From strategy, to accounting : accounting practice and strategic discourse in the telecommunications industry
Following Roberts (1990) and Dent (1990). this study investigates the importance of complexifying the relationship between strategy and accounting. The genealogical approach of Hoskin et al (1997) provides inspiration as to the ways in which strategic discourse (itself promoted as a subject of study by Knights and Morgan (1990,1991,1995)) is historically contingent upon practices of accounting. I take up this task of inaugurating the study of accounting practice and strategy discourse, from strategy to accounting, to develop a new perspective of how their interaction takes place. This gives birth to a re-reading of the strategy (and accounting) literatures, from the direction of a constitutive notion of accounting practices. In particular, the processual and critical schools of strategy are found to promote conventional notions of accounting as mirror, as secondary and passive practice, which circulate beneath the usual level of visibility. Building on this emergent approach, a post- Foucauldian theory of practices is outlined from a methodological viewpoint. This approach does not begin from such general categories as 'the individual', 'the social' or 'the economic', and thereby does not follow conventional understandings of 'doing ethnography'. The inquiry is empirically situated within the context of a longitudinal investigation (1997-2000) into the U. K. based part of a global telecommunications company, Teleco. I discover complex interactions between accounting practices and the workings of strategy, both as presence and absence. There is a partial presence of strategy even within the most 'strategic' parts of Teleco, in conjunction with a growing absence within those parts most distant from 'the strategy'. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, the spread of accounting and accounting based-practices rolls on, albeit in a non-uniform way. This brings forth the possibility of a strategic accounting, one whose practices are perhaps most visibly internalised and effected on my very self, thus adding weight to the rejection within this thesis of the metaphysical categories of either 'strategy' or 'accounting.