Doctoral Thesis Steering Through: How Organizations Negotiate Permanent Uncertainty and Unresolvable Choices

Defended on Friday, 30 September 2011


It is easy to observe instances of contradictions and dilemmas that multinational companies, public bureaucracies, and individuals encounter as they seek resources and markets in a globally-linked world. The default condition for such entities is that they are being constantly stretched apart by global and local processes that are multiple, intertwined, contradictory and irreconcilable. Through qualitative studies of two such organizational environments, this thesis describes its unpredictable nature and highlights the deftness and dexterity required from actors to steer the organizations they manage through this complex thicket and promote the interests they espouse. The first case suggests that when faced with intractable dilemmas emanating from their global activity, multinational actors resort to arbitrary moral commitments. The second case suggests that powerless organizations relying on mutually contradictory political alliances may deliberately opt for hypocrisy; the strategy continues to be preferred in spite of having resulted in a near-death experience in its past. Jointly, these cases support concepts in business ethics and organization theory that incorporate conflict, contradictions, and contingent causality into their explanations as they provide a better reflection of contemporary multinational and organizational activity.


supply chains, sweatshops, moral commitments, organizational hypocrisy

Time frame

2007 - 2011

Preferred reference

P.V. Poruthiyil, Steering Through: How organizations negotiate permanent uncertainty and unresolvable choices, Promotors:prof.dr. Pursey Heugens,prof.dr. Slawomir Magala,


Prabhir Vishnu
Prabhir Vishnu

Supervisory Team

Pursey Heugens
Professor of Organization Theory, Development, and Change, Scientific Director ERIM, Dean of Research RSM
  • Promotor
Slawomir Magala
Slawomir Magala
Professor of Cross-cultural Management
  • Promotor

Committee Members

Hans van Oosterhout
Professor of Corporate Governance and Responsibility
Gail Whiteman
Gail Whiteman
Professor of Sustainability, Management and Climate Change