Credits: 6

Schedule: 08.01.2019 - 31.01.2019

Teacher in charge (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 

Eva Alfoldi
Hilla Back

Contact information for the course (applies in this implementation): 

Name: Dr Eva Alfoldi


Office: TBC

by appointment



Course coordinator: Hilla Polvinen



Teaching Period (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 

Period III 2018-2019
Period III 2019-2020, Otaniemi campus

Learning Outcomes (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 

In this course students learn about the major theoretical perspectives that are used to analyze the multinational corporation. The course develops the students’ abilities to critically read academic articles, uncover underlying assumptions and apply conceptual knowledge to real-life situations. It also prepares the students for writing an academic piece of work and equips them with the necessary knowledge and analytical skills for their MSc thesis as well as managerial practice.

Content (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 

In this course, the students familiarize themselves with major theoretical perspectives that can be used to understand multinational corporations. This large and complex organization represents a core area of research in the field of international business. The theoretical perspectives include the design, institutional, network and the political (or critical) perspective. Students will also appreciate the role of context in doing research on multinationals. The course provides students with relevant resources and skills for their MSc thesis work.

Details on the course content (applies in this implementation): 

Upon completion of the course, students
are expected to demonstrate knowledge of the major theoretical perspectives
(design, institutional, network, and political) on the MNC. They will also be familiar
with effects of various contexts on managing the MNC. Students are expected to
be able to critically analyze readings on the MNC, uncover underlying
assumptions of theoretical perspectives and apply these perspectives to real-life
organizations. Taken together, this course equips students with the necessary
knowledge, analytical skills and critical thinking for the MSc thesis and
managerial practice.

Assessment Methods and Criteria (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 

100% assignments

Elaboration of the evaluation criteria and methods, and acquainting students with the evaluation (applies in this implementation): 


Individual pre-assignment for Session 1                             10%

Individual analysis of readings (for 5 sessions)                 20% (5 x 4 p.)

Case study in groups                                                               50%

Individual reflection paper on key learnings                        10%

Active participation and contribution                                    10% (5 x 2 p.
plus 2 bonus


Grading scale 1-5 will be used for all assignments.


0-49 points= 0 (fail)

50-59 points=1

60-69 points=2

70-79 points=3

80-89 points=4

90-100 points=5

Workload (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 

- contact teaching 24 h
- independent work 136 h

Details on calculating the workload (applies in this implementation): 












160 h (6

Study Material (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 

Articles included in the syllabus.

Additional readings:

Mats Forsgren (2017) Theories of the multinational firm: A multidimensional creature in the global economy

Christoph Dörrenbächer and Mike Geppert (eds, 2011) Politics and power in the multinational corporation: The role of institutions, interests and identities

Details on the course materials (applies in this implementation): 

 Only selected readings (book chapters) are available on
MyCourses. As to all the other readings, you are expected to download them
yourself based on the references provided in the preliminary schedule. These
are publicly
available, and you can find them easily by searching (in Google) with the
article name (please note this works on any Aalto computer, but not elsewhere)
or via our university library webpages.

Substitutes for Courses (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 

Replaces course 26E03200 Managing in a Global Context

Prerequisites (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 

No specific prerequisites.

Grading Scale (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 


Registration for Courses (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 

via Weboodi

Further Information (valid 01.08.2018-31.07.2020): 

Priority given to:

MIB/Strategy/Global Management/CEMS/CS, IDBM
MIB minor students
Other BIZ students
Aalto students

Additional information for the course (applies in this implementation): 

Individual pre-assignment
for Session 1 (10%)

For your pre-assignment,
please search for various definitions of a multinational corporation.

  1. How do the definitions compare with each other?
    Which one do you like the most and why?
  2. What kind of assumptions do the authors of these
    definitions have about the multinational corporation?  

Format: max. 2 pages (Font: 12pt Times New Roman; Line
spacing: 1,5 lines), include full references to the sources

Deadline: The pre-assignment has to be uploaded to the
assignment submission box in MyCourses by 4 January at 23:59.

Individual analysis of
readings for various sessions (20%, 5 x 4 p.)

During Sessions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, we will discuss two
assigned readings each, in
order to expose you to the relevant academic
literature on the topic. Readings will be graded as part of your individual
analysis grade.
The full references to the articles are available in
the course outline below. For each reading, you will find specific questions on
MyCourses to help direct your reading.
I would suggest you
use approximately 1-2 hours for getting familiar with the articles beforehand. To
get the best learning benefits, do each pre-reading assignment just before the
relevant session, rather than doing them all at once ahead of time.

For this assignment, you
will need to read the assigned articles and prepare a 1-3 page PPT-slide
summary of them, which you upload to the
MyCourses assignment box before the start of each graded session (Sessions 2,
3, 4, 5 and 6).

The reading
assignments will be evaluated on a pass/fail basis, and 2 points will be
awarded for each. There are two readings per session, i.e. a total of 20 points
are available over the 5 sessions. You may also be required to give a short
brief about the preparatory reading to the rest of class.

Format: 1-3 PowerPoint slides

Deadline: The pre-reading assignments will have to be
uploaded to the MyCourses assignment submission box by 13:00 before the start
of each graded session (Sessions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6).

Case study in groups

Working in groups,
the task is to pick a company of your choice and a significant event in that
company’s history (e.g. successful or failed merger, acquisition or strategic
alliance; the success or failure of a major restructuring, international market
entry, new product development, business line diversification etc…) and analyse
this event from one of the four theoretical perspectives covered in the course.
Groups should think carefully about which perspective to use and why. Each
group will present their case study to the rest of the class during the latter
part of the course. Possible data sources include media texts, company
documents, blogs, advertisements, interviews, and published reports.

Each group will have
the opportunity to have two 30-minute group meetings with the course teacher,
to discuss their plans and get formative feedback. Meeting slots will be
available as follows:

Meeting 1

Monday Jan. 14th:
10-12, 14-16

Wednesday Jan. 16th:
10-12, 14-16

Meeting 2

Monday Jan. 28th:
10-12, 14-16

Wednesday Jan. 30th:
10-12, 14-16

Individual reflection
paper on key learnings (10%)

Reflect upon the
following questions:

  • What were the most important take-aways of the
    course for you personally?
  • How has your thinking about the MNC evolved
    during the course (compare to your initial thoughts in the pre-assignment
    for Session 1)?
  • What (if anything) will you think about and/or do
    differently from now on?

Friendly tip: Keep a weekly learning
diary during the course!

Format: max. 3 pages (Font: 12pt Times New Roman; Line
spacing: 1,5 lines)

Deadline: The assignment has to be uploaded to the
assignment submission box in MyCourses by 17 February at 14:00.

Active participation
and contribution (10%, 5 x 2 p. plus 2 bonus points)

Although the classes are
not compulsory, you will learn most by actively participating in the course. Each
session and its assignments have been designed in such a way that it is very
difficult to pass the course without active participation.

For this purpose, 10% of the course
evaluation will be based on active participation and contribution. If you want
to receive the activity and contribution points, you will need to contribute to
class discussion in meaningful ways in at least 5 of the first 6 sessions (max. 5 x 2 points). In addition, you can
also get 2 bonus points for responding
to the feedback survey. These points will be awarded at the end of the course. Name
tags need to be worn throughout the course.

Note for all assignments:

Please note that none of the above assignments are
compulsory, you will just not get the points for those that you miss. However,
in order to ensure the same rules for all students, the deadlines are
non-negotiable and assignments cannot be compensated with a different one.


Details on the schedule (applies in this implementation): 



Date & Time



Tue 8.1




Session 1: Introduction to the course (participation strongly recommended)



Introductions and getting

Goals, pedagogy,
assignments and practicalities

Discussion of the group case
study task

Definitions of the MNC

What makes the MNC
important and interesting to study in IB research?

Discussion of the pre-assignment

Brief introduction to the
four theoretical perspectives


Thu 10.1




Session 2: Theoretical
perspectives on the MNC, HQ and subsidiaries



Which theoretical perspectives are available to understand the MNC and
its HQ?

How has research on the changing roles and responsibilities of
headquarters and foreign subsidiaries evolved?

Different types of HQ and the parenting advantage

HQ control mechanisms and distance in the MNC



Individual analysis of the two readings




Barner-Rasmussen, W.,
Piekkari, R., Scott-Kennel, J. and Welch, C. (2010) Commander-in-Chief or
Absentee Landlord? Key Perspectives on Headquarters in Multinational
Corporations. In U. Anderson and U. Holm (Eds.), Managing the Contemporary Multinational: The Role of Headquarters,
UK and Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 85-105. Available on MyCourses.


Goold, M., Campbell, A. and M. Alexander (1998) Corporate strategy and
parenting theory. Long Range Planning,
31(2), 308-14.


Tue 15.1




Session 3: Context and contextualisation in research on the MNC



What is context and contextualisation, and why do
they matter in IB research?

How to theorise about the MNC in a contextualised



Individual analysis of the two readings




Bamberger, P.
A. (2008) Beyond contextualization: Using context theories to narrow the
micro-macro gap in management research. Academy
of Management Journal
, 51(5), 839-846.


Michailova, S. (2011) Contextualizing in international business
research: Why do we need more of it and how can we be better at it? Scandinavian
Journal of Management
, 27(1),


Thu 17.1




Session 4: Theoretical perspectives I: Design v
Network perspective on the MNC



What is the
essence of the design perspective?

What does the
design perspective (not) explain?

How would you
apply it to your case study?

What is the
essence of the network perspective?

What does the
network perspective (not) explain?

How would you
apply it to your case study?



analysis of the two readings



Doz, Y. L.
and Prahalad, C. K. (1981) Headquarters’ influence and strategic control in
MNCs. Sloan Management Review, 23(1),


Andersson, U. and Forsgren, M. (2000) In search of
centre of excellence: Network embeddedness and subsidiary roles in
multinational corporations. Management International Review, 40(4),


Tue 22.1




Session 5: Theoretical perspectives II: Institutional v Political
perspective on the MNC



What is the essence of
the institutional perspective?

What does the
institutional perspective (not) explain?

How would you apply it to
your case study?

What is the essence of
the political perspective?

What does the
political perspective (not) explain?

How would you apply it to
your case study?



Individual analysis of
the two readings




Kostova, T. and Zaheer (1999) Organizational legitimacy under
conditions of complexity: The case of the multinational enterprise. Academy of Management Review, 24(1),


Geppert, M. and Dörrenbächer, C. (2014) Politics and power within
multinational corporations: Mainstream studies, emerging critical approaches
and suggestions for future research. International
Journal of Management Reviews
, 16(2), 226–244.


Thu 24.1




Session 6: Regional headquarters and regional management



The challenges and
opportunities of managing regionally



Individual analysis of
the two readings



Alfoldi, E. A., Clegg, L. J., and McGaughey, S. L.
(2012) Coordination at the edge of the empire: The delegation of headquarters
functions through regional management mandates. Journal of International Management, 18(3), 276–292.


Kähäri, P. (2015) Why do regional headquarters live and die? AIB Insights, 15(3), pp. 9-10.


Tue 29.1




Session 7: Group case study presentations Part I



Group case study presentations

Q&A after each


Thu 31.1




Session 8: Group case study presentations Part II, course wrap-up and
advice on dissertation research



Group case study presentations

Q&A after each



Wrap-up and consolidation
of learnings

Looking ahead to your dissertation
research (topic selection, conceptualisation, originality etc.)




Registration and further information