Case Study

KWS (B): In full bloom - independence and continuity

8 pages
March 2008
Reference: IMD-3-1571

KWS SAAT AG (KWS) was a leader in sugar beet, corn and cereal seed breeding, operating in 70 countries, employing over 2,700 people and reporting revenues of $724 million in FY 2006/07. It had traveled far from its founding in eastern Germany by two friends in 1856. Through the years, the two families operated the business together and moved through successive generations of hands-on management. The company prided itself on its scientific and innovative prowess. Staying on the cutting edge of the seed breeding business required a consistent and dedicated approach to research. Any short-term curtailment of investment in developing seed varieties that responded to customers’ specific needs regarding climate, pests or other concerns meant falling behind competitors, perhaps irretrievably. The families’ philosophy formed the cornerstone of the firm’s core values. Individual freedom, personal development, independence, confidence and growth were cherished ideas at KWS. Its ability to balance contradiction and reject limits was key to success. Several things came along recently to challenge the company’s approach. Consolidation in the increasingly biotechnology-oriented industry brought major global chemical companies to the industry. Their deep pockets meant that many smaller players were selling out and the field of competitors contracted. The possibility to assure the families’ financial future for generations to come was tempting. At this same time, KWS faced a management issue. The family leader saw retirement on the horizon. Yet, a family successor seemed uncertain. How could the family ensure that their values would continue to guide the firm’s operations, even perhaps in the absence of day-to-day family leadership? This two-part case series explores corporate culture within the context of change, fomenting entrepreneurship and innovation that invigorates, and developing effective strategy for a competitive environment undergoing significant adjustment.

Learning Objective

To facilitate discussion of how companies may respond to not only normal, yet relentless stresses but also major events which threaten to derail generations of work; balancing incongruity and dissonance; encouraging entrepreneurial tendencies in staff; examining the role of values in an enterprise; planning for significant transitions in leadership.

Keywords
Industry Consolidation, Change, Corporate Culture, Leadership Transition
Settings
Global, Germany
2005 (1856-2008)
Type
Field Research
Copyright
© 2008
Available Languages
English
Case clearing houses
IMD case studies are distributed through case clearing houses. In order to browse the collection and purchase copies please visit the links below.

The Case Centre

Cranfield University

Wharley End Beds MK43 0JR, UK
Tel +44 (0)1234 750903
Email [email protected]

Harvard Business School Publishing

60 Harvard Way, Boston MA 02163, USA
Tel (800) 545-7685 Tel (617)-783-7600
Fax (617) 783-7666
Email [email protected]

Asia Pacific Case Center

NUCB Business School

1-3-1 Nishiki Naka
Nagoya Aichi, Japan 460-0003
Tel +81 52 20 38 111
Email [email protected]

Contact

Research Information & Knowledge Hub for additional information on IMD publications

Discover our latest research
IMD's faculty and research teams publish articles, case studies, books and reports on a wide range of topics