اطلاعات حسابداری و کار مدیریتی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|10123||2010||15 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Accounting, Organizations and Society, Volume 35, Issue 3, April 2010, Pages 301–315
Despite calls to link management accounting more closely to management (Jonsson, 1998), much is still to be learned about the role of accounting information in managerial work. This lack of progress stems partly from a failure to incorporate in research efforts the findings regarding the nature of managerial work, as well as inadequate attention devoted to the detailed practices through which accounting information is actually used by managers in their work. In this paper I draw on prior research to develop a series of propositions focused on three primary insights into how and why managers use accounting information in their work. First, managers primarily use accounting information to develop knowledge of their work environment rather than as an input into specific decision-making scenarios. In this role, accounting information can help managers to develop knowledge to prepare for unknown future decisions and activities. Second, as accounting information is just one part of the wider information set that managers use to perform their work, it is imperative to consider its strengths and weaknesses not in isolation but relative to other sources of information at a manager’s disposal. Third, as managers interact with information and other managers utilising primarily verbal forms of communication, it is through talk rather than through written reports that accounting information becomes implicated in managerial work. These insights have important implications for how managers use accounting information, and, in particular, require reconsideration of the types accounting information that managers find, or could find, helpful. The paper also considers how existing experimental and field-based methods could fruitfully be adapted to focus on the detailed activities through which managers engage with accounting information. Despite calls to link management accounting more closely to management (Jonsson, 1998), much is still to be learned about the role of accounting information in managerial work. For what purposes do managers use accounting information beyond its role in specific decision-making scenarios? With many other information sources on offer, what is it about accounting information that managers find helpful? How exactly is accounting information used by managers in discussions and debates with subordinates and other managers? Over 10 years ago, Jonsson (1998) exclaimed in the title of his paper the need to “relate management accounting research to managerial work!” Despite Jonsson’s (1998) fervent arguments, future research has generated few studies directed towards understanding how managers engage with accounting information in their work. Much management accounting research has been focused on how managers use accounting information to make decisions in well-defined scenarios. Although managers do make decisions, and many of these are undoubtedly important, empirical investigations of what managers actually do show that decision-making is only a relatively small part of managerial work and sometimes not that critical (for example, see Hales, 1986, Kotter, 1982, Mintzberg, 1973, Stewart, 1988 and Whiteley, 1985). In addition, much managerial work involves addressing problems that involve turbulence, doubt, uncertainty, and the potential for significant error (Hales, 1986, Isenberg, 1984, Kotter, 1982 and Landau and Stout, 1979). As such, a strong focus on how managers use accounting information to make specific decisions in well-defined contexts is restrictive as it limits consideration of other, potentially much more important, ways that managers use accounting information in their work. There is also much to learn about how managers engage with accounting information because there are remarkably few studies of what information managers actually use or might use (Anderson, 2008 and March, 1986). In particular, prior studies have devoted inadequate attention to the detailed practices through which accounting information is used by managers in their work (Ahrens and Chapman, 2007 and Hopwood, 1989). Studies that focus on organisational-level issues only are limited because they are typically based upon assumptions about, rather than a detailed investigation of, managerial work behaviour (Covaleski et al., 2003 and Hall, 2008a). What is often missing from these organisational accounts is an analysis of the detailed ways in which managers use accounting information to perform particular activities. Three studies in particular exemplify the kinds of insights that can be generated from inquiries directed more closely at examining how managers engage with accounting information (McKinnon and Bruns, 1992, Preston, 1986 and Simon et al., 1954). Although best known for its typology of score-keeping, attention directing and problem solving, the Simon et al. (1954) study provides considerable evidence concerning how different types of managers used (or did not use) accounting information. Preston (1986) examined how managers in a plastics factory engaged in what he termed “the process of informing”, which involved the use of accounting information as well as other more informal sources such as observations, personal record keeping and meetings. He concluded that informal sources of information are used in spite of, rather than because of, limitations to formal documented systems as they are intrinsic to how managers go about making sense of their worlds. Similarly, although across a wider scope of managers and organisations, McKinnon and Bruns (1992) investigated how a variety of production, sales and finance managers used accounting and other information in their work. The resulting confluence of information that managers developed from many different sources they referred to as an “information mosaic”. In addition to the rich empirical findings, what is particularly illuminating about these studies is that rather than assume particular roles for accounting information, they sought to investigate if a role exists and what it might be. Simon et al. (1954, p. 22) examined the “use (or non-use) of accounting data by operating executives and supervisors”. Preston (1986, p. 522), beginning with a focus on the use of a computerised production information system, broadened his inquiry to investigate “how the managers informed themselves and each other”. McKinnon and Bruns (1992, p. 2) asked “under what circumstances is information that we think of as accounting information actually used by managers?” (italics in original). The phrases “or non-use”, “how”, and “actually used” demonstrate that the researchers at least considered the possibility that managers may not use accounting information, that its role may be limited, or that new roles and possibilities for accounting information may emerge. In these studies there are few assumptions regarding the ways in which managers use accounting information; the studies themselves are an attempt to find out what these roles, if any, may be. All three studies also examine in considerable detail how managers engaged with accounting information as part of a process involving other sources of information, other managers, and the wider organisational context. The studies were not solely concerned with how accounting information was used for decision-making purposes, nor were they focused only on how accounting information was implicated in wider organisational processes. These three studies show how managers draw upon a range of different resources, such as accounting information, other sources of information, and interactions with other managers, to perform their complex and demanding work. The objective of this paper is to examine, and encourage further research to examine, how and why managers use accounting information. Although insightful, collectively, prior studies of what managers actually do with accounting information lack integration and conceptual clarity such that common themes and issues have not been developed. Drawing on prior research, I develop a series of propositions focused on three primary insights into how and why managers use accounting information in their work. First, managers primarily use accounting information to develop knowledge of their work environment rather than as an input into specific decision-making scenarios. In this role, accounting information can help managers to develop knowledge to prepare for unknown future decisions and activities (March, 1986 and Preston, 1986). Importantly, in a knowledge development role, rather than complex and sophisticated reports and analyses, managers require accounting information that is easily understandable and provides a common-sense story of organisational performance. Second, as accounting information is just one part of the wider information set that managers use to perform their work (McKinnon and Bruns, 1992 and Preston, 1986), it is imperative to consider its strengths and weaknesses not in isolation but relative to other sources of information at a manager’s disposal. In particular, and in contrast to traditional criticisms of accounting, the strengths of accounting information relate to its aggregation properties and its role as a common, financial language to facilitate communication among managers. Third, managers interact with information and other managers utilising primarily verbal forms of communication (Ahrens, 1997, Jonsson, 1998, Kotter, 1982, McKinnon and Bruns, 1992 and Preston, 1986). As such, it is primarily through talk rather than through written reports that accounting information becomes implicated in managerial work. In particular, verbal forms of communication allow managers to tailor accounting information to specific operational concerns, and provide a context to debate and discuss the meanings and implications of accounting data. Accounting information can also prompt discussions by signalling the need to investigate an issue further. Overall, incorporation of findings regarding how managers actually work has important implications for their use of accounting information, and, in particular, requires reconsideration of the types accounting information that managers find, or could find, helpful. This perspective on accounting information and managerial work also has implications for research methods. Most generally, there is a need for research to examine the specific activities through which managers engage with accounting information in their work. To achieve this, existing experimental and field-based approaches can fruitfully be adapted. In the context of experiments, a process-based approach (Swieringa and Weick, 1982 and Vygotsky, 1978) can be used to focus more directly on how managers engage with accounting information in performing particular activities. In the context of field studies, a stronger focus on examining the micro-practices (Alac and Hutchins, 2004 and Hutchins, 1995) involved in managers’ use of accounting information can improve our understanding of how managers engage with accounting information in their work. The remainder of the paper is structured in five sections: the first section examines the role of accounting information in developing knowledge of the work environment. The second section considers accounting information as part of a manager’s wider information set. The third section explores the relation between accounting information and forms of communication. Each of these three sections analyses the results from prior research and concludes with a set of propositions. The fourth section outlines the implications for research methods. The fifth section concludes the paper.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
In this paper I outlined an approach to the study of accounting information and managerial work that explicitly incorporates prior research on how managers work and how they use accounting and other forms of information. This approach focuses on the role of accounting information in developing managers’ knowledge of the work environment, appreciation of how accounting information interacts with and relates to other information that managers use, and a stronger focus on the ways in which managers use accounting information in verbal communications and discussions. I examined the implications of this approach for the types of accounting information that managers find, or could find, helpful in their work, as well as consideration of how existing research methods could fruitfully be adapted to focus on the detailed activities through which managers engage with accounting information. Although few researchers have heeded Jonsson’s (1998) call to action, this paucity of studies provides much scope for future research to develop our understanding of how and why managers use accounting information. The first and most immediate implication of this approach is to broaden the scope of inquiry into what constitutes research on accounting information and managerial work. The approach requires explicit examination of different roles for accounting information in managerial work (e.g., developing knowledge of the work environment), of other forms of information and their interaction with accounting information, and of the variety of ways in which accounting information can be communicated, particularly through verbal discussions. Given criticisms that accounting research is too rigid and cautious (Hopwood, 2007), an expanded research focus is important in encouraging investigations that consider the emergence of new roles and possibilities for accounting, as well as reconsideration of our existing conceptions of what accounting is and is used for. A broader scope of inquiry will require much greater engagement with on-going research in related fields, such as studies of how managers use information (e.g., Anderson, 2008), research that examines how information is communicated in organisations (e.g., Nelson, 2001), as well as studies of changes to the nature of managerial work itself (e.g., Tengblad, 2006). In addition to enriching our own research, a likely benefit of this engagement is increased interest in the outputs of accounting research from scholars in other disciplines whose research also seeks to understand how managers use information in organisations. As productive conversations between accounting and other researchers have been limited (e.g., Chenhall, 2008), increasing interest is important if accounting research and practice is to play a more influential role in management research and management more generally. The second implication of this approach is to incorporate a much stronger relative perspective to the study of accounting information and managerial work. As argued earlier, much management accounting research tends to focus on how managers use accounting information only, whereas studies of what managers do show that they rely on a wide variety of information sources in their work. This has important implications for several fields of inquiry in management accounting research. For example, when we investigate how the use of accounting information is contingent upon different tasks, structures, cultures and environments (Chenhall, 2003), we should also examine how other sources of information affect the use of accounting information in managerial work. When we investigate reliance on accounting performance measures (Hartmann, 2000), we should examine how accounting and other sources of information are used to make performance evaluation judgements. And when we investigate the relationship between accounting information and strategy, we should examine how accounting and other types of accounts and rationalities are used by managers in strategising (e.g., Jørgensen & Messner, 2010). A stronger relative perspective provides researchers with the opportunity to develop theory that focuses more directly on accounting’s potentially unique role in managerial work in comparison to other sources of information in organisations. For example, I propose that the translation of operational activities into a single, financial dimension, in comparison to other sources of information, is the most unique and helpful feature of accounting information for managerial work. However, the validity of this and other expectations about the unique advantages of accounting can only be discovered by incorporating an analysis of other sources of information into management accounting studies. In this way, researchers can developed better theories about the potentially unique features of accounting information that managers find or could find helpful. The third implication of this approach is to focus more on how managers actually work with accounting information and less on its technical characteristics. As argued earlier, many recent developments in accounting (e.g., balanced scorecard, causal performance maps, activity-based costing) are directed towards making accounting information a more complete description of organisational activities. The approach advanced in this paper, however, indicates that such developments are somewhat misplaced as they give inadequate attention to managerial (in contrast to accounting) beliefs about the quality and relevance of information. From this perspective, accounting information is helpful for managers when it enables them to do things, when it is mobilised as a resource for action (Ahrens & Chapman, 2007). This indicates that judgements about the quality and relevance of accounting information should relate primarily to whether it helps managers to carry out their work and less to whether it adequately describes underlying organisational activities. As such, although technical improvements to the design of accounting information are important, they are somewhat secondary to consideration of how managers draw on accounting information to get things done. The fourth and final implication of the approach outlined in this paper is the potential for much greater engagement between researchers and practitioners. Accounting research, and management research more generally, has been criticised for becoming far too removed from the practices and activities it seeks to investigate and illuminate (Hopwood, 2007, Johnson et al., 2003 and Mintzberg, 1982). The specific areas for future investigation as outlined in the propositions, as well as a greater focus on process-based experimental studies and micro-practices in field studies, are collectively directed at much closer engagement with what managers do (and do not do) with accounting information in their work. Such an approach is likely to increase managers’ interest in the outputs of accounting research as the research agenda more closely matches “the lived worlds of organisational actors” (Johnson et al., 2003, p. 15). The approach is also likely to increase the likelihood of managers engaging in the research process itself, whether as subjects in process-based experiments and/or as participants in field studies. Furthermore, greater engagement with managers is likely to help researchers to become aware more quickly of changes to the way in which managers use accounting information, and thus respond more effectively “to the shifting nature of the world of practice” (Hopwood, 2007, p. 1370). In an environment of increasing disconnection between researchers and practitioners, this is important if accounting research is to influence more strongly the practice of accounting itself. In particular, researchers can develop new accounting techniques, and make refinements to existing techniques, based on a more nuanced and pertinent understanding of how and why managers do and/or might use accounting information in their work.