WIFU Departments


The research of this chair focuses on the family side of family businesses: the business family.

This is a form of family that has not yet been extensively researched in the social or economic sciences. Business families have to surmount particular challenges. For example, they have to be a private family and a formally organised business family at the same time. Factors which most families can ignore are essential to business families, because of the responsibility they carry for their family business. They have to organise themselves formally, create forms of management and strategic development and put them into practice. The bigger business families become and the more members they encompass, the more important it becomes to work strategically on shaping the growing family network to ensure that the family stays together in its relations with the company.

In business families, there is the question of suitable successors, which comes up again every generation – successors who undertake operative activities in the family business and adopt the socially responsible roles of owners / shareholders. That is why the children, young people and parents in business families expect particular things of one another, and these in turn are affected by social developments, individual life choices, and the diversification of the kind of world they live in. This is why research and training focuses on growing up, education, succession (for succession), and general socialisation in business families.

And finally, there is the question of how to appropriately support, advise and coach business families, and especially their members, in their demanding family- and business-related responsibilities and challenges (such as those relating to family strategy development, succession, conflicts and decision-making). That is why this Department researches and develops innovative consulting and coaching concepts (such as systemic structures in different formats) which meet the particular needs of business families.

All of the issues relating to these themes are researched by the Department from a transdisciplinary viewpoint, which looks especially at combining the sociological, socio-psychological, socio-pedagogic and economic dimensions of the topic.


  • Research colloquium
  • Group dynamics training group
  • Practical reflection module
  • Social psychology and sociology of the family business and the business family
  • Systemic structures as methods of practice and research
  • Systemic coaching and leadership skills
  • Theory of business families and family businesses
  • On the theory of group dynamics


Prof. Dr. Heiko Kleve
Chairholder Organisation and Development of Business Families
Kristin Beer, M.A.
Research Fellow at the Chair of Organisation and Development of Business Families
Lina Nagel
Research Fellow at the Chair of Organisation and Development of Business Families
Riccardo Keßler
Research Fellow at the Chair of Organisation and Development of Business Families
Dr. Sigrun Caspary
Research and teaching area “Organisation and Development of Business Families”
Helga Penders
Secretary at the chair of: Leadership and Dynamics in Family Businesses/ Organisation and Development of Business Families/ Family Business Law/ Corporate Entrepreneurship & Digitalisation in Family Businesses



Prof. Dr. Heiko Kleve

Phone: +49 2302 926 515
Email: heiko.kleve@uni-wh.de

After training as a data processing technician, Heiko Kleve (born 1969) studied social education at the Alice Salomon University and social sciences at Humboldt University. In 1998, he gained a doctorate in sociology at the Free University of Berlin, achieving ‘summa cum laude’. He worked from 1997 – 2002 as an advisor to families in social psychiatry. In 2002 he became a professor at the Alice Salomon University. He was a professor of sociological and social psychological foundations at Potsdam University of Applied Sciences from 2005 to 2017. There he was the Dean of the Social and Educational Sciences Department from 2013 to 2017, he was the director of the social work with families course, and of further training in systemic case management, systemic coaching and systemic structures. He has also worked as a coach, supervisor and mediator for around twenty years. He has led the WIFU Foundation’s Department of Organisation and Development of Business Families since July 2017.

Professor Kleve possesses additional qualifications as a systemic consultant (DGSF), supervisor/coach (DGSv), systemic/teaching supervisor (SG), mediator and case manager (DGCC).

Main areas of work, research and interest

  • Sociological system theory of business families and family businesses
  • Family governance/strategy
  • Reflections on and dealing with complexity
  • Theory and practice in applied social sciences
  • Group dynamics
  • Systemic structure


  • Kleve, H. (2018): Die Organisation des Familiennetzwerks. Management großer Unternehmerfamilien als Ermöglichung von Reziprozität – eine Theorieskizze. In: Zeitschrift für Familienunternehmen und Strategie (FuS), Issue 2/2018, p. 44-49.
  • Kleve, H. (2017): Das Tetralemma der Unternehmerfamilie. Skizze eines systemischen Forschungsprogramms. In: systeme, Issue 2/2017, p. 224-243.
  • Kleve, H. (2017): System Compliance in Unternehmerfamilien. Konfliktprävention durch Beachtung elementarer Systemregeln. In: Konfliktdynamik, Issue 4/2017, p. 294-300.
  • Kleve, H. & Köllner, T. (editors) (2019): Die Soziologie der Unternehmerfamilie. Grundlagen, Entwicklungen, Perspektiven. Springer VS: Wiesbaden (in preparation).
  • Wirth, J. & Kleve, H. (editors) (2012): Lexikon des Systemischen Arbeitens. Grundbegriffe der systemischen Praxis, Methodik und Theorie. Carl-Auer: Heidelberg.

You will find detailed information at:

Google Scholar


  • System theory of the business family
  • Sociology of the business family
  • The ‘tripled family’ – large business families as families, organisations and networks
  • Systemic consulting, in particular systemic structures as a method of reflection and support for business families
  • Family businesses and business families in Japan – differences and commonalities with German family businesses


  • Der besondere Beitrag von Familienunternehmen bei der Arbeitsmarktinklusion von Geflüchteten im Unterschied zu anderen Unternehmen. Gegenüberstellung in einer qualitativen Studie (The special contribution of family businesses to labor market inclusion of refugees compared to other companies. Comparison in a qualitative study)
  • Der Prozess der Entscheidungsfindung und Abstimmung von nicht-operativ tätigen Gesellschaftern deutscher Familienunternehmen (The process of decision-making and coordination of non-operational shareholders of German family businesses)
  • Risiko(-kultur)perspektive auf das Nachhaltigkeitsfeld. Ein systemtheoretischer Brückenschlag für innovatives Leadership und Management in KMU (Risk (culture) perspective on the sustainability field. A system theoretical bridge for innovative leadership and management in SMEs)