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MNCs’ orchestration capability of the 3Ds and financial performance

Dina Abdelzaher (Department of Management, College of Business, University of Houston – Clear Lake, Houston, Texas, USA)
Jose De la Torre (Department of International Business, Florida International University, Miami, Florida, USA)
Skylar Rolf (Department of Management, College of Business, University of Houston – Clear Lake, Houston, Texas, USA)

Review of International Business and Strategy

ISSN: 2059-6014

Article publication date: 21 December 2022

Issue publication date: 25 January 2023




In today’s ever-increasing context of volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous market conditions, the shifts of countries’ protectionist policies toward inward Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), and an increased gap between headquarters’ (HQ) and subsidiaries’ perspectives on what makes business sense, it has become apparent that challenges toward foreign expansion are becoming more severe and require a multidimensional dynamic approach. The authors draw from orchestration theory, dynamic capabilities literature and previous literature on dimensions of internationalization [specifically, density, geographic distance and degree of diversity of the multinational corporation (MNC) subsidiary network] to argue that firms must enhance their orchestration capability. In doing so, this study aims to highlight the nuances of orchestrating a three-dimensional (3D) conceptualization of MNCs’ international configurations.


The authors analyzed the patterns of configurations that are adopted by MNCs. This sample was made up of the international configuration of 78 Fortune 500 MNCs consisting of 3,318 foreign subsidiaries. Furthermore, the authors examined the impact of different configurations of the 3Ds on firm performance using ordinary least squares regression analysis.


While the research did indicate that the sample MNCs adopted the sample configurations of the three internationalization dimensions more frequently than others, the authors found that orchestrating MNCs with an international configuration characterized by high density, low geographic distance and low internetwork scope diversity had a positive impact on firm performance.

Practical implications

While international expansion is often motivated by financial performance or market/resource gains, it is also impacted by the firm’s dynamic capability profile. Thus, as MNCs seek to continue to expand globally, they must assess and, if needed, develop their management team’s orchestration capability, which includes effectively determining how the addition or removal of a subsidiary will impact the density, geographic distance and diversity dynamics of the MNC’s international configuration. Finally, the management team needs to be able to devise plans to respond to the potential challenges associated with each of these dimensions.


The contribution of this study includes bringing a dynamic capabilities lens to the extant international business literature examining the multinationality and performance relationship by highlighting the importance of an MNC’s process orchestrating capability that is needed for firms to effectively manage increasingly complex subsidiary networks. It also conceptually explains and empirically supports that some configurations are likely to yield higher returns than others, which can act as a guide for firms as they are seeking to expand in more geographically distant as well as diverse sectors. Furthermore, this study highlights the need for a multidimensional simultaneous approach to the examination of internationalization to performance relationship. Finally, it highlights the tradeoffs that MNCs must address across the orchestration of the three internationalization dimensions using a dynamic capabilities theoretical lens that acknowledges the differences in perspective that exist between HQs and subsidiaries.



Abdelzaher, D., De la Torre, J. and Rolf, S. (2023), "MNCs’ orchestration capability of the 3Ds and financial performance", Review of International Business and Strategy, Vol. 33 No. 1, pp. 79-104.



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