The emergence and change of management accounting routines

Martijn van der Steen (University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Publication date: 10 May 2011



The purpose of this paper is to explore the dynamics involved in the emergence and change of management accounting routines. It seeks to provide an understanding of the ways in which these complex routines foster stability and change in management accounting practices.


A longitudinal case study was conducted at the Rabobank Groningen – an autonomous member of the cooperative Rabobank group – over a period of four years. The emergence of a new routine of planning and control was traced, which evolved substantially over the period of study.


It was found that the cognitive representations of the routine studied, i.e. the way it was subjectively understood, provided a temporarily stable basis for the routine. Change arose from improvisations through its recurrent performances. It was also found that change could result from complex dynamics in the routine, as opposed to viewing them as static and stable entities that react to “external” stimuli.

Research limitations/implications

The research findings contribute to an understanding of the reproduction of management accounting routines and the ways in which change can arise in these routines. It provides a means to study the micro‐processes of reproduction of routines, which play an important part in institutional theories of management accounting change.


This paper places management accounting routines and their processes of reproduction at the centre of the argument to provide an understanding of the role of routines in accounting change. Since the notion of management accounting routines has not been developed extensively, this understanding contributes to studies into the nature of routines and their role in management accounting change.



van der Steen, M. (2011), "The emergence and change of management accounting routines", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 24 No. 4, pp. 502-547.

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