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Bridging management control systems and innovation: The evolution of the research and possible research directions

Rúben Silva Barros (Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL), Business Research Unit (BRU-IUL), Lisboa, Portugal)
Ana Maria Dias Simões da Costa Ferreira (ISCTE-Instituto Universitario de Lisboa)

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management

ISSN: 1176-6093

Article publication date: 18 July 2019

Issue publication date: 5 August 2019




The purpose of this study is to present the evolution of thinking on the role of management control systems (MCSs) in innovation, according to the development of control practices, and to provide a reflection on the achievements of the more recent literature.


This paper assesses articles, books and book chapters that have explored MCSs in innovation, together with seminal works on management accounting and control.


Moving from the traditional phase where MCSs were seen as detrimental to innovation, the literature has now reached a new consensus that attributes a positive role to control. In this recent phase, it arises from the literature that MCSs in the realm of innovation should embrace a multiplicity of controls; MCSs depend on the magnitude and innovation mode of a company; MCSs evolve over time; and that synergies and tensions are expected to arise. Adding these factors to the inherent complexity of innovation, the assertion is that qualitative approaches should be undertaken to infuse the field with more fine-grained evidence. It is also proposed that this methodological approach be used to address the following points: (1) the use of multiple controls; (2) synergies and tensions; and (3) behavioural aspects of controls in relation with innovation.


The paper is of value for researchers who have an interest in studying the use of MCSs in innovation and in qualitative research and proposes some areas of research that could be explored.



The authors are gratefully acknowledge the support of Deryl Northcott and Maria João Major, and comments and suggestions of two anonymous referees and of the participants of the “16th International Accounting and Auditing Congress” held in the University of Aveiro. Rúben Silva Barros gratefully acknowledges the financial support of Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia under the doctoral grant SFRH/BD/104181/2014. The authors are also grateful for the financial support of this institution under the grant UID/GES/00315/2013. The usual disclaimer applies.


Barros, R.S. and Ferreira, A.M.D.S.d.C. (2019), "Bridging management control systems and innovation: The evolution of the research and possible research directions", Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 16 No. 3, pp. 342-372.



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