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Routines in management accounting research: further exploration

Martin Quinn (Dublin City University Business School, Dublin, Ireland)

Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change

ISSN: 1832-5912

Article publication date: 1 November 2011




The purpose of this paper is to enhance the eminent work of Burns and Scapens (B&S) by introducing broader conceptualisations on organisational routines and rules into management accounting.


The paper sets out with the B&S framework. The paper is primarily conceptual in nature and with the addition of some more recent literature on organisational routines serves to bolster the underpinnings of the B&S framework. Drawing especially on the work of Feldman and Pentland, the nature of management accounting routines in particular is explored in some detail. By association, rules are also explored.


This paper proposes that an ostensive‐performative distinction of routines augments our conceptualisation of how management accounting routines can represent both a source of stability and of change (simultaneously). Also, by showing how routines can represent both structure and action simultaneously, some light is shed on the ongoing interrelationship between routines and rules as highlighted in the B&S framework and some concerns in recent literature addressed. In particular, a refined view of both routines and rules not only bolsters the work of B&S, but potentially increases its applicability as a theoretical lens to empirical studies in less formal organisations.

Practical implications

The proposed refinements to the B&S framework, which aim to clarify the nature of rules and routines in a management accounting context, may be particularly useful for researchers studying less formalised (or, less rules‐based) organisations. The findings emphasise the potentially more important role of the less formal concept of routines in most organisations.


The paper supports and complements the B&S framework by integrating more recent conceptual developments on organisational routines and offering some potential definitional clarity on rules and routines in management accounting.



Quinn, M. (2011), "Routines in management accounting research: further exploration", Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change, Vol. 7 No. 4, pp. 337-357.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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