This paper revisits Bartlett and Ghoshal’s transnational theory of the MNC in relation to multi-domestic MNCs. We argue that the aggregate level of analysis adopted by Bartlett and Ghoshal is unhelpful for identifying significant changes in multi-domestic MNCs at the level of discrete functions. We argue that a more disaggregated level of analysis is required. Our analysis of two cases of multi-domestic MNCs that have undertaken the global integration of their locally distributed purchasing functions indicates that while significant change to the purchasing function has occurred, at the aggregate level both MNCs remain multi-domestic. In both cases the decision to integrate local purchasing was regarded as having more obvious benefits than integrating other functions such as marketing. While both of our case multi-domestic MNCs may in future choose to integrate other functions and develop into full-fledged transnational companies we argue that there is no inevitability to this. Indeed global integration may cease with the purchasing function. A second theme in this paper is that we argue that Bartlett and Ghoshal’s transnational theory has a biased view of what constitutes effective governance mechanisms for achieving global integration, local responsiveness and worldwide learning and that it would greatly benefit from a more balanced application of hierarchical and relational governance mechanisms.
Elter, F., Gooderham, P. and Ulset, S. (2014), "Functional-Level Transformation in Multi-Domestic MNCs: Transforming Local Purchasing into Globally Integrated Purchasing", Orchestration of the Global Network Organization (Advances in International Management, Vol. 27), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 99-120. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1571-502720140000027007Download as .RIS
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