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«Paul M. Collier Aston Business School, Aston University Accounting for Managers Accounting for Managers: Interpreting accounting information for ...»

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Daft, R. L. and Macintosh, N. B. (1984). The nature and use of formal control systems for management control and strategy implementation. Journal of Management, 10(1), 43–66.

Dixon, R. (1998). Accounting for strategic management: A practical application. Long Range Planning, 31(2), 272–9.

Downs, A. (1966). Inside Bureaucracy. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company.


Drury, C. (2000). Management and Cost Accounting. (5th edn). London: Thomson Learning.

Eccles, R. G. (1991). The Performance Measurement Manifesto, Getting Numbers You Can Trust:

The New Accounting. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Paperbacks.

Emmanuel, C., Otley, D. and Merchant, K. (1990). Accounting for Management Control. (2nd edn). London: Chapman & Hall.

Fitzgerald, L., Johnston, R., Brignall, S., Silvestro, R. and Voss, C. (1991). Performance Measurement in Service Businesses. London: Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

Hofstede, G. (1981). Management control of public and not-for-profit activities. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 6(3), 193–211.

Innes, J. (1996). Activity performance measures and tableaux de bord. In I. Lapsley and F. Mitchell (eds), Accounting and Performance Measurement: Issues in the Private and Public Sectors, London: Paul Chapman Publishing.

Johnson, H. T. and Kaplan, R. S. (1987). Relevance Lost: The Rise and Fall of Management Accounting. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Kaplan, R. S. (1994). Management accounting (1984–1994): Development of new practice and theory. Management Accounting Research, 5(247–60).

Kaplan, R. S. and Norton, D. P. (1992). The Balanced Scorecard – Measures that drive performance. Harvard Business Review, Jan–Feb, 71–9.

Kaplan, R. S. and Norton, D. P. (1993). Putting the Balanced Scorecard to work. Harvard Business Review, Sept–Oct, 134–47.

Kaplan, R. S. and Norton, D. P. (1996). Using the Balanced Scorecard as a strategic management system. Harvard Business Review, Jan–Feb, 75–85.

Kaplan, R. S. and Norton, D. P. (2001). The Strategy-Focused Organization: How Balanced Scorecard Companies Thrive in the New Business Environment. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Lord, B. R. (1996). Strategic management accounting: The emperor’s new clothes? Management Accounting Research, 7, 347–66.

Lynch, R. L. and Cross, K. F. (1991). Measure Up! Yardsticks for Continuous Improvement.

Oxford: Blackwell.

Macintosh, N. B. (1994). Management Accounting and Control Systems: An Organizational and Behavioral Approach. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

March, J. G. and Simon, H. A. (1958). Organizations. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Meyer, C. (1994). How the right measures help teams excel. Harvard Business Review, May–June, 95–103.

Neely, A., Adams, C. and Kennerly, M. (2002). The Performance Prism: The Scorecard for Measuring and Managing Business Success. London: Prentice Hall.

Otley, D. (1987). Accounting Control and Organizational Behaviour. London: Heinemann.

Otley, D. (1994). Management control in contemporary organizations: Towards a wider framework. Management Accounting Research, 5, 289–99.

Otley, D. (1999). Performance management: A framework for management control systems research. Management Accounting Research, 10, 363–82.

Otley, D. (2001). Extending the boundaries of management accounting research: Developing systems for performance management. British Accounting Review, 33, 243–61.

Otley, D. T. and Berry, A. J. (1980). Control, organization and accounting. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 5(2), 231–44.

Otley, D. T. and Berry, A. J. (1994). Case study research in management accounting and control. Management Accounting Research, 5, 45–65.

Otley, D. T., Berry, A. J. and Broadbent, J. (1995). Research in management control: An overview of its development. British Journal of Management, 6, Special Issue, S31–S44.

Ouchi, W. G. (1977). The relationship between organizational structure and organizational control. Administrative Science Quarterly, 22, 95–113.


Ouchi, W. G. (1979). A conceptual framework for the design of organizational control mechanisms. Management Science, 25(9), 833–48.

Porter, M. E. (1980). Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors.

New York, NY: Free Press.

Porter, M. E. (1985). Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance.

New York, NY: Free Press.

Scott, W. R. (1998). Organizations: Rational, Natural, and Open Systems. (4th edn). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall International.

Simons, R. (1990). The role of management control systems in creating competitive advantage: New perspectives. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 15(1/2), 127–43.

Simons, R. (1994). How new top managers use control systems as levers of strategic renewal.

Strategic Management Journal, 15, 169–89.

Sinclair, D. and Zairi, M. (1995a). Benchmarking best-practice performance measurement within companies. Benchmarking for Quality Management and Technology, 2(3), 53–71.

Sinclair, D. and Zairi, M. (1995b). Effective process management through performance measurement. Business Process Re-engineering Journal, 1(1), 75–88.

Tomkins, C. and Carr, C. (1996). Reflections on the papers in this issue and a commentary on the state of Strategic Management Accounting. Management Accounting Research, 7, 271–80.

Wilson, R. M. S. (1995). Strategic management accounting. In D. Ashton, T. Hopper and R. W. Scapens (eds), Issues in Management Accounting (2nd edn), London: Prentice Hall.

A useful website on performance measurement and management is provided by the Performance Measurement Association at www.performanceportal.org.

The Management Control Association promotes the study of management control and management accounting. Its website is www.managementcontrol association.ac.uk

Interpretive and Critical Perspectiveson Accounting and Decision-Making

In Chapter 4 we described the rational-economic perspective that underpins management control systems in general and management accounting in particular.

There are, however, alternative perspectives. For example, Otley and Berry (1980) questioned the usefulness of cybernetic control given the limitations of accounting systems as a result of organizational and environmental complexity. The problem

with cybernetic control, they say:

is the apparently inevitable division of labour between controllers and those who are controlled... the primary function ascribed to the task of management is that of organization control. (p. 237) While Chapter 4 assumed a rational paradigm, this chapter explores alternative conceptions of the role of accounting in management. We review the interpretive paradigm and the social constructionist perspective and how organizational culture is implicated in accounting. We then consider the radical paradigm and how power is a major concern of critical accounting theory. These alternative perspectives to the rational-economic one described in Chapter 4 are an important focus of this book.

Alternative paradigms

One non-rational approach to decision-making is the ‘garbage can’, which March and Olsen (1976) described as the ‘fortuitous confluence’ whereby problems, solutions, participants and choice opportunities somehow come together. Cooper et al.

(1981) detailed the rational model of financial and management accounting systems as planning and control devices that measure, report and evaluate individuals and business units. In the bounded rationality model (see Chapter 4), accounting systems are stabilizers, emphasizing consistency. By contrast, the garbage can view recognizes that systems provide an appearance of rationality and create an organizational history, but that ‘the sequence whereby actions precede goals may well be a more accurate portrayal of organizational functioning than the more traditional goal-action paradigm’ (p. 181) and ‘accounting systems represent an ex


post rationalization of actions, rather than an ex ante statement of organizational goals’ (p. 188).

A non-rational (as opposed to irrational) perspective has also been taken in relation to non-financial performance measurement. For example, Waggoner et al. (1999) took a multidisciplinary approach to the drivers of performance measurement systems and identified four categories of force that can influence the evolution of those systems: internal influences such as power relations and dominant coalition interests within the firm; external influences such as legislation and technology; process issues such as the implementation of innovation and the management of political processes; and transformational issues including the level of top-down support for and risks from change.

Bourne et al. (2000) developed a framework for analysing the implementation of a performance measurement system and interpreted three case studies of manufacturing companies against that framework. They identified problems in each company with IT infrastructure, resistance to measurement and management commitment that arose in designing, implementing, using and updating performance measurement systems.

These perspectives can be linked to Scott’s (1998) conceptualization of organizations as rational, natural and open systems. Figure 5.1 shows the different perspectives in diagrammatic form. The rational perspective is of the organization as a goal-oriented collective that acts purposefully to achieve those goals through a formal structure governing behaviour and the roles of organizational members.

The natural perspective is based on the human relations school and argues that rules and roles do not significantly influence the actions of people in organizations. In this natural perspective people are motivated by self-interest and the informal relations between them are more important than the formal organizational structure in understanding organizational behaviour. These informal relations emphasize the social aspect of organizations, which may operate in consensus where common goals are shared or in conflict. Conflictual approaches stress organizational structures as systems of power where the weaker groups are dominated by the more powerful ones.

Both rational and natural perspectives view the organization as a closed system, separate from its environment. By contrast, the open systems perspective emphasizes the impact of the environment on organizations. In the open perspective, organizations are seen as shifting coalitions of participants and a collection of interdependent activities that are tightly or loosely coupled.

Thompson (1967) contrasted the technical core of the organization with its goal achievement and control-oriented rationality, implying a closed system and the elimination of uncertainty, with the organization’s dependency and lack of control at an institutional level where the greatest uncertainty existed, implying an open system. Thompson argued that at a managerial level there was mediation between the two, provided by a range of manoeuvring devices and organizational structures.

Within the open systems perspective, contingency theory (see Chapter 11) suggests that there is no one best way of exercising management control or of


–  –  –

accounting. The appropriate systems emerge from the influence of the environment (which may be turbulent or static), technology, organizational size and need to fit with the organizational strategy, structure and culture. Population ecology theory is based on the biological analogy of natural selection and holds that


environments select organizations for survival on the basis of the fit between the organizational form and the characteristics of the environment. Resource dependence theory emphasizes adaptation as organizations act to improve their opportunity to survive, particularly through the relationships of power that exist. Institutional theory (see Chapter 7) stresses the rules that are imposed by external parties, especially by government; the values and norms that are internalized in roles as part of socialization processes; and the cultural controls that underpin the belief systems that are supported by the professions.

In their categorization of the nature of knowledge, Burrell and Morgan (1979) proposed four paradigms – functionalist, interpretive, radical humanist and radical structuralist – based on two dimensions – one subjective–objective, the other regulation–radical change. Figure 5.2 shows a representation of rational, interpretive and radical (or critical) paradigms.

In his classification of the types of management control, Hofstede (1981) separated cybernetic (rational) models from non-cybernetic ones, which were dependent on values and rituals. The cybernetic model of control systems is located in the functional paradigm. Non-cybernetic systems are located in interpretive or critical paradigms.

–  –  –

Cybernetic systems of control Non-cybernetic control systems Routine, expert and trial-and-error Intuition, judgement, ‘garbage can’, values based, political (Chapter 4)

–  –  –

The functional paradigm relies on an ‘objectively knowable, empirically veriable reality’ (Boland and Pondy, 1983, p. 223), which has been described in Chapter 4.

The interpretive paradigm and the social construction perspective The interpretive view reflects a subjectively created, emergent social reality, which Chua (1986) links to an understanding of ‘accounting in action’. The interpretive approach offers ‘accounts of what happens as opposed to what should happen’ (Chua, 1988, p. 73).

Hopwood (1983) coined the term accounting in action to describe the ‘ways in which accounting reflects, reinforces or even constrains the strategic postures adopted by particular organizations’ (p. 302). Hopwood (1987) contrasted the constitutive as well as reflective roles of accounting.

The aim of the interpretive perspective is:

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