Employees’ identification and management control systems: a case study of modern policing

Suresh Cuganesan (University of Sydney Business School, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia)
Clinton Free (University of Sydney Business School, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Publication date: 3 September 2021



The authors examined how squad members within an Australian state police force perceived and attached enabling or coercive meanings to a suite of management control system (MCS) changes that were new public management (NPM) inspired.


The authors conducted a longitudinal case study of a large Australian state police department utilizing an abductive research design.


The authors found that identification processes strongly conditioned the reception of the MCS changes introduced. Initially, the authors observed mixed interpretations of controls as both enabling and coercive. Over time, these changes were seen to be coercive because they threatened interpersonal relationships and the importance and efficacy of squads in combating serious and organized crime.

Research limitations/implications

The authors contributed to MCSs literature by revealing the critical role that multifaceted relational and collective identification processes played in shaping interpretations of controls as enabling–coercive. The authors build on this to elaborate on the notion of employees’ centricity in the MCS design.

Practical implications

This study suggests that, in complex organizational settings, the MCS design and change should reckon with pre-existing patterns of employees’ identification.


The authors suggested shifting the starting point for contemplating the MCS change: from looking at how what employees do is controlled to how the change impacts and how employees feel about who they are. When applied to the MCS design, employee centricity highlights the value of collaborative co-design, attentiveness to relational identification between employees, feedback and interaction in place of inferred management expectations and traditional mechanistic approaches.



The authors would like to thank James Guthrie for his support and insightful comments as well as two anonymous reviewers who contributed significantly to improving the quality of the paper. The research was supported under the Australian Research Council's Linkage Projects funding scheme.


Cuganesan, S. and Free, C. (2021), "Employees’ identification and management control systems: a case study of modern policing", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 34 No. 1, pp. 31-53. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-04-2020-4490



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