Perspectives on Headquarters-subsidiary Relationships in the Contemporary MNC: Volume 17

Cover of Perspectives on Headquarters-subsidiary Relationships in the Contemporary MNC

Table of contents

(24 chapters)
Access restricted
Access restricted
Access restricted
Access restricted
Access restricted

Dedication

Page xiii
Access restricted

Editor’s Letter

Pages xv-xvii
Access restricted
Access restricted

Part I: Perspectives on the Management Mechanisms of the MNC

Abstract

The purpose of this chapter is twofold. First, to investigate how multi-domestic, multinational corporations (MNCs) can develop business models that are appropriate to “Bottom-of-the-Pyramid” (BOP) settings. Second, to address how they can apply elements of BOP business models across their operations. We use the case of the entry of the Norwegian mobile telecom MNC Telenor into India as the empirical context. Prior to India, Telenor had operated successfully in Asian emerging economies by adapting its business model to local conditions. However, it had only operated in the upper income tiers of these countries. In India, its late entry meant that for the first time in its history it had to move beyond these upper income tiers and develop a business model suited to BOP. We apply an economic model terminology as a means to gauging the degree of business model innovation Telenor undertook. Telenor succeeded in its development of a BOP business model by working in close partnership with local firms. Although Telenor in India was operating at BOP, a number of the resultant innovations were deemed by Telenor to be transferable to top-of-the-pyramid operations across Telenor. In order to succeed in developing BOP business models MNCs must go beyond local responsiveness and engage closely with local partners. However, transference of elements of BOP business models to other parts of the MNC is contingent on there being a centralized integrating capability.

Access restricted
Abstract

This study sheds light on the uncharted phenomenon of regional management in coordinating services across borders. Based on a multiple case study of four German industrial manufacturing firms with servitization strategies we seek to better understand what kind of organizational challenges servitization poses for the MNC and whether these challenges can be met through regional management models. This chapter initiates a conversation on the available design options for running service operations regionally.

Access restricted
Abstract

The Globally Networked Organization (GNO) is an archetype of the geographically distributed, globally integrated, and organizationally networked information-age multinational enterprise. While its organizational form has been widely discussed, methods for providing strategic direction to all or part of a GNO have been largely overlooked. We propose the concept of strategic animation as an innovative leadership approach to strategic management in the GNO and offer a set of guiding principles for installing such a system in organizations. Strategic animation employs sophisticated incentives to motivate voluntary buy-in, utilizing principles of self-organization to replace the command and control of the unitary firm and the uncertainty and transactional costs of real markets. This makes possible virtual integration of the multiple highly separable businesses that comprise the value-added proposition of the firm and encourages the development of emergent processes for both exploitation and renewal of assets. From a scholarly perspective, this model suggests a new framework for studying the strategic direction of GNOs. For practice, it offers an organizational solution to conditions where process control is preferred, but command of resources is limited. Strategic animation, set in motion through multiple managerial actions, facilitates the timely and flexible responses to chaotic environments that are the sine qua non of today’s global businesses.

Access restricted
Abstract

Despite the increasing use of the agency perspective in studies of headquarters-subsidiaries relations in the multinational corporation (MNC), opponents fundamentally question its utility. In an attempt to contribute to this debate, we evaluate prior studies and develop considerations for future research. Our review of extant studies of headquarters-subsidiaries relations that make (explicit) use of the agency perspective reveals two significant shortcomings. First, we identify a need to validate the underlying assumptions when using the agency perspective in studies of headquarters-subsidiaries relations. Second, we detect a need to better account for the complex nature of headquarters-subsidiary relations in the MNC. A focus on these two areas can improve the use of the agency perspective and, ultimately, help resolve the contentious debate over the utility of the agency perspective.

Access restricted

Part II: Perspectives on Tensions and Conflicts in HQ-Subsidiary Relationships

Abstract

We demonstrate the role of regulatory fit and moral emotions, that is, contempt and anger, in influencing conflict resolution between the headquarters and subsidiary boundary spanners. We develop a theoretical framework, which integrates literature on international business and headquarters-subsidiary relationships with regulatory focus, moral emotions, and conflict resolution. The chapter outlines the relationships between the regulatory focus of a headquarters’ boundary spanner, and his or her manner of engagement, conflict sensitivity, violation of code, moral emotions, and the way conflicts are resolved. The theoretical framework developed here provides a starting point for future research on bargaining processes between boundary spanners of a multinational corporation (MNC). This chapter is the first one to discuss regulatory focus, and moral emotions, in the contexts of a MNC headquarters-subsidiary relationship.

Access restricted
Abstract

Increased global competition originating from both within the multinational corporation (MNC) and from global adversaries dictates that subsidiaries must be responsive to change, adaptable, and capable of sensing and seizing new opportunities for capability development and growth. For many subsidiaries adhering to, or being seen to adhere to, the wider organizational goals dictated by their parent represents an additional complexity. While it may be necessary to divert slack resources towards capability development, subsidiaries which do so, on their own initiative, may well run the risk of being categorized as an unruly node in the MNC’s network. Further, by failing to show compliance with organizational strategy future subsidiary-driven efforts may be curbed or prohibited.

The need to demonstrate value to the MNC through developing new and novel capabilities while complying with parent-driven strategy thus represents a key subsidiary dilemma, yet remains an underexplored phenomenon in international business research. Framing this dilemma via an ambidexterity lens, our chapter explores how five subsidiary units balance and negotiate allegiances within a modern MNC context. We find that in the subsidiary context aligning and adapting may not be competing or exclusive strategies, but in effect two sides of the same coin. The structural context can shape relative levels of alignment via controlling mechanisms and monitoring of operations while the subsidiary’s behavioral context, idiosyncratic to the subsidiary, can dictate its capacity to generate initiatives and to create new and novel capabilities for diffusion across the MNC network.

Access restricted
Abstract

The chapter examines how distance, integration mechanisms, and atmosphere influence the level of organizing costs and subsidiary initiatives in headquarter–subsidiary relationships. Survey data were collected at the subsidiary level in one major Norwegian multinational company. Empirical analyses were based on regression and partial correlation analyses. Organizing costs are driven by distance to headquarters as well as the integration mechanisms and the atmosphere that exists in subsidiary–headquarter relationships. Another important insight gained by this study is that integration mechanisms influence subsidiary initiatives.

Access restricted
Abstract

We investigate the extent to which headquarters’ perceived knowledge about overseas R&D subsidiaries influences the level of control over them. We confirm that headquarters’ knowledge about its overseas R&D subsidiaries lowers the level of control over them. Surprisingly, however, granting legitimacy to R&D subsidiaries does not necessarily lead to a reduction in headquarters’ control. In addition, R&D subsidiaries’ legitimacy does not influence the effect of headquarters’ knowledge about them on the level of control. Although headquarters’ knowledge about R&D subsidiaries tends to grant them legitimacy, the effect of that legitimacy seems rather minimal. These findings imply that headquarters are reassured when it reduces its control over the subsidiaries based on updated knowledge about their current situations rather than on an already-established positive image of those subsidiaries.

Access restricted
Abstract

This chapter aims to investigate the relationship between levels of subsidiary autonomy and the performance of a subsidiary’s subunit (factory) in Japanese manufacturing subsidiaries in Thailand. We conducted ordinary least squares regression analysis based on a questionnaire survey of 50 Japanese manufacturing subsidiaries in Thailand and multiple case studies to investigate the causal relationship between subsidiary autonomy and factory performance. We have three main findings. First, the autonomy level of Japanese manufacturing subsidiaries is linked to the subsidiaries’ factories’ performance compared to factories in Japan, but not in other foreign countries. Second, high levels of subsidiary autonomy are negatively associated with factory performance. Third, there are two causal relationships: high factory performance leading to low subsidiary autonomy and high/low subsidiary autonomy leading to low/high factory performance. From this, we discussed whether the degree of resource centralization in the home country influences the relationship between the level of subsidiary autonomy and a subunit’s performance in the foreign subsidiary. Moreover, we discussed the possibility that the causal relationships between them are not necessarily direct causal relationships. We identified a new factor determining subsidiary autonomy and investigated the relationship between the subsidiary autonomy and performance of a subunit in the foreign subsidiary compared to the home country. Because this has not been discussed in previous studies, this chapter contributes to the study of headquarters–subsidiary relationships and gives guidelines to practitioners on managing subsidiary autonomy.

Access restricted

Part III: Perspectives on Knowledge Transfer in the MNC Network

Abstract

We argue that a foreign-based R&D subsidiary of a multinational enterprise (MNE) can potentially source knowledge from three diverse knowledge networks, namely (i) external knowledge network of the home country, (ii) external knowledge network of the host country, and (iii) internal (MNE) knowledge network. Drawing on the relative costs and benefits associated with the process of synergistic knowledge, this study examines whether a substitutive or a complementary relationship exists when two of the aforementioned networks collaborate in order to generate new knowledge at the subsidiary level. Our study’s sample is based on a survey questionnaire addressed to foreign-based R&D subsidiaries of Fortune 500 companies. We assess the existence of complementarity/substitutability using the “production function approach.” Our results indicate that a complementary relationship exists between external knowledge network of the host and the home country, as well as between external knowledge network of the host country and internal knowledge network. On the other hand, external knowledge network of the home country and internal knowledge network form a substitutive relationship. Our study offers a more comprehensive view of the diverse sources/knowledge networks that R&D subsidiaries are sourcing knowledge from when compared to existing research. We also specify and account for the costs/benefits involved in knowledge sourcing and thereby detect possible substitution/complementarity between different sources of knowledge. So far, there has been limited to nonexistent research into the diversity of knowledge networks of R&D subsidiaries and the examination of potential substitutabilities and complementarities. Hence our empirical study contributes to the development of this particular research stream.

Access restricted
Abstract

With this chapter, we seek to shed light on the question how headquarters (HQ) can cope with geographic distance and effectively transfer relevant knowledge to their subsidiaries. By constructing a mediating model, we aim at disentangling the effects of geographic distance on the relevance of HQ knowledge to their subsidiaries, via the creation of a shared context between HQ and their subsidiaries. We tested our hypotheses using partial least squares based structural equation modelling on a sample of 124 European subsidiaries. We did not find a significant direct relationship between geographic distance and HQ knowledge relevance. Yet, we found support for our mediation hypotheses that geographic distance makes it more difficult for HQ to establish a shared normative and operational context, but that both dimensions of shared context can help HQ to transfer relevant knowledge to their subsidiaries. We contribute to the research on knowledge flows in multinational corporations (MNC) by investigating knowledge relevance directly rather than knowledge flows as such. We also advance our understanding of shared context in HQ-subsidiary relationships by showing that shared context comprises an operational and a normative dimension. Moreover, we contribute to social learning theory in basing our reasoning on the idea that shared practices and social relationships help overcoming distance to manage knowledge transfer more effectively. Finally, we add to the research of distance in international business by conceptualizing space, organizational context and knowledge transfer in one comprehensive model.

Access restricted
Abstract

This chapter investigates the antecedents to the development of the three components of subsidiaries’ absorptive capacity (ACAP): recognition, assimilation and application of transferred knowledge in the context of the vertical flow of social and environmental accounting and reporting (SEAR) knowledge from the HQ to acquired subsidiaries. Our analysis is based on an embedded multiple case study of a UK-based MNC, informed by 44 semi-structured interviews and capitalising on agency theory and socialisation theory. Prior knowledge is not a sufficient explanation to the development of ACAP but it is also dependent on organisational mechanisms that will trigger the learning processes. Depending on the nature and degree of the social, control and integration mechanisms, the effects of prior stocks of knowledge on ACAP may vary. Our propositions only hold for one direction of knowledge transfer. The study is based on an embedded multiple case study in one sector which restricts its generalisation. It excludes the specific relationships between the three ACAP learning processes and the existence of feedback loops. Our findings suggest that the HQ’s mix of social, control and integration mechanisms should account for initial stocks of SEAR knowledge. The contribution lies in uncovering the interaction between heterogeneous levels of prior knowledge and organisational mechanisms deployed by the HQ fostering ACAP. We address emerging issues regarding the reification of the ACAP concept and highlight the potential of agency theory for informing studies on HQ-subsidiary relations.

Access restricted

Part IV: Additional Contributions by AIB Fellows (Edited by Jean Boddewyn)

Abstract

This chapter complements the one that appeared as “History of the AIB Fellows: 1975–2008” in Volume 14 of this series (International Business Scholarship: AIB Fellows on the First 50 Years and Beyond, Jean J. Boddewyn, Editor). It traces what happened under the deanship of Alan Rugman (2011–2014) who took many initiatives reported here while his death in July 2014 generated trenchant, funny, and loving comments from more than half of the AIB Fellows. The lives and contributions of many other major international business scholars who passed away from 2008 to 2014 are also evoked here: Endel Kolde, Lee Nehrt, Howard Perlmutter, Stefan Robock, John Ryans, Vern Terpstra, and Daniel Van Den Bulcke.

Access restricted
Abstract

Language commonality and barriers are often taken as exogenous given variable and independent of the context; however in this chapter we investigate the factors determining perception of language barriers. As such we are responding to the question of when do managers perceive language barriers and which business contexts foster the perception of language barriers and which do not? Language serves different purposes and entails different communicative requirements depending on the context in which it is used. In addition, language has multiple dimensions and we argue that the different dimensions of language vary in their importance depending on the specific context, where the contextual variation in this case is related to the operation mode chosen in the foreign market. More specifically, we argue that language distance (relatedness in language) matters when the firms conduct business abroad through their own employees, while language incidence (accuracy in language) is critical when operating through a local agent. The different use of language implies a need for different language skills. The combination of the operation mode and the availability of people with the needed language skills will affect managers’ perception of language barriers. The hypotheses are tested on a large data set encompassing 390 multinational corporations headquartered in Finland, South Korea, New Zealand, and Sweden that have undertaken a business operation in a foreign country.

Access restricted
Abstract

Explicit barriers to international trade, investment, technology, and financial flows have been reduced considerably. As a result, “macro-liberalization” of international economic transactions has largely run its course. Now, attention needs to shift from international rules for governments to international rules dealing with the various aspects of the international operations of firms – what are called “micro-issues” in this chapter; these include, by way of example, cross-border mergers and acquisitions and international bankruptcies. Such international rules for the principal actors in international production and markets would complement (or replace) the unilateral rules that exist at the national level. International rules would set the direct parameters for certain aspects of the international activities of firms and hence provide the global governance for operating in the global production and trading spaces. This chapter exemplifies for a number of areas the state of rule-making for some micro-issues, analyzes the nature of this rule-making, and suggests a way forward. Developing international micro-regulatory frameworks of rules of the road for the various aspects of the international operations of firms in the globalizing world economy should be the new frontier of international commercial diplomacy.

Access restricted

About the Authors

Pages 441-452
Access restricted
Cover of Perspectives on Headquarters-subsidiary Relationships in the Contemporary MNC
DOI
10.1108/S1064-4857201617
Publication date
2016-08-10
Book series
Research in Global Strategic Management
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78635-370-2
Book series ISSN
1064-4857