So, why did I postpone this for ten years?

Before

Martin my optometrist told me ten years ago that I had 2 cataracts which were ready for extraction. Born in London, “Mahtin” is a by-the-book type of guy; he added that “you should not waste money on new glasses every year or less, just have the cataracts  done”.

Were I to be honest, I could not say that I am merely  frightened of doctors. That is incorrect. I am absolutely  petrified of any visit to any doctor, except to a dentist which for some strange reason, I do not fear at all. Of course, many people fear dentists more than doctors, but I guess we all have our own bizarre nature. There are no words to describe how much I fear a visit to a doctor.

When I visit a doctor, not only does my blood pressure soar, but I sleep poorly the night before. I imagine that only bad news will come my way, and that any ailment that might be found is incurable.

Of course I know that the only incurable thing about me is my fear of doctors, but knowing that does not really help. At all.

I waited ten years (and 15 changes of glasses) to finally get the cataracts done. After endlessly complaining about the “size” of street signs, the lack of street lighting, the unclear size of train station signs, the very small print of the newspaper, I was faced with unrelenting internal and external pressure to get this done.

First step was an eye doctor, who checked me out said to me, in a thick Argentinian accent, “I sure don’t want to drive with you at night”.  I asked her for a recommendation to  a surgeon, and was told that Prof Asya. is the gold standard. I checked my insurance and found out that I was fully covered. I then  waited 7 gold standard months plus 7 weeks of corona during which the clinic was closed.

Today, at 915 AM, the second extraction took place and I am already sitting in front of my PC with perfect vision. Here is what happened today.

Upon entering the clinic, an attendant took my temperature questioning me icily about corona symptoms. This took one minute. Then an insurance approval was handed over another attendant who types and types and types as if she is printing an airplane ticket. Then I was asked to sit in front of a sign which ominously declares: Operation Theatre-Entrance only to authorized people. With me waited three other patients and we were seated far away from each other-another corona reality.

Operating Theatre

I starred at this bloody  door for half an hour. After which, I was whisked into an anesthesiologist who asked me if I wanted a tranquilizer, which I did not. She asked me what my name is, which eye was to be operated on, my name, what eye was to be operated on until she made sure about who I am and why I was there.

Then into another room where my blood pressure was taken twice because for most people, not only me,  B P is sky high measured the first time before an operation. Then my pupil  was dilated with about 20 eye-drops “until you look like an owl”, words of the nurse in charge.

From there to the laser machine, where I was strapped down and told “don’t move, talk, cough or sneeze” and for about 30 seconds, I saw nothing but a very strong light. After which I was told to stand up and walk to the operating room and asked to sit down and the chaired reclined into a bed. Something was inserted into my eye to prevent me from blinking, which was probably the worst part of the entire procedure, besides of course having my BP taken!

In the background, I heard soft Israeli music, people chatting about my eye / and or machine readings in English and Hebrew along with other utterances.  Ten minutes passed rather quickly.Then Prof Asya  said “Allon you can get up”. Unfortunately, I was not attentive and kept lying still until I snapped into my senses as I felt a hand on my shoulder.

15 minutes later I was on the road going home. And now sitting in front of my glowing PC, with new bright colours all around me.

The ten year wait was, let’s put it this way, a fucking stupid thing to do.

Over and done

 

 

 

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Premature Resolution of the Mourning Process: Corona and Culture

The corona virus has changed life and the changes have been painful.

Even with some of the easing of restrictions, the emerging reality is dismal: the loss of civil liberty, the face masks, ruined economies, financial stress, inability to distinguish between real and fake, no face to face time with old cronies, no swimming, no beach and lots of new technology to learn to get things done.

I have a wide set of friends and acquaintances all over the globe, thanks to my many years working globally, and I have had lots of conversations about what’s going on.

For my Israeli friends, this is just another hardship, like being bombed from Gaza, paying lots of tax and getting fucked by the government, sitting for hours in horrendous traffic jams or the stress of constant political conflict. Just another bundle on our back.

My Asian friends have a stoic resilience, which accepts albeit with resignation, that it is what it is.

The American response seems to feign positivism or even at times reek of positivism. What can we “learn from this”. “Let’s make lemons from lemonade”. Or “at least we are all in this together, forging a sense of community”. I have even heard that this is a “great window of opportunity to change our lives”.

I try not to be judgmental, although ultimately I fail. Like all Israelis, I accept the present limitations as just another hardship, but a tough one. I am 70 years old, fit, and want to enjoy the rest of my life. With the present limitations, the outlook for that is not brilliant.

I am not a stoic. I wish I were. But I am not. When stoicism was handed out, I was the last in line.

Most certainly, I do not share the worldview of my American friends and colleagues. I cannot fight against  mourning for what and whom I miss. Premature reconciliation with the loss will only serve to bite me in the bum later on. I don’t want to think about the lemonade now. I want to feel the loss. Otherwise, I will build stairs of sand and pretend to “have a nice day”.

Mourning is a basic right no one will take from me.

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Cultural resistance to post merger integration-case study

Soren called me today, after asking me via Whatsapp if I am free for a short call. Soren and I have worked together in the past when he was EMEA manager for a German company.

In his present capacity as Business Development Manager, Soren has acquired a software security firm with offices in Tel Aviv and Mumbai. Soren is now driving the post-merger integration team, which is encountering resistance to the implementation of changes to supply chain directives. According to the directive, local purchasing cannot sign off on any purchase more than $100, with a monthly limit of $1000. Everything else must get a sign off from corporate finance, in Britain.

Sanjeev from the India purchasing team has agreed to implement the change, and yet, exception after exception keep piling up. Soren told me “this guy invents more excuses than anyone I’ve ever managed in my 25 year career”.  Soren added, “Sanjeev often does not answer his phone when I need clarification”. Adina from the Israeli purchasing team has called the changes “pathological mistrust” and “micromanagement at its worst”. Adina has, strangely enough, complied, yet bad mouths the change and gives head office bad PR in the Israeli office. Adina sent an email to the Israeli staff saying that “I have been turned into a rubber stamp”.

I told Soren to speak with Sanjeev’s boss, who is probably lurking behind the resistance whilst Sanjeeb is the fall guy. Soren said, ‘it can’t be; he’s boss is so amenable”. So I asked Soren why he called me.

I told Soren that Adina’s resistance is only verbal and that over time, she will quiet down. The best way to gain her trust is to let execute the only right that Israelis demand-the right to complain.

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How can OD become relevant as businesses reopen

As the current stage of the corona plague slows down and businesses reopen, OD consultants may identify a demand for their services. However with budgets becoming very tight, only the more skilled consultants will get work. In the present crisis, chicken shit pre packaged OD and training packages will not fare well. But there are opportunities for the better skilled.

I have always suggested that when clients turn to a consultant, their problem definition may be a symptom of the problem itself. “We have a communication problem”, or, “First line managers do not identify with the management”, or, “We lack customer intimacy” are all symptoms, and nothing more. Probably the most critical OD skill is the ability to redefine the problem with the client.

I want to suggest that albeit the initial (possibly inaccurate) problem definitions that will come our way on the part of clients, the real issues that clients will face will be:

  1.  Shifts of power within the organization from functions that generate revenue to those who save resources and  focus on efficiency.
  2.  Internal mergers between units and departments. Examples may include between Legal and HR; between Sales and Service; between Project Management and Engineering; from geography based sales focus to government -focus.
  3. Enhancement of risk management by sharing of risk, alignment of decision making to the appropriate level, and development of contingency plans.
  4. Replacing key players/leaders who are not capable of change.
  5. Implementation of extraordinarily painful cost cutting, without loosing  critical functionality and the trust of those who remain.

If you have a skill set which adds value in these areas, then you may have a fighting chance of survival. And if not, then like the Jervis Bay, your practice may go down.

sinking, still she faces her antagonist.
Then the waters begin to close over her.
The waters close over Fogarty Fegan,
And over the flag
That once was used for burials at sea.
And now night spreads its shroud.

                                           -Gene Fowler

 

 

 

 

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External factors that may impact the cultures of organizations as the plague unfolds

It appears that this pandemic is not “one shot and you are dead”. Rather, it’s here for a long time, and even if a silver bullet is found and deployed in the near future (which won’t happen), the shock waves will last for a protracted period.

I have explained in this blog that organizational culture is formulated far more by external forces than by any other factor. True, leadership, idiosyncrasies and  luck all make a difference, yet external factors remain the dominant architects of organizational culture.

In this post, I want to point out a few external factors which will hugely impact organizational culture the longer that this plague lasts.

  • Jobs will become very scarce. Very scare. Like 4 leaf clovers. And that means that it becomes an employers’ world: sans work-life balance; sans perks; sans engagement; sans paid vacation; sans lunch coupons.
  • Choppy choppy is back in season; 3 jobs will become one. Three departments will become two. Six  engineers will become four. And until that happens, organizations will be war zones between people vying to be retained.
  • The roles and functions focused on gender equality and diversity will be totally marginalized and wither away. It’s a world of many people drowning and very few life jackets. If the virus continues to spread, organizations may develop filters for certain types of staff during recruitment, so as to minimize risk and possible quarantine.
  • This is the time for CFO’s, financiers, and risk-aversive folks to shine. Dreams, vision and big ideas will be relegated to the back burner.
  • With massive, rampant, extreme, widespread poverty at the gateway, companies will need to invest in security in a similar way that airlines did after 9/11. That means bogging things down with tremendous regulation and expense, which need to come from another pocket.

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Mr Blackwell’s Latin Classes and our “unseen” passage

Time-1965

Place-Sir Winston Churchill High School,  Ville Saint Laurent, Quebec

At 10.45, we went out to the school yard for morning recess in the -20 weather. Unlike other days during which we played hockey, smoked in a corner, and gossiped about the girls, for example Coral’s hickey, we all appeared shattered by the unseen Latin test that Mr. Blackwell had just given us.

Frank said that he had to guess a lot, but he believes the unseen passage was a description of a battle that took place somewhere in Carthage, and there was a huge use of incendiary bombs. Glen, whose father worked for Air Canada, claimed that the unseen described the act of map making, especially the ways and means of delineating areas not close to a major landmark. Norman said that the piece he translated was about the court of a great emperor of a major naval sea power. I shared my view that a certain military commander was complaining that the chariots his men were using were of poor repair.

Mr. Blackwell was a typical school teacher in the PSBGM, the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal. He had recently emigrated from England; he spoke with a very pronounced accent, and he was stern yet calm. True, Blackwell’s accent was much clearer to us than was that of our history teacher, Miss Chesney, who was from Scotland. No one, I mean no one understood Miss Chesney. But we all knew that her first name was Mildred.

By the time recess was over, we were all convinced that Mr. Blackwell had given each of us different unseen passages so that we would not copy from one another. That theory, however, was devastated after we came back from recess.

Mr. Blackwell asked Sharon what the unseen was about. She replied, “it was about the fire department in the City of Nicomedia.” The other brain in our class, Sheila, repeated her answer. Sheila and Sharon were sisters, twin sisters to boot. Then came the final blow. “And what about you, Roberta, what was the “ahticle” about”?  Roberta, class brain number one, who also was a soloist in our choir, chimed in her version about the Nicomedia Fire Department, describing the department in great detail. Or as Mr. Blackwell said, thank you Roberta for describing this ancient fire department in “grey detail”.

Two days later was a Friday, and Blackwell’s Latin class was the last lesson of the week. Just as the bell rang to set us free, Blackwell looked outside and said, “Now look here-what dismal weather awaits us all this weekend. Don’t sit like bumps of a frozen log; go to work on your Latin vocabulary. That’s “appeahs” to me to be a great way to spend a weekend.  Now-out!.”

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The case of Captain Brett Crozier- my take

For several years, I constructed case studies for analysis in the military when I was an Internal OD consultant in the Israeli army. The case of Captain Crozier caught my eye, and I have tried to read everything I can about the goings-on, which have led both to the axing of Captain Crozier and the resignation of the acting secretary of the Navy.

The case of Brett Crozier, captain of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt was axed for bypassing the chain of command by unduly escalating the outbreak of corona on his vessel. The escalation (via email) reached the press and the shit hit the fan.

Did Crozier do the right thing? Should he be reinstated? Is he a bum? Is he a victim? Is it legitimate that the chain of command be bypassed by using the press, albeit inadvertently?

Here is my cut.

Leadership in the army focuses on getting the job done by following a set of predefined protocols and processes which have been worked out over centuries of warfare.

Military leadership is probably more people focused than any civilian outfit that I know, albeit that armies send soldiers to their death. There is no reason to believe that anyone above Crozier wanted to see the ship become a vessel of death. So it’s not a story of a whistleblower in a cruel and malicious organization who exposes the firms’ evil.

The issue is somewhere else. There is a built in paradox between getting the job done and following a set of predefined protocols and processes. This paradox needs to be constantly managed and re calibrated, because reality (getting the job done) and predefined protocols often clash, because war is full of “unexpecteds”, and many of the plans, processes and protocols have holes in them as the enemy surprises us.

But is Corona a war? It is a very different kind of war. Not the type we were brought up to fight, but a war nonetheless. And a very dangerous one if we don’t have the insight to act as if it is a war. After all, war is not mainly what we plan, but violence that happens.

Military machines and armies have horrendous bureaucracies, because most of the time, they maintain the peace, and just train for war, not wage war. Responsiveness of these bureaucracies is faulty, because the higher up you go, the more people are invested in the status quo. A huge amount of investment at the senior level is made at looking good, not being good.

This having been said, there is no place whatsoever for populism in the making of military decisions. Military decisions cannot be made by voting by smartphone. There is no doubt about that.

So, it’s a matter of balancing the paradox between getting the job done and adhering to the chain of command. There is no text book answer. It is risk management and balancing trade-offs between conflicting priorities. That’s why commanders exist.

So hail to Captain Crozier, an American hero. I salute you.

Afterthought

In the Israeli military, there is an expression “tsalash-tarash -“צל”ש-טר”ש“, which can roughly be translated as “Either a medal of honour or demotion to First Private”.

The expression is used to describe an action involving great risk  which is taken that is judged  only by the result. When the result is success, results trump adherence. This promotes risk taking, a must for the success of military leadership.

 

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Organization Development “after the flood” – What is to be done? And what will become undone?

Certainly at this point, no one knows jack shit about what is in store for organization development if and when the current plague subsides. That reminds me of what  a client  of mine (who dabbled in politics at a senior level) told me..” The public generally does not know two basic things-what will happen, and what actually happened.”.

Nevertheless, in this brief article, I want to suggest a framework for approaching our professions’ continued survival, as well as put out my neck and predict some shattering developments.

Framework

No one has a clue what will happen to organizations/the act of organizing if and when society crawls out of this black hole called corona. It makes no sense to guess if people will work from home or return to the work-place. It makes no sense to predict trends and support possible ways of recovery-unless you get your kicks that way.  What does make sense is to own the fact that no one knows anything. Because that is one of the strengths of OD-coping with ambiguity.

As the new organizational reality and changes are conceived, we will not be in the bedroom. At best,  we will be the midwife. The changes will be foisted upon us by economic reality, political change and changes in belief systems. Organization development will be able to ease this process along, by avoiding any arrogance of trying to re-mold a new order.

My friend Robin Cook wrote me that “no OD practitioner worthy of the title would dare to try to impose his or her solutions”. This is true to some extent, but the values that OD espouses do impose value loaded solutions in a passive aggressive way. Many of our core values will have to change as the world resets. OD is particularly conservative when it comes to examining our own values. Without such a value reset on our part, OD is doomed to irrelevance.

Allon foolishly sticks out his neck

And now I am going to stick out my neck and share with my readers a few of my assumptions, which may all prove to be wrong, no doubt.

  1. Organizations will become like jungles than they already were with supply of jobs much smaller than demand. Salaries will tumble. Management will be more authoritarian and demanding.
  2. CFO’s will call the shots for a very long time.
  3. Many perks and wellness programs will be abandoned; perhaps the slogans will survive.
  4. Political correctness will die. Perhaps it will be massacred. No one will forget where and how the virus started, which communities are ill and which are not. Who prepared and who denied? And the results will be ugly.
  5. Social order will erode big time. The age of repression is at the gates, and this is an ill omen for our profession and its assumptions. If we don’t play our cards right, we are soon to become extinct.
  6. The lower end of OD (training, empowering middle management, chicken shit products which enable change in one day) will be wiped off the map because  many organizations will have no money to waste. Internal OD will be eliminated  The only OD practitioners to be left standing will be the best consultants and the false prophets and magicians, the latter always flourishing in very bad times.

“Of course there is,” Brishen said flatly. It had started badly; it turned worse and hinted at becoming ruinous.”
― Grace Draven, Eidolon

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The gift of helplessness

Feeling helpless is nothing new for me.

My late wife was diagnosed with melanoma in 1986; she died in 1993. That’s good basic training in helplessness, if you ask me.

I live in the Middle East, where insoluble conflict is the leitmotif of everyday life. I have sat around for weeks with a gas mask next at my side as Saddam bombed Israel. And when Hamas bombed Israel. And when Hezbollah bombed Israel.  I have heard the explosion of 3 terror attacks: the “fridge incident” in Jerusalem, as well as a bus station and shopping centre in the suburb where I live.

And now, Corona!

Everything has changed;  there is absolutely nothing that I can do. Total helplessness. No swimming. No history studies, no Friday concerts, no Wednesday morning lectures on dreams,  my clients are in lock down, and unlike 99% of social media users, I am not working remotely. (Nor do I plan to, nor do I like to)

So where is the meat? Or is there any meat? It really depends on what you call meat.

Being helpless is a very different thing than feeling helpless. Once you accept helplessness, it is an act of spiritual liberation, since you are freed from trying to gain control. And giving up control can help banish worrying.

I have struggled with “worrying” for as long as I can remember, yet the more I experience helplessness, the less I worry. That has been the major gift I have taken away from the present crisis.

I was to have had cataract surgery on 26.3. I waited 7 months for the top surgeon in Israel. My surgery was cancelled two days beforehand. No worry. It will happen, or it won’t. So I won’t drive at night. But what if I have to? Don’t think about it.

Free at last.

 

 

 

 

 

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5th Letter from Tel Aviv- Just let them complain!

Many dictators have maintained  power by limiting freedom of speech, even to the extent of trying to censor mass media, ban Whatsapp, imprison journalists, and what have you.

Not in Israel. The Israeli needs one basic freedom, after which he can be easily repressed-that freedom is the “Right to Complain” .

Let us say whatever we want, and then you can repress us.

Israelis will pay 50% income tax, sit for hours and hours in traffic jams, and accept a Minister of Health who fights for the rights of religious women to go to a public ritual bath in the days of corona. The Israeli when allowed to complain, will spend three or four times the price for food and lodging-as long as freedom of speech continues.

By the way, government  ensures that mobile phones are cheap, so they complain all the time. (9 dollars a month, unlimited use)

Let’s look at why this happens.

First, Israeli culture differentiates between words and action, relegating words to “just words”.

Words have always been mitigated in Zionist (not Jewish) history. Ben Gurion once said that it is important what Israel does, not what the UN says. And an entire faction of the Zionist movement focused on doing not saying, in order to create` `facts in the field“ עובדות בשטח .

The manner is which Israelis worked against  Kennedy and with Johnson on the Dimona Nuclear Project illustrates the lack of importance associated with words in this critical juncture in Zionist history, the establishment of Israel as the strongest military power by far In the Middle East.

it is easier for Israelis to commit to an idea after they have ripped it apart. I know that for many people; this is very hard to understand. It can be likened to learning to live someone by understanding all their shortcomings, thereby accepting them.

Allowing  Israelis to complain binds and pits them against one another, simultaneously. them among themselves,  making them easier to control. No one understands this better than the accused criminal Benyamin Netanyahu.

So now let’s look at the components of Israel health policy at the moment: ritual baths (corona infection pits) for the ladies open, a very partial curfew enforcement exists in religious and minority areas, we are all kept 100 meters near  home because some idiots went to the beach. We are forced to accept a totally inept health care management team consisting of a useless, sectarian, pathetic ultra-Orthodox hack as Minister of Health (who may eventually go to jail for assisting pedophiles  to escape justice) as well as his managing director, a third rate economist with no medical background.

Just let “em complain.

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