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Title: Institutionalism, power and resistance to management accounting : a case study
Author: Ribeiro, Joao Francisco da Silva Alves
ISNI:       0000 0001 3515 4825
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2003
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This thesis reports an intensive longitudinal case study carried out in a Portuguese manufacturing organisation in which attempts to promote change through management accounting were made in recent years. The initial motivation of the research was to study processes of management accounting change with consideration of the rich context in which this change takes place. I was initially inspired by a framework for studying those processes based on the insights of Old Institutional Economics (Bums and Scapens, 2000) and by a technological deterministic view of the relationship between information technologies and management accounting in organisations (e. g. Markus and Robey, 1988). Specifically, I hypothesised that Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems could produce and/or enhance change in management accounting rules and routines. Consequently, I chose an organisation in which an ERP system had recently been implemented. However, in a first pilot visit to the organisation, in January 2000, two puzzling observations were made. Firstly, and particularly in the manufacturing area of the organisation, management accounting systems introduced in recent years were not being used in everyday interactions and practices. In the terms usually deployed in the New Institutional Sociology literature, they were decoupled. Secondly, that decoupling remained despite the ERP implementation. Indeed, the ERP system was having no apparent impact on management accounting or on the work of management accountants. Thereafter, my research aimed at developing a theoretical framework capable of incorporating these puzzling issues while accommodating the insights of institutional models. These models propose explanations for resistance to change and decoupling that did not seem to match my observations in the case study. I found that both the observed decoupling in the case organisation's manufacturing area and the lack of impact of the ERP system on management accounting/accountants were related to issues of power. There were different and conflicting conceptions of which rules should be followed in the manufacturing area, and strategic attempts to enact those conceptions (or to resist alternative ones). To accommodate these aspects, I reviewed different conceptions of power, and developed a theoretical framework based on the insights of the Circuits of Power (Clegg, 1989a). My theoretical framework allowed me to explain the puzzling observations in my case. I could enlighten the processes leading to the introduction and subsequent decoupling of management accounting systems in the organisation studied. I could also clarify the processes and reasons leading to the lack of impact of the ERP system on management accounting/accountants. At stake were attempts to impose new rules through management accounting, and resistance to those attempts - caused by a prevailing configuration of the circuits of power and by strategies conducted within that configuration. The analysis of the case study also allowed me to raise some theoretical issues regarding institutional models. I propose that the theoretical framework developed in this thesis is capable of accommodating the insights of those models, while extending them to incorporate the observations of my case study. Finally, the proposed theoretical framework also constitutes a sensitising device for studying processes entailed in the implementation of ERP systems in organisations.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available