Handbook of Organizational Routines
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Handbook of Organizational Routines

Edited by Markus C. Becker

This cutting-edge, multidisciplinary Handbook comprises specially commissioned contributions surveying state-of-the-art research on the concept of organizational routines. An authoritative overview of the concept of organizational routines and its contributions to our understanding of organizations is presented. To identify those contributions, the role of organizational routines in such processes as organizational learning, performance feedback, and organizational memory is discussed. To identify how the concept can contribute to different disciplinary fields, the expert authors review applications across a range of fields including political science, sociology, and accounting.
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Chapter 5: Organizational Routines in Accounting

John Burns and Robert W. Scapens


John Burns and Robert W. Scapens Introduction One area of firm behavior that plainly is governed by a highly structured set of routines is accounting. Like other routines of real organizations, accounting procedures have the important characteristic that they can be applied on the basis of information actually available in real situations. (Nelson and Winter, 1982, pp. 410–11) This chapter discusses recent research within the accounting discipline that endeavours to highlight the routinised nature of its subject. The following aims to provide the reader with insight into how certain scholars within the accounting discipline have developed an understanding of its subject through conceptualisation of accounting routines but also, more generally, how accounting might claim to contribute towards development of the broader organisational routines literature. At the outset we define these routines as accounting procedures in use – for example, costing and budgeting procedures (Burns and Scapens, 2000, p. 7). Rules represent the formalised statement of such procedures – e.g., a budgeting manual, and are normally changed only at discrete intervals, whereas accounting routines have the potential to be in a cumulative process of change as they continue to be reproduced. Thus accounting procedures in use (routines) may not actually replicate the accounting systems (rule) as set out in the procedures manual (Roberts and Scapens, 1985). Thus, in this respect, our definition is consistent with the view that accounting routines can be ‘effortful accomplishments’ (Feldman and Pentland, 2003) and, over time, can change and involve adaptive and creative behaviour...

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