The secret of our success

I had been planning to post a blog today* about motivating your staff through the holidays. This is notoriously a time when productivity slows and, even though we race to finish things by year end, many times things slip into the new year.

Instead, I woke this morning to multiple missile strikes in the area close to our offices and had to gather my kids into the safe room at the hour they would normally be going to school.

So I closed the Client Services office today, not because we could not work, but because my kids had no school and Karen’s kids had no school (school was cancelled in our township due to the war) and trying to work with 6 girls underfoot (yes, between the two of us we have 6 girls and two sets of twins!) would have been a futile effort. Instead, I grabbed my laptop, tablet, cellphone and took my kids a few kilometers north. There, my kids played happily while I worked remotely.

It seems almost impossible that a week ago Steve Ballmer was here at Microsoft Think Next Israel and the country was all abuzz with innovation and future growth. Fast forward a week later and people are hiding behind their cars during rush hour on the major Tel Aviv highway as the air raid sirens went off. Yes, for the first time in more than 20 years, there were missiles falling in and around Tel Aviv.

Instead of telling you how to motivate your employees during vacation, I’m going to share a few secrets about what makes Israel so great. Don’t mistake me, I won’t be giving away military tactics or missile strike locations to help Hamas hone their launchers closer to my home, but I will be sharing why I think we do what we do so well when all of the odds are stacked against us. I will be telling you why - amidst constant aggression and hostility and outward acts of war from our neighbors (we have been attacked by three of our neighbors in the last 2 weeks: missiles fired from terrorists in Egypt, 240+ missiles and rockets fired from Hamas in Gaza and multiple missiles fired into northern Israel from Syria) we are still at work each day, curing diseases, solving problems and offering help to the world around us.

I signed two new contracts this week: one with a CFO who has one foot out the door as he got his reserve duty call up and another with a son about to be called up as well. This war will touch every family in Israel. Yes, every family has someone who lives in the South or will be called on to fight. While missiles were falling, and Tel Aviv was reeling, I got an email today from an existing client that needs more help and another writer and calls from potential customers.

We don’t stop. We don’t stop fighting, trying, yearning and improving on our relentless path to make things better.

I had a call this week about a potential documentation consulting job in China. The recruiter asked me why at this stage in my career I didn’t just relocate to the US or Asia as it would make me more “employable”. I thought about her question for less than a second and told her (in all honesty) that professionally, I am at the very top of my game, right here in southern Israel. There is more cutting edge technology being developed within a 50 mile radius of my house then in most countries in Asia combined. This tiny little country is truly the “light unto the nations” it was envisioned to be.

As always, I am proud of the way our military is handling the threats against us. Precision military strikes, unbelievable avoidance of civilian casualties, leaflets dropped before airstrikes asking non combatants to leave rocket firing zones and distance themselves from known terrorists. This is an army of educated, moral and life-loving people. That same army is made up of the soldiers and reservists I am lucky enough to work with every day. They leave the IDF and become the developers, designers, creatives and managers who imagine, think, design, produce and deliver Israel’s best technologies of the future.

30,000 additional reserve soldiers will be called up tonight, and many have already been called in the last week. That won’t leave us any less capable of finishing releases, finalizing products or meeting our SLAs. While almost every member of the Tech-Tav team that doesn’t live in the South has offered us shelter and sanctuary if we require it, the biggest lesson this war has taught me is why team building is so critical to success. We have releases this week for major customers who will not delay over a war being fought near their development center.

That means that whoever is left needs to pick up the pieces, join together and buckle down to get things done. It will all get done, because each of us knows what it is at stake, for our company and for our country.

Are we distracted? Of course we are. It would be hard not to react when a missile siren goes off and you hear the thud of impact or the Iron Dome destroying the missile overhead. Distracted? Yes. Immobilized? NO!

Reserve duty could be seen as a death blow to Israeli business (41 days a year of random leave is hard on employee and employer!). Missiles and sirens over Tel Aviv might discourage future investment and make Israel seem like a risky bet. But history has shown that the more we face, the stronger we get. The more we are challenged the harder we fight, and the more impossible the mission the more creative our solutions become.

Last week the talk was all about Big Data. As I thought about it tonight, I am convinced a new and more perfected solution to a Big Data challenge will be the outcome of this new war. A bunch of reservists who have spread to all corners of the tech world here will be called together in the days to come. They will be faced with the challenge of protecting Israel and her citizens on the ground and in the cyber world. I am convinced that during those long days and nights, they will also figure out that somewhere in that challenge are new and better ways to deal with Big Data and at least one new start-up will be born.

Not to belittle the terror, tragedy or loss that this war has already and will continue to incur, but let me proudly and clearly state that we are still working and will continue to work. Harder, better, faster and more creatively, if need be, to solve the biggest challenges and meet the needs of our customers and users. So that is the secret. We are one big team. Elections are coming up and, while we’ll all vote differently, we are still a team that works as a collective to make it better for everyone, everywhere, all the time.

When the airports re-opened after Hurricane Sandy, El Al cargo planes were in the air delivering relief and supplies to communities in need. When a building collapsed in Ghana last week, we immediately sent search and rescue teams to help. Haiti, Turkey, Darfur, Katrina...Israeli search and rescue, medical teams and aid deliveries are always there, first in line lending a hand in times of need. All of this is done knowing we are - at any given time - fighting a war on two to six fronts. Patients in Israeli hospitals in the south were being moved underground out of missile fire range, while 400 trucks of aid were simultaneously delivered to Gaza –all paid for by the citizens of Israel.

That is our big secret.

*This blog post was written late Thursday night, but due to a crazy Friday with school canceled and five air raids sirens forcing us to take refuge throughout the day, I didn’t have a chance to post until tonight. Wishing us all a good, safe, peaceful week.