Theory and Application
Edited by Debra Howcroft and Eileen M. Trauth
Chapter 17: ‘Global but Local’: Mediated Work in Global Business Organizations
Dagﬁnn Hertzberg and Eric Monteiro Introduction Globally operating business organizations are caught in a deep dilemma. On the one hand, there is a strong emphasis on being ‘close’ to their customers. This stems, in part, from the critiques of Fordist modes of production such as ﬂexible specialization or lean production which underscore the growing differentiation in consumption and demand (Piore and Sabel 1984; Womack 1990; Nohria and Ghoshal 1997; Ger 1999). As Keat (1990: 3) notes, ‘meeting the demands of the ‘sovereign’ consumer becomes the new and overriding international imperative’. There are reasons to doubt the extent to which we have actually entered the age of post-Fordist production (Dicken et al. 1994), yet crucial for interpretive studies of organizational dynamics ‘there is no doubt that managerial representations of the customer as a means of restructuring organizations, and of inﬂuencing employees’ behaviour and attitudes, are of real importance’ (du Gay and Salaman 1992: 619). On the other hand, global business organizations want to retain the traditional economy of scale based on extensive routinization and standardization. They also need to present a reasonably coherent and uniform front stage to ensure that they are perceived as the ‘same’, preserving an identity or a brand (Leidner 1993; Ger 1999). The dilemma of globally operating production and service organizations is, so to speak, to combine the better of two worlds (Jones et al. 1998: 1048). We analyse this dilemma, focusing on the strategies, challenges and experiences around acquiring ‘closeness’ despite mediated, distanced relationships...
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