Inertia and management accounting change: The role of ambiguity and contradiction between formal rules and routines
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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ABSTRACT: This paper analyses the implementation of the ‘dual system’ in Dutch municipalities. This instrument was part of a package of New Public Management-reforms, which implementation was stimulated by Dutch central government from the 1980s onwards. The ‘dual system’ called for more accountability for performance of municipal managers and the board of mayor and aldermen, as well as for the use of more output and outcome information for monitoring and evaluation purposes. Interviews of participants on four different hierarchical levels in 12 Dutch municipalities show that the intention to use result information for control (which we call “result orientation”), the actual development of output indicators and the reported use of output information for performance evaluation is more developed in large municipalities than in smaller municipalities. In most municipalities, the practices of output management are different across hierarchical levels. This leads to some degree of “vertical loose coupling”, which means that performance management practices at different hierarchical levels are only loosely connected to each other. We also found some degree of “horizontal loose coupling” at each hierarchical level between result orientation, the development of output indicators and the use of output information for performance evaluation. In our sample, vertical coupling appears to be looser in our sample than horizontal coupling, indicating that most municipalities implement performance management systems in isolated organizational units and policy areas. The paper also analyses the reasons why municipalities encounter difficulties in designing a comprehensive and coherent performance management system.Financial Accountability & Management 09/2012; 30(1).
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ABSTRACT: This paper examines the positioning of qualitative research to date in the field of management accounting. It offers a critical reflection and an appraisal of its profile relative to the dominant positivist quantitative accounting research literature. In the accounting literature, management accounting research is arguably a leader in applying qualitative research methodologies. Drawing on both the management accounting and qualitative research methodology literatures, the paper critically evaluates key features of the qualitative tradition and the future trajectory of the qualitative contribution to management accounting research. The qualitative tradition emerges as contributing to the understanding and critiquing of management and accounting processes, as well as having the ability to address the concerns of practitioners and policymakers. Close researcher engagement with the field, a concern with process, embracing situational complexity, as well as critical and reflective understandings of organisational phenomena remain as hallmarks of the tradition.Critical Perspectives on Accounting 01/2012;