Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I have been through twenty years of management and two years of writing this blog. I am not giving up management, but I think this blog ought to be closed. I think most topics have already been covered and additional posts are bound to repeat existing ones.

Am I the ideal manager? Obviously, not. Do I make mistake? Sometimes, even when I follow the path outlined in this blog. I know that real life is more complicated. There are issues that not be covered by any post; Different values, contradicting each other, can be covered, by different posts, but in real life they have to be faced together and the dilemma has to be resolved. There are times that I stick to what I planned, but being only part of the situation (even if it is the manager's part), I cannot control others' behavior having things done my way.

Does this imply that my observations are impractical and do not yield results? Not at all.
They improved my performance and I think that, at the end of the day, they contributed to my success.

I hope that reading these ideas, adding them to you own experience and implementing them in real life scenarios, will assist you as well.
I can say for myself, that developing these ideas through the years, testing them and even formulating them for this blog, has done and is still doing a great deal for me.

I thank you for reading this blog and for the encouraging replies I received. During these passing two years of blogging, besides the written talkbacks, I received additional support in other forms.

Thank you.


p.s. I may return with another blog. Goodbye for now.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Close your eyes, and think about leadership. What comes to mind is the tern charisma and names like Ben-Gurion, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jeff Walsh, Rudy Giuliani, Lee Kuan Yew and many others. The impression is of something beyond reach. Not people like us; we are people and perhaps managers; they are leaders.

Peter Drucker, in his book, "Managing for the Future: The 1990s and Beyond " (1992), discusses the importance of leadership to organizations. James Surowiecki, in his book "The Wisdom of Crowds" (2004) came to the same conclusion. Managers, so he claims, turned during the nineties to leaders, or even to superstars. Think about this name list and what became of them. Most managers failed in other organizations, after leaving the one that they excelled at. Political managers were not re-elected or ended their lives in solitude.
Reading this Drucker book reveals that despite the title about leadership, the book is actually about economics, people, products, marketing, managing and organizations. In the few pages dealing with leadership as we know it, Drucker writes about lack of managers charisma and about charisma as a curse for managers.
Heifetz and Linsky wrote an interesting book about leadership ("Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading", 2002) and they, like Drucker, shatter the leadership myth. What is leadership? It is the activity of leading a group through change.
As I write this, I feel this post is different. I quote a lot of others, instead of talking about myself. And, indeed, compared to giantss like Drucker and the others, I am humbled.
Am I a leader? If we take Drucker, Hefez and Vlinsky and remove charisma. Then I can say I am a leader, a change leader. I lead change in the perception of knowledge management in Israel, and about its professional implementation. I am not alone in this process, but I have done my share: in developing methodology, teaching it through seminars, articles, newspaper and portal, and by actually implementing it in many organizations.
I lead my firm. I move it forward to success and to stay in the lead.
In other areas I am not a leader. I am satisfied with what I have.
Of all the things I read and learned about leadership, I find some to be most important:
First, the understanding that leadership involves sharing. Despite the "lone rider" impression of the leader, lack of emotional and practical support will make change management very difficult; It would make leading people more difficult.
This item is first for a reason. It is not trivial and I don't want to create the impression I wrote it just because it is "the right thing to say". If we fail to understand we are part of a partnership, we lose twice: We will fail in business and it will be easier to fall into the arrogance pit.
Belief in the cause is important. Leaders lead non trivial changes; If he change was simple, it would have happened by itself. The leader must have fate, willingness and motivation. Belief about the cause, belief about the way, belief about his own willingness to lead the change and belief about his ability to do so.
It is important to understand that leading change is not a "9 to 5" day job. Leading change requires total 24 by 7 dedication. We must be willing to put all of our time and energy into the organization and the change we are leading. It has a price tag. The price is spare time, quality family time. There are no free lunches, and we must be aware of that.
It is important to know proper change leading methodologies. We won't get into details. I wrote a specific post, and even there could not cover the topic. Some people have good intuition and can lead change without proper study but for most of us, success in leading change can be improved by learning.
Last but not least – setting an example is important. We must set an example of hard work, proper conduct, set an example by implementing what we require of others. Leaders who fail in exercising their own teachings will not have long-term followers. As Lincoln said "You can't cheat all the people all the time (in all matters)".
In the Bible we read about different leaders. It is interesting to see some negative details about the great leaders, even though the Bible is very poor in details. The best example is David. A great king, conqueror and believer. Along side these characteristics, the Bible tells of his improper behavior towards Bat-Sheba. Some scholars try to explain David's behavior, and insist he did not sin. I prefer others who say he erred and sinned. I think the Bible tried to show leaders as flesh and blood, capable of mistakes, in order to make it easier for us. So that we understand, leaders are not far from us. We can be leaders as well, even if we have our faults. Each s us managers can be a leader. We must want this. We must be determined and not despair in spite of resistance (and there will be resistance). We must be wise in our leadership.
We must be 21th century managers.


Saturday, October 10, 2009


Kyuzo Mifune is one of Judo's experts (after Jigoro Kano, Judos founder). When asked about Judos essence, Mifune said: "Judo rests on flexible action of mind and body. The word flexible however never means weakness but something more like adaptability and open-mindedness".
Like in many other management topics, we can learn about flexibility from the art of Judo. I think an organization that offers flexibility to its employees has a great advantage. In fact it seems to me to be one of the important aspects of working in an organization. An employee who experienced a flexible organization will have a hard time in a more rigid workplace.
In this post, part of a blog about managing employees, I'll concentrate on flexibility toward our subordinates. There are other aspects of organization flexibility. An organization that easily adjusts to market trends, for example, will succeed. But, as I stated, this will not be the subject of this blog, and I will focus on flexibility in managing employees.

Why is flexibility important?
Operational flexibility makes employees' life easier. It reduces vacation time spent on everyday chores, and increases effective work time even if the employee is a parent to little kids and has to leave work early. More than that, operational flexibility enables employee evolution. It helps managers answer different employee ambitions, as well as their unique needs as employees and human beings. The result is improved organizational achievement as well as better employee development toward his or her goals. Most important, flexibility leads to better employee satisfaction, and this in itself is part of their promotion.

How can flexibility take place?
Operational flexibility can mean flexibility in the place of work (such as part time work from home); the time of work (night time, morning hours); flexibility in authorizing special expenses (such as return of money when receipts were lost); flexibility in using vacation days and allowing leave without pay, etc.
Managerial flexibility can mean flexibility in the level of control over each employee; flexibility in the training program assigned to each employee; flexibility in employees' career building path; flexibility in job description. The list is endless.
Every organization needs to be flexible according to its abilities. There are some areas where a big organization can be more flexible, such as defining many education programs and allowing employees to choose between them. In other areas, small organizations find it easier to be flexible, since the chain of command is shorter and the bureaucracy can be reduced. The meaning of this is that there are no winners and loses. Every manager in every organization must understand the potential for flexibility and exploit it as best they can.

Where must we refrain from flexibility?
Like in any other aspect, too much flexibility can damage. I try to put three limits to flexibility:
Don't be flexible when there is a chance to break the law (work hours report for a public organization);
Don't be flexible as an excuse to giving up on our principles;
And don't be flexible when it can be interpreted as favoring some employees at the expense of others that were not treated in a flexible manner.
How do you know when to be flexible and how not to cross the line? I don't have a concrete answer. Who said life is easy?

Above all, flexibility implies that we trust our employees. Do not worry: even if some will misuse this trust, most will repay out trust and flexibility in kind.
It is worth it.


to the Hebrew version

Monday, September 28, 2009


I know of no organization that does not list excellence as one of its core values.
Everyone wants success, each organization according to its mission and goals. Ask any employee, from the senior manager to the junior employs, what is excellence, and they will know what you mean. Some can articulate their understanding while others are less clear about it. However, everyone understands excellence.
I will take some of it back. It is said that "perfect is the enemy of good". This saying implies that too much investment in quality could be wrong: It might do more harm than good, it might have only marginal benefits and, in other cases, it might not be cost effective.
We must refine the definition of excellence to include more than quality: product quality, service quality etc. We must include cost (money and other resources) and define excellence as the combined success of all these elements.
The million dollars (or maybe more…) question is: "What creates excellence?" How do we implement this marvelous value? How do we create an excellent organization, where excellence is employees' goal and they manage to achieve it?
I recently read a book about excellence called: " Outliers: The Story of Success". It was written In 2008 by Malcolm Gladwell. I discussed the book with my daughter, who read it as well, and she highlighted an interesting point: The book talks about out tendency to attribute success and excellence mainly to talent. It shows, one example after another, how other factors, unrelated to talent, are the makers of success. I tried to learn from the different examples what to do as an individual and as a manager in the 21st century who stated (yes, me too) excellence as one of the four core values of my firm. My daughter pointed out the pessimism in this book. It gives a lot of credit to opportunity and cultural heritage in achieving excellence. These two factors are driven by chance, not by brains. This is indeed a pessimistic approach. But, despite this tone, opportunity and heritage hide many other parameters that influence success: hard work, patience, education and discipline, meaning (see also "A whole new mind" by Daniel Pink), communication etc. I counted a long list of about 15 elements affecting success and excellence.
I do not believe in long lists. I believe in Pareto and in our need, as individuals and as managers, to focus on the top three elements. I tried to compile my own excellence factors list. Three was not enough but I managed to stop at four. My excellence creating factors are:
a. Professionalism. A combination of talent, education and experience.
b. Hunger. Never being satisfied with what you have, ever wanting more.
c. Meaning. The knowledge that a mission is important; that it will give me satisfaction (Maslow's hierarchy of needs).
d. Teamwork. Collaborating with people of different background and complementary experience. Simply – with other people.

The first and last factors are those I can influence as a manager. Giving meaning to our work can be done at a top level, even if it is not easy on a day-to-day basis. Creating hunger is not easy at all. We can give role modeling, set challenging goals, but our influence is limited.

And I almost forgot – positive feedback. Complementing people for their effort and success are always factors that motivate to try and succeed next time.
To sum up, let us look at a different point of view, proposed by Marva Colllins (in spirit of Aristotle): "Excellence is not an act but a habit. The things you do the most are the things you do the best".

An excellent day to all of you.


Thursday, September 10, 2009


Last week I took three days off. Three full days (or maybe two plus) in which I did not work. I was on vacation.

Maybe some of us have not noticed, but in the past few years, as technology has developed, the lines between work and home are not as sharp and bright as they used to be. If in the past, people worked on constant hours, today the situation is quite different:
Many people hold personal computers belonging to their workplace. They connect after formal working hours from home. Others connect through their personal computers, answering emails and helping on other urgent matters. Even banking and defense-based companies, which cannot reach their materials outside the organization, as to total separation due to security, find themselves answering to phones on various hours (we all have cellular phones nowadays). Those who work in global companies, or with global connections, experience non ending working hours as a routine.

Vacation, therefore, is the only time when the worker absolutely rests from work. There are organizations where weekends can be considered as full rest, but I have seen to many organizations, where people partly work on weekends. Some, belonging to homeland security, others, preparing proposals for towards deadlines. Furthermore, weekends are too short for people to really rest and stop thinking about work. Most of us continue thinking about work every weekend, also if we do not actually work.

It is important therefore, that we, the managers, will see to it that our employees do take vacation. It is important, that we, as well, will take vacations ourselves. Of course, it may seem, that for the organization, it may be more profitable that employees work more, and we pay them for the vacation days.
Intensiveness of work, in this knowledge era, and working also on non working hours, make this need for vacations so essential.

Some tips I can share from my experience as a manager:
First, I never enable my employees to amass their vacation days, not using them within the ongoing working year. Those who do not go on vacations will erode within time. In some rare case, the manager even has to force some employees to take a vacation. Such should be done.

Three days are the minimum for declaring a real vacation.
Furthermore, it is recommended to separate between vacations and arrangement days. Taking off three days, but using half of them for arrangements, is not a good idea, and does not help the employee really freshen up and rest. Enable your employees to be flexible, and from time to time, settle their arrangements on working days, enabling them to work on non-standard hours. Enable the employees work sometimes from home, letting them to get service and repairs from home while working. Try encouraging the employees to take vacations "serving their soul". Of course, not all vacation can serve as so, but try seeing to that at least one vacation every year is for fun and rest.

Above all these, and please forgive me parents for children that do not agree with me, remember that vacation with children can be enjoyable, important and positive, but is not equivalent to personal vacations or vacations with our partners. A parent, taking two weeks vacation on August, is not a person that rested and truly took vacation. He or she just worked somewhere else. Try encouraging your employees, if possible, to take at least one vacation a year without their children. And my dear children; if any of you are reading this please know: I love you so much, despite what I wrote.

In between, treat your employees with equanimity. Once in a few months, enable them to start late in order to have a good breakfast with a friend, or leave early in order to go out and see a daily movie. Not exactly a vacation, rather a mini-mini one.

And again, do not forget looking after yourselves as well.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I must admit that there are many things that I enjoy doing as a manager, yet negotiation is not on my list. The term always reminds me of some unpleasant associations that occurred in the past.
Do not misunderstand me; I know to negotiate. Sometimes I benefit, sometimes I loose. Like in other issues on life, we experience both. However, knowing I have to negotiate does not turn me happy.

Negotiation is a process we carry on for thousands of years, from the early days of history. We tend to relate it to commerce, however almost every discussion between two people or groups, no matter on what issue, includes some negotiation.

As this blog deals with managing people, I wish to examine the issue of negotiation through this perspective of negotiating with employees.

The first negotiation we handle as managers with the employee occurs even before s/he starts to work; we negotiate with the potential employee regarding his/her salary and terms. As I believe that negotiation turns on bad associations, not only to me, rather to many people, I believe that negotiating with the new employee to be, is not such a good idea:
If I set the employee down from his requests, even if from the correct reasons, the employee can live years with the feeling that s/he have lost.
If I accede, wishing to start the relationship with best feeling, people will hear and know, and I will find it more difficult to stand on what I think is right in the future.
Even, if after negotiation, we will compromise and reach agreement, the employee may always stay uncertain, thinking that if s/he only argued more, or maybe using other tactics, thing would end in a different manner.
As I am in the working business already several decades, not always running a business of my own, I can say that as an employee, I think I experienced all three scenarios...
Coming back to the starting point: good it is not.

What is the alternative? I try to lessen, as much as possible, situations of negotiation with employees. Negotiation outside the organization is possible, sometimes even a must, but inside the organization- less is better; less times; less powerful.

How do I manage?

With potential employees, having the issue so sensitive (salary), and having the time so sensitive (trust has not yet been established), I avoid negotiation at all. I listen to the employee, and evaluate his/her abilities, knowledge and experience in comparison to existing employees in the organization, offering a fair salary, as I understand, relative to the others. Working this way, I benefit twice: Once with the potential new employee, preventing the negotiation; in addition, towards all other employees, knowing that someone else does not earn more than they do as s/he argued better.
Do I also loose? Of course I do. It is naïve to think otherwise.

However, this was only one process in the lifetime of many processes and many situations. As much as I may wish to avoid negotiation at all, I know it is both wrong and impossible. Every person has his/her opinions, interests and ways in which s/he understands life. Negotiation is necessary.

A few tips I use when negotiating:

First, I remind myself that negotiation is a process of trade: give and take. If I entered a negotiation, obviously, I will have to give something. I think in advance, what I am willing to give and where do I put my limits.

I manage the negotiation openly and fair: Openly- sharing the person I am negotiating with, in early stages of the conversation, where I am willing to concede; fair- suggesting limits that I think are fair (and I know I am subjective), not biased, even if I have an advantage point.

I know that I am willing to pay for results. Doing this is not as simple as it may sound, but it puts me in a better position. If I leave for a minute the manger-employee relationship, a good example demonstrating this is negotiating on a working contract with a potential customer. I start the negotiation, knowing my red lines, knowing they are fair for both sides, and knowing that if I loose the contract, because the other side insists on moving the line, it is OK with me. I do not work if the price is not reasonable.

I listen to the other side, trying to have a professional, yet pleasant and calm conversation. Many researches have been conducted, teaching that handling negotiations with positive feelings, may only help. We know it is indeed true. Nevertheless, there are situations in life where conversation turns loudly. In some occasions, this happens without control, in other situations, as a way to impress and pass a message. No matter why this happens, it is important to bring the conversation back to positive atmosphere and as soon as possible.

And always, but always, I try not to take the anger to far in any negotiation. Also if I seem angry, also if I feel angry, always I remember the positive things I know regarding the person I am negotiating with and try to go back to base line positive atmosphere.

I also know that negotiation is the bridge to agreement. Therefore, it is not as horrible as it may seem.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Life is never only routine. It is full of wins and loses. Winning is usually related to competition against somebody else. Winning is related to zero-sum games; I win, therefore somebody lost. This is different than success that is not relative to somebody else but focuses on the achievement.
The first asociation that comes to mind when thinking about winning is wars. The six-day war win (1967); the Hasmonaim win that Jews celebrate on Hanuke (winning 2000 years ago); the American win in the Gulf war etc.

However, the concept of winning is no stranger to organization and business life. You can win a bid for a new contract and you can win a business lawsuit. Usually, in everyday life, in organizations you win a debate.
Debating is natural; It is natural that different people will have different interests, different perceptions, and, sometimes, only different reality interpretation that leads to different conclusions.
The thing is that when we debate, be it a customer, employee, colleague or a new applicant, we sometimes digress from debating and decision making to a competition that ends with some people feeling they "won" while others feel they have "lost".
Naturally, I love winning, as a person and as a manager. If there is a win-lose situation, I'd rather be on the winning side.

2,000 years ago the term "Pyrhus Victory" was coined – a victory that is actually a defeat. Pyrhus was king of Epirus who won the 279BC Asculum war with the Romans (thanks to Wikipedia). When congratulated for his achievement, Pyrhus said: "one more such victory would utterly undo me". This reply was due to the loss of most of his army and some of his best friends and senior officers in the battle. I think that today, in the 21th century, some of the victories we experience against those closest to us – customers, employees and colleagues – have a lot of loss in them.
How come? Every time we achieve something, and somebody else feels that he lost because of out achievement, then in fact we lost as well. The other person is bitter, maybe angry, and his pride might be hurt. Going back to military jargon, we can say that we won the battle but lost the war.
What do I suggest? No way should we chose an "always give up" policy. It is contrary to human nature as well as a bad business approach. It is nice to suggest a "Win-Win" strategy, but this cannot always be practical. Hereby are a number of tips:
First, try to balance. Give up sometimes, if the loss is not too expensive, in order to give the other person a good feeling.
Second, look for "gray" solutions. Furthermore, even when the answers are very clear, you can, and sometimes should, create ambiguity and gray shades in the way you communicate these answers.
We must not forget, however, that sometimes the bottom line is important and sometimes we want to put the other person in his right place, even at a "lose" feeling on his part. In those situations, it is vital that we are aware and willing to pay the price of the other's "lose".
In no case, no matter what, do not brag. Remember this is zero-sum game and bragging can cause bad feeling of the other.
One last tip: "Winning is a dangerous intoxication" (Echad Haam). Take care.


Monday, July 27, 2009


How many times did you get so mad at someone, wanting to burst, shout and tell the other person exactly what you think of him, but managed to hold back? It happens to me and I guess it happens to everyone else as well.
The thing is that the anger remains after we hold back. Many times it is still there and even if we settle down a bit, the problem was not really solved.

As adults and as managers we know that sometimes you just can't say everything to the other party. Sometimes you have to wait for the right time and, in some business circumstances, the right time might never come.

The challenge is tunneling anger, and other emotions coming of disagreement, to a productive place. The challenge is calming down.
Empathy is the ability to identify others' emotions and share those emotions. Empathy is not sympathy. Sympathy deals with the emotional side of identifying others' hurt or joy. Empathy is the cognitive ability to understand and be aware of emotions the other is going through and as a result to sympathize.
Empathy can help us in several ways:

First, by understanding our employees, customers and other surrounding us, we become more relaxed and less angry. It helps us see the whole picture, and sometimes recognize ours is not the only just perspective. Even if we are certain of our position, understanding the other side weakens negative sentiments.
Second, by understanding we can improve our performance: If you understand why a potential customer is hesitant about getting a service, it will be easier to get into conversation and offer a better solution, and thus increase the chances of you becoming a preferred service provider. If you understand your subordinates, it will be easier for you to care for him, to avoid some crisis and to better handle other crisis.
Understanding, when used properly and not as a manipulative tool, improves our morality. The organization gains, but first of all we gain.
How can we be more empathic?
I will start by saying empathy is a personal characteristics from birth. Studies show some babies are empathic to other baby's (non-hunger related) cry. (See Hoffman's studies on the subject). Empathy, at some level, can be seen to exist in other mammals as well. However, it is also important to note that empathy can be acquired.
The first step is intent. We must really want to understand the other in order to succeed.
Other people, like us, are motivated by needs and values. If we are to understand their meaning, we must come up with several alternatives to needs and values that drive their actions / decisions / behavior. Analysis of these alternatives will bring us closer to understanding.
The last step has to do with our actions. After we understand what others are going through, we must decide what is the right management and ethical course of action. It is not always about canceling our previous decisions, but maybe the way we implement them, the tools that accompany them and yes, sometimes even changing the bottom line.
We must remember: empathy is a cognitive process, but it involves emotion.
And, unlike many other situations, in empathy there are no losers. Empathy is an all-winning game.
So let's be more empathic and gain.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I have been invited last week to give a lecture at the Israeli accountant annual convention. This event was unique in its length – I had to make a continuous two-hour presentation. Some tine during the lecture I felt that I am not using my voice properly so I started pausing between sentences. Suddenly I understood the obvious: There are advantages to these pauses, other that relief to soar throat. I tried again and noticed that people are paying more attention. Silence echoes the spoken words and gives audience time to understand. I was reminded of my childhood swimming lessons. The instructor showed us four motions. The last one was a "no-motion", relaxing the body before the next set of motions; same as the silence effect.
Silence is a human and management tool. It amplifies the others' attention to our words, and improves their understanding. However, silence can serve other objectives as well.
When we are on the defensive, we prefer to keep silent. If we are not sure of our deeds, silence will prevent further complications. This is not always an adequate tool, and should be used with care, only when appropriate in a broad perspective, and not only from short-term considerations.
Silence enables listening to other people. Not only hearing, actually listening. If we are really silent, not just keeping our lips still, we can concentrate and listen to what is being said and more than that – how it is being said, what is the body language saying, what is not being said and why it is not spoken.
It is interesting to note that silence is an alternative to shouting. Roaring silence is heard in the distance.
What I find most fascinating is not the power in silence, nor the scream it replaces. It is silence as a means to get others to act that make it such a special tool.
It is claimed that sales people use this tool. When they feel the deal is close, and the customer hesitates, they will take out the contract, mark a small 'x' where a signature is required, turn the paper to the customer, and silently wait. Hard to believe, but most people will sign at this stage.
This technique can be used in other circumstances as well. By being silent, we invite the other side to act. Human nature makes it difficult (at least for most of us) to react to silence so everyone will try to act when the other is silent. The beauty of this tool is its fairness simplicity.
As managers, we must consider employees' silence. When an employee is expected to speak and keeps silent, what can we deduce?
First, all that was previously said is true about employees as well. It might be silence as alternative to shouting, it might be a way to better listen or be heard, and it might be an attempt to move us into action.
Nevertheless, we must consider other options as well. When an employee does not answer, he may have misunderstood what was said and too embarrassed to ask. We must analyze the silence and if this is reason, try a different explanation.
It might be that the employee disagrees with us and is reluctant to argue. I am not saying we should encourage employee resistance, but we must be aware of this option and assess the situation to decide if to accept this silence or try and break it.
And maybe they just had nothing to say and we are speculating to much…

Communication is 20% verbal and 80% non–verbal (body language, intonation etc.). In silence, we don't have even those first 20%.
We must try harder. But if we listen, there is a chance we will understand. When people are silent, they are saying a lot.
Silence is a powerful management tool, and we must learn to use it more. I am finishing now.
It is silence time.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Course as a training tool

Woody Allan is quoted as saying "I took a speed reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It involves Russia". This joke, apart from being just funny, reveals a lot of skepticism about the value of courses as a learning mechanism.
It is clear to all of us that we need training in every line of work. When we hire new employees, we must not assume that they have knowledge sufficient to perform their duties. Two reasons for that:
The first has to do with the organization and its environment. Even if the knowledge worker had a similar position in a different organization, we must assume that in our organization the job will have different characteristics and will require different skills.
The second is continuity. Knowledge related jobs evolve over time. Training is required in order to continue and meet tomorrow's knowledge challenges.
But, as Woody Allan hinted, there are two main challenges related to courses:
The first is unrealistically high expectations. We expect to read "War and Peace" in twenty minutes; we expect students to be more skilled coming out of courses.
The second is the question of answering a real need. Is speed reading the requirement or is it the assimilation of new knowledge? Are we sending our employees to have their minds filled with procedures, while forgetting the essence?
I would like to concentrate on the first challenge of this post. Not on the subjects of training but on methods to achieve effective training. How can we touch each and every student, ensure that they absorb, understand and assimilate the training material, and improve the chance that they will have better performance coming back to the organization. After all, this is the purpose of all training, as Peter Jarvis defined as early as 1958: "Learning is an improvement in performance when the stimulation, the situation and the motivation remains unchanged".
I'll start by saying that courses are complementary tools for training, learning and knowledge management. If sharing and developing knowledge, the building blocks of knowledge management, are daily events, then courses are the peaks whose aim is to boost employees' knowledge and performance.
How can we get effective training through courses? I think the key lies in understanding the four learning styles defined by David Kolb:
1. Concrete experience – A chemistry teacher illustrating an idea by a lab experiment.
2. Active Experimentation – An athlete improving his performance thorough many running practices.
3. Abstract conceptualization – Reading an article on prisoners' rehabilitation.
4. Reflective Observation – Listening to a case study analysis of a certain organization.
It is interesting to note that we, as humans, learn through a combination of the four styles. Even more interesting is the fact that some of us prefer certain styles and find those easier to learn by. In other words, the mix of learning styles is individual.
What can we learn from this?
Let's go back to the course and its' instructor. It is reasonable that this instructor prepared to course combining his preferred learning style, his preferred teaching style and his understanding of management expectation from the course.
It might be that this three are actually one style.
If we want effective training, we must demand that instructors equally combine the four training styles in their lessons. They must acknowledge that the students in the class have different learning styles.
And on a practical note:
Training by abstract conceptualization: In explaining concepts and grand ideas;
Training by concrete experience: By going into details and explaining how these details implement the grand idea;
Training by reflective observation: Including in the training a lot of stories and case studies;
And last-
Training by active experimentation as much as possible.

Seemingly, this is nothing new. I attended a training conference this week and heard there that we should change from lectures to active, "hands on" experience (Active Experimentation). It was said that this could be proved by looking at babies who are learning by doing, not by sitting in the classroom.
No friends! Do not follow this, or any other, trend. It is not wise to choose one style and rule out the others. Combine. And remember that each one of the students has a different learning style, and we need to create the best combination, one that will enable every student to match his personality.
In this way, I believe we can improve students' understanding and produce effective training aimed at meaningful learning. I do not believe we will read "War and Peace" in twenty minutes following a speed reading course. I do believe we will read it faster than before and we are sure to remember more than it involving Russia…


Friday, June 12, 2009

Setting an Example

"Practice what you preach", is a common saying.
In the twentieth century, people worked all their lives in the same place. You could have hated your manager; you could have considered him a tyrant or a lazy slob. You could have attributed any negative characteristics to your manager. None these were reason enough to leave your work place. Some would even say that these were the roots of employee common culture.
I would not say that everyone today loves his or her managers. Nevertheless, a manager's behaviour is important, very important. It is claimed that people join organizations for the promise of an interesting job, but they leave because of managers. We expect, and rightly so, that our managers will set an example for us to follow. As managers, it is important for us to set such an example.
How to set an example and in what area? An organization is a complex system, and it takes different people working together to create the engine that drives it forward. Even in my line of work (managing a consulting firm) I soon learned that employees of different expertise are required in order to enable progress. The conclusion of all this is that setting an example is different than expecting everyone to duplicate your actions or your results. Such an imitation is not necessarily the correct way to a positive example.
So what needs to be done? In a post I wrote about measurements, I presented an idea that is suitable for this side of the equation as well, for setting an example: Measure values as you measure results, I wrote. Values represent the strategy by which we wish to act. If those are correct, and people are following them, we are on the right path.
It should be the same for setting an example. I think the key to good example is values and hard work. It is important that we set an example by getting results, but the lesson to be learned is the road to those results rather than the specific results. We set an example by demonstrating correct values.
I try to work a lot. I believe that luck and talent are components of success but hard work is not less important. I work in the early hours of the morning and I work at night. I find time to rest but my work takes most of my time, even during weekends. I don't expect my employees to work as hard, but it is important for me to set such an example.
I follow our company values. I try to project professionalism, innovation, humanity and collaboration in my actions. I admit it is not always easy. I am, for example, individualist by nature, and it took me years (actually, it is taking me years; I haven't completed the mission yet) to learn how to share. I put a lot of effort into it. I do it because it is right to share but also because it important to set an example. As I wrote in the beginning, to practice what I preach.
There is another aspect of setting an example. David, King of Israel, committed one of the most horrible sins: He took another man's wife, and then had her husband abandoned to his death on the battlefield. We could have asked why God gave us such an imperfect king. Why didn't we get a perfect king, one that it will be easy for us to take his example?
Those who thing King David is not a positive example, misreads the Bible. Ours is a complex world, and nobody can be perfect. Giving us a perfect king, or writing only of his good qualities, would set to high standards, standards that we would find hard to relate to. If this were the case, we would have no standard at all because of the major gap, because of the thought that we can never be as perfect so why bother.
A manager setting an example can and should expose his weaknesses as well. He does not have to be proud of his shortcomings, but he should not hide them. We all make mistakes. All of us, as employees, even the very professional ones, occasionally take wrong decisions. Setting a positive example includes, in my opinion, showing the less positive aspects as well. It is not that we are proud of these aspects. We are not happy with them. It's just that, like King David who sinned and repented, we admit our mistakes and try to learn from them. This is a positive example in my mind.
It is also important that we remember, as managers and as parents, that setting an example does not always result in your employees following your exact footsteps. Remember that values are the important issue. If we plot the correct values, and to set an example by following those values, there is a good chance that out employees, even if their professional decisions differ from ours, will take our example.
And as Albert Einstein said: “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.”
Setting an example is important. We should do so.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Employees' Commitment

A famous joke tells about a pig and a chicken walking together and discussing the possibility to open a restaurant. "How shall we name the restaurant?" asks the pig. "Simple", answers the chicken "We'll call it 'Bacon and Eggs'". "I am not sure about this idea", says the pig. "It's true that we are both partners, but while you are involved in the business, I am committed".
What is commitment and how should we create organizational commitment? These are the questions I would like to dwell on in this post.

Thinking of organizational commitment brings to mind issues of job satisfaction, feeling part of the organization and similar concepts. All these are related to commitment, but are not identical. Organizational commitment is a psychological engagement of the employee to the organization.

Why should an organization work towards such commitment? There are several reasons.
First, commitment improves employee retention. We invest a lot in Knowledge Workers; we spend many hours nourishing and deepening their knowledge. An employee that is leaving forces us to re-invest. Furthermore, we depend on many of our employees. In some organizations, employees have strong relations with customers, making the personnel change unpleasant to the customers; in many organizations employees hold invaluable information, which will be lost if they leave. If employee commitment to the organization reduces turnaround, no doubt that we should encourage such commitment.
We could settle for this reason, but apparently, there are other benefits to an employee that is committed to the organization.
A committed worker is more productive during his working hours; a committed worker, according to studies, works more hours and has better performance. A committed worker is less absent; and a committed worker identifies with the organization and better assists in meeting its goals (see Dr Sigal Weisner's PhD thesis on the importance of an individual's commitment))
In order to understand how to get employee commitment, it's important to understand the different types of commitment.

Commitment can be characterized by several dimensions: One dimension deals with the nature of the commitment: an emotional commitment that the employee develops, verses a beneficial commitment (the benefits of staying within the organization), verses a moral commitment.

This can be viewed also as intellectual motives affecting commitment, like a high chance of not finding an alternative job or the comforts of the current job; verses emotional motives affecting this commitment, whether positive (liking the people we work with) or negative (fearing from the need to get use to a new job).
Yet another aspect is the subject of commitment: An employee might be committed to the profession and thus (partly) to the organization; or an employee might be committed to people in the organization, either to top management, direct management, to colleagues or to customers; and some employees are committed to the organization itself, seeing themselves as part of it and wish for its success.
We can also refer to the scope of commitment: inter-personal or organizational. In the personal level, researches have found that older people are more committed than youngsters, women more so than men, educated professionals less committed than laymen. We also see personal character as an influential parameter of commitment.
The organization and its organizational culture play a major role: a culture of sharing, teamwork and participation in decision making enhances employee commitment.

The professional aspect has great influence on the level of commitment: Job description clarity, volume of activity and personal ability to develop, all affect commitment level.

If I had to choose one parameter affecting commitment, just one tool, I'd choose reciprocity: be committed as a manager to your employees and to their wellbeing. The rest will follow.


Monday, May 11, 2009

The physical work environment

In his book "Thinking for a Living" that deals with how to achieve better performance by the knowledge workers, Prof. Tom Davenport dedicates a whole chapter to the issue of the physical work environment of the knowledge worker.
When I think about an invested work environment, the first example that pops to me is Google's offices. The slides, the fire pipes (enabling one going down fast) and the various games and entertainments, all leave me with the impression is a place with fun. The massage booths (with professional massagers), as well as the settling areas (arm chairs and aquariums), enable any employee rest also on formal working hours. And the list is long.

Fifteen years ago, I worked for a short period in a Start-up. If there is one thing that I won't forget from there, it for sure is the kitchen. The kitchen in this place was always full. The refrigerator always seemed to be overloaded, having every type of delicacy one could dream of. The closets were always filled up and twice a day, someone in charge, came in to refill. People arrived to work very early as breakfast seemed much more appealing there than at home. People left later, staying for dinner at work, and of course, discussing work at the time. I always thought that this is a cheep and easy way for the organization to see that its workers work more and produce more: Give them the right conditions and they shall stay more and produce more.

The interesting question is what influences the performance of the knowledge worker in terms of physical work environment? How is it right to organize the workplace?
In the mid nineties, as Knowledge Management emerged as an independent discipline, some organizations invested in building special complexes nurturing knowledge sharing and development. It became popular to invest in many cozy coffee places, encouraging the employees to speak more one with another. The assumption which led to this, was that when an employee encounters a problem, and does not solve it by himself immediately, he will take a coffee break, meantime meeting a colleague and discussing the issue. There is a good chance that the conversation can help, whether because the colleague has a good idea, or whether because the employee has spoken about it, and found a way to progress. Coffee areas turned to be part of the trend of organizational Knowledge Management efforts, enabling informal knowledge sharing.

Another phenomenon that developed at these years, also witnessed nowadays is designing special areas for knowledge development. Skandia, for example established its future center in this perception, back in 1996.

Do plants and lightening encourage thinking? Are colors as red, blue and yellow better for creativity? And, maybe, whiteboards across the office walls (with markers near them, of course), enabling one to write down every new idea as it pops, the key to successful knowledge development.

Davenport, in his book we mentioned, has researched this issue of the physical work environment. His conclusion is that even though many companies have acted in several ways in order to provide a more efficient workplace, very little can be said for certain, as to the effects of the workplace on the knowledge workers' performance. Davenport claims that the attitude towards this issue should be fit, twofold: Customized and personalized:
Customized- fitting the physical work environment to the group and its knowledge needs, based on the fact that knowledge workers should be segmented to sub-groups, each having its typical workplace needs.
Personalized- as knowledge workers like the autonomy of deciding for themselves, and if possible, choice has to be granted to them as to their workplace.
Indeed, I learned.

A new trend that I have heard about in several big high-tech organizations has to do with setting up virtual workplaces. The supporting rational is that the employees are mobile employees nowadays: They come in to the office only part of the work days, they have mobile telephones, and laptops, and a fixed workplace is not really needed. Instead, virtual work-stations are populated, every day with the employees who need it on that specific day. This solution can also be used if people do not have laptops or mobile telephones. Technology enables one to connect to every computer and log-in to his or her environment using their User-id and password, and connecting to their fixed number just dialing some instructions on the phone.
No doubt that this solution can save any organization a great deal in the short term. Rent is expensive and should not be ignored. This solution is one among a series of possible solutions, from which any organization has to pick its decision:
A private room for each employee.
Team rooms.
Open space (having a cubicle for each employee).
A virtual workplace.
In order to understand how the environment influences the performance of the knowledge workers, I believe three factors should be considered, each effecting the performance, whether directly, or indirectly:
The ability of the workers to concentrate and promote their tasks.
The workers ability to share one with another.
The workers satisfaction from work, as affected from the physical environment.

If we analyze all alternatives, we see that there is no one correct answer:
Private rooms may enable the optimal concentration, and may be most satisfactory, as a private room as concerned as part of the employee's status; they enable less sharing.
Teem-rooms enable sharing but may decrease concentration;
Open spaces give a bit from each;
And virtual workplaces are cheap.

I favor teem-rooms (3-4 people in a room). Assuming knowledge develops in teams and groups (as to Nonaka) and that fellowship/ friendship / team spirit develops with togetherness, I think it is the best solution, performance speaking. I know that concentration can be affected but there are several ways to handle this challenge:
First, remember that almost never, all employees are together on the same day in the office. The knowledge workers, as already stated, are mobile and spend a lot of hours out of the office.
Furthermore, people with laptops can always wander to other rooms, in order to hold a noisy telephone call (and not interrupt the others) or in order to work on some task where they need the silence (and not to be interrupted by others). The organization has to verify that such rooms exist, and that such a move is legitimate.
Also a request to work at home in order to promote such a task, should be treated favorably.
And, last but not least, when people work in a joint room, they develop a culture of considering one another.
What else do we need?

No matter what you decide to do, I have one wish: Do not promote a virtual work environment in your organizations, also it has financial benefits. Understand the importance of a private corner, a place for personal pictures, a plant and some nonsense on the table. They are all part of the worker, and even though it may not be proved by any research to help better performance, it surely is important for the employee's feeling and sense of convenience and comfort. At the end of the say, we invest a lot in order to give our employees a belongingness feeling, so why spoil?


Saturday, April 25, 2009


We live in the 21st century. IF we examine the people surrounding us as well as ourselves, we notice something that was not the same in the past century: individualism. People at life and employees at work, all seem to be very individualistic. One may say that it is almost a religion. Oscar Wilde, in his book "The picture of Dorian Gray", expressed this saying in his unique way: "being in harmony with oneself is a key to life, echoing the tenet to Aestheticism that calls for the individual to make of his own life a work of art."

Individualism conflicts with teamwork. The willingness of one to placate himself, to utilize, to succeed building a career, opposing to the need to fit yourself to the environment, to people that may work and think in a different pace that may have other perceptions and other agendas.

Organizational thinking, there seems to be a conflict as well: We were taught that teamwork is a good thing. However, teamwork costs more: More time as to the need of synchronization; and more money as duplication exists.

Yet, teamwork should not be considered part of the past. Teamwork is a value, one of the values that belongs, not only to the Human Resources department, seeking for the ideal. Furthermore; in the 21st century, when many of us are knowledge workers, and our knowledge is one of the main things causing the organization to move on and succeed, in such a time, teamwork is important, one may even say essential, threefold: From the individual perception; form the organizational perception; and from the business perception.

I shall explain:
As individuals, even though we may eager for individualism, we need a network of support and we need a belonging. These of course can be developed in an organizational level, with no teams, but are not enough as such. We need a close group of reference. One that will see us in the morning, and ask why we might seem worried. One that will share our happiness and success, and share our sad moments as well. One that we can turn to when we are in distress. A close group. Belonging can be built also within big groups, however being part of a team, conceptualizes the belonging and makes it fell reality.
In the past years, a new type of relations has emerged, similar to teams, but actually serving some other functionality: Social networks. A social network deals with relations between peoples, but focuses on week relations. In teams, we deal with tight relations. A Social network cannot be a replacement and solution providing the belonging level nor the support network as provided by a team structure.

Examining the organizational angle, teamwork is a very important value. In their book, Collaboration 2.0, Levine and Coleman write, that teamwork includes, among other benefits, the following advantages:
  1. It strengthens the individuals commitment;
  2. It raises satisfaction level from the workplace;
  3. It enables advanced trust and communication.

No doubt, that obtaining even only one of these is enough for us to understand that organizational speaking, teamwork is a positive thing. How much more so, when speaking about all three.

Professionally speaking, teamwork is surprising. We could have thought that in an era of knowledge, when everyone has his or her own expertise, there is no real business benefit to working in teams. However, this is not the case. Teamwork brings better business value, than working separately. Nonaka and Takeuchi, in their book "The Knowledge Creating Company", taught us, how Japanese companies create the dynamics of innovation. Knowledge, they write, develops in teams / small groups. Not in the individual experts' brains. Socialization; that is how they name the first stage of four in which knowledge is created. A stage that deals with transferring the tacit knowledge from the individual to a close group. The knowledge may start from the individual, but it develops through the transition and within the group. Other researchers, who analyzed learning processes, agree with this finding: Teamwork improves the quality of products and other outcomes, improves the efficiency of obtaining them, and advances the innovation and creativity related with them.

Teamwork helps improvement individual concerning, organizational concerning and business concerning.

Nevertheless, so I believe, life is not as simple as it sounds. Working in a team is not always convenient. People have to compromise and understand that the team may work or decide according to their colleague recommendations, and not as they thought.
Teamwork can cause a herd effect, where the group influences the individual, not always in a positive way.
Moreover, teamwork can yield duplication in resources cost.

How can the potential of a team be utilized? Buchel, in her article "Knowledge Creation and Transfer: From Teams to the Whole Organization", published as part of Nonaka's and Ichujo's book "Knowledge Creation and Management", writes about two main factors of the team, that influence the human capital and improved performance:

  • Density of relations within the group.
  • Bridges to the outside (organization, stakeholders, etc.)

How can a company avoid the duplication challenge? I think that the solution to this problem is by defining clear limits. Defining the tasks in which there is an advantage for teamwork, and the tasks in which it is better to be performed by one individual. Analyzing, brainstorming and interviewing are examples where teamwork should be preferred, even if it may seem to create duplications. Implementation, technical operations and documentation are examples in which teamwork may be unnecessary, and even a waste of time and money.

One last point, before ending this post. I started with individualism. Individualism has many benefits, and it must not be spared in the name of teamwork. Combining both, teamwork with place for the individual and his or her uniqueness, is a key to success. As Michael Jordan said: "talent wins games, teamwork and intelligence win championship".


To the Hebrew version

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Electronic mail

Israel's Defense Forces (I.D.F.) has announced that it is working nowadays on a new command that will limit email sending so that any soldier can send an email up two ranks higher than himself, and not above.
No doubt, that the electronic mail has influenced our lives, and has influenced management. This example of the new army command is one example that demonstrates how much technology influences culture and flattening of the hierarchical organization structure.
Is this something good? And if not, is it right to block it? Maybe, in the 21st century it is rather a good idea to flatten the organization or at least reduce the mental gap between the organizational ranks.

The issue is complicated; however, no matter what the final decision is, I think that two things have to be considered while taking the decision:
Technology should not dictate culture. Each organization has to analyze the advantages it could achieve from the organizational flattening, and potentially there indeed are advantages: The employee thinks wider looking at the big picture as the organization does not treat him as a small part in a well-defined organization; good new ideas can defuse better. Furthermore, in Israel, where the post is written, many people know one another from several different life cycles having different hierarchy relationships in each; etc. If these advantages are greater than the disadvantages deriving from emails to all (and on the disadvantages I will not elaborate as we were all brought up on them and know them all), then we should favor the free email usage. Of course, if this is the case, new bounds should be set, preserving the managers' place as the final decision maker.
If a decision is taken to make a change, as the one reported to be in I.D.F., then the change has to be managed. It should be communicated, explained, and not only commanded. The reason is obvious: Employees already got use to this ability. Any change will be interpreted as worsening conditions and can cause bitterness. The move and its rational should be communicated and special care has to be given to the period until people get use to the new process of work.

However, email usage has more in to it for the 21st century worker, beyond organizational flattening.

Email has totally changed our availability to work. Even though we all have cellular telephones, people do not tend to call us off working hours (and yes- working hours' definition is tricky). With emails, we have no problem. We can write whenever convenient to us, and if it is not work time, we assume that the employee, receiving the mail, will answer when s/he find it suitable. Without noticing, we reach a situation in which most of us work, write each other, exchange opinions and tasks almost 24 hours a day.

Emails have also changed our routines on working hours. Sometimes we have the feeling that email is managing us, no us managing it. It seems as if every half an hour the mail carrier arrives, with a new big sack full with mail, leaves it on our step door and goes to bring the next one. The piles turn higher, and the small message on our inbox notifying us how many mails yet have to be read and/or handled leaves us stressed, hopeless or both. Some people reach a situation when all day they reply to mails, and again, as in the beginning of the post, somehow the mail is the initiator managing us, and we are the responders.
What can I recommend? I manage the time in which I answer mails. Emails are treated mainly on evenings, nights and on the early hours of the day. Most daytime is dedicated to people. I do enjoy the mails advantages not letting it gaining control on me (at least most of the time).

A post on emails cannot end without concerning the email's content, beyond the framing (to whom and when). Email is somewhat risky. On the one hand, we regard it as something less formal, as speaking on the phone, or even speaking face-to-face. We speak unofficially and therefore, not always consider every word we use. Email however, is written. If we get an email from some colleague, or even worse, with some subordinate, and are under the impression that they hurt our feeling, we read it again, and again, empowering the insult. It is very different from a situation where someone speaks with us. The situation is even more complicated, ad when speaking face-to-face, and even on phone, the one with whom we are communicating, can sense our feelings. S/he can fix the impression, clarify things, apologize, or limit the arm level. With emails, we do not have this luxury: On the one hand, informal; on the other hand, very formal.

What is recommended? To read every mail we write and think if there is any chance it will be misunderstood; to use the email channel to shorten things, but better use it on good or natural issues. To remember that a third person can pass and see what was written. The bottom line: do not give up this fabulous channel, yet use it a bit less than what would seem natural.

Email indeed is a revolution, a revolution of the 21st century. A technological revolution that has influenced quality of life, pace, and ways we treat our managers. I do think that at the end of the day, it does have more advantages than disadvantages, and we should be happy with it.

And, yes, I think that organizations can be flattened, at least in most cases (of course, I do not know what is best for the army). Authority in the 21st century starts from knowledge and is less influenced by formal hierarchies only. The manager has to invest more to be appreciated and treated with honor, and it is less a case of the ability to send or not to send him or her, an email. The knowledge era builds its own balances between things.

I wish us all, to indeed benefit from the email revolution. I wish we will have many other positive revolutions as the email one.


Saturday, March 28, 2009


"Incentives and rewards are some of the most powerful management tools available" (Cited from "Making innovation Work", written by Davila, Epstein & Shelton).

People work against some compensation. We do not expect people to come to work day after day if s/he does not receive anything in return. Yet, when we deal with rewarding, we redefine the scope, speaking not only about salary (or self-contentment in case of volunteers). People expect to be rewarded; they expect a system that will encourage those who do well and punish those who do not).

A close examination of what I written above, can teach about two objectives in rewarding:
The first sentence was cited from an excellent book I read on innovation. Innovation deals with changing the organization; leaving the current situation and replacing it by another one. Rewarding, as to the authors, is an essential tool for aiding this change and help it turning into organizational reality. If you want to change peoples' behavior, give them incentives before and while changing, and reward them after.
The second objective of rewarding is somewhat different. It deals with the daily routine, motivating us to continually work and perform better. It resembles the gasoline, which every car needs a steady supply in order to continue driving. This need is part of our genes as people, and it only grows with us being knowledge workers, choosing whether to stay and how well can we perform.

It is obvious why rewarding is so important: To help maintaining and to help changing.
The problem starts as rewarding is not as simple as we would wish.
It is not simple to reward, as, due to researches, to much rewarding, leads to poor performance. I think the reason is twofold: First, people get used to the rewards, and the level of rewarding required grows higher. The second reason has to do, with the fact that people understand that less is required from them in order to actually win the reward, and they naturally will tend to make fewer efforts.
It is not simple to reward as no company lives in a vacuum: The employees have expectations regarding what they were use to in previous places of work; towards what they hear from friends and family; and towards what happens in the market in which the company works. It is very easy to be drawn after others and build some rewarding system that does not serve us as a specific organization. Acting otherwise and not answering employees' expectations, and un-satisfaction and de-moralization can follow.
It is not simple to reward, as rewarding should be proportional to the phenomenon or behavior which we want to encourage. As already I have written in previous posts, measuring is difficult. In many cases, it is complicated to estimate how much each individual contributed to some success.

However, the main question is not why rewarding is not simple, yet how should it be done.
First, an organization has to conduct its own rewarding system, based on its unique organizational culture; I recommend not following others, not to be drawn after the industry, nor neighbors or friends. The saying "we are unique" can lead to a positive implementation, if communicated properly. Of course, expectations should be leveled with new employees, before they are hired, and as part of the interviewing process. In case of an existing organization, wishing to change its current rewarding system, things are more complicated. I read a study, conducted by Kaplan, claiming that people tend to become fixated on existing incentive and rewarding systems and resist the change. Such a change has to be managed, according to all well-known change management methodologies.

Second, any rewarding system has to be based both on organization needs as well as on the individual needs. In general, organizational needs are in high congruence with achievements and results, while individual needs are more connected to efforts. Both need to be rewarded. Rewarding can be "hard", mainly money in all formats, starting with higher salary, bonuses, stock options, etc. Rewarding can be "soft", examples including recognition, promotion, publication, compliments, professional course, etc. Using Maslow's needs pyramid can help in designing the rewarding system. What I find important is to balance between the two, being sensitive and wise.

Any rewarding system, no matter how designed, should answer some principles in order to be effective:

  • Fairness. Living in a situation where other employees do understand why their colleague was rewarded and not them. Any rewarding system should aspire to reward individuals when the organization was rewarded significantly.
  • Answering the individuals' needs. No matter if the rewarding is for a team or for the individual, s/he has to be touched and motivated.
  • Balanced in scope. Too generous rewarding systems are not considered effective, and in some cases harm. To little yet communicated rewarding, will have cynical interpretations.
  • Flexible. Never pre-define everything. Always there are unexpected situations in which an employee should be rewarded. The rewarding system has to be flexible enough to answer these situations as well.
  • Stable. Do not change to often the rewarding system.

And most important-

  • Suitable. Fitting the organization's spirit.

I hope we all succeed rewarding our employees and motivate them to work properly and change when appropriate. At the end of the day, we have to remember, that rewarding is one of the most powerful management tools available.


To the Hebrew version

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Places of work are formal organizations; places in which there are importance and significance to authority. In the mid 50th, when classic management theories developed, the source of authority was clear and loud: Authority derived from organizational position. Every position had its status, and granted authority. IT was clear to each employee what is permitted and where boundaries stand.
Today, in the 21st century, terms of work have changed. The relation between the worker and in particular the knowledge worker and his/her manager turned more complicated and less definite. Also today, we are not speaking about a symmetrical relation, yet it is clear that the authority of managers is not as it was, and for sure does not derive from status and position alone.

Discussing authority includes discussion on two complementary aspects: Discussing source of authority, and discussing delegation of authority.

Delegation of authority, or delegation of power, is not the same as transferring responsibility. When I delegate the authority to decide or act to any subordinate manager or worker, they get the operational responsibility, but the managerial responsibility remains mine. One can delegate authority for permanent, for a temporary period, or as a one-time act, all affecting the responsibility of the employee. In all cases, however, the manager remains responsible.

Many managers find it difficult to delegate authority. In some cases, they literally do not pass any authority to take decisions, or even to act, that could be delegated, to their subordinates. In other cases, they do, yet continue to ask and interfere, not giving up control.
The difficulty in delegating authority can derive from several reasons:
Sometimes, we start working on a mission that indeed is part of our job, and continue on, even though it was correct to stop and pass the next stages on to one of our subordinates. This is the easier case, as awareness to this situation solves the problem.
Another reason has to do with the fact that we as managers, are usually more senior, more experienced, and hence, we feel that if we complete the task by ourselves, not passing it to others, it will be completed, faster, or maybe even better. I admit that from time to time, I also find myself in this situation.
A similar reason has to do with the energy we have to invest in explaining someone else what we want to achieve, how and why, and in being sure that we get that. We feel, that we prefer to complete the job by ourselves. In some cases, this may be the right solution, but the decision, has to be made, considering all aspects.
Sometimes, it is a task that we find more pleasant, and we wish to do it by ourselves.
In addition, sometimes, we are afraid. This has to do with the synonym of delegation of authority- delegation of power. This also has to do with the second part of this post, source of authority. We are afraid, that if we delegate authority, we loose power and loose source of authority. At the end of the day, we too, the managers, are human beings, and we wish to protect ourselves, whether consciously or non-consciously.

I can continue and add more reasons why delegation of authority is not as easy as one could expect. Yet, this is not the main issue. The main issue is that delegation of authority is important.
It is important to reduce our burden and navigate workload better;
It is important in order to develop the professionalism of our subordinates;
Moreover, it is important, in order to build trust between us and our subordinates, and let them know that we are willing to trust them and rely on them.

A few tips to do with delegation of authorities:
When you delegate authority, you must leave the employee who is in charge, some free hand, both freedom of choice and freedom of action. Do not guide him/her down to the last point and leave them to follow only.
When you delegate authority, do not totally let go. Remember that some guidance is required, and some control is requested. Remember that responsibility stays in our hands.
When you delegate authority, communicate it in the organization. Also, to ease on the operational level, but much more important, as a way to respect the person who is in charge. Soft rewards are critic in motivating employees.

The discussion on authority is not completed without examining the sources of authority. As I already wrote in the beginning of this post, the source of authority is changing as the concept of work and workers is changing. In general, the source of authority depends significantly on the manager's knowledge. Employees respect managers who know. This, of course, is not the only parameter to take in mind; employees will value a manager and accept his or her authority, if they understand what is required, and if the request and demands correlate with the organization's values as well as with their own ones.

How do these influence managers and their behavior? I am not sure.
However, in order to improve we all have to be aware of the changes in source of authority. Moreover, we have to understand that authority delegation and knowledge sharing strengthen us as well as our subordinates.

Plato, who lived many years before we started working in formal organizations, spoke about authority. He said: "The wisest have the most authority". Those who are smart, know, and have good judgment and keen discernment (definition of wise), are those who turn to be a source of authority.

It took us many years and various organizations' formats in order to go back to roots, and deeply understand his saying. There are probably good reasons, why this Greek philosopher, the student of Socrates, was one of the greater influencers on our Western philosophy.
Seeing how wise he was, he certainly was a source of authority.


Friday, February 27, 2009


The whole world is now going through a difficult period. We all are experiencing a recession, in Israel where I live and write, as well as in the US and everywhere else.
Once, we used to think that globalization is a good thing; the recession has taught us that the absence of place and time limits has also its deficiencies, and globalization enables the spreading of less attractive factors, from the US to China, Europe, Israel and actually, every other place. Moreover, the US is not to blame. It could start also elsewhere (i.e. the SARS disease).

How should one manage the organization in a recession period? How should he or she manage their knowledge workers? Are there any guiding rules?
When one writes a book, s/he can choose to focus on specific areas, ignoring others, ignoring the happenings. When one writes a blog, people expect you to be connected to reality and to the existence. Not speaking on such issues may imply non-transparency and non-willing to open up.

Do not misunderstand me. The company, which I manage, while writing these lines, continues to makes its living, continues not to loose. Thus, even though we all are already four months inside an economic crisis. What will happen tomorrow? Will we continue to earn enough? No one can really know. For the time being, things are stable. Yet, this post is a necessity as we are all part of something big, bigger than us. It is important to speak about this management issue, even though it is not easy to hear, nor easy to say.

As this blog deals with managing the employees, the post will focus on the relevant issues, leaving out economic or other business aspects, all critical to the situation.

It is important to express and show transparency at this time. This does not imply that every business detail should be announced widely, and that every time we feel bad after a customer shares us with his distress, we should pass our feelings on, yet employees should be shared regarding the overall situation and updated periodically reflecting the changing trends.
I do believe that such a saying could be difficult to implement in times of growth and economic bubbles. While experiencing a recession, this might seem easier to implement. Now, employees are not so easily willing to move to another place of work, as it is probably more risky to be in a place that you do not know, that somewhere you already know and understand.
This therefore is not only a correct thing to say, but also an applicable one.

It is not less important to be sensitive to our subordinates. We must understand that each one and one of them experiences the instability differently, even though we are all in one company. The feelings may be a result of seniority in the organization, the job itself, the necessity as they sense it, and, of course, ones character.

It is important to be sensitive as each one of our employees has back at home parents, husbands, wives and other close people who may be in distress or even has maybe lost his or her job. Such an event can affect the emotional and economic state of the employee.

It is important to economize and save. Be cautious! Too much can seem as miserliness, or drive a feeling of instability. It is important to show that now is no party time; no spending time. Nevertheless, some small spending is important for our souls and we must find the right balance in between.

It is important to share the employees not only about facts regarding the recession and its impacts, rather in ways to change. Share your employees and ask them to share responsibility in bringing in new customers. Sit and speak with your employees asking them to come up with ideas how to offer more, or offer differently, considering the timing. This may result in better figures; moreover, we sense here the togetherness. People say that crisis is an opportunity. I would be happy to give up such opportunities if that's what it takes not to have any crisis. Yet, as the crisis is already here, let us drive higher cohesion between the company's employees.

It is important to be humble. To remember, that even if we think we are the best, we probably are not, and surely not perfect. Not everything is in our hands. In periods of growth and success, we as employers are captive somewhat, as we manage knowledge workers and these are free to leave and find some other place to work. Recession is employers' era. We must not take advantage! We must remain humble. We must remember that tomorrow will be a different era, but furthermore, we must remember to respect the other even though we are in charge and have the authority.

I read the lines above, and I suddenly realize; the crisis and the recess that followed teach us how to act, also in crisis time, but also in every other period. Maybe in recession it is a necessity, but it all times it is probably the proper and more dignified way to act.

Transparency, sensitivity, cohesion, sharing and humbleness. Not to much- yet everything.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Friday morning. Seven o'clock and I step into the Supermarket near home. This is the opening hour, and within minutes I look around and the place is full. People arrive, fill their carts, say hello and goodbye and move on. Every time, this simple operation fills me with pride to the place in which I live. In Tel-Aviv for example, Before Ten o'clock in the morning, no one wakes up, surely does not find him or herself in the Supermarket. I always feel proud; we have diligent people.
Many people have spoke about the importance of diligence. Voltaire has said that "The richness of a country depends on the amount of diligent people it holds"; Samuel Johnson claimed that " '''Few things are impossible to diligence and skill". Jean-Jacques Rousseau said that "Moderation and diligence are the true cure of the humanity", and in the Bible, in Proverbs, the book of wisdom, that was written by King Solomon, we find the saying: "Go to the ant, O sluggard, and consider her ways, and learn wisdom".
Diligence is ascribed, from what is said, to wisdom and success. Yet, I have a feeling that this word, the "diligence" has to be reminded sometimes, as we hear and use it less and less. I checked in Google and found only approximately 6 million times the word was mentioned. Wisdom, in comparison, is mentioned 76 million times, success 435 million times, beauty 659 million times and love is mentioned 2 billion times!
I can continue and compare diligence to many other words, but there is no need: The case is loud and clear. Diligence has lost its glory.

I believe, that even though we are in the 21st century, it is very important that our employees are diligent and that we nurture them in this direction. Why? Because diligence is probably an essential component in good performance; however, there is an additional reason: Diligence is an essential component also in entrepreneurship and in the organizations ability to maintain not only in the presence but also to step towards the future.

The interesting question is what is diligence in the practical level and how do we achieve it. I will share with my understanding of diligence and my way to it.

There are several aspects to diligence:
First, a diligent employee works enough hours and does not tend to miss hours or days of work. I speak with people who I interview to work, and explain that the work is at minimum nine hours a day. Many times, more is required. The truth is that I do not really require much more, unless we experience peeks. Organizations who demand 11-12 hours a day, do not deal, to my opinion, with diligence. I believe it is more like taking advantage of people. Diligence is positive, yet our body and souls need the rest so we can continue contributing also on the next day and week.

Another aspect to deal with diligence has to do with the time in which we respond and act. If missions are delayed up to the last moment, or performed almost as they are held out. I have learned that missions that are performed rather early take me less time, twofold: We remember the setting and all related details and therefore save energy of re-entering the subject. Furthermore, remembering we have another task, and trying to remember all details (until we start) takes energy and attention. A diligent person starts early. In the Bible, we find two people that started early: Abraham, who got up early in order to fill God's request to sacrifice his son Isaac; and Bilam, who got up early running on to curse the people of Israel.

The last aspect, regarding diligent, as I see it, has to do with the work we carry on. In every job, in every role, there are parts that are enriching, parts that challenge us intellectually and other parts are less cherishing. Sometimes we think a less skilled person could fill in, sometimes it includes parts we do not like to do.
Even though it may be not the definition of diligence, I found out, that diligent people never say no to a mission, also if they do not fantasy it. They never say they are overqualified, or that they were not hired for this type of missions. Diligent people are prepared to work. Even if it is work, and not fun.

How do I achieve diligence within my employees?
I do so in two simple ways:
a) I demand diligence from all employees, in all three aspects mentioned.
b) I try to give them a good example. Role modeling.

Does it work? I believe so. Even though we are in the 21st century and diligence is not a sexy or trendy word, the employees are diligence. I indeed appreciate them for that.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Employments leaving work

It is natural, in a blog dealing with management issues, to deal also with employees who leave. I admit, that I always was too frightened to write a post on this A live blog is not a book on the shelf. I knew that no matter when I will decide to write about leaving employees, the timing would be bad. Once, an employee decided to leave; some other time, someone did not fit in and we announced that s/he should leave. Even if not all these situations are relevant, I may put the existing employees under pressure, just by writing such a post, fearing from some unannounced plans.
Yet, I believe there is place for such a post, as the blog tries to examine all aspects of management. Therefore, I sat and started writing.

There are three types of situations of leaving employees: There are employees who retire; there are employees who leave in order to work in some other organization; and, there are employees who we decide to dismiss. An organization who nurtures a close relationship between the organization and the employees, hurts when the employees leaves, no matter what the circumstances are. An uncomfortable feeling exists among everyone: The employer, the employee who is leaving, and all surrounding employees.

Yet, different emphasis should be put in each of the three types of leaving employees:

When an employee retires, the main risk, organizationally speaking, is loss of knowledge. An employee, who retires, in most cases, has spent many years within the organization. In most cases the knowledge s/he has accumulated, is unique and valuable. It is true, that within the many years of this employee with others in the organization, s/he had built relationships. However, toward this coping, both the leaving employee and his/her friends in work, have time to adjust. From the day we join an organization, we know, that the day will come, and we will retire. Nowadays, that people live longer, and turn older later, many people wait for this opportunity of retirement and plan carefully their second life, after retirement. The emphasis, as has already been noted, is on knowledge retention. The organization has to prepare itself and manage a well order process: deciding what knowledge will be prioritized for retention; deciding what will be documented, and how; deciding what will be accessible to all in an organizational website; deciding what will be transferred to other employees through conversations; deciding whether one employee will fill all job components, or will the role be divided down and passed to several employees. Such a process should be managed. The responsibility of the direct manager of the leaving employee, includes: Initializing the process, prioritizing what knowledge is to be kept, and more important, what knowledge can be dismissed (one can never pass all knowledge). The manager has to decide who will take in place (one or more); how soon should the process start before the employee leaves; and, when the knowledge transfer takes place, to see that it actually happens in the right quality and pace.

We should not degrade the complexity and importance of this process. We are speaking about employees who work many years in the organization, and knowledge retention is not as simple as we wish. Knowledge transfer will not happen by itself. We must understand, that if we even do everything possible, the expertise is lost, and parts of the knowledge remain, The objective of a knowledge retention process, is too retain, as much as possible of the knowledge. In many cases, the manager is not aware enough, and knowledge transferring takes place, but not in the right pace or effectiveness. There are written methodologies how to handle this issue, and I will not elaborate about the "how", just say- it must be done.

There are organizations in which the retiring employees turn to be consultants after they leave. In many cases, these employees earn more as consultants, and managers have to understand that this is not a healthy situation, as these employees tend to keep their knowledge to themselves in the years toward retirement. Our dependency grows bigger every generation.

There are employees, who leave the organization, on their own will. It is very common, as we witness nowadays, changing careers and changing places of work. Yet, organizations feel uncomfortable from these moves. The employees who stay in the organization, feel that maybe, outside there are better opportunities, and maybe they are mistaken for staying. The managers find it hard to accept. I once had a manager who was insulted from every employee who decided to leave her. After their decision to leave, she remembered mainly their faults, and we all have faults, even if we do a good job. Israel is a rather small country, and in such a market, people probably meet again in conferences, exhibitions, as suppliers or customers. In some cases, they even find themselves working together again, in some other place. Also if not, the manager has to know to control his/her feelings even if they feel betrayed from the move. Business-like behavior and no expression of positive feelings are the best in this situation. Even if the employee left after the organization has won a new project depending on this employee; even if there was an understanding with this employee on a planned promotion, leaving others behind. Behave business-like and express no bas feelings. Do not say any bad word, not even to the other managers. Of course not to other employees. Difficult, but recommended.
In this situation, knowledge has to be transferred, but it usually is much easier than in cases of retirement.

The most difficult situation, as I see it, is when we as managers, fire an employee. Sometimes such a situation is a necessity, whether because of economic circumstances or because the employee is not the right man for the right job. Certain issues should be addressed in this case:
First, we as managers must consider whether to enable the leaving employee stay in the office after the announcement, or do we disconnect him/her immediately asking them to take their belongings and leave. The answer is complicated and varies from one situation to another. It depends if the employee works in connection with customers and how the immediate leaving will influence the organizations connection with them; it depends how unique is the knowledge the employee carries and how critic is the knowledge retention process. It depends on the risk of knowledge theft by the leaving employee; and it depends, on how immediate leaving will ease the departure, or make it harder.

Another important issue to be addressed is how to prepare an employee to this traumatic situation?
There is no doubt that every dismissed employee experiences a trauma, at some level. I was once dismissed, and I believe this a situation that I will not ever forget. Above the insult, work is our major source of income and stability. Without work, most employees cannot continue. When we here such an announcement of loosing our job, we feel as in an earthquake. What can I suggest as an employer? When possible, prepare the employee before. If the circumstances are of someone less suitable for the job, speak about it a few times with the employee, urging him/her to improve explaining implications of not improving. If they improve- everyone wins. Even if not, at least we partly prepared them for the coming. I do admit, this is not as easy as it may sound. I find people having a hard time passing the message. They try to be nice to the person, with whom they are speaking with and tend to soften the message, leaving the employee with a different understanding. The receiving person, on the other hand, also may misunderstand the message even if things are said, again, as it is not a pleasant message. I do not have solutions for all cases. I just think that passing the message and preparing the employee towards the announcement of him/her leaving. If I did not speak myself with the employee about leaving, I call to say good-bye and good luck. I find this behavior very important and assisting.

Another issue when we dismiss an employee, is how to communicate the leaving to customers and suppliers. How do we communicate it to other employees? Also here, I must admit, there is no one simple answer, but one leading thought: We must be honest, while keeping the employee's honor. It is important to communicate something true, yet leave respect. We can give part of the details, yet we must speak. Customers will understand.

It is important to communicate the announcement to all other employees, almost immediately. I do this, by writing an email at the end of the day in which the announcement took place, A formal, yet supportive email, speaking about the circumstances, and expressing my real sad feelings.
We must remember, that things that we do not communicate, will be passed by rumors. It is also better if we pass the message and leave as less as we can in the open.
In rare situations, I even spoke about the situation with groups of employees, taking advantage of existing staff meetings, enabling people to share their feelings. It all depends on the situation.

The last question to do with this issue concerns knowledge transfer. Most dismissed employees will not find it appealing to help the organization preventing the knowledge loss, and to transfer on what they know. As this move is a planned one, part of the planning has to speak with the direct managers of the intended to leave employee, and decide how to handle the critic knowledge, parts of it shared even before the announcement takes place.

The issues are out there, they are not simple, and therefore I find myself writing such a long post.
If I have to sum it all in one sentence- knowledge to the organization, honor and sensitivity to the employee.