Transnational Projects within Multinational Corporations

Abstract: The complexity of organizing and managing the operations within multinational corporations (MNCs) has increased over the recent decades. This has led MNCs to utilize other organizational forms and mechanisms than the ones previously used for increasing collaboration and integration, but also for making use of knowledge developed at units within different countries accessible on a global basis within the corporation. Projects of a transnational type, i.e., projects with participants from different countries, and often from several hierarchical levels within the MNC, are one organizational form that has been suggested as a possible means by which to obtain this. In a more general sense, projects have been addressed in the so-called project management literature, and studies have shown that the use of projects are definitely on the increase, and not only in those sectors traditionally utilizing projects. Within this literature, however, the view is generally taken that the principles of project management and organization are applicable to all organizations, as a result of which the projects are treated as though they were detached and independent of their context. Within both these areas, requests for empirical studies have been put forward. The overall aim of the study was to increase the understanding of the use of transnational projects and how these projects are organized and managed in large MNCs. And this is not only within the individual projects per se, but also in relation to the permanent organization (the MNC) in which the transnational projects are embedded.A combination of research methods was used to provide the enhanced portrait of transnational projects being sought. A case study was first carried out at ABB. This fulfilled the purpose of providing an initial understanding of transnational projects and of furnishing the basis for a mail survey to large Swedish manufacturing-oriented MNCs.The study showed that transnational projects are perceived to increase coordination and knowledge flows within corporations, and therefore are not only used to find a solution to a corporate problem, but also to improve coordination and cooperation, and to enhance knowledge flow. Furthermore, it was shown that headquarters has a relatively more important role as the main coordinator and decision-maker, whereas units on other internal organizational levels are more important as contributors of knowledge. One last, but nevertheless significant implication of the study is that the overall structure of the MNC, i.e., the context of the transnational projects, influences how these projects are organized and managed.

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