حسابداری و استراتژیسازی : یک مطالعه موردی از توسعه محصول جدید
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|2756||2010||21 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Accounting, Organizations and Society, Volume 35, Issue 2, February 2010, Pages 184–204
This paper explores the relationship between accounting and strategy in a context that is characterised by pluralistic demands and high uncertainty about outcomes. By way of an ethnographic field study in an R&D intensive company, we analyse new product development (NPD) projects and the way in which decisions and practices concerning these projects are accounted for. Building upon a practice theory perspective, we find that actors account for the appropriateness of NPD practices not only or primarily on the basis of accounting information, but also by “strategising”, i.e. by mobilising different strategic objectives to which these practices are supposed to contribute. We argue that this has to do with the ambiguous demands on NPD and the limits of calculability inherent in NPD design decisions. At the same time, accounting information is not necessarily irrelevant in such a case; it can enter the picture as a general understanding that guides actors’ strategising efforts by reminding them of the ultimate importance of financial numbers.
The way in which accounting information relates to strategy is a question that has been repeatedly addressed in accounting literature (see Langfield-Smith, 1997, Chapman, 2005 and Henri, 2006). The dominant approach to this issue has been to take the contingency route, i.e. to examine the fit between the type of accounting information and the type of strategy (see Chapman, 1997). While contingency studies conceptualise accounting and strategy as static concepts, a case study approach offers the possibility to address the dynamic interactions between accounting and strategy over time (Langfield-Smith, 1997). It has recently been suggested that a more detailed examination of this dynamic relationship between accounting and strategy is needed Chapman, 2005, Chua, 2007 and Chua, 2007, for example, calls for a rediscovery of accounting and strategy as “contingent, lived verbs rather than abstract nouns”. This call resonates with recent developments in strategy literature, in which an increased concern for the micro-dynamics of strategy-making can be observed (see Jarzabkowski et al., 2007 and Whittington, 2006). Instead of discussing “strategy”, these authors have adopted the notion of “strategising” as a shortcut for the various activities through which rather abstract strategic ideas or objectives are interpreted and enacted by organisational members who, in turn, shape and develop these ideas. Combining this concern for strategising with a concern for the everyday practice of accounting (see Tomkins & Groves, 1983) seems promising in many respects. A focus on “strategy-accounting talk” (Chua, 2007, p. 492) allows, for example, discussion of how accounting is weaved into strategic considerations and debates as well as how accounting concepts, such as “profit” or “cost”, are mobilised when crafting strategy. It also makes it possible to examine to which extent strategising is, in itself, a form of accounting (in the broad sense of this term; see Garfinkel, 1967) that may complement, or even replace, the reliance on accounting representations. In this paper, we follow this call and seek to bring to the fore some of the complexities and nuances in this relationship between accounting and strategising by considering an empirical setting that is characterised by pluralistic demands and high uncertainty about outcomes. We examine new product development (NPD) projects and the way in which decisions and practices concerning these projects are accounted for. NPD arguably constitutes an interesting setting for the study of accounting and strategising because of the particular characteristics of NPD practices. NPD practices tend to be rather complex in terms of their demands and uncertain in terms of their outcomes. Complexity results from pluralistic requirements within the development process, and it increases with the number and diversity of organisational members that contribute to this process in one way or another. Uncertainty results from the limited controllability of the outcome-input relationship and tends to increase with the time–space distance between the actions taken in NPD and the consequences of these actions. As a consequence of the complex and uncertain setting, one can expect a relatively high degree of ambiguity in the evaluation of NPD practices. Often, there is not “one best way” NPD should be performed, but rather a range of possible options that are acceptable to the relevant parties. This, in turn, suggests that there may be limits to the usefulness and applicability of those forms of accounting that neatly specify what is right and wrong. The alleged precision and objectivity of accounting numbers may be of little value in a setting where a plurality of interpretations is not only possible but also warranted. Nevertheless, there is likely to be a need for some form of accounting in such a case. For, ultimately, decisions need to be made and actions must be coordinated. Rather than relying only or primarily on accounting representations, organisations may resort to other types of accounts which allow goals, decisions and actions to be selected and justified ( Ahrens, 1996 and Garfinkel, 1967). The enactment of strategic objectives is a case in point. Strategic objectives may be mobilised together with accounting information to make sense of particular design choices or action alternatives and to control the trajectory of the NPD process. How this happens, and to which extent accounting information is implicated in such processes of strategising, shall be the focus of this paper. To this end, we apply a practice theory perspective (Ahrens & Chapman, 2007; cf. Schatzki, Knorr Cetina, & von Savigny, 2001), which is helpful in picturing accounting practice as forming a nexus with a wider set of NPD practices. According to such perspective, NPD practices can be regarded as “spaces of intelligibility” (Schatzki, 2005, p. 470) against the background of which other practices (such as accounting) become meaningful. We investigate how accounting is practised in the context of new product development by mobilising findings from an ethnographic field study of an R&D intensive manufacturing company. This company had implemented a number of change projects, e.g. “the SAP project”, “the Lean project” and “the Procurement project”, in the recent past. At the time of our study, another major change initiative was underway: a switch from integral to modular products. This move to modularity was a strategic reorientation that considerably affected the company’s NPD practices. What is of particular interest to us is that modularity was promoted in the name of several different strategic imperatives. The sometimes competing strategic demands added to the complexity of the NPD process and increased the ambiguity of evaluating the appropriateness of NPD solutions. This particular setting not only motivates an inquiry into the role of accounting information; it also creates visibility into the way strategic imperatives were mobilised within the NPD process. As such, our case invites a reflection upon both accounting and strategising, and upon the ways in which these two sets of activities relate to each other in a setting characterised by pluralistic demands and uncertain outcomes. While our paper is not the first case study to address the relationship between accounting and strategy (see, e.g., Dent, 1991 and Roberts, 1990), we contribute to the existing literature by detailing the continuous process of strategising and the role of accounting therein. More specifically, we highlight challenges for accounting and strategising that may emerge in a pluralistic and uncertain setting such as that of NPD, and we explain how our case company dealt with these challenges. On the one hand, we demonstrate how accounting information can be used to frame the strategising process, both as specific rules that top management can enact at certain critical points in time and as a general understanding that helps actors from different functional practices to make competing or even conflicting ends meet. Accounting is not the only practice that shapes the strategising process, but when it is enacted as rules and general understanding (see Schatzki, 1996 and Schatzki, 2002), it becomes a powerful means that allows managers to move forward despite high degrees of complexity and uncertainty. On the other hand, we also demonstrate how strategising may become a way to complement reliance on accounting information. The representational limits of accounting in a pluralistic and uncertain context are less likely to be contested if accounting information can be combined with a more hands-on approach to control that relies on mobilising strategic arguments. We show how such processes of strategising are promoted by top management but rely upon the local knowledge of managers and engineers and their efforts to coordinate themselves horizontally. By considering the role of accounting in NPD practices, we also, and more specifically, contribute to the existing accounting literature dedicated to this particular subset of organisational practices. Most of the existing literature in this area has taken the contingency route, i.e. it has studied the fit between forms of accounting information and characteristics of NPD or R&D practices (e.g. Rockness and Shields, 1984, Abernethy and Brownell, 1997 and Davila, 2000). While these contingency studies have drawn attention to the complexity and uncertainty of NPD projects, as outlined above, they have studied the use of accounting information in such a setting mainly from a distance.2 Using a positivistic methodology (see Ahrens & Chapman, 2006), they have focused on what kind of accounting information is used with what effects, while abstracting from the question of how accounting is actually practised in the context of new product development. Hence, while the findings of these studies have moved the debate on accounting for new product development forward, there remains a worrying lack of knowledge of what it actually means to practise accounting in new product development and how other types of accounts may complement accounting representations in such a setting. With our paper, we seek to partly fill this gap. To develop our argumentation, we first lay out the theoretical concepts that we mobilise in our case discussion. Thereafter, we explain the research design and methodology. This is followed by the case findings, which are subsequently discussed. The paper concludes with some implications for further research.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Accounting information is enacted as part of an accountability relation (Ahrens, 1996). Accountabilities can be diverse, especially in pluralistic settings (Denis et al., 2007 and Sinclair, 1995). As a consequence, the role and relevance of accounting information becomes intelligible only against the background of its interaction with other types of accounts. In a sense, this is in line with contingency approaches to NPD, which have tried to link the relevance of accounting information to different types of strategy and uncertainty (Davila, 2000). However, as our case shows, it may not (or at least not only) be the content of strategy that mediates the usefulness of accounting information; it may also be the way in which, and the extent to which, strategic ideas are mobilised that co-determine the relative importance of accounting numbers. This can be an important message for contingency approaches to the topic, which tend to take strategy as a “black box” (Chua, 2007) rather than considering the “strategising” efforts of actors. As illustrated in this paper, practice theory offers a useful vocabulary to illuminate these processes of strategising and the way they relate to the use of accounting information. While our paper has brought to the fore some of the complexities and nuances in the relationship between accounting and strategising, there is clearly scope for more research in this area. It seems especially worthwhile to examine in more detail how accounting tools and concepts contribute to the process of crafting strategies and to which extent strategies are pre-configured by the existence or non-existence of such tools. Similarly, the possible “competition” between accounting representations and strategic ideas is a promising area of research. Since it is not always possible to unambiguously translate strategic objectives (relating, for example, to quality or customer satisfaction) into the language of accounting, the question arises to which extent organisational actors refer to either of them when evaluating alternative courses of action. Accounting is a powerful practice, but it is at the same time only one among many activities within an organisation. To study accounting in the contexts in which operates (Hopwood, 1983) implies examining the ways in which accounting relates to, and intersects with, other types of activities, such as strategising or marketing. An increased examination of such intersections would not only be worthwhile for accounting researchers but is also likely to increase the interest of other disciplines in the outputs of accounting research.