تولید دانش برای عمل در حسابداری مدیریت بخش دولتی توسط مشاوران و دانشگاهیان: یافته های اولیه و دستورالعمل ها برای تحقیقات آتی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|8776||2010||12 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||8760 کلمه|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Management Accounting Research, Volume 21, Issue 2, June 2010, Pages 83–94
This study is about knowledge creation for practice in public sector management accounting by consultants and academics. It shows that researchers emphasize the importance of practice, but worry about the prospects of a successful cross-fertilization between practice and research, because of the pressure they feel to publish in international research journals. Their contacts with consultants are limited. Consultants have limited access to academic research, because of pressures from their daily work. Knowledge created by consultants is initiated by problems coming from practice; it has to be ready-made for application in practice, and is often a combination of explicit and tacit knowledge. However, our interviews with researchers show a more diffuse picture; the knowledge created by some of them is disciplinary-driven and fundamental, whereas the research of others is more problem-driven and applied. Our study hints at two intermediary groups, i.e. consultant-researchers and consultants working in the expertise centres of their firms, both of which can potentially overcome hindrances in the communication between consultancy and research.
The public sector has been criticized during the last two decades for being insufficiently effective and efficient. New management and accounting techniques have been developed as a response to this criticism. Because market-orientedness is, for instance, considered to be important for improving the functioning of public sector organizations (Walsh, 1995, pp. 251–257; Guthrie et al., 1999, p. 20; Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2000, chapter 4; Groot and Budding, 2004), accurate information about the full costs of services is needed and this requires new techniques for output measurement and full costing. This implies that management accounting – together with other disciplines like financial reporting, auditing and management – may be expected to contribute to a better functioning of the public sector. Management accounting is a practice-oriented discipline, dealing with methods that assist managers in planning and controlling their organization (Malmi and Granlund, 2009). What methods work, and what do not work, is a question with a high relevance to practice, because it relates to what is perceived as beneficial to and by the users of management accounting methods. This also holds for questions regarding conditions for the successful implementation of those methods. Developing new techniques or approaches in the field of management accounting, or the adaptation of existing ones, are knowledge creation activities. Organizations create knowledge on their own or as part of a network of similar organizations, but they can also use knowledge created by consultants or academic researchers. The types of knowledge consultants and academics create may diverge, because consultants rely largely on their past experiences in comparable situations and academics adhere to their theories and research methods. Moreover, the way consultants and academic researchers create knowledge may also be influenced by the problems raised by practitioners. Despite their different backgrounds, consultants and academics can also influence each other in creating knowledge for practice; for instance when consultants use the outcomes of academic research, or when academics draw on insights produced by consultancy work. There are some studies on the role of either consultants or academics in knowledge creation on public sector management accounting. Christensen, 2005 and Christensen, 2006, for example, documents the prominent influence of auditing firms on the adoption of accrual accounting in the State of New South Wales, Australia. In addition, Lapsley and Oldfield (2001) show that large multinational consultancy firms are promoters of universally applicable tool kits, whereas small locally operating consultancy firms are dedicated to delivering custom-made solutions for public sector practice. Knowledge creation for practice in public sector management accounting by academics is an even less researched issue. Notable is the literature review by van Helden and Northcott (2010) which identifies the practical orientation of the research objective(s) and the practice relevance of conclusions in papers published in international research journals. As far as we know, our study is the first that simultaneously examines the roles that consultants and academics play in public sector management accounting, and their interaction.1 The problem we wish to discuss is if and in what respects knowledge creation in public sector management accounting by consultants and researchers is distinct and whether a lack of common understanding or communication between them could influence the relevance for practice of the knowledge created. In order to address this problem, we will analyse similarities and differences between consultants and researchers in the way practice influences their knowledge creation activities, in the knowledge sources they use, and in the type of knowledge they create. Moreover, we examine the ways in which they influence each other in creating knowledge. In addition to providing preliminary findings on these issues, we also suggest directions for future research. This paper not only reports interviews with consultants and academic researchers, but also interviews with consultants working part-time as academics (because they are active in ‘both worlds’), and consultants working in expertise centres of their firms (because of their role in disseminating knowledge to their colleague-consultants). All respondents are active in public sector management accounting in the Netherlands. The paper is structured as follows. First, in the next section we briefly sketch the context in which consultants and academic researchers in public sector management accounting operate. The subsequent section then develops theoretical considerations and elaborates the research questions and research methods. Next, the findings of our study are presented. The final section reflects on these findings and suggests directions for future research.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
The aim of our study has been to investigate in what respects knowledge creation in public sector management accounting by consultants and researchers differ and whether a lack of common understanding or communication between the two affects the practical relevance of the knowledge created. Table 3 and Fig. 1 summarize our findings.Table 3 shows that consultants create knowledge that is initiated by problems stemming from practice, that has to be customised for application in practice, and that is a combination of both explicit and tacit knowledge. This is in accordance with our expectations. However, our interviews with researchers show a more diverse picture; as expected, all researchers create explicit knowledge and some create knowledge that is disciplinary-driven and fundamental, but the research of others is more problem-driven and applied, which is not in accordance with our expectations. Fig. 1 shows that, as expected, consultants create knowledge in response to needs and demands from practice. However, for researchers, the influence of practice is less univocal; some deliberately use practice as a source of inspiration for their work, but mainly in order to reflect on and/or theorize about management accounting innovations in practice, while for others practice is more distant due to the pressures coming from their academic peers. The mutual influences between consultants and researchers are limited. Consultants seem to be disconnected from academic research, and some researchers are only incidentally involved in consultancy, mainly in roles that are core to their academic expertise. In many respects consultant-researchers occupy an intermediate position between consultants and researchers. Because consultants themselves do not come into direct contact with academic knowledge, we additionally interviewed consultants working in the expertise centres of their firms, which are important in selecting and disseminating knowledge coming from a broad variety of sources, including academic research.Consultants may be so occupied by their day-to-day work for clients that they do not have time to update their knowledge through contact with the broader world of knowledge creation in which academics play a major role. Furthermore, researchers who are increasingly judged by their academic peers and university administrators are confronted by a widening gap between the requirements of their academic work and what is needed in practice. Our research points to problems in the relationship between consultants and academics. However, these problems might be alleviated by consultant-researchers and consultants working in the expertise centre of their firms, as Fig. 1 shows. The combined evidence from Table 3 and Fig. 1 also indicates that explicit knowledge (i.e. tools, templates, laws and regulations) is more readily passed between the three groups, than the tacit knowledge accumulated by consultants. Such tacit knowledge relates to the implementation and application of management accounting innovations in the institutional context of government organizations. Academics tend to underutilize this tacit knowledge because it is not easily assessable; however, this type of knowledge could be helpful for understanding the causes of the often ineffective NPM and related management accounting innovations (Humphrey et al., 2005 and Lapsley, 2008). Although our study is based on only a small number of interviews, they provide a useful basis for us to reflect on the wider implications for practice. We will start with discussing the indirect and often insufficiently specific influence of research on practice, and subsequently our reflections address each of the groups of interviewees who were core to our study, i.e. consultants, researchers and consultant-researchers. First, Table 3 indicates that some academic researchers conduct research that can be directly relevant for practice, particularly applied and problem-driven research. However, in other cases academic knowledge creation can be less relevant for practice, at least in the short to medium term. Researching a fundamental problem in a discipline-driven way can provide in-depth academic knowledge of that problem. However, it does not necessarily mean that when the research findings are published the problem is an important issue for practice. Moreover, even if it is regarded as a problem in practice, the discipline-driven way it is researched could mean that the research findings do not provide clear and practical solutions to that problem. Malmi and Granlund (2009), for example, indicate that findings from academic research are often not sufficiently specific to be relevant for practice. Nevertheless, in the longer run such research findings may incite thinking through which the problem and possible solutions might become more relevant to practitioners, or the research findings may be further elaborated for practitioners and thus be of help in solving their problems. Consequently, even if academic research is not considered as relevant to practitioners when it is published, it may over time gradually acquire practical relevance. Second, because consultants are mainly influenced by what they read in professional journals and what they share with colleagues, it is important that academic researchers publish their work not only in academic journals, but also in professional journals and/or books. In this way academic knowledge can be made more accessible for practice (see also above and below). This enables consultants – and other practitioners – to be informed about academic research in their fields. Moreover, it is important that consultants are stimulated by their professional associations and their firms to regularly update their knowledge, including knowledge coming from researchers. Third, public sector management accounting researchers can contribute to improved decision making. They can do so by making their findings broadly accessible and this reinforces the importance of disseminating academic research findings to practitioners. Moreover, if academic research is practically oriented, this is expected to increase the support for this research by such stakeholders as associations of practitioners and the public at large. Following Shapiro et al. (2007) two dimensions can be used to indicate the practical orientation of research; its content and communication. The content dimension refers to the extent to which the research addresses questions which are of importance to practitioners, while the communication dimension relates to the types of media through which the research is made accessible to practitioners. Drawing on this distinction we would suggest several ways in which the practical orientation of public sector management accounting can be increased. Given that the careers of many researchers are entirely ‘academic’ – i.e. after their PhD, they teach and research in a university setting – the content of their research could become more practically oriented if they were able to take up temporarily or part-time positions in the public sector. We acknowledge that the increasing importance attached to publications in international research journals increases the opportunity costs of time spent in practice and with practitioners, but the editors of international professional and research journals could lower these opportunity costs by encouraging practice-oriented research (see also van Helden and Northcott, 2010). Moreover, in terms of the above discussed communication dimension of practical orientation, researchers should not only publish in research journals, but they should also be encouraged to make their findings accessible for a wider practitioner audience, for instance by publishing in professional journals and writing books, as well as through executive teaching. To achieve this faculty deans and other university administrators could recognize practically oriented activities as an element in academic performance evaluation systems. Finally, our research suggests an important role for consultant-researchers, who can act as mediators between research on the one hand, and consultancy and practice on the other. However, they often lack the time and opportunity to conduct research which is likely to lead to international publications. Nevertheless, through their contacts with academic researchers consultant-researchers have access to academic knowledge, which they can ‘translate’ into forms that are accessible for a practice-oriented audience. In addition, their specific consulting expertise can contribute to the formulation of practice-relevant questions for studies undertaken by academic researchers. However, these suggestions will only be fruitful if two conditions are met. First, there must be effective channels of communication between academic researchers and consultant-researchers, preferably through joint research projects. Second, the idiosyncrasies of consultant-researchers have to be acknowledged in university performance assessment procedures. More specifically, they should not be assessed simply by the number of papers they publish in international research journals (compare Gendron, 2008 and Hopwood, 2008). Our study has a number of limitations which indicate directions for future research. First, we only interviewed consultants and researchers in the Netherlands. A comparative study of other European countries could provide evidence about the country-specific roles of consultants, researchers and consultant-researchers. In particular, the profile of consultant-researchers could differ across countries. Consultant-researchers in the Netherlands are expected to facilitate the mutual communication between consultants and researchers because of their involvement in ‘both worlds’. In other countries consultant-researchers may be less research-oriented because, for instance, they are practice-relevant teachers who rely more on – what Lukka and Granlund (2002) call – ‘guru-type’ knowledge than academic research. A second limitation is that although we observed a lack of communication between consultants and academics, we did not provide evidence of how this has influenced the quality of either consultancy or academic work. Future research could explore how greater collaboration between these two groups might influence the selection of research topics and the quality of the knowledge created. In this respect, various types of collaboration can be considered, ranging from projects conducted by consultants who have access to expertise centres, via joint consultancy by academics and consultants to consultancy by consultant-researchers. Third, the influence of the international expertise centres within consultancy firms on locally created knowledge merits further research. We hinted at some of these influences when we noted that in one international consultancy firm the Dutch consultants had considerable autonomy, whereas in another they had to use internationally standardized techniques and approaches, which could be adapted to only a limited extent for the local circumstances. The factors that determine the extent to which techniques and approaches are internationally standardized within such firms could be a topic for further study. These factors may relate to the characteristics of the firms, including their strategy and scale, as well as the characteristics of the techniques; for example, whether international standard boards promote certain forms of standardization or not. A final limitation of our study is that it only explores the supply side of knowledge creation. A challenging direction for future research would be to explore the demand side. Research could address the reasons why public sector managers approach either consultants or researchers to help them solve their problems. According to Schein (1992), public sector managers are, for example, expected to prefer the advice of consultants when they have practical and technical problems and academics when they face problems caused by incoherent values internally (at an individual level) or externally (at an environmental level). In addition to an exploration of these assumptions, further research could also examine the extent to which different types of knowledge provided by either consultants or researchers can be beneficial to organizations in various situations. Despite these limitations, our study has provided some preliminary findings on the similarities and differences in knowledge creation by consultants and academic researchers in the field of public sector management accounting. Our research points particularly to a lack of communication between consultants and academics, which can imply that research findings are not effectively used in practice. Such communication could be improved through collaborative work between academics and consultants, and by involving consultant-researchers and consultants in the expertise centres of consultancy firms in researching and disseminating public sector management accounting innovations.