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The strategic competence of accountants and middle managers in budget making

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  • Fauré, Bertrand
  • Rouleau, Linda
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    Abstract

    This paper aims to advance the notion of the "situated functionality of numbers" (Ahrens & Chapman, 2007) by investigating the practical knowledge of strategy which shapes the calculations performed by accountants and middle managers when they are making a budget. It proposes an in-depth investigation of the budgeting conversations collected during an extensive field study in a large construction firm that had undertaken a new partnership strategy. Drawing on a conversation analytical approach, it identifies three micro-practices of calculation constitutive of the accountants' and middle managers' strategic competence: invoking the usefulness of numbers to activate local projects; constructing the acceptability of numbers to report them to external partners; authorising the plausibility of numbers to reconcile local contingencies and global coherence. The paper then explores how accountants and middle managers come to a mutual understanding of their respective accountabilities when they perform their strategic competence. It ends by discussing the unintended consequences of these transformations in their professional roles.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Accounting, Organizations and Society.

    Volume (Year): 36 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 3 (April)
    Pages: 167-182

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:aosoci:v:36:y:2011:i:3:p:167-182

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/aos

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    1. Sepani Senaratne & Martin Sexton, 2008. "Managing construction project change: a knowledge management perspective," Construction Management and Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 26(12), pages 1303-1311.
    2. Sue Llewellyn & Markus J. Milne, 2007. "Accounting as codified discourse," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 20(6), pages 805-824, October.
    3. Abernethy, Margaret A. & Lillis, Anne M., 1995. "The impact of manufacturing flexibility on management control system design," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 241-258, May.
    4. Alexander Styhre & Per-Erik Josephson, 2006. "Revisiting site manager work: stuck in the middle?," Construction Management and Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 24(5), pages 521-528.
    5. Michael C. Jensen, 2003. "Paying People to Lie: the Truth about the Budgeting Process," European Financial Management, European Financial Management Association, European Financial Management Association, vol. 9(3), pages 379-406.
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    7. Marko Jarvenpaa, 2007. "Making Business Partners: A Case Study on how Management Accounting Culture was Changed," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(1), pages 99-142.
    8. Ahrens, Thomas & Chapman, Christopher S., 2007. "Management accounting as practice," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 32(1-2), pages 1-27.
    9. Davila, Tony & Wouters, Marc, 2005. "Managing budget emphasis through the explicit design of conditional budgetary slack," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 30(7-8), pages 587-608.
    10. Chua, Wai Fong, 2007. "Accounting, measuring, reporting and strategizing - Re-using verbs: A review essay," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 32(4-5), pages 487-494.
    11. Steven W. Floyd, 1997. "Middle Management's Strategic Influence and Organizational Performance," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(3), pages 465-485, 05.
    12. Vollmer, Hendrik, 2007. "How to do more with numbers: Elementary stakes, framing, keying, and the three-dimensional character of numerical signs," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 32(6), pages 577-600, August.
    13. Roberts, John, 1991. "The possibilities of accountability," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 355-368.
    14. Van der Stede, Wim A., 2000. "The relationship between two consequences of budgetary controls: budgetary slack creation and managerial short-term orientation," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 609-622, August.
    15. Skærbæk, Peter & Tryggestad, Kjell, 2010. "The role of accounting devices in performing corporate strategy," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 108-124, January.
    16. Abernethy, Margaret A. & Brownell, Peter, 1999. "The role of budgets in organizations facing strategic change: an exploratory study," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 189-204, April.
    17. Lukka, Kari, 1988. "Budgetary biasing in organizations: Theoretical framework and empirical evidence," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 281-301, April.
    18. Linda Rouleau, 2005. "Micro-Practices of Strategic Sensemaking and Sensegiving: How Middle Managers Interpret and Sell Change Every Day," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(7), pages 1413-1441, November.
    19. Dalvir Samra-Fredericks, 2003. "Strategizing as Lived Experience and Strategists' Everyday Efforts to Shape Strategic Direction," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(1), pages 141-174, 01.
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