In control or out of control? - A discourse analysis of managers' talk during early integration

Laura Erkkilä

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


Post-acquisition integration of two different companies and business cultures is generally considered critical for the acquisition process. Early integration is seen as the most challenging and even messy phase of this process. The purpose of this thesis is to examine early integration with a particular focus on control. More specifically, I pose the research question of how acquirer and target managers socially construct early integration and control during this phase. The study acknowledges that organisations are characterised by multiplicity rather than uniformity. Therefore, the focus is on the various experiences and interpretations of both the acquirer and target managers. This thesis builds on a discourse analysis of interview texts compiled in 13 interviews with acquirer and target managers. The interviews were carried out during early integration and later stages of the integration of a cross-border acquisition. The thesis argues that early integration events and actions can be socially constructed from several perspectives using six interpretive repertoires (control, autonomy, cultural, expectation, survival and professional). Instead of one shared reality the repertoires reveal the contrasting realities constructed by the managers. Based on the functions of the repertoires, they form two sets: 'in-control' and 'out-of-control' repertoires. The in-control repertoires, enabling managers to construct early integration as manageable, dominate managers' accounts. These dominant repertoires are based on the conventional arguments of (integration) management. On the other hand, the alternative out-of-control repertoires allow the construction of messy and disorganised realities, which are beyond managers' control. The findings show that early integration realities were concurrently constructed as both 'in control' and 'out of control'. In this study both the acquirer and the target managers employed the repertoires to construct an impression of control. Control was socially constructed in order to maintain a credible stance in interaction and as a response to dealing with the uncertainty associated with early integration. This is argued to reflect the management culture of social obligation to control which surfaces in social interaction. Furthermore, the target managers employed the professional repertoire as their coping framework. In social interaction it enabled them to construct themselves as 'being in control'. Finally, the findings demonstrate that control involved both the acquirer and target managers in keeping early integration under control. Thus, this thesis questions the traditional perception of control as an exclusively acquirer concern and argues that control is socially constructed as a shared effort between the acquirer and target managers.
Translated title of the contributionIn control or out of control? - A discourse analysis of managers' talk during early integration
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Piekkari, Rebecca, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-7707-9
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-7708-6
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • mergers and acquisitions
  • post-acquisition integration
  • early integration
  • control

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