Accounting and Strategising: A Case Study from New Product Development

B. Jørgensen, M. MESSNER

Accounting Organizations and Society

février 2010, vol. 35, n°2

Départements : Comptabilité et Contrôle de Gestion

Abstract: This paper explores the relationship between accounting and strategy in a context that is characterized by pluralistic demands and high uncertainty about outcomes. By way of an ethnographic field study in an R&D intensive company, we analyze 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 mobilizing 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. Keywords: management accounting, strategising, new product development, practice theory, accountability