Approaches towards management control (own illustration)

Management Control Systems: A Review
E. Strauß and C. Zecher
Appendix A: Review protocol
Review Protocol
Review motivation
In recent years, the field of management accounting and control has
experienced a new dynamic in terms of proposing various new analytical
conceptualizations of MCS. However, different attempts to improve
conceptualizations of MCS and to overcome existing inconsistencies have
not (yet) been successful. Rather, the field of MCS research is still
characterized by its fragmented status. The fact that the literature has not yet
provided a review of past research on conceptualizations of MCS
contributes to the fragmented view of the field.
Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to illustrate and to evaluate analytical
conceptualizations of MCS that have been developed in the academic
Research questions
How are MCS defined in the literature and in which regards are those
definitions similar/different?
What constitutes a continuum of conceptualizations of MCS?
Which purposes do MCS have to fulfill?
Which types of MCS have been developed?
Which frameworks of MCS have been developed and in which regards are
those frameworks similar/different?
Which textbooks are used for teaching MCS and how do these textbooks
approach MCS?
Our sample consists of textbooks about MCS as well as of published papers
aimed at making a contribution to the conceptualization of MCS.
Search strategy
Relevant papers and textbooks are identified in a three-stage process:
1. E-Mail survey among accounting academics with the use of
Hasselback’s Accounting Faculty Directory
2. Syllabi search with the Internet search engine Google on websites of
universities and colleges in English-speaking countries; using the
keywords “syllabus”, “management control systems” and “”
3. Search for papers in the online database EBSCO/Business Source
Complete; using the keywords “MCS”, “management control system”,
“management control”, “control system”, “performance measurement
system”, “management accounting and control system”, and
“organizational control”
Criteria for the
inclusion of
 The textbook has been nominated by the survey
 The textbook has been recommended in a syllabus
 The textbook covers the individual, corporate organization, i.e. it is not
restricted to non-profit organizations, multi-national companies or
management control in inter-firm relationships
 The textbook has a definite and explicit focus on MCS, e.g. by having
the term “management control systems” in its title, by dedicating a
significant part of the text to the depiction of MCS, or by covering MCS
in a comprehensive and detailed manner
 The textbook provides a distinct approach or conceptualization of MCS
that the textbooks’ authors have been developed, i.e. it goes beyond the
sheer presentation of other researchers’ work
Appendix A: Review protocol (cont’d)
Criteria for the
exclusion of
 The textbook is neither mentioned in the survey nor recommended in a
 The textbook covers MCS only in specific contexts, such as in nonprofit organizations or cross-cultural settings
 The textbook covers MCS only marginally, e.g. its actual focus is on
another topic such as management accounting
 The textbook provides solely a review of conceptualizations that
researchers other than the authors have been developed
Criteria for the
inclusion of papers
 The paper has a definite and explicit focus on MCS, e.g. by containing
either the term “management control” or “organizational control” in its
 The paper focuses on the individual, corporate organization, i.e. it is not
restricted to non-profit organizations, multi-national companies or
management control in inter-firm relationships
 The paper is primarily conceptual in nature but can contain an empirical
 The paper makes an own contribution to the conceptualization of MCS,
i.e. it goes beyond the sheer presentation of other researchers’ work
 The paper is published in an academic journal or primarily addressed
towards the scientific community
Criteria for the
exclusion of papers
 The paper primarily illustrated or applied an MCS framework without
making a theoretical contribution
 The paper focuses on specific control systems or control devices, e.g.
accounting information systems
 The paper covers MCS only in specific contexts, such as in non-profit
organizations or cross-cultural settings
 The paper is published in a practitioner-oriented journal or primarily
addressed towards practitioners
 The paper provides solely a review of conceptualizations that
researchers other than the authors have been developed
Management Control Systems: A Review
E. Strauß and C. Zecher
Appendix B: Studies making a relevant contribution to the conceptualization of MCS
1978 Planning Management Control Systems
Agency Research in Managerial Accounting: A
Berry, Coad, Harris, Otley,
and Stringer
Emerging Themes in Management Control: A Review
of Recent Literature
Broadbent and Laughlin
Performance Management Systems: A Conceptual
Daft and Macintosh
The Nature and Use of Formal Control Systems for
Management Control and Strategy Implementation
Contribution to the conceptualization of MCS
Discusses the degree of complexity and the degree of
turbulence as independent variables relevant for designing
MCS; describes distinctive features of MCS; connects
control tools to independent variables and features of
Links decision making with control; distinguishes between
belief revision, motivation, and allocation as three different
uses of MCS information.
Build on the review by Otley et al. (1994) and cover the
following emerging themes: decision making for strategic
control, performance management for strategic control,
control models for performance management and
measurement, management control and new forms of
organisation, control and risk, culture and control, and
practice and theory.
Develop a conceptual model of performance management
systems (PMS) with an emphasis on the underlying factors
that influence the nature of any PMS. Extension of Otley
(1999), and Ferreira and Otley (2005, 2009).
Critically reviews findings from contingency-based studies
and derives a series of propositions relating MCS to
organizational context. Delianates the terms MCS, MAS,
MIS, and AIS.
The British
Management Control Systems Design Within Its
2003 Organizational Context: Findings from ContingencyBased Research and Directions for the Future
Management Control and Accounting Systems under
a Competitive Strategy
Empirical case
Provides a definition of MCS.
Empirical case
Identify six components or subsystems that comprise
management control: 1) Strategic plan; 2) long-range plan;
3) annual operating budget; periodic statistical reports; 5)
performance appraisal; 6) policies and procedures.
Appendix B: Studies making a relevant contribution to the conceptualization of MCS (cont’d)
1961 Problems in Studying Management Control
Evans III, Lewis, and
Ferreira and Otley
The Design and Use of Performance Management
Systems: An Extended Framework for Analysis
Contingency Theory, Management Control Systems
1998 and Firm Outcomes: Past Results and Future
Accounting, Budgeting and Control Systems in Their
1983 Organizational Context: Theoretical and Empirical
Flamholtz, Das, and Tsui
Toward an Integrative Framework of Organizational
1972 The Spectrum of Management Control
An Economic Modeling Approach to Contingency
Theory and Management Control
Toward a Psycho-Technical Systems Paradigm of
Organizational Measurement
Journal of
Contribution to the conceptualization of MCS
Provides a definition of MCS; proposes a cybernetic
(instead of a functional) approach towards the study of
Illustrate two economic models of MCS and analyze how
they are affected by contingency variables.
empirical case
Development of the performance management and control
framwork (PMC) as a research tool that combines the
approaches by Simons (1995) and Otley (1999). The paper
has been published first on SSRN (Ferreira & Otley, 2005).
Identifies contingent control variables, defines boundaries
of MCS, reviews prior research on contingency theory and
empirical case
SAM Advanced
Regards measurement in an organizational context as a
"psycho-technical system" since a technology is intended
to influence behavior, including management decisions.
Concludes that an accounting systems cannot be studied in
isolation as it is embedded in the organization's MCS; thus
propagates a broader approach towards the study of MCS.
Develop an integrative organizational control consisting of
a core control system embedded in the context of
organizational structure, organizational culture and the
external environment.
Illustrates various describtions and theories of control
along a "spectrum of management control"; Differentiates
between principles of control, the control feedback process,
information sciences and control, and behavioral sciences
and control.
Appendix B: Studies making a relevant contribution to the conceptualization of MCS (cont’d)
2007 A Framework for M anagement Control Research
Lebas and Weigenstein
Contribution to the conceptualization of MCS
Development of the organizational M CS is based on
four components: (1) organizational structure and
strategy, (2) corporate culture; (3) management
information systems, and (4) core control package.
Concludes that the relationship between strategy and
M CS is not well understood, in spite of the numerous
studies conducted in this area.
Differentiate between markets, rules and culture as
three underlying approaches of M CS and discuss those
in terms of Hofstede's work-related values
Provides a defintion of M CS; stresses the fact that
M CS have to ensure that actions are in accordance with
the firm's objectives.
Examines the design and usage of a M CS from a
contingency perspective; puts an emphasis on
informational purposes of M CS.
M anagement Control Systems and Strategy: A
Critical Review
M anagement Control: The Roles of Rules,
M arkets and Culture
On the Idea of a M anagement Control System:
Integrating Accounting and M anagement Control
M achin
A Contingent M ethodology for M anagement
Empirical field
M almi and Brown
M anagement Control Systems as a Package 2008 Opportunities, Challenges and Research
Development of the M CS package that involves
cultural controls, planning, cybernetic controls, reward
and compensation, and administrative controls.
M odell
A Three-Dimensional Approach to M anagement
Control Systems
Develops eight archetypal M CS by positioning the
formal M CS along the feedback/feed-forward, the
financial/non-financial and the formal/informal
dimensions of control.
Appendix B: Studies making a relevant contribution to the conceptualization of MCS (cont’d)
M orris III
M anagement Control and Decision Support
Systems: An Overview
M anagement
M urr, Bracey, and Hill
How to Improve Your Organization's
M anagement Controls
M anagement
M anagement Control in Contemporary
Organizations: Towards a Wider Framework
Performance M anagement: A Framework for
M anagement Control Systems Research
Otley and Berry
1980 Control, Organisation and Accounting
Otley, Broadbent, and
Empirical field
Research in M anagement Control: An Overview
of Its Development
The Relationship between Organizational
Structure and Organizational Control
A Conceptual Framework for the Design of
Organizational Control M echanisms
Contribution to the conceptualization of MCS
Provides a definition and classification of control
systems and outlines problems that occur during the
design, development and implementation of decision
support systems.
Provide a definition of M CS; identify which kinds of
controls fit with which organizational characteristics
Argues that the traditional approach towards M CS
developed in the 1960s emphasized accounting-based
controls which is are too restrictive in a contemporary
setting. Instead, a holistic approach towards the study
of M CS is suggested.
Development of the performance management framework consists of five questions that address (1) key
objectives, (2) strategies and plans, (3) required level of
performance, (4) rewards, and (5) information flows.
Distinguish different forms of control under different
conditions and the recognize the interaction of control
with the social community.
Point out that the work by Anthony (1965) led to an
emphasis of accounting-based frameworks and
advocate a broader understanding of M CS.
Differentiates between behavior control and output
Describes market, bureaucratic, and clan as three
different control mechanisms.
Appendix B: Studies making a relevant contribution to the conceptualization of MCS (cont’d)
Accounting Control Systems and Business
Strategy: An Empirical Analysis
The Role of M anagement Control Systems in
Creating Competitive Advantage: New
Strategic Orientation and Top M anagement
Attention to Control Systems
How New Top M anagers Use Control Systems as
Levers of Strategic Renewal
Explaining M anagement Control Structure
Variety: A Transaction Cost Economics
Towards Horizontal Archetypes of M anagement
Control: A Transaction Cost Economics
Firms, Institutions and M anagement Control: The
1999 Comparative Analysis of Coordination and
Control Systems
Empirical field
Empirical case
Empirical case
Empirical case
Presents a transaction cost economics approach for the
development of M CS archetypes.
Explains the adoption and design of horizontal M CS
by following a transaction cost economics approach.
Distinguishes between four characteristics of control
systems ((1) the extent to which control is exercised
overwhelmingly through formal rules and procedures,
(2) the degree of control exercised over how unit
activities are carried out, (3) the influence and
involvement of unit members in exercising control, and
(4) the scope of the information used by the control
system in evaluating performance and deciding rewards
and sanctions), and four types of control systems ((1)
bureaucratic, (2) output, (3) delegated, and (4)
Contribution to the conceptualization of MCS
Examines the link between strategy and M CS which
will later become a key feature of Simons' 'levers of
control' framework.
Examines how M CS are used in the process of strategy
formulation; introduces the notion of interactive
Examines the differences between diagnostic and
interactive control systems.
Introduces the 'levers of control' framework.
Management Control Systems: A Review
E. Strauß and C. Zecher
Appendix C: Approaches to studying management control
Most reviews on MCS research draw on different approaches towards the study of
management control to organize the various studies conducted in this area. Error!
Reference source not found. provides an overview of the approaches covered by
different reviews. It should be noted that only those approaches were selected that have
particularly inspired empirical management control researchers. While many more
possible perspectives towards management control exist, these are deemed to be of minor
importance. As the table indicates, the selection of perspectives differs considerably
across the reviews. For instance, Hofstede (1978) focuses solely on the cybernetic
philosophy, while Merchant and Otley (2007) cover six1 bodies of MCS-related literature.
In total, we identified nine empirically applied approaches towards management control
which will be briefly discussed in this section.
In fact, Merchant and Otley (2007) discuss seven approaches since systems theory is separated
into a systemic and a systematic approach. However, to our knowledge, Merchant and Otley
(2007) are the only authors that make this distinction. Therefore, we decided to subsume both
approaches under the category systems theory.
Management Control Systems: A Review
E. Strauß and C. Zecher
Approaches towards management control
Bedeian and Giglioni
Merchant and Simons
Otley, Broadbent, and Berry
Merchant and Otley
Article in
edited volume
Agency Internal
theory control
Approaches towards management control (own illustration)
Management Control Systems: A Review
Strauß & Zecher
As the number of reviews including this approach indicates, cybernetics2 is a popular
theory in management control research. In fact, the cybernetic idea is prevalent in the earliest
discussions of management control (Bedeian and Giglioni 1974). Among others, this first
category of approaches is concerned with communication and control processes in social
systems (Merchant and Otley 2007). The cybernetic philosophy is based on the following
“1. There is a standard, corresponding to effective and efficient accomplishment of
the organization’s objectives.
Actual accomplishment can be measured. […]
When standard and measurement are compared and variance information is fed
back, this information can be used to intervene in the process so as to eliminate
unwanted differences between measurement and standard for the next round.”
(Hofstede 1978, pp. 451-452)
Particularly, a control process can have one or more feedback loops (Merchant and Otley
2007; Merchant and Simons 1986). In addition to the feedback function described by
Hofstede (1978), controls in cybernetic models are also recognized to have a feed forward
function, such as extrapolating figures before measures are taken (Merchant and Otley 2007;
Parker 1986). Essentially, the cybernetic approach implies that the management control
process is comparable to processes in the natural sciences, such as physics (Merchant and
Simons 1986; Parker 1986). Regarding the limitations of cybernetics, Hofstede (1978)
criticizes that the assumptions for applying this model are rarely justified in organizational
practice. Further, the cybernetic approach seems more applicable for routine processes, e.g.
for industrial production. Above all, Hofstede (1978) is of the opinion that management
control process, in which people are involved, cannot be compared to machine-like processes.
In particular, the cybernetic approach neglects issues of motivating employees and creating a
sense of shared values in the organization. Issues of negotiation, power, and judgment in
decision making are also neglected. As a suggestion, researchers should differentiate between
organizational processes that are cybernetic and those that are more political in nature
(Hofstede 1978).
Parker (1986) discusses the cybernetic approach under the term ‘structural control model’.
Management Control Systems: A Review
Strauß & Zecher
The field of systems theory is difficult to delineate from cybernetics. Merchant and
Otley (2007) propose that cybernetics are concerned with closed systems, while systems
theory assumes an open point of view (Otley et al. 1995). As Parker (1986) noted:
“Thus social organizations came to be viewed as open systems, open to external
environmental influence as well as internal factors, receiving inputs and transforming
them into outputs, engaged in a process of continuous adjustment to environmental
changes and regulating their activities with a view to achieving a state of dynamic
equilibrium […].” (p. 147)
In fact, systems theory is cybernetic in nature with some important differences to the
cybernetic philosophy. First, systems theory requires the study of entire organizations rather
than a selection of certain parts, since organizational systems consist of several, interrelated
subsystems. Second, control is perceived as a dynamic instead of a static mechanism between
people and activities (Parker 1986).
Furthermore, within systems theory, Merchant and Otley (2007) differentiate between
the systemic and the systematic approach. Whereas the systemic approach is concerned with
the whole control of the organization and its activities, the systematic approach prevails in
accounting controls (Merchant and Otley 2007).
Rooted in organizational theory, contingency theory gained popularity in the early
1960s and – applied to management control – was used to explain how the effectiveness of
MCS depends on the specification of certain contextual variables (Chenhall 2003). In other
words, contingency theory claims that ‘no size fits it all’ (Merchant and Otley 2007; Parker
1986).3 Organizations were perceived as open social systems with distinct features (Sisaye
1998). The context-specific factors encompass, for instance, environmental uncertainty,
competition, technology, organizational structure, size, strategy and culture. The vast majority
of contingency-based studies analyze survey data (Chenhall 2003; Merchant and Simons
1986; Sisaye 1998). However, it was not until the early 1980s that contingency theory became
a popular approach in MCS research (Chenhall 2003). Though many studies with a
In fact, different forms of fit can be assumed such as the congruence and contingency fit. For further
reading, the articles by Gerdin and Greve (2004, 2008) are recommended.
Management Control Systems: A Review
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contingency approach have been conducted, a common shortcoming is their lack of advice for
designing effective MCS (Merchant and Otley 2007; Merchant and Simons 1986).
Agency theory has its foundations in microeconomic theory and basically applies
these principles to issues in management control (Merchant and Otley 2007; Merchant and
Simons 1986). Relying on the basic assumptions of asymmetric information and selfinterested individuals, agency theory is concerned with the optimal design of incentive
contracts between principals and agents. Thus, an agency relationship implies that a principal
delegates a task to an agent. Consequently, organizations form the aggregates of all principalagent-relationships across hierarchies. By developing agency models, researchers examine
how agency costs can be minimized under different conditions to ensure that the agent acts
appropriately in the principal’s interests. Among the variables specified in such models are
the risk preferences of the two actors, the cost of monitoring the agent’s behavior, and the
degree of information asymmetry. While some empirical research based on agency theory has
been conducted, most studies are analytical in nature. A commonly cited criticism of those
studies refers to their unrealistic assumptions, in addition to their disregard of contextual
factors. Nevertheless, some valuable insights have been generated concerning the design of
reward and compensation systems (Chenhall 2003; Merchant and Otley 2007; Merchant and
Simons 1986).
The following two categories, internal control and risk management, are rather fields
of study than distinct theories. Internal control, as a term originating from auditing, focuses
on an organization’s compliance with laws and regulations. Risk management is a broad term
that also addresses issues such as insurance and hedging strategies. However, both bodies
note, this body of literature are rather practice-oriented and less prevalent in research related
to management accounting and control (Merchant and Otley 2007).
They are characterized by the recognition of two distinct aspects of
For an illustration of approaches categorized as radical perspectives, and its application, see Chua et
al. (1989).
Management Control Systems: A Review
Strauß & Zecher
organizational activities. The first refers to the perception of the environment. While the
environment has been seen as a determinant to which the organization has to adapt, radical
theorists recognize that organizations can also influence their environment. The second
feature concerns the political dimension of organizational activities and particularly the
exercise of power. In this regard, radical theorists have revealed that MCS are embedded in a
complex political environment (Otley et al. 1995).
Regarding psychological or behavioral research in control, it “[...] is concerned with
the cognitive variability and cognitive limitations of individuals” (Merchant and Simons
1986, p. 189). Thus, behavioral research aims at explaining why individuals make decisions
inconsistent with expectations originating from rational economics. Thereby, aspects such as
selective perception and limitations in cognitive abilities are examined (Chenhall 2003). The
first study about behavioral issues of MCS was published in the early 1950s, but behavioral
management control research did not gain momentum until the 1970s (Otley et al. 1995;
Parker 1986). As a result of this body of literature, our understanding of cognitive processes
deepened and suggestions were made on how information processes and decision settings
could be improved. A major strength of behavioral approaches is their interdisciplinarity,
particularly their strong theoretical foundation in psychology (Merchant and Simons 1986).
While earlier studies focused on individual decision-making and neglected the link to
organizational performance, more recent research extended this approach to examine effects
on group as well as on organizational performance (Sisaye 1998).
The term sociological research is not used in a consistent manner. Merchant and
Simons (1986) employ the term “small sample sociological research” to describe case study
research as a contrast to large sample sociological research that draws on contingency theory.
While this distinguishes research methods rather than particular perspectives on management
control, studies in this category are characterized by a rich depiction of an organization’s
MCS and the relevant contextual variables. By conducting case studies, researchers try to
understand how and why a phenomenon emerges or how an MCS operates in a specific
organizational setting (Merchant and Simons 1986; Chenhall 2003).
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In contrast, according to Sisaye (1998), sociology views organizations as “rational
purposive social systems” (p. 12) with their ultimate objective being utility maximization.
The latter is achieved when MCS are designed according to the rational choice model, when
resources are allocated and services provided in an effective manner (Sisaye 1998).
To conclude, the illustrations of these approaches towards management control have
indicated the diversity of MCS research as well as the difficulty to compare studies conducted
under different paradigms. In fact, it is even difficult to compare studies conducted under the
same paradigm due to the different understandings and interpretations of the approaches.
Thus, for analyzing research on MCS, the assumptions and the characteristics of the
underlying perspective should be kept in mind.
Management Control Systems: A Review
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Appendix D: Rationales given for the selection of MCS textbooks
(a) Merchant and Van der Stede (2003)
“It is very comprehensive and has great cases.”
“Comprehensive coverage and real-world contexts.”
“Comprehensive coverage, up-to-date, well written.”
“[It] is broad and international.”
“I like it because of the depth of cases.”
“I selected the Merchant & Van der Stede book because it covered control systems
more broadly than the other texts. This text also had more well-written cases. […]
Also other texts really seem more cost accounting related and they seem more focused
on calculating costs, etc. as the main teaching point.”
“A well-written, and well-received book on managerial control systems. This book
has a behavior orientation using the framework of actions controls, results controls,
and people controls. This book includes cases.”
“Merchant and Van der Stede because it is up to date, not too expensive and has
reasonable set of cases.”
“No 2 [after Anthony and Govindarajan 2007], brought in the newer nuances and
concepts and a bit of easier approach for the students.”
“Merchant gives an appealing framework that is both systematic and exhaustive
regarding management controls. The book contains many real life cases. It can be
considered the standard work on modern management control systems.”
“What I like about this book is that it has a broader definition of MCS. As the authors
explain, they recognize that management controls can sometimes serve other purpose
than performance measurement, such as compliance to organizational policies and
laws. To me this is much more realistic, because in practice, people can't always
separate controls between management controls and internal control.”
“My first choice would be the Merchant and Van der Stede […] (strong emphasis on
motivation and reward systems, but incomplete, especially on operations -- good for
executive teaching).”
“3. Merchant-Van der Stede. I like this book for its breadth but disagree with its
“First, in my opinion, Merchant et al is written in a modern context. Secondly,
merchant's view of MCS systems - everything a manager does to ensure that
stragegies and plans are carried out, correspond to my owen. (perhaps, I should say
that I have been influenced by Merchant).”
“Merchant & Van der Stede provide a broad overview of controls, but do not include
all accounting supporting decision making into controls like some of the scholars do
(e.g. Chenhall 2003).”
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“I liked because he had a view of MCS that coincided with mine.”
(b) Anthony and Govindarajan (2007)
“[I] like the large number, wide variety, and generally high quality of the cases in the
Anthony & Govindarajan book.”
“While I was teaching the MCS course from the mid 70s to the mid 90s I was using
Robert Anthony's text ... the co-authors kept changing over the years, and I never
found any really compelling competitors in the field ... Bob Anthony and the folks at
HBS really defined the discipline, wrote about it interestingly, and came up with the
cases, both new and classic […].”
“It had reasonable text and good cases.”
“The first one being the earliest one to appear in the market and satisfied many of the
things I was looking for. It has good cases, a pretty good mix of theory and
quantitative approach.”
“Anthony is the godfather of management control. This book still is the basis of any
more in-depth study of management control systems.”
“This book provides more in-depth coverage of management control systems and may
be a book for master level course.”
“[It] is the ‘original’ and keeps the subject area somewhat ‘anchored’.”
“This book is an evolution of Anthony seminal work from 1965. While it is in my
opinion slightly outdated, it is still very popular. What is nice about this book is its
structure which makes it a good textbook for undergrad courses. My main reserve
however with it is its narrow definition of MCS which hasn't evolved since the 1960s.
It ignores compliance-related controls and it separates management controls from
strategic and operational controls. While this distinction was useful as a starting
point, it is difficult to use in practice.”
“1. It is comprehensive regarding the controllership function. 2. The flow of the
controllership material is logical, easy to follow by graduate students. 3. Many of the
cases in the book are excellent materials for learning. They are Harvard Business
School cases. However, some of the cases in the book are too complicated and too
long. 4. The book provides many relevant examples from industry to illustrate key
points. 5. The case analyses the publisher provides to adopters are very good.”
“[…] it has good aspects but seems a bit outdated.”
“Anthony's book is just augmented with strategy considerations.”
“Nice context and cases.”
“I have great confidence in the experience, intelligence and wisdom of (the late) Bob
Anthony [...].”
“I like the topic coverage.”
“Anthony has been around for a long time and is getting a little tired even though he
has used a joint author.”
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(c) Simons (2000)
“I believe that accounting typically covers operational, diagnostic controls and that
students should consider the broader spectrum. I think Simons introduces that
broader perspective. Accounting takes a narrow focus. Management tends to ignore
control thinking that accounting is going to cover it. There is a need to look at the
broad spectrum of organizational control.”
“The focus on the four ‘levers of control’ is useful to me...though students have not
found it as compelling.”
“Great model. Frames the issues very well. Very good cases.”
“Modern techniques, levers of control discussion, well-written, real-world contexts.”
“The Simons text is the one I use in our Management Control Course. While it is not
perfect it does have a very good coverage of the major MCS issues. It is a well
organized book and really helps students understand MCS as a holistic area of study
(not just something which can be understood from an accounting point of view).”
“Simons’ book is explicitly built around strategy implementation.”
“Simons combines strategy formation with strategy implementation and thus provides
a contemporary view on management control systems that good one step further than
Merchant by focusing on innovation.”
“I hesitated before putting this book on my list, because it has many flaws as a
textbook. For example, it does not have a user friendly structure for use in a class
room and it presents well-known concepts such as cost variances in a new way, which
is just confusing. Also, the four levels however could do with more precise definitions,
because the levers of control framework can be sometimes confusing. However, it
does have interesting ideas on MCS. The interactive use of controls is one of them.”
“This is the book that corresponds most closely with my philosophy.”
“Simons Levers of Control is simple enough and easy to explain to managerial
audience. It has also generated quite a lot research.”
Other textbooks
“Because I rarely use textbooks, especially if management control. If the latter I will
refer to Macintosh small book because it is insightful and refreshingly nonmainstream; then Emmanuel, Otley & [Merchant] particularly because the cases are
“Many cases in this book [Allen et al. 2004] offer a very practical view on
management control systems. I thought it is pretty good supplemental materials. This
book [Horngren et al. 2008a] integrates the concept of management control systems
into each chapter of the book.”
“Macintosh is strong conceptually and stimulating.”
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“[Merchant and Van der Stede 2003, Hopper et al. 2007, Emmanuel et al. 1990:]
Comprehensive coverage, up-to-date, well written.”
“I like [Emmanuel et al. 1990] because of the broad theoretical treatment of the
“All of these textbooks [Zimmerman 2008, Atkinson et al. 2007, Maher et al. 2007]
emphasize the importance of linking the firm's strategy to the decisions that are
supported by the managerial accounting system from production decisions to
customers to employee performance plans and programs.”
“Only this text [Horngren et al. 2008a] does a good job of covering MCS from an
accounting prospective.”
“It [Horngren et al. 2008a] is comprehensive, up to date, and has excellent
“I believe it [Horngren et al. 2008a] does a good comprehensive job, covering many
areas of Cost/Management Accounting.”
“I do not exactly teach a course on MCS. I do teach a management accounting course
that includes as a minor component management control issues. For that course, I use
a textbook by Horngren, Datar and Foster titled 'Cost accounting: a managerial
emphasis', which is similar to many other books on the subject.”
“The only book I know is Ron Hilton’s, so I really can't rank.”
“2. Zimmerman. This is not a straight MCS book but has a control / incentive flavor. I
use the 3-legged stool idea all the time.”
General comments
“My only comments are that in recent years cost texts have begun to sound too much
like management texts, rather than accounting texts. Further, problems and cases fail
to capture to full complexity of real world situations.”
“This is a difficult question to answer since there are many different definitions of
management control. Therefore how a book user defines management control will
have a major influence on the rating.”
“Keep in mind that in the U.S. accounting academicians tend to use the term
‘managerial (or management) accounting’ to include what most accounting
academicians in Europe call ‘management control’.”
“Other than the Harvard case book on Management control Systems, I can think of
few others. Could it be that the topic is larger than is found in one textbook or one
discipline? That is my view.”
“MCS are all or nothing.”
“You have set yourself a difficult task. Anglo-Saxon researchers have tended to use
management control to indicate a broader approach to control than just management
accounting. However, there has never been clear boundaries amongst them (The
Management Control Workshop members in the early 1980s debating amongst
themselves to find a definition of management control without ever achieving a
Management Control Systems: A Review
Strauß & Zecher
consensus) - though they managed to work well together after. Systems theory and
cybernetics was originally an important source but later work drifted more into
philosophy and sociology and saw control as power. Another problem was where to
draw boundaries, e.g. between planning, strategy, operations and control - we found
it difficult to justify any boundaries but we still tended to keep more to aspects of
control and not develop an all embracing control theory that included say marketing,
operations etc. Sorry - but you may never find a common management control
definition amongst Anglo-Saxon scholars - perhaps it is a boundary object albeit a
useful one. It produced lots of interesting work - do you need a definition? Is it
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