The “transnational” (Bartlett & Ghoshal, 1988, 1989) has become a popular organizational construct, and is increasingly relevant to contemporary global firms. However, there is very little empirical research on the organizational aspects of this form, and there is a lack of knowledge regarding the transnational aspects in professional service firm theorizing. Building on some fundamental organizational and international management literature, as well as an understanding of contemporary global professional firms, we expect that the transnational will exhibit specific organizational structural features with both high levels globalization and local responsiveness. We then proceed to describe an exploratory study of ten global engineering firms—this context is important since engineering firms are far less tied to national (local) jurisdictions than are other professional firms. Our findings reveal that the leadership/management areas were largely globally integrated, the hiring/HR functions were singularly locally oriented, while the other organizational areas we studied – namely structure/process and project teams – exhibited both global and local features. These findings extend professional service firm theorizing, exposing the balance between axes of specialisation, norms of reciprocity and customer management system; to include organizational features that allow a balance between the globally integrated and locally responsive.
- Global professional firm