People - 27.04.2016 - 00:00 

Steering companies in China

In her dissertation Sabine Ruoss examined how managers steer the unsteerable. To this end, she accompanied the managers of Swiss subsidiaries in China and described their management practices.

25 November 2015. After two and a half years in management consultancy Sabine Ruoss asked herself what she was actually doing. Her urge to devote time to finding out the real meaning of management grew. Her plan: to research management in an international context; ideally within the framework of a Ph.D. dissertation.

Focus on China
"Management is often treated as a black box both in theory and in practice," says Sabine Ruoss. This is because management is not steerable in complex organisations. Her aim was to understand management as organisational practice and examine it from a holistic perspective. To do so she focused on China. Her Ph.D. dissertation entitled "Das Nicht-Steuerbare steuern – Wie stark internationalisierte Schweizer Unternehmen ihre Niederlassungen in China führen" (Steering the unsteerable - How strongly internationalized Swiss companies manage their subsidiaries in China) analyses different behavioural patterns which provide opportunities for management to generate effects in strongly internationalised companies.

Shadowing managers
Sabine Ruoss accompanied managers to China and observed how they implemented strategic initiatives there. "Shadowing was very informative," says Ruoss. "The managers endeavour to influence processes, constantly aware that steering is actually impossible." However, the companies examined have developed practices to coordinate their global business activities in China. On this basis, Ruoss has developed an alternative approach to common beliefs and customary management theories about steering.

Results have influenced her partners’ developments

Sabine Ruoss presented the results of her research to her research partners. "In particular, the systemic approach and reflections on the strategy processes proved inspiring for the research partners," Ruoss says. Her work identified new possibilities of further development for her research partners. Ruoss would also like to use the alternative approach to current management theories in practice. Basically, she can see herself continuing her research. "I am a thoughtful practitioner or a practically-oriented thinker," she says. "However, I can achieve more in practice than in research at the moment."

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