در مورد نقش سازمان در تصمیم گیری قبول واقعیت مشتری حسابرسان
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|38513||2002||26 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||محاسبه نشده|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Accounting, Organizations and Society, Volume 27, Issue 7, October 2002, Pages 659–684
Abstract The objective of this research is to better understand the role that the accounting firm organization plays when auditors make difficult client-acceptance decisions in the midst of conflicting influences—specifically between the professional and commercial “logics of action”. The investigation was conducted via a field study at three Big Six firms located in Canada. The main argument that is developed in the paper is that the firm sets the stage for auditors’ decision-making by making its formal organizational components (e.g., the firm's partner-compensation scheme and decision-making policies) more reflective of one of the two logics, thereby establishing and helping reproduce certain patterns of order and consistency within the firm. However, the firm's organizational components are also to some extent reflective of the other logic, thereby providing decision-makers with a legitimizing space to influence the decision process differently. I present fieldwork data that is consistent with the paper's argument.
. Introduction Since the 1970s, decision-making research in auditing has relied heavily on the laboratory experimental method (Solomon & Shields, 1995, p. 172). Ashton and Ashton (1995, p. 9) maintain that this line of inquiry has documented shortcomings of human judgement in the auditing setting, generated insights on how these shortcomings may be reduced or eliminated, and helped to develop a better understanding of the roles of knowledge and memory in auditors’ decision-making. Nevertheless, some auditing academics have been critical of the general direction of this line of inquiry, arguing that the findings do not reflect significantly actual practice. For example, Gibbins and Swieringa (1995, p. 242) note that most audit studies have treated judgement problems as separable from the organization of the accounting firm, and research participants have been treated as independent actors. These methodological assumptions are problematic since decisions in audit settings are made typically by hierarchically structured groups whose work is closely guided or constrained by professional standards, firm policies and procedures, and decision support systems (Libby & Luft, 1993 and Solomon, 1987). While recent laboratory studies have begun to include organizational components in their experimental designs, such inclusions have usually been done on a one-component-at-a-time basis (Ashton & Ashton, 1995, p. 22). Little research has examined the influence of the firm on auditors’ decision processes from a broader perspective. The objective of this study is to better understand this influence. The organizational setting in which most audit engagements are carried out is the large professional partnership (Greenwood, Hinings, & Brown, 1990, p. 725). These partnerships are owned by a relatively large number of partners who, in addition to having some voting power, are the firms’ key production workers, in charge of recruiting new clients and providing services. Rank-and-file partners working at a firm's various local offices therefore have significant power over their work (Barrett et al., 2001 and Freidson, 1986). For their part, administrative partners at a firm's national office assume the co-ordination and control of activities within the firm through various organizational components, such as the firm's partner-compensation scheme and decision-making policies. However, local practitioners may resist administrative partners’ efforts at overseeing their practice (e.g., Carpenter, Dirsmith, & Gupta, 1994). Local offices’ decisions therefore constitute an arena in which the perspectives of local practitioners and those of administrative partners may clash. In spite of practitioners’ resistance, research has shown that organizational components may have a long run socializing impact on local practitioners’ mindsets (Covaleski, Dirsmith, Heian, & Samuel, 1998). For example, through devices such as time budgets, local auditors tend to develop particular forms of time-consciousness that significantly affect their identity and decision-making behaviour (Anderson-Gough, Grey, & Robson, 2001). In brief, auditors’ decisions are made in a complex organizational setting, in which issues of professional autonomy, career advancement, policy-making, and socialization intermingle. This paper examines the relationship between the accounting firm organization and auditors’ decision-making within the context of a type of decision that auditors claim is crucial to their practice, namely, the difficult client-acceptance decision (e.g., CICA, 1996, p. 5). According to The Economist (1995, p. 62), auditors tend to be selective about audit engagements, especially at the time of initial acceptance, in an attempt to mitigate the potential for lawsuits that significantly increased since the turn of the 1990s. In this atmosphere, auditors’ rationale when making the client-acceptance decision is that they are better able to avoid lawsuits when rejecting potential clients for which available information suggests high potential for litigation (Hall & Renner, 1991). However, the decision to reject a potential client may be difficult to make since this option contradicts the pressures that are exerted upon partners to contribute to the growth of their firm (Bérard, 1994 and Dirsmith et al., 1997). Among all client-acceptance decisions, this investigation was restricted to those that auditors consider as difficult. These decisions allegedly have the potential to jeopardize the firms’ survival (e.g., Estey, 1996), thereby making the conflicting aspects of the resolution process more salient. It is widely recognized in professional and academic literature that audit decisions are subject to conflicting influences, in particular between professionalism and commercialism (e.g., Bailey, 1995). The present paper aims to better understand the role that the firm plays when auditors make difficult client-acceptance decisions in the midst of such conflicting influences. Each of these influences is conceived of as carrying its own reasoning—or logic of action (de Gaulejac, 1987)—regarding the way decisions have to be made. Specifically, I examine how the firm affects the way auditors reconcile the professional and commercial logics of action when they make difficult client-acceptance decisions. Adapted from a current of research in organizational analysis, the thesis of the paper is that the firm sets the stage for auditors’ decision-making by configuring its organizational components (e.g., the firm's partner-compensation scheme and client-acceptance policies) in such a way that the professional and commercial logics are under a moderate level of tension. That is, to sustain internal cohesiveness and avoid anarchy in decision-making, the firm makes its organizational components more reflective of one of the logics. In so doing, the firm sends auditors the signal that it expects the logic to be significantly influential during decision-making. However, to prevent the favoured logic from having a disproportionately large impact on decisions (which may, at times, not be beneficial to the firm), the firm's organizational components are also to some extent reflective of the other logic of action, whose role is to mitigate and constrain the favoured logic. As a result of the firm's organizational configuration, claims made by participants to influence the decision process will tend to have more legitimacy when they resonate with the logic favoured by the firm. However, participants inevitably have some leeway in attempting to influence the decision process differently, and the firm's organizational components indeed provide participants with a legitimizing space to influence the decision process in accordance with the constraining logic of action. To assess the extent to which the paper's thesis is reflective of organizational behaviour within large professional partnerships, I conducted a field study at three Big Six Canadian firms, herein referred to as firms “A”, “B”, and “C”. The field study was chosen as the preferred mode of investigation since this method allows the investigator to examine the conditions in which a phenomenon of interest occurs (Yin, 1993, p. xi). The field study method is also likely to enhance the researcher's ability to build relationships based on trust with interviewees, thereby making them more willing to freely respond to questions (Merchant, Chow, & Wu, 1995, p. 625). Building trustworthy relationships with interviewees was critical to the present research since auditors may be reluctant to discuss sensitive issues such as the firm's practice-development strategy and partner-compensation scheme, as well as the client-acceptance decision per se (Gendron, 2000).
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
7. Conclusion According to Power (1995, p. 317), we know very little about auditing in its organizational context. However, a growing number of studies that seek to probe into the organizational functioning of audit firms have been published recently (Hopwood, 1996, p. 218). My research lies within this research tradition, seeking to better understand the role of the accounting firm organization in decision processes, more specifically how the firm affects the way in which the professional and commercial logics of action are mediated and reflected in client-acceptance decision processes. Large Canadian accounting firms agreed to participate in the field research, thereby allowing me to look beneath the surface of audit practice into the “black box” (Power, 1994, p. 304). Of course, this study is inevitably characterized by limitations. First, the ideal-type apparatus used to analyze interview transcripts and documents is predicated on a series of dimensions aimed at putting into light differences—not similarities—in the influence exerted by the logics of action on organizational components and decisional processes. The data displayed in the tables may therefore overstate differences about the impact that logics of action have on organizational components and decisional processes. The results should be interpreted in a relative rather than absolute way. Second, the findings are inescapably reliant on the quality and comprehensiveness of the data collected. In this respect, it is worth underlining that data collection was limited due to the firms' participation requirements. The firms did not allow me to interview all decision-makers involved in each client-acceptance situation, nor to examine the corresponding documentation. The descriptions of decisional situations therefore are unlikely to be as comprehensive as they could have been. Nonetheless, several steps were taken to increase the reliability of the field study. Complete anonymity was provided to the firm and the interviewees who, furthermore, were not made aware that the professional and commercial logics of action were being investigated. Interviews also were not recorded. Third, since data collection was completed in Big Six offices located in the two largest cities of Canada, readers should be careful before generalizing the results to other settings. For example, in Big Six offices located in smaller cities, signals from the firm's organizational components may affect auditors' mindset differently (e.g., firm policies issued by the national office may be perceived as being more applicable to practitioners in large-city offices). Smaller-city auditors may also have a relatively distinct understanding of their market environment, thereby possibly altering the client-acceptance decision process. Future research may investigate the extent to which the theoretical adaptation developed in the present study is applicable to other settings. Generally speaking, this paper provides insights into the firms' organizational processes used to accommodate the conflicts and contradictions that permeate auditors' environment (Humphrey & Moizer, 1990, p. 235). It is especially shown that the firm's discretion in influencing behaviour is limited to setting the stage where decisions are made, the firm's organizational components jointly operating as a system aimed at putting the professional and commercial logics of action under a moderate level of tension. By favouring one of the logics when structuring its organizational parameters, the firm aims to prevent decision-making from being erratic and punctuated with many conflicts between participants. However, organizational components also reflect to some extent the other logic since the “stream” of decisions within the firm may be better when the other logic constrains the influence of the dominant one. Thus, although the two logics of action conflict over many points, they are paradoxically complementary, since it is from their (moderate) opposition that balance may be reached during decision-making. In fact, an important implication of this paper is to highlight the principle of “complementarity within contradiction”, and to illustrate how it is reflected in the firms' decisional processes and organizational components. In an Accounting, Organizations and Society’s special issue devoted to auditing, Hopwood (1996, p. 217) wonders why the rhetorics of commercialism and professionalism are still promoted side by side in many parts of the world. In this paper, I argue that it is to the advantage of the firm to perpetuate such contradictory rhetorics via its organizational components, which are precisely aimed at (loosely) regulating the coexistence of the rhetorics. The principle of complementarity within contradiction is in accordance with a theme that has begun to appear in the professional and academic literature, that is to say, that conflicting logics are probably unavoidable in any human organization, and are not necessarily unhealthy since, when properly played out, they provide an additional opportunity to challenge decisions (e.g., Independent Review Panel on Modernization of Comptrollership in the Government of Canada, 1997 and Van de Ven et al., 1999). Future research could further investigate this theme, exploring in more detail, for example, the relationship between a firm's performance and decisional processes being made under a moderate level of stress between logics of action. Future research could also examine, via historical analysis, the process in which the firms' organizational components are shaped with regard to the two logics of action. Although data collection in the present study concentrated on the influence of organizational components on recent and specific decisions, indications were found that the weight given to each logic by the firm's organizational components varies over time.15 Organizational components are not static and members may attempt to change the structural weight given to the logics to benefit from a longer-term capacity to influence decisions. Future research could examine the conditions under which transformations of an audit firm's organizational components took place, and investigate how actors tried to modify components in accordance with their own situated interests. Further research also is needed on the firms' socialization processes. The present paper indeed shows that attitudes of firm auditors are largely reflective of the respective weights given to the professional and commercial logics of action by the firm's formal organizational components, thereby pointing to the effectiveness of the firm's socialization processes. Although some research has been conducted on large firms' socialization processes (e.g., Anderson-Gough et al., 1998 and Dirsmith & Covaleski, 1985), much more work is needed to develop a thorough understanding of the processes used to construct identities of firm auditors (Fogarty, 1992). Moreover, audit researchers could use the ideal types developed in the present paper to examine how logics of action are mediated and reflected in other types of audit decisions, and the role that the firm plays in the decisional process. In particular, some interviewees underlined that retention decisions should be the subject of more academic investigations since these decisions are often more difficult to make than client-acceptance decisions. As underlined by one partner: One needs to have balls to say to a current client, “No, I don't want to audit your corporation anymore.” In contrast, when it comes to the initial client-acceptance decision, it is not difficult to turn away a potential client. I just have to say: “I don't have the time,” or “I don't have the specific expertise.” I can't say this when I want to turn away an existing client. I think that one of the main challenges of the profession in the following years is to cope adequately with the retention decision (Firm B audit partner). Therefore, concerns related to justifying rejections—not only in the eyes of the client but also in the eyes of peers of the partners who initially accepted the client—may play a significant role in the retention decision, thereby possibly affecting the firms' organizational components and the ways in which logics of action exert influence on decision-making. The ideal types may also be used to examine decisions made within the firms' lines of services other than auditing. In particular, these decisions may be characterized by functional conflicts between auditors and other specialists having different ways of reasoning (Goodridge, 1991, p. 75). Although the accounting profession is experiencing important changes—some Big Five firms even describing themselves as multidisciplinary firms instead of accounting firms (Greenwood et al., in press)—current knowledge on Big Five's activities in lines of services other than auditing is considerably limited. In conclusion, the firm plays a crucial role in auditors' decision-making by setting the stage for decision-making, specifically by configuring its organizational components in such a way that the professional and commercial logics are under a moderate level of tension. Though it may be to the advantage of participants to make decisions in accordance with the firm's favoured logic, participants will find within the firm some resonance for claims that convey a different way of making decisions. It may be argued, therefore, that the firm and auditors' decision-making are inextricably linked, thereby constituting a challenge in terms of external validity to auditing experimental researchers. Not only is this difficult to reproduce in an experimental design the context in which subjects usually act, but also the nature of experimental designs is centred on rigorously reducing subjects' agency.