically. If we do not give a complement every day, on every thing, we drive a situation, that when we do complement, its value amazingly is high. That way, it is also easy for us to give it, to say a good word, as we feel inside our hearts, that the people deserve it; that it is significant.

One last thing: When we want to pass an important message, it is best to pass it three times. Use more than one mail, or use more than one communication channel. We were born that way as people. In order to achieve more than hearing, also listening; more than reading, also heart and mind understanding, we must return and say it repeatedly.

Maybe, not in all situations, "Life and death are in the power of the tongue", but in all cases, the words are truly significant. For the better and for the worse.
On that, Sages of blessed memory said: "Wise people, beware what you say".


Friday, September 26, 2008


A few weeks ago, I was invited to some big event. Many ceremonies take place around the country, as Israel is celebrating these days 60 years of independence. This event was a military event that was aimed to saluting a large group of technical people. Usually those people are in the shadow, servicing the others, and therefore, the uniqueness of this event was in putting them in the lights and thanking them for their significant activity that donates to the complete success and security.
Thousands of people were invited to the event and most of them did show up. Unfortunately, an hour before the ceremony started, somewhere else in Israel, two soldiers were killed in a training accident. After waiting a while, the event was canceled. Five thousand people were sent back home, with no party. We are a family, the commander said, explaining the cancellation, after every one had already arrived. A family, in good times and in sad times. Today is one of the sad times. We cannot joy and celebrate.

Can we plan anything? Is there any meaning to planning? I am sure that the brigadier general that set the event in motion, and worked diligently on turning it into reality for six month, did not imagine that the event would end the way it did. I am convinced, that the families of the killed soldiers, that send their beloved ones to another day of operation, did not think that they will never see them again.

Even when we deal with less important events, we plan and not always success to stick to the original plan. In the beginning of my way, as a consultant, I remember that I received a purchase order from a client, after several months working on the lead. Two weeks later, the company was merged into some other company. I was left with an order in my hand, yet with an organization in change that was not in the suitable situation to execute the activity. The button line: zero revenue.

I have many more examples. We plan, and agree on some things, together with an employee, customer or a partner but reality is stronger than any plan. Time is an issue, something else is urgent and our activity is being postponed; replacement of managers and our plan is being canceled. In some case, activity starts and an external constraint prevents its completion. The list of reasons why plans are not fulfilled is very long.

Should we conclude not to plan? This shall we deal with changes affecting our plans?

I will start from the ending point. At "Alice in wonderland", Alice asked the cat, as she reached the intersection: "Which way I should choose?" "Where do you want to get to?" She was asked. "I don’t know". "If so", she was replied, "Any road will lead you there".

We need to plan. Planning serves us in defining the direction we want to get to; designing, the long-term direction, as well as the intermediate stations (the tasks) that will help us get there.
Planning assists us to get much further;
Planning assists us to estimate the required sources (time, expense and other sources);
Moreover, planning assists us to notice the risks, so we can prepare ourselves in the best way possible.

Yet, planning is only an introduction to life, and therefore it may be considered as a baseline for changes. I do believe that we should not stick to the original plan at every case, and never give up. It is necessary to work according to a plan, but yet to know when this plan turns to be only a plan and not anything beyond.

We should be more careful not to turn the planning and the work plans to be a target rather than an aid. Many times, I have seen over occupation on plans and their details. Updating that recurs repeatedly, drawing all management attention to it. We are limited in our ability to dedicate management sources at the same time to too many tasks. We need to remember that the goal of a work plan is to help us and it is not the project or the activity itself. It is possible that the best solution, in case of a need in change, is only the indication of a new layout without dismantling it to a repaired work plan. In other cases, it is possible that the solution include changes of a work plan without getting into details. It is possible that we will ensure a full work plan but we will guide an employee below us to deal with the details, and we, as managers, will not be involved ourselves in this assignment. We have a wide range of solutions. All we have to do is decide that we are willing to compromise. The rest is simple.

However, primarily we need to know not to trust the planning as a promise under no circumstance. You are not a start up or a futuristic project of R&D? So do not act as if you are. If there is a certain forecast of revenue, do not spend it all in advance, as if the Excels are reality. Not before we see the revenues actually in our bank account. Not as a regular expense and not as an investment. My recommendation is to remember the difference between plans and reality.

I have learned, reading Goldratt's management theories, an interesting perception: at any work plan, we save reserves, for time of crises. Reserves of time, reserve of money. In actual life, we burn them all, even if there is no major problem standing in the way. There is more time left? Let us add more features and capabilities to the built appliance, or invest more at the finishes. There is money? We use more equipment and parts, and as before, there are no reserves left out.
The situation resembles our attitude to our personal salary: If it turns higher, most of us get used to higher consuming. We fit our self to existing resources.
Planning triggers resource consuming, even if they were planned for a rainy day.
How can we improve our planning? Goldratt suggests saving all the reserves in a special bank, leaving it at the end; as a separate section, the "reserves" section. We will allow using it only when there is a real problem and additional resource is truly required. That way, we will ensure that the work plan will converge, usually sticking closer to the average need without using the reserves, part of them or all. Those, stay to the end, in the separate section. It is too easy to spend them and this technique helps managing the reserves and controls the use of them.
I make efforts to build my work plan this way. Minimal, but with flexibility. It saves money to me and its saves money for the customers.

The management of the twenty century has made us a bit technocratic, with all management control tools. In the 21 century, I believe, we are required to remember that we have to be much more flexible and creative, in many aspects. Even in planning and in work plans.


Thursday, September 11, 2008


I admit that the first time that I ran into the concept of empowerment was five years ago. Before. I was did not recognize the term. I remember, we worked on a project for some customer in the education sector. If I try to analyze the customer's organization, without too much generalization, I can say that they were afraid of computers. Some of them were terrified. Building a website and knowledge sharing was a very different process of what we recognized and experienced in other places. As part of trying to make things easier for them, we used many techniques; for example, we left many blank areas on each page, so that it would look less threatening. In addition, all graphic art was planned accordingly.
On the contrary, the home page of this website included many terms describing main values of the organization. It included terms as democracy, autonomy, activism, enrichment and more. Of course, empowerment was one of the values.

The truth must be said; I did not relate to those ideas at all; it seemed to me as if the ideas were taken from the ivory tower and was not joint in our day-to-day conception. I wondered on the polarity of my reflection to those ideas versus my reflections to computers and using it as a sharing tool. I admit that I misunderstood the importance of those ideas, being a person that defines herself as rational and practical.
I grew up; I have changed. Also today, I try to reline on the conception of practice; yet I learned the influence of the empowerment and its capability.

Dr. Elishava Sadan defines empowerment as a process that is impact is passing from a situation of manliness, to a situation of relatively control in life, fate and surroundings. This shift can be expressed by improving the sense of capability to control or by improving the real capability to set in motion this control.
The original meaning of the idea is a way of power of attorney -approval to work in the name of the company, kind of delegacy of authority in the social plane that been given to a certain one. There are four categories of empowerment: individual, community based, cooperative and professional. What is not surprising, and of course most positive, is that empowerment in one category usually affects the other categories, and they improve too.
In my terminology, empowerment is a process of development; individual/ community/ collective/ professional strengthening and handing over abilities and skills so that the empowered person could utilize his or her potential in different aspects.

How is empowerment relevant to us as managers?
One of our main roles of managers, as I see it, is empowering the managers in the scale below us and empowering the employees. I personally dedicate to this activity a main percentage of my time, management efforts and resources. Naturally, I concentrate in professional empowerment mostly, and on that I intent to write and share in this post. As one may already understand, I did not always deal with professional empowerment in the same intensity. I assume that in my first years as a manager I felt the need to be on the front stage; I concentrated on guiding workers and advancing their skills. However as a manager I thought that I need to be in front of them. I thought that it the right way to lead them forward, is by giving a good example and shouting "after me".

It is hard to invest hours, time and energy in empowerment. The goal of most of the organizations is to create or to give service. We always have missions to complete; we always have activities regarding some product, service or customer. Usually, their due date is yesterday (or in good cases, tomorrow). To stop and to invest in empowerment it is not a simple challenge. It is so too easy to postpone the important issues as we see the urgent ones.

How do I reduce the chances that it will happen?
In two ways:

First, I remind myself repeatedly of the importance of staff empowerment.
Second, I nominate workers to be responsible for empowerment, and define resources for doing so (mainly time). It is not enough to cover all the aspects of empowerment, yet it is enough to constantly and significantly advance.

I know that it is fashionable today to talk about talent management. Locating a small percent of workers with an exceptional potential and investing more in their empowerment. I am in favor of the opposite method: empowerment of all workers. From my point of view they are all talented. It is clear to me that since the resources are always limited, it means less investment in each one.
As I see it, there is a moral say here about my faith in each one of my workers; there is a say here about my faith in us as an organization. We hired talented people. They are all talented. They all have potential to be even more talented. That is what empowerment is about.

It is very important to communicate the workers how important is to us to empower them, and how important it is to us that they actually will be empowered.

There are two aspects here:
The first one is to encourage the workers to grow; to give them the legitimization to take over new territory at their work.
The second is a message to workers that we believe that they have a great potential. A person's belief in him self is the key of his or her empowerment success.

Above the formally empowerment frame, it is worthwhile to take advantage of opportunities that enable us to strength empowerment.
Recently I was ill. I was absent from work for a long time. It is unfortunate, but it was an excellent opportunity to empower workers and managers. My absence from the office gave the managers under me more place to express them selves, in different terms, that in other circumstances I would have been involved in. A simple example to that is lecturing in conferences. In many places, organizers of conferences prefer the senior person, and naturally I am the one that been invited to lecture and present. My absence required others' participation instead of my self, and suddenly they turned more known in their seniority. They moved to the front stage.

In my first years as a manager, I thought that to be a manager is to be in the front stage, to set good examples and see that people follow me. Today I know that it is right to begin this way, but the wisdom is in the next stage. To be wise enough to move aside or even to the back, and concentrate on removing all stones and obstacles, allowing the managers and the workers below me to run and lead.
This is essence of empowerment. Today I know that it is more difficult to lead when you are behind, but that way you get much further.


To the Hebrew version

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Risk Management

Albert Einstein has said that only those who take risks and go far find out how far they can go. As human beings and managers, we differ also by the level we tend to be cautious or tend to take risks. The truth must be said, we are even more complicated: I can say for myself, and for some close people who I know, that on some issues we are careful and others, take risks; so it is also a matter of issue, not only person.

In work, whether we wish or not, we are exposed to risks: We start selling something that seems "sure", but the market changes; we start developing a project and we have no guarantee that we end it in tine, cost or quality we planned, or be even sure that we reach its ending point. We work with a staff of employees, and someone decides to leave; we receive a large order for monthly service from a customer (working by hours), to find out a few months later that the customer does not have the time and we cannot work even close to the capacity (and income) we counted on. The list is endless. Everybody in work is exposed to risks, managers and workers, but there is a different: We as managers have to take carry the burden. We have to be responsible to the organization, to work, to workers, and to ourselves.

I can say for myself, that at work I tend not to take risks, as far as I can control it. No matter what I do, I know many surprises come with life without me asking, and as I carry the burden also for others, I tend to be cautious. Situations in which I may take risks are those where the main one to loose is me, and not the employees or customers. I know that with risks come opportunities and chances for success, but I hate it as I it means I am to risk other people. That is why I am not built to any start-up; there you must think risk-wise.

Yet, there always are and will be risks, some tips I can share from my own experience:
First, scatter the risks; do not put all eggs in one basket. Prefer several small customers among one big one. I remember, since I was a young girl, a working place, which I was exposed to, and was dependent on one large customer. I remember the day when the connection with this customer came to an ending. When I set up a business, and got my first large customer, it implied a significant growth of my company (from two to five employees). That was the day when I stopped sleeping at night. I started seeking for other customers; I was almost in panic. It took time, almost too much, until I stabilized another large activity, in the same dimensions. The same month, the first big customer collapsed and our work there almost vanished. It is very tempting to work with a significant customer, but we should be sure, that this customer is not 50% of the income, of course not more than that. If the company grows larger, the percentage has to decrease. The same goes for other risks: It is better to have a few small projects than one large one, several products, etc. See what is happening for example with the Crocks company (who sold shoes, until people got tired of them, with on real reason at all).

The risks should be managed, but do not over manage them. We must make priorities what risks we manage, and what we leave out. We must remember that we want to manage and work, not only manage risks about work. We have to decide what the right frequency to manage these risks is. As a rule of thumb, I would say that once a month is a good ratio, but if we are managing a crisis, we manage the risks on a daily basis, or even several times a day, if necessary.

It is important to decide how to manage the risk. As much as it sounds difficult, data and information should be collected, wherever possible, and used in order to manage the risk. Relying on facts and data will help us be more objective and decrease the risk. Sometimes, we think it is not worth seeking, as we probably will not find information or data that will help us anyhow. Yet, it is worthwhile trying. The Business Intelligence is based on involvement of three types: Monitoring (What is happening), analyzing (Why did things happen) and Planning (What can happen in the future). One of the main targets of planning is risk management of the future. It turns, that most of the best performance organizations manage their risks, and do so using Business Intelligence (BI).

However, as we all know, life is more than quantified numbers. It consists of many qualified, intangible facts and assumptions. We have to use other management mechanisms, above the BI ones, in order to decide upon the level of the risk (how likely is it to occur); upon its severity (if it indeed occurs); and on ways of preventing the risk or minimizing its impact.

What do I do?
Try hearing other people who naturally see reality, every one from his or her point of view;
Wherever possible, consult someone external, not emotionally involved who can see the big picture;
Finally yet importantly, do not hesitate. At the end of the day, we as managers have to decide; to cut things down. It is our decision as it is our responsibility.

We will fail. I fail in some risk I take, or are forced to manage (because of external influences). Nevertheless, with some I succeed.

At these times, I try to remember that after all, only those who take risks and go far find out how far they can go.

I wish us all to succeed wherever we are, and specifically, to succeed in managing our risks and failing less.


Sunday, August 10, 2008


My brother in-law is a pilot that serves in the army. More than once, I have heard stories from him, how he and his fellow pilots, serving in the same squadron, succeeded in fooling the pilots from the other squadron in the same base. One may think, that this behavior may suit the youth only, but there is something deeper into it. This is a competition; the same competition that can be observed between departments in an organization, between units in the army, between scientists in universities.

Competition develops; it urges us; it inflames our imagination and drives our motivation. No manager suspects his or her employees that these do not want to work, and will not work if we do not urge them to do so. They are responsible. Managers understand that competition is a partial answer to the endless routine, and competition can, from time to time, increase production.

Nevertheless, competition and compensation have, besides their benefits, some disadvantages.

The first disadvantage, which I experienced, has to do with how it is observed by the employees. "Don't you trust us", they may ask, "that we give the best we can, also without being rewarded by success?"
The second disadvantage, relates with our difficulty to set the right parameters for rewarding the competition; with our limitations in affecting success. We drive people to compete, sometimes against others, sometimes against themselves, and reward them as to pre-defined desired results. Yet, these results depend on various parameters, some external, not being influenced by us, no matter how we act. This may not be a problem if someone was rewarded, relying also on luck; nevertheless, when the opposite occurs, frustration can take place. The more people expect the more disappointment.
The third disadvantage has to do with negative influence experienced while the competition takes place. As it has been reported, in many management books, people want to win, and tend to make figures look better, or at least give their subjective interpretation to results. We do not have to go far to extreme examples as Enron; each one of us has seen many examples of his own.
Another disadvantage has to do with the effect of the competition on other activities of our knowledge workers. These can be someone neglected, while competing. Management focus on a specific issue enables allocating fewer resources, both of the employees and their managers, as to all other issues.
And the last disadvantage, which I experienced, is a result of most competitions being a zero-sum competition. What does that mean? If one department wins, necessarily, another has to lose. And, as in many cases, there are several departments expecting to win, we have more losers than winners. The consequence is that we not also benefit from this process.

What do I suggest? To prevent competitions? Not at all. Some recommendations, based on my experience:
Competition that is not zero-summed is preferred. Two ways of implementation-
A competition in which, every time, a different amount of people win, as regarding to their own achievements. I draw-up, every month, a competition, in which an employee is rewarded as to his or her achievements. In most cases, one employee wins the glory, but not every time. In some cases, a team is rewards, as to their mutual work; in others, more than one employee may win. It all depends on special achievements, not always to do with results that were observed in the ending month. The amount and the definition are not strict. This way, the "good word" reward is never on expense someone else. If you deserve it, and the manager knows it, you will get it, no matter what did the others.
Another "good" competition is competition outside the organization. Every organization has another organization which it competes. Incentive of people to be better of the competitors, thinking how activities can be performed in a higher level than anyone other, surely brings into the organization all the energies that we experience with inside competition. Let us invest our energies in winning others, not ourselves. Of course, we have to be careful, not to cross the lines; not to exaggerate. We have to remain dignified, and more than that, to be honest and fair. Not to find ourselves nearing the edge, enabling the target justify unwanted activities. Our inside differentiation, consolidates us; it makes us a team. This is the rational of the competition between army units. Fighting the others, makes you more connected with your teammates. It has really nothing to do with youth, just another way to compete; another way to crystallize us, just without the disadvantages of inside organization competition.

We just have to be sure we do it right; without crossing any line; without rolling down professional quality; without disrupting human behavior.

I hope we succeed.


Sunday, July 27, 2008


Changes; the world around us is changing. It always did, but it seems, that in the 21st century, the frequency of these changes is getting higher and higher. This fact is true looking at the world in general, and true in organizations, specifically.

Organizations change for several reasons: First of all, the business environment outside the organization is changing. The life cycle of products is shrinking. It is true that products can be designed and manufactured, so they last much longer, but people want to renew. They want to renew because they get tired from the existing; they want to renew because they want new functionality or different solutions, as they get exposed to such in advertisement, in the communication, or by their friends, other consumers. But, that is not all. Technologies change; computing changes; and- our employees change. Not their characteristic, rather their names and faces. If twenty years ago, a person who was hired to work in some organization at the age of twenty, most probably would stay there until he or she have retired, today, we find many people who have more than one carrier, and most people choose to work in more than one organization during their carrier.
The bottom line: Organizations need to be prepared to many changes, external and internal; organizations need to know to adjust; organizations need to know how to manage the changes.

One may think I am speaking about a business, practical change of equipment purchasing, change of processes, change of pricing, etc.; No. This is something much deeper: It involves management; it is a change concerning people.

As explained earlier, organization always had to change, and to know how to change. Nevertheless, nowadays the frequency of changes is higher. Much higher. And there is another issue: Nowadays, it is much more complicated to lead a change in organizations. Hiatt and Creasy, in their book "Change Management", and Surowiecki, in his book "The Wisdom of the Crowds", speak about this problematic situation, each of them from a different aspect: In hierarchical organizations, as we were used to in the past, employees followed instructions. Today, many employees are knowledge workers. They are responsible for decision making in the area in which they expertise. The classic hierarchical structure is not the organizational structure in some organizations (i.e. start-ups) and not the power structure, in others. No matter how we examine it, people do not just do things because they were instructed to do so. I will add and say, that this attitude is even stronger, as many times, we have the feeling that the employee decides whether to continue and work in an organization, and not vie versa. It is much easier for the knowledge worker to explain why the change is not relevant for him or her, why it is inapplicable or why the timing is not appropriate.

So, what can one recommend?
Here are a few ideas. I wish to say, that, beyond my personal experience, and mistakes I have done on the way, I learned a lot from Hiaitt and Creasy's book, which deals with change management.
First, we must understand, as managers, that the personal aspect of changes cannot be managed as one unified process for all employees. Yet, It is obvious, that it is not practical to run an individual management plan for each worker and worker. I recommend analyzing the change management needs, and building a unified plan, or a plan for large segments in the organization (i.e. managers, front line workers). In parallel, to give an individual treatment to thought leaders, for good or bad. The effort seems to be beneficial: Their influence helps moving the organization towards the change. And- to give an individual treatment to feedbacks and to people who give them.

Another recommendation, to do with preparing the change: Do not impose changes on people. Give them a clue, a hint that a change is near. In some cases, it is a hint regarding the coming change, with no details; in others, it will be accompanied with knowledge about the content of the change. This tip is not so easy to implement as it may seem. The organization starts speaking about the change. As we did not announce it yet (we are preparing), more is hidden and unknown. People will tend to guess, and damage can occur. Therefore, the time of the preparation hints should be adjacent to the time of beginning of the change. The professional term is "unfreeze". This tip is also relevant for personal changes. Preparation eases the move.

As we are speaking about knowledge workers, it is very important to communicate the rational of the decision. Not to come up only with the bottom lines- what is changed and how. We, as managers, are aware to the reasons that brought us to decide upon the change. Even though we are sure that the symptoms are hung out there, and everybody can see them, and therefore it is obvious why the change is performed, most times, this is not the case. It is not that we are smarter; we just had the time to think about the reasons, to process, to think about solutions, maybe even several alternatives, and choose one of them- the change to be implemented. The employees, who did not take part of the process, it is important that they will understand the "Why"; the rational, why the change is needed. Why is it important for them to understand? To ease implementation. Naturally, people are not enthusiastic about changes, one may say, they resist changes. People are comfortable with the status-quo. Explaining the "Why" eases acceptance.

The rational issue brings me to another recommendation, to do with channels. We, as human-beings, think and act, both upon our rational, our logic, and both upon the emotional, the way we feel. It is important to deal with both channels, when managing the change. On the rational aspect, besides updating the people as to the reasons of the change, we should also give the tools for implementation. On the emotional aspect, things are more complicated: We should deal with peoples' fears, both the spoken ones and both those who people feel but fear to share. We shall enable the employees to participate, mainly on the "How". It gives the employees a good feeling, but the benefit is mainly for the organization: It leaves us with a better plan for change management and with a better implementation and chances for success.

It is difficult to manage changes, but we shall not avoid them: Changes are one of the main factors, leaving us, as an organization, relevant, business wise. At the same time, it renews the organization and makes the employees more satisfied, on the long run. As much as we fear changes, we like to change and renew. Just as our consumers.

I wish us all, easy but successful changes.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Social Involvement

I have a friend whom I like very much. He likes tigers. Not instead of people, but in addition. A few months ago, I paid him a visit. I brought him a small gift- a tiger mug filled with candies. This person has a collection of tigers (not real ones), and every time I had an opportunity to add a new tiger to the collection, I would explain him why the new one is unique and different from all others. This tiger, I explained, was prepared by limited children. The mug is a donation and we have bought a few dozens of mugs from some organization that sees to that the money will be targeted to the children's' wealth. My friend was enthusiastic. He started taking pictures of me with the mug. He filmed me as if he was preparing a book; from every possible angle. These things, he said, should become public. Everyone has to know, so others will learn too.

Donations; contribution to others. Are these obligations of the individual only or also an obligation of modern organizations? Should it be carried out secretly or publicized? On these, and other questions, in this post.

I live in Israel. We have here a lot of organizations, public and private held, that deal with contribution, as part of the formal framework. I admit, I spent many hours thinking whether this is a right strategy. Contribution has to come from the hearts of people, and not considered as another project that the team has to complete. I think that, even though, probably contribution is a good thing:
Because it is a solution for needs that are so wide, that they cannot be carried out by individuals only;
Because it can work in ways that individuals cannot always do;
And, because, most important than all, contribution initialized by organizations, gives workers, those who did not experience contribution as individuals, the opportunity to do so. And when they have the opportunity, if they indeed fulfill it with their hearts and emotions, it really does not matter who initiated the move.

How can an organization cause people to contribute from their hearts?
First, many do it, without the organization even requesting. They volunteer anyhow, or wanted to do so, and the organization gave them a good opportunity.
Some come with no preceding opinion about giving and contribution to others. Two management tools can help here to open people hearts: One, giving the employees means to influence the process and take an active part in it; let them choose to whom to donate, let them choose how to contribute, etc.. The second is direct contact with those who are in need. The satisfaction, we as people, get from the another person smiling and thanking us, is huge. Not much can be compared to such satisfaction.
And there is another group of employees: Those who are not in favor with such activities. Some speak loud, most do not. Sorely, I can say, that probably these people exist in most organizations. These people should have no place and should not be employees in any proper organization! Even if they are professional, even if they well know their job, it is better for managers not to choose such people when they hire additional staff. You may ask, why? Every organization is meant to fulfill its mission. In private organizations, this means to make profit; in public ones, the mission changes, but in all organization, excluding charity organizations, we have a well defined target that is not contribution to society. As an owner of a private organization it is very clear to me that in order to win, I need the most professional employees I can afford. Even though, I insist that from egoistic reasons organizations shall not employ workers who resist contribution to those who need. And more than ever, this is right, now in the 21st century. We employ knowledge workers, workers whom we have to trust, workers who are in some way, self managers. I for myself, had a very bad experience, trusting, a few years ago, an employee that betrayed me, left with company assets and used them in order to directly compete the company. We were facing a situation where we were going to loose money, and possibly big money. The end of that story was a good one, as I won in court and damages were halted. You may ask about the relevance of this story to the post, but the connection is simple. The main issue that bothered me was how much can I trust employees in the future, yet promising that such situation will not recur. Once, one can err, but twice?

After long thought I came up with a clear conclusion: I must continue and trust my employees. I shall not change the way I control their work and suspect future betrayal. I have to find a different way. The way I chose is to employ from today on, only workers who have personal experience in contribution to society. Such contribution softens our hearts, and whoever felt the need to help other people and did so, without requesting anything in return, can be trusted as a human been. Of course this is not instead of seeking professional people, it is an additional condition. I admit that people, when interviewed, are very confused and do not understand why these kind of questions are asked. One can see it on their faces. I do not explain. But I know that according to their answers we know if the person is a potential worker in our company. Up till now, this method proved to work. I believe it will continue, too.
As I said, egoistic reasons.

Some may notice I used the term "social involvement" and did not speak about "social responsibility" a term that is well coined nowadays. I, personally, do not feel comfortable with being responsible. It seems to me as patronizing. We, responsible for them. I think, that being involved is speaking and doing being on the same level. And so it is. We never know what will happen tomorrow and where we will be. Being humble serves good.

Speaking about humble, there is one more issue regarding the organizational contribution. Contribution, in organizations, is hard to implement as a secret, leaving it as possible unknown. Not-speaking too much has a great advantage, not because there is any shame here. Speaking in organizations may help the doing. Yet, organizations have to be very careful. Over speaking and over publication can result in a situation where we enjoy the publicity, and do not do for the sake of doing.
The end of the story I opened with, is that my friend, after all, did not publish the pictures. I was glad. I was left with the "book". The mug and me. For me, that was enough.

Blessing us all, just good.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Specialization is considered as professionalization. Sub-specialization makes us node with our heads, stare with admiration. How far is it right to focus and specialize? Where is it right to put the limits?
As in former posts, all that is written is right for knowledge workers, and may not fit other organizations, which have different characteristics.

In the past, there were mega-organizations that did everything by themselves, because they could: They calculated costs and decided it is cheaper to in-house manage all facilities, cheaper than buying the facilities from the providers. A fascinating example can be examined in the Army: They have their own medical services (and not only for those soldiers offshore in the battle); they have their own garages, responsible for treating the cars that the officers hold. As years past, we see a change in attitude as the army and other mega-organizations understand that maybe it is wiser to work with out-services. Partly, this change is triggered by re-calculation of costs; not less, results from management considerations: handling all issues, draws our attention and leaves less time for the core issues. I will add, that I think we cannot be the best on everything. Organizational focus has several advantages:
It enables one to be the best in what it focuses (boutique rather than supermarket);
It enables one to get the co-operation from those who specialize in complementary matters; any other way, may lead to competition also on the unique and specialized subjects;
It enables the organization to pit the best resources in the right places.

Are there any disadvantages? Of course there are. Every organization serves customers. The customer does not want to order his tea bag from one supplier, the sugar from another and the spoon and mug from the third and fourth suppliers. He wants a cup of tea. When we, as an organization, define our limits of focus, we have to think about ourselves, bet nevertheless, also think and define things from our customers' point of view. It has to be well defined, where we do not give a complete solution, and relationships with other suppliers must be defined. I will not state that working with other suppliers is always a harmony, but it sure is possible, and in most case, beneficial.

The same questions reside inside the organization, and even inside the unit. But here, I believe, the answers are different. Of course we will distinguish the engineering unit from the manufacturing unit; of course the salesman does not deal with bookkeeping. I am speaking within the unit. We have reached such specializations, that many times every mission relies on bringing together many people for every decision. Knowledge working, naturally, will include a high level of collaboration between the members of a group. The question is how much. Too broad, may result in a situation where integration turns to be a bottle neck and almost impossible. Involving to many people in each task, results higher costs of each project.

How do we find the right path? We have to enlarge the understanding of knowledge workers, who specified in defined topics, also to complementary topics as well. In enlarging the understanding, I mean- operatively: To know, to implement and to further develop. Of course, consultancy of the experts is recommended, but, to some level, we have to learn from them, and consult them in this manner: in order to learn from them and know better for ourselves. So next time, we will be able to answer part of the questions for ourselves and just validate them with the expert. We speak a lot about the synergy from working in collaboration: Understanding complementary expertise enables us experiencing synergy with ourselves. And, when turning to consult others, we come with a better starting point. I am not trying to say that sales and engineering shall be performed by the same person. We have to decide where we cooperate with others. Yet, we shall not over specialize. If every expert will understand a bit more in what the others do, he or she can see a broader picture. The expert will be able to develop more innovative ideas, and will also benefit on the personal level, enriched by the new knowledge and offering our customers better solutions.

I think, that even though the initial drive for understanding others' jobs, may be cutting off expenses and management efforts, the main benefit is conceptual and turn us into better workers.

I can say for myself, that I work in knowledge management, a profession that involves organizations' cultural understanding, computing understanding, processes understanding and content understanding. Indeed four different disciplines. I grew up in IT units. I learned math and computer sciences. As the years past by, I learned to understand and implement also the other disciplines. The way I worked, is always to hire people with complementing education and experience, to learn from them and to teach them. I turned myself into a knowledge management expert: Today, I know how to manage changes; I know how to effectively organize content; I understand in organizational processes and how to draw the knowledge near the existing processes. I think that by combining these different disciplines I can give a better solution to my customers; nevertheless, the major benefit is mine. The combination enables me to better and deeper understand each discipline; the combination enlargers my horizons. I as a person, am so far from where I was ten years ago, when I specified in computers only, also computing expertise is considered prestigious.

I benefited. I believe we all do.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Company Values

Twenty years ago, I had the first opportunity to manage a group of (knowledge) workers. I served in the army in a computing unit of the Israeli Air Force. One day, a new commander arrived. He had new ideas that seemed very odd to us, back then. A few weeks after he arrived all the building was filled with big signs: "Quality counts". Today, twenty years later, I understand the rational behind this move. At the time, I did not. I was not the only one. No one explained. The signs turned to be a joke, and so did the commander.

Years passed by, and methods became more sophisticated. We started to see, in organizations we worked in, visions and missions, and we took part in teams that have helped defining parts of them. I cannot say that a vision existed, in every organization I worked in. Some organizations dealt with these issues, others did not. I cannot even state that there was any correlation between immediate business success and existence of company vision and values.

A few years ago, I decided that the company, which I established, could be considered as an organization (we reached 10 employees). We were mature enough to have our own vision and company values. We worked thoroughly on definitions. I handed in the first draft, rather excited to one of the company founders, that was not involved in the daily activities. His response was rather chilly: Why deal with values? Better deal with numbers. And do not misunderstand: the company was profitable.

This is a real dilemma. Is there place for vision and company values in 21st century organizations? Is their importance or place different from what it was before?
I spent many hours dealing with this issue. This founder, with whom I spoke, was a special man, a leader that managed several organizations and has strategic thinking. Yet, something important has been said. It could not be ignored. I examine the society in which we live; a society that seems to be materialistic and hedonist; a society in which cynicism is appraised. Is there place in such society for company values?

The truth must be said. As much as I thought about the issue, I had and have no doubt that company values are a necessity. Values are the road signs, guiding us how to appropriate work and behave; both as managers and as workers. Moreover, today in the 21st century, I feel that we need them more and not less. People move from one work to another. No one career, of course no one working place. People, wiser than me, have discovered that what holds an employee in the organization is not salary. Of course, salary has to be fair. Otherwise, the dissatisfaction will be so great, and nothing else will be considered. People, despite the materialistic shell, want to come and work in some place that they feel good in it. Feeling good is a consequence of the nearby environment- the team, and the larger environment- the organization. Feeling good- is a place with which they identify with, and are proud to be part of. This is where the company values come in. The forbidden and "must" are defined by regulations and procedure. The right and justified, the appropriate, is defined by the company values. If we do not have values, we are just a bunch of workers sitting in the same place; little will connect us one to another. Such organizations will experience difficulties in retaining employees in the long run.

The process of designing the company values starts in peoples' hearts in the first years of the organization's life, refines and becomes instituted within the next years, as the organization grows and builds its unique culture. In fact, writing down the company values, is not supposed to invent anything new, rather document the existing, focusing us; assisting us to distinguish between what is important, and what is more important; stating to all employees, that this is our way of life.

A few tips I believe in, all to do with designing and documenting the company values. Some I have learnt the hard way:
  • Do not define too many values. Three years ago, we worked on a set of values for our organization. We defined nine values, all reflecting the company's spirit, and way of work. One day, recently, I tried to memorize the list. I found out, that I, as the manager of the company, could not remember the whole list. If anyone will test me, I for sure distinguish between principles that are part of our values, and those that are not. Yet, I could not remember the whole list! I understood that something is wrong. If I would have nine children, I would remember all their names, for sure. I have twenty employees and I remember all their names. Etc. There was no excuse. If the entire list was that important- I should remember it. Today we are in a process of rewriting the values. The process is more difficult than the initial one, as this time we are focused on choosing the most appropriate values from this list. We limited ourselves to four values.
  • Share; make people part of the process. Otherwise, they may think that it is all declarations and not something we mean to act upon. Just the way I thought twenty years ago when I saw the sign (and I must state that back then, I was even part of the management team). If we want people to feel comfortable with the values and we want the values to connect them to the organization, it is obvious that they have to be part of the process. Even though it takes time; even though it is instead of other working activities.
  • Make sure that the values are planted in peoples' hearts. There is importance to visibility; there is more importance for assuring that the values do not stay on the wall (or in the website), rather affect practical behaviors. As part of defining the values, define desired behaviors.
  • Last, but not least. I spent many hours lately, going through other companies lists of values. We all want to be the same. It is natural that all companies want to be professional, but having the same lists brings us back to square one. If so, how do we convince our employees that we have a special organization, through the value list? Why to stay and not move on? Yet, the shared values are so correct. Shall we give them up, as other organizations have chosen them before we did? Examining happy families, one call tell that the common is greater than the differentiators are. I recommend, adding some values that other have, if they really define us as a company, but leave place also for some unique values, that no one else has. All this (and this is the hard part), without adding more values altogether, than defined in our limits (see above).

At the end of the day, the values are our company's spirit. Do not stay without them.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Encouraging the doing

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, a Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright, is well known to many of us as the author of the one of the kind book: "Don Quixote". This is not the only book written by him, but indeed the most influential one. In his book, Saavedra writes: "There is a big difference between speaking and doing".
Being honest with ourselves, all of us, as managers, workers and private people, are living examples. We all know that there are things that are right to be done and even though we are aware, we do not behave accordingly; we know about techniques and methodologies that were proven successful, and yet we do not take action.

What makes us concentrate on speaking rather than on doing? What makes us know more and implement less? How can we be sure that our employees, whom we manage, do more than speak? In an era of knowledge, when we rely on what our employees decide to share, and can only partly control what actually is done and achieved, it is important to give them, and give ourselves, the tools to encourage doing, and better balance speaking and doing.

I think I always tried to preach what I say. Enough? Probably not. A book I have read over a year ago, "the Knowing Doing Gap", written by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton, is my guide to this non-ending dilemma.

Why do people tend to speak rather act? There are several reasons:

First, we appreciate people who speak. Sometimes even more than those who do: Because speaking wisely is here and now, and results of doing are observed only later;
Because speaking outlines the message, but it takes some thinking to understand the messages behind the acting;
Because people who speak (if they do not exaggerate) are considered as people who influence and in some cases, even thought leaders;
Because in colleges and universities in management programs we talk and write, but hardly actually do;
And...Because most of us were appointed to our jobs after checking mainly our speaking skills.

Secondly, we all were all brought-up learning that planning is essential before acting, and the more we plan, the less we need to work on doing. In some projects, we finish all resources of time, money and management care, and yet we are in the phase of planning.

Furthermore, it is easier to speak than do; it requires less energy.

The list is of reasons why to speak rather act is not that short. I will just add that it is very challenging to change existing habits of work, in order to do new things. Leading the change is so difficult, that in some cases we convince ourselves that if we speak, we also implement. Are organizational activities of building a vision and sets of values, actually turning the vision and values into reality? Is a manager stating in the company broad meeting that innovation is important, actually implementing innovation of his people? And there are many more examples.

A few tips that assist in assuring that we will also act and not only speak:

  • Pay attention to the balance between meetings and doing; pay attention to the balance between documents (presentation, white papers) and fieldwork.
  • Implement the organization's values and turn them into reality; they probably are guiding us in the right direction.
  • Promote mainly, workers from inside the organization; less, bring managers from outside. Encourage the incentives of employees to act.
  • Assure that every manager and manager works on the field level and does not purely manage others, just remembering the fieldwork from the past.
  • Speak simple. It is OK to have a complicated idea if it can be explained in simple words and can be translated into simple actions. If people understand what is expected from them, there is a good chance they will actually do it.
  • Distribute responsibility and authority; be patient to mistakes that result. People will not act if they are to be punished when they err.
  • Prevent measuring results of the individual employee. If we measure- measure processes of work rather than results. Measure teams rather than individuals. By that, we encourage work within teams (that is so important in the era of knowledge workers). Only measuring results may trigger short-term benefits, but can damage and act as a boomerang in the long term. How to measure the individual? Measure them as to how they comply with the organization's values.
  • Prevent competition inside the organization. Most of the competitions are sum-zero and if someone wins, we have others that loose. We all know that competition is a trigger for motivating the people and we all have examples that prove it (i.e. in sports). Competition is important? Encourage outside competition.
  • Nurture learning via workshops and hands-on experiencing. Lectures deal with speaking. Teach people through doing. Who learns from doing – does.

In addition, a last tip. I, personally, prepared a short list based on these guidelines and it is presented in front of me every day, pasted on the wall in my study room. At least, once a month, I check myself to see that I did not turn to be an over-speaker in one way or another.

What will we benefit? First, more doing. Later on, more self-satisfaction; and in the end- probably better performance, to our organization, our families (if we took the tips that direction), or if we are lucky- then both.

It is worthwhile. Try it.



Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Time Management

Most of us are in a rush. We are always busy. We have to prepare a proposal for the day before yesterday, to give an answer to an open question for our boss, and we are three hours late, and to accomplish another mission within one day. We live in a "no time" reality. Once, we used to believe that this is a result of the bubble age, but the bubble exploded and yet we have no time. Still we experience requests ASAP; yet in every project, we work around the clock up-till the due date, and many times, even after.
Lee Iacocca, the former CEO of Chrysler Corporation, once said that the ability to concentrate and smartly take advantage of time- is everything.
Without being as smart or successful as Iacocca, I could not agree more. I feel, on a personal level, that time is a most precious resource, and in some cases, more important even than money.
Time is a misleading resource. On one hand, it is limited; there are only 24 hours every day. On the other hand, many times, those people who seem to be busier than others are, find the time to take additional responsibilities, much more than other, less busy people.

It is important to manage time as managers, twofold:
First, the knowledge work is characterized by handling many tasks and working in parallel. Even, if we are under the impression that we are handling one task, it usually includes many sub-tasks, and these do not tend to be processed one after the other. We, as managers, surely have more than a handful of tasks, whenever examined.
Secondly, we manage people, who have to know how to manage their time, by themselves. It has already be written, that knowledge workers manage their own routine. We, as their managers, have to give them the right tools to manage the time, and to find ways to assure they actually do so.

A few tips I can share, for managing time, based on my own experience:
  • To understand that feeling busy and being busy are not exactly the same thing. One of the reasons that some people tend to overload themselves with additional tasks, and do succeed in carrying them out, is based on them not living with the feeling that they have no time. Coping with the feeling of "no time", is sometimes more demanding that actually having no time.
  • Defining regular and steady hours, in which we read and handle Emails. Reading every Email, as it arrives, disturbs and interferes our concentration. It harms, both the source task being produced and the Email now arrived.
  • Define in advance (and teach the employees to do the same), for every task that is meant to take longer than an hour, the time we are willing to invest in performing it. We tend, many times, to invest more, in order to achieve the highest quality level we can. In many cases it is not worthwhile the effort. In other words, we put more than the organization, or the customer, wants us to. As in other situations, dear Pareto, plays a significant role (20:80) in advising us where to stop. However, it is not good enough only to plan efforts. We must assure we do what we praise. We must assure we do not only plan, but also finish tasks within the frame time defined. Defining time is already a first step in helping us managing our time better. Our will to fulfill is the second step. Performance is the third.
  • Work on tasks and complete them, as soon as they arrive (after finishing the previous ones we already started). I usually say that starting earlier does not mean I spend more time on a task. Vice versa. When the issue is fresh, it is easier and faster for us to work on it and complete it. We also save time of managing all open tasks, if we keep a clean table.
  • Assure ourselves, that we leave time for handling, not only the urgent, but thee important as well. Handling the urgent wears us out. Handling important tasks is sometimes more important, both for the organization and both for us as individuals.
  • Define frame times in the calendar for working on tasks that we do not find any other time for completing. If we are strict with ourselves and do not cancel these self meetings, time after time, we can clean-up the table, from time to time, and restart managing better our time, every time we think things go out of control.

In addition, one last tip: See that your people take vacations. For us, as an organization, it is cheaper that they work and we pay them for these days. For their sake, see that they really take vacations. That will give them the strength to go on. That also, is part of time management.

Some wise person (unknown) once said: "Two facts about time management: a) you cannot control the time you are born or the time in which you die. b) all points between the two, are negotiable."
Probably we can control most. Let us take advantage and indeed do.


Thursday, April 24, 2008


"Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower" (Steve Jobs).
No doubt, that we all want to be innovators; we want to be leaders. We want the organization we live in to be innovative. By all what is said and written, innovation is a key for business success; moreover, it is exciting to work in an organization that innovates; much more than to work in a conservative organization that never changes.

However, innovation is not as trivial as we would expect. Continuous innovation even may contradict the concept of knowledge re-use. One of the challenges, that few people have dealt with, is how to define when it is right to re-use, and when innovation is preferred.
Innovation is not as trivial as we would expect. Because innovation is not only hiring a good consultant and setting an innovation team, and ending the year, we have a new product or service. Innovation is a way of life. Innovation is something ongoing, part of the routine, not a project with a beginning, some tome and an end. Innovation is one thing we would want employees to have in their blood; not only one exceptional excellent employee, or one group of managers, rather all of them.
Innovation is not as trivial, as it is not only related to products, rather relevant to various organizational layers: Operational innovation; Innovation in processes; Innovation in products or services; strategic innovation; and innovation in management.
Innovation is not as trivial, as it not really can be managed. It relates to culture. Therefore many steps can be proceeded, all in the right direction- but the aim of all is nurturing the continuous innovation and not creating it.

The task of explaining what innovation is, what its components are and how to facilitate it, is complicated and suitable for a book and not for a post. However, I think it is possible to share some of the tools I use, in the organization I manage, in order to nurture and encourage innovation.
There are two types of activities: practical ones, and cognitive one. Both are important and I do not believe one type can be skipped.
Practical activities include:
Working in teams; small teams that enable discussion and strengthen innovation.
Employing different people to work together on the same team/project/type of job. Formal job definition may lead us to the "ultimate". There is no such thing. Several years ago, I found myself employing female managers, one after the other, with two many similar characteristics to those of myself: women, mission oriented, very energetic. Today, the staff is heterogynous. So are all other employees. Heterogynous in their characteristics, heterogynous in their education (for the same job) and heterogynous in the experience they had in life.
I make efforts to assign each employee to more than one project (in parallel), and as much as possible, to different types of projects, and with different contexts. I make efforts to mix people, so that every employee has the chance to work with and see different perspectives of different employees.
I make efforts to enable my employees to be independent; to distribute the power and the decisions. I encourage the managers under me, to act in the same way.
We professionally enrich all workers on a regular basis (twice a month- six hours altogether). The things we teach and share include practical knowledge together with higher-level knowledge, knowing that what is not relevant for the employee today, will help him or her tomorrow. Help on a different project, or even help in understanding and seeing more perspectives to what is done today.
We demand our employees share new knowledge and good ideas, on a monthly basis. When the company was small, we did it as part of our face-to-face meetings. As the company grew, this became very impractical, and we now renewed the new sharing in some other routine formats.

However, beside the practical activities, there is the cognitive perspective.
The cognitive perspective includes:
Us recognizing, as managers, that knowledge and ability do exist, and mainly in the field. The first consequence of such understating is that everyone has to be some part of his or her time in the field, including all managers, top down. The second one, is recognizing (and that is not as simple as one says it) that our employees, even though they are younger, even though they have less experience, still, are those to innovate. Not tomorrow, rather today. Moreover, not only adding new but also contradicting what we successfully did yesterday. Dealing with Knowledge Management so many years, it indeed took me some time to open myself to learn from my employees. The change- was in me.
The employees recognizing that innovation is expected from them, and even as a demand. Innovation is not only a nice value declared as part of the company's mission and strategy, rather practical. Recognizing that innovation is a right, that innovation is an obligation, enable and ease the minds to start innovating.

More than all, personal example is required. Never, never stop renewing and innovating myself. Innovation is an organizational engine for growth, but not less a personal growth engine.
It contributes me, and a lot.