One of the best ways to identify whether or not a family conflict is more of a “process” type of conflict is when it recurs over extended periods of time. I don’t mean the serial kind of conflicts that may naturally occur among a sibling team due to day to day differing points of view, but the kind that seem to be the same exact issue that raises its head from time to time or never ever goes away.
Learning to think about family businesses and conflicts as a part of the “system” becomes an important approach. In his book, The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge refers to systems thinking as a way to approach recurring problems by going beyond reacting to what, on the surface, looks simply like repeated single events. Instead, he suggests looking at root causes of those repeated events in relation to the larger system or in this case, the family’s business.
Even though his advice may seem obvious, sometimes taking some time to think about what kinds of circumstances in a family business may be causing conflict is a good place to start in getting a better handle on it and managing it more effectively.
I’m curious what kinds of “system” related conflicts you have seen?