Managing intergenerational dynamics: towards building resilience in the family business by Dr Rania Labaki Associate Professor,Director of the EDHEC

This well attended webinar featured an average of 50 participants from 9 different representative countries.

The aim of the Module, mainly revolved around the understanding of the intergenerational dynamics that exist in family businesses through awareness, reflection and preparation and education.

Through a case study focused on a winery in Germany belonging to a traditional and conservative family ( est in 1950 ) a presentation on intergenerational dynamics was made and a discussion followed.

The established plan of succession of this particular winery business was based on traditional values whereby said succession was based on primogeniture. With the case study at hand, it therefore followed that the eldest son was the foreseen successor of the business but this did not necessarily mean that he was the most suitable.

The paternalistic father was dominant and was the leader in family as well as business matters.

The daughters favored gender equality and were abreast of the changing times.

All the above are examples of awareness of the ongoings inside the family business.

Reflection was analyzed throughout the presentation by way of the circumplex model of the family and marital systems. This aforementioned model can be assessed by cohesion through the emotional bonding between family members and flexibility through the extent of change in leadership /roles. The main objective would be to achieve a healthy balance of the two.

The cohesion element is assessed on a scale ranging from family members being disengaged to the family members being enmeshed with in between factors being separated and connected. The level of cohesion in this model is directly related to the level of dependance between family members ranging from independent in the disengaged category all through to the enmeshed category, which is very highly dependent, and loyal towards other family members.

On the flexibility element the ranges of accepted changes in leadership are ranging from chaotic, implying frequent changes, and lack of leadership to rigid,  which therefore implies too few changes and an autocratic type of leadership. The in betweens on this flexibility element would be flexible denoted mainly by a shared leadership and structured elements whereby leadership is shared and whereby change happens only on demand.


The balanced mediums of cohesion and flexibility elements were therefore noted as being flexibly separated, flexibly connected, structurally separated and structurally connected.

At this stage the panel opened to the floor with the following questions

  1. What does it take to move to a balanced family type ?


Suggested ideas by the audience included tolerance, respect, communication, understanding, openness, amongst others.


  1. What kind of educational elements would benefit the next generation ?


Suggested ideas by the audience amongst others were standards of operation, mentoring and guidance, involvement and preparation.


The last area of focus was preparation and education.


  1. The educational elements involved:


  • Lectures on Family Business to include theoretical background on family businesses involving course material and readings, case studies and guest speakers.
  • One on one coaching and feedback version involving personalized feedback by lab instructor trained in mentoring
  • Development of life plan by way of asking the questions ‘Who am I ?’ ‘What do I want to do ?’ ‘How do I get there ?’
  • Interviews with family members (parents) through careful preparation and consequent individual or joint sessions with parents
  • Peer Group Discussions involving weekly discussions (strictly in confidence), and counselling by an instructor trained in family business issues and mental health


  1. Subsequent to the educational elements the next generation student experiences were factored in involving:
  • Practical application of materials from previous theories learnt
  • Self-reflection through identifying values and beliefs, personal career strategies and understanding family history.
  • Normalizing by way of understanding from fellow students and receiving insights from peers and instructors, into typical family business challenges.
  • Emotional responses from and to business and family systems alike.
  • Impact on communication through overcoming communication barriers and openly discussing and questioning family decisions.


  1. Lastly, family business succession outcomes need to be drawn out by way of:
  • Understanding family business attachment and a change of perception;
  • Individuations and managing expectations by reducing role ambiguity, managing complexity in the family business environment and acting according to one’s values and roles;
  • Developing incumbent successor trust through confidence, maturity and credibility both internally as well as externally;
  • Making career decisions clearer focus on career inside or outside the family business;
  • Extending temporal perspectives by gaining insight into past/present/future and the ability to consider and make intertemporal choices.

The presentation came to a conclusion with a Q and A session opened to the floor.

We look forward to seeing you at the next free Webinar taking place next Tuesday!

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