مقابله با عدم قطعیت در شرکت های دانش بنیان: نقش سیستم های کنترل مدیریت به عنوان مکانیزم یکپارچه سازی دانش
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|16252||2014||21 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Accounting, Organizations and Society, Volume 29, Issues 3–4, April–May 2004, Pages 401–421
Little research on knowledge-intensive firms has focused specifically on management control issues. This paper aims to consider such issues. Starting from the limitations of the definition of uncertainty, especially when applied to contexts characterised by knowledge intensity, this study investigates the relationship between knowledge complexity and management control systems. This relationship is analysed in the realm of knowledge-intensive firms' teams where it is particularly critical due to the double coordination and knowledge integration role played by management control systems. A field research conducted in three project teams of a software firm supports the relevance of knowledge complexity in explaining the variation of management control systems. The paper concludes with some avenues for future research.
The understanding of how a firm can manage knowledge is an issue that has received increasing attention in both theory and practice over the past ten years: on the one hand, we have seen the emergence of the knowledge-based theory of the firm, on the basis of which, knowledge and the capability to create and utilise such knowledge are the most important sources of competitive advantage (Prahalad and Hamel, 1990, Nelson, 1991, Henderson and Cockburn, 1994, Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995, Boland and Tenkasi, 1995, Grant, 1996a, Grant, 1996b, Kogut and Zander, 1996 and Nonaka et al., 2000); on the other hand, there has been an attempt to define knowledge-intensive firms and explain their organizational and management features (Bernardi and Warglien, 1989, Greenwood et al., 1990, Hinings et al., 1991, Starbuck, 1992, Winch and Schneider, 1993, Alvesson, 1993a, Alvesson, 1993b, Alvesson, 1995, Alvesson, 2000 and Nurmi, 1998). In general terms, knowledge-intensive firms refer to those firms that provide intangible solutions to customer problems by using mainly the knowledge of their individuals. Typical examples of these companies are law and accounting firms, management, engineering and computer consultancy organizations, and research centres. The category overlaps with the concept of professional service firms, but is broader, and does not focus on the features ascribed to a typical profession, such as a code of ethics, a strong professional association, monopolization of a particular market through the regulation of entry and so on (Raelin, 1985). In this paper I will discuss some central aspects of the management control systems1 of this kind of organizations. To date contributions on both knowledge-intensive firms and management control systems have almost completely neglected this issue. The literature on knowledge-intensive firms has focused mainly on the reasons for, and consequences of, the distinctiveness of this type of firms from other kinds of organizations and has mostly devoted its attention to the more obtrusive mechanisms of management such as the professional control of tasks, culturally based forms of co-ordination, and ideological modes of control (e.g. Smigel, 1963, Alvesson, 1993a, Alvesson, 1993b, Alvesson, 1995, Abernethy and Stoelwinder, 1995, Cooper et al., 1996, Dirsmith et al., 1997, Montagna, 1968 and Morris and Empson, 1998). Management control mechanisms have not been explicitly addressed in the relevant contributions on the topic (Alvesson, 1995) or even have been considered, under certain conditions, counterproductive (Raelin, 1985, Nelson, 1988, Van Maanen and Kunda, 1989, Alvesson, 1993a and Alvesson, 1993b). Much of the management control thinking has concentrated its attention on the specifics of control systems design in manufacturing settings, where the activities are considered to be well suited to the use of such mechanisms. Only recently, has some attention been devoted to understanding their role in other contexts where the tasks differ substantially from the physical production of goods and are likely to include some tasks which are relatively extreme in terms of task uncertainty, as in knowledge-intensive firms. Some instances of the contributions included in this stream of research refer to the design of control systems in research and development organizational units (Abernethy and Brownell, 1997, Birnberg, 1988, Brownell, 1985, Hayes, 1977, Kamm, 1980, Rockness and Shields, 1984 and Rockness and Shields, 1988)2 and the use of these mechanisms in product innovation projects (Koga and Davila, 1998, Nixon, 1998 and Davila, 2000).3 Yet, the evidence contained in these contributions is still sparse, and that which does exist is mixed. One of the possible explanations of the contradictory results reported in these earlier contributions may be related to both the variables that have been used to describe uncertainty and the role assigned to management control systems. The concept of uncertainty adopted in the management accounting literature mainly refers to either Perrow's model of technology and structure (Perrow, 1970)-which considers task analysability and the number of exceptions as the relevant dimensions of analysis-or “the difference between the amount of information required to perform a task and the amount of information already possessed by the organization” (Galbraith, 1973, p. 5) (e.g. Hirst, 1981, Rockness and Shields, 1984, Abernethy and Brownell, 1997 and Davila, 2000). Yet, more recent contributions, mainly in the organization field of research, have enlarged the meaning and extension of this concept by including new dimensions in its definition, like for example the nature of the knowledge used to carry out a specific task (Mintzberg, 1979, Williamson, 1985, Williamson, 1993 and Grandori, 1997). Therefore, in this study, these additional dimensions are incorporated into the analysis of knowledge-intensive firms and the nature of uncertainty is assumed to be much more complex and fine-grained than the traditional models allow. Uncertainty is seen as being related to the specific characteristics of the knowledge applied to work activities and determining the way in which knowledge is transferred and controlled. As a consequence, the understanding of its impact on management control systems needs to be further explored. In addition, this paper, in contrast to previous contributions in the literature, assumes that one of the relevant roles of management control systems is to coordinate activities by integrating different sources of knowledge expertise instead of simply to either supply information to deal with uncertainty (e.g. Khandwalla, 1972, Gordon and Narayanan, 1984, Simons, 1987 and Davila, 2000) or to reduce goal divergence (Ouchi, 1979 and Vancil, 1979). This alternative perspective may help re-interpret the existing contradictory empirical results related to the control of activities characterized by different levels of uncertainty. Given these premises, the objective of this paper is to develop a conceptual model of the role of management control systems in knowledge-intensive firms by considering a new variable that expresses the level of uncertainty, here called knowledge complexity. More specifically, the aim is to analyse the way in which knowledge complexity affects coordination and knowledge integration and, in turn, management control systems. The relationships of these variables are examined in the realm of knowledge-intensive firms' teams (considered as the level of analysis), where the greatest problems of consistency between the coordination and knowledge integration modes occur. In this way this study addresses the issues associated with the manner in which uncertainty is defined and provides a more complete understanding of how knowledge activities are controlled and integrated. Based on a review of the literature on management control systems, the likely influences of the type of uncertainty on the use of different control mechanisms are explored. For this purpose we consider a wide range of tools available for co-ordinating knowledge-intensive activities by examining the use of result, action and personnel/cultural controls (Merchant, 1985). The present contribution has a number of different purposes. The general aim is to advance the understanding of knowledge-intensive firms by analysing the contingency features of the management control systems of their teams. In addition, by introducing a new variable (knowledge complexity), new insights concerning the relationship between uncertainty and management control systems are provided. Finally, because the knowledge-intensive setting is neither particularly well understood, nor extensively researched in the field of management accounting, exploratory case studies are used to illustrate the arguments. The remainder of the paper is organized into four sections. First, drawing together existing strands of research on knowledge-based organizations and on knowledge in organizations, the relevance of knowledge integration and the role of teams in knowledge-intensive firms are presented. Second, by means of a brief review of the relevant prior research, the revised concept of uncertainty and its implications for the design of management control systems are illustrated. Third, the methodology and data analysis are described and the results shown. The last section is dedicated to presenting conclusions and an agenda for future research.