Moving to Israel: Starting a new life in a very different organization

“I am moving to Israel today” I blurted out to the air steward on the ElAl flight from London. “You must be crazy…can I swap passports with you?” said the steward. I was not surprised. Even then, many Israelis had a love-hate relationship with this place. Still, I would have preferred a little more positive encouragement.

It was a cold night at the quaint, ramshackle Ben Gurion Airport as it was then. My friends and brother met me at the arrivals exit – there was no hall – and we took the long journey up north to Kibbutz Kadarim.

It has crept up on me, but now the anniversary is here – on the 14th of December 1987 I landed in Israel – thirty years ago.

Richard with the welcoming party on arrival in Israel, Dec. 1987.


As I reflect, here are a few things I learned on the way that connect to the organizational world:

First listen and learn

I have lived way longer in Israel than I have in Australia. Even though you can never shake off where you grew up, I feel, think, curse and act in many ways like an Israeli, not feeling at all like a stranger.

It was not always like that. Even though I had spent a gap year in Israel, the initial culture shock was tough. My biggest issue was public behavior. To this day, the built-in Israeli zeal not to be a “freier” or sucker raises my blood pressure. As a young immigrant I took a lot of public transport. The way people pushed in and prepared their elbows every time a bus showed up drove me mad. In my first year, I believed that I could educate the public by telling everyone off whilst trying to get justice. The smoking ban on public transport was new and people would smoke at the back of the bus, hiding between the seats – another reason to get angry. I would get quite upset about this kind of behavior until I realized that if I was to survive, I would have to take a deep breath and turn a blind eye.

Choosing your battles and your spheres of influence became a very strong motto for me in my new country; and in every organization I have been involved in.

Learn the organizational lingo

In retrospect, I quickly did a lot of things that allowed me to integrate and feel a part of what went on here. My Hebrew was satisfactory when I landed, but I knew that I would have to work hard if I was going to be employed. So I did. Five months of intense Hebrew studies at Ulpan Etzion was critical in getting my Hebrew up to scratch. I always tell Olim – do your ulpan homework because afterwards it will be too late. Learn as much as you can in the beginning to get a good grounding.

A new museum was opening up at Kibbutz Ginnosar – not far from where I lived. I went for an interview thinking that I would be working with English-speaking groups. I participated in a summer-long training program in the boiling hot Jordan Valley, often not understanding the complicated Hebrew relating to the history, politics and sociology of the area. The school year began and within two months I was working with Israeli groups. I always remember the exhilaration when I facilitated my first Israeli group in Hebrew and how proud I was to say I had been in the country less than a year.

Life and organizations are full of drama

After the first tumultuous year, real life unfolded with work, meeting my life long partner, parenting three boys, setting up a new business, studying an MBA, corporate consulting and training, kibbutz life, the first intifada, the second intifada, the first and second gulf wars, the many smaller wars in Lebanon and Gaza and the Second Lebanon war that left my young family exiled in Herzliya. I served in the army after being five years in the country, but nothing really prepared me for the moment my oldest son was drafted. When I burst into tears at the Haifa draft office, my son said “I had better get going before this gets any worse” and off he went, a true Israeli. Life here is dramatic and in Israeli organizational life things are just as tumultuous – mass downsizing, upturns and downturns, mergers and takeovers and in here there is also the changing security situation. Everyone has to be ready to take their personal professional assets and build on them for a rainy day – whilst always keep your family and social safety net in place.

Every staff member has a different storyboard

The past thirty years has played out for me 14,000 km from where I grew up and from where my family lives. We have gone from letters and exorbitantly expensive phone calls to Skype and Whatsapp, although nothing replaces face-to-face family contact. In my early years here, I made the mistake of not visiting enough. Lately I visit every two years and now, annually. And yes, I am immensely jealous of my British friends who pop over to London for a weekend family event, and my Israeli friends who have the luxury of grandparents, aunts and uncles close by. We did it alone – I think we did it well – but it came with a heavy cost of our and our kid’s connection with our families. Every worker has their own personal story. All managers should get to know their worker’s story so that the organization can be flexible regarding their needs. I know of a school principal who refused to grant three days to a teacher who had to fly home to a family event. This was one of the events that led this highly experienced and dedicated teacher to leave the public system forever.

It is the little interactions that count

At this milestone I feel grateful. There are a lot of unsung heroes that in retrospect had an impact on me and my ability to fit in over time. First, the members of Kibbutz Kadarim who gave me a roof over my head, jobs and friends from the first day I arrived. Then there were the women (mostly) at Beit Yigal Alon who embraced me and were my friends and colleagues during those first years. And then the members of Kibbutz Tuval, my second home, that gave me the freedom to develop ideas and a crazy business. When you are new anywhere, those first people you meet and care for you are very important.

“Organizations Learn” is the title of this blog so the strongest takeaway from my Israel journey is to think carefully about the way that new workers are received in your organization. Joining a new organization is similar to relocating to a new country. It is a new and separate world, with its own codes, habits, written and unwritten rules, just like a new country. You have to learn the language and integrate into the culture. Organizations would do well to carefully examine the way they receive and welcome new employees, helping them learn the lingo.

The more veteran workers and managers take time to talk to, include and train new employees will make the transition a lot easier and the chance of them staying higher.

Don’t underestimate the power of simply walking around and making personal contact. Just like I learned the value of direct contact with my far-flung family, workers yearn for direct contact with their managers.

Here is to the next thirty years!

Richard Milecki



ראיון רדיו עם ריצ’ארד: תפקיד מנהל הקהילה

לפני כמה שנים כתבתי פוסט על השנים שבהן הייתי מנהל קהילה בקיבוץ שלי. להפתעתי זה הפוסט שאני מקבל את התגובות הרבות ביותר עליו, עד עצם היום

.לאחרונה התראיינתי ברדיו קול רגע בעקבות התקפה על נושא תפקיד מנהל קהילה בקיבוץ

.הנה הראיון. האזנה נעימה


למה אני אוהב לאו טק

מאת ריצ’ארד מילקי

Why I Like Low Tech

ה”סטארט אפ ניישן” העלה את ישראל על מפת הטכנולוגיה והחדשנות. אך אחד הסודות השמורות ביותר כאן היא שאף על פי שרוב העולם המערבי עשה מיקור חוץ לתעשייה המקומית שלה, כאן עדיין קיימת ומשגשגת הרבה תעשייה מסורתית מקומית. חלק מתעשיות אלה הן מובילי העולם בתחומן – במיוחד אלה בתחומי הפלסטיקה והמתכת. תעשיות אלה שורדות ומשגשגות למרות האיומים הרבים על קיומן.

המושג תעשייה מסורתית או low tech מטעה. רוב מוצרי הלאו טק המיוצרים בארץ עתירי טכנולוגיה ופיתוח. כדי שישראל תתחרה בעולם היא נדרשת לשנות את כללי המשחק. התעשיות שמשלמים מעט למשל בתחום ההלבשה חלפו מהעולם בארץ  – הם כולם הועברו למדינות ערב השכנות או אסיה. ישראל חייבת להכניס טכנולוגיות חדשות או לחדול מלעסוק בתעשייה – וכך היא עושה.

Zur Lavon

מרכז ההדרכה וההכשרה לתעשייה בגליל, צור לבון.  צילון: ניל מרסר

לאחרונה השתתפתי בכנס תעשייה-אקדמיה השביעי באורט בראודה בכרמיאל, מכללה שפועלת ביחד עם התעשייה באזור כדי לפתח דרכי תפעול ופיתוח מוצרים חדשנית. לאורך השנים עבדתי עם מספר אנשים שעשו את השינוי מחברות היי טק לתעשיות מסורתיות למשל בתחומי משאבי האנוש ומכירות. זה גרם לי לחשוב – מה כל כך מושך בעבודה עם תעשיות “רגילות”? למה כשאני מסייר במפעל תעשייתי ההתרגשות גדולה – כל כך שונה מהמשרדים הלעיתים מנוכרים של ההיי טק?

הנה חלק מהסיבות שבזכותן אני אוהב לאו טק:

  1. תעשיות מסורתיות מייצרות מוצרים מוחשיים שאנשים ממש זקוקים להם ושניתן להבין אותם על ידי הסתכלות עליהם בפעולה – הרוב גלוי ומעשי.
  1. גם כשתעשיות מסורתיות נמכרות לתאגידים בין לאומיים, מפעלי הייצור נשארים במקום מכיוון שסך היכולות תלויות באקוסיסטמה שלמה שלא כל כך קל להזיזה לארץ אחרת.
  1. חברות לאו טק פזורות בכל הארץ כולל הצפון והדרום. אנשים בפריפריה פחות חיים על קורות החיים שלהם ואם מתייחסים אליהם ברמה מקצועית ואכפתית, הם יהיו מחויבים לעסק בטווח הארוך.
  1. מגוון משרות ואנשים. לאנשי היי טק הם מומחים בהעסקת אותם אנשים שהלכו לבית ספר\צבא\אוניברסיטה איתם. תעשיות לאו טק זקוקות למבחר מאוד גדול של מיומנויות וכלים מטכנולוגיות מידע לתפעול מכונות, עיצוב, הנדסה, אחזקה טכנית, שיווק, פיתוח וכספים. התחום עשוי להיות מעניין ומגוון.
  1. גיוון תרבותי. בדרך כלל סקטור הבריאות נחשב ליחיד שבו ערבים ויהודים נפגשים ועובדים בשוויון. אפשר גם להוסיף את התעשיות המסורתיות בצפון ובדרום שברובם קיים ייצוג טוב של התרבויות והדתות שחיות כאן.
  1. מאיצי כלכלה. מפעל איכותי, צומח ומוצלח עשוי לשאת עיירה וקהילה שלמה. את זה רואים את זה בעיירות הצפוניות, הכפרים והקיבוצים. לא פלא שהתגובות כל כך לוהטות כשמפעל מקומי נמצא תחת איום.
  1. יש הרבה מקום לחדשנות בייצור מסורתי כשמאמצים מכונה חדשה או רובוט בתהליכי ייצור או משנים שגרות ניהול. העובד ברצפת הייצור יכול להביא ערך מוסף בפיתוח חדשנות – במידה והמנהלים נותנים להם את המקום וההזדמנות לעשות כך.
  1. ממוקד צוות. כולם חשובים. כדי להוציא את המוצר ללקוח על כולם לשחק את תפקידם. המהנדס, מתכנן הייצור וכל תחנות התפעול חייבים להצטיין. מי שרוצה להיות פרימה דונה לא ימצא מקום כאן.
  1. תעשיות רגילות מעסיקות הרבה אנשים שלא יהיו מתכנתים או מהנדסים בכלל. כשהם עובדים בתעשייה המקומית המסורתית הם חשובים ויקרים לחברה הישראלית והכלכלה בדיוק כמו תעשיית ההיי טק הנוצצת.

אם אורך נשימה וכמיהה לעשייה ואנשים הם באישיות שלך, העולם המגוון של לאו טק עשוי להיות בשבילך.

ההשראה למאמר זה באה מכנס האקדמיה – תעשייה השביעית באורט בראודה, 23 לאפריל, 2017

Making The Difference

Making The Difference                                                                                                עושים את ההבדל

By Richard Milecki

Anyone who works with organizations and people often wonders if they really make a positive difference. We fill in flip chart pages, write reports, assist in strategy setting and alignment, carry out many personal and team meetings, give feedback – whilst it is not often clear what our long term influence is.

Almost twenty years ago I worked with the senior managers of the Isrotel chain, corporate and hotel managers. The offsite meeting at Tuval was the first time that the managers came together. Through the exercises and facilitation they discussed communication issues between HQ and the field and building an ongoing forum. A number of iconic pictures were taken of the management forum in action. Following this workshop each hotel came to Tuval for teambuilding workshops. We were just starting out so this was a big success for us although the real surprise came much later…

Forum Tuval 2017

Lately we led a demonstration workshop at the Israeli “Forum CFO” that took place this year in the Galilee. One of the participants was a senior manager in the Isrotel chain and with much excitement wanted to share with me that which took place since 1998. He explained that the management forum turned into a permanent institution and that its name until this very day remains…”The Tuval Forum”. I too was excited to see the whatsapp group “The Tuval Forum” that is alive and kicking and still developing the forum.

So that’s the whole story. The real satisfaction often comes when you meet up with the organization much later and the manager or team member tells you on his or her initiative about the influence of our work. It remains only to wish the Isrotel “Tuval Forum” many more years of learning and development!

עושים את ההבדל

עושים את ההבדל                                                                                                   Making The Difference

ריצ’ארד מילקי

כל מי שעובד עם ארגונים ואנשים תמיד תוהה – האם באמת מה שעשיתי עשה את ההבדל? ממלאים דפי פליפ צ’ארט, כותבים דו”חות והמלצות, מקיימים הרבה שיחות אישיות ומפגשים, נותנים משוב ולא תמיד רואים את ההשפעה בטווח הנראה לעיין.

לפני כמעט עשרים שנה עבדתי עם הנהלת רשת ישרוטל – המטה ומנהלי המלונות. המפגש בתובל היה הפעם הראשונה שהמנהלים התכנסו ודרך התרגילים וההנחיה הם דנו בסוגיות השונות הקשורות למטה ושטח, בניית דרכי תקשורת וקידום פורום קבוע. גם צולמו כמה תמונות מרשימות של ההנהלה בפעולה. בעקבות סדנא זאת באו אלינו כל הנהלות המלונות וקיימו סדנאות עבודת צוות בתובל. זאת היתה הצלחה גדולה עבורנו בתחילת דרכנו אך ההפתעה האמתית הגיעה הרבה אחר כך…

Forum Tuval 2017

לאחרונה הנחיתי הדגמה בכנס סמנכ”לי כספים של “פורום CFO” שהתקיים השנה בגליל. אחד המשתתפים היה מנהל בכיר ברשת ישרוטל ובהתרגשות רבה רצה לחלוק איתי את מה שהתחולל ברשת מאז 1998. הוא סיפר שפורום המנהלים הפך למוסד קבוע ברשת וששמו נשאר עד היום…”פורום תובל”. התרגשתי מאוד לראות קבוצת הוואטסאפ “פורום תובל” שעדיין חי ובועט ומפתח את דרכו.

וזה כל הסיפור. הסיפוק האמתי שלי בא כשנתקלים שוב בארגון כעבור זמן רב והמנהל או העובד מספר מיוזמתו על ההשפעה של עבודתנו. נשאר רק לאחל לפורום תובל של ישרוטל אריכות ימים!

Why I Like Low Tech

למה אני אוהב לאו טק

Why I Like Low Tech

By Richard Milecki

The Start-Up Nation has put Israel on the world technology and innovation map. But one of Israel’s best kept secrets is that whereas much of the developed world has outsourced local industry, here there is still a lot of local “traditional” industry. Some of these are world leaders — mainly in the plastics and metal fields. These industries survive and even thrive, despite the many threats to their existence.

The term low tech is somewhat misleading. For Israel to compete, it has to change the rules of the game. The low paying jobs of the textile industry are a thing of the past – they have all gone to neighboring Arab countries or Asia. Israel must bring in new technologies to allow it to compete globally, or be doomed.

Zur Lavon

The Zur Lavon Industry Training Center in the Galilee. Photo By Neil Mercer.

Recently I attended the 7th Academic Industry Conference at Ort Braude in Karmiel, a college that is working together with industry to develop innovative operations and product development. I have also worked on organizational development with a number of people who have made the transition from high-tech companies to traditional industries, for example, in the human resources and sales fields. It got me thinking about what is attractive about regular industries.

Here are some of the reasons I like low tech:

  1. Traditional industries make tangible products that people really need and that can be understood simply by looking at it work.
  1. When traditional industrial plants are sold to a multinational, mostly the plants stay put, as the abilities are dependent on the entire internal and external ecosystem which is not so easy to move offshore.
  1. Low tech is spread all around the country and a lot of it is in the north. People in the periphery are less likely to be living on their CV’s, and if treated well, will be committed to the business in the long term.
  1. Skill diversity. Often high-tech companies are experts at hiring the same kind of men and women that they went to school/army/university with. In low tech a huge range of skills is needed from IT to machine operation to maintenance to marketing to finance. It can be much more interesting.
  1. Cultural diversity. Health care is considered to be the only place where Jews and Arabs work on an equal footing together. To that you can add traditional industries in the north, many of which have a good representation of all the cultures and religions who live here.
  1. Economy drivers. A successful and high quality factory in the periphery can carry an entire town and community with it. This is the case in the northern cities, villages and kibbutzim. It is no wonder that people can be so passionate when industry is under threat.
  1. There is a lot of room for innovation in traditional manufacturing with the adoption of a new machine or robot, in shop floor production innovation and in management practices. The worker on the shop floor can make a huge difference in developing innovation – if the managers give them the place and opportunity to do so.
  1. Team-centric. Everyone is important. To get that product out to the customer, everyone has to play their part. The engineer, the production planner and all the work station operators have to get it right. Anyone who plays the prima donna does not have a place.
  1. Regular industries employ a lot of people who are not going to work as programmers or engineers of any sort. That makes them just as important to Israeli society and the local economy as the glitzy high tech field.

If the high-tech world is not for you, the diverse world of low tech, where long term passion and soul are critical, may be your calling.

Inspired by the 7th Academia – Industry Conference at Ort Braude on the 23rd of April 2017.

Cooperation Between Organisational Consultants and Training Managers: Can the Wolf Live with the Lamb?

Cooperation Between Organisational Consultants and Training Managers:

Can the Wolf Live with the Lamb?

By Richard Milecki.

יחסים מיוחדים: שיתוף פעולה בין יועץ ארגוני ומנהל הדרכה

This issue is part of most training events. It is accompanied by exposed and hidden feelings, expectations, hopes and disappointments, but is mostly not spoken of, apart from some hasty words exchanged at the end of a workshop or change process. The important relations between the external organisational consultant or facilitator and the internal consultant have been minimally researched and in the field there is only superficial treatment – in spite of the important role it has in the success of consulting interventions.

Why is it so important for me to touch on this subject?

Because even if the most critical point of contact is with the relevant senior manager, the partnership with the internal consultant is often that which allows the whole process to happen.

Because often the expectations – as well as the disappointments – are high on both sides.

Because even when I am sure that the session in which a team will spend precious time on interdepartmental relationships is the most important item on the Training Manager’s work plan, the internal consultant is often not completely present.

I was very pleased when Ze’ev Arieli, an external consultant and Iris Sadeh, the training manager of the Israel Postal Authority published a call for information in preparation for the Israel Association of Organisational Development’s (IAOD) annual conference in February 2016 regarding what each role expects from the other. At the conference they presented results from their research and shared experience. They were the key players in the ups and downs of a professional relationship and went through a crisis that nearly ended in the familiar severance of their connection. Usually a crisis between a supplier and client of this type ends in a unilateral disconnection where the client stops inviting the consultant for the next project. Iris and Ze’ev decided to deal with it head on. They admitted that this special connection does not receive due attention and in spite of the huge amount of communication that flowed between the two they rarely clarified mutual expectations or gave each other feedback. The crisis between them pushed them into asking each other “What is happening here?” Through their frank dialogue they managed to identify the communication failures between them and identify some further insights.

Added Value

Sadeh and Arieli described the added value each side brings and the importance of mutual recognition of value. For example, the external consultant must appreciate the deep knowledge that the internal consultant brings to the table and the complicated role of the internal consultant who works with all players in the organisation. The internal consultant should take advantage of the opportunity offered by the presence of the external consultant who gives the help, attention and transparency needed.

Most of the attention is given to the training targets – the participants and the manager – leaving  the connection between the professionals leading the process unattended to or taken for granted.

External consultants and facilitators have a critical interest in developing the relationship with internal consultants. If unsuccessful, the connection with the organisation may end and both sides lose out. The relations are based on mutuality – the consultants need organisations as clients and the organisation leaders need the external consultants. If the relationship turns sour the routine outcome is that the Training Manager says “Next!” and moves on without the consultant being aware of what happened and both protagonists continue on the likely path of repeating similar mistakes.

Feelings and Expectations

According to Tzur and Shachaf (2007) in their paper exploring the relations between such consultants in the Israeli military, the feelings that arise in the meeting between internal and external consultants include aggression, territorialism, egotistical struggles, competitiveness, possessiveness, suspicion, feelings of being extraneous, mutuality and communal work.

In addition to emotions, Sadeh and Arieli identified key expectations noted by twelve internal and twelve external consultants sampled before the conference. The expectations were different. The main expectations of the internal consultants were, according to their ranked importance: partnership, feedback, professionalism, the need to connect the consultant to the business and the organisation, and transparency.

What internal consultants desire from their external counterparts are: understanding of the organisational processes and politics, professionalism, partnership, action within pre-defined the boundaries, professional ethics, flexibility and transparency.

Significant is the desire of the internal consultant for understanding. “Understand me, understand the organisation”, they declare. “We are not the same as other organisations you work with and if you want to have influence, then invest the time to understand how things work here”.



External consultants look for partnership and feedback. The cynics might say that the best feedback is when the client requests a further project, although this kind of feedback is insufficient for building long-term relationships, learning, improvement or for gaining satisfaction. HR professionals also want to receive honest feedback from a professional partner.

Putting The Relationship to the Test

I have worked with many internal consultants over the years. They contract with external professionals when they understand that they cannot deal with the task on the table using internal resources, but do not necessarily know what position to take with the introduction of an external consultant. Following are a number of cases where the relationships between myself and an internal consultant have been tested:

A team with its team leader and HR manager arrive at Tuval for a team development workshop. Too often the internal consultant is busy with phone calls, sending e-mails, managing an event taking place in the office – everything apart from being with the team on one of the more important days in its life, played out right in front of us. I hint to the HR manager to turn off the phone like the rest of the participants. In this case,  it would have been preferable to set a clear agreement in advance with regard to  the role of the HR manager  during the intervention.

A team meeting is progressing positively, with meaningful discussion and in partnership with the internal consultant. Suddenly at lunch, the HR manager reports that she must return to the office for an urgent interview because the engineering department is short-staffed and a candidate for the job must be found immediately. “You are getting by fine with them”, she says. In spite of my attempts to convince her to stay, she leaves. In the afternoon a team crisis develops but the internal consultant has already left and internal HR’s ability to assist the manager and the team back at work is hampered.

One positive story. I spent a day on site preparing an offsite event for a number of critical teams in a factory. It was clear to all that the senior manager was crucial to the functioning of the team interface but it was decided that he would not participate. “It is important that the teams get along without his presence”, I was told. I disagreed and spoke to the HR manager and the team managers. I argued with the internal consultant, brought examples from my experience, described possible negative scenarios and in the end became convinced that this was a logical decision. I trusted the internal consultant who I had previously worked with closely. The event was successful and the participants succeeded in dealing with the issues without complaining about the non-attending senior manager. Additionally, the relationship between myself and the internal consultant came out strengthened as a result of the argument, the decision and the successful execution.


In the conference presentation by Sadeh and Arieli they gave some guidelines from the point of view of the training manager:

  • I prefer to work with a limited number of consultants over time. Much energy must be invested when bringing in a new consultant.
  • Even if the internal consultant is not present during the work with the external consultant, remember that everything that happens in the training comes back to the training manager.

Finally, Arieli and Sadeh suggest four tips or issues that should be addressed:

  • The importance of coordinating expectations from the outset and regularly throughout the process. Everyone should ask: “What do you expect from me?”
  • To appreciate that each set of expertise has its advantages and unique point of view.
  • Ego is acceptable.
  • Decide – are we going to share the feelings that develop throughout the life of the process?

I would add a few more tips:

  • Decide in advance when and how feedback is given.
  • Give place for disagreement and argument and deal with it until reaching a joint decision.
  • Nothing should be taken for granted on either side. It is important to clarify expectations especially in training activities where this key relationship is exposed to all and part of the learning structure,

An internal consultant together with an external consultant make a formidable team when they are in sync.


Ze’ev Arieli and Iris Sadeh (2016), “Can the Wolf Live with the Lamb” presentation at the Israel Association of Organisational Development’s Annual Conference.

Shachaf, K & Tzur, Y. (2007) The Octopus and the Doberman, Organisational Analysis, 12th issue, Zofnat Institute.

Kenton, B & Moody, D. The Role of the Internal Consultant, 2003 in