Academic journal article Management International Review

The Meanings of "International Management"

Academic journal article Management International Review

The Meanings of "International Management"

Article excerpt

Abstract

* The growing number of international-management studies has stimulated the search for a better understanding of this expression and field. In recent articles, we have agreed and disagreed on what it means.

* A key point of discussion has been whether the traditional definition of international management--namely, management crossing borders--should be challenged; another is whether related expressions, such as global management, do improve our understanding of what "international management" means.

* We develop a definition that ranges beyond the one-way crossing of borders to include two-way exchanges, domestic learning and the development of a practice of management in all institutions.

Key Results

* "International management" applies not only to the unidirectional crossing of national borders but also to the two-directional learning experienced by managers outside their home environments.

* "Global" and "transnational" add a mental mindset to the more material content of the crossing of borders by factors of production (including knowledge) and firms.

* The study of international management has benefited from the "transnational" perspective of considering both "global" and "local" threats and opportunities.

* "Management" is a socially constructed activity that takes place in all sorts of organizations-private, public, for profit or not, at home, abroad and supranationally.

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An Ubiquitous But Vague Expression

Many of us teach international management as a separate course or as part of broader management and international-business courses; and journals such as Management International Review and the Journal of International Management use this expression in their titles. What particular meanings does it evoke for us and our audiences? This is a tricky question because even the Academy of Management (1) has not bothered to define "management;" while the qualifier "international" is now frequently replaced by such terms as "global" and "transnational." Is international management about the international (global, transnational, etc.) dimensions of management or about something else?

Asking this question is in the tradition of sciences challenging their domains, the paradigms they use, and the epistemological and ontological assumptions they make (e.g., Gould 1981, Guba 1990, Hunt 1983, Lincoln/Guba 1985, Pojman 2003). In this wholesome tradition, we will continue and refine a previous dialogue that explored the definition and domain of international management (Boddewyn 1999, Martinez/Toyne 2000).

We will argue that: (1) "international management" applies not only to the unidirectional crossing of national borders but also to the two-directional learning experienced by managers outside their home environments; (2) "global" and "transnational" add a mental mindset to the more material content of the crossing of borders by factors of production (including knowledge) and firms; (3) the study of international management has benefited from the "transnational" perspective of considering both "global" and "local" threats and opportunities, and (4) "management" is a socially constructed activity that takes place in all sorts of organizations--private, public, for profit or not, at home, abroad and supranationally.

More generally, the study of international management belongs to the continuous project of understanding "how organization is achieved and disorganization is avoided" (Morgan 2001, p. 10) in all organizing projects around the world. As such, it applies to: (1) millions of business firms--small and large, in some 200 countries--engaging in international trade and investment that must be managed in some sense; (2) international organizations--public and private, and with multiple missions--that bring together individuals and organizations (including governments) and that range from the truly global (such as United Nations and the International Chamber of Commerce) to the bilateral level (e. …

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