Insegnamento a.a. 2020-2021


Department of Management and Technology

Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 31
CLEF (6 credits - II sem. - OP  |  SECS-P/07)
Course Director:

Classes: 31 (II sem.)

Mission & Content Summary


Family firms - firms that are owned, managed and controlled by a family, or a limited number of individuals – represent the vast majority of all firms in Italy and worldwide, and major contributors to a country’s employment, GDP, wealth, and business knowledge. This course aims at developing students’ skills in analyzing the specific features of family firms, assessing their key problems and opportunities, and creatively proposing strategic and organizational solutions. The course is targeted to the next generation of controlling-family members, to students who may be willing to start their career in a family or private firm, and to those who plan to consult or provide professional services to family-controlled companies. Understanding the peculiar features of these firms is essential to develop a successful leadership career in such organizational settings or, more broadly, to understand the strategic logic of family-controlled competitors, suppliers, and customers. Participants are challenged to improve their personal skills in the areas of communication, conflict resolution, diagnostic assessment, solutions finding, and writing academic papers or case-based materials. This highly interactive course includes active simulations, role plays, videos, guest speakers, and real-case discussion. The final course assignment requires students to develop either an academic paper, or a teaching case, individually, or in small teams.


  • Key features and presence of family firms in Italy and worldwide.
  • Key values and principles behind the success of the family-firm system.
  • Tools for analyzing the family, the family business, and for assessing their viability.
  • Strategic choices of family firms.
  • Ownership values and roles in family firms.
  • The role of non-family managers and CEOs.
  • The role of boards of directors and advisory boards in family firms.
  • Succession in leadership positions and training future leaders.
  • Conflict management and communication in family firms.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Define a family business and describe the different types of family firms.
  • Recognize the unique performance requirements and capabilities of the family form of business organization.
  • Illustrate the main tools for analyzing controlling families and family businesses.
  • Recognize the specific needs that family firms have in the areas of family management, ownership, governance and business management.
  • Explain the specific needs that family firms have in relation to leadership succession.
  • Explain the specific needs that family firms have in terms of conflict management.


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Apply the most common tools for analyzing controlling families and family businesses.
  • Identify different types of family firms.
  • Draw a genogram of a controlling family from available data and assess it.
  • Analyze the structure of a family firm’s board of directors, advisory board, and family council.
  • Simulate discussions that regularly happen within family meetings, family shareholders meeting, and boards of directors.
  • Identify the most common types and sources of conflict in family firms.
  • Formulate possible solutions to conflict situations occurring in family firms.
  • Write an academic paper or case, individually or in a small team, on specific family firm topics.

Teaching methods

  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Guest speaker's talks (in class or in distance)
  • Exercises (exercises, database, software etc.)
  • Case studies /Incidents (traditional, online)
  • Individual assignments
  • Group assignments
  • Interactive class activities (role playing, business game, simulation, online forum, instant polls)


  • The learning experience of this course includes, in addition to face-to-face lectures, case discussions, group works, exercises, real examples, simulations and interactions with guest speakers from family firms and institutions that deal with family firms. Topics are analyzed moving from real-life case-histories to make the students aware not only of the main concepts, but also of the most common issues experienced by real family firms and how to analyze and address them.
  • Attendance (PLEASE, READ CAREFULLY BEFORE ENROLLING IN THIS COURSE): due to the practice-oriented teaching methodology, heavily based on interaction and class participation, attendance is compulsory. To be considered as attending, students must attend at least 75% of the scheduled classes and they cannot miss attendance of three specific group discussion sessions indicated in the syllabus. If you plan to travel, start internships etc. during the semester, the "attending" mode of this course is probably not for you (and you are welcome to take it as a non-attending student). Please, also carefully check schedule overlaps with other courses that you want to attend.

Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Individual assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)
  • Group assignment (report, exercise, presentation, project work etc.)


  • Individual or team project: the major course project is to prepare an “Academic paper” or a “Family Business case” on a family business issue. Topics include those discussed in class or any other that is approved in advance by the instructor. Both the academic paper and the teaching case can be completed by individuals or in teams of up to 3 members.
  • Individual project: each attending student is asked to individually provide a written “Peer Feedback” on the draft sections of other participants’ final assignment (Paper or Case).


Non-attending students are assesses through a final written exam. The final written exam includes 3-6 open questions on the materials for non attending students indicated in the course program.

Teaching materials


  • Course materials on the course web-learning platform.
  • Course materials handed in class.


  • T. ZELLWEGER, Managing the family business. Theory and practice, Edward Elgar, 2017.
Last change 10/12/2020 09:34