بازیگر، شبکه ها و اشاعه نواوری های حسابداری مدیریت: بررسی تطبیقی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|10282||2008||17 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Management Accounting Research, Volume 19, Issue 1, March 2008, Pages 1–17
This research is concerned with the diffusion of management accounting innovations viewed as a process of actor-network building and translation. The aim is to better understand the nature of accounting change. Using Actor-Network Theory (ANT), we analyze two innovations that have had different fates in France. These innovations are the Georges Perrin method (GPM) and Activity-Based Costing (ABC). We are particularly concerned with the dynamic of actor-networks throughout the diffusion processes of these innovations. We show how problematization, interessement, enrolment and mobilization take many, and often very surprising, forms for diffusion to occur
A large proportion of managerial and scientific publications deal with the diffusion of innovation (Rogers, 1995). According to Wolfe (1994), organizational innovation research can be classified into three distinct streams. Diffusion of innovation tries to determine the innovation's diffusion curve over time and to identify the factors explaining its shape. Organizational innovativeness is concerned with what makes an organization innovative. Process theory deals with the stages through which an organization passes during the innovation's implementation process. This article pertains to the diffusion of innovation research. It addresses questions such as: How can we understand the difference in diffusion of management accounting innovations? How can we distinguish success from failure? Do the explanations for diffusion balance those for non-diffusion? A large number of studies with a positivist and determinist approach are concerned with the diffusion of innovation. However, the concepts and frameworks used by most of this type of research are not easily transposed to the study of managerial innovations (Lundblad, 2003). Moreover, positivist research in management (accounting) often chooses to ignore power struggles, as well as rationalities other than technical ones, which are likely to greatly influence the diffusion of new practices (Baxter and Chua, 2003). These limits lead us towards alternative research in management accounting. Baxter and Chua (2003) identify seven different research perspectives that lie outside the main stream. This article follows the line of “Latourian” research.1 This stream of research is concerned with the fabrication of management accounting technologies through the following of actor-networks. Unforeseeable interactions between human and non-human actors are central to this type of analysis. In this view, accounting innovations diffuse because they translate the changing and transitory interests of various groups of actors who are looking to maintain their position and influence within organizations and society. Actors use accounting innovations to manufacture “inscriptions” (i.e. figures and numbers which become “facts”, see Robson, 1992) and manipulate them to serve their interests. Following Actor-Network Theory (ANT), we take as an axiom that an innovation's technical characteristics are not sufficient to explain the “success” or “failure” of its diffusion (Latour, 1987, p. 258). Moreover, the notions of success and failure are problematic within this epistemological stance. Within the diffusion process, we are particularly concerned with the dynamic and interactions of actor-networks, i.e. the arguments network members decide (or not) to use to promote the innovation and successfully interest and enroll other actors. The diffusion of the Georges Perrin Method (GPM) and Activity-Based Costing (ABC) in France provide two illustrative stories for comparison. The remainder of this article is organized as follows. Section 2 presents the main concepts of ANT and sets out a review of management accounting research using this framework. Sections 3 and 4 describe the dynamic of actor-networks in the diffusion of GPM and ABC. A discussion of these two stories follows in Section
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
What lessons can we draw from the comparison of the two symmetrical stories – one of “success”, one of “failure” – of ABC and GPM diffusion in France? This paper contributes to the debate about accounting change and suggests four distinctive lessons. Generally speaking, our work endorses the arguments put forward by alternative management accounting research on change, although we do not directly address the ontology of this concept as Quattrone and Hopper (2001) do. According to these arguments, change in accounting is neither necessarily linear nor foreseeable (Baxter and Chua, 2003). In our socio-constructivist vision, change is rather a drift of practices (Quattrone and Hopper, 2001) that move in time and space along the interactions of a multitude of actors. As both stories show, change in accounting is not pre-determined but made of several forward and backward moves and of rhetorical reformulations. As Quattrone (2004) suggests, it is actors’ practices that construct the idea of stability and change. Members of the ABC network tried to construct the idea that their innovation constituted a change vis-à-vis existing French practices embodied in the Sections Homogènes. On the other hand, counteractors argued that ABC's principles were cast into a certain Historical stability. This controversy was settled once ABC was translated into another idea of change on the ground of new practices (i.e. process management and cross-functionality) and embodied into ABM. Besides this contribution to the accounting change debate, it is possible to draw four original lessons based on the four moments that constitute translation, i.e. problematization, interessement, enrolment and mobilization. First, problematization is not just technical but may also refer to such lofty ideals as the defense of the Nation (Jones and Dugdale, 2002). The solution proposed (the innovation) may even sound like a new enlightenment of managerial practices. But this depends on the actors’ ability to enroll ideals that are not already embodied into other competing innovations (anti-programs) that have already achieved the status of black boxes. In the case of GPM, the ideals that Perrin tried to enroll were already part of (more) powerful networks supporting the Sections Homogènes and Direct Costing. However, in the 1980s, it was yet again possible to enroll these ideals as they were once again spotlighted by the diagnosis of the industrial crisis in western countries. The ABC network took advantage of this to enroll such ideals as the defense of the Nation, at the expense of the Sections Homogènes. At the same time, the GPM network tried to give a new impetus to its diffusion, not trying to enroll any ideals but by simply relying on a technical comparison with ABC. This phenomenon is partly similar to the one observed by Jones and Dugdale (2002). As in France, ABC was proposed in the USA as a solution to the problems encountered by manufacturing companies facing a new competitive environment. However, our two stories go further as they reflect a more complex situation. Three networks competed at different moments in time for the problematization of their innovation. This comparison brought to light exclusion phenomena. Whereas Direct Costing and the Sections Homogènes co-existed peacefully (Zimnovitch, 1997), GPM did not survive competition with these two. Yet such phenomena are temporary and reversible, as clearly shown by ABC's struggle with the Sections Homogènes. This makes the notions of accounting change, stability and progress even less definitive. Finally, this comparative study enabled us to take into account power relations between various innovations instead of considering them one by one as if they were diffusing in a vacuum (Quattrone and Hopper, 2005). Second, various interessement modalities explicitly stand out in our two stories. Interessement can be commercial (an innovation to sell), political (a response to national challenges), editorial (a topic to publish on), intellectual (a concept to teach and to research) or career enhancing (a distinctive expertise for professional managers). Yet for a managerial innovation to “successfully” diffuse, it seems necessary to have a diversity of interessement modalities that combine and overlap so as to give one another mutual support as shown by the ABC story. The microcosm of interessement modalities must meet the macrocosm of society: commercial interessement alone is not sufficient for an innovation to diffuse, as shown by the GPM story. In the case of GPM, interessement modalities were in fact purely commercial and did not permit allies other than consulting firms to be enrolled. In the more recent renewal of interest for GPM, one can note the intellectual interest of some academics in this method. The only message Georges Perrin conveyed to the potential allies of his time was that GPM would be a source of consulting missions. He did not succeed in developing political interessement as explained in the previous point. The case of ABC is more complex. This innovation was used by a handful of academics to “reform” the management accounting field in France: a field that had scarcely been called into question since 1947 (Lebas, 1994a). Promoters and opponents found in ABC an opportunity for confrontation. There was also, for consultants and software publishers, an obvious shared commercial interest in promoting the diffusion of this innovation. However, French consultants were also enrolled into the ABC network through intellectual interessement (some of them did their Ph.D. dissertations on this topic). Similarly, young academics saw in ABC a good subject for publication at a time where publication pressure became an inescapable “reality” for French academics. Third, as Briers and Chua (2001) already mentioned, the question of characterizing “successful” and “not-successful” accounting change remains. Enrolment seems to be the key concept when addressing this issue. This question refers to the elaboration of an alternative to the positivist “diffusion rate” measure for assessing the success or failure of innovations. Our research leads us to propose an alternative perspective (rather than an alternative measure) to the concept of success/failure in itself, based on ANT concepts. Attention should not be focused on the concept of success/failure but on the description of the network that supports the innovation, i.e. the enrolment of human and non-human actors, allies and spokespersons. Success and failure are only rhetorical constructions of the network: the rule is not that, once the machine works, people will be convinced, but that “the machine will work when all the relevant people are convinced” (Latour, 1987, p. 10). Network characteristics are the ever-evolving product of a series of translations that follow trials of strength. It is interesting to note that, of the two innovations we have studied, the one that did not diffuse is also the one that was supported by a single champion: GPM. Georges Perrin, on his own, did not succeed in promoting his method; on the contrary, ABC was supported by a variety of actors enrolled in its network. Following Briers and Chua (2001), we can notice that success and failure “is a fragile construction that turns on the strength of diverse ties tying together many heterogeneous elements”. However, since faith is not a tangible criterion, we should try to assess the characteristics of the actor-networks that support the innovation, aside from the success/failure rhetoric produced by its members. Fourth, this research explored how local controversies interfere with globalization and hamper the standardization/homogenization process of management accounting practices. Literature on globalization, as Baxter and Chua (2003) emphasize, is a fertile ground for alternative research because it encourages us to see management accounting as a set of practices that is deeply involved in complex processes of interpenetration between organizations and society. But little is known about the ways in which management accounting systems move in time and space. Does diffusion inevitably lead to the homogenization of management accounting practices (Granlund and Lukka, 1998)? How far does the local context offer resistance to these phenomena? How do local controversies, such as the one between ABC and the French Sections Homogènes method, affect practices? From an ANT point of view, time/space movements and translations are linked. There cannot be movements (drifts) without some adaptation/translation and vice versa. Hence, any diffusion in time and space is a paradox as its outcome is both homogenization and heterogenization of practices. For example, our story about ABC showed that France and the USA used the same concepts called ABC and ABM even though they did not correspond exactly to the same practices. ABC's importation from the USA to France (a movement in time and space) gave rise to multiple double translations of its concepts (translation in the sense of ANT and from English to French). In turn, these multiple translations gave birth to specific practices (Mévellec, 1993). For its part, GPM remained uniform over time although changes in its name could lead us to believe that the method was evolving. Paradoxically, it was because GPM was not the subject of controversies – which would have driven the networks supporting it to adapt it – that it did not diffuse and did not become global. This leads us to raise the following question: can a method that remains uniform become global? Why is it a paradox to be homogeneous and heterogeneous at the same time? In fact, it may well be that the homogeneous/heterogeneous dichotomy is not appropriate. Like the previous dichotomies (success/failure and stability/change), the focus should be on the actor-network and the practices of its members. It is the network's actors that construct the notions of homogenization and heterogenization through their practices. Some parts of the network are identical, whereas others are different, so that it is hard to tell whether the whole is heterogeneous or homogeneous. It is the rhetorical activity of the network's members that, in the end, enables us to decide. Finally, this paper suggests some future avenues for research. Thus Baxter and Chua (2003, p. 109) ask whether the diffusion of an accounting practice may be achieved in a decontextualized way once it is incorporated into an IT package. Our case studies show complex situations where the local is able to resist the global, even when the innovations are carried in IT software. The role of non-human actors such as IT software could be the subject of more in-depth research. For instance, to what extent do ERP tools lead to uniformisation of management control practices? We may also raise the question: what is the relevance of studying the diffusion of accounting technologies on a national level whenever heterogeneity is strong within one country? Likewise, what about adaptation and deployment of an innovation such as ABC within subsidiaries of a multinational company?