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Organizational identity and management accounting change

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Purpose ‐ This paper aims to examine how and why management accounting practices are linked to an organization's identity and identity discrepancies. Design/methodology/approach ‐ A qualitative field study of a one-year change project in a large manufacturing company is used as the basis for the analysis. Findings ‐ The empirical study reveals how discrepancies between organizational members' perceived identity and their construed external (and desired future) image both influence and are influenced by emergent accounting practices. Empirical evidence suggests such a reciprocal relationship between accounting and identity, since accounting practices are an important means of (de)legitimizing an organization's current self-perception. Research limitations/implications ‐ The uncovered reciprocal relationship between management accounting practices and organizational identity (discrepancies) have implications for a broader literature, including the works on how different forms of control interact as a "control package" and the discourse on potential sources of organizational identity change. Originality/value ‐ Although it has previously been suggested that management accounting may be an important means for, as well as an outcome of, processes of identity (re)constructions in organizations, this study suggests a more complex interplay than has previously been noted in the literature. Specifically, it was found that organizational identity may for a considerable time work as a highly influential and largely unquestioned categorical imperative, signifying the boundaries of appropriate organizational action. At times, however, accounting practices may spark (re)constructions of identity discrepancies through: providing identity-inconsistent evidence; and using (new) measures in a "feed-forward" manner to explore possible ways to close such perceived discrepancies.
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Keywords: Corporate identity; Corporate image; Management accounting

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-03-29

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