Saturday, December 25, 2010

21st Century Management- The book

And now- One year after I finished writing this blog, it is published as a book.
The book includes all post, and all talkbacks added, both here and in the Israeli blog site where the posts were published as well (in Hebrew).
I thank you all for reading the posts, and invite you to purchase the book:
21st Century Management

All the best,

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.