استراتژی، قوانین و مقررات سیاسی و کنترل مدیریت در بخش دولتی : دیدگاه های انتقادی و نهادی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|407||2012||18 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||1 کلمه|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Management Accounting Research, Volume 23, Issue 4, December 2012, Pages 278–295
This paper mobilizes institutional and critical theories in examining how evolving management control practices, inspired by the balanced scorecard, mediated the process of strategy formation in a Swedish central government agency. Particular attention is paid to how this process was conditioned by external, political regulation of the organization. Contrary to popular conceptions of strategy and strategic management as emerging alternatives to political regulation in the public sector, the study shows how the meaning of the notion of strategy became intricately intertwined with government regulation. Whilst this affirms the tendency of organizations to comply with institutional pressures exerted by dominant constituencies, the analysis also shows how the unfolding strategy discourse gradually narrowed the meaning of the notion of strategy permeating the organization. The extension of an institutional perspective to incorporate more critical insights highlights how this process fostered some “unintended” consequences with a detrimental impact on organizational practices aimed at achieving broader social objectives. In so doing, I draw attention to how the unobtrusive power of evolving strategy discourses conditions conceptions of organizational performance and relevant constituent interests. The implications for future management accounting research combining institutional and critical theories are discussed.
The notion of strategic management accounting (SMA) has attracted considerable interest over the past decades. Research on this topic has been dominated by a functionalist perspective and has primarily focused on private sector organizations (see Langfield-Smith, 2008). Yet notions of strategy and strategic management are becoming increasingly pervasive in contemporary organizations (Knights and Morgan, 1991 and Carter et al., 2010) and have also begun to permeate the managerial discourse in the public sector (Llewellyn and Tappin, 2003 and Johansson, 2009). This has compelled some researchers to modify functionalist, private sector conceptualizations of strategy (Boyne and Walker, 2004 and Andrews et al., 2009a) and explore their interactions with the external, political regulation of public sector organizations (Andrews et al., 2008). However, given the relative novelty of the notion of strategy in the public sector, it would seem pertinent to take a more open-ended, constructivist approach in examining how its context-specific meanings evolve through some interplay between such regulation and novel SMA techniques. Despite the persistence of the public sector as a politically regulated space, few explicit attempts have been made to examine how this interacts with management accounting and control practices to shape organizational strategies (Carter and Mueller, 2006 and Skærbæk and Tryggestad, 2010). The objective of this paper is to further examine this issue through a field study in a Swedish central government agency. In doing so, I extend emerging research into the formation of organizational strategies informed by institutional and critical theories. Institutional theory constitutes a useful analytical lens for understanding how regulatory pressures influence organizational strategies and has contributed to distance the conception of strategy from the conventional view as a phenomenon dominated by economic and competitive imperatives (Oliver, 1997, Ruef, 2003 and Lounsbury and Leblebici, 2004).1 As such, it complements functionalist accounts of SMA which typically trace the genesis of this concept to changes in competitive conditions (Chapman, 2005 and Langfield-Smith, 2008). Management accounting scholars have started to apply an institutional perspective in examining the adoption and implementation of SMA techniques (Granlund and Lukka, 1998, Kasperskaya, 2008 and Ma and Tayles, 2009). However, these studies have tended to treat the notion of strategy as given and separable from its enactment by organizational actors. For instance, Ma and Tayles (2009, p. 490) concluded that successful adoption of SMA techniques is contingent on “whether they fit with the organisations’ strategic agenda” and “show high relevance to the organisations’ strategic objectives” without problematizing how such agendas and objectives come into being and are transformed. Hence the process whereby the very notion of strategy is institutionalized has remained largely unexplored. Even less attention has been paid to how the institutionalization of notions of strategy through the use of management control privileges certain interests whilst subordinating and marginalizing others (Carter et al., 2010). This strips the study of strategy of critical content and implies that the process of institutionalization is seen as rather apolitical (cf. Clegg et al., 2004, Ezzamel and Willmott, 2004 and Carter et al., 2008). Whilst this is symptomatic of the general lack of dialogue between institutional and critical theories (Rahaman et al., 2004 and Cooper et al., 2008) it is problematic for a number of reasons. Most importantly, it fails to recognize how a focus on strategy formation may reify narrow, managerialist agendas and bracket their potentially detrimental consequences for wider constituencies (Clegg et al., 2004, Ezzamel and Willmott, 2008 and McKinlay et al., 2010). Mobilizing institutional theories in an unquestioning manner runs the risk of normalizing and legitimizing such changes by ignoring alternative theorizations critiquing the effects of institutionalization (Lawrence and Suddaby, 2006 and Cooper et al., 2008). The present paper advances a more critical understanding of how management control is implicated in the institutionalization of the notion of strategy. In examining the process of strategy formation I draw attention to how political regulation became intricately intertwined with the notion of strategy in the focal organization and how evolving management control practices inspired by SMA techniques, such as the balanced scorecard, mediated this process. I demonstrate how the meaning of the notion of strategy gradually became closely associated with organizational alignment with government regulation. Somewhat paradoxically, this led to the institutionalization of an increasingly restrictive view of strategic priorities generating some “unintended” outcomes with a detrimental impact on organizational practices contributing to achievement of wider social objectives. In contrast to most institutional research on management accounting, I thus explicate how evolving management control practices are not only implicated in organizational alignment with institutional pressures but also contribute to the marginalization of some constituent interests. The following section presents an analytical framework explicating how institutional and critical perspectives complement each other in examining the interplay between strategy, political regulation and management control in the public sector. The ensuing section describes the research setting and design. The case narrative then follows a largely chronological approach tracking the process of strategy formation in the field study site. A discussion of my main findings and contributions concludes the paper.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
This paper responds to recent calls for more longitudinal, qualitative inquiries into the evolution of SMA techniques in their social and organizational context (Bhimani and Langfield-Smith, 2007 and Langfield-Smith, 2008) and offers an account of how such techniques are implicated in shaping management control practices and the very meaning of the notion of strategy. Particular attention was paid to the interplay between evolving control practices and external, political regulation of public sector organizations and its influence on strategy formation. Whilst the notion of strategy has emerged as a relatively nebulous and elusive concept in contemporary public management discourse (Llewellyn and Tappin, 2003), it exercises a far from negligible influence on the definition of organizational priorities and agendas (Knights and Morgan, 1991 and Carter et al., 2010). The present study demonstrates how our understanding of such agenda-setting processes may be enhanced through the combination of institutional and critical perspectives. The emergence of more explicit strategy discourse in the SNBSA had a clear institutional pedigree in so far as it was underpinned by criticisms of the absence of explicit organizational strategies by an important actor with coercive powers (i.e. the Government) and normative advocacy of strategic performance management as a remedy to such shortcomings by other influential actors (cf. DiMaggio and Powell, 1983). The adoption of the balanced scorecard was imperative in internalizing this strategy discourse conveying a notion of long-term goal-directedness and cohesive management practices. However, the analysis of the subsequent process of strategy formation extends prior institutional research on SMA (Granlund and Lukka, 1998, Kasperskaya, 2008 and Ma and Tayles, 2009) by illuminating how the notion of strategy was re-constructed over time as a result of the intertwining of political regulation and evolving control practices. This intertwining started with the development of strategic planning and the “target maps” in response to the crisis in 2003 and gradually became more crystallized as these practices evolved over the coming years. In this process, the notion of strategy evolved from signifying a relatively broad and open-ended quest for better alignment with political regulation whilst nurturing novel practices furthering long-term objectives of social significance into a much more focused and, ultimately, short-term conception pivoting on a narrower range of regulatory priorities. Regulatory mechanisms played a key role in this regard as did the differences in leadership style of senior management. The appointment of a new Director-General in 2005 marked a clear watershed in so far as her susceptibility to emerging regulatory pressures and more direct and “orderly” leadership style contributed to narrow the scope of the strategy discourse. This development highlights how the meaning of the notion of strategy is far from given but conditioned by changing institutional pressures as well as the actions of diverse change agents. This institutional interpretation represents an essentially managerialist account pivoting on the interplay between institutions and agency whilst drawing attention to the relatively neglected role of individual leadership styles as a differentiating factor in the process of institutionalization (Washington et al., 2008). However, the extension of the analysis to incorporate more critical insights compels us to examine whether the shifts in the process of strategy formation entail some attempts to address “unintended” outcomes and how this is conditioned by normalizing processes (Knights and Morgan, 1991 and Carter et al., 2010). The initial development of the “target maps” was partly prompted by efforts to remedy certain “unintended” consequences of the early strategy formation, such as the failure to develop a widely accepted, cohesive and long-term view of the strategy of the SNBSA. At this stage the strategy discourse was sufficiently open to include local development projects initiated by actors other than senior management and broadened the conception of customer interests to incorporate wider, social aspects of organizational performance. By contrast, the propensity to address “unintended” consequences diminished as compliance with regulatory pressures became a more dominant concern and narrowed the strategy discourse and the focus of performance management over the following years. This was particularly evident in the gradual loss of impetus behind the co-localization projects as a means of furthering achievement of social objectives. What is perhaps surprising in this respect is the lack of overt objections or resistance to a development challenging the very foundations of the agency's broader, societal role. However, at this stage the ideal conception of strategy as a goal-directed and focused means of aligning the organization with political regulation was largely taken for granted, or seen as a “normal” part of management control, by broad managerial cadres. In contrast to prior studies (Ezzamel and Willmott, 2008 and Whittle and Mueller, 2010), no compelling, alternative understandings of the notion of strategy emerged and engendered resistance to the dominant strategy discourse. This is indicative of the unobtrusive power of such discourses and goes some way towards a critical understanding of the process of institutionalization as less disconnected from value-laden discourses fostering normalization (Cooper et al., 2008). This extended analysis draws attention to how political regulation influences the institutionalization of the notion of strategy and conditions conceptions of performance with potentially far-reaching implications for the interests served by organizations. Further research of this kind would seem particularly pertinent in the public sector given the incessant appeal of strategic management practices to policy-makers and managers and the recent emergence of seemingly compelling research evidence of the superior impact of goal-directed strategic planning on organizational performance (see Andrews et al., 2009b and Walker et al., 2010). A limitation of the latter studies lies in their highly aggregate conceptualizations of performance based on indicators laid down in regulatory documents constituting the very premises of organizational strategies. This reveals a glaring lack of recognition of the self-reinforcing effects of strategy discourses on organizational performance and conceals any trade-offs between conflicting constituent interests in the process of strategy formation. By contrast, the present study demonstrates how evolving strategy discourses frame the very definition of what counts as “good” performance and relevant interests and thus provides a starting point for questioning the nature of strategy as a universally benign phenomenon. Future research following such a lead should counterbalance the strongly managerialist perspective dominating emerging research on strategy in the public sector (see Boyne and Walker, 2004 and Lane and Wallis, 2009). Whilst the combination of institutional and critical theories may mitigate the risk of the former privileging such a managerialist perspective some caution is required in future research in this vein. Whereas some accounting scholars have argued for closer integration of these theories to give institutional theory a “critical edge” (Lawrence et al., 2009), others have cautioned that this implies a danger of overlooking their distinct epistemological commitments (Lounsbury, 2003 and Cooper et al., 2008). More specifically, institutional theorists have been criticised for drawing on critical writers, such as Foucault, in an inconsistent and superficial manner that simplifies the influence of the normalizing power of discourses on agency and resistance (Cooper et al., 2008). Whilst the present study did not document much overt resistance, it goes beyond the view of adverse consequences of strategy formation as a direct outcome of deliberate agency exercised by some self-interested organizational elite (cf. Lawrence and Suddaby, 2006). Rather, it illuminates how the enactment of institutionally embedded discourses as part of a seemingly innocuous task, such as that of aligning strategy and control practices with political regulation, mediated the marginalization of some interests. As such, the study adds a previously neglected, critical dimension to the emerging body of institutional research on SMA (see Ma and Tayles, 2009). However, a deeper analysis of how the combination of institutional and critical theories may challenge or modify the conservative value system underpinning the former is beyond the scope of the present paper. At the same time it is worth emphasizing that the epistemological foundations tying different communities of scholars together and conditioning what is regarded as valid or relevant knowledge claims are not static (Lukka and Modell, 2010). Neither are the boundaries between such communities always clear. Indeed, it is often difficult to distinguish between different genres of critical accounting research and separate them from broader, sociologically informed accounting scholarship (Roslender and Dillard, 2003 and Cooper and Hopper, 2007). One way of furthering more critical reflection on research findings regardless of their theoretical underpinnings is to conduct empirical research such that greater attention is paid to constituencies whose interests remain under-represented by commonly accepted theories. This study may be seen as such an attempt to give voice to interests generally silenced by institutional theory. However, it remains to be seen whether further research of this kind may foster more radical critiques leading to some modifications of the epistemology in which institutional research on accounting is embedded.