“Family Organization” – An Oxymoron?

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by John L. Ward 

Family organizations, such as family offices, face many paradoxical contradictions. Several follow; then a fundamental paradox will be examined.  

  • Centralized leadership or direct democracy
       – Who makes decisions?
       – How is leadership selected?
  • Individual freedom or collective responsibility
       – Is privacy protected or are there no restrictions on social media use?
       – Is each mindful of the physical security of all?
  • Engagement or emotional space
       – What expectations are put on people for participation?
       – How draining are family meetings?
  • Voluntary involvement or remunerated roles
       – How broad is participation?
       – How appreciated are “doers” feeling?
  • Direct costs or shared costs[*]
       – Who pays for what?
       – How much effort determines real costs? 

Perhaps the most fundamental family organization paradox is Familial or ProfessionalWhen family members participate in family meetings or activities or governance they expect BOTH:  informal, family-like feelings AND productive, effective progress. 

One approach to paradoxes is to seek balance – when there are increasing efforts to professionalize put more attention on how to also emphasize more familiarity. Another approach to paradoxes is to seek a synthesis – “win win.”  Perhaps a family will find that the more professional its meetings, the more time there is for just plain, casual fun?


 

[*] Sometimes the long-term view dissolves paradoxical contradictions. Perhaps in the long-term all costs are shared?

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