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This study aims to synthesize qualitative research in the accounting and management literature that builds on the concept of enabling formalization. The framework for the meta-synthesis integrates formal management control system (MCS) design applying the package typology and two modes of MCS use, namely, diagnostic and interactive.Design/methodology/approachThe meta-synthesis is based on 34 case studies gathered by a systematic literature search. Qualitative research mining software (Leximancer) was used to facilitate an initial analysis, upon which an in-depth manual analysis was conducted.FindingsThe findings indicate that the generic features of enabling formalization – specifically, flexibility and repair – help employees better deal with inevitable contingencies in their daily work through continuous self-improvement. In many circumstances, there is a need to change common organizational practices, which sometimes requires realignment to direct employee behavior toward goal congruence. The (temporary) coercion of employees does not seem to cause dysfunctional behavior or resistance as long as the broader MCS package follows the design features of enabling formalization – specifically, transparency. The interactive use of personnel/cultural controls appears to play a crucial role within the whole MCS package in balancing tensions between coercion and enabling formalization.Originality/valueThis study adds to the understanding of formal MCS design characteristics perceived by managers and employees as enabling. Furthermore, it shows how managers of these organizations use formal MCS under enabling formalization.
Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change – Emerald Publishing
Published: Feb 22, 2021
Keywords: Enabling; Flexibility; Formalization; Meta-synthesis; Qualitative research; Management control systems
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