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Introduction

Welcome to the module Managing the Transnational Corporation. This module is about exploring the management of transnational corporations (TNCs). In doing so, the module considers the transnational as a distinct social, cultural and strategic entity. This is important since TNCs have a global focus which involves engaging with actors from (often) very different cultural backgrounds, and yet these corporations inherently seek to retain (and sometimes impose) their own distinct corporate identities and determine their own strategic orientation. This apparent contradiction can often create tensions, particularly with regard to negotiating with nation states and sub-national authorities over new investments, subsidies and determining tax liabilities or with trade unions over wages, working conditions and/or human resource practices. On the other hand, engaging with diverse actors and cultures may unlock new opportunities for TNCs, particularly if they can successfully exploit the variety of capabilities across their foreign affiliates. If these capabilities can be successfully harnessed within the TNC’s strategic goals, then this might enhance the TNCs prospects for growth and development.

This module explores these issues through a variety of perspectives from different strands of literature. This allows us to capture the essence of the transnational corporation, but at the same time appreciate the differences in the nature of management practice across the globe. For instance, there are often noted (and sometimes subtle) differences in the management styles and strategies of Western and Asian TNCs. Such differences can raise tensions, particularly in the case of international joint ventures. A salient issue is the extent to which management practices have converged towards a global norm.

Learning outcomes

When you have completed your study of this module, you will be able to:

  • understand TNCs as distinct social, cultural, technological, economic and strategic entities relevant to the emerging global economy
  • explain the nature of international production, and evaluate critically the main theoretical approaches that explain why firms have become transnational 
  • evaluate the various organisational alternatives that exist for transnational corporations and assess their effect on coordination and control, the potential for innovation, international human resource practices, and culture
  • demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of a range of relevant case studies and explain their implications for both theory and practice 
  • compare and contrast various processes of control and coordination across TNCs, and explain why they vary, especially in response to new opportunities and challenges, and the leverage abilities of TNCs in relation to nation states, suppliers and labour
  • assess critically the extent to which ‘culture’ is a distinguishing feature of TNCs generally, and when comparing nationally and regionally headquartered TNCs to each other.

Study resources

Study guide

The module study guide is carefully structured to provide the main teaching, defining and exploring the main concepts and issues, locating these within current debate and introducing and linking the assigned readings.

Key texts

Ietto-Gillies G (2019) Transnational Corporations and International Production, Concepts Theories and Effects. 3rd Edition. Edward Elgar.

Readings

Throughout the module you will be directed to study a selection of readings, including journal articles, book extracts and case studies that are of particular relevance and interest to the topics covered in the module.

Virtual learning environment

You will have access to the VLE, which is a web-accessed study centre. Via the VLE, you can communicate with your assigned academic tutor, administrators and other students on the module using discussion forums. The VLE also provides access to the module Study Guide and assignments, as well as a selection of electronic journals available on the University of London Online Library.

Module overview

Unit 1 The Nature of the Transnational Corporation – An Overview
  • 1.1 Why is it Different to Manage a TNC?
  • 1.2 What is a Transnational Corp. (TNC)?
  • 1.3 What is in a Name? Transnational or Multinational?
  • 1.4 Review of Theories of Transnational Production
  • 1.5 Case Study
  • 1.6 Historical Roots, Recent Trends and the Largest TNCs
  • 1.7 Unit Summary
Unit 2 Major Issues Facing TNCs
  • 2.1 Introduction
  • 2.2 Organisational Architectures in TNCs – Strategy and Structure
  • 2.3 Control Mechanisms and Incentives
  • 2.4 Exploiting International Leverage Situations
  • 2.5 Unit Summary
Unit 3 Differentiation and Integration
  • 3.1 Introduction
  • 3.2 Differentiation and Integration
  • 3.3 Conclusion
Unit 4 Coordination and Control
  • 4.1 Key Features of TNCs
  • 4.2 Interpreting TNCs as Systems
  • 4.3 Controlling
  • 4.4 Staffing as Controlling
  • 4.5 Illusions of Control – Examples from the Non-profit Sector
  • 4.6 Coordination
  • 4.7 Outsourcing
  • 4.8 Assessing the Ethical Performance of TNCs – a Case Study from Nigeria
  • 4.9 Unit Summary
Unit 5 Innovation
  • 5.1 Defining Innovation
  • 5.2 Managing Innovation
  • 5.3 Case Study: 3M
  • 5.4 Innovation and Diversity
  • 5.5 Virtual Project Teams
  • 5.6 Innovation – Risk and Opportunity
  • 5.7 Unit Summary
Unit 6 HRM in International Joint Ventures
  • 6.1 Introduction
  • 6.2 Joint Ventures and National Culture
  • 6.3 Organisational Culture and IJVs
  • 6.4 HRM in Joint Ventures
  • 6.5 Unit Summary
Unit 7 Global HRM
  • 7.1 The HRM Paradigm
  • 7.2 Distinguishing Between HRM and Personnel Management
  • 7.3 Junzi – the Confucian Gentleman
  • 7.4 Psychological Contracts in East Asia
  • 7.5 International HRM
  • 7.6 Global HRM
  • 7.7 Unit Summary
Unit 8 Cultures
  • 8.1 How Do Cultures Evolve?
  • 8.2 Socialisation and Cultural Identity
  • 8.3 South Asia as a Context for Managing in TNCs
  • 8.4 National Cultures
  • 8.5 The Cultures of TNCs
  • 8.6 The Reemergence of Indian TNCs
  • 8.7 Summary

Tuition and assessment

Students are individually assigned an academic tutor for the duration of the module, with whom you can discuss academic queries at regular intervals during the study session.

You are required to complete two Assignments for this module, which will be marked by your tutor. Assignments are each worth 15% of your total mark. You will be expected to submit your first assignment by the Tuesday of Week 6, and the second assignment at the end of the module, on the Tuesday after Week 10. Assignments are submitted and feedback given online. In addition, queries and problems can be answered through the Virtual Learning Environment.

You will also sit a three-hour examination on a specified date in September/October, worth 70% of your total mark. An up-to-date timetable of examinations is published on the website in July each year.

Module samples

Click on the links below to download the module sample documents in PDF.