Control and Change. Analysing the Process of Institutionalisation


Management Accounting Research

juin 2007, vol. 18, n°2, pp.172-208

Départements : Comptabilité et Contrôle de Gestion

Mots clés : Change, Institutionalisation, Management control systems, Decoupling, Salespeople

This paper studies the process by which a change in the institutional logic of an organisational field is institutionalised in management control systems of a firm. In particular, three elements of organisational control, inspired by the control mix defined by Abernethy and Chua (1996), are studied: management culture, division of powers between functions, and accountability principles. The theoretical framework proposed by Hasselbladh and Kallinikos (2000) enables us to describe the institutionalisation process of management control systems in more detail by observing how ideals are translated into discourse and in turn control techniques. The paper also investigates the internalisation and 'decoupling' occurring between the implementation of control systems, and their actual use when applied for monitoring operational managers. Indeed, the empirical findings, based on a field study conducted in the French subsidiary of a pharmaceutical laboratory, enable us to identify a persistent decoupling. Our results show it stems from ambiguous managerial choices and the resistance of the actors to the new norm. However, it appears that, when discourse can not be heard, it can be partially bypassed using techniques. In fact, these techniques enable an insidious institutionalisation of the new institutional logics when 'what can be done can not be said