Breaking the vicious circle of subsidiary isolation: a meta-synthesis of subsidiary initiative-taking


  • Maike Simon
  • Susanne Royer



subsidiary isolation; subsidiary initiative; meta-synthesis; subsidiary entrepreneurship; process model


Purpose of the paper: We aim at contributing to the current controversial discussion on the vicious circle of subsidiary isolation. Therefore, we (1) strive for a better understanding of the different stages of initiative undertaking and (2) investigate how subsidiaries can make use of this process to attract HQ attention and break out of isolation.

Methodology: Building on Schmid et al.'s (2014) process model of subsidiary initiative development, we adopt a meta-synthesis as our research strategy and combine and interpret the findings from a set of systematically chosen case studies.

Results: Our findings suggest that the impact of subsidiary characteristics varies considerably over time during the process. For the case of isolated subsidiaries, we adapt Schmid et al.'s  (2014) process model and show how an isolated subsidiary can attract HQ attention due to subsidiary initiative taking at the subsidiary level.

Research limitations: The included case studies have not been conducted to answer our research questions and our search strategy may have excluded further relevant studies.

Practical implications: While managers of less-embedded subsidiaries should be aware of possible HQ resistance and show persistence over time, HQ managers should use HQ monitoring and reporting to detect silent, but motivated subsidiaries. Further, HQ managers are challenged to balance their (positive) attention towards subsidiaries.

Originality of the paper: The paper is original in its use of a meta-synthesis that enables a more holistic and finer-grained understanding of subsidiary initiative processes and draws the attention to aspects that are underrepresented in the current body of subsidiary initiative research.


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