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For Want Of A Family Plan

According to an old proverb:
“For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For want of a horse the rider was lost,
For want of a rider the message was lost,
For want of a message the battle was lost,
For defeat in battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”

Reframe this to:
“For want of a Plan the Family was lost,
For want of a Family the Business was lost,
And all for the want of a Family Plan.”

In 2021, business families are focussing on survival, recovery, rebuilding and strengthening their families and businesses.  Family businesses make their best gains in times of trouble – they’re there for the long haul, while their corporate competitors fall subject to more nervous timeframes.

Plans help us define and share goals; focus collective efforts, and confirm we’re on the right track or not, as we expend effort and resources.

Plans remove the uncertainty that opposes clarity, destroys confidence, eliminates commitment, and generates conflict. They comprise goals and the required actions, and should be actively developed, shared and agreed with everybody responsible for any of its parts.

Nothing causes more conflict in family business than the want of agreed plans. Without them family teams aren’t motivated; they lack a shared purpose, and they cannot align over unifying values, hopes and beliefs. They’re left with accidents of birth and we know how that can go!

Getting Stuff Done

To make any task happen, individuals in a family group need to stick to the “A-B-C-D.”

Agree a specific goal – what they want to achieve (eg: have a picnic) > Clarity.
Build a plan – agree how to achieve their goal (eg: prepare food and go by boat) > Certainty.
Commit to doing – everybody has a specific role and responsibility (eg: prepare food and organise the boat) > Commitment.
Do the doing – encourage and support a performance attitude where everyone wants to get the job done > Implementation and Execution.

There are four progressive requirements for getting stuff done:

1. Motivate.

Thinking creates a cerebral intent (desire) to do something specific (eg: have a picnic). Individuals and groups recognise their Responsibilities, and use their Authority, to motivate themselves, and others, through the planning process.

Motivation arises from the acceptance of attractive plans:

  • 1 – Family Plan – initial thoughts, using logic + imagination.
    • a) Where the family is going and why they’re going there.
    • b) How they’ll get there.
    • c) When they’re going.
    • d) What each person is expected to contribute to the process.
  • 2 – Family Action Plan – refined thinking advances the family plan to cover:
    • a) Specific tasks.
    • b) Allocated responsibilities.
    • c) Timelines.
    • d) Logistics, resources and budgets.
    • e) Review and Measurement Processes.

2. Activate and Start Doing

Convert Motivation (cerebral desire) into Action (doing). Somebody should be responsible for activation, and must have the authority to make it happen. They’ll be accountable, under the plan, for doing so. Most plans fail because they don’t get started.

3. Implement. Work to the Plan.

This requires appropriate levels of personal and professional responsibility, authority, discipline, and accountability.

4. Execute.

Stick to the plan to complete activated tasks. Requires persistence and personal and professional responsibility, authority, discipline, and accountability.

In Summary:

Motivate = Conceive = Responsibility + Authority

Activate = Commence = Responsibility + Authority + Accountability

Implement = Apply Plan = Responsibility + Authority + Discipline + Accountability

Execute = Complete Tasks = Responsibility + Authority + Discipline + Accountability

Family Plan

Family plans are big picture, family-oriented versions of standard business strategy plans. They outline the family’s journey towards long term, sustainable success by addressing:

  • Individual values and visions, and setting appropriate goals.
  • Family values and visions, and setting appropriate goals.

Plans direct the actions of key family members, and the use of family resources towards: individual and family group success, stewardship, succession, next generation engagement, and family wealth management.

Many business families don’t have workable (or any) family plans. Some individuals have secret plans in their heads; some rely on real, perceived, or constructed promises and commitments; many simply have no idea.

What we do know is that plans that aren’t shared and agreed are practically useless – they can’t guide the family anywhere.

Family Action Plan

Family action plans provide opportunities to consider, motivate and activate previously untapped (and dis-engaged?) family resources, such as next generation family members.

Individual success or failure in executing assigned tasks facilitates assessment of family member competence, trustworthiness, and effectiveness. This is important to ensure having the right people, in the right roles, doing the right things, at the right times.

The action plan also helps to:

(1) Encourage a serious reality check on the family’s goals – planned tasks must stack up, logically and logistically, or be modified; and
(2) Provide the family with a detailed road map for their collective journey towards long term success and sustainability.

Cause of Conflict

The want of a plan is a major cause of conflict in family business. I’ve never seen a family with an agreed plan fall into serious conflict, although want of a plan has been a major element in every one of the many conflicted families I’ve worked with, over the years.

Many of those families were in terrible trouble: revered leaders had lost capacity, or died, without leaving adequate plans and processes to guide the family through the raft of changes, challenges and problems that inevitably followed their declining, or ended, leadership.

For want of a plan they left their families in awful strife – at risk of losing both the family and the business – the very last thing they’d have wanted.

Who should be involved in a Family Planning process?

Involvement is a choice for each family to make. I recommend including spouses, partners and adult next generation members, unless there are good reasons to exclude them. Outsiders bring different perspectives, and next generation members often sail effortlessly through moral, emotional and financial impediments that paralyse their parents.

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