Brokerage actors in multinationals

Liang, Liang (2020) Brokerage actors in multinationals. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This study contributes to our understanding of organisational practice transfer through networks. It specifically focuses on the transfer of organisational practices from Chinese owned firms headquartered in China to their subsidiary operations in the UK. The research proposes that in order to move our understanding of practice transfer in multinational films forward, it is useful to use a network lens. The network lens allows us to consider knowledge exchange in a relational context which has traditionally focused on the structure of relationships between actors. People connecting these actors are known as brokerage actors, and such connecting activities are known as brokerage. This study extends the network perspective by examining the dynamics of networks and role of brokerage actors involved within networks during practice transfer. The overarching research question posed is: how do brokerage actors influence practice transfer outcomes in multinational companies? This overarching question is further broken into three sub-questions that are concerned with:
1) The dynamics within the network -the dynamics represent complex interactions among people during the process of practice transfer.
2) The structures which reveal the brokerage actors ' roles within the network defined through their network position and the structure of their connections to others.
3) The performance outcomes associated with the brokerage actor roles - i.e. the influence of brokerage actors on the outcomes of the practice transfer project.
The underlying purpose and motivation behind this research is to improve our understanding of the role of brokerage actors in practice transfer by moving beyond the focus on network structures as a whole and to look in detail at the structures between individuals in the network and how these might change as the demands of practice transfer change. Practice transfer refers to the transfer of understanding about a management policy or process from one part of an organisation to another. In the context of the work here the focus is on the transfer of Headquarters policies on staff relocation and product redistribution to UK subsidiaries in response to Brexi.t preparations. However, practice transfer is not merely a technical process, but involves people from different parts of the organisation working together to achieve it. Thus, these people can be understood as a network which represents the fabric of collaboration (i.e. relational collaborations) in practice transfer. Whilst, much of the existing work on networks has focused on their structural features, it is limited because it takes snapshots in time. This has meant we have a limited understanding of how network structures come into being and how the role of actors within the network may evolve over the course of practice transfer projects. By focusing on four practice transfer projects in two multinational firms, this work follows the development of the network structure from the outset to the conclusion of the project.
The research uses network theory and network analysis to scrutinize the research questions posed. Additionally, multi-source data from managers and employees was collected to measure practice transfer outcomes (success). The network data was used to generate additional data for regression modelling. The findings showed that, first, these practice transfer networks grew from simple structures through 'coupling' into complex structures. Second, three specific brokerage roles were identified, namely translating, bridging and embedding, and where unde11aken by a wide number of network members. Third, the performance of these three network roles had a significant and substantial impact on the perceived measure of practice transfer success.
The research makes a key contribution to network theory by identifying how complex networks come into being through the roles undertaken by network members, who are the participants in the practice transfer projects including managers and staff from both headquarters and local subsidiaries. The research also makes a philosophical contribution to method. This research uses network ru1alysis to analyse the collected data, then uses the network analysis results to test the regression modelling about the influences of brokerage actors on practice transfer outcomes. By doing this, network analysis is used as an extra layer of ru1alysis to find out who are the brokerage actors in the practice transfer projects. Also, the differences between the brokerage actors' connections in the networks can be compared. Finally, the research makes a number of practice contributions by identifying the three types of roles required to support practice transfer, namely that of translating, bridging and embedding and suggests training and development to support employees would be helpful to ensure organisations are able to maximise their value from network collaborations. Further, the research showed that such roles are undertaken by a wider array of network members and not constrained to those in managerial posit ions demonstrating that the ability to collaborate through network relations is likely to be a key employee capability of value to firms.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > Norwich Business School
Depositing User: Nicola Veasy
Date Deposited: 14 Apr 2021 14:32
Last Modified: 14 Apr 2021 15:15

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