Contention Management

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1. To know why international business evolved in the way it did, we need to

   understand how our predecessors resolved dilemmas like exercising distant

   control before modern transport and communications developed.

2. Industrialization drove both internationalization and the precursors to personnel

   management, both of which enjoyed a boom in the early decade of the century.

   World War I had a negative impact on internationalization but a stimulating effect

   on personnel practices.

3. With the emergence of the modern multinational in the expansion years after

   World War II, international personnel departments were set up to manage

   international assignments. Until the 90s, different aspects of expatriation have

   remained the dominant focus.

4. Increasing geographical spread allied to a growing product range led some

   multinationals to adopt the matrix solution, a big conceptual advance but

   ultimately unmanageable as a structural solution. Firms started to realize that

   HRM could help them combine local autonomy with a high degree of


5. In most firms, the headquarters bureaucracies grew to cope with these

   increasingly complex problems of international coordination and control. With
   localization and time-based competition, these bureaucracies were restructured,

   accompanied by downsizing and delayering.

6. The emergence of the Japanese challenge represented a culture shock for Western

   managers, leading to the realization that there were actually ‘two-best-ways’– and

   if there were two best ways, then there might be more.

7. International firms have always muddled through dilemmas and contradictions,

   often in a pendulum fashion. These contradictions started to become apparent as

   firms were pushed to be simultaneously responsive to local needs as well as

   globally integrated. Such contradictions are the hallmark of the so-called

   ‘transnational organization’.

8. All multinationals face transnational pressures but not with equal force – there is

   considerable discretion in the choice of strategy. We are seeing firms going

   beyond the transnational – today’s ‘front-back organization’ that poses big

   challenges for coordination and contention management.

9. As the resource-based perspective on strategy took hold, HRM came to be seen

   more and more as one of the keys to building sustainable competitive advantage.

10. What distinguishes international HRM is its interdisciplinary perspective.

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