Gilad is an Israeli engineer working in Cleveland on a three year relocation assignment. Tommy is his Nevada-born and bred boss.
During the course of a discussion in the Planning Committee (Plan of Record) on the expected development time for a new feature, developer Gilad strongly expressed three opinions.
- There is no way we can make the May 9th deadline; let’s be real.
- The May 9th deadline is challenging but clearly doable.
- I’m absolutely against promising the client a May 9th delivery date, but who knows?
Tommy, was aghast. Tommy called Gilad into his office and told him that he would be wise to understand the facts, then form opinions. Tommy told Gilad that his wavering behaviour appeared unprofessional, “which is a shame because you are one of our more talented developers”.
The rapid changing of opinions by Israelis is common; it baffles and annoys managers who have been raised to think differently. I shall attempt to provide a few reasons why Israelis appear to change opinions at the drop of a hat.
- We tend to have less distinction between facts and opinions. Very often, people have opinions and then look for facts to support them. This is a manifestation of a very ideological society.
- Words are important yet less significant as a commitment to action than is western cultures. There is even an expression,`just words`, IE, meaningless prater. (רק מילים)
- Entertaining very opposite opinions at the same time, and then reaching a decision, is the very essence of the way Israelis think out a problem. Faced with impossible situations on a daily basis, this is an ultra pragmatic defense mechanism.
- There is no need for a safety net when changing an opinion, because contradicting yourself is part of thinking things out. There is no expectation that people in a constant case of crisis be consistent.
- Anything that you say is true at the moment you say it, but everything changes all the time. This is survival mode in action.
- Any decision made (except for written contracts) can reopened for further discussion. This is also survival mode in action.
A common Hebrew idiom explains it all, אז מה שאמרתי (az ma sheh amarti). Here is how it is used.
- A-Let’s work this out over supper tonight.
- B-I thought you said that tonight you need to take your daughter to see your mother.
- A-Az ma sheh amarti! (so what if I said it).