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Time rationalities: Complementing “the orientation from the present” and the focus on “short” and “long terms” in performance measurement

Terhi Chakhovich (Department of Accounting and Finance, School of Economics, University of Turku , Turku, Finland)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 20 March 2019

Issue publication date: 28 May 2019




The temporality of performance measurement systems has been claimed to affect actors’ time orientation, such as that of listed company managers. The purpose of this paper is to explore this view.


The study uses constructivist data gathered from executives in one listed and one non-listed company.


The study shows that the research on performance measurement is based on a linear-quantitative view on time that assumes that humans orient towards the future from one point, the present; this view excludes other time-related constructs, particularly the past, and highlights a choice between the short term and the long term, idealising the long term. It is shown that the performance measurement of non-listed company executives is constructed through past-based, present-based and future-based rationalities: executives acknowledge the past as a basis for present and future performance, present actions as shaping future performance and future plans and performance targets as bases for present actions. Listed company executives’ performance measurement is constructed predominantly through the present-based time rationality.

Research limitations/implications

“The orientation from the present” and the “short” and “long terms” could be enhanced with time rationalities.

Practical implications

The evaluation periods within performance measurement systems do not determine the time orientations of the actors subjected to those systems; time rationalities could be considered when designing such systems.


The paper provides a novel view on performance measurement and time.



The author wishes to thank the Emil Aaltonen Foundation, the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation, the Finnish Cultural Foundation, the Helsinki School of Economics Foundation, the Research Fund of Savings Banks and the OP-Pohjola Group Foundation for their funding of the research upon which this paper is based. The author would also like to thank Seppo Ikäheimo, Juhani Vaivio, Teemu Malmi, Sven Modell, Peter Miller, Virginia Mattila and Jan Pfister, the participants of the 5th Workshop on Corporate Governance in Brussels, 2008, the participants of the Doctoral Tutorial in Vaasa, 2008 and the participants of the research seminars at the Turku School of Economics in Turku, in 2011 and 2014, and Manchester Business School, 2017, for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. A special thank you is due to the case company representatives who kindly agreed to contribute their valuable time to this research project. Finally, the comments of the editor and anonymous reviewers are greatly appreciated.

Role of the funding sources: none of the funding sources had any role in study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the paper for publication.


Chakhovich, T. (2019), "Time rationalities: Complementing “the orientation from the present” and the focus on “short” and “long terms” in performance measurement", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 456-482.



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