Roles, Authority and Involvement of the Management Accounting Function: A Multiple Case-study Perspective

Caroline Lambert, Samuel Sponem
2011 The European Accounting Review  
Both authors thank 'Fondation HEC' and 'Agence Nationale de la Recherche' for their fundings. Abstract Recent techniques and shifts in the environment are often foreseen as leading management accountants to adopt a business orientation. However, empirical evidence pointing to fundamental shifts in the roles played by management accountants remains relatively scarce. We explore this paradox and give sense to the various roles played by the management accounting function by focusing on how
more » ... using on how management accountants are involved in and endowed with authority in decision-making situations. Using data we gathered from 73 interviews in ten multinational companies, we identify four styles adopted by the management accounting function: the discrete, the safeguarding, the partner, and the omnipotent management accounting functions. We show that each style can be associated with a specific role: discrete control of managerial behaviour, socialisation of managers, facilitation of decision-making, and centralisation of power. Some of these roles-facilitating local decision-making or discretely controlling managerial behaviour, for instance-have been under discussion in the literature for many years now. Our detailed analysis of management accountants' work reveals that these roles can be associated with both unexpected benefits, such as fostering creativity, and unforeseen drawbacks, such as drift in governance. Furthermore, our findings bring to light other, unexplored roles-centralising power or socialising managers, for example-providing us with a more enriched understanding of management accounting practice. From this in-depth analysis of management accountants' styles and roles we move on to discuss the authority they hold and the independence/involvement dilemma they face in the workplace.
doi:10.1080/09638180.2011.629415 fatcat:57erc5szvzawrfxuvg6pvabyf4