Shaping a Dissertation Topic of Vitality in MNC.

"How to unleash subsidiary actor's potential in MNC?"

A. Voices from field about performance

  • Method: Email interview
        Sample: 24 people in personal networks
        Participants: 15 are employees in Korean large corporations, Five are come from BOSCH Korea. 9 are    employees in the US, China. 
  • Interview Questions: How employees think about performance?
        What is the most important performance criterion in your workplace?
        Why is the performance criterion the most important?
        How is the performance criterion evaluated? Do you agree with the evaluation method? If not, what is the problem?
        What is the most challenging thing to achieve high performance of the criterion?
        What is the most supportive thing to achieve high performance of the criterion?
        What efforts do you make to achieve high performance? How your efforts help to improve performance? Findings 
  • 1. Performance is reported as the most critical one for employees because evaluation of it is highly linked with compensation and success within an organization.
    2. Performance is commonly evaluated with objective measures such as key performance index (KPI) in large corporations and sales/revenue/number of contract in small organizations.
    3. Interestingly, teamwork and leadership are reported as important subjective performance indicators as well.
    4. The most significant positive performance predictor is employee’s engagement in teamwork and self-directed efforts (learning & work). Good communication and good leadership have followed.
    5. The two most challenging things to achieve higher performance are evaluation problem and leadership problems. Communication problem has followed.
    6. Engagement in teamwork and self-directed efforts (learning & work); communication issues; leadership issues are emerged as key themes for a new study. 

B. Voices from Engineers at a subsidiary MNC in Korea

Method: Telephone Interview, 30min ~ 1:30 min.

  • Samples: 9 engineers at the R&D department
  • Why the sample?: The engineering team has the same technical issue of Noise problem.
  • Interview Questions: How do engineers address a technical problem? How did you identify the problem?
    How did you solve the problem?
        What is the most challenging thing to address the problem?
        What is the most supportive thing to address the problem?
        What did you learning from the technical problem solving?
        What do you want to recommend for your subordinate or young engineers? 
  • Findings:
    • Engineers reports engagement (in self-directed work, self-directed learning, and teamwork) is the most important thing for performance (problem solving)
      Engagement is affected by 1) communication, 2) job resource, and 3) personal resource.
      Communication problem (conflict) with other groups (between group) are frequently the most challenging thing, and direct supervisor or team leaders are most supportive factor to resolve the communication problem through facilitation and decision-making.
      Learning and development opportunity is the second most important job resource for high engagement.
      Personal resource such as psychological capital (self-efficacy, hope, optimism, and resilience) is another influencing factor to engagement. 

C. Problematizing the tension between Autonomy and Control at the workplace

(In more detail, please see: )

Heuristic1. Analyze own experience. 

  • I was disengaged from a consulting job not because of hard working but because of poor leadership (no direction & micro-management' 

Hueristic2: A case study 

  • A junior engineer at a subsidiary company in Korea was disengaged from his job for a director's rejection of sending him a training proglram at HQ. 

Hueristic7: Paradoxical incidents 

  • Managers demand more 'work engagement' while employees want to have more 'autonomy'
  • There are positive & negative control & autonomy
    • Positive control: Clear goals and facilitation
    • Negative control: Disagreeable order and evaluation
    • Positive autonomy: Self-directed work design, goal setting, and learning
    • Negative autonomy: No direction

A Framework: Job Demand-Resource Model of Work Enagement (Bakker & Leiter, 2010) 

  • 1. Work engagement is composed with "Vigor" "Decication" and "Absorption".
    2. Work engagement is positive related with 'performance' in job, creativity, and financial turnover.
    3. Job resource (autonomy, support, coaching) and personal resource (PsyCap) has positive relationship with Work engagement
    4. Job demand (work pressure, emotional demand) negatively moderate the relationship Job resources and work engagement. 

Heuristic 9: Use analogies and metaphor 

  • Metaphor: Exploring a cave with a candle.
    People need to make a balance between autonomy and control to materialize resources and keep a flame(engagement) alive. 

Heuristic 11: Apply deviant case analysis. 

  • A Korean R&D engeer "S" at a subsidiary company of a MNC freqeuently conduct 'secret experiments' under the conscious permissiveness (or tacit agreeement) from his local supervisor and coworkers.
    An expatridated engineer "U" from HQ proceed addressed a local demand under the unwritten permission both from HQ and local leadership relatively easy. 

A model of Consciousness and Permissiveness. 

  • Conscious-Controlling: Written job description, manual
  • Conscious-Permissive: Psychological controact, Tacit agreement
  • Unconscious-Controlling: Unconscous non-verbal communication
  • Unconscious-Permissive: Hidden area.

A research Topic: What competencies (and How) do MNCs need to develop for subsidairy employees to makea balance between compliance of centrl control of HQ and meeting local demands? 

D. Communication with experts


  • Recommending 'search for a tension'

Qualitaitve study experts: Meena Balgopah

  • Tension1:
    • Between short-term performance and creativity/innovativation for long term performance
      • Manager's High demand of engagement in short-term performance
      • Employee's High demand of autonomy for local demand
  • Tension2:
    • Between HQ control and Subsidiary autonomy
      • Actors
        • HQ manager
        • HQ HR
        • Subsidiary manager
        • Subsidiary employee
      • Skills
        • Technical
        • Social
          • Communication problem
            • Different language
            • Different non-verbal
            • Cultual interpretation
          • Relational problem
        • Intrapersonal
          • Psychological capital
  • Tension 3:
    • Dual control channels in Matrix structure
      • HQ manager
      • Local manager

Korean HRD experts

    • Problem1: "Engineer S" is poor in Knowledge Creation and Knowledge Sharing
      Problem2: Change institutional rule & empower and delegate to develop intrapreneurs
      Problem3: High intrinsic motivation in creativity research
      Problem4: How to institutionalize 'tacit agreement or conscious permissivement'?
      Problem5: How to develop skills for drawing 'conscious permissivement?"
      Problem6: Responsibility problem when something is going bad.
      Problem7: Collective Creativity (Catmull, 2008, HBR) case of 'Culture' and sustainability of the behavior. 
  • Qualitative study expert 2: Kim
    • Question: How do a few Korean engineers cultivate 'autonomy' in MNC?
    • 1. Focus on Subsidiary employee's behavior & Skills in tension
    • 2. Quasi-Experimental Survey (What if you are in the situation of Engineer 'S'?)
    • 3. Exploring the uniqueness of culture/situation/contexts in Korean business
    • 4. Address the 'professionalism' of the engineering profession
    • 5. Power relationship with community of practice concept?

 E. Problematizing the "Given or Taken" of Autonomy by Susidiary employees at MNC.

(In more detail, please see : )

  • Problem: Conventionally, autonomy in the workplace is believed to be given by superiors to subordinates.
    • 1. Autonomy, as a critical job resource, is positively related with work engagement and performance.
    • 2. A Subsidiary organization in MNC has a certain extent of 'flexibility'
    • 3. A subsidiary organization have a a strong local demands
    • 4. National culture of HQ nation and subsidiary organization has a significant difference.
  • Findings from in-depth interviews 
    • There are positive and negative Given & Taken autonomy.
    • Positive Taken Autonomy (freq:31)
      • 1. Knowledge from 'field' (at local market)
        2. Self-directedness is a key to high performance.
        3. Individual variations in self-directedness in work design and learning make a variation of performance.
        4. Employees filter new ideas and guide managers to make a decision.
        5. Supervisors encourage subsidiary employees to do 'self-directed works' regardless of process rules.
        6. There is no negative feedback from supervor for confidential and self-directed works even those works fail. 
    • Negative Taken Autonomy (freq: 7)
      • Employees who complete only descedning orders or works from supervisor cannot be a leader.
      • 2. Subsidiary leaders do not want to take any responsibility in work and learning.
      • 3. A lack of responsiblity in product and work decreases 'passion' for work.
    • Positive Given Autonomy (freq: 14)
      • 1. Tough but affordable work demand is essential in developing people.
        2. MNC's systemic process manual helps to achieve high performance.
        3. Manager's facilitation with other teams is critical to make a progress.
        4. Having an expatriated (technical coordinator) employee from HQ helps to build a better relationship with HQ. 
    • Negative Given Autonomy (freq: 30)
      • 1. Lassez-Faire style leaders cannot develop people.
        2. A leader who is afraid of challenges from subordinates kill talent.
        3. We cannot change a global design, and it deters addressing local demands.
        4. Manpower requests are frequently ignored because it is a HR policy.
        5. Getting an offical approval of design change takes a lot of time, in consequence to failing in local market.
        6. HQ do not want to transfer technology to subsidiary.
        7. By rules, engineers cannot control over other deparments, which make significant conflicts. 
  • Research Question: Can autonomy be taken? 
    • 1. How subsidiary employees cultivate job autonomy in an MNC?
      2. What skills are necessary for subsidiary employees to cultivate job autonomy?
      3. How managers and HRD in HQ and Subsidiary develop those skills?
      So what?: Is being tolerate or nuturing autonomy cultivation of subsidiary employees beneficial to both HQ, subsidiary, and customers? 
  • Key Literature in Internatioanl Business 
    • Gammerlgaard(2012): High subsidiary autonomy gives a complex results in firm performance
      • High autonomy has positive relation with performance in many MNCs, but a few MNC do not have.
        Inter-organizational network is more significant for achieving better performance.
        High autonomy of subsidiaries can be an obstacle to achieving overlaping network benefits between intra-&inter-organizational benefit.
        But, this macro-level study is blinded in learning and development perspectives of subsidiary employees. 
    • Ferner(2012): Subsidiaries are active 'strategizers' in MNC According to the power capabilities and institutional configuration, HR practices vary from successful transfer to failied transfer and reverse transfer. Power capabilities: Power of resources; Power of processes; Power of Meaning.
      • Arguing about "Kostovian" approach (Given), and take "Lukesian" approach(Taken).
      • Power capabilities of HQ & Subsidiary actors make a variation of HR practice transfer.
    • Bouquet(2008): Low power actors (subsidiary) gain influence through multiple power games.
      • Taking the Goshal's approach of MNC as interorganizational network.
        Subsidiaries want to power of 
        • Achieving legitimacy
        • Controlling resources
        • Gaining centrality
      • Dynamic Power Games of Subsidiaries 
        • 1. Cooptation & Deference (immediate availability)
        • 2. Representation
        • 3. Feedback seeking (Midium term effort)
        • 4. Coalition-building
        • 5. Coopetition (long-term benefit)
      • Ability for complex thinking and effectuate change are necessary, and more over "Resilience" is most critical capacity. 
    • Dörrenbächer, C.(2009): A Micro-political perpective on subidiary initiative taking: German-owned subsidiaries in France

      • A classical assumption:management behavior is contrained by certain culture, structure, and insitutional patters.
        As classical micro-political studies have shown, management behavior is not only constrained or enabled by certain cultural, structural and institutional patterns, but is shaped by individual interests and actor rationales. Based on the assumption that actors are neither the organs of given structures nor acting fully autonomously, the paper highlights how key foreign subsidiary managers interpret and integrate individual, socio- political, organizational as well as some home and host country factors into distinct subsidiary initiatives, which they then try to accomplish in negotiations with the head- quarters.
        But, management behavior is also shaped by individual interests and actor rationales.
        Newer studies in the field offered by authors such as White and Poynter (1984), Birkinshaw (2000) Birkinshaw and Hood (1998) and Jarillo and Mart ́ınez (1990) have shown that subsidiaries as well as their entrepreneurial initiatives do play a more important role not only in the development of individual subsidiaries but also in the development of the multina- tional corporation (MNC) as a whole. However, what those scholars neglect is the role of key actors and the micro- political dimensions of subsidiary initiative and subsidiary development
        Foreign subsidiary managers and 'employees' with reagrd to subsidiary initiatives are still underexplored.
        We need more further understanding of MNC as micro-political systems !
        further understanding of multinational corporations as micro-political systems as postulated by Forsgren (1990) and more recently strongly emphasized e.g. by Be ́langer and Edwards (2006), Do ̈rrenba ̈- cher and Geppert (2006), Edwards and Kuruvilla (2005), Ferner et al. (2006), Forsgren et al. (2005) and Morgan and Kristensen (2006).
        Subsidiary initatiives: "entrepreneurial activities carried out by the foreign subsidiaries of MNC" 
        • Local market
        • Global market
        • Internal MNC market
      • Two reserach Questions 
        • How are initiatives taken by top foreign subsidiary man- agers to gain further mandates or new roles linked with their socio-political and biographical backgrounds encompassing e.g. their nationality, their individual career interests and professional experiences? 
        • What sort of tactical and social skills do top subsidiary managers apply in pursuing such initiatives in negotia- tions with their HQs? 
        • 1. How are initiatives taken by 'foreign subsidiary top managers"?
          2. What 'tactical and social skills do subsidiary top managers apply in negaotiations with their HQ?" 
      • Method: Three case studies from German-owned subsidiaries in France 
        • Case 1. A set of local market intiatives: Proatively leading french market initiatives under permission from German HQ
          Case 2: A global market initiative: A French CEO initiated a project in local market and expanded it to globe though he got many negative, even hostile feedback from German HQ.
          Case 3: AN MNC internal market initiative: Learning from local competitor a Franco-German CEO initiated 'internal market' innovation. 
      • Conclusion 
        • 1. Key foreign subsidiary manager's personal motivation and personal interests make a variation of taking 'initiative'
          2. Especially, different career orientation (hiearchical, professional and entrepreneurial) of key foreign subsidiary managers have a strong impact on motivation and decision.
          3. Professional biography, former career paths, and current career interests make different 'resource mobilization strategies".

    • Need a study of IHRD in MNC.
      • Recent international management literature argues that capabilities of subsidiary is critical for MNCs' success. 
      • Contrary to the conventional 'Given" approach of autonomy, 'Taken" approach is highlighted.
        Macro-power and institutional configuration have studies in MNC, and the results of high autonomy of subsidiary is controversial. 
      • However, learning and development perspective of subsidiary employees are not much addressed in MNC.
      • Especially, subsidiary employee's in significantly different culture is not yet much addressed. 

F. Research Methods

  • A basic inquiry
    • "How to unleash subsidiary employee's potential in MNC?"
  • Research Questions
    • 1. How Korean subsidiary engineers in German manufacturing MNCs cultivate 'autonomy'?
      2. What are the relationship between autonomy and 'learning & development' of subsidiary engineers in MNCs?
      3. What are the consequences of developing subsidiary employee's autonomy? 
  • Mixed method: A multi-phase, multi-method research approach
    • Phase1: After reviewing key literature, conduct field interviews
    • Phase2: Hypothesis testing and external valdity with a survey
    • Phase3: Conduct following up interviews with survey results.

Posted by Jeonghwan Choi

댓글을 달아 주세요