The Israeli election teaches 2 quick lessons about Israeli organizational life

I followed the Israeli elections on local media as well as on foreign media. Many reports expressed dismay about the tactics used in the last few days of the campaign during which many parties called out to their supporters: “vote for us, we are losing”. This type of campaign is called “Gevalt”, and implies impending doom. The use of this tactic shocked foreign media.

This blog of mine is not abut politics, yet the lessons to be learnt from the use of the Gevalt tactic merit a short focus on  its underpinnings , since Gevalt is so applicable in organizational life.

A “gevalt” campaign rests on two pillars-fear and compassion.

Fear

Fear of impending doom serves as a massive motivating factor in Israel, internally and externally. If “they” win, “we are finished”. Israeli society is post traumatic, both from the holocaust, the periodic wars and the constant threat of terror. What separates us from them is very often a myth, but fear is real and fear ignites, augments and enhances the survival instinct. The post traumatic symptom which is most common is the survival instinct, which serves as a magic trigger for action.

So if you manage a project in Israel, a statement like, “if we fail, HQ will close us down” is much more effective than a detailed plan on how to succeed. Or, if a product fails on first try, the panic mode of 24/7 will be more effective than a detailed fix-it process which may take longer yet solve the root cause of the problem.

Compassion

When an Israeli politician admits that he may be losing, what he (or she) may be saying is that “I am like your father; I make mistakes but I care for you. Show me compassion when the going gets rough, because I busted my ass to bring you up/take care of your interests.

So if you manage a Israeli team, an appeal for help is far more effective than promising a bonus or a weekend in an resort in Cyprus or Greece. “We take care of each other” works far better than using a formal system such as compensation to harness people in tough times. Btw, when push comes to shove, Israeli organizations do not generally fire people at the drop of a hat, unless the downsizing comes from a global company which needs to chop a given number of heads from each geographical site.

Summary

Using a survival motive and appealing for compassion are great motivators in Israel. There is no such thing as an overdose of either. Our society is post traumatic and emotionally high strung.

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In the room, people come and go talking of…..Meetings in Israel

To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock- TS Eliot

Meetings in Israel have many unique characteristics: loose agendas, going out on a tangent most of time, argument, reopening of decisions, debating for debating sake and yes-but-ism.

There is yet but another challenge (for the non Israeli) in our meetings, and that is the frequent coming and going in/out of the meeting room.

The latter is the subject of this post.

Today, I stood outside the Lord Balfour Room and asked those coming in/going out of the room what their story was. The meeting in Balfour was scheduled to start at 1000 AM. It started at 1017.

At 10.22, Alisa and Fatima came into the room. They were both on the same train that ran late; both mentioned that the air-conditioning on the train was malfunctioning and thus, they had stopped  to get a bottle of water with ice before entering the room. The ladies asked me to carry in the ice bucket.

At 10.27, Maor left the meeting room, because his son had called him to ask if he could have the car in the afternoon, and if so at what time. “And Dad, by the way…” Maor went back in at 1040.

Sivan left the room at 10.42 to take a call from her Dad’s doctor,  for which she had been waiting for  3 weeks.

Miki, Simon and Iggie had a double booked meeting and arrived at 1045.

CFO Riki left the room 3 times: once to speak to a supplier who had not been paid; once to field a call from a board member and once to smoke.

The meeting which was supposed to end at 1130 ended at 12.30, so lunch was ordered in and the discussion went on for another hour, even though a third of the people invited had left.

Why does this happen?

1 Personal issues can be dealt with on company time.

2 Immediate responsiveness is more valued than keeping to the plan.

3 People multi task all the time as a way of life and if there is a gap, they retro fix it.

4 Keeping to plan/schedule has some espoused importance but other things are “equally important” and everyone  must  decide his/her  priorities. Besides that, shit happens.

5 Some of the decisions that were made in the meeting can be revisited by people who were not in the meeting when the decisions were made, so  lack of discipline is complemented by lack of consequence-all of which is compensated by deep commitment and willingness to do everything to get the job done! 🙂

Is this chaos? Yes for the outsider; No for the local. Why? That’s another post. 

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