DBA dissertation: For a company to successfully implement a global operating model, it must find a balance between conflicting expectations

On November 29, 2019, Margit Suurnäkki, Master of Science (Economics), will defend her DBA dissertation completed under the Aalto Executive DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) program. The subject is international management, and in particular what is required internally of companies operating on a global scale in order to be able to respond to the demands of an ever more global business environment.


The DBA dissertation explores the development of a company’s global operating model and how the company manages tensions stemming from the conflicting expectations of a global operating model and local flexibility, efficiency and innovation, and the internal and external focus of the organization.

This study into international business explores what, how and why national-level business environments are significant, and how units and companies manage local variations in the business environment. While the business environment is globalizing, national differences are not diminishing. The question of how companies can find balance between global harmonization and local flexibility is very much pertinent in research in the field. Typically, international companies have harmonized their operating practices through the standardization of business processes. This has allowed the companies to achieve efficiency and productivity, yet sometimes at the expense of innovation and renewal capacity. Additionally, internal development projects may even divert too much attention to the organization’s internal issues.

This case study, based on historical material, examines the change journey of a global company from a global integration perspective. Development of the company’s global operating model has been driven by the need to adapt to a global operating environment and ensure the company’s capacity for innovation, and the company’s need for renewal. The case company’s global strategy is based on a harmonized process architecture—the company’s common operating mode—the development and implementation of which has required a great deal of time and resources. The results of the study show how the harmonized operating practices are viewed within the company as a prerequisite for renewal, and, if necessary, for rapid change to the company’s operating model.

The tensions identified based on the source literature also became prominent features in this study. In the case company, conflicting expectations were managed in a number of different ways, often by seeking to establish synergies between the various parties. One key factor in this study was the balance of power between the global organization and a local unit. In situations where the local unit played a pivotal role in the performance of the entire company, it was able to influence the content of the global operating model and its implementation schedule. The tensions led to transformation and encouraged the development of the operating model and the generation of new and improved operating practices for new expertise. 

The study applies existing theory to practice, and complements existing international business research with a real-life case study on the global integration process of one company operating in a traditional industry.

Defense of DBA dissertation

The DBA dissertation of Margit Suurnäkki, Master of Science (Economics) ”Global integration and local flexibility: Managing contradictions in a global company. A case study of a multi-national service-oriented manufacturing company " is examined by Aalto University School of Business at 12.00 on Friday November 29, 2019 in the main building of Aalto University, Dipoli, Palaver room. Address is Otakaari 24, Espoo.

Professor Karl-Erik Michelsen from LUT University is the opponent and Professor Henrikki Tikkanen of Aalto University School of Business acts as the custos.

What is the Aalto Executive DBA - Doctor of Business Administration program?

The Aalto Executive DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) program is designed for experienced executives who wish to complete a doctoral degree alongside their work.  This working-life oriented program involves applied research. The DBA, which is recognized around the world, is offered by several leading institutions, such as Harvard Business School.

Like the Aalto Executive MBA and Aalto MBA degree programs, the DBA is not part of the Finnish degree system. However, it is conferred by the accredited Aalto University School of Business. The Aalto Executive DBA program can be completed, alongside work, in three to six years. This fee-based program was launched at the beginning of 2013.

Henrikki Tikkanen, Professor of Marketing at Aalto University School of Business, is the academic director of the DBA program.

DBA dissertation orders and inquiries 

Margit Suurnäkki
Head of CTO Office, KM, KONE Technology & Innovation
Tel. +358 50 493 1815

Additional information

Mikko Laukkanen
Academic Director, D.Sc. (Econ. & Bus.Adm.), Aalto University Executive Education
Tel. +358 10 837 3732

Henrikki Tikkanen
Professor, D.Sc. (Econ.), Aalto University
Tel. +358 50 5734174

Program website

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