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Article
Publication date: 1 August 2016

Hanne Nørreklit, Morten Raffnsøe-Møller and Falconer Mitchell

The purpose of this paper is to introduce the practice paradigm of pragmatic constructivism.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to introduce the practice paradigm of pragmatic constructivism.

Design/methodology/approach

Pragmatic constructivism emphasizes the role of the actors in the construction of organized reality. For such construct to function successfully, four dimensions of reality must be integrated in the actor-world relations.

Findings

This includes an examination of pragmatic constructivist theory as an alternative to traditional realism and critical theories of organizational reality. The papers of the special issue include methodological, conceptual and empirical studies to expand the understanding of management accounting in relation to the actorsconstruction of functioning organizational practices.

Research limitations/implications

As pragmatic constructivism is a relatively new paradigm, there is a need for further methodological and conceptual development and empirical studies of functioning practices.

Originality/value

In a discipline such as management accounting that can be theoretically polarized between the “realist” scientific mainstream and social constructivist criticism, pragmatic constructivism offers a mediating model in which realism is retained as the pragmatic criteria of success of the organizational actorsconstruction.

Details

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, vol. 13 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1176-6093

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 20 June 2019

Morten Jakobsen, Falconer Mitchell, Hanne Nørreklit and Mihaela Trenca

The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate a paradigmatic foundation for educators to prepare students of management accounting for the new demands of the role of trusted…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate a paradigmatic foundation for educators to prepare students of management accounting for the new demands of the role of trusted business partner in practice.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper argues for the use of pragmatic constructivism as a basis for development of a paradigmatic foundation for educating advanced students of management accounting. Furthermore, it contains an empirical insight through a case example of how pragmatic constructivism can be used as a pedagogical tool in different management accounting educational situations.

Findings

The analysis shows how pragmatic constructivism can be used as a less reductionist paradigm than realism to tackle the research-teaching-practice deficiencies found in conventional thinking on accounting education. Pragmatic constructivism is shown to provide important methodological and conceptual elements in developing, understanding and guiding the application of management accounting techniques in dynamic business practices. Placing an emphasis on teaching methodological skills relevant for management accountants is shown to have an important impact on students and their ability to act as business partners.

Research limitations/implications

The analysis is exploratory in the sense that a new paradigmatic framework for educating students of management accounting to be business partners is outlined and illustrated through its implementation in a specific master’s degree programme. However, this analysis should be viewed as only a first step towards developing pragmatic constructivism as a paradigmatic foundation for teaching management accounting as a basis for a business partner role.

Originality/value

The proposed use of research on pragmatic constructivism as a basis for management accounting education to support a future business partner role is novel in the literature on management accounting. The value of its application lies in its potential to create successful utilisation of the practices of management accounting.

Details

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, vol. 16 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1176-6093

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Article
Publication date: 19 June 2017

Antonio Leotta, Carmela Rizza and Daniela Ruggeri

Succession in family firms may determine the survival or the failure of the business itself. Management accounting literature has added little to this issue, mainly…

Abstract

Purpose

Succession in family firms may determine the survival or the failure of the business itself. Management accounting literature has added little to this issue, mainly focusing on the process of succession and change (Songini et al., 2013; Giovannoni and Maraghini, 2013; Giovannoni et al., 2011). This study aims to deal with new management accounting (MA) practices that the junior generation may introduce during the process of succession. The aim of the study is to show that the introduction of new MA practices can contribute to constructing the leadership profile of the junior generation.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing on the perspective of actor-reality construction (ARC), the authors conducted a case study at a small-sized family firm producing solar shading systems. The authors examined how the construction of the successor’s leadership derives from the integration of four dimensions of reality: facts, possibilities, values and communication. Such an integration is facilitated by the introduction of a new accounting information system and cost reporting.

Findings

The case evidence highlights that the construction of the new generation leadership may emerge as a consequence of the introduction of new MA practices. Moreover, the field evidence highlights that the construction of a new generation leadership is a process that integrates the four dimensions of reality.

Originality/value

From the emergent perspective of ARC, the paper highlights how new MA practices play an active role in constructing the new generation leadership.

Details

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, vol. 14 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1176-6093

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Article
Publication date: 10 October 2016

Rafael Heinzelmann

The purpose of this paper is to investigate performance measurement practices in venture capital firms. Specifically, the author examines how two organizations make…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate performance measurement practices in venture capital firms. Specifically, the author examines how two organizations make complexity and uncertainty manageable by mobilizing performance measurement. This study draws on the framework of pragmatic constructivism (PC) (Nørreklit et al., 2016; Nørreklit et al., 2006, 2010), focusing on the integration between the four dimensions of PC, namely, facts, values, possibilities and communication.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper adopts a comparative case study methodology.

Findings

The findings show that performance measurement practices are strongly influenced by values playing out via integration in actor-world relations, whereas Venture A mobilizes an actor-centric approach, leading to an open, holistic performance measurement system (PMS) which is based on non-financials, a close involvement in operational matters and actors’ judgement using accounting as “learning machines” (Burchell et al., 1980); and Venture B draws on an analytical approach emphasizing on the role of financial indicators and control enacting accounting as “answer machines” and as “tool for computation” (Burchell et al., 1980). These different approaches to PMS, actor-centric vs analytical, are guided by different values about actor-world relation(s).

Originality/value

The paper provides a context-sensitive account on the relationship between uncertainty and performance measurement practices. First, this paper contributes by providing evidence on how actors use accounting to manage uncertainty and complexity by differently integrating actor-world relation(s) (Nørreklit, et al., 2016; Nørreklit et al., 2006). Second, this study resonates with recent calls for more industry-specific and context-sensitive investigations (Messner, 2016). Finally, the author contributes to the literature asking for more research on the role accounting plays in managing uncertain conditions (Chenhall and Moers, 2015).

Details

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, vol. 13 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1176-6093

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Article
Publication date: 7 August 2017

Pinar Guven-Uslu

This paper examines the relationship between key actors in an organisation and informal professional networks. It uses pragmatic constructivism (PC) as a research paradigm…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper examines the relationship between key actors in an organisation and informal professional networks. It uses pragmatic constructivism (PC) as a research paradigm together with concepts borrowed from the theory of social networks to investigate how these actors responded to a particular set of non-financial performance targets.

Design/methodology/approach

The implementation process of waiting time targets in the Accident and Emergency Department was observed as part of an in-depth study at a large English National Health Service hospital. The main sources of data were face-to-face interviews with key actors, documentary archival evidence and observation diaries.

Findings

The results indicated that with the effect of information sharing through these networks, implementation methodology switched from systems approach to actors approach. Professional connections between key actors had allowed them to generate their own understanding in responding to new performance measures. As a consequence, the perceptions of other actors in relevant networks, as well as the implementation practices were influenced.

Research limitations/implications

This is a single-site, in-depth case study; hence, the findings are not generalizable.

Practical implications

This study demonstrated just how influential some key actors can be in shaping the implementation of performance measures.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to PC by providing evidence on the influence of informal professional networks and structural holes in shaping organisational topos.

Details

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, vol. 14 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1176-6093

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Article
Publication date: 1 August 2016

Teemu Laine, Tuomas Korhonen, Petri Suomala and Asta Rantamaa

This paper aims to elaborate the concepts of boundary subjects and boundary objects in constructing and communicating relevant accounting facts for managing product…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to elaborate the concepts of boundary subjects and boundary objects in constructing and communicating relevant accounting facts for managing product development (PD). Boundary subjects as reflective actors benefit effective accounting enactment, by building a shared understanding about different actors’ roles and information needs, and by helping to respond to these needs with new boundary objects.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper uses a longitudinal interventionist case study of a machinery manufacturer. The focus of this case study was the production ramp-up phase at the end of a PD program. Different actors’ needs were first collected and elaborated by interventionist researchers (boundary subjects). Then accounting prototypes (boundary objects) provided new means of communication.

Findings

The findings show that dealing with boundaries is crucial in accounting development. The role of boundary subjects was fundamental in the process of choosing, constructing, elaborating and communicating accounting facts. During this process, accounting prototypes integrated new accounting facts, the boundary subjects mitigated the boundaries and the boundary objects focused and restricted communication about accounting facts.

Research limitations/implications

The paper tests the pragmatic constructivism approach by examining accounting enactment under uncertainty and ambiguity. The study refines pragmatic constructivism in terms of boundaries, boundary subjects as actors and boundary objects.

Practical implications

The intentional use of boundary subjects and objects as communication platform could push a more active inclusion of business controllers as active business partners.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to the literature on accounting development by highlighting the use of boundary subjects and boundary objects as fundamental mechanisms in constructing and communicating accounting facts.

Details

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, vol. 13 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1176-6093

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Article
Publication date: 28 October 2014

Morten Jakobsen and Rainer Lueg

This paper aims to analyse how the inherent design of the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) violates the controllability principle. The management control literature provides…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to analyse how the inherent design of the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) violates the controllability principle. The management control literature provides convincing examples of actors who breach controllability without intention. This discussion was extended by the example of the BSC. This paper focusses on the breaches that occur when actors lack the awareness or the skills to re-enforce controllability.

Design/methodology/approach

Taking a pragmatic-constructivist position, analytical and empirical evidence was included on controllability to analyse the normative literature on the BSC.

Findings

It was found that the BSC causes several unintended breaches of the controllability principle at the level of middle managers, both ex ante (control rationale) and ex post (fairness rationale). These breaches are not only situational or induced by how managers in the field design a BSC. They appear to be inherent in the BSC due to the way Kaplan and Norton have conceptualised it.

Practical implications

Practitioners are alerted that the intuitive appeal of popular management fashions such as the BSC covers their conceptual flaws. It was also proposed that failed implementations and dysfunctional applications can be due to the inherent characteristics of the concepts themselves.

Originality/value

This paper contributes by uncovering the unintended violations of the controllability principle by the inherent characteristics. The authors suggest using our conceptual contribution to conduct empirical research on the issues of controllability and management control systems in general. Thereby, the theory-based discussion on the BSC is advanced (Nørreklit, 2000, 2003; Nørreklit et al., 2012a).

Details

Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change, vol. 10 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1832-5912

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Article
Publication date: 1 August 2016

Daniela Pianezzi and Lino Cinquini

This paper aims to focus on accounting for human rights. It explores the validity of conflicting theoretical perspectives on accounting and their ability to reduce the gap…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to focus on accounting for human rights. It explores the validity of conflicting theoretical perspectives on accounting and their ability to reduce the gap between accounting and accountability for human rights.

Design/methodology/approach

This study relies on the notion of topos to develop a pragmatic constructivist perspective on conventional accounting and social accounting with respect to human rights. Applying pragmatic constructivism permits a better understanding and assessment of the ethics underpinning the conventional and social accounting approaches.

Findings

The ethics underpinning the topos of conventional accounting offer a reductive explanation of the agency of organizational actors, so inhibiting moral and social responsibility. Furthermore, the calculative logic that dominates this topos promotes a monovocal form of communication (to shareholders) and translates values per se into instrumental values. By contrast, the social accounting topos sheds new light on the role that accounting may play in detecting human rights violations, by focusing more on communication and social values. However, for this topos to be valid, alternative management practices that go beyond voluntary social reporting need to be further developed.

Originality/value

Human rights accountability is an urgent challenge for companies in today’s society. However, scholars have largely disregarded the role of accounting in the process of holding companies accountable for human rights violations. By questioning the relationship between accounting and human rights, this paper takes a first step towards resolving this issue.

Details

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, vol. 13 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1176-6093

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Book part
Publication date: 25 April 2014

Manfred Lueger and Oliver Vettori

Higher education is positively imbued with social meaning. Every academic ritual, scientific routine or scholarly practice carries meanings that go far beyond the…

Abstract

Higher education is positively imbued with social meaning. Every academic ritual, scientific routine or scholarly practice carries meanings that go far beyond the situational motives of the actors themselves. Social science hermeneutics, one of the best-known institutionalised paradigms in German-speaking qualitative research, offers a sound methodological basis and various methodical variants in order to approach such latent meaning levels. With its focus on reconstructing the underlying logics, values and norm systems of interaction processes and social structures, social science hermeneutics tackles questions that are highly relevant for understanding contemporary developments in higher education strategy and policy. This chapter introduces readers to key concepts in social science hermeneutics and their potential for higher education research. Based on an overview of the main methodological characteristics, the authors then give an in-depth example of an interpretative process by providing a step-by-step reconstruction of different levels of meaning.

Details

Theory and Method in Higher Education Research II
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78350-823-5

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Article
Publication date: 1 August 2016

Hanne Nørreklit, Lennart Nørreklit and Falconer Mitchell

The purpose of this paper is to enhance the relationship between research and practice. It addresses the question: How can practitioners’ use of generalisations be…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to enhance the relationship between research and practice. It addresses the question: How can practitioners’ use of generalisations be understood, with a view towards producing research-based generalisations that facilitate use in practice?

Design/methodology/approach

Language games are used to explore generalisation in practice, and the framework of pragmatic constructivism is adopted to characterise the generation of practice generalisation.

Findings

Practice is conceptualised as a complex set of clusters of organised actions run by a set of applied generalisations and driven by human intentions. Practice also encompasses reflective activities that aim to create the generalisations and reflect them into the specific circumstances to create functioning practice. Generalisations depend on underlying concepts. The formation and structure of concepts is explored and used to create the construction and use of different types of generalisation. Generalisations function as cognitive building blocks in constructing strings of interconnected functioning activities. Managers make their own functioning generalisations that, however, do not satisfy the research criteria for acceptable generalisations. The research/practice gap is shaped by the very different language games played.

Research limitations/implications

If research is to be useful to practice, the generalisations produced must methodologically articulate the types of generalisation that pervade the methods with which practitioners construct functioning activities. Further research has to give more insight into such processes.

Originality/value

The paper contributes insight into both the generalisation debate and the research/practice gap debate.

Details

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, vol. 13 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1176-6093

Keywords

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