On the interface between strategy and management accounting : four essays

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School of Business | Doctoral thesis (article-based) | Defence date: 2012-04-20
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262 s.
Aalto University publication series. DOCTORAL DISSERTATIONS, 36/2012
This dissertation focuses on four management practices that lie on the interface between strategy and management accounting. These include management practices related to strategic investment decisions (SIDs), the use of management control systems (MCS) in the strategy formation process, and the use of strategic performance measurement systems (SPMS) and values-based control systems for aligning organisational members’ behaviour with an organisation’s objectives. All four essays included in the dissertation adopt a case study approach. Depending on the particular theoretical objectives of the essays, their more specific case study designs range from a hypothesis testing-oriented multiple case study design, to an inductive, theory discovery-oriented single case study design. The primary objective of this dissertation is to contribute to the SID, SPMS, MCS and valuesbased control literatures by addressing the research gaps specified in the study. These more focused contributions include, inter alia, proposing a new corporate typology that is developed specifically to explain differences in SID making practices (Essay 1); extending Simons’ (1990) process model of the relationship between strategy and MCS and presenting further clarification to the concept of interactive control system (Essay 2); empirically demonstrating that building and using dynamic SPMSs may require companies to use a combination of management practices that differ considerably from those prevalent for more stable SPMSs (Essay 3); and proposing a new, broader conceptualisation of values-based control that acknowledges that organisational members can engage in desirable values-related behaviour by not only relying on their intrinsic motivation, but also by relying on their perceptions of the benefits related to assuming such behaviour (Essay 4). While making more focused contributions to these literatures, this study also provides a basis for making general observations about the strategic role of management accounting in contemporary settings. All four essays included in this dissertation provide evidence that the inclusion of qualitative and subjective elements in management accounting could strengthen its strategic role – i.e. help make it more relevant to strategic decision-making and control. The introduction of qualitative and subjective elements can, first of all, facilitate the inclusion of not easily quantifiable factors such as synergies in the analyses of strategic investments. It can also facilitate that subjective, experience-based managerial insights can be drawn upon when making strategic investments or formulating strategies. The inclusion of such elements can also facilitate extending the formal evaluation and incentivisation of organisational members’ behaviour to include strategically critical elements - such as organizational members’ tendency to exhibit desirable values-related behaviours - that would simply not be measurable through purely quantitative means.
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Malmi, Teemu, professor
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