This post walks through an example of mapping family members, family organizations, trusts, service providers, and key family investment holdings using Kumu. While dynamic family enterprise system maps may not replace the classic genogram, they should become as common.

We are all familiar with the classic family genogram (see Figure 1). Using circles, squares, and various sorts of lines, one can use a genogram to map a family tree, showing the various generations of a family as well as marriages and divorces, adoptions, etc. Figure 1 In this post I want to introduce a powerful online tool called Kumu as a way to create dynamic, interactive, family enterprise system maps. Kumu is an incredibly powerful online tool. It is free (so long as your map is public) or charges a fee (if you want your map to remain private and accessible only to those to whom you grant permission.) I won't go into all the details of what Kumu can do. If you explore their web site, you will find various examples of systems, concept, and relationship maps that tap the power of Kumu. Here I want to demonstrate how Kumu can be used to create a dynamic family enterprise system map. Kumu allows you to create elements and connections. An element is an object, represented on the map by a circle. It could be a person, an organization, a concept--really, anything you desire. A connection is a relationship between two or more elements, represented on the map by a line. It could be a family relationship, an employee relationship, a Board position, a trustee-beneficiary relationship--really, again, anything you desire. In Kumu, you can customize everything. So you can define all sorts of element "types" or connection "types." Your…

This one-page essay describes two simple tools for improving PTC Board discussions.

A trust is an ownership vehicle; a trustee operates as the functional owner of the assets and invests those assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries. In addition, however, a trustee must fulfill the distributive function: making the assets available to the beneficiaries appropriately (under the terms of the trust documents) for their use. A private trust company (PTC) has the advantage (over an individual or traditional corporate trustee) that it is focused exclusively on the well-being of one particular family. It can therefore really come to know the needs and interests of that family and tailor not only its…

The DISC assessment is a useful tool for helping families, trustees, and family office or business professionals understand how and why different people process and behave differently.

The DISC assessment is a simple, powerful tool for identifying how different people make sense of the world differently. I've used it for years with students, corporate teams, and family groups. This post is meant to introduce DISC, show some of what it can do, and explore a bit how a family office or other advisor might use it with a family or within a family enterprise. What is DISC? The DISC framework was originally created by Dr. William Marston, a physiological psychologist, in 1928. Although he theorized the four basic behavioral types that DISC describes, he did not create an assessment tool--others have done that based on his work. As a result, various assessment tools exist. If you Google "DISC assessment," you will find many different options. (For a useful history of the development of the DISC profile, see this timeline.) I personally use a version of DISC by…

Two Partisan Perceptions tools from the conflict literature can help families in a variety of situations, including understanding "in-law issues"

Lots of families in business worry about in-laws. What if a spouse has married into the family "just for the money?" What if he or she tries to "take over" or is overly opinionated? What if the in-law creates conflict? What if he or she is a "gold-digger" or spendthrift? Although less often discussed, in-laws have worries about business families as well. What is this family business or enterprise, and why does everyone seem so worried about it? Who are all these lawyers, advisors, and other professionals circling around my spouse and his or her family? Why does it seem like everyone is so secretive? Or uptight? Or obsessive about money? Where You Stand Depends on Where You Sit The conflict and negotiation literature has long focused on such examples of "partisan perceptions"--situations in which two parties have very different views on the same subject, and in which those views…