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Change agents’ enactment of management control systems: shaping strategic change in a telecommunications organisation

Umesh Sharma (School of Accounting, Finance and Economics, Waikato Management School, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand)
Alan Lowe (College of Business, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management

ISSN: 1176-6093

Article publication date: 8 November 2022

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to use a perspective informed by practice theory to examine the influence of change agents in enacting management control systems (MCS) in the process of shaping strategy.

Design/methodology/approach

The research uses a case study approach to examine the implementation of a business strategy in the utility sector. The authors seek a better understanding of practice theory and its role in influencing institutional change and stability.

Findings

The case study findings show that the change agents enacted MCS practices that aided the metamorphosis of a once state-owned company into a for-profit enterprise. The findings show how the organisation transformed from a long-established preoccupation with technical systems and engineering and shifted to a focus on customer satisfaction and shareholder interests.

Research limitations/implications

In terms of policy implications, bureaucrats need to appreciate that inculcating business norms is not an easy path and can be met with resistance, which creates delays in strategy implementation. The current study, while reporting some of the influences of tribal loyalty, was nevertheless limited by not having the time and space to examine in-depth the intersections of MCS and strategy within a strongly tribal context. This can be an avenue for future research.

Practical implications

The study helps to understand embedded actors in the implementation of strategy by refocusing research on the actions and interactions of strategy implementation practitioners.

Originality/value

The authors contribute to the literature by seeking to use practice theory and offer a valuable understanding, from the actor level, of how practices are created and enacted. Often accounting studies have paid less attention to the change agents in the process of shaping business-oriented strategic activity. This study enabled us to gain a better understanding of the action and practice behaviour around the strategy-MCS nexus.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Earlier versions of the paper have been presented at the third Global Accounting and Organisational Change conference in Malaysia, the Auckland Region Accounting Conference, Accounting and Finance Association of Australian and New Zealand annual conference and the school seminar series at the University of Waikato, Fiji National University and at Macquarie University. The authors are thankful to the participants and anonymous reviewers of the conferences for their constructive feedback on the paper. The authors would like to thank James Guthrie, Chris Patel, Sven Modell, Roger Burritt, Roger Willett, Martin Messner, Zahirul Hoque, Anil Narayan, Lee Parker, Jane Baxter, Sumit Lodhia, John Dumay and Charl De Villiers for helpful comments on earlier versions of the paper.

Citation

Sharma, U. and Lowe, A. (2022), "Change agents’ enactment of management control systems: shaping strategic change in a telecommunications organisation", Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRAM-06-2021-0104

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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