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Simons’ Levers of Control Framework: Commensuration within and of the Framework

Advances in Management Accounting

ISBN: 978-1-78714-530-6, eISBN: 978-1-78714-529-0

Publication date: 3 July 2017



Despite extensive adoption of Simons’ Levers of Control (LoC) framework, there is still considerable diversity in its operationalization which impedes the coherent development of the literature and compromises its value to researchers. The purpose of this paper is to draw researchers back to the conceptual core of the framework as a basis for stable, consistent definitions of the domain of observables.


We derive the conceptual core of the framework from Simons’ writings. We highlight instability in existing operational definitions of the LoC, weaknesses in the extent to which these definitions reference this conceptual core, and inconsistencies in the restriction of LoC to formal information-based routines.


We draw on the inconsistencies identified to build the case for commensuration or a “common standard” for the framework’s use on two levels: the constructs within the framework (through reference to the conceptual core of the framework) and the framework itself (through explicit inclusion of informal controls).

Research implications

We illustrate the benefits of commensuration through the potential to guide the scope of the domain of observables in empirical LoC studies, and to study LoC as complementary or competing with other management control theories.


Our approach to resolving tensions arising from inconsistencies in the empirical definitions of LoC differs from others in that we focus on the strategic variables underlying the framework to define the conceptual core. We believe this approach offers greater potential for commensuration at the level of the constructs within the framework and the framework itself.




We would like to thank Professor Bob Scapens, participants at European Network for Research in Organisational and Accounting Change (ENROAC) Galway June 2015, Management Accounting Section Conference Orlando January 2014, EIASM Manufacturing Accounting conference Helsinki June 2012, Irish Accounting and Finance Association conference Galway May 2012 and Management Accounting Research Group conference Aston November 2011 for helpful comments on earlier versions of the paper.


Curtis, E., Lillis, A.M. and Sweeney, B. (2017), "Simons’ Levers of Control Framework: Commensuration within and of the Framework", Advances in Management Accounting (Advances in Management Accounting, Vol. 28), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 87-121.



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