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  • 2019jarvisphd

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Power and coordination in the multinational company: a post-heterarchical perspective

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Published
Publication date2019
Number of pages276
QualificationPhD
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Publisher
  • Lancaster University
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Multinational Companies (MNCs) are not only among the most important institutions in our globalising world, but are fascinating organisations given their complexity and the daily challenge they face of operating across different countries and cultures. However, MNC’s have mainly been theorised as a structure of units, with relatively little focus upon how they operate at the level of the individual (Piekkari & Welch, 2010). This thesis seeks to understand how individuals navigate the structures of the MNC and, using concepts of power, examines how different perspectives and interests are reconciled to enable coordination. In particular, this thesis explores the dynamics of individuals’ power relations in GlobeCo, a major European MNC that has evolved from a polycentric to an interdependent, heterarchical organisation (Hedlund, 1986). The analysis highlights the heterarchy as a context of ambiguity and contestation, reflected in continuous organisational fluidity, in which the formal units of the MNC are neither stable nor well defined. This suggests that GlobeCo needs to be considered as a post-heterarchical MNC in which interdependence, cultural and institutional pressures, and diverse interests are experienced, and resolved, at the individual level. The implications of the post-heterarchical form for our understanding of the MNC are considered.The thesis further shows how individuals rely upon the temporary acceptance of multiple forms of episodic power-in-use. Through examining a particular change initiative in depth, the thesis shows both how individuals leverage the different forms of power-in-use, but also use apparently everyday practices to build shared understanding, legitimacy and commitment – and through this achieve sufficient compatibility of understanding and actions, a transient intersubjective alignment, to allow coordination.As such, the thesis not only provides a better understanding of the heterarchical multinational, but highlights the role of the individual in shaping power relations to achieve coordinated action. In doing so, it gives insight into how individuals’ episodic action can shape systemic power relations that, in turn, provide the basis for episodic power-in-use.