August Letter from Tel Aviv

It is about a five minute drive from my home to the clinic where I will get my third corona vaccine tomorrow. It’s scheduled for 17:52 ( 5.52 pm). Now that’s Israel for you-some things work (health services) and some things don’t; it will take me about an hour to find parking once I get to the clinic. There is no parking to be found-legal or illegal.

Of course I know that I am a guinea pig and I don’t give a shit. I would much rather risk a few side effects than risk choking to death. I know of very few people my age who will not get the shot. Except of course for those who have already died of something else.

Masks have now returned to style, albeit often worn on the chin. Wearing a mask in the summer heat is not at all comfortable, to say the very least. But as delta rips across the country, imported by cretins  who took  summer vacations in unsafe places, the mask is making a comeback. How much of a comeback? I’d say as frequent as is condom use.

Every night there is a short programming-spot (on channel 11) which tries to “make sense” of the corona data. After each broadcast, I am more convinced than ever that the experts remind me of the various specialists who treat back pain: “live with it”; “exercise less”, “exercise more”, “you have a curvature of the spine”; “try acupuncture”; “I can operate”, “look, you are 71, what do you expect?”. And of course “it’s in your mind”.

Consistency is lacking not only in corona data, but in public policy. The country club mandates that all people coming into the club have been vaccinated twice. But this does not apply to the staff. Or the kids. Or the contractors. Actually, it applies to no one. Or perhaps it applies to the specific person at the entrance. Alexi is on his cell phone and doesn’t care who comes in; Fatima is typing her thesis and doesn’t even look at who comes in. Perla does care, but she caves in to people who “will get vaccinated next week”. How did we ever win a war? 

Well, at least we have a saner government now. Except perhaps for the corona-is-not-a-danger Minister of Education who is a PhD and a woman, so criticism seems to be mild. After all, gender trumps competence in today’s dialogue. She also hails from a city way north on the Lebanese border, so she can’t be wrong. After all, she is not from Tel Aviv. 

Thankfully, we do have a very vibrant society and Israelis know how to suffer danger and live at the same time. That truly is an advantage we have over the Americans who have discovered that their society is not so great, and over the more smug European nations who are surprised that such a small country as Israel is coping far better than most places on the globe. Why? Because almost every Israeli has a post doctorate in “grin and bear it”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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More information? Or better filters? Preliminary ramblings

I remember the cigar lady at Ruby Foo’s Restaurant in Montreal-“Cigars, Cigarettes, Tiperellos”, she would say softly, as she roamed from table to table, dressed in a gorgeous Chinese robe. Smoking was not bad for your health; it was a social pleasure even though I did not “run” to tell my father that I had bought a pack of du Maurier. Later of course, that pleasure was to end as smoking became as healthy as inhaling fumes from a Mac truck.

Two eggs a day were a must in “Canada’s Health Rules”, drilled into my head by Mrs. MacLean, Mr Colebrook, Mrs Pert and Mrs Taylor. Spending time in the sun didn’t cause melanoma-it provided Vitamin C. 

In my 71 years, I have seen and heard almost every food labelled as a cause of cancer and/or an elixir for good health.

Many diseases that had been able as “triggered by stress”, were later to be redefined years later as caused by something else. Nowadays, “viruses” and “stress” are very popular. 

Recently I have been asking myself what are we taking for granted now that years from now will be defined as nonsense. My guess is that it will be “what is information, and how much of it, whatever it is, do we need?”

I really don’t know what information is anymore. It’s not that I am being a smart-Alec; I really don’t know.

Clearly it’s not anything on the evening news. It’s not what politicians tell us. Certainly it is not religion, for me anyway. It’s very hard to get an agreement on an agreed version of what is a historical fact. Most sciences have changing paradigms, as Kuhn pointed out years ago.

I also practice a profession which no one can define. Definitions of my profession range from applied social science to an art form. Those differences in themselves are hard to define.

Realities don’t always change because of better knowledge, but also because of fads, fashion and political infighting within disciplines. 

Which leads me to believe that we need much better filters, not only less misinformation.

And we need to treat the information that comes our way like water that needs to cleaned, milk that needs to be pasteurized and air that needs to be clean.

Filtering information-is that just another hype, or a real need? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thoughts about leadership in tough times

These are very tough times in which to manage. The vast scope of external chaos, the partial upsetting/paralysis of supply chains, the inability of forecasting, the endless  waves of disease. Many leaders are looking bad and feeling even worse. 

This is a perfect time for OD practitioners to look our profession to  ask: what do we need to change about how we look at leadership?

Here are a few of my thoughts as well as questions that I am asking of myself and of colleagues.

  1.  People may have unrealistic expectations from leaders in hard times. What are the real and unreal things that people expect from leadership in such times?
  2. Is full transparency on the part of leadership a good practice? When coupled with ignorant masses, isn’t full transparency a risky bet?
  3. What can leaders do when they cannot control anything?
  4. How can we help leaders better communicate when their people do not want to hear the message?
  5. Do experts make better leaders than natural leaders in time like this?
  6. What is the shelf time of charismatic leadership in very tough times?
  7. Churchill was ousted at the end of the war. Can we learn anything from this?
  8. What type of dangerous leaders can prosper in hard times?

 

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Read this if you work with an Israeli manager

Working under an Israeli manager may prove a challenge for the non-Israeli, although most people I have interviewed very much learnt to appreciate some of Israeli management quirks. Following are the top  things to expect, and a suggestion of what to do in italics.

  1. They expect their decisions to be questioned, so feel free to express your opinion, even after the decision was made.
  2. They work very hard and long hours, texting and emailing all the time. State your limits in no uncertain terms.
  3. They are compassionate so if you have a personal issue, open up and ask for time off, help, whatever. In return, they expect loyalty, eg, not quitting before an important milestone.
  4. They are not all that politically correct. Get used to it.
  5. Praise sounds like ‘not bad’. Never expect gushing praise, because that is seen as unreal and too American.
  6. Failure is an option so take risks. Don’t fear repercussion from failure. 
  7. Planning is seen as ok up to a point, but it’s also seen as a ritualistic waste of time. So plan yes, but don’t exaggerate. 
  8. They view process as nice to have, but human ingenuity as critical. Don’t hide behind a process you think is wrong.
  9. Israeli managers care more about content then pyrotechnics. Get the facts across as concisely as possible and as accurately as possible.
  10. Israelis are not patient people. Get to the point.

 

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Billing issues in Organization Development

Billing issues are often discussed between colleagues who have become friends, or between professionals not operating in the same geography. In this post, I shall share some of my lessons learned from my many years on the road.

1) Never work for a success fee, unless the client promises to implement everything you recommend, which of course never happens.

2) Your initial price will never really creep up very much over the years, so remember that what seems ok at the beginning will not appear so after ten years.

3) Don’t negotiate with Supply Chain about your prices; if your internal client is not willing to do that messy work for you, the client does not have the power to own and drive an OD project.

4) Do not submit an overall budget of the project hours until you have a  good idea about scope. That means for the first few months, one should bill on an hourly basis.

5) If the client wants to know about your black box (how much profit you are making), in some cultures it is necessary to do so. I often say that “this is a very hard profession and I want to make it worth my effort”. 

6) Never set a different price for training or for different levels of management. Ever. It will bite you in the ass, with sharp teeth.

7) If pay day has come and gone, collect. Don’t let the days float by. Clients won’t appreciate a consultant who does not run their business properly.

8) In very hard times, don’t discount but work for free.  Working for free will be appreciated but discounts will become permanent.

9) When you negotiate with clients aboard, make sure that they pay money transfer fees, which can be extraordinarily expense. This can be worded as: “the client will agree that money transfer fees will be “ours”.

10) Make sure that up front it is clear that meetings which are rescheduled on the same day are billed at full price.

11) If you are working abroad, and you have already left your own country, all work cancelled or rescheduled is fully billed.

12) Always provide a work sheet which spells out who you met and for how long. Round your hours back to the last 15 minutes, so that 2 hours and 22 minutes is billed at 2 hours 15 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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