Or Why is Change So Hard? (Part 2)

The challenge of adaptive change: it’s difficult, whether you’re an individual, a family unit or a larger organization. But the outstanding results of working through the process far outshine the momentary—though real—discomfort.

Why is it that leaders have advisory councils? Three reasons immediately come to mind:

  1. Expertise.
  2. No matter how accomplished an individual may be, they don’t have all that is necessary for them to govern well.

  3. Time.
  4. No leader has time to do all the tasks of leadership themselves. Advisors help expand time by increasing the person hours available.

  5. Objectivity.
  6. Every leader is the victim of his or her own perspective. They need others to offer challenges and diverse points of view.

The same holds true for others desiring real change, whether an individual or larger group. Embracing change can be difficult on our own. We often lack the expertise, time, and objectivity to get us from point A to point B.

Our Marigold process: ARPE

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to have a trusted advisor walk you through a change process? Someone who will tell you the truth, expand your knowledge, and catch your mistakes? Our consulting service at Marigold Associates provides trusted advisors for individuals and companies going through adaptive change.

Our process enables our clients to achieve far-reaching, lasting results beyond anything they could achieve on their own. We start with our intensive assessment followed by custom retrofitting and optimized performance, which in turn allows for well-devised expansion. Here is an example of how we address such complex issues.

Family businesses are often prime candidates for adaptive change. The familial and the business relationships become so complex that it’s often hard to see the solutions. Let’s take the imaginary (but typical) Hobbitson Building Products family-owned business as an example. Paul, the founder and owner is nearing retirement at 72 years old. He has recently been diagnosed with cancer and, although he will survive, it is a reminder that it is time to put his affairs in order. His wife Hope wants him to slow down. Their two sons Bill & Greg are active in management in the business. Daughter Trudy is an architect with her own practice. Paul has no succession plan for either ownership or management of his business. He is a self-made man who has gloried in his role in the business, community and family. And as you might expect, Paul is not the most self-aware person on the planet. They hire Marigold Associates to help them work through the change process.

  1. Assessment: Observing the Critical Issues
  2. In our assessment process we do a deep dive into the systems that are relevant to the problem. In the case of the Hobbitsons, we need to know a lot about their family and work relationships. We assess the health of their communication and boundaries. We take a good look at their individual and family history, personality and leadership styles, talent for management, values, and desires for their share of ownership and management of the family business. We learn that there are some unspoken conflicts. Bill & Greg have “modern” ideas for running the company. Paul has been unwilling to let them have a go at it. Trudy feels excluded from the business. We learn that all three of the second generation have talents that could be put to use in growing the business.

  3. Retrofitting: Shoring up the Weakness
  4. Families and businesses are rarely designed and constructed with a unified vision; rather, they are organic, constructed over a long period of time and modified as the individuals who comprise them live and grow. Some of the ways in which they have operated in the past continue even though they are no longer efficient or productive. In order to move into the future, it is often necessary to “repair” the foundational systems. This can prevent cracks from becoming deep fissures as pressure is added. We use the term retrofit to capture this phase of the work.

    For the Hobbitsons, it would be a grave mistake to move forward with a succession plan before we have repaired their ability to see each other clearly, resolve conflict in a healthy manner, and define boundaries between family and business. In the retrofit phase we help the family see their differences as a strength rather than a weakness. They learn about their own and others’ talents and are able to see each other as the talented adult professionals they have become. We work with Paul to reshape his identity and move beyond the business as the sole definition of him as a person. After they are clearly articulated, their family values become a unifying platform for them. They learn a healthy way to resolve conflicts so they can give up their old habits of avoidance.

  5. Performance: Adding strength to the foundations
  6. Once the weaknesses in the system are resolved, the family is now able to build on their strengths. New structures and processes can improve performance. The Hobbitsons are ready to design a succession plan utilizing the knowledge they have gained about the strengths of the individual family members. Bill and Greg are equipped and supported in their roles as CEO and COO. Paul relaxes as Chair, begins to show more of an interest in the things his wife Hope has longed to do together with him. Trudy establishes a profitable new division of architecturally focused “green products.” The ownership plan that passes the assets to the second and third generations is developed. A key element is the establishment of a board of directors that includes both family and non-family members.

  7. Expansion: New growth
  8. Once the new culture, values, practices and systems become more stable, it is 
time to think about growth into new areas, expansion for family members and business. The strategy Bill and Greg developed for the business has been positively modified with Trudy’s input. They are now able to grow the business without the conflict and alienation they had all felt at different times. Perhaps most importantly, their strategy and planning are tied to a more objective measurement of family members’ capacity. They are focused upon optimizing the talent they have and ensure match of resources and mission.

    The Hobbitsons have regular family meetings and are focusing on their parenting styles and the continued shaping of emerging generations. Executive coaching is strengthening their management. Their employees are benefiting from a healthier workplace. They are learning to be wise in their use of their increasing wealth and are becoming more integrated in their understanding and practices in business, ownership and family matters. They continue to grow and move forward as both individuals and as an extended family unit.

Lasting adaptive change requires engaging the entire ecosystem of a life. Key issues of capacity, belief system, values, character, communication, and wealth are continually weaving together across the domains of personal, business and family systems. The Marigold process addresses the complexity of life in order to make the changes that allow our clients not only to survive but flourish!

Both Linda Wagener and Richard Beaton contributed to this post.

CC Photo by cbanck

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