Configurations of control: An exploratory analysis

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Journal Article
Management Accounting Research, 2015, 27 pp. 2 - 26
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© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. There is growing interest in how management controls operate together as a package of interrelated mechanisms. Although theoretical debate dates back to the seminal paper of Otley (1980), there remains little empirical analysis of how control mechanisms combine. To increase knowledge in this area this study explores how multiple accounting and other control mechanisms commonly combine and the associations these combinations have with firm context. From a cross-sectional sample of 400 firms, this study presents an empirically derived taxonomy of five control configurations used by top managers, labelled as simple, results, action, devolved, and hybrid. Many of these patterns closely resemble control configurations common to the literature, while others represent distinctively contemporary arrangements, such as flexible variants of traditional bureaucracy (action), and instances where multiple and seemingly conflicting control types intermesh (hybrid). In analyzing these configurations this study provides accounting and control researchers with empirical observations to refine and extend existing control frameworks and theory.
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