There seems to be so much written and discussed about change these days. From an increasing cultural acceptance of marriage equality to keeping up with the latest technology advances (that smart phone you bought last month is already outdated), change not only is a fact of life, it also challenges our thinking and sometimes our comfort level.
Even business schools are obsessed with trying to teach current and future managers about change – sometimes even with some success. Interesting thing is, it’s not really the change itself that creates the need to talk about managing it, but the complexity that surrounds the change.
What is striking about all the hyped talk about change, is how most family businesses seem to most naturally thrive in it simply because of the complexities a multi-generational enterprise naturally bring to the table: Strategy certainly includes market considerations but in a family business will likely include a plan for how G3 will engaged in it’s implementation; Increasing shareholder value is still central, but the relationships across family branches of owners means a deeper set of goals and assumptions are likely in place.
This particular view of change and complexity is referred to, quite blandly, as organizational development. OD, as it’s called, is a process to help organizations be more effective in everything from making profits to improving the quality of work life. “…the focus is on building the organization’s ability to assess its current functioning and to achieve its goals…in the context of the larger environment that affects them.” – Cummings and Worley, (2001)
So, whether they realize it or not, many family businesses are naturals at OD thinking that might actually give them a “leg up” in effectively managing change and complexity. That doesn’t mean that process will always easy, but it does mean that some of the best examples of successful OD in practice, happens to be the family enterprise.