Kajsa Haag (2012)

Rethinking family business succession: From a problem to solve to an ongoing practice

As the title denotes, I suggest we think differently about family business succession. I propose to rethink succession from a problem to a practice. This means that succession is not a problem to solve but something people do in family business; it is ongoing, it is integrated and it is ordinary. It poses an alternative to the common view of succession as something problematic, separate and extraordinary to handle in order to carry on with the business. To view succession as a practice opens up new understanding of succession as a continuing flow of activities embedded in the everyday life of business families instead of a problem to overcome through succession planning. This notion is philosophically inspired by sociology of practice, theoretically based in a practice perspective of strategy, and empirically explored in a case of succession at Karl Andersson & Söner. Three conceptions are developed that aid the analysis of succession, framing it as originating from socialization, included in everyday routines and progressing without design. The study shows how succession evolves as family members are socialized, engaged and trained through the durée of daily life. Beyond that, it shows how succession is not just about handing the business over from one generation to the next. It is also about working together in the moment, developing the business while preserving its essence. Engaging in the family business to be part of developing it is fundamentally different from joining because transfer of leadership and/or ownership is needed. It questions the idea of succession as a purpose in itself and suggests a shift from “taking over” to “being part”.