The strategic competence of accountants and middle managers in budget making
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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