DBA Dissertation of Former CEO of Konecranes Explains What Kind of Leadership Is Needed in Uncertain Times

Panu Routila, M.Sc. (Econ.), will defend his dissertation completed under the Aalto Executive DBA – Doctor of Business Administration program on May 4, 2022. Routila's dissertation is unique in that it examines his own leadership as the CEO of Konecranes from 2015 to 2019.

There is little research in the world where the CEO himself examines what he has done, explains Panu Routila. Photo: Junnu Lusa


Major changes, like big acquisitions, always create uncertainty inside and around the organization. In order for the changes to be through successfully, it is vital for a company’s senior management to understand deeply why change is needed. In the case of an acquisition, its rationale should be well thought out in order to generate value. Senior management must also be able to and want to communicate the change and all its factors transparently to the rest of the organization, stakeholders, and investors.

These findings are highlighted in Panu Routila's recent DBA dissertation, which will be examined at the Aalto University School of Business on May 4, 2022. Routila's research focuses on corporate governance in times of uncertainty, i.e., on ambiguity management.

The research results emphasize that in the midst of the uncertainty caused by changes, it is important to ensure that the changes are justified and accepted by stakeholders (legitimation) and that the personnel of the organization still perceive the organization and its mission as their own (organizational identification).

“In the face of uncertainty, a company needs leadership and strong involvement, and that uncertainty is not allowed to overwhelm the organization but is reviewed and evaluated,” says Routila.

It is the responsibility of senior management to lead the change and also manage the normal course of business. It is essential to involve the middle management. Matters are not to be dictated from the top down; uncertainty is managed, and change is lead together based strongly on the facts.

Uncertainty should be minimized but senior management should not deny its existence. "It's important to give people hope, nurture their enthusiasm, and win their trust back."

Unique research

What makes this thesis unique is that, as the former CEO of Konecranes, Routila has studied his own actions in the engineering company that has undergone major changes.

Routila was appointed as the CEO of Konecranes in 2015. He led the company both when it first negotiated a merger with the U.S. engineering company Terex, and when it eventually acquired Terex's port equipment and crane business. During that period, Konecranes grew in value from € 2.2 billion to € 3.4 billion, with their earnings growing from € 100 million to almost € 300 million with the success of the integration.

The DBA dissertation utilizes an autoethnographic research method. In addition to the theoretical framework and research literature, Routila used his own notes, calendar entries, photographs, and other public documentation from his years at Konecranes. Four individuals who had been involved in the acquisition read the dissertation at various stages and commented on its content, thus contributing to the validation of the research findings.

“There is little research in the world where the CEO themselves examines what they have done. Usually, when examining the actions of the senior management, it may have been possible to get an interview or two and maybe answers to a questionnaire from the senior management, but not the kind of data that would describe the whole process,” says Routila.

“Panu Routila's work combines strong and unique practical experience with the target phenomenon – acquisitions and mergers – and extensive theoretical reading. This is extremely rare in the field of strategy research, ”says Henrikki Tikkanen, Professor at the Aalto University School of Business and Academic Director of the Aalto Executive DBA Program.

You can read the dissertation here.


The DBA defense

The DBA dissertation of Panu Routila, Master of Science in Economics and Business Administration, "Managerial Sensemaking and Sensegiving in a Merger and Acquisitions Process: The Case of Konecranes, 2015–2019" is examined by Aalto University School of Business at 12.00 on Wednesday May 4, 2022, in Osipow hall at Aalto University Töölö.

Professor Juha-Antti Lamberg, University of Jyväskylä, is the opponent and Professor Henrikki Tikkanen, Aalto University School of Business, the custos.

The dissertation is available at

The defense can be followed also over Zoom.
Meeting ID: 812 8918 2816.


DBA dissertation orders and further information on research

Panu Routila
DBA Candidate
Tel. +358 40 503 6757


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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. Read more on the program website.


Further information on the Aalto Executive DBA program

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

Henrikki Tikkanen
Professor, Aalto University
Tel. +358 50 5734174