Managing in Dynamic Business Environments

Managing in Dynamic Business Environments

Between Control and Autonomy

Edited by Katarina Kaarbøe, Paul N. Gooderham and Hanne Nørreklit

This timely and innovative book focuses on budgeting control and ongoing Beyond Budgeting trends and its consequences for the organization. Ensuring an optimal balance between individual autonomy and management control is a critical challenge for organizations operating in dynamic business environments. Too much of the former leads to chaos, and too much of the latter guarantees rigidity. This book explores the tensions that arise in seeking the best possible balance between these two dimensions. Resolving these tensions is a critical challenge for achieving competitiveness.

Chapter 12: Systems of accountability and personal responsibility

Lars Jacob Tynes Pedersen

Subjects: business and management, corporate governance, strategic management


A central challenge in any organization is ensuring that individuals, groups and organizational units act and perform as desired, and holding them accountable if they do not. This challenge has a performance dimension, as organizations need to be sure that task performance is adequate, that is, that employees undertake the tasks with which they are entrusted in a manner that promotes organizational performance. Accordingly, it is closely related to performance management and measurement (see, e.g., Kaplan and Atkinson, 1998). Moreover, this challenge has a conduct dimension, as organizations need to ensure that employees act in accordance with relevant norms and – when desired by the organization – with awareness of how their decisions and acts influence relevant internal and external stakeholders (e.g., Cooper and Owen, 2007; Zsolnai, 2009). These two dimensions constitute the basis for accountability. This implies that actors must be able to give accounts, explanations and justifications of what they have done and why (e.g., Munro and Hatherly, 1993; Messner, 2009), primarily with regard to performance and conduct (Benston, 1982; Jørgensen and Pedersen, 2011). Management control systems are designed to promote accountability on all organizational levels (Macintosh and Quattrone, 2010). They do so by enabling control after-the-fact, that is, by scrutinizing whether actual behavior met the relevant requirements, and by creating general awareness of control and, thereby, accountability among organizational members, that is, by instilling people with the knowledge that future performance and conduct will be scrutinized (Kirk and Mouritsen, 1996).

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