From bad to worse: Corona in Israel

Israeli summers are hot and whilst wearing a mask, they are hotter. It is almost unbearable to wear a mask all the time when outside. But wear a mask I do, because Corona is everywhere. It is lurking in every meeting, in stores, on handles, and on elevator buttons. In car washes, on paper money, on buses, trains and on banisters.

Not in pools however. Because the pools are closed. Synagogues, where so many people have become ill, are open yet pools are closed. Yes, the virus has created a lot of hatred and sectarianism as well. As if that was lacking.

Every plan is tenuous because people are coming in and out of quarantine. And if  they are in quarantine and Zoom is being used,  be prepared for chaos  because for some very strange reason, Zoom has voice issues in Israel. Voice issues meaning no voice. Just to be clear.

Poverty is ubiquitous. Closed stores, depleted goods, grim faces and seething anger as things go from bad to worse.

My hands are raw from washing and I find it harder to go out of my home each day to work for fear that I will be infected. Indeed I am in (very) good shape for someone my age but I am, alas, a bit frightened. Strangely enough and against all odds, I have a lot of work, all of it face to face. We sit 2 meters apart with doors and windows open.

Recently I have been reading a lot of leadership biographies: de Gaulle, D’Israeli and Truman. I do wish someone like Truman was our leader now, or even like a Disraeli.

But we are led by ineffective, corrupt, and idiotic scum. Each member of our government fought battles about “who could reopen fastest”, and we all got fucked.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

 

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Fifth Letter from Tel Aviv

With some of the corona-related  bans having been lifted, I am out and about again. To be honest, even during the lock-down, I did my daily nine kilometer walk wearing one mask or another, all of them suffocating in the summer heat.

I have also started to work again, my clients apparently not haven given up on me despite Israeli media’s constantly harping on the over 65 crowd’s upcoming extinction. To be a journalist in Israel during corona, you need to be under 25,  have a microphone, and suffer from a panic disorder.

Many stores near my home have folded. Those which have not folded are empty, or lines form outside so that only a number of clients can enter. Shopping is a nightmare ; the mood in public spaces is grim.

The dysfunction of our government is transparent-contradicting directions, finger pointing to shift blame, and a gross lack of personal example in leadership. The political crust of our society is pure scum, the bottle of the barrel. It is shocking, but not surprising; this is certainly not limited to Israel.

All adult education takes place on  line and as an adult-education junkie, I can bear about two hours of online learning a day, and that’s it. The best lectures I have heard over the last few weeks are “Stalin’s use of religious symbolism in Soviet propaganda”, and “Jews and Arabs in the Palestinian Police in the 1930’s”. Yes, esoteric. I know. And I have also started reading a lot about the pied noir of Algeria and Harry’s Truman’s presidency.

I have met with family and friends at restaurants, eating outside. Menus are digital; staff is semi compliant with regulations; and fear is looming  in the air.

We are presently experiencing the second wave of corona, with about 200 cases a day in a country with 9 million people. But there will be no more curfew, because the economy cannot take another blow. In many ways, the economy is out on its feet yet stumbling along.

However, it is infinitely better than it was during the shut down and “זה מה שיש”-that’s what there is.

And as Tuvya said, “and if our good fortune never comes, here’s  to whatever comes, drink l’chaim, to life”.

 

 

 

 

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The irrelevance of OD in combating racism

OD has absolutely nothing to bring the table to combat racism.

It is very “in” to try to lend a helping hand to combat racism, especially since the Floyd incident was recorded on an I phone.  “Social justice”, whatever that means, is often adopted by OD practitioners who are prone to try to change the world, not content with changing the organizations that they support.

Not only does OD has absolutely nothing to bring to the table; even worse, OD can do lot of damage by signing up to help.

Here are 3 major reasons why OD has no value to add.

Here is some of the damage that OD can bring to table in trying to combat racism.

 

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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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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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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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