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Article
Publication date: 18 May 2015

Niamh M. Brennan and Collette E. Kirwan

The purpose of this paper is to review and critique prior research on audit committees using a practice-theory lens. Research on audit committees has followed the same…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to review and critique prior research on audit committees using a practice-theory lens. Research on audit committees has followed the same trajectory as early research on boards of directors, which has been criticised for its singular theoretical perspectives and methodologies that do not capture the complexity of real-world experiences/behaviours.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors devise an analytical framework based on practice theory to conduct the review. The authors examine what audit committees should do (i.e. best practice) vs what audit committees actually do (i.e. actual activities in practice – praxis). Attributes of audit committee members, and the relationship dynamics relevant to their role execution (i.e. practitioners), are considered.

Findings

Research on boards has found that over-emphasis on agency theory’s monitoring role negatively impacts boards’ effectiveness. The authors invoke other theories in examining what audit committees do in practice. The authors characterise the role of audit committees as oversight not monitoring. The authors question whether, similar to auditing, audit committees are blamist tools or are genuinely orientated towards supporting improvements in organisational management systems. The authors unpack the ritualistic ceremonial behaviours and symbolic endeavours vs substantive engagement by audit committees. The analytical framework also considers the “guardianship circle” around audit committees in the form of the key practitioners and their relationships: audit committee members, auditors and managers.

Originality/value

Drawing on the analytical framework, the authors provide directions for further opportunities for research of audit committees.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 28 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 18 January 2016

Niamh M. Brennan, Collette E. Kirwan and John Redmond

The purpose of this paper is to understand the influence of information and knowledge exchange and sharing between managers and non-executive directors is important in…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to understand the influence of information and knowledge exchange and sharing between managers and non-executive directors is important in assessing the dynamic processes of accountability in boardrooms. By analysing information/knowledge at multiple levels, invoking the literature on implicit/tacit and explicit information/knowledge, the authors show that information asymmetry is a necessary condition for effective boards. The authors introduce a conceptual model of manager-non-executive director information asymmetry as an outcome of the interpretation of information/knowledge-sharing processes amongst board members. The model provides a more nuanced agenda of the management-board information asymmetry problem to enable a better understanding of the role of different types of information in practice.

Design/methodology/approach

The analysis of information/knowledge exchange, sharing and creation and the resultant conceptual model are based on the following elements: manager-non-executive director information/knowledge, management-board information/knowledge and board dynamics and reciprocal processes converting implicit/tacit into explicit information/knowledge.

Findings

The paper provides new insights into the dynamics of information/knowledge exchange, sharing and creation between managers and non-executive directors (individual level)/between management and boards (group level). The authors characterise this as a two-way process, back-and-forth between managers/executive directors and non-executive directors. The importance of relative/experienced “ignorance” of non-executive directors is revealed, which the authors term the “information asymmetry paradox”.

Research limitations/implications

The authors set out key opportunities for developing a research agenda from the model based on prior research of knowledge conversion processes and how these may be applied in a boardroom setting.

Practical implications

The model may assist directors in better understanding their roles and the division of labour between managers and non-executive directors from an information/knowledge perspective.

Originality/value

The authors apply Ikujiro Nonaka’s knowledge conversion framework to consider the transitioning from individual implicit personal to explicit shared information/knowledge, to understand the subtle processes at play in boardrooms influencing information/knowledge exchange, sharing and creation between managers and non-executive directors.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 29 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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