Pregnancy may seem a strange topic for a post discussing business, but in my view companies go through this phase at specific times in their lives. We are talking here symbolically of course, so maybe conception and gestation are better words to describe the phase to which I am referring. These are stages that occur before birth, be it the birth of a new idea, or a new product or a new department or indeed a new enterprise. The starting of anything must first have a dream, a vague concept, something must indeed be conceived. Then gestation must occur before birth.
Pisces represents this phase. In the zodiac it is the last sign, an end, but also a beginning of what has not yet come into being. It represents a letting go of the old. Here we look forward to the spring, to the Aries phase when everything is born and starts to develop. We are imagining (a great Pisces word) what will come. It is a time for fantasy, dreams, focussing inward and hope. An extremely creative time. There is an air of expectation. But is it all an illusion? Another Pisces word. Many Pisceans get stuck in this phase so that birth never takes place. These are the true romantics, the dreamers, the artists and the musicians. They are supposed to inspire us to dream and to get our creative juices going. They are inspirers, not builders.
But how is this relevant to companies?
In most organisational development models this phase exists only once, and that is pre start-up. Advice given here is normally about how to finance your new business baby and how to set up a website. You must make a business plan and set out your marketing strategy. You find out how to register at the Chamber of Commerce and how to get a tax number. Now don’t get me wrong, these are all important practical steps that must be taken. But what happened to the dream? What happened to the magic of finding a name? Do we take time to enjoy the gestation period or are we forced to go with the normal company set-up model? Before we know it, opening day has arrived. Are conditions such that we miscarry before birth? Or do we enjoy this inward phase and deliver a healthy bouncing company?
In most organisational development models all other phases are about achieving success and if we want something new, we hire in Change Managers or Organisational Development experts who understand people and organisations and know how to manage change, usually from top down. No more gestation here – gestation is a one time event. No wonder a lot of companies stagnate.
During my study I created a new organisational development model based on the age-old cyclic principle of the zodiac signs. The model takes account of the fact that, just like people, companies go through life phases. Twelve of them, based on the signs starting at birth or Aries, the sign of spring. This is a natural cycle which implies that there is a background development going on. It implies that there is, to quote the good book, “a time for every purpose”. As people we are all different and unique, but we cannot avoid being babies, going through puberty, having child bearing years, enjoying mid-life crisis and growing older. The model suggests that if we go with the flow and do things at an appropriate time, life will be easier and better. These days there are many signs that we have lost sight of this principle. Children of 11 have alcohol poisoning or are looking after sick parents. Getting older was once valued, now we need to have cosmetic surgery to be accepted. Child bearing years have been extended beyond recognition. We can control this now, so why shouldn’t we if it gives us pleasure and fulfilment. But one wonders how this will end. It is all fine but the underlying problem is that it devalues what really is the benefit of all the phases. We don’t even know any more, if we ever did, what the benefit is of being 53, 67 or 82 or even anything above 50!
Change management is a bit like this sometimes. We want change in companies so the company can be more dynamic or make more money. We think that we need different management styles to be successful. We follow other companies and copy them. We steal ideas, designs or clients to get ahead. One wonders how this will end too, but all too often both for people and companies, this type of ‘going against the flow’ ends in tears. We need to be our authentic selves, as do companies, and act our age! Companies can’t get away with it any more than people can.
Nor can companies not be affected by what happens during the gestation phase. Just as with people, experiences pre-birth are very important in my view.
In this issue I want to focus on pre start up – the Pisces phase before birth and the ‘pregnant at 70’ stage which all companies could make use of. These twelve phases are six years long, so at 72 years old we start again with a new “birth”, and so should companies. Actually the Pisces phase is from 66 years old until 72 so if your company was started between 1941 and 1947 it is in this phase now. (Or 72 years before that etc. as this development model is cyclic.)
This is a very delicate phase – you don’t want to announce this too early as you want to have a viable idea first – maybe just a few close friends should know about you new company idea. This is the right reaction in this phase as your vulnerable idea needs protecting from people who tell you about how they would do it. Any expectant mother can tell you how many birth horror stories she has heard during pregnancy. The Pisces phase needs a retreat. Take enough time to go inwards and dream about what could be in the new company. This is not a time for action. It is a time to be chaotic, many of the best things happen out of chaos. And anyway like any baby, the idea may have ideas of its own! What I mean by that is what artists describe when painting, when they say the painting speaks back. Gestation is like that and should be. A company is formed by what happens around it too, especially at gestation, so be aware of the energy you are feeding the new company.
I’m pregnant again! And I’m nearly 70!
Congratulations. Exactly the right time for a new start. On one of these cycles the Netherlands (yes it also works for countries) developed a new constitution which was manifested at the Aries phase. On another one they joined the European Community with much happening in the gestation phase. Of course being reborn at 72 is very different from being born. The advice for both people and companies is, between 66 and 72, to conceive. To go inwards and find a new dream. To end a cycle so that you can start afresh. Enjoy the day dream because the next phase calls for action.
One of the things I would like to do is to study when companies die and why. I would like to look at which phase they were in at the time of death and compare the phase with what happened. My suspicion is that organisations may have been doing something that was inappropriate for the phase they were in or they were not being authentic.
Swissair and Sabena – examples
Let’s take two examples of dead companies and look at the possible cause of death. One will never know all of the reasons from outside the company, but it can be interesting to study in the light of this model.
Swissair died before it’s 72nd birthday in 2002. Remember that a Pisces phase where Swissair was when it died, calls for a new dream, but it can also bring fraud and hidden elements. During the 90’s Swissair had continued with its hunter strategy, which meant that it bought other airlines. It didn’t seek alliances. It was hit badly by 9/11 but so were all the airlines. Swissair was part owned by the Swiss government and during its last years it asked the government to intervene with a problem caused by Easyjet coming onto the Swiss market. It did this by creating certain limitations for airlines operating in Switzerland. Now it is never a good idea for a company that should be in retreat and meditating on a new dream to be taking on the new kid on the block. Particularly one who is in a fighting and raring to go Aries phase. Easyjet won hands down. And a hunter strategy also doesn’t fit with this phase. Interestingly, as I write this, the trial of the entire Swissair management who are facing criminal charges of mismanagement, false statements, and forgery of documents, is just winding up. Pisces is a concept that includes removal from society, being protected, escaping or going inwards. We can do this with meditation or with alcohol or drugs. We can do it by being in hospital but also by being in prison. So it may come as no surprise that at least one person from the Swissair management may end up being imprisoned.
Poor old Sabena also suffered because of the failure of Swissair. There was an agreement to buy Sabena which naturally failed when Swissair closed down. This meant that Sabena, who had always had financial difficulties but were always bailed out by the Belgian government up until the Swissair agreement, also died. They however, were 78 years old, just beginning the 2nd phase which has to do with finance. The Belgian government is still waiting for criminal charges against Swissair to come to court.
Choosing your moment
So why not choose your birth moment for your company? This may sound like a Caesarian birth in the context of this discussion, but I like to think that maybe we can work together with the universe.
If you know your mission and what you want to achieve with your new company, then it is possible to pick a time that might help you along the way. This month I was asked to choose a moment for the launch of a website for a fashion company as this was seen as a very important step for a company that had just been set up. The start date was already officially registered, so this couldn’t be changed. Mostly I find that people unconsciously choose an appropriate date anyway. (Or does the moment choose them?) But that doesn’t mean we can’t choose dates and times for important events.
I always try to choose a moment that I feel will work, based on a discussion with the owner. In this case the products are good quality swimwear and the owner is passionate about design and having an exclusive label. Because of this I wanted to have the sign of Leo highlighted which was possible. Whether this works or not we will never know, as there is no way to check what would have happened when a date and time was not chosen. However the benefit of this, is that the discussion that is necessary to do this, focuses the mind on what is important. An important part of the birthing process.
Interesting website of the month
As Pisces can sometimes be vague and chaotic I am going to give a link that has nothing to do with anything but I just liked it. A tip from a friend. It is www.howstuffworks.com about how stuff works! Enjoy…
Several quotes this month because Pisces has difficulties with boundaries!
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
“It is said that the present is pregnant with the future.”
Voltaire, Philosopher and writer.
“The best reason for having dreams is that in dreams no reasons are necessary.”
Ashleigh Brilliant, Author and cartoonist.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
Albert Einstein – spoken like the true Pisces that he was.