What I Have Learned From Ichak Adizes

By Tomer Priel

Secretary General of Kibbutz Revivim in the Negev, Israel

Published in the Kibbutz newspaper in May 2012

Ichak Adizes is a world-renowned expert in the field of organizational consulting.  He advises large companies, governments and global organizations.  Many of his books and theories are taught at the best universities and anyone who’s engaged with management has most likely heard some parts of his doctrine.

We at the “Moaf” company invited Adizes to provide consultation for us, selected representatives of the kibbutzim, on a favorite issue we have – the problems of the Kibbutz.  The workshop, given by Adizes voluntarily, was in kibbutz “Maagan Michael” for three intensive days.  It was preceded by a two-day preparatory workshop where we mapped problems back to their root causes, using the Adizes Methodology.

So what did I learn from Adizes?  It’s difficult to summarize three full days in a few lines but I will try to bring some of the insights I gained during the workshop.  With your permission, I’ll start from the top.  The conclusion as I understand it is “the situation is bad but there is hope;” and surprisingly, it depends on us.

Try to Live as You Want to be Remembered

Ichak asked us openly “who will cry when you die”?  If tomorrow the kibbutz phenomenon ends, who will care?  Who will cry when it ends?  The answers were pretty weak but we agreed that it would affect us the most.  At this stage it doesn’t seem that anyone in Israeli society would mourn if the 100-year institute of the kibbutz ended.

“If so,” Ichak continued, “how do you want to be remembered?  When there will be no kibbutzim, what do you want the world to remember?  What will stay in the Israeli public from the thing called kibbutz?”  As I felt, the answer to the question is the key for our existence.  Let’s try to live as we want to be remembered.  This insight, as do many of Ichak’s, suits miraculously not just for the kibbutz but also the country, any company, families and individuals.

Strengthening the Social Engine

Anyone who reads the kibbutz newspapers and audits knows the claim that the kibbutzim have abandoned their values and make decisions based only on economic goals.  We sit and wonder how the decisions that are made could be contradictory to our core values without us being able to resist.  Adizes described our situation as a bunch of travelers sitting on a bi motor yacht debating where to go.  The fact is that one of the yacht’s engines is stronger than the other.  No matter where you decide to sail, the yacht will necessarily deviate to one of the sides.

Following the financial crisis in the kibbutz movement, the Kibbutz acted to strengthen the economic- business side.  Fortunately, for many of them this reinforcement brought renewed prosperity.  But while the economic – business engine strengths were treated; the engine of social values was weak and outdated and got weaker.   The key to inner balance, therefore, is to strengthen the engine of social values.  Incidentally, this is not any statement about the “right” values.  It is enough that we decide what our social values are and then act to strengthen them.

Mutual Trust and Respect

Adizes developed a formula that predicts success in any organization.  It is based on the fact that energy is always limited and divided predictably:  first to handle internal organizational disintegration, and the remainder to handle the external market.

The idea is illustrated nicely when we get sick and need all of our energy for ourselves (to get healthy); we have little energy left for work, family and other functions.  If we extend the idea it can be seen when countries and organizations are torn with internal conflicts and forced to spend most of their energy in finding a resolution.  In these kinds of organizations, very little energy is left for external relations.

According to Adizes the way to resolve internal conflicts is by building mutual respect and mutual trust.  Systems that have mutual respect and trust can invest energy to compete successfully in the marketplace.  One example that Adizes brought to illustrate the idea is Switzerland, a country composed of Italians, French and German.  Seemingly, there is a great potential for an explosion of nationalist conflicts, however there is a high level of mutual trust and respect for cultural diversity.  Take for instance Switzerland-bank activities.  To whom would you entrust your money if not to someone who has mutual trust and respect as the guidelines of his activity?  Hence we need to consciously strengthen these values.  Surprisingly, this concept doesn’t contradict the values of the kibbutz.

Market What You Are, Not What You Do

With direct continuation of the previous paragraph, Switzerland actually exports its culture; it exports its values and not its activities.

If we apply this to kibbutz relations and Israeli society which is indifferent, if not hostile, to the kibbutz movement and what it stands for, then we cannot “market” something we are not.  We cannot be socialists in our values and capitalists in our businesses.  Thousands of employees in the kibbutz enterprises simply “will not buy it”.  Same goes for Israeli society.  We cannot sell a great collaborative picture of bales of hay and girls dancing at the Pentecost as we profiteer country land and build “extensions of communities” on lands that are marked for agriculture.

In short, we must decide what we believe in, and live by our faith and market our way of living.

Management and Democracy

Adizes believes in democracy in management.  According to him, an organization should be a democracy and be clearly managed.  The kibbutz however is a “strange” animal.  We have general meetings and secretariat, separation between household and community, community managers, farm organizers, committees and directors of corporations/industries.  In this Tower of Babel situation there is an imbalance between the managers’ responsibilities, authorities and rewards (social for example).  In this direct kibbutz democracy some decisions are made in some “democratic” way, sometimes even with over democratic way, while other decisions are made in “director’s decision” form, without enough sharing of the public.  The recommendation of Adizes is to make a preliminary decision on what areas are in the responsibility of the director and the management.  Within the limits of those responsibilities, we must give each director and management the authority to make management decisions.

We must re-organize to share more with the public and the right to appeal in a way that will not harm the processes of decision-making by the managers we choose.

The Situation is Bad but there is Still Hope – Surprisingly, It Depends On Us

Naturally, when dealing with problems the difficulties are rising and sharpening.  The worst feeling of all is that a sober look at all of the problems shows that there are an overwhelming number of issues to deal with, and it must be done by a very diverse group of people.  There are ethical problems, structural problems, economic problems, organizational problems, demographic problems and problems that stem from us being in periphery.  There are also problems within the individual kibbutzim, problems between the kibbutzim and the kibbutz movement with the state.

In spite of all that, all the participants in the workshop came to a clear sense that there are a lot of good things.  There is hope for a future for this way of life.  Kibbutz is a way of life that can be a good alternative to a life of alienation, swinish capitalism and polarization between different population groups.  Kibbutz is a way of life that for many is just a good way to live.  We must not forget it!

Eventually, it depends mainly on us.  This is not about changing the brand of the “kibbutz”; that would be too shallow.  This is about changing the nature of the kibbutz.  If we learn about our values and better the organization by changing the way we make decisions — we need to strengthen our real needs and give up what we don’t need — there is hope and future for the single kibbutz.  If we reach wide agreements with kibbutzim that choose the different way and with groups that share the same values with us, then we shall find the right ways to cooperate.  If we decide on the way we want to act and influence the Israeli society, then there is hope and a chance that the kibbutzim that used to be on the borders of the country and provided security and protection is there and is still needed.

Co-Innovative / Workshop Adizes

By Uri Heitner of KIbbutz Ortal

Published in the Kibbutz newsletter May 2012

The major insights raised in a recent workshop led by Dr. Ichak Adizes, a world expert in management and organizational behavior, focused on the need to return to ideological sources: to conversation and to cultural and spiritual depth.

“Is there anyone who can fix the ills of the kibbutz?” asked Arik Bashan, reporter for “Yediot Hakibutz.”

“Yes,” replied Dr. Adizes shortly. “You can.”

Bashan asked the question for an article he is writing, that deals with the design of the kibbutz character for the next hundred years.  Bashan is familiar with the role played by consultants in the deterioration of the kibbutz organization, as well as of other important institutions in Israel.  Upon hearing of the Adizes workshop, Bashan first thought to himself: “here is another guru, another witch doctor invited to heal the kibbutz with a ‘reorganization’ potion tinged with derision and contempt of the ‘old-fashioned’ kibbutz values.”  However, the Adizes workshop turned out to be something completely different.

74-year-old Dr. Ichak Adizes is a world expert on management and organizational behavior.  The founder of the “Adizes Methodology” to manage change, he has worked for decades with governments, dozens of heads of state around the world, international organizations, businesses and large public organizations.  He is the head of the Santa Barbara Adizes Graduate School engaged in imparting his teachings and granting degrees.  Dr. Adizes is also a Jewish Holocaust survivor from former Yugoslavia, a former Israeli living in the U.S. for decades, but he remains connected to Israel through strong relationships with the State of Israel and Zionism.  Each year he guides workshops for the heads of the National Security College.  He speaks fluent and contemporary Hebrew, and is a modest man, pleasant and full of humor.

Dr. Adizes believes in the kibbutz and in the importance of the collective idea.  In his eyes the kibbutz is the most important and beautiful of Israeli creations; he cannot imagine Israel without the kibbutzim.  Dr. Adizes accepted an invitation from ‘Moaf’ company – an organization recognized in the kibbutz movement and engaged in organizational consulting to kibbutzim, enterprise and institutions – to voluntarily lead a workshop on the kibbutz.  The usual cost of an Adizes workshop is tens of thousands of dollars.  However out of his concern for the Kibbutz Dr. Adizes led the workshop for three days free of charge.  He also involved three Adizes colleagues from the Israeli branch, who arrived two days before the workshop to produce a diagnosis used in the workshop.

Taking part in the kibbutz workshop were 26 central members of the kibbutz organization, kibbutz ‘fans’, and those who have a record of providing leadership roles for the kibbutz.  Half of this number also participated in the diagnosis.  Most participants were from cooperative kibbutzim, but there were also those from privatized kibbutzim.  I was privileged to take part in the workshop.

The workshop was a significant experience and an intellectual challenge.  Of course in three days we did not build a kibbutz character, or the character of kibbutz organizations; we did not even approach the beginning of the road.  However, the workshop was a first step in the process and will be continued.

As I was headed for the workshop I recalled   another organization’s consulting that deals with the “how”, and sees the kibbutz like any other organization, not really understanding its values.  To my surprise, participants really connected to the message of Adizes, which overturned preconceptions of consulting.  The main message was of the connection with the vision and collective values:  to fight for the continuity of the kibbutz and of the collective experience.

Key insights that were raised in the workshop focused on the need to return to the ideal sources, and to give back the conversion, the cultural and spiritual depth to the kibbutz.

Much of the workshop was devoted to the study of the Adizes Methodology, which is an effective organizational method that should be the basis for each type of organization.  It is decentralized and therefore suitable to the kibbutz.  Dr. Adizes spoke about the need to make organizational changes in the kibbutz, and encourage a decentralized structure, which enhances the level of influence and involvement of members, and also grants leadership and decision-making capacity that is not typical in these times.

Dr. Adizes also spoke about the need for complementary leadership, both at the level of the individual kibbutz and the kibbutz as an organization, based on a variety of people with different abilities: entrepreneurs (E-type), high performance people (P-type), administrators (A-type) and most important, ‘system integrators’ (I-type), who combine and synchronize human diversity into effective action and decision-making.

Dr. Adizes recommended adding people to the organizational structure who will form an ideological leadership or spiritual role to remind us of who we are and why we are here.  He spoke of the need to create internal integration within the grouping and external integration with the surrounding society, and to have influence on Israeli society by returning to our roots as an alternative and significant value for the Israeli society; there is a need to fight towards a change of the brand ‘kibbutz’ in Israeli society.

Participation from both the collective and privatized kibbutzim was important as I saw it.  For many years, I’ve believed in my theory of ‘watershed,’ which I’ve often presented, in this column for instance.  The theory says that any connection between the contribution to change is watershed between the kibbutz and the rest of the world.  In recent years, due to the Ortal agreement process, where we build an integrated model that preserves many of the cooperative kibbutz principals with the compromising principle of complete separation (a method that guarantees the full responsibility of the kibbutz on education, health, welfare, dining room- three meals a day, culture and more, the maximum wage gap of 1:2.5 etc.) I came in the Adizes workshop to the conclusion that I was wrong in my attitude.  I developed an alternative approach – the approach of ‘level of cooperative,’ on which we have to act and fight in every kibbutz and in the society as a whole, not bounded to any specific method, but with adherence to the kibbutz values of sharing, equality, solidarity, social justice and participatory democracy.  The workshop helped me formulate this insight more deeply.

I’m used to hearing among members and change leaders of privatized kibbutzim very extreme positions, about social Darwinism and swinish capitalism.  I call it “converted syndrome” like other people who converted their religion and became Neturei Karta  (the most radical branch of religious Jews– editor).  I was glad to find at the workshop people from privatized kibbutzim, that believe in collective values, who feel very close to the kibbutz cooperative a lot more than the non-collective.  It’s important for them to maintain maximum communal, cooperative, social justice, progressive fair taxes, to be an example of fair employers, to be example donors and task finishers in Israeli society and to fight for its character, maintain common means of production and development and to secure the future of the kibbutz and the welfare of its members.

If until recently I thought we shared primarily birth certificates with the word “kibbutz” and the ID is different from all, today I see that we have the power to change and design shared collective identity, which will include most of the kibbutzim.  (There will be those who will choose to become a settlement community or become “Moshav” – cooperative Israeli settlement — but I believe there will be few).  It will be pluralistic and allow a wide range of cooperation, from the urban commune to the cooperative Moshav.

For a generation, the kibbutz has been moving on a slippery slope farther away from its values, as if the process is deterministic.  The movement was only in one direction – less sharing and fewer collective values.  “Are you already privatized?” was a common question based on the axiom that privatization is only a question of time.  Each change is considered to be a step towards privatization.  This era of Western society values in general and Israeli society in particular was a major factor for this kind of feeling for privatization.  Today, there is a change in the pattern zeitgeist at the western world and in Israel.  A young generation is rising with values, tired of choosing between an alternative to the materialistic chase after money and the New-age that is influenced by the popularization of eastern teachings; two alternatives that focus only on the individual.  The new generation is rising and looking for a change, and changes the direction of the zeitgeist.  This is the time of the kibbutz to change the vector of the slope, and to re-qualify the basic values and pour some fresh new content that fits the 21st century.

I will conclude by quoting an old Ichak Adizes phrase: “small people have small common goals, for example, they exchange gossip.  Large-minded people develop a purpose, forcing them to join in the collective effort with others to fix the world (Managing Corporate Lifecycles, p. 336 Published by Adizes Institute)