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Paradoxical tensions of the COVID-19 pandemic: a paradox theory perspective on the role of management control systems in helping organizations survive crises

Ralph Kober (Department of Accounting, Monash Business School, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)
Paul J. Thambar (Department of Accounting, Monash Business School, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 7 June 2021

Issue publication date: 3 January 2022

1621

Abstract

Purpose

This paper presents paradox theory as a useful theoretical lens for researchers exploring crises such as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The authors argue that paradox theory, which emphasizes a “both/and” as opposed to an “either/or” approach, is ideally suited for management control systems (MCS) research on crises.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors adopt a revelatory case approach to provide empirical examples of the insights that paradox theory can provide.

Findings

This paper highlights how MCS can be used to simultaneously manage short-term/operational and long-term/strategic objectives to navigate a crisis. Furthermore, it highlights how MCS can be mobilized during crises to identify and embrace opportunities.

Practical implications

This paper illustrates the importance of MCS focusing on not just the short-term, but also the long-term, and managing multiple objectives in assisting organizations to survive crisis.

Originality/value

This paper highlights the benefits of using paradox theory to understand the role of MCS in helping organizations manage crises and to use a crisis as a source of opportunity.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the staff of The One Box and The Fruit Box for their support and time. In particular we would like to thank Martin Halphen for allowing access and Vivien Yii and Brendan Shaw who were extremely generous with their time. We would also like to thank the editors of the special issue, especially Giulia Leoni, and the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback and support. The review process and your comments have improved the paper. Funding for this research was provided by an industry grant from The One Box and a research grant from the Department of Accounting, Monash Business School. The financial support of both is gratefully acknowledged.

Citation

Kober, R. and Thambar, P.J. (2022), "Paradoxical tensions of the COVID-19 pandemic: a paradox theory perspective on the role of management control systems in helping organizations survive crises", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 35 No. 1, pp. 108-119. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-08-2020-4851

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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