Exploring the Role of Management Accounting Systems in Strategic Sensemaking We are gonging to critically evaluate an article on the Exploring the Role of Management Accounting Systems in Strategic Sensemaking by authors Marcus Heidmann, Utz Schaffer and Susanne Strahringer. Title, Abstract and Introduction We think that the abstract provides sufficient information, identifies main issues in the article and explain the purpose of writing this article, and echo each other at the title. The introduction is very informative.
It illustrated two main problems (interpretation and logistical problem), which related to understanding the role of MAS in strategic sensemaking. The interpretation perspective defined strategic sensemaking as a learning process, and interactive use of MAS have positive influences. However, interactive perspective neglects the relationship between MAS use and MAS dimension. The logistical perspective just said MAS dimensions is important in this information processing, but not explain how MAS dimensions contribute to strategic sensemaking.
Both information processing did not deal with these problems. Theoretical framework In the literature view authors defined strategic sensemaking as the individual process of observing, interpreting, and communicating strategic issues. Through these three successive processes to understand how managers use the management accounting system and how MAS dimensions contribute to this use. Management accounting system in the observation phase, there are two characteristic modes of observation – scanning and focused search.
Scanning behaviour can provide managers with different perspectives on strategic issues and it is more likely to accommodate new information. However, managers are more likely to use MAS for focused search, which can faster identificated the problems in areas covered by the system. It is required by executives because the limited attention capacity to achieve targets. We must concerned that the statistical analysis and data mining technique can reveal the weak value information from the various kinds of data which people usually cannot find out directly.
High level of formalization as the character of MAS that focus attention on selected areas, whereas potential loss at other important areas and cause constrain the information. Authors said consistent data will reduce scanning behaviour and may decrease the possibility that strategic issues are identified. We thought these situations will occur, but managers use the MAS for focused search is inevitable. How to use their MAS for scanning and focused search together and have the greatest efficiency is worth considering. In the interpretation phase, authors thought manager’s awareness is a key factor to interpret strategic issues accurately.
Reliable information related to controliability perceptions and external information can reduce bias, errors and potential to increase confidence in judgement by consistent information. Therefore, MAS also can increase awareness during issue interpretation. Manager’s awareness and more extra information were useful, but managers use MAS determine strategic issues is important as well. Another point about MAS in form of short-termism have side-effects and harmful to the interpretation of strategic can balance the effect of short-term performance.
Correct form and flexible MAS information style are other factors effect strategic issues. However, we felt that this point may not key point in this phase. Authors stated find more extra information with a great degree of manager’s awareness to interpretation strategic issues. In the final phase – communication phase, authors introduce a new definition about media richness, which separated by three levels. High media richness of MAS should have a positive effect on sensemaking, but did not have enough evidence to prove there have positive influences.
On the other hand, managers use interactive MAS has positive impact on communication which reduced equivocality of strategic issues. The interactive use of MAS contributes to strategic sensemaking by providing directions and facilitating interactive that help to resolve equivocality of strategic issues is the biggest positive effect in communication phase. Authors further described the quality dimension of MAS, and proposed that when evaluating the MAS’s effectiveness, not only the information characteristics, but the system quality dimensions (integration, flexibility, accessibility, formalisation and media richness) should be considerate.
Of course, the integration analysis of information quality dimensions and system quality dimensions will give the comprehensive assessment of MAS’s role in stagey sensemaking. Authors have given the overall research framework. Information and system quality dimensions, both impact the three phases, which in turn impacts the effectiveness of MAS for strategic sensemanking. However, in our view, the research framework is too coarse. Is there interaction between the information quality and system quality? If exist, how is its impact on the MAS effectiveness, Are there any counteraction from MAS use to information quality and system quality?
All these question are not involved. Impact of MAS on Processes in Strategic Sensemaking Authors of the article use some statistics to explain how MAS influence processes in strategic sensemaking. We think they have interpreted what MAS can bring to companies. On observation, from doing some research and statistics analyzing, they get a high association between interactive use and focused search supports the notion that managers use MAS to look for specific information that is useful to discuss strategic issues. It is useful for us to understand the influence of MAS.
On interpretation, they say some people suggest that the processes to prepare MAS information can also increase awareness. It is a positive impact. They also doubt whether a high level of MAS formalization negatively impacts in strategic sensemaking. But they do not say how to solve this problem. If a high level of MAS formalization has been used in companies, how to avoid changes and risks? On communication, they analyze particularly what positive impact MAS can bring in strategic sensemaking, such as on communication. In strategic sensemaking it is important that information concerning strategic issues is communicated to managers who have complementary information or are able to take action. ” We all agree this point of view. Authors also tell us that there are two kinds of interaction when asked about the role of MAS information. It can help us understand what MAS information can help to companies. However, it does not say how the system can function effectively between managers and staff. For example, how to forecast negative problems occur in the future?
How to make this system flexibility in order to be suitable for more and more companies? We think there are still more important views do not be mentioned in this article. Although they use some cases to show some positive impact, it does not mean that systems are perfect. And the article does not tell us how to avoid any other questions such as how to avoid some risks when MAS be used. We agree that there must have some unstable elementary. We find another article talks about the effectiveness of management accounting systems. It also does not mention how managers can use it effectively.
Because there may have some negatively impacts if every manager use a high level of MAS formalization. From these two articles we can find that it is essential to solve this problem. We think there must have some risks if the level of management accounting system becomes too high. Although it has many positive impacts, it still cannot forecast risks in the future. Many managers try to deal with this problem through tools, but this is not sustainable. A good management accounting system should be a long-term management system not just a high level system.
It should consider risks and changes for companies in the future. We suggest that do more research for this system. Asking more managers for this system is essential, in order to find some negative impacts and solve them. Research Methodology Authors focus on measurement instruments of observation communication, and effectiveness of management accounting system in strategic sensemaking to make this research. Because the limited empirical evidence, complex and broad phenomenon, the most of relationships suggested are only tentative.
Therefore, the authors of the article state that: we chose an exploratory multiple-case design with 30 top and middle managers of 7 large companies in Germany. In the aspect of select sample, the authors introduce too detailed of the sample, and the range of the sample just limited in the companies of Germany. No explanation for the professional term such as replication logic. The highlight of this article is that authors collect data through semi-structured interview and a questionnaire. The diversified methods of data collection can obtain different result to be analyzed.
Although the author has taken some steps to reduce hindsight bias and allow the identification of unconscious effects of MAS in strategic sensemaking, the authors do not explain why the data have to be avoiding these situations and how these data affect the result in the part of semi-structured interviews. In the aspect of questionnaire, the authors quote a large number of words to introduce and explain which methods and aspects they used for data collection and analyze of the questionnaire. However, authors do not explain the absent questionnaire whether it is influence the survey or not.
Furthermore, the incomplete questionnaire might affect the accuracy of the result possibly. For analysis result, authors should explain more particularly and do not just use two number of percentages to illustrate. This paper needs some specific data to support the summary in the research. We suggest that authors can add more explanations for the professional term and reduce some unnecessary introduction such as for sample or give more detailed data in the appendix. Comparison to another article We compared this article with another similar one.
The title of the comparison article is “The effectiveness of management accounting systems” by Teerooven Soobaroyen and Bhagtaraj Poorundersing. In Teerooven’s paper, Regarding that there is little consideration of other more mainstream contextual factors such as uncertainty and decentralization(DEC) applied on research of the effectiveness of MAS, in addition to the information quality dimensions, in assessment of effectiveness of MAS, they focused on the effect of two contextual variables, namely task uncertainty (TU) and DEC.
They thought the absence of evidence on its actual timeliness, aggregation and integration may limit the benefits of knowing how far broad scope information has had am impact in the first place. Moreover, traditional methods usually are carried under some hypothetical conditions which often opposed to actual conditions, and this could undermine the practicality or validity of the results. Considering the impact of situational variables on the state of available MAS will be more near the practical situation.
That the evidence on the influence of contingent variables in the relationship between MAS and managerial performance remains incomplete and of limited usefulness also make it reasonable. However, unlike Teerooven’s paper, the author of this paper take consideration of system quality dimensions in addition to information quality dimensions, they recognised that not only the information quality itself but also the system performance on processing information can have impact on the analysis of MAS’s role.
In these two articles, both of them have their own emphasis, however, if combing their thoughts, more comprehensive, more extract evaluation of MAS would be acquired. The same aspects in select sample, there are more researchers and set out the requirements of sample selection in the comparison article. The author comments that “in this respect, the following lists and databases were used to triangulate and identify a reasonably full and reliable list of manufacturing companies….. ” In the aspect of research method, the choose of this article are compared as deeper discussion of this research.
Teerooven comment that: MAS play a significant intervening role between task uncertainty (TU) and decentralization (DEC)”. We feel that it is relevant to make valid comparison. The author chose to conduct their research using a questionnaire survey. Although we believe that the interview of semi-structured and questionnaire are superior to just sending out questionnaires, the comparison article may produce more accurate result due to using a large amount of research objects and screening by Teerooven and Bhagtaraj.
For the aspect of design questionnaire, the highlight of the comparison article is that there are total 41 questions which are divided into five parts about MAS. According to the different management structure of the companies, the authors of the comparison article design two different questionnaires which are “Sale/marketing manager” and “Production/operations manager” and give full of time to respond within three weeks. The design of questionnaire has played an important role for the research result.
In the aspect of research result, authors also have clearly classified above all aspect. There are not present in the article and we feel that this is a major weakness of the article by Marcus, Utz and Susanne. On the other hand, the comparison article have put into data result and the questionnaire template in the appendix. We feel that authors can expand the range of sample selection or add another research method to analyze. Conclusion
According to the knowledge what we learn and some relevant knowledge what we not familiar with, we are not sure that we propose some questions and doubt is reasonable. But we feel that the article have some questions like that the research framework is unsophisticated, there is not correlative between information quality and system quality and the problem is when the company has use the high level MAS formalized, which methods are used to improve and reduce the risk.
For details of the problems, the author can deal with a more particularly and improve some shortcomings, to make the article more fluently, such as no explanation for the professional term. Bibliography Poorundersing. B and Soobaroyen,T (2008) The effectiveness of management accounting systems, published by Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Available at: http://www. emeraldinsight. com. libaccess. hud. ac. uk/journals. htm? issn=0268-6902&volume=23&issue=2&articleid=1641976&show=pdf&PHPSESSID=lcnec7hn2ja606agg4g49si4u5 [accessed at 20 March 2012 ]
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