To read this content please select one of the options below:

Enabling formal MCS design and use: a meta-synthesis of qualitative research

Marc Janka (Faculty of Business and Economics, Technische Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany)

Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change

ISSN: 1832-5912

Article publication date: 20 February 2021

Issue publication date: 5 April 2021




This study aims to synthesize qualitative research in the accounting and management literature that builds on the concept of enabling formalization. The framework for the meta-synthesis integrates formal management control system (MCS) design applying the package typology and two modes of MCS use, namely, diagnostic and interactive.


The meta-synthesis is based on 34 case studies gathered by a systematic literature search. Qualitative research mining software (Leximancer) was used to facilitate an initial analysis, upon which an in-depth manual analysis was conducted.


The findings indicate that the generic features of enabling formalization – specifically, flexibility and repair – help employees better deal with inevitable contingencies in their daily work through continuous self-improvement. In many circumstances, there is a need to change common organizational practices, which sometimes requires realignment to direct employee behavior toward goal congruence. The (temporary) coercion of employees does not seem to cause dysfunctional behavior or resistance as long as the broader MCS package follows the design features of enabling formalization – specifically, transparency. The interactive use of personnel/cultural controls appears to play a crucial role within the whole MCS package in balancing tensions between coercion and enabling formalization.


This study adds to the understanding of formal MCS design characteristics perceived by managers and employees as enabling. Furthermore, it shows how managers of these organizations use formal MCS under enabling formalization.



This paper has greatly benefited from the guidance of Zahirul Hoque (editor) and the valuable comments from two anonymous JAOC reviewers, as well as Paul Adler, Andrea Fried, Thomas Guenther, Lisa Jack, Gerhard Speckbacher, Marc Wouters and participants at the 16th ACMAR in Vallendar (Germany 2019) and the MCA’s Symposium in Nice (France 2018).


Janka, M. (2021), "Enabling formal MCS design and use: a meta-synthesis of qualitative research", Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change, Vol. 17 No. 2, pp. 133-163.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles