Inertia and management accounting change: The role of ambiguity and contradiction between formal rules and routines

Accounting Auditing & Accountability Journal (Impact Factor: 1.1). 06/2009; 22(July):736-761. DOI: 10.1108/09513570910966351
Source: RePEc

ABSTRACT Purpose – This paper aims to investigate ways in which inertia obstructs the adoption of new management accounting rules. Drawing on the view of management accounting as organisational rules and routines, it aims to suggest various ways in which inertia can become more pronounced when new accounting rules challenge existing routines. Design/methodology/approach – A longitudinal case study was conducted at one of the largest banks in The Netherlands. This bank introduced a program called “Results Oriented Management”, which produced various new management accounting rules. Findings – The paper identifies various ways in which inertia manifested itself when new management accounting rules were introduced. Moreover, the paper shows that ambiguity and contradictions play an important role in the presence of inertia. Research limitations/implications – The identification of individual-level habits and scripts is a difficult undertaking. Through a focus on the performative and ostensive aspects of routines, some of the processes of inertia and change on an individual level are identified. This is a relevant method for students of management accounting change. Originality/value – Although it is well known that routines can produce inertia, the process by which this inertia is manifested and how this affects the adoption of new management accounting rules is still unclear. The paper aims to contribute to this understanding.

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