Home   >   CSC-OpenAccess Library   >    Manuscript Information
Subsidiary Decision-making Autonomy: A Systematic Literature Review of The Determinants
Simone Ambroselli
Pages - 205 - 248     |    Revised - 30-06-2021     |    Published - 01-08-2021
Volume - 12   Issue - 4    |    Publication Date - August 2021  Table of Contents
MNCs, Firm Autonomy, Determinants, Systematic Literature Review.
Over the past decades, subsidiary’s autonomy has emerged as a focal point of research concerning Multinational Corporations (MNCs). The concept of autonomy has influenced the four research streams identified by the scholars within the subsidiary-management literature, Strategy-Structure, Headquarters-Subsidiary Relationships, Subsidiary Roles and Subsidiary Development, albeit with a different degree of intensity. However, despite the high number of contributions concerning this theme, only a few have dealt with the elements determining the autonomy of firms belonging to MNCs and a complete systematization of the empirical studies containing sets of variables able to explain subsidiary autonomy is still lacking. Aiming at contributing to fill this gap, a Systematic Literature Review methodology has been implemented to guarantee a rigorous procedure. The main findings of this paper are the identification of the explanatory elements for the autonomy, named differently by scholars during the forty years of this review, such as determinants, variables, or factors, and a further contribution in clustering them according to common characteristics. Research findings contribute to consolidate and synthetize the results into a comprehensive framework, providing the basis for further directions of future research concerning firm autonomy within business groups.
1 EconPapers 
2 Semantic Scholar 
3 refSeek 
4 BibSonomy 
6 Doc Player 
7 J-Gate 
8 Google Scholar 
9 Scribd 
10 SlideShare 
Abatecola, G., Mandarelli, G., and Poggesi, S. (2013). “The personality factor: how top management teams make decisions. A literature review”. Journal of Management & Governance, 17(4), 1073-1100.
Alhaj, N. (2019). " The Impact of Corporate Governance on Improving Overall Performance of the Companies". International Journal of Business Research and Management (IJBRM), 10(2), 13-28.
Alharbi, J., Gelaidan, H., Al-Swidi, A., and Saeed, A. (2016). “Control mechanisms employed between headquarters and subsidiaries in multinational enterprises (MNEs)”. Review of International Business & Strategy, 26, 493-516.
Ambos, T.C., Andersson, U., and Birkinshaw, J. (2010). “What are the consequences of initiative-taking in multinational subsidiaries?” Journal of International Business Studies 41(7), 1099-1118.
Ambos, T.C., Fuchs S.H., and Zimmermann, A. (2020). "Managing interrelated tensions in headquarters–subsidiary relationships: The case of a multinational hybrid organization." Journal of International Business Studies, 1-27.
Andersson, U., & Forsgren, M. (1996). “Subsidiary embeddedness and control in the multinational corporation”. International business review, 5(5), 487-508.
Aoki, H., Miyajima, H. (2012). “Benchmarking business unit governance in turbulent times: the case of Japanese firms”, Benchmarking: An International Journal, 19, 548-566.
Bartlett, C.A. and Ghoshal, S. (1986). “Tap your subsidiaries for global reach”. Harvard Business Review, 64(6), 87–94.
Bartlett, C.A. and Ghoshal, S. (1989). Managing across borders: The transnational Solution. Harvard Business School Press, Boston.
Belenzon, S., Hashai, N., and Patacconi, A. (2019). “The architecture of attention: Group structure and subsidiary autonomy”. Strategic Management Journal, 40(10), 1610-1643.
Belizon, M. J., Gunnigle, P., and Morley, M. (2013). “Determinants of central control and subsidiary autonomy in HRM: the case of foreign-owned multinational companies in Spain”. Human Resource Management Journal, 23(3), 262-278.
Birkinshaw, J. (1997). “Entrepreneurship in multinational corporations: The characteristics of subsidiary initiatives”. Strategic Management Journal, 18(3), 207-229.
Birkinshaw, J. and Hood, N. (1998). “Multinational Subsidiary Evolution: Capability and Charter Change in Foreign-Owned Subsidiary Companies”. The Academy of Management Review, 23(4), 773-795.
Birkinshaw, J. and Hood, N., Jonsson, S. (1998). “Building Firm-Specific Advantages in Multinational Corporations: The Role of Subsidiary Initiative”. Strategic Management Journal, 19(3), 221-241.
Birkinshaw, J.M. and Morrison, A.J. (1995). “Configurations of Strategy and Structure in Subsidiaries of Multinational Corporations”. Journal of International Business Studies, 26(4), 729-753.
Brock, D.M. (2003). “Autonomy of individuals and organizations: Towards a strategy research agenda”. International Journal of Business and Economics, 2(1), 57-73.
Brooke, M. Z. (1984). Centralization and autonomy: A study in organization behaviour. Praeger Publishers.
Cafferata, R., Abatecola, G. and Poggesi, S. (2009). “Revisiting Stinchcombe's Liability of Newness: A Systematic Literature Review”. International Journal of Globalisation and Small Business, 3(4), 374-392.
Cavanagh A., Freeman S., Kalfadellis P. and Herbert K. (2017). “Assigned versus assumed: Towards a contemporary, detailed understanding of subsidiary autonomy”. International Business Review Review, 26(6) 1168–1183.
Chiao, Y. C., and Ying, K. P. (2013). “Network effect and subsidiary autonomy in multinational corporations: An investigation of Taiwanese subsidiaries”. International Business Review, 22(4), 652-662.
Cristofaro, M. (2019). “The role of affect in management decisions: A systematic review”. European Management Journal, 37(1), 6-17.
Dörrenbächer, C. and Gammelgaard J. (2016). “Subsidiary Initiative Taking in Multinational Corporations: The Relationship Between Power”. Organization Studies, 37(9), 1249-1270.
de Jong, G. and Dut, V.V. (2010). “The impact of the institutional environment on the autonomy of MNCs’ subsidiaries”. Problems and Perspectives in Management, 8(2), 53-63.
Di Tullio, P., Valentinetti, D. and Rea, M. (2018). "Integrating The Business Model Puzzle: A Systematic Literature". International Journal of Business Research and Management (IJBRM), 9(1), 1-46.
Dixit, D., Sinha, A.S. and Shrivastava, R. (2020). “Process and Content Model of CSR Decision-making–A Stakeholder Approach”. International Journal of Business Research and Management (IJBRM), 11(1), 1-15.
Dut, V.V. (2013). “Subsidiary decision-making autonomy in multinational enterprises”. Doctoral Thesis, University of Groningen. Groningen, the Netherlands.
Edmondson, A. C., and McManus, S. E. (2007). “Methodological fit in management field research”. Academy of management review, 32(4), 1246-1264.
Fenton-O'Creevy, M., Gooderham, P., and Nordhaug, O. (2008). “Human resource management in US subsidiaries in Europe and Australia: centralisation or autonomy?” Journal of International Business Studies, 39(1), 151-166.
Forsgren, M., Pedersen, T. and Foss, N. J. (1999). “Accounting for the strengths of MNC subsidiaries: the case of foreign-owned firms in Denmark”. International Business Review, 8(2), 181–196.
Galbraith, J. (1973). Designing complex organizations. Reading, Mass.
Gammelgaard, J., McDonald, F., Stephan, A., Tüselmann, H., and Dörrenbächer, C. (2012). “The impact of increases in subsidiary autonomy and network relationships on performance”. International Business Review, 21(6), 1158-1172.
Gammelgaard, J., McDonald, F., Tüselmann, H., Dörrenbächer, C., and Stephan, A. (2011). “Effective autonomy, organisational relationships and skilled jobs in subsidiaries”. Management Research Review.
Garnier, G. H. (1982). “Context and decision making autonomy in the foreign affiliates of US multinational corporations”. Academy of Management Journal, 25(4), 893-908.
Gates, S. R. and Egelhoff, W. G. (1986). “Centralization in Headquarters–Subsidiary Relationships”. Journal of International Business Studies, 17(2), 71-92.
Ghoshal, S. and Bartlett, C.A. (1990). “The Multinational Corporation as an Interorganizational Network”. The Academy of Management Review, 15(4), 603-625.
Gilbert, D. U., and Heinecke, P. (2014). “Success factors of regional strategies for multinational corporations: Exploring the appropriate degree of regional management autonomy and regional product/service adaptation”. Management International Review, 54(5), 615-651.
Golini, R., Patricia, D. and Scherrer-Rathje, M. (2016). “Exploiting the potential of manufacturing network embeddedness: an OM perspective”. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 36(12), 1741-1768.
Hansen, E. G., and Schaltegger, S. (2016). “The sustainability balanced scorecard: A systematic review of architectures”. Journal of Business Ethics, 133(2), 193-221.
Hedlund, G. (1980). “Autonomy of subsidiaries and formalization of headquarters–subsidiary relationships in Swedish MNC’s”. Strategic Management Journal, 1(1), 23-36.
Hedlund, G. (1981). Autonomy of Subsidiaries and Formalization of Headquarters–Subsidiary Relationships in Swedish MNCs. In Otterbeck, L., The Headquarters-Subsidiary Relationship in Multinational Corporations. Aldershot: Gower.
Hedlund, G. (1986). “The hypermodern MNC—A heterarchy?” Human Resource Management (1986-1998), 25(1), 9-35.
Homburg, C., and Prigge, J. K. (2014). “Exploring subsidiary desire for autonomy: A conceptual framework and empirical findings”. Journal of International Marketing, 22(4), 21-43.
Hoque, Z. (2014). “20 years of studies on the balanced scorecard: trends, accomplishments, gaps and opportunities for future research”. The British accounting review, 46(1), 33-59.
Hristov, I., Appolloni, A., Chirico, A., and Cheng, W. (2021). “The role of the environmental dimension in the Performance Management System: A systematic review and conceptual framework”. Journal of Cleaner Production, 126075.
Iwata, S., Kurokawa, S., and Fujisue, K. (2006). “An analysis of global R&D activities of Japanese MNCs in the US from the knowledge-based view”. IEEE transactions on engineering management, 53(3), 361-379.
Jarillo, J.C. and Martínez, J.I. (1990). “Different roles for subsidiaries: The case of multinational corporations in Spain”. Strategic Management Journal, 11(7), 501-512.
Jensen, M. and Meckling, W. (1976). “Theory of the Firm: Managerial Behavior, Agency Costs, and Ownership Structure”. Journal of Financial Economics, 3(4), 305-360.
Johanson, J., and Vahlne, J. E. (1977). “The internationalization process of the firm—a model of knowledge development and increasing foreign market commitments”. Journal of international business studies, 8(1), 23-32.
Kim, B.G., and Kim, G.B. (2020). "An Empirical Analysis on the Determinants of Foreign Subsidiary's Local Embeddedness: Focusing on Korean MNCs in China". The Journal of Asian Finance, Economics, and Business 7.1, 205-215.
Kobrin, S. J. (1991). “An empirical analysis of the determinants of global integration”. Strategic Management Journal, 12(S1), 17-31.
Leoni, L. (2015). “Servitization and Productization: two faces of the same coin”. RESER 2015.
Liu, Y., Luo, T., and Yue, H. (2018). “Allocation of decision rights between the parent company and its subsidiaries”. Journal of Accounting, Auditing & Finance, 33(3), 355-381.
Loppacher, J. S., Cagliano, R., and Spina, G. (2010). “Key factors in global supply headquarters-subsidiary control systems”. Journal of manufacturing technology management.
Manolopoulos, D. (2006). “The Concept of autonomy in the subsidiary management research: A conceptual investigation”. Journal of Transnational Management, 11(4), 45–62.
Manolopoulos, D., Papanastassiou, M., and Pearce, R. (2007). “Knowledge-related competitiveness and the roles of multinationals’ R&D in a peripheral European economy: Survey analysis of Greece”. Management International Review, 47(5), 661-682.
Mari, M., and Poggesi, S. (2013). “Servicescape cues and customer behavior: a systematic literature review and research agenda”. The Service Industries Journal, 33(2), 171-199.
Männik, K., Hannula, H., and Varblane, U. (2004). “Country, Industry and Firm Size Effects on Foreign Subsidiary Strategy. An Example of Five CEE Countries”. University of Tartu Economics and Business Working Paper.
McDonald F., Warhurst S. and Allen, M. (2008). “Autonomy, Embeddedness, and the Performance of Foreign Owned Subsidiaries”. Multinational Business Review, 16(3), 73-92.
Meyer, J. W., and Rowan, B. (1977). “Institutionalized organizations: Formal structure as myth and ceremony”. American journal of sociology, 83(2), 340-363.
Miozzo, M. and Yamin, M. (2012). “Institutional and Sectoral Determinants of Headquarters-subsidiary Relationships: A Study of UK Service Multinationals in China, Korea, Brazil and Argentina”. Long Range Planning, 45(1), 16-40.
Mirchandani, D.A. and Lederer, A.L. (2004). “IS planning autonomy in US subsidiaries of multinational firms”. Information & Management, 41(8), 1021-1036.
Newbert, S. L. (2007). “Empirical research on the resource-based view of the firm: an assessment and suggestions for future research”. Strategic management journal, 28(2), 121-146.
Otterbeck, L. (1981). The management of headquarters: subsidiary relationship in multinational corporations. Gower.
Paterson, S. and Brock, D. (2002). “The Development of Subsidiary- Management Research: Review and Theoretical Analysis”. International Business Review, 11(2), 139-163.
Pfeffer, J. and Salancik, G.R. (1978). The External Control of Organizations: A Resource Dependence Perspective. Harper and Row, New York.
Picard, J., Boddewyn, J. J., and Grosse, R. (1998). “Centralization and autonomy in international-marketing decision making: a longitudinal study (1973-1993) of US MNEs in the European Union”. Journal of Global Marketing, 12(2), 5-24.
Pisoni, A., Fratocchi, L., and Onetti, A. (2013). “Subsidiary autonomy in transition economies: Italian SMEs in Central and Eastern European countries”. Journal for East European Management Studies, 336-370.
Pisoni, A., Onetti, A., and Fratocchi, L. (2010). “Internationalization of Italian firms in Central and Eastern European countries: Headquarters–subsidiary relationship”. Journal of East-West Business, 16(2), 89-117.
Prahalad, C. K., and Doz, Y. L. (1987). The multinational mission: Balancing global integration with local responsiveness. New York, NY.
Raziq M. M., Borini F. M. and Perry M. (2014). “Subsidiary initiatives and subsidiary autonomy: Evidence from New Zealand and Brazil”. International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, 10(3), 589-605.
Raziq, M. M., Borini, F. M., Perry, M., and Battisti, M. (2013). “Subsidiary characteristics and impact on subsidiary strategic and operational autonomy”. Journal of Transnational Management, 18(3), 219-241.
Rugman, A. M., Verbeke, A. and Yuan, W. (2011). “Re-conceptualizing Bartlett and Ghoshal's Classification of National Subsidiary Roles in the Multinational Enterprise”. Journal of Management Studies, 48(2), 253-277.
Schüler-Zhou, Y. and Schüller, M. (2013). “An empirical study of Chinese subsidiaries' decision-making autonomy in Germany”. Asian Business & Management, 12(3), 321-350.
Seus, F. (2021). "Perception Gaps in Headquarters-Subsidiary Relations". KIT Scientific Working Paper, 158.
Singh, S., Wood, G., Alharbi, J., Darwish, T.K. (2016). “Control mechanisms of MNEs: an empirical study”. Multinational Business Review, 24(3), 279-300.
Taggart, J. H. (1998). “Strategy shifts in MNC subsidiaries”. Strategic Management Journal, 19(7), 663-681.
Taggart, J. H. and Hood, N. (1999). “Determinants of autonomy in multinational corporation subsidiaries”. European Management Journal, 17(2), 226-236.
Tranfield, D., Denyer, D., and Smart, P. (2003). “Towards a methodology for developing evidence-informed management knowledge by means of systematic review”. British journal of management, 14(3), 207-222.
Vachani, S. (1999). “Global diversification's effect on multinational subsidiaries' autonomy”. International Business Review, 8(5-6), 535-560.
Vernon, R. (1966). “International investments and international trade in the product cycle”. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 80, 190-207.
Welge, M. (1981). “The Effective Design of Headquarter-Subsidiary Relationships in German MNCs”. In Otterbeck, L., The Headquarters-Subsidiary Relationship in Multinational Corporations. Aldershot: Gower.
Welge, M. K. (1982). “Planning in German multinational corporations”. International Studies of Management & Organization, 12(1), 6-37.
White, R.E. and Poynter, T.A. (1984). “Strategies for foreign owned subsidiaries in Canada”. Business Quarterly, 49(2), 59-69.
Williams, C. and van Triest, S. (2009). “The impact of corporate and national cultures on decentralization in multinational corporations”. International Business Review, 18(2), 156-167.
Young, S. and Tavares, A. (2004). “Centralisation and Autonomy: Back to the Future”. International Business Review, 13(2), 215-237.

*References 1-28 are results from the SLR.
Young, S., Hood, N., Hamill, J. (1985). “Decision-Making in Foreign owned Multinational Subsidiaries in the United Kingdom” (No. 992395053402676). International Labour Organization.
Yunker, P. J. (1983). “A Survey Study of Subsidiary Autonomy, Performance Evaluation and Transfer Pricing in Multinational Corporations”. Columbia Journal of World Business, 18(3), 51-64.
Dr. Simone Ambroselli
Istat, Italian National Institute of Statistics, Rome, 00184 - Italy
simamb74@gmail.com, ambrosel@istat.it

View all special issues >>