نقش ساختار و سازمان در تغییر کنترل حسابداری مدیریت یک شرکت متعلق به خانواده : مطالعه یک مورد از یونان
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|10314||2013||12 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Volume 24, Issue 1, February 2013, Pages 62–73
This study seeks to understand the changes in management accounting controls in a large Greek company (pseudonym: FA), with a focus on understanding the role of structure and agency in this change. In order to do this, we have employed a critical realist philosophy, pioneered by Roy Bhaskar (Bhaskar, 1979; 1997). We believe that the empirics of the case, the time span under consideration, and our theoretical approach provide us with a unique opportunity to explore the role of structure and agency in changing management accounting controls within the case firm. Our analysis revealed that changes in management control practices in FA were a function of different interacting structural conditions as mediated through human agency. This paper contributes to the debate about how to conceptualise agency and structure in management accounting control change (Kilfoyle and Richardson, 2011). Our analysis also demonstrates that the ‘dualism’ approach to agency and structure will result in a better analysis of management accounting control changes within firms.
This study seeks to understand the changes to management accounting controls in a family-owned business in Greece. The paper conducts an in-depth investigation into the case of FA (here anonymised), a Greek dairy company, as it has been transformed from a small family-run firm to one of the biggest companies in Greece. Little or nothing is known about management accounting controls in Greek companies. Previous studies in Greece have been based solely on descriptive research (Ballas and Venieris, 1996 and Venieris and Cohen, 2004). So far, case study evidence on management accounting control change has been drawn largely from Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian countries (Shields, 1997, Burns and Vaivio, 2001, Laitinen, 2001 and Granlund, 2001) and there are very few case studies that focus exclusively on management accounting change in family-owned companies1 (Amat et al., 1994 and Uddin, 2009). The importance of family firms in the economies of both the developed and the developing countries has been extensively discussed in the literature (Corbetta, 1995, Poza, 1995 and Astrachan and Shanker, 2003). In Greece, 80% of businesses are family owned (Kostea, 2003). These firms are located across different industries, and are central to the economic development of Greece and other European countries. Indeed, in most European countries, including Greece, it has been reported that family-owned companies contribute a significant amount to the country's GDP (Corbetta, 1995 and Tsamenyi et al., 2008). Nonetheless, there has been a noticeable lack of research on management accounting in family firms (Tsamenyi et al., 2008). The Greek economy and politics, like those of many other European countries, have undergone major political and economic changes, especially during the 1980s, such as the structural adjustment programmes and joining the European Economic Community (EEC). Unique features of family-owned companies, such as succession, usually bring additional but significant dimensions, especially in the context of changing environments (Louis and Simon, 1989). This paper offers insights into how a family-owned company copes with the new reforms and how these changes affect management accounting controls. Many studies have been devoted to understanding changes in management accounting by drawing insights from various theoretical perspectives (e.g., Burns and Scapens, 2000) in different settings. This paper is in line with Busco et al.’s (2007) call for further reflections on management accounting change. Different conceptualisations and the role of structure and agency in explaining social change have been a topic of great interest to all social science disciplines, and accounting is no exception (Kakkuri-Knuuttila et al., 2008). Accounting researchers have recognised the importance of theoretical schemes that incorporate both structural and agential aspects of social life (Kilfoyle and Richardson, 2011), and some have argued for adopting the ‘duality’ approach suggested by Giddens (1984) (Macintosh and Scapens, 1990 and Englund and Gerdin, 2011). However, this paper, in attempting to contribute to the structure-agency debate in accounting literature, takes the ‘dualism’ approach, giving due consideration, ontologically and epistemologically, to both structure and agency by using the critical realist philosophy pioneered by Bhaskar (1979, 1997). The paper is structured as follows. First, previous research on management accounting changes and the theoretical constructs underpinning the research are discussed. Then research methods are described, followed by a brief section on the socio-economic history of Greece. The case study is presented next: the first part presents the nature of the controls during the early periods followed by the first attempt at management accounting changes; then, there is a discussion of the second attempt at changing the controls. The final section discusses the empirical findings with theoretical constructs and provides some concluding remarks.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
The above empirical sections have demonstrated that FA's managerial practices and procedures are influenced by the ethos of the founder/owner-managers since the inception. During the early period, management accounting controls, albeit informal in nature, were driven by the CFO, one of the managers most trusted by the father. The first attempt at making changes to controls resulted in a centralised but informal budgeting system. The owner-managers (especially the sons) expected to see modern management controls including delegated budgetary controls driven by market information, a new costing system and a formal performance measurement system. This was, to a large extent, achieved at the second attempt. The paper aims to provide theoretical explanations of changes to controls (both attempts) at FA from a critical realist perspective. In accordance with the spirit of critical realism, it is important to understand is the structural conditions within which the agents are operating (Archer, 1995, p. 196; Sayer, 1992; p. 95). The case study describes the changes in structural conditions within the firm as well as changes in the larger structural landscape within which the firm was operating. Greece's entry into the EEC and the changed economic policies of the state reflected a change in the larger structural landscape. Thus, it can be argued that this change in structural conditions ‘pushed’ the owner-managers to make efforts to bring about changes in the management accounting control practices. However, inside the firm, the structural matrix had its own dynamics and pressures. In the case of FA, the previous CFO was in a powerful position having gained the trust of the father over the years. The continuation of the same management control system was a testament to how indispensable he was to the father and how much trust the father placed in him. This situation obviously frustrated other managers, as trust is a relational issue and, as such, a zero sum game (Armstrong, 1989). Any change in the management control practices, especially one where there would be more integration with other departments, meant the increased involvement of other managers in controlling the affairs of the organisation, thus losing the CFO's position of trust. In the changed economic climate, when the CPO had gained a degree of importance in the firm due to playing an active role in the new product development, the threat of losing trust (hence the position) loomed even larger. The structural conditions inside the organisation thus ‘pushed’ the CFO to try and ensure that the management accounting control practices remained unaltered. According to critical realism, while structures may push agents in certain directions, it is the agents who eventually have to act. Structure does not force agents; it simply assigns differential price tags to different courses of action (Archer, 1995; p. 253). Agency becomes even more important when agents are involved in several structural matrices which push them in different directions. In the case of FA, the previous CFO acted according to the pressure of the structure, thus trying to retain the status quo. Thus, he carefully deployed his strategy of stalling the real changes to management control practices, such as delegated budgetary control systems. Nevertheless, some changes to the accounting systems had to be made due to the requirements of the GGCA Plan. To the previous CFO, any change beyond the statutory boundary was an unnecessary complication. As far as the owner-managers were concerned, on the one hand, they were facing the structural pressures of changed product markets, and the economic and political policies of the state. This changed competitive scenario encouraged them to ask their senior managers to effect changes in the management control practices of the firm. On the other hand, their (especially the father's) relationship with CFO was marked with ‘trust’. This unique structural condition meant that they adopted a strategy where they asked the CFO to bring about changes in the management accounting control practices. However, eventually they settled for the minimal changes that he implemented. The role of agency becomes even clearer when we consider the second episode of change. There was no major structural change within the organisation as such. Positions within the firm and their powers and liabilities remained the same; changes in the wider structural environment were also not significant. While the product market became more demanding, the difference was not as significant as had been the case in 1981. However, in this instance, new incumbents (agents) had moved into previously powerful positions. The structural pressure which had previously been ignored by their father was perceived by the two sons altogether differently; to them, changes in the firm's management control practices were necessary for FA to compete in the new economic age. The new CFO was brought in to implement change; indeed, ‘change’ was the mandate of his position. He had to gain the trust of the owners (now the sons) by giving them what they wanted—a control mechanism through which they could manage the professionals running their family firm. In accordance with the demands of the structural pressures, he implemented expected changes to management control practices. The CFO, in consultation with other functional managers, created a budgeting system that had clearly assigned targets for the year ahead for all functional heads and all departments. This became a very handy control tool for the functional heads and owners to manage the organisation. There were three to four meetings scheduled during the year, in which the performance of the functional heads and subordinates against the targets was reviewed. The system enabled the owners to control the management more efficiently, i.e., with less time involvement and the CFO thus gained the trust of the owners by giving them a management control mechanism that was efficient and effective. For managers, gaining the trust of the owner frequently results in gaining perks, privileges and power. This clearly seems to be the case with FA, where the owners have given the new CFO more powers in managing the affairs of the company including the performance assessment of employees belonging to different functional areas. The other managers have had to conform to this situation and comply with the wishes of the CFO. The paper argues that the emergence of a new management accounting control system that facilitates the somewhat formal controls at FA must be seen in the context of structural conditions and strategies of agents. This is particularly useful when we conceptualise the structure and agents and their interactions from a critical realist perspective. The critical realist conceptions of and the analytical distinctions between structure and agents shed light on some important aspects of the management accounting control change as presented below. First, the changes in the management accounting control practices were not a function of changes in the structural conditions alone. While the changed structural conditions did play a role in terms of ‘pressing’ agents to act in a certain manner, these pressures were not hydraulic. These structural conditions were subjectively weighed by the agents who were occupying structural positions. It is important to note that the subjective weighing was not done by ‘economically rational agents’ using economic calculus alone (Archer, 1995; p. 253). On the contrary, these conditions were weighed by agents using multiple and at times conflicting interpretive frames. For example, the father in the position of capitalist was facing the structural demands of a changed competitive environment and, at the same time, was being influenced by the relationship of trust that existed between him and the previous CFO. The course of action that he eventually took was a function of the relative importance that he attached to these somewhat conflicting structural pressures and his taken-for-granted ‘beliefs’ about the style of management (i.e., interactive vs. hands off). In contrast, the same structural conditions were weighed by the sons altogether differently. Second, in the agential interpretation, freedom is not unbridled, as is assumed by interpretive management accounting control research (Boland, 1993 and Mouritsen, 1999). While the agents had the freedom to interpret these structural conditions differently, this freedom had its limits. For example, none of the owners (i.e., father or sons) could remain unconcerned regarding the extraction of value or a reduction in the competitiveness of the firm, and this affected the basic design of the management accounting controls. On the other hand, at times, the structural pressures were such that room for agential interpretation was almost non-existent. For example, when the GGCA was made mandatory in 1987, FA managers had no choice but to implement this accounting change. Third, the role of different structural constraints and ideas and the changes therein in influencing the agency of actors is also very prominent in the case study (Sayer, 1992; p. 95). Over the years, business schools and accounting associations have generated new sets of normative ideals in the next generation of business managers in Greece, thus creating a new idea of management. Like anywhere else, this involves new management control practices, such as modern budgetary control techniques, new costing methods and new performance measurement systems (Makridakis et al., 1997 and Angelakis et al., 2010). The new breed of owners was also immersed in this new idea of management, fabricated by a nexus of business schools, professional management associations, large multinational corporations and management consulting firms. The role of the state in promoting this modern management style is also very visible in the case study, for example, the imposition of mandatory GGCA requirements (Dimaggio and Powell, 1983). Agents, while reflecting on the structural pressures, were also influenced by the new ideas prevalent in the field. The different values that the sons and father attached to the same structural pressures are reflective of the effect of the changed ideas on the agency of actors. Thus, it is not surprising that the father and the two sons have different ideas of management styles reflected in FA. We believe that the space that realist theory accords to ‘purposeful’ and ‘autonomous’ actors helps capture the nuances of changes. In our case, for example, agential powers in terms of designing and executing projects (e.g., the CFO's plan of stalling the changes) have helped us explain better how and why the management accounting controls took a particular form and shape within FA. However, the case empirics also suggest that the agents’ ‘autonomy’ was not complete and absolute as they were also immersed in prevalent institutions, and this had an effect on their subjective weighing of structural pressures (Archer, 2003). Finally, while the ‘dualism’ approach to structure and agency, and hence critical realism, can prove very insightful in explaining the changes in the management accounting controls of FA, we believe that its explanatory purchase can be enhanced tremendously if used in conjunction with Archer's most recent work (within the critical realist tradition) on human agency and the morphogenetic approach (Mutch, 2005, p. 783; Leca and Naccache, 2006). The following question arises: How is it that, in a shared institutional environment, some appear to be the instigators of change? In FA's case, differences between the new CFO and other top managers, and the CPO's innovativeness require deeper explanations of their agencies. Archer's work (2003) on agents’ reflexivity10 provides deeper analyses of agency in direct critique of the poverty of the rational actor model (Archer, 2000). These forms of reflexivity are shaped by the interplay between ‘context’ (that is, the social situation) and ‘concerns’ (that is, the personal concerns of agents) (Mutch, 2007). In our case, several questions demand further and more in-depth examination, such as why the previous CFO failed to see through his personal project or survive in the new conditions, why and how the new CFO has been able to employ the necessary social skills (as many interviewees reported) to implement the new system, and why and how he has become a powerful actor in FA. In order to do this, the authors would have needed to have a more in-depth account from the key agents, such as the sons, the father, and the two CFOs. Resources and time precluded the authors from gaining this empirical knowledge. Nonetheless, future research into agential influence on management accounting control change, focusing on Archer's idea of an agent's reflexivity, would considerably improve the stock of knowledge in this area. We thus feel that our research makes a strong case for applying critical realism with Archer's notions of reflexivity to provide a better explanation of management accounting control change.