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Business Strategy Finance Library

Managing Across Borders: The Transnational Solution

Christopher A. Bartlett and Sumantra Ghoshal (2nd ed 1998, originally 1989)

Why Read It?

  • Regarded as a classic of international business processes, Managing Across Borders has helped the focus on how organizations should be structured for success in the global economy.

  • Maps out the new business reality of globalization and the kinds of organizations a borderless business world requires.

  • Identifies and assesses the variety of organizational forms prevalent among global companies.


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Getting Started

Managing Across Borders argues that changing patterns of international management have led to a new global model, in which enabling innovation and disseminating knowledge in globally dispersed organizations is an increasingly important challenge. It emphasizes networking across global organizations and the transferral of learning and knowledge as key to growth and development.

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Christopher A. Bartlett (b. 1943) is Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration. Prior to that, he was a Marketing Manager with Alcoa, and a management consultant with McKinsey. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Management, and the Academy of International Business.

Sumantra Ghoshal (1948–2004) was Professor of Strategic and International Management at the London Business School, a member of the Committee of Overseers of the Harvard Business School, and was the founding Dean of the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad.

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  • Shows that competition is forcing many businesses to adopt a new global model—the transnational—that combines local responsiveness with global efficiency and the ability to transfer know-how better, cheaper, and faster.

  • The transnational company is made up of a network of specialized or differentiated units, which focus on managing integrative linkages between local businesses as well as with the center.

  • Sees integration and the creation of coherent systems for value delivery as the new drivers of organizational structure.

  • Considers how global organizations offer scale efficiencies and cost advantages through standardized products.

  • Shows how international companies also have the ability to transfer knowledge and expertise to overseas environments that are less advanced.


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  • Observes that what binds the companies together is a set of shared values and beliefs that should be developed and managed effectively.

  • Discusses three techniques crucial to an organization’s psychology: a shared understanding of the company’s mission and objectives, the actions and behavior of senior managers set a good example, and that personnel policies must develop flexible organization processes.

  • Signals the demise of the independence of divisional organization structures of the kind first developed by General Motors.


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Integration and the creation of a coherent system for value delivery are the new drivers of organizational structure.

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Further reading


  • Bartlett, Christopher A., Sumantra Ghoshal, and Paul W. Beamish. Transnational Management: Text, Cases & Readings in Cross-Border Management. 5th ed. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2008. Combines text material, Harvard and London Business School cases, and readings to present the best of current research and thought on the global business environment.
  • Ghoshal, Sumantra, and Christopher A. Bartlett. The Individualized Corporation: A Fundamentally New Approach to Management. New York: HarperBusiness, 1997. Presents a new approach to business strategy that centers on corporate purpose and culture, not the industrial machine.

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