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Article

Communications between Managers of Manufacturing Units of Multinational Corporations

Purpose The paper identifies the factors that shape the intensity and perceived effectiveness of communications between heads of manufacturing units of multinational corporations (MNCs).

Design/methodology/approach The paper is based on a survey of heads of MNCs’ manufacturing subsidiaries in Russia.

Findings We found that the intensity of most inter-unit communication channels depends on the speed and magnitude of the changes experienced by manufacturing subsidiaries in products and production technologies. The assessment of the efficiency of a communication channel with high media richness strongly correlates to the intensity of its use.

Practical implications Subsidiary managers are quickly mastering most easy-to-use channels (i.e., e-mail exchange, talking on the phone, reading corporate magazines) by themselves, but are minimizing their participation in time-consuming activities (i.e., corporate-wide and special conferences, arranging informal meetings with foreign peers) unless they have to manage rapid changes in products and production technologies. Thus, to intensify the voluntary use of inter-unit channels with high media richness, headquarters should instill in subsidiary managers the value of cooperation between manufacturing units. Moreover, the effectiveness of inter-unit channels with high media richness should be properly demonstrated to subsidiary managers to assuage their initial reluctance.

Originality/value This paper presents communications between manufacturing units of multinational corporations not as the transfer of abstract knowledge but as routine processes of exchange of detailed information on valuable improvements of the existing practices and solutions to technical and organizational problems common in facility development and mastering new products.