Veliath James Jain

DBA Graduate - 2018

Thesis title

BUSINESS TURNAROUND IN THAILAND A Cultural Exploration into the Role of Leaders on Pace and Response

Supervisor(s)

Erno Tornikoski
Timothy Andrews
This study aims to expand, deepen and refine knowledge and understanding of business turnaround in Asia. More precisely, I seek to uncover the role of the Asian business leader in the process – and particularly pace - of turnaround and, in particular, the pace within the context of a vertical-collectivist culture. Given the current lack of research, I pursued an exploratory, multi-case approach using qualitative collection and analysis procedures. Data was sourced from leaders and key stakeholders from five SMEs in the developing economy of Thailand. Initial findings showed that whereas the overall pace of turnaround was slower than in the West (e.g. Bruton et al, 2003; Sim, 2009), this overall picture masked important stage variations. Recognition was found to be markedly slower in accordance with prior empirical study; however, retrenchment was characterized by a ‘tipping point’ between a preliminary slow pace followed by a rapid push. Subsequent investigation showed that the determinants stemmed from the culturally-grounded actions of the leader, particularly through the hierarchical, relations-based nature of the superior-subordinate relationship down through the organizational ranks. Critical findings concern i) uncovering the multi-stage, multi-speed nature of business turnaround at Thai SMEs and ii) expanding knowledge into the role of culturally-defined leadership as both an accelerant and decelerant. This forms the nexus of my contribution to relevant theory on business turnaround in the Asian cultural context, still deemed as in need of further research (e.g. Bruton, et al. 2003; O’Neill, et al., 2004). Given the limited sample, single-country focus and the potential influence of Thai indigenous culturally-defined behaviours (perhaps not applicable to other Asian environments), these findings need to be taken with caution. Future work can build on them by conducting wider comparative studies across various other Asian nation states. Local managers, as well as multinationals with Thai-based subsidiary units, can utilize the knowledge and awareness gained through these findings to assist their managing the turnaround process, helping them to leverage the exacerbating and mitigating effects of local cultural values. This is important as the speed with which turnaround is conducted can be critical to recovering or failure. The novelty in this thesis lies in its revealing and explaining the multi-speed nature of the turnaround process in Thai SMEs, extending and significantly refining existing knowledge by showing how Asian vertical-collectivist leadership culture not only slows but also accelerates the retrenchment process.Key words: Business turnaround, Vertical-collectivist cultural values, Asia, SMEs, Leadership.