Lessons in Financial Governance from Bowen's Family Systems Model

Paul Sachs, Shame Mugova

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    All organizations are social systems. The family is the first social system to which each person belongs. A business organization is also such a system. Family theorists describe family relationships and use this understanding to help families to improve their functioning. These insights can also be applied to business organizations and their governance. The present paper uses Bowen's family systems theory to understand financial governance and governance relationships. Bowen's eight concepts of family systems are triangles, differentiation of self, nuclear family emotional process, family projection process, multigenerational transmission process, emotional cutoff, sibling position, and societal-emotional process. These concepts are discussed in light of how financial information is shared in a business, how board composition affects the oversight of financial operations, how leadership balances financial and operational demands, and how the social interactions within the business interplay with the macro social-industrial environment. For example, a well-functioning family helps a family member develop into an independent adult. Likewise, the effective business leader enables the financial department to develop autonomy, allowing that department to provide meaningful, objective information for business decisions. When this does not occur, problems can arise which affects family stability and business efficiency. Suggestions for further research are offered. In particular, the connection between family theories and agency and social models of governance is explored. The models also are relevant to notions of who are the business?s stakeholders. The overlap between business systems and family systems which has become more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic speaks to the relevance of the concepts in this paper to future research and business planning.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationCorporate Social Responsibility in a Dynamic Global Environment
    Number of pages114
    ISBN (Print)978-3-031-24647-0
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 21 Apr 2023

    Publication series

    NameCSR, Sustainability, Ethics and Governance


    • Budgeting
    • Change management
    • Differentiation
    • Family systems
    • Financial governance
    • Organizational culture


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