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.