Navigating Life’s Fluxes: Exploring the Interfacing Life Cycles Model 

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Over time, children grow up and expand the family, generational waves coexist, businesses are launched and mature, and industries emerge and decline. Despite its slow pace, change is the only constant.  

As enterprising families navigate through various developmental stages and across the different spheres of their ecosystem, they encounter diverse challenges and opportunities. Purposefully navigating these, requires an understanding of the different life cycles at play and their impacts. 

Understanding the Life Cycles Model 

In the context of enterprising families, the Interfacing Life Cycles Model is a useful tool to understand the family’s current stages of development and their potential evolution that its different spheres might experience over time.  

The model comprises five axes, each representing a distinct life cycle. The different axes are stages through which individuals, families, and organizations evolve at different paces, while simultaneously influencing the others. Each axis encompasses its own layers of complexity, formative experiences, priorities, and critical conversations.  There are numerous combinations of interfacing life cycles and varied outcomes; however, not every family, organization, or individual will experience them all.  

To gain a comprehensive understanding of the enterprising family’s current state and future direction, it is essential to consider each axis independently and in relation to the others. For instance, the individual axis tracks aging at the individual level, while the ownership axis reflects changes in the family’s ownership dynamics. These two axes interact and shape one another, illustrating the interconnected nature of the family’s multiple dimensions. 

Interfacing Life Cycles Model 

Why is the Life Cycles Model relevant to enterprising families? 

Each stage within a life cycle has distinct characteristics that can alter a family member’s needs, expectations, and concerns regarding their current and future roles and contributions at both the business and family levels. Below are three ways that this model can aid enterprising families. 

1. As an awareness development tool for long-term decision-making 

Awareness of each life cycle is the first step in understanding the present, gaining a long-term perspective and making better-informed decisions. By using the model as an awareness development tool, family members can share their perspectives, have a voice, and observe differences, fostering discussions to address these differences deliberately and effectively.  

For instance, to prepare the rising generation for leadership roles in the family enterprise, all generations must collaborate to harness opportunities and shape the future, emphasizing the importance of aligning the individual, ownership, and business axes.  

Without such awareness, waiting for the transitioning generation to be ready might result in the rising generation committing to different paths, leaving them without viable options for their studies or professional development. Furthermore, staying informed about the evolving business and ownership governance can open new roles and create opportunities for family members over time. 

2. As a method to uncover how internal and external forces influence the collective  

The second way is to use the model to understand how each life cycle axis influences the others.  

By gaining awareness of the interfacing dimensions of its evolution, an enterprising family and their advisors can uncover how internal and external forces shape different perspectives and timing, impacting the family’s ability to achieve its goals. This understanding helps them manage and overcome obstacles stemming from diverse perspectives and contexts.  

For instance, over time, more cashflow may be needed to sustain an expanding family financially, but the operating business may have reached maturity, and the industry may no longer be growing. With this awareness, the family can better face decisions such as reinvesting in the family business to fund its reinvention, sell and tap into new opportunities, or harvest to prioritize short-term security over long-term prosperity.  

Recognizing that each family member approaches the ownership table with a unique perspective shaped by their own life cycle and context increases the chances that the optimal solution for everyone’s interests and priorities can be reached. 

3. As a tool to better anticipate and prepare for transitions  

Thirdly, the model helps families better prepare for transitions by recognizing which life cycle changes are within their control and which ones are not.  

Determining the life cycle phases on each axis that are considered uncontrolled occurrences allows enterprising families to plan accordingly.  For instance, a death in the family would be considered an uncontrolled occurrence; however, its controllable counterpart is the pre-emptive estate planning. On the business axis, industry evolution would be considered an uncontrolled occurrence; however, the decision-making to mitigate any associated negative effects, such as reinvesting to consolidate or divesting to de-risk assets and pursue new opportunities, is controllable.  

By detecting shifts in maturity stages and developing the necessary skills and competencies over time – whether in business operations, governance, or maintaining family unity – families can navigate the emerging landscape effectively.  Anticipating and planning for such scenarios can preserve alignment and ensure future family gatherings are harmonious. 

By shedding light on the dynamics and dilemmas associated with each phase of the life cycle axes, families, organizations, and individuals can project into the future, influence outcomes, and harness opportunities. This preparedness is crucial for maintaining cohesiveness and harmony, as well as ensuring survival and growth.