Read this if you work with the Israelis (or Chinese)


                                                     At the post office  בדואר

This morning when the postman came, I was in the shower. So he left me a “Package Waiting Stub” which read, “You were not home when we came to deliver package number 12345. Your package will be available from next Monday, and we will hold  it for 10 days”.

I  put the stub in my pocket,  traveled to Tel Aviv to meet with 2 clients and then returned home to walk my dog, Georges. We walked over to the post office, although the package will only be available in 6 days. The post office was closed. (There is also a sign saying no dogs allowed).

I walked to the back door of the post office, where postmen return after their rounds. I showed Ziad the stub, and he said, “Why are all of you so impatient. Your package is probably not here, but go up to the 2nd floor and ask for Diane. Are you a professor? What a nice dog. Make sure he does not piss in the corridor.”

I found Diane sorting mail and showed her the stub. “I need your help,” I said. Dianne asked “who sent you here to drive me crazy. Do you have thorns in your ass?” ( i.e, Why is this so urgent?)

It was very very very hot, and I ask Diane why the union has not arranged for air conditioning. She cursed the union.

Diane then went to a huge bag, emptied it, and after 20 minutes of searching, I got my package. She told me Georges was cute.

So, what can be learnt from this?

1-Formal systems may have a work around via parallel systems.

2-Don’t jump to conclusions when people are not polite.

3-Question the limits, build relationships and negotiate everything.

Mon chien



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If you are not enabling cooperation, you are irrelevant

I received this email (shortened and edited) 3 weeks ago.


I found out about you from your irritating but hilarious Gloria satire.

I manage a team of 12 HR people in (name withheld), an Anglo-Dutch-Spanish company with operations in Europe and Japan.

I really want my team to development partnership with their managers, yet several of my staff remind me too much of your Gloria: control, sloganeering and fear of confronting poor managers.

Can you give a talk to my staff (one hour) on what you as an OD consultant consider to be the guiding principles for partnering with management that HR should embrace.

Kindly suggest a time we can talk.

Name withheld”

I gave the talk last evening and in this post, I would like to share my main points .

  • The achievements of “homo sapiens at work” stem from our ability to consciously cooperate, “imagining” a future state to which all work in a degree of unison.
  • Powerful factors drive people to poor cooperation, due to flaws in the present economic model, the impact of IT technology on the art of communication and the superficiality caused by the high speed of business.
  • The essence of mighty challenge all of us in the “people professions” face is the need to foster far more cooperation and lessen the growing alienation (anomie) in the workplace.
  • HR seems to have several tools at its disposal: rewards, recruitment, development processes, guardian of the culture, business partnership.
  • Cooperation however is evasive. Too much use of culture-as-a religion promotes rebellion against religious organizational doctrine. Using rewards may work up till a point, only to become a bargaining process of paying for performance. Recruitment is a crap shoot;  all processes have a human “work around”.
  • Thus, there is no “protocol” to enhance cooperation, only trial, error, common sense, pragmatism, luck, and massive investment in mitigating trust issues between with people, within projects and between teams.
  • One needs to focus solely on the cooperation to the exclusion of almost everything else. If what you do does not build cooperation, you are not being effective.
  • You cannot cook an omelet without breaking eggs. Afraid of confrontation? You chose the wrong career.
  • Be very careful not to overdose on measurement. Data can be used to provide an indication; I suggest  not obsessing about measurement. When we start measuring, we like to be accurate, which leads the measurer to change what we are measuring. The act of measuring often negatively impacts he/she who measures to ignore the all too important abstract.
  • Don’t be afraid to sound irrelevant if you believe you are in the right direction. Don’t cave in and “please”. Persevere.
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A personal “congratulations” to John Scherer

John Scherer will receive ODN’s Lifeline Achievement Award for 2015.

This blog and my Gloria satiric blog exist because John Scherer pressured me to write. Thank you John.

The most useful critique of my global OD work and my style has come from John. His comments have had context, depth and John’s  intent is to help and support. When he speaks, I listen.

John has boundless energy. He inspires, he innovates and he learns, all the time. John has a heart of gold, a heart bigger than he is. John is a giver.His clients are very lucky.

I am a better consultant for having John as a colleague. I am enriched for having him as a friend.

And he truly deserves the recognition he is getting.

Bravo, Johnny boy, from Gloria and me.


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Responsiveness to email and culture

Astrid from Munich, Neta from Tel Aviv and Harry from Newark are on the same team.
When Astrid (Germany) gets an urgent request via email from Neta or Harry she puts together a detailed and full answer and gets back to the sender within 3-5 days.
Harry (US) regards Astrid’s email replies to urgent requests as too long and detailed. He would have preferred a shorter answer, in “a bit less time”. Harry thinks that 48 hours is “enough grace for something urgent”.

Neta (Israel) expects a daily update by email from Astrid as to the status of her urgent request. She views Astrid’s approach as “totally non-responsive”. “By the time I get her answer, “I forgot the question”. When Neta gets an urgent request via email, she puts everything aside to provide the answer, often backing up her email answer with a text that the urgent request has been answered.

Harry “puts time aside” for urgent requests, but does nothing after 7pm and nothing on holidays “unless the world is coming to end”. Harry believes that were people to plan better, some of this urgency could disappear.
Neta does not like to plan at all and believes that planning is an empty ritual.
Astrid could spend all her time planning and wishes that Harry and Neta were more orderly.

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How to do OD consulting with a startup

This post will address how to go about doing OD with start ups and their founders.

At face level, there is a good match between the value proposition of OD and the needs of startups.

  • Startups have talent, flexibility, a high level of engagement and do not suffer from the chronic ailments of older organizations.
  • OD provides a development platform (mindset, concepts, skills) to support the new technologies/products which are being created. Sounds like a dream world to me.

However, founders are generally not receptive to OD. The very qualities of the founders that enabled them to become founders, prevent them from proper leverage of OD. The founder, who essence is breaking down the barriers of innovation, often views “organizational issues” in one of two ways:

1) Organizational issues are banal, ‘a matter of common sense”, (meaning the common sense of the founder.)

2) Organizational issues are a chance to reinvent human nature; “I will create an organization which will change the way people organize.”

The constraining forces inhibiting growth of a startup are often organizational and behavioural. Startups have ideas, technologies and great people; frequently they have a detailed road map of the development of the technological solution they are engineering. Yet founders of startups do not generally address the issue:” what type of organization do I need to develop to support these great ideas?”

Founders often react poorly to OD consultants. Not only are many founders arrogant, many OD practitioners lack the technical savvy to gain respect.  OD consultants tend to be much older than founders, which add more complexity since the OD consultant can be seen as the “parent”. (I am 71 and many of my clients are in their twenties).

Generally founders appoint the admin to be the first HR manager, along with facilities and car rental! That certainly closes the HR route to work with startups at an early stage.

Often, investors who want their founders to get grey haired organizational development support put OD consultants on the Board, or attach some strings to the money that they invest making OD “compulsory”. This approach certainly limits the trust that will develop between the founder and the OD consultant, although I remember two cases when that approach worked.

OD in startups generally begins when the founder steps aside to becomes CTO and brings on a professional CEO . The struggle between the founder and the new CEO is a great place to start an OD project. 98% of the work I do in startups began this way.

Once a project starts, I suggest the following emphases:

1-Ensure that the development of the organization parallels the development of the organization 6 months down the road

2-Develop a dialogue and an action plan around developing scalability. (Anyone who wants to know how this is done should leave contact details below).

3-Develop a plan whereby the organization does not need to either enslave itself to the initial group of employees, nor push them aside. There are many ways of doing so.

4-Develop a life cycle dialogue and action plan about people, skills, “mores” and structuring.

Follow me @AllonShevat

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