One of my favorite business books is the 1990 classic The Fifth Discipline, by Peter Senge. One of the concepts it discusses is the “mental models” we hold--often subconsciously--and how they shape our view of reality and our actions.
Two common mental models remodelers hold for their businesses are family and team. How do you think of your business?
For many company owners one of the most gut-wrenching experiences of the recent recession was the need to lay off valued employees. Many regarded their staff virtually as a family, and some vowed to never again build up an in-house staff so they would never again have to go through the emotional trauma of paring it down if market conditions made that necessary.
Now, in 2013, the construction industry appears to be reviving. Companies once again see opportunities for growth and face decisions about how best to increase capacity in order to capitalize on them. It’s a good time to consider our business metaphors and how they inform our strategy.
A team is a group organized with a purpose. Teams may be caring and supportive of individual members, but membership is ultimately based upon performance. Each member has a role to play in helping the team accomplish its purpose. Team members are selected and evaluated on how well they play their designated roles. Teams grow and change over time, with people being added or deleted as external conditions or company mission changes.
Families, on the other hand, are formed by birth or adoption and held together (ideally) by unconditional love. Family membership is not based upon performance; it’s based upon deeper relationships that precede any stated group purpose. A family can accommodate a wide range of individual idiosyncrasies without having its very existence threatened.
Another well-known author, Steven Covey, in The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, advises us to “begin with the end in mind,” because knowing how we want a process to end informs how we start it. This seems to me a good principle for hiring and building your team. Team members, even the very best ones, rarely stay forever. Conditions change, life happens, people move on. If and when people eventually leave, do you plan to have a going-away party or a funeral?
Your business is a team, not a family. Build the best team you possibly can, one that aligns with your most important personal values, but don’t freight it with inappropriate expectations by calling it a “family.”
Posted by Richard Steven.