حسابداری مدیریت: مسائل در تفسیر ماهیت و تغییر آن
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|10279||2007||25 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Management Accounting Research, Volume 18, Issue 2, June 2007, Pages 125–149
Studies in the area of management accounting change have proliferated in the past few years. It seems then time for systematizing the analysis of management accounting change along some key dimensions which can prompt some further reflection. This paper proposes to organize such reflection along these dimensions: the agents and object of change; the forms and ratio of change; the space and time of change; and the interplay between change and stability. This systematization, the paper argues, will help us to relate a reflection on the process of change with the nature of management accounting itself. Studying change entails a reflection on what changes and studying what changes implies a reflection on the nature of management accounting and its ability to become what is not, i.e. its change
“I definitely agree we need to improve our processes of integration within [MEGOC], we shall communicate better and engage more effectively in day-to-day operations … at present, despite the six common strategic imperatives, each business line is a kingdom on its own, we know that … However, I have heard we are introducing a new system called Balanced Scorecard that run within the SAP's platform [MEGOC's Enterprise Resource Planning system] and allows us to monitor the achievement of our strategic imperatives along four different perspectives of analysis. Let's see what it is like, and its impact on the job as I wouldn’t like to change my existing working practices because someone on the Board has fallen in love with the flavour of the month during a training course in London …” (Operating Manager). Middle-East Gas and Oil Company (MEGOC) is a large corporation operating in the oil and gas industry. The company is owned by the national government and the revenues generated constitute a large part of the GDP of that country.1 In 2002, following a call from the government for companies to take some action to improve the local economy and increase the revenue generated for the country, MEGOC's executive management board redefined the strategic direction of the company “to significantly increase its contribution to the country's revenue needs and […] consistently promote the development of the local economy” (MEGOC's mission statement). One of the concerns evoked by MEGOC's operating manager relates to whether change is good to have or should be resisted. He also questions the novelty of the proposed new technical solution, the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) in this case, asking whether it is the result of transitory fads and fashions or of more profound reflections on effective organizational needs for such a new system, and on its effects on the corporation and its employees. The quote reported above and the brief description which followed it are illustrative of many of the themes that the literature on management accounting change has been addressing in these last few years, and that we also intend to recall and systematize in this paper, which opens the second Management Accounting Research Special Issue on Management Accounting Change. In doing so we believe that the first building block of our systematizing effort concerns the issue of what and who drives management accounting change and whether this is some hidden structural force, some clear individual agency, an opaque combination of the two or even something else. The operating manager rightly evokes ideals which are often mobilized for prompting change: ‘integration’ (see Busco et al., 2006, Dechow and Mouritsen, 2005 and Hansen and Mouritsen, 1999), various ‘imperatives’ and slogans (see Quattrone and Hopper, 2001, Quattrone and Hopper, 2005 and Quattrone and Hopper, 2006), and so forth. Are these the drivers of change? Are they the result of broader environmental, contextual and institutional forces (see, for instance, Baines and Langfield-Smith, 2003 and Carmona et al., 1998) or the product of individual visions which are translated into the framing attempt of the Balanced Scorecard (see Bloomfield and Vurdubakis, 1997)? Addressing these issues and offering some material for reflection is the first building block of the systematization we intend to offer in this piece (see Fig. 1).2 Full-size image (6 K) Fig. 1. Issues in interpreting management accounting change and stability. Figure options The second set of questions that the opening quote poses concerns the process through which these ideas and management accounting innovations travel and become successful (see, for instance, Lapsley and Wright, 2004). The quote calls for interpreting their ability to attract hordes of practitioners who more or less genuinely believe that the latest innovation is able to solve a problem, make financial transactions more transparent, hold employees more accountable, and making the corporation more integrated (among a plethora of many other hopes and myths). How are management accounting techniques able to spread and become practiced (Quattrone, 2006)? How do they manage to engage practitioners who are driven by different and sometimes opposing agendas? How do they manage to instil hope (of solving a problem, be it at the personal level of the manager or at the institutional level of the organization) in the perspective user? All of this is still quite obscure. It seems to us that a greater understanding of the process through which this happens (the How) can provide an understanding of Why this happens for it is also in how the management accounting solution is evoked and then performed, rather than only in the content it seeks to convey, that an understanding of successful management accounting practices can be gained. This is the second speculation we intend to provoke in the debate on management accounting change. Establishing a link between How and Why management accounting practices spread across organizations, economies and societies is not without consequences. Going back to the opening quote, we could be led to believe, with the operating manager, that the decision to implement the Balanced Scorecard was taken by some senior executive on a course in a prestigious business school in the UK. That senior executive would have seen the BSC as a knowledge package easily transportable from cold Britain to hot Middle-East. If this were the case (and indeed most consulting products are underpinned by that assumption), we would see a separation between the senior executive as agent (i.e. the subject of change—the active Who on the left hand side of Fig. 1) and the management accounting technique (i.e. the object of change—the What on the right hand side of Fig. 1). Agency thus would either be in the individual or in the context as driving forces of change. However, our operating manager is smarter and thus does not buy this simple story and the whole process of management accounting change at MEGOC is more complex than a linear evolution from MEGOC ‘without’ and ‘with’ the Balanced Scorecard. We do not witness a diffusion of a given practice across space and time, but its translation, i.e. a process by which the aim, nature and goal of the management accounting innovations are constantly shifted, mediated and renegotiated: management accounting change always entails a difference, a movement, a variation, in the nature of what is subject to change.3 If we were to think though that this translation stopped at some point in time (even for a nanosecond, see the arguments in Quattrone and Hopper, 2006) we would be back to the issue of recognizing that we have agents separated from the object of change. Thus, linking How management accounting changes (through a process of translation) to Why this happens implies a serious ontological question which concerns how to conceptualize the nature of management accounting, i.e. What is subject to (or object of) change. Indeed, the question can be also re-phrased in this way: if the process of translation necessarily needs to be thought as continuous, thus management accounting is never stabilized, for we would otherwise fall into a reification of subjects and object of change (with a clear move towards stabilization), how can this constant movement be combined with the apparent stability of these managerial practices? Yet, assuming that management accounting innovations stabilize and gain a certain degree of functionalism would limit the possibilities for these innovations to spread and diffuse. In other words, if budgeting is seen and theoretically conceived as something related to planning and operational control it would not be used (and theorized) as something instead related to organizational politics: its possibility of spreading will be limited and we would be editing a special issue on management accounting stability rather than change (see, on this matter, Granlund, 2001). Indeed this is a theoretical conundrum for, on the one hand, Balanced Scorecard, Six-Sigma, Activity Based Costing and the alike must appear quite concrete, stable, functional and homogeneous management solutions if they manage to mobilize millions of euros, dollars, pounds, etc., and if corporations are ready to invest considerable resources in consulting to have them implemented to the joy of consulting firms. On the other hand though, research shows how these are instead so fluid, unstable and heterogeneous that it would appear miraculous to find the same management accounting technique implemented in different organizations in the same manner, with the same range of problems and implementation patterns. Furthermore, they rarely solve the problems for which they were initially mobilized. However, despite all of this, they are successful if by that one means that they manage to diffuse across the globe, industries and sectors of the economy. These questions, in our view, concern the nature of management accounting practices and systems and thus call for a reflection on their nature, i.e. their ontology.4 Rather than looking for something ‘else’, something which is contextual to the practice that is object of change or related to the action of specific individuals (certainly legitimate paths of inquiry already successfully explored), we want to reflect on a different level which may prove equally fruitful. It seems to us that in the very nature of management accounting (and of accounting tout court) there are already some elements for understanding how accounting has the tendency to become what is not (Hopwood, 1987, p. 207). This thus prompts a reflection on the What is object of change (and whether this relates in some way to the identity of those involved in the process of change, the Who; but we will debate this aspect later). This leads to the fourth point of reflection we want to offer to the reader of this paper, that is, Where and When this change happens (and who is there to observe it). The initial quote and the other illustrative anecdotes we will use from the MEGOC experience are yet again insightful. What the operating manager is telling us is that change may happen in specific spatial and temporal niches, so it may have begun somewhere but not somewhere else. It may have begun in the mind of the senior executive but not yet in the department he works in or even in the whole corporation (‘every division is a kingdom on its own’). This will lead our reflection on a methodological plane. There the matter concerns those who are observing processes of management accounting change and whether in understanding these processes it is important to observe the phenomenon or instead speculate on the theoretical development which such observation may inspires rather than drive. What we have described may be a call, we will argue, to develop an understanding of the multiplicity of the nature of management accounting systems which makes them appear always different but inevitably the same (Burns and Scapens, 2000, quoting Lanza Tomasi di Lampedusa's The Leopard). And thus the last set of issues we will address are those of Change and Stability and how this dichotomy can be overcome, i.e. how they may coexist and thus how these categories are somewhat useless and in need of urgent replacement. Before providing a more conventional introduction to the papers in this Special Issue (see Section 7), we will debate issues of management accounting change along the lines represented in Fig. 1 (Sections 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6). This will constitute the structure of the paper and the flow of the arguments; but we recognize that these matters are never sequential and always intrinsically related to each other. In summary, this paper has grander aims than simply introducing the contributions in this special issue. However, we only aim to provide some possible directions for systematizing issues concerning change, in general, and management accounting change, in particular, and thus our contribution to the debate is more methodological and systematic that content driven. This will hopefully help clarify the choice of the papers included in this Issue and their contribution to the understanding of the process of management accounting systems change, as well as the gaps which are left open for further research and speculation. In order to make these complex and abstract issues intelligible we have decided to use MEGOC as an illustrative case, to which we will refer throughout the reminder of the paper