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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Management Accounting Research, Volume 16, Issue 1, March 2005, Pages 1–20
Most changes in accounting are the direct or indirect consequences of diffusion processes. A study of how management accounting innovations are being adjusted and bundled together with other ideas to facilitate entry into new markets may help us to a better understanding of the popularity and adoption of management accounting practices. The present study looks at the communication, diffusion and transformation of the balanced scorecard (BSC) in Sweden from a supply side perspective. The high interpretative viability [Benders and van Veen, 2001. What's in a Fashion? Interpretative viability and management fashions. Organization 8 (1), 33–53] of the BSC allows for different interpretations and uses of the concept that could potentially increase the supply side effect in the diffusion process, e.g. by including elements that reduce barriers and resistance to change. We have identified three elements that the propagators of the BSC include in their Swedish BSC package, in order to make the innovation more attractive to a potential Swedish adopter market.
Over the last 10–15 years a number of new ideas have been introduced in the field of management accounting. Concepts such as Activity Based Costing (ABC), Activity Based Management (ABM), Target Costing, Strategic Cost Management and Economic Value Added (EVA™) are now part of material regularly included in standard textbooks (e.g. Horngren et al., 1999), and have also been gradually introduced into practice. New concepts are given acronyms and have acquired trademarks that are used actively to sell them to new groups. This means that in the seeking to increase our understanding of management accounting practice, researchers should abandon their almost exclusive emphasis on studying the demand for management accounting innovations, by paying attention also to the purposeful and active position of those engaged in propagating innovations to potential adopters, that is to say by increasing research activities focusing on the supply of management accounting innovations. The research described below belongs to this second category. An interesting feature in the development of management accounting practices is that they seem to converge within the industrialised areas of the world (Granlund and Lukka, 1998). This seems to apply, particularly, to new ideas in management accounting. Concepts such as ABC are no longer an Anglo-American phenomenon, but are widely used in Germany and Japan, for example. We may well ask, therefore, if we are moving towards a total harmonisation of the unregulated area of accounting. The harmonisation of management accounting practice is a result of a number of different diffusion processes that are attracting increasing attention in management accounting research (Bjørnenak, 1997; Clarke et al., 1999; Gosselin, 1997a and Gosselin, 1997b; Malmi, 1999). In this paper we focus on the diffusion of a particular innovation, namely the balanced scorecard (BSC). In a series of publications Kaplan and Norton, 1992, Kaplan and Norton, 1993, Kaplan and Norton, 1996a, Kaplan and Norton, 1996b and Kaplan and Norton, 2001 have presented the basic ideas underlying this concept. These authors also discuss why companies demand the BSC, what it can be used for and how it should be implemented. The development of the BSC has clearly been inductive, and the presentation of cases is thus crucial to the overall argument here. To a certain extent the concept has developed dynamically, in that elements in its content have changed between the time when the BSC was introduced in 1992 and its more widely known presentation in 1996 (Kaplan and Norton, 1996b). Since the concept is so closely associated with this latter publication, we have chosen for the purpose of our paper to refer to this particular presentation the “original BSC package”. The BSC appears to have been a global success, and has attracted widespread interest also in Sweden. A study of major Swedish companies found that 27% of those included had already implemented the BSC (Kald and Nilsson, 2000). If we include the companies that say they expect to have the BSC within 2 years, the share rises to 61%. Considering that the BSC was only introduced in 1992, this must be seen as an extremely rapid and effective spread of a management accounting innovation. This successful introduction of a US-based innovation may be attributed at least partly to the way the BSC idea has been communicated in Sweden. This paper focusses not on the BSC per se, but on the way the BSC concept has been communicated in Sweden. By looking at the way the propagators of the BSC communicate their message, we try to find out how other management ideas in Sweden are linked to the original US-based BSC package. The ideas linked to the original BSC package are referred to in this study as elements of the Swedish BSC packages. Thus, we are not trying to identify a single Swedish version of BSC in Swedish companies; we are seeking to describe specific characteristics of the way the BSC messages are being communicated to potential adopters in Sweden. More specifically, the purpose of this study is: • To explore the way the BSC is communicated to potential adopters in Sweden. • To identify the origin of the elements that are linked to the BSC in the communication process. • To discuss and analyse the role that these elements play in the diffusion process. The study is thus clearly inductive in the sense that we extract the elements from studies of observations of how the BSC is communicated to potential adopters. However, we also try to link these observations to diffusion theory, in general, and to theories about the importance of interpretative viability (Benders and van Veen, 2001). The remainder of the paper is divided into four parts. The next of these presents the theoretical framework of the study. We then discuss the research method, i.e. how the elements of the Swedish BSC package were identified. The fourth section presents the three elements and their origin in greater detail. Finally, in Section 5, we present some preliminary conclusions and some ideas for further research
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
The empirical findings in this study show that the original BSC presented by Kaplan and Norton has been supplemented with other administrative innovations and adapted to the existing business culture to form a potentially more attractive set of elements. This bundling of the BSC with other ideas can be seen as a fashion-setting process that affects the diffusion of the BSC in Sweden. Drawing on work concerned with the diffusion of innovations, Abrahamson (1996, p. 257) defines fashion-setting processes as: “… the process by which management fashion setters continuously redefine both theirs and fashion followers’ collective beliefs about which management techniques lead rational management progress.” The communication structure of the BSC in Sweden exhibits obvious features of the fashion-setting process described by Abrahamson. The fashion-setters in our case are primarily consultancy firms, early adopters and accounting academics. In order to redefine the fashion-followers’ beliefs about what the BSC is and how it can be used, the fashion-setters actively transform the original BSC package into a “new” set of elements. Two of these elements are management techniques that are claimed as leading to management progress. First, Svenska Handelsbanken has shown itself able to outperform other banks with their non-budget management control system. Secondly, Skandia has achieved a worldwide reputation for their IC model. Integrating these two elements with the original BSC model can be regarded as an important instrument for promoting the diffusion of the BSC in Sweden. This transformation route is also part of a wider adaptation process whereby the BSC is not only integrated with other fashionable management techniques, but also adapted to the Swedish stakeholder business culture. One example is the way the IC model is used to legitimise the need for the employee perspective in the BSC model. The combination of stakeholder adaptation and bundling the BSC with other techniques may thus represent an important tool for reinforcing the diffusion process. The bundling process is described in Fig. 3.5.1. Interpretative viability and barriers to change Administrative innovations, such as the BSC, are often open to multiple interpretations. They do not offer clear-cut recipes for managers, but are often characterized by a clever mixture of simplicity and ambiguity (Kieser, 1997). This “interpretative viability” may be used opportunistically to increase the size of the potential market: “A concept's promises make it attractive to apply, while its ambiguity means that (potential) users can eclectically select those elements that appeal to them, or that they interpret as the fashion's core idea, or that they opportunistically select as suitable for their purposes.” Benders and van Veen (2001, pp. 37–38) While Benders and van Veen and others focus on the opportunistic behaviour of potential adopters, we have shown in our study that the interpretative viability may be used by the supply side of the diffusion process to gain popularity for a new concept. We do not have much empirical evidence of adopters actually replacing the budget by a BSC model, and in fact, Svenska Handelsbanken did not do so. Thus, it is not only the ambiguity of the BSC model per se that is being used opportunistically, but also the uncertainty related to non-budget management. The critique of the budget seems to be widely accepted, but not the solutions to the problems. The BSC is introduced as the new tool to regain the relevance of management control systems. Barriers to change are significant factors in diffusion processes. One such barrier is distance. The degree to which a transferred idea is adapted depends among other things on the distance between the sender and the recipient, the degree of abstraction of the original idea and whether the transfer is guided by the supply side or the demand side (Lillrank, 1995). The distance between recipient and sender is not necessarily measured in physical terms. Technological development makes this factor increasingly less important. Cultural, linguistic and mental distances can be far more influential. Other types of barriers can be cultural, arising, for example, because shareholder models are being introduced into a stakeholder economy. Kaplan and Norton (1996b, p. 36) clearly state that the BSC model is a shareholder model, not a stakeholder model, pointing out that the shareholder perspective and shareholder values are always placed on top of BSC figures and BSC reports. This does not apply to the typical Swedish presentation. In SKF, an important Swedish BSC adopter, the employee perspective came at the top of the report. The supply side's frequent use of public sector examples is another example of how interpretative viability is used to avoid the stakeholder conflict. 5.2. Further research According to Westphal et al. (1996), the adoption of administrative innovations should be recognized as continuous rather then discrete occurrences. This seems to apply particularly to the BSC. Adoption rates and quantitative studies of the diffusion of the BSC in different parts of the world may thus be misleading. Instead researchers should unbundle the BSC package and study how the different elements are transformed, communicated and opportunistically incorporated into the adopted models of BSC. This has been an exploratory study. It has focused solely on one management accounting innovation and its diffusion process. In order pursue the subject further; the following questions could usefully be addressed: • How important is distance – cultural, linguistic or human – in the bundling and diffusion of management accounting innovations? • How important are individual features of management accounting innovations in the diffusion process? For example, are there differences in the way the BSC and Activity Based Costing are diffused? In more general terms, are there differences in the diffusion of administrative or technical innovations? • Why are innovations bundled differently? Is it a coincidence or a planned “market” strategy? This study has shown the importance of focussing on the supply side in understanding the diffusion of management accounting innovations. To a great extent the transformation and adaptation of innovations are processes driven by supply side actors. A further examination of diffusion processes relating to the interpretative viability of management accounting innovations emphasising the opportunistic use of this viability, should thus be a fruitful way forward.