Three Rules of Crisis Management: Lessons from the War in Israel
Merav BahatMerav Bahat

Three Rules of Crisis Management: Lessons from the War in Israel

Crises and challenges are a staple of the technology and cybersecurity industries. While we do our best to plan for growth, setbacks, and business resilience, some crises can’t be anticipated.

By Merav Bahat, CEO and Co-Founder, Dazz

After thousands of Hamas terrorists breached an internationally recognized border on October 7, 2023, murdering more than 1,300 Israelis and kidnapping hundreds of others, Israel found itself at war.

Within days, upwards of 300,000 Israelis were summoned to miluim, or reserve duty, the equivalent of five million Americans being asked to leave their jobs and their families and rush to defend their country. This meant that businesses, from large corporations to small shops, now had to grapple with employee trauma, severe resource shortages, and a wartime economic reality that, according to some estimates, could cost Israel as much as $50 billion in total.

Crises and challenges are a staple of the technology and cybersecurity industries. As leaders, we do our best to plan for growth, setbacks, and business resilience. However, no one had anticipated a crisis of this severity. The situation was daunting for organizations of all sizes, especially for the start-up community that thrives on being agile and using limited resources wisely.

As I reflect back on the past few months and understand that the situation is still ongoing, I’d like to share a few insights that I’ve learned about crisis management, which have implications beyond Israel and the current war.

It’s all about priorities

In ordinary times, prioritizing projects and resources is a somewhat leisurely task. Each division and each person knows what they ought to focus on, and though managers must still make decisions it’s usually rather obvious which task should be performed, by whom, and in what order.

Not so in a crisis.

As soon as war broke out, one of my co-founders, a senior officer in the Israeli army’s cybersecurity unit, was drafted immediately. Approximately 45 percent of our engineering team members were also called in to serve. I realized that we were not going to have as many people as we needed to keep business running the same way it had before.

Immediately, we prioritized the urgent short-term goals that were critical to supporting our customers. This was an obvious decision, but we soon learned, a few days in, that unless we adjusted our priorities once again, we’d remain in a cycle of underproduction, addressing nothing but the most pressing needs and losing our competitive edge for the future. For example, we needed to stabilize R&D. To help with less complex integration work, we onboarded a high-quality external development team, while the remaining core team could focus on more strategic demands. The result was reassuring: we were quickly back to capacity, even at a time of crisis.

Be a Visible Leader

When a crisis strikes, there is no greater priority than making sure your team sees you, can talk to you, and gain reassurance from you. At the start of the war, we located and connected with every employee in Israel to check on them and their families. Their safety and well-being were our top priority. I encouraged employees to work at home, while still having an active office for employees who wanted the normalcy of being at work around fellow employees. For remote workers, we kept an open Zoom meeting to facilitate collaborative work and foster team inclusion and communication. We had a dedicated WhatsApp channel for Israeli employees to be able to request help day or night. I held virtual coffee breaks and company all hands to keep everyone informed and connected. I reached out to customers and was overwhelmed by their compassion and support.

Visible leadership goes beyond the role of the CEO. Right after the war broke out, our co-founder and CTO, Tomer Schwartz, stepped in to lead R&D. He asked questions, deputized a host of employees who weren’t in service, and empowered them to follow his lead and run projects and teams outside of their normal roles. He made himself visible and available to customers, prospects, and employees all around the world. It didn’t matter what time it was or day it was. He and the team could be counted on to show up and move the business forward. It was incredible to see leadership across the company, no matter the job title.

Embrace a Greater Purpose

Times of crisis are challenging not merely because they present us with a greater volume of work. They’re emotionally and mentally challenging because they remind us that we can never fully anticipate what tomorrow may bring.

To relieve anxiety and support our people, we learned how important it was to bring the team together to bond over greater purposes that had nothing to do with work.

We did this on a small scale, by making sure we ate many of our meals together, ordered in to save everyone time and effort, or enjoyed yoga classes together, starting our days with exercise that focused on mind and body alike. We also did it by encouraging employees—even in the midst of a pressing and hectic period—to take time off and volunteer together, helping their country and their community—so we could go from feeling helpless to making a difference.

These are by no means hard and fast rules; crises differ in scope and nature, and none is ever the same as another. I offer these insights and lessons learned with the hope that they will help others prepare their own crisis management plans and come through the other side with greater resilience, compassion, and commitment.

About the Author

Three Rules of Crisis Management: Lessons from the War in IsraelMerav Bahat, CEO and co-founder of Dazz, is a seasoned leader renowned for creating category-leading technology products and building high-impact teams. She previously served as General Manager for Microsoft’s multibillion-dollar global cloud security business and as Deputy CEO of Microsoft Israel R&D. Merav held key roles such as Product Strategy Group Director for Microsoft Cloud & AI Security and Chief of Products and Business Development at Flash Networks. Merav has obtained a bachelor’s in industrial management engineering from Technion and an MBA from Ben-Gurion University and served as a fellow in the joint Harvard Business School- Kennedy School of Government program. As one of only a handful of female CEO-founders in cybersecurity, Merav is focused on mentoring and empowering women and young leaders.

Merav can be reached online at linkedin.com/in/merav-bahat and at the company website dazz.io

May 14, 2024

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