Großer Mann – was nun? Stakeholder management during the Weltwirtschaftskrise by Carl Friedrich von Siemens as Chef des Hauses Siemens, October 1929 – October 1933
Hall, J. van
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During the Great Depression Carl Friedrich von Siemens struggled for the survival of the companies his father founded. The research question is how did Siemens, and in particular he as the figurehead of the firm, presented the interests of the company and its various stakeholders - and in particular, but not limed to its employees – during the crisis from October 1929 till October 1933? This thesis applies and integrates the theories about stakeholder management and crisis management, both from the field of management and organisation, to a historical case. So far, the existing literature on stakeholder management in periods of crises is limited, and only addresses certain topics such as the relevance of communication during crisis. These theories are extended with three suggested principles of responsible management. For historical analysis the stakeholder theory is used descriptively and by doing so, it offers a broader perspective on the analysis of companies managing severe crises. The primary sources of this research are the annual reports of the main companies, Siemens & Halske and the Siemens-Schuckertwerke, and the speeches from von Siemens at the general meetings of shareholders. In sum, von Siemens took the interests of the various stakeholders on board to the extent these also suited Siemens’ interests, the survival of the companies. Notably, in particular for its employees, Siemens did more. The example of this case study supports the conclusion that not all entrepreneurs only focus on the survival of their companies when fighting crises. Rather they take a broader view. The narrative thereof, embeds and integrates the narrow-focussed history of specific businesses, into the history of society with people having various interests in those businesses. For business historians this implies an invitation to also examine the interplay between these businesses and their stakeholders. The theoretical framework used can be applied more widely. Firstly, other cases in the past, also from different periods, could be researched with these principles of responsible management. Secondly, more corporate events, not crises only, could be reviewed with the broadly formulated principles in mind. Furthermore, next to the type of sources used, internal documents of the company revealing management’s decision-making process would be insightful.