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Title: An institutionalist study of resistance to management accounting change
Author: Abdul Khalid, Siti Nabiha
ISNI:       0000 0001 3389 8089
Awarding Body: University of Manchester : University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2000
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This is a case study of a company on which a new system of key performance indicators was imposed by its parent company. The members of the organisation did not formally and overtly oppose the new system. However, the way they implemented the new system was in line with their existing ways of doing things. Therefore, the focus of this research is to understand and explain why there is resistance to management accounting change and how this resistance is manifested. This study aims to provide a processual view of the resistance to change, that is to trace the historical and contingent characteristics that gave rise to such resistance. An interpretive case study approach is used in this research in which theory and case observations were essential in interpreting the research findings. Burns and Scapens's (1998,1999) institutionalist framework of management accounting change is utilised in order to answer the research questions and provides explanation of the case. Burns and Scapens argue that change is a complex process and it is inherently path dependent. They also argue that change that is consistent with the existing routines and institutions can be easier to implement than change which challenges existing institutions. Hence, resistance to change could be the result of the conflict between the values underlying the new system and the existing institutions in the organisations. The new KPIs system that was imposed on the company challenged its existing institutions. The new system required an economic mindset. In addition, in the new system, the employees' performance was made more transparent. The existing institutions in the company were characterised by a dominant production orientation, in part due to its absolute monopolistic position and the specific nature of its revenues and also the lack of use of financial targets. The budget is an institutionalised routine in the organisation, but used in a ceremonial manner. The managers used budgets mostly as a means to obtain resources. The accountants in the company had a traditional role and did not play an active part in assisting the other managers in their day to day decisions. The task of implementing the new system fell upon the accountants, but, the formulation of KPIs was by specific managers. However, what happened was that the organisational members subverted the change in line with what was acceptable to them. As such, the revolutionary change that was imposed on the company has followed an evolutionary path dependent process. There were new activities associated with the new KPIs system, however, the values underpinning those activities remained the same, and consequently, the ways in which the new system was used were in line with the existing institutions. There was formal change, but ways of thinking were still the same. As Burns and Scapens (1999) maintain, formal change without change in ways of thinking can result in resistance and failure of implementation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available