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Article

Alan Coad, Lisa Jack and Ahmed Kholeif

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the interdisciplinary use of strong structuration theory and consider the impact of this for accounting research. The paper also…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the interdisciplinary use of strong structuration theory and consider the impact of this for accounting research. The paper also provides an overview of the contributions advanced by the other papers in this special issue of Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal (AAAJ).

Design/methodology/approach

This paper draws together and identifies key issues and themes related to the rapidly evolving interdisciplinary use of strong structuration theory and considers the relevance of these issues to accounting research.

Findings

The paper highlights that there is a growing use of strong structuration theory in a number of disciplines, such as in healthcare, learning studies, management, migration studies and childcare as well as in accounting. Within the accounting discipline, whilst the interest began in management accounting and control, there are ongoing studies of the not-for-profit sector, social and environmental accounting, financial reporting standards and audit. Using strong structuration theory, researchers are more interested in the people (individually or collectively) and their analysis of their conduct and context. They are moving forwards from an overly static use of the quadripartite framework to a more dynamic approach that also includes the other important central elements of strong structuration that focus on the issue of agency in situ rather than on structure cut off from agency.

Research limitations/implications

The paper provides important insights into emerging issues and developments in strong structuration theory that have clear relevance to accounting research and practice as well as other disciplines.

Originality/value

This paper, and other contributions to this special issue of AAAJ, provide a basis and a research agenda for accounting scholars seeking to undertake empirical research using Stones’ strong structuration theory.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 29 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article

Alan Coad, Lisa Jack and Ahmed Othman Rashwan Kholeif

– This paper aims to examine the potential of strong structuration theory in management accounting research.

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to examine the potential of strong structuration theory in management accounting research.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper explains how the ontological perspective of strong structuration theory extends the work of Giddens and explores how the perspective overcomes a number of the limitations of existing management accounting research based on structuration theory.

Findings

Strong structuration theory develops and extends the work of Giddens, providing greater insights into the role of agents, improves our understanding of the diffusion of accounting practices through organisational fields, adds to our knowledge of how artefacts are used in the production and reproduction of organisational life and improves research design.

Research limitations/implications

Strong structuration theory provides clear guidance about management accounting case study research design, and suggests the potential for the accounting research community to engage more actively in debates about the development of structuration theory beyond the work of Giddens.

Originality/value

This paper provides a clear explanation of the ontology of strong structuration theory, its implications for research design and how it holds the potential to overcome many of the limitations of earlier management accounting studies deploying structuration theory.

Details

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, vol. 12 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1176-6093

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Article

Lisa Jack and Ahmed Kholeif

The aim of this paper is to present a reinforced version of structuration theory, known as strong structuration theory, set out in Stones as a disciplined approach to…

Abstract

Purpose

The aim of this paper is to present a reinforced version of structuration theory, known as strong structuration theory, set out in Stones as a disciplined approach to qualitative case study research in the organization, management and accounting fields. This framework challenges the belief held by certain critics that structuration theory cannot be used in substantive empirical research but is only a sensitising device or analytical tool.

Design/methodology/approach

A conceptual discussion is the approach of the paper.

Findings

The key concepts of strong structuration theory are outlined and then put in the context first of two attempts to apply the framework to empirical research and second of two recent papers which address theoretically informed qualitative research and the use of structuration theory in IT studies.

Research limitations/implications

There are some limitations of this paper. The framework offered was not used to set the original research questions in the two case studies employed as these cases were conducted before the publication of Stones' book in 2005. Also, as weaknesses in the framework can best be assessed using empirical findings, a full evaluation cannot be carried out until such research is undertaken.

Originality/value

This paper draws on recent research and thinking in sociology that have yet to be brought into case studies in the fields of accounting and management in particular.

Details

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, vol. 2 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1746-5648

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Article

Orla Feeney and Bernard Pierce

The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of accounting information in new product development (NPD) using Strong Structuration Theory. NPD is a complex social…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of accounting information in new product development (NPD) using Strong Structuration Theory. NPD is a complex social action involving a wide range of different actors and clusters of actors. Strong Structuration Theory allows the authors to take a broad view of this social system in order to develop a complete picture of the clusters of actors involved, to comprehensively examine the relevant structures, both internal and external, and to understand how these are formed, reformed or modified through the actions of agents.

Design/methodology/approach

A field study of the manufacturing division of a large group was conducted which explored how managers use accounting information during NPD. Examining how these managers draw upon their conjuncturally specific structures of signification, legitimation and domination, and how these are affected by their external structural conditions and their general dispositional frames of meaning, allowed the authors to develop an in-depth understanding of the managers’ behaviour during NPD.

Findings

These findings suggest that the managers’ use of accounting information is determined as much by the subjective nature of the managers themselves as it is by the objective characteristics of the structures with which they interact. By using Stones’ composite research strategy, which encourages the authors to conceive of internal structures as always looking outwards and external structures as always looking inwards, the findings help the authors to understand the “connecting tissue” between the different elements of the quadripartite of structuration which has been lacking in previous research in the area. This understanding of the connecting tissue between structures was facilitated by the micro-analysis of six managers within a given conjuncture. Using the concept of the agent-in-focus as a tool with which to switch lenses from manager to manager acknowledged the web-like interdependencies between different processes of structuration. This allowed an exploration of the relationships between the various agents and structures.

Originality/value

This study contributes to the understanding of Stones’ Strong Structuration Theory at both an ontological and methodological level by operationalising Stones’ model in a case study setting.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 29 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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Article

Lyn Daff and Lisa Jack

The purpose of this paper is to provide insights into the importance of accountants’ networks inside organisations, the parties who comprise those networks and how…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide insights into the importance of accountants’ networks inside organisations, the parties who comprise those networks and how accountants go about building and maintaining their networks. It also illustrates the use of strong structuration theory, which specifically considers the networks that surround agents. The theoretical discussion highlights the significance of communication as agency in the context of accounting practice through a strong structuration perspective.

Design/methodology/approach

A qualitative approach to the inquiry was adopted. Interviews were conducted with 30 Australian accountants from 22 not-for-profit organisations. A thematic approach was used to analyse the transcripts. Structuration theory, supplemented by strong structuration, informed the study.

Findings

The interviewees attested to the importance of communication and developing networks within their organisations. They actively sought to expand and enhance their networks. The accountants played a pivotal role in networks and they pursued both horizontal and vertical relations. The accountants’ knowledge of organisational positions and perceptions of their own roles were used strategically in attempts to alter the internal structures of networked others.

Research limitations/implications

The interviewed accountants worked in not-for-profit organisations and this may influence the findings. Future research might consider accountants working in for-profit organisations. The study provides insights into strategies to develop intra-organisational networks.

Originality/value

The study contributes to the meagre literature regarding accountants’ networks within organisations. It provides insights that may assist accountants in enhancing their own networks. Although structuration theory is well-established in accounting research, the enrichments offered by strong structuration are illustrated in this study.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 31 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article

Ahmed Othman Rashwan Kholeif and Lisa Jack

This paper aims to use Stones’ strong structuration theory (SST) that combines Giddens’ duality and Archer’s analytical dualism to deal with the paradox of embedded…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to use Stones’ strong structuration theory (SST) that combines Giddens’ duality and Archer’s analytical dualism to deal with the paradox of embedded agency, focussing on resistance, in the budgeting literature. It also applies this framework to an illustrative case study that examines a failed attempt to implement performance-based budgeting (PBB) in the Egyptian Sales Tax Department (ESTD).

Design/methodology/approach

The authors have used SST as an analytical framework. Longitudinal case study data were collected from interviews, observations, discussions and documentary analysis and from publicly available reports and other media issued by the World Bank.

Findings

The SST framework identifies the circumstances in which middle managers as embedded agency have limited possibilities to change their dispositions to act and identify opportunities for emancipation in the wider social context in which they are embedded. The official explanation for the failure to implement PBB in Egypt was obstruction by middle managers. The findings of this study provide an alternative explanation to that published by the World Bank for the failure to institutionalise PBB in Egypt. It was found that the middle managers were the real supporters of PBB. Other parties and existing laws and regulations contributed to the failure of PBB.

Research limitations/implications

As a practical implication of the study, the analysis presented here offers an alternative interpretation of the failure of the Egyptian project for monitoring and evaluation to that published by the World Bank. This case and similar cases may enhance the understanding of how and when monitoring and evaluation technologies should be introduced at the global level to manage conflicts of interest between agencies and beneficiaries.

Originality/value

This paper contributes to the extant management accounting literature on the use of ST in addressing the paradox of embedded agency in making or resisting structural change. It uses SST to integrate Giddens’ ST with critical realist theory, incorporating duality and dualism in a stronger model of structuration. The SST framework offers a means of analysing case studies that result from interactions and conjunctures between different groups of actors at different ontological levels. The paper also examines the issue of embedded agency in budgeting research using an illustrative case study from a developing country, Egypt.

Details

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, vol. 16 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1176-6093

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Article

Hans Englund and Jonas Gerdin

The purpose of this paper is to provide a commentary on “Structuration theory: reflections on its further potential for management accounting research”, a paper by Coad et al.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide a commentary on “Structuration theory: reflections on its further potential for management accounting research”, a paper by Coad et al.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper presents, discusses and challenges the critique that Coad et al. direct towards the notion of a flat and local structuration ontology in management accounting research.

Findings

This paper offers a number of reflections upon Coad et al.’s key arguments against a flat and local structuration ontology in extant accounting research. Based on the authors’ understanding of such an ontology, they also elaborate on what they believe a flat and local structuration ontology “can do” and “cannot do” for accounting research. Overall, the authors agree with Coad et al. that there is indeed an ontological divide between their different views on a flat and local ontology; a divide largely related to whether researchers have an essentialist view on social phenomena. However, the authors believe that Coad et al. exaggerate how this ontological divide has affected, and may affect, future empirical management accounting research.

Originality/value

This paper expands the current understanding of a flat and local structuration ontology in management accounting research.

Details

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, vol. 13 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1176-6093

Keywords

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Article

Elaine Pamela Harris, Deryl Northcott, Moataz Moamen Elmassri and Jari Huikku

In the field of strategic investment decision making (SIDM) a body of research has grown up via international case studies and organisation-based fieldwork. However, there…

Abstract

Purpose

In the field of strategic investment decision making (SIDM) a body of research has grown up via international case studies and organisation-based fieldwork. However, there has been little systematic theorisation around SIDM processes and practices. The purpose of this paper is to show how strong structuration theory (SST) can be employed to guide how future SIDM studies are conducted and theorised.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors draw upon the concepts from SST to reanalyse prior empirically based work. The authors apply SST-informed analysis to four SIDM case studies selected from the total of 18 published over the period 1970-2016 to explore the utility of SST compared with other approaches.

Findings

The analysis highlights the role of agents’ knowledgeability and position-practice relations in SIDM, which has largely been neglected by prior studies. The authors demonstrate the potential of SST to inform meso-level theorising by applying it to four published case studies. Whilst the authors argue for the adoption of SST, the authors also identify key methodological and conceptual issues in using SST in SIDM research.

Research limitations/implications

The examples and recommendations could assist management accounting researchers, particularly those engaged in case studies and organisational fieldwork, to build knowledge via the improved comparison, integration and theorisation of cases undertaken by different researchers in different contexts.

Originality/value

The authors offer a bridge between SST concepts and case study evidence for theorising, carrying out and analysing case study and field research on SIDM.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 29 no. 7
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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Article

Judith Broady‐Preston

The purpose of this paper is to explore qualitative methodologies appropriate to a research project investigating the boundaries and scope of the information profession…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore qualitative methodologies appropriate to a research project investigating the boundaries and scope of the information profession, with specific reference to the skills/knowledge base and concepts of “professionalism”.

Design/methodology/approach

Reviewed and critically evaluated here are social theory frameworks, focusing particularly on Structuration theory.

Findings

Strong Structuration Theory either singly or in combination with Social Identity Theory, appears to offer a sound methodology to explore concepts of change, conflict and professional identity, from both micro and macro perspectives.

Research limitations/implications

Strong Structuration Theory stands as a powerful tool in discovering reconstituted “boundaries along which professions can build new strategies of legitimisation” and remake themselves.

Originality/value

This review provides a critical evaluation of some of the current methodologies available to help define professional expertise.

Details

Performance Measurement and Metrics, vol. 10 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1467-8047

Keywords

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Article

Georgios Makrygiannakis and Lisa Jack

The purpose of this paper is to explore the application of social theory as conceptual methodology in the design of case study research.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the application of social theory as conceptual methodology in the design of case study research.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors examine how social theory can be used to design case study research when the choice of theory is made before or during the empirical enquiry. Rather than simply presenting the elements of design, the focus is on the ways the elements relate and connect to each other, i.e. how a researcher can design each step to facilitate the work that needs to be done in the others.

Findings

A circular research design starts and finishes with the theory. The conceptual tools that social theories offer can be used to guide researchers into the empirical field and out of it. A conceptually driven design facilitates the interconnection between the various steps of a research project and can keep theory, research problem and data closely connected.

Research limitations/implications

There is a role for systematic research design in interpretative case studies in management accounting and control. Although this paper uses strong structuration theory, the circular design proposed can be applied for other social theories and methodologies where an abductive approach is appropriate.

Originality/value

There are very few papers that explicitly demonstrate the implications of research design choices in case study research. In particular, the authors contribute to discussions on the conduct of interpretative research in management control and demonstrate that, especially for structuration theory, a conceptual methodology approach to research design, data collection and analysis can lead to theoretical insight.

Details

Meditari Accountancy Research, vol. 26 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2049-372X

Keywords

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