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The behavioral implications of management accounting.


In recent years, the Years, The

the seven decades of Eleanor Pargiter’s life. [Br. Lit.: Benét, 1109]

See : Time
 field of management accounting has witnessed significant progress in the development of new and refined accounting and control techniques. These developments include innovations in such areas as computer based systems, flexible budgeting, improved costing procedures, and the application of a variety of quantitative approaches in the gathering, analysis, and reporting of accounting data. It seems clear that management accounting is rapidly moving into a new era of increased technical expertise and sophistication so·phis·ti·cate  
v. so·phis·ti·cat·ed, so·phis·ti·cat·ing, so·phis·ti·cates
1. To cause to become less natural, especially to make less naive and more worldly.

. Yet, in one critical dimension, management accounting still appears to be in the "dark ages". For while, on the one hand, accountants are becoming increasingly expert in developing and using powerful technical tools, on the other hand, they still tend to display an almost total lack of awareness concerning the behavioral behavioral

pertaining to behavior.

behavioral disorders
see vice.

behavioral seizure
see psychomotor seizure.
 considerations involved in the use of these tools. This is particularly unfortunate because, to the extent that accounting techniques can sometimes cause undesired behavioral responses, the more powerful and sophisticated these techniques become, the more likely that their misuse from a behavioral standpoint The Standpoint is a newspaper published in the British Virgin Islands. It was originally published under the name Pennysaver, largely as a shopping-coupon promotional newspaper, but since emerged as one of the most influential sources of journalism in the  will result in unanticipated and undesired results for the organization.

There have been numerous articles written in the past five years or so on topics dealing with various aspects of the behavioral implications of accounting but apparently research and writing in this area has had little effect to date on management accounting practices. There are several possible explanations for the failure of practicing management accountants to be more concerned about the behavioral implications of accounting. First, change takes time. The introduction of behavioral accounting topics into the education and training of accountants will be a long and slow process. In fact, it may be necessary to develop a whole new generation of accounting instructors who themselves are concerned about behavioral matters before any real impact will be made on accounting education. This means that it could be many years before practicing accountants will have received appropriate education in behavioral theory. Of course, those individuals who are presently working in management accounting may never be exposed to behavioral concepts unless they are willing to invest in some form of continuing education continuing education: see adult education.
continuing education
 or adult education

Any form of learning provided for adults. In the U.S. the University of Wisconsin was the first academic institution to offer such programs (1904).
 or training activities. Unfortunately, it appears that even when management accountants do participate in continuing education programs their goal is almost always to improve their knowledge of technical procedures and little interest is expressed in courses dealing with behavioral topics.

A second reason that may explain the lack of interest by accountants in the behavioral aspects of accounting is that very little of the literature of behavioral accounting provides any workable guides to action. The study of the behavioral implications of accounting is so new that much of the research and writing in this area is still concerned with defining the problems and developing research methodologies to solve them. As a result, it is difficult for those practicing accountants who are aware of the literature to find anything that is immediately useful for their day-to-day day-to-day
1. Occurring on a routine or daily basis: the day-to-day movements of the stock market.

 activities. Nevertheless, the fact that it is not possible at this time to develop a detailed prescription for a behaviorally sound management accounting system is not sufficient justification justification

In Christian theology, the passage of an individual from sin to a state of grace. Some theologians use the term to refer to the act of God in extending grace to the sinner, while others use it to define the change in the condition of a sinner who has received
 for the existing apathy apathy /ap·a·thy/ (ap´ah-the) lack of feeling or emotion; indifference.apathet´ic

Lack of interest, concern, or emotion; indifference.
 about these matters. It is likely that substantial improvements could be made in the effectiveness of present-day pres·ent-day
Now in existence or progress; current: present-day attitudes about the family.

 management accounting system if accountants simply were more aware of the behavioral problems associated with their work and reflected this awareness in their interactions with other people in their organizations.

A third reason that management accountants have not been more concerned with behavioral matters is related to similar disinterest dis·in·ter·est  
1. Freedom from selfish bias or self-interest; impartiality.

2. Lack of interest; indifference.

To divest of interest.

Noun 1.
 on the part of many managers. Management accounting does not exist in a vacuum vacuum, theoretically, space without matter in it. A perfect vacuum has never been obtained; the best man-made vacuums contain less than 100,000 gas molecules per cc, compared to about 30 billion billion (30×1018) molecules for air at sea level.  and if the management of an organization is not concerned about modern behavioral views of the management process, it is unlikely that the accountants in the organization will feel any real need to worry about such matters. In fact, in the absence of changes in management philosophy, accountants who attempt to change their systems to make them more consistent with modern behavioral theory may encounter strong resistance and resentment Resentment is an emotion of anger felt as a result of a real or imagined wrong done. Etymologically from "ressentir", French re-, intensive prefix, and sentir "to feel"; from the latin "sentire". The English word has become synonymous with anger and bitterness.  from other members of the organization. Although the danger of such reactions by management are certainly a valid consideration, there are undoubtedly many situations where managers would be delighted if their accountants would express an interest in developing accounting and budgeting systems which would assist them in improving morale morale,
n the mental state or condition as related to cheerfulness, confidence, and zeal.
 and motivation within their organization. As a general observation, this author has found that perceptive per·cep·tive
1. Of or relating to perception.

2. Having the ability to perceive.

3. Keenly discerning.

 and open-minded o·pen-mind·ed
Having or showing receptiveness to new and different ideas or the opinions of others. See Synonyms at broad-minded.

 managers are anxious to encourage and participate in behavioral training and development activities for themselves and for others. These managers recognize that improvements in the effectiveness of management accounting and control systems require not only that such systems be designed and operated with behavioral considerations in mind but also that the managerial uses of accounting information must be consistent with sound behavioral theory.

Management Accounting as a Behavioral Process

Whatever the reason for the failure of practicing management accountants to be more concerned about the behavioral implications of accounting, there is a good deal of evidence to suggest that this lack of concern is a major deterrent de·ter·rent  
Tending to deter: deterrent weapons.

1. Something that deters: a deterrent to theft.

 to improving the contribution of management accounting to the successful operation of both business and nonbusiness non·busi·ness  
1. Unrelated to business or industry.

2. Unrelated to one's own business or employment.
 organizations. It is often stated that the principal purpose of management accounting is to furnish fur·nish  
tr.v. fur·nished, fur·nish·ing, fur·nish·es
1. To equip with what is needed, especially to provide furniture for.

 data that is useful for managerial decision-making decision-making,
n the process of coming to a conclusion or making a judgment.

decision-making, evidence-based,
n a type of informal decision-making that combines clinical expertise, patient concerns, and evidence gathered from
. To be more specific, an effective management accounting system must provide information which (a) assists managers and employees in identifying those courses of action which are in the best interest of the organization and (b) encourages the appropriate individuals to select and implement the organizationally desired courses of action. In order to accomplish these ends, management accountants must not only have sufficient technical knowledge about such areas as budgeting, cost behavior, and accounting systems but also they must have an adequate understanding of human behavior and motivation.

In many organizations, the most up-to-date and efficient (from a technical standpoint) systems fail to accomplish the anticipated results because the accountants who are responsible for these systems are behaviorally naive naive - Untutored in the perversities of some particular program or system; one who still tries to do things in an intuitive way, rather than the right way (in really good designs these coincide, but most designs aren't "really good" in the appropriate sense). . Furthermore, it is often the case that these accountants are not even aware that a problem exists. Rather, they automatically assume that all is well and that managers and employees are responding to the accounting system in some predictable fashion which is consistent with the accountant's view of the world. At best, such accounting systems make little real contribution to the accomplishment of organization goals. At worst, these accounting systems contribute to a wide range of undesirable attitudes and activities which actually serve as a deterrent to the accomplishment of organizational goals.

In our view, accountants cannot afford to ignore behavioral considerations because management accounting is essentially a behavioral process. It was suggested above that the principal purpose of management accounting is to provide individuals with the information that they need to make organizationally desirable decisions and to motivate these individuals to actually make the desired decisions. This point becomes clear if we examine the role of management decision-making in more detail. Effective management decision-making requires the following conditions.

1. There must be a goal or set of goals for the organization and each decision-maker must know his role in terms of the accomplishment of the organization's goals.

2. The decision-maker must have sufficient relevant information so that his decisions will be consistent with the accomplishment of the organization's goals.

3. The decision-maker must be motivated mo·ti·vate  
tr.v. mo·ti·vat·ed, mo·ti·vat·ing, mo·ti·vates
To provide with an incentive; move to action; impel.

 to make organizationally desired decisions. This means that there must be goal congruence con·gru·ence  
a. Agreement, harmony, conformity, or correspondence.

b. An instance of this: "What an extraordinary congruence of genius and era" 
 between the objectives of the individual and the goals of the organization. In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently
, the individual must see that by doing what is best for the organization he will also be doing what is best for him.

4. The decision-maker must be able to communicate the results of his decisions to other members of the organization who need to take actions as a result of the decisions. These individuals must also be motivated to take the appropriate actions and, again, the crucial motivating element is perceived per·ceive  
tr.v. per·ceived, per·ceiv·ing, per·ceives
1. To become aware of directly through any of the senses, especially sight or hearing.

2. To achieve understanding of; apprehend.
 goal congruence.

5. The decision-maker must receive sufficient feedback about the results of his decisions so that he can make additional decisions where necessary.

Management accounting has an important role to perform in each of these five areas. Accounting, through the budgeting process, contributes to goal-setting. Further, it serves as a communication and coordinating co·or·di·nate  
1. One that is equal in importance, rank, or degree.

2. coordinates A set of articles, as of clothing or luggage, designed to match or complement one other, as in style or color.

 device whereby data flows into decision centers to provide the decision-maker with information needed to make decisions. It also provides a communication channel out from the decision-maker to those who must implement the decisions. Finally, accounting is the primary formal source of feedback about the consequences of actions that have been taken.

It is generally agreed by students of management that the entire decision process described above is essentially concerned with the influencing of behavior. Viewed in this context, the principal task of management involves motivating other members of the organization to do what is best for the organization. Since management accounting usually represents the primary formal information system within an organization, it follows that the major goal of a management accounting system should be to assist management in determining and motivating organizationally desirable behavior. It also seems to follow that the criteria criteria (krītēr´ē),
 by which a management accounting system is evaluated should include the extent to which the accounting system contributes to motivation and goal congruence throughout the organization. Using this criterion, an accounting system has performed less than adequately whenever the behavior of accountants, the operation of the accounting system, or the interpretation of accounting reports motivates an individual to take an action which is not in the best interest of the organization. Since nearly everyone who is involved with management or management accounting can in all probability give several examples of situations in which such negative actions have in fact been encouraged, it seems clear that there is much room for improvement in present-day management accounting. We believe that the place to begin these improvements is to recognize that the entire management accounting function is, by its very nature, a behavioral process concerned with motivating organizationally desirable behavior and contributing to goal congruence.

Behavioral Assumptions of Management Accounting

Although historically accounting textbooks (as well as most of the literature of accounting) contain virtually no discussions of behavioral matters, there can be little doubt that a set of assumptions about human behavior does underly most of what is written and taught about accounting. The fact that accountants have paid little explicit attention to the behavioral implications of accounting does not necessarily mean that management accounting systems exist in a behavioral vacuum. Rather, it appears that management accountants have adopted an implicit model of human behavior. This behavioral model seems to have been strongly influenced by behavioral assumptions from related fields -- primarily the economic theory of the firm, scientific management, and early "principles of management". It is our opinion that the behavioral assumptions associated with these fields have been incorporated into the philosophy of management accounting without any conscious consideration or critical evaluation on the part of accountants. Because these assumptions reflect what might be termed a "traditional" view of behavior, it is convenient to describe them in this manner. In earlier writings, this author has attempted to identify and analyze an·a·lyze
1. To examine methodically by separating into parts and studying their interrelations.

2. To separate a chemical substance into its constituent elements to determine their nature or proportions.

 the behavioral assumptions which underly the traditional management accounting model of behavior. The results of this analysis are presented in Table 1. The parenthetical notations in the Table represent an attempt to identify the primary sources of the assumptions(1).

Over the past thirty years, a number of behavioral scientists and organization theorists have been studying the problems of management and behavior in modern organizations. Out of these studies has emerged an entirely new discipline -- "modern organization theory". The objective of this new discipline is the application of research findings from the behavioral sciences behavioral sciences, those sciences devoted to the study of human and animal behavior.
 to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of both profit and nonprofit organizations Nonprofit Organization

An association that is given tax-free status. Donations to a non-profit organization are often tax deductible as well.

Examples of non-profit organizations are charities, hospitals and schools.
. It is possible to develop a set of behavioral assumptions for management accounting which is based on concepts from modern organization theory. Such a set of assumptions is presented in Table 2. In comparing the behavioral assumptions presented in the two tables, it is clear that substantial differences exist between them. Moreover, it appears that these differences are not just a matter of degree but, rather, that they represent basic conflicts between the behavioral philosophies of the two models. Several of the major differences between these two models are summarized in the following paragraphs.

The traditional view of behavior appears to be much less complicated than the modern view. The significance of this difference should not be underestimated. Many of the behavioral problems associated with contemporary management accounting can ultimately be traced to what seems to be an oversimplified o·ver·sim·pli·fy  
v. o·ver·sim·pli·fied, o·ver·sim·pli·fy·ing, o·ver·sim·pli·fies
To simplify to the point of causing misrepresentation, misconception, or error.

 and artificial view of human behavior.

The traditional model relies heavily on the related concepts of profit maximization In economics, profit maximization is the process by which a firm determines the price and output level that returns the greatest profit. There are several approaches to this problem.  and cost minimization min·i·mize  
tr.v. min·i·mized, min·i·miz·ing, min·i·miz·es
a. To reduce to the smallest possible amount, extent, size, or degree.

b. Usage Problem To reduce. See Usage Note at minimal.
 as the primary goals of both management and management accounting. The modern organization theory view on the other hand recognizes that the goal-setting process in organizations is highly complex and uncertain and is a function of the individual goals of those who are in control. In all likelihood, profits are more often viewed as a constraint Constraint

A restriction on the natural degrees of freedom of a system. If n and m are the numbers of the natural and actual degrees of freedom, the difference n - m is the number of constraints.
 then as the primary objective. Other considerations such as prestige, security, and growth appear to be at least as important as profits in explaining the actions of top management. This does not mean that profits are unimportant un·im·por·tant  
Not important; petty.

unim·portance n.
. What it does mean is that profits are a necessary but insufficient explanation of the complicated process of goal-setting in most organizations.

With respect to individual goals and motivations, the traditional model assumes that people are motivated almost entirely by the promise of economic rewards and threats of economic sanctions Economic sanctions are economic penalties applied by one country (or group of countries) on another for a variety of reasons. Economic sanctions include, but are not limited to, tariffs, trade barriers, import duties, and import or export quotas. . Further, the traditional model conceives of the role of management as primarily one of applying stringent control over the performance of others. This control which is exercised through the use of authority imposed from "above" is considered necessary because most employees -- including lower level managers -- are seen as being lazy, wasteful, and inefficient. Thus, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 this model, the management task is to insure Insure can mean:
  • To provide for financial or other mitigation if something goes wrong: see insurance or .
  • Or you may be looking for ensure or inshore.
 adequate performance by the application of strict authority and control. In this process, heavy relevance is placed on economic rewards and penalties as forces for implementing authority and control.

The traditional view of individual goals and the authority role of management has been largely rejected by managerial psychologists This list includes notable psychologists and contributors to psychology, some of whom may not have thought of themselves primarily as psychologists but are included here because of their important contributions to the discipline.  as being far too narrow in scope. The modern organization theory model is based on several quite different assumptions. First, a substantial body of psychological research on individual goals and motivations suggests that people are motivated by a wide variety of forces both economic and non-economic. Noneconomic motivators -- including security, self-respect self-re·spect
Due respect for oneself, one's character, and one's conduct.

, group belongingness, achievement and recognition -- are now considered to be at least as important as economic factors in determining behavior. Since management accounting tends to emphasize only the economic aspects of motivation, it fails to contribute to these other important motivating forces. Therefore, instead of contributing to the attainment of goal congruence within an organization, management accounting systems may actually be a source of goal conflict which in turn can lead to such undesirable conditions as hostility HOSTILITY. A state of open enmity; open war. Wolff, Dr. de la Rat. Sec. 1191. Hostility, as it regards individuals, may be permanent or temporary; it is permanent when the individual is a citizen or subject of the government at war, and temporary when he happens to be domiciliated or , distrust, and frustration throughout the organization.

In addition, the modern organization theory model assumes that ability and the potential willingness to do a good job are not necessarily limited to a few people at the top but rather that these attributes are distributed throughout the organization. According to this model, an important task of management is to influence other members of the organization in such a way that they will want to realize these capabilities and, therefore, make the greatest possible contribution to the achievement of organizational goals. This view suggests that unless individuals are willing to accept such influence, effective contributions will not be secured no matter how much formal authority and control is exercised. Further, the willingness to accept management authority and to act cooperatively and constructively con·struc·tive  
1. Serving to improve or advance; helpful: constructive criticism.

2. Of or relating to construction; structural.

 in accomplishing organizational objectives is considered by modern organization theorists to be determined not only by economic rewards and sanctions Sanctions is the plural of sanction. Depending on context, a sanction can be either a punishment or a permission. The word is a contronym.

Sanctions involving countries:
 but also to a substantial degree by the social and psychological factors discussed in the preceding paragraph.

1 Tables I and II originally appeared in, Edwin Edwin or Eadwin (both: ĕd`wĭn), 585?–632, king of Northumbria (616–32), The son and heir of Ælla, king of Deira, he was kept from his inheritance by Æthelfrith.  H. Caplan Caplan may refer to:

  • Arthur Caplan, American bioethicist
  • Bryan Caplan (b. 1971), American economist
  • David Caplan (b. 1964), Canadian politician
  • Elinor Caplan (b. 1944 ), Canadian politician
  • Gerald Caplan (b.
, "Behavioral Assumptions of Management Accounting", The Accounting Review, XLI, No. 3 (July July: see month.  1966). They are reproduced by permission of The Accounting review. For a more detailed discussion of these two models of behavior and their possible consequences, the reader is referred to the original article and, also, Edwin H. Caplan, Management Accounting and Behavioral Science behavioral science
A scientific discipline, such as sociology, anthropology, or psychology, in which the actions and reactions of humans and animals are studied through observational and experimental methods.
 (Reading, Massachusetts Reading is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 23,708 at the 2000 census. History
"Reading's original settlers came from England in the 1630s to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Many arrived through the ports of Lynn and Salem.
: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1971).

Table 1

Behavioral Assumptions of "Traditional" Management Accounting Model of the Firm

Assumptions with Respect of Organization Goals

A. The principal objective of business activity is profit maximization (economic theory).

B. This principal objective can be segmented into sub-goals to be distributed throughout the organization (principles of management).

C. Goals are additive additive

In foods, any of various chemical substances added to produce desirable effects. Additives include such substances as artificial or natural colourings and flavourings; stabilizers, emulsifiers, and thickeners; preservatives and humectants (moisture-retainers); and
 -- what is good for the parts of the business is also good for the whole (principles of management).

Assumptions with Respect to the behavior of Participants

A. Organization participants are motivated primarily by economic forces (economic theory).

B. Work is essentially an unpleasant task which people will avoid whenever possible (economic theory).

C. Human beings are ordinarily or·di·nar·i·ly  
1. As a general rule; usually: ordinarily home by six.

2. In the commonplace or usual manner: ordinarily dressed pedestrians on the street.
 inefficient and wasteful (scientific management).

Assumptions With Respect to the Behavior of Management

A. The role of the business manager is to maximize the profits of the firm (economic theory).

B. In order to perform this role, management must control the tendencies of employees to be lazy, wasteful, and inefficient (scientific management).

C. The essence of management control is authority. The ultimate authority of management stems from its ability to affect the economic reward structure (scientific management).

D. There must be a balance between the authority a person has and his responsibility for performance (principles of management).

Assumptions with Respect to the Role of Management Accounting

A. The primary function of management accounting is to aid management in the process of profit maximization (scientific management).

B. The accounting system is a "goal-allocation" device which permits management to select is operating objectives and to divide and distribute them throughout the firm, i.e., assign responsibilities for performance. This is commonly referred to as "planning" (principles of management).

C. The accounting system is a control device which permits management to identify and correct undesirable performance (scientific management).

D. There is sufficient certainty CERTAINTY, UNCERTAINTY, contracts. In matters of obligation, a thing is certain, when its essence, quality, and quantity, are described, distinctly set forth, Dig. 12, 1, 6. It is uncertain, when the description is not that of one individual object, but designates only the kind. Louis. , rationality, and knowledge within the system to permit an accurate comparison of responsibility for performance and the ultimate benefits and costs of that performance (principles of management).

E. The accounting system is "neutral" in its evaluations -- personal bias is eliminated by the objectivity of the system (principles of management).

Table 2

Some Behavioral Assumptions from Modern Organization Theory

Assumptions with Respect to Organization Goals

A. Organizations are coalitions of individual participants. Strictly speaking Adv. 1. strictly speaking - in actual fact; "properly speaking, they are not husband and wife"
properly speaking, to be precise
, the organization itself, which is "mindless", cannot have goals -- only the individuals can have goals.

B. Those objectives which are usually viewed as organizational goals are, in fact, the objectives of the dominant members of the coalition, subject to whatever constraints CONSTRAINTS - A language for solving constraints using value inference.

["CONSTRAINTS: A Language for Expressing Almost-Hierarchical Descriptions", G.J. Sussman et al, Artif Intell 14(1):1-39 (Aug 1980)].
 are imposed by the other participants and by the external environment of the organization.

C. Organization objectives tend to change in response to: (1) changes in the goals of the dominant participants: (2) changes in the relationship within the coalition; and (3) changes in the external environment of the organization.

D. In the modern complex business enterprise, there is no single universal organization goal such as profit maximization. To the extent that any truly over-all objective might be identified, that objective is probably organization survival.

E. Facing a highly complex and uncertain world and equipped with only limited rationality, members of an organization tend to focus on "local" (i.e., individual and departmental) goals. These local goals are often in conflict with each other. In addition, there appears to be no valid basis for the assumption that they are homogeneous The same. Contrast with heterogeneous.

homogeneous - (Or "homogenous") Of uniform nature, similar in kind.

1. In the context of distributed systems, middleware makes heterogeneous systems appear as a homogeneous entity. For example see: interoperable network.
 and thus additive -- what is good for the parts of the organization is not necessarily good for the whole.

Assumptions with Respect to the Behavior of Participants

A. Human behavior within an organization is essentially an adaptive, problem-solving problem-solving nresolución f de problemas;
problem-solving skills → técnicas de resolución de problemas

problem-solving n
, decision-making process.

B. Organization participants are motivated by a wide variety of psychological, social, and economic needs and drives. The relative strength of these diverse needs differs between individuals and within the same individual over time.

C. The decision of an individual to join an organization, and the separate decision to contribute his productive efforts once a member, are based on the individual's perception of the extent to which such action will further the achievement of his personal goals.

D. The efficiency and effectiveness of human behavior and decision making within organizations is constrained con·strain  
tr.v. con·strained, con·strain·ing, con·strains
1. To compel by physical, moral, or circumstantial force; oblige: felt constrained to object. See Synonyms at force.

 by: (1) the inability to concentrate on more than a few things at a time; (2) limited awareness of the environment; (3) limited knowledge of alternative course of action and the consequences of such alternatives: (4) limited reasoning ability; and (5) incomplete and inconsistent Reciprocally contradictory or repugnant.

Things are said to be inconsistent when they are contrary to each other to the extent that one implies the negation of the other.
 preference systems. As a result of these limits on human rationality, individual and organizational behavior is usually directed at attempts to find satisfactory -- rather than optimal -- solutions.

Assumptions with Respect to the Behavior of Management

A. The primary role of the business manager is to maintain a favorable fa·vor·a·ble  
1. Advantageous; helpful: favorable winds.

2. Encouraging; propitious: a favorable diagnosis.

 balance between (1) the contributions required from the participants and (2) the inducement Inducement

incited brother, Orestes, to kill their mother and her lover. [Gk. Myth.: Zimmerman, 92; Gk. Lit.: Electra, Orestes]


exhorts Judah to stand fast against Assyrians. [O.T.
 (i.e., perceived need satisfactions) which must be offered to secure these contributions.

B. The management role is essentially a decision-making process subject to the limitations on human rationality and cognitive cog·ni·tive
1. Of, characterized by, involving, or relating to cognition.

2. Having a basis in or reducible to empirical factual knowledge.
 ability. The manager must make decisions himself and must effectively influence the decision premises premises n. 1) in real estate, land and the improvements on it, a building, store, shop, apartment, or other designated structure. The exact premises may be important in determining if an outbuilding (shed, cabana, detached garage) is insured or whether a person  of others so that their decisions will be favorable for the organization.

C. The essence of management control is the willingness of other participants to accept the authority of management. This willingness appears to be a non-stable function of the inducement-contribution balance.

D. Responsibility is assigned as·sign  
tr.v. as·signed, as·sign·ing, as·signs
1. To set apart for a particular purpose; designate: assigned a day for the inspection.

 from "above" and authority is accepted from "below". It is, therefore, meaningless to speak of the balance between responsibility and authority as if both of these were "given" to the manager.

Assumptions with Respect to the Role of Accounting

A. The management accounting process is an information system whose major purpose are: (1) to provide the various levels of management with data which will facilitate the decision-making functions of planning and control; and (2) to serve as a communications medium within the organization.

B. The effective use of budgets and other accounting control techniques requires an understanding of the interaction between these techniques and the motivations and aspiration aspiration /as·pi·ra·tion/ (as?pi-ra´shun)
1. the drawing of a foreign substance, such as the gastric contents, into the respiratory tract during inhalation.

 levels of the individuals to be controlled.

C. The objectivity of the management accounting process is largely a myth. Accountants have wide areas of discretion in the selection, processing, and reporting of data.

D. In performing their function within an organization, accountants can be expected to be influenced by their own personal and departmental goals in the same way as other participants are influenced.

The modern view of management emphasizes the importance of creating a favorable organizational climate The concept of organizational climate has been assessed by various authors, of which many of them published their own definition of organizational climate. Organizational climate, however, proves to be hard to define.  through the use of participative, supportive, and democratic management processes which are designed to permit each member of the organization to realize his own potential to the greatest possible degree. While the ability to utilize such management processes will differ from organization to organization, it seems that this approach represents a primary avenue for improving motivation and performance in many organizations. If this assumption is correct, then it follows that management accounting systems should be designed and operated in a manner that is consistent with these modern management concepts.

Another major conflict between the two models relates to the view of management accounting and management accountants. According to the traditional view, management accounting is a highly objective and neutral process from which most, if not all, personal bias has been eliminated. In other words, the accountant is not responsible for the consequences of his actions since all that he does is report the "facts". The modern organization theory view lends itself to a somewhat different concept of the role of accounting. This view suggests that accountants, after all, are human beings subject to the same desires for status and recognition as other members of the organization. Unfortunately, these desires may seem to be most easily realized when accountants are in a position to find and report the mistakes and faults of others. Moreover, accountants actually have a great deal of latitude latitude, angular distance of any point on the surface of the earth north or south of the equator. The equator is latitude 0°, and the North Pole and South Pole are latitudes 90°N and 90°S, respectively.  with respect to what information is collected by accounting systems and which "facts" will be reported. Accountants usually decide the nature and form of accounting reports and they often are responsible for the important decisions which determine who receives what information. Therefore, the accounting process is far less objective and neutral than it appears at first glance.

Consequences of the Traditional Behavioral Assumptions

In evaluating the models of behavior discussed above, two crucial questions need to be considered. First, which model most nearly reflects the behavioral views of the majority of management accountants? Second, which model comes closest to describing human motivation and behavior as it actually is in the "real world"? Since there has been little research with respect to the first question, we are forced to seek an answer based on the scant scant  
adj. scant·er, scant·est
1. Barely sufficient: paid scant attention to the lecture.

2. Falling short of a specific measure: a scant cup of sugar.
 evidence that has been reported as well as our own personal observations. Both of these sources of information suggest to this writer that the behavioral philosophy of management accounting is strongly rooted in the traditional model. With regards to the second question, there is an abundant body of literature in psychology, sociology sociology, scientific study of human social behavior. As the study of humans in their collective aspect, sociology is concerned with all group activities—economic, social, political, and religious. , and organization theory to support the premise that the modern view of behavior is more realistic than the traditional view. Thus, a third important question is raised: If management accounting systems are based on the traditional view of behavior and if this view of behavior is an inadequate reflection of the real world, what consequences can be expected to flow from this conflict? The answer to this question would appear to be that management accounting, as it is currently practiced, can be expected to contribute to a whole range of undesired responses from organization members.

Every reader of this article can provide examples of situations where accounting systems have caused individuals to take actions which are not in the best interest of their organizations. Thus, several brief illustrations should be all that is required here. In the case of budgets, budgeting systems are often used to bring strong pressure on managers and employees to achieve a certain level of performance. When this pressure is too great, the results are easily predicted. First, every effort is made to "pad" the budget to provide as much slack 1. (operating system) slack - Internal fragmentation. Space allocated to a disk file but not actually used to store useful information.
2. (jargon) slack
 as possible. Second, if during a particular operating period, it appears that actual performance will be different than the budget, a great deal of activity is devoted to bringing actual performance into line with the budget. It is not particularly surprising to suggest that managers attempt to use whatever means are available to improve their performance when that performance falls below the budget. What is not always so obvious is that the same managers may devote an equal amount of energy to appearing less efficient when actual performance promises to be better than their budget even though this may mean incurring in·cur  
tr.v. in·curred, in·cur·ring, in·curs
1. To acquire or come into (something usually undesirable); sustain: incurred substantial losses during the stock market crash.

 unnecessary expenditures or foregoing possible revenues. The reason for this kind of behavior is not difficult to identify. If under a tight budgeting system a manager does better than his budget, his principal reward is often to have his budgets for future periods tightened to reflect the better performance. Therefore, under such a system, managers are actually encouraged to be wasteful and inefficient. Whenever budgets or standards are used as pressure devices in an unthinking and autocratic fashion, it can be anticipated that the people who are subject to the pressure will do whatever they can to "beat the system" regardless of the effect of their actions on performance. Such situations are vivid illustrations of what happens when individuals are faced with a conflict between their own goals and the goals of the organization. The results of such goal conflict may well include attempts to avoid responsibility for failures, trying to assign blame to others, reluctance to reveal information, and, in general, a lack of cooperativeness and teamwork (product, software, tool) Teamwork - A SASD tool from Sterling Software, formerly CADRE Technologies, which supports the Shlaer/Mellor Object-Oriented method and the Yourdon-DeMarco, Hatley-Pirbhai, Constantine and Buhr notations. .

Another common illustration of situations where management accounting systems may contribute to undesired behavior is in the area of performance evaluation Performance evaluation

The assessment of a manager's results, which involves, first, determining whether the money manager added value by outperforming the established benchmark (performance measurement) and, second, determining how the money manager achieved the calculated return
. As an example, the use of "return on investment" as an index of performance is becoming very fashionable. This index is theoretically sound since it provides a comparison between what was accomplished by a unit and the value of the resources committed to that unit. In practice, however, return on investment is often used in an overly simplistic sim·plism  
The tendency to oversimplify an issue or a problem by ignoring complexities or complications.

[French simplisme, from simple, simple, from Old French; see simple
 manner. Managers who fail to meet some arbitrarily established and autocratically au·to·crat  
1. A ruler having unlimited power; a despot.

2. A person with unlimited power or authority: a corporate autocrat.
 imposed rate of return find their positions and status threatened. Since rate of return -- as well as most other accounting indexes of performance -- are short-run Adj. 1. short-run - relating to or extending over a limited period; "short-run planning"; "a short-term lease"; "short-term credit"

short - primarily temporal sense; indicating or being or seeming to be limited in duration; "a short life"; "a
 measures, the response to this kind of pressure may be to concentrate on making the short-run indexes look good at the expense of accomplishing the long-run adj. 1. relating to or extending over a relatively long time; as, the long-run significance of the elections s>.

Adj. 1. long-run
 objectives of the organization. For instance, in an effort to improve their performance index during a particular year, managers may decrease or discontinue dis·con·tin·ue  
v. dis·con·tin·ued, dis·con·tin·u·ing, dis·con·tin·ues
1. To stop doing or providing (something); end or abandon:
 expenditures for such important items as quality control, maintenance, employee training, and customer relations. While eliminating these expenses may improve current performance, the long-run consequences of such actions can be disastrous. Yet, it is precisely this kind of behavior that is encouraged by overemphasizing short-run indexes of performance.


The comparison of the behavioral assumptions of the traditional view of behavior with those of the modern organization theory model suggests that the traditional model does not represent a valid framework for the design and operation of behaviorally sound management accounting systems. In fact, we suspect that, in many cases, the motivational and behavioral consequences of accounting are ignored to the point that management accounting systems actually do an organization more harm than good.

How would management accounting change if accountants were to become more concerned about behavioral issues? We can hope that eventually research in behavioral accounting will provide some rather specific answers to this question. While this is not yet possible, we believe that it would be a major step forward if accountants acquired a sufficient understanding of behavioral science to at least recognize that problems do exist. The resulting change in attitude on the part of accountants would make them more willing to critically examine their own activities and the impact of these activities on others throughout the organization.

During the past 10 years, this author has been involved in research and consulting with a number of business and governmental organizations. In every case in which the management and accountants of these organizations have been progressive and open-minded, we have been able to identify and correct a variety of specific problems associated with the use of management accounting. Further, in several situations, it has been possible to create an environment in which accountants and managers are currently working together in an effort to improve the effectiveness of management accounting. It should be emphasized em·pha·size  
tr.v. em·pha·sized, em·pha·siz·ing, em·pha·siz·es
To give emphasis to; stress.

[From emphasis.]

Adj. 1.
 that these accomplishments did not involve any revolutionary changes in the accounting systems. What they did involve was encouraging changes in the attitudes of accountants and managers and developing a willingness on the part of these individuals to examine new ways of viewing the role of management accounting.

In a recent article, Arthur Arthur, king of Britain: see Arthurian legend.


king and hero of Scotland, Wales, and England. [Arthurian Legend: Parrinder, 28]

See : Heroism
 B. Toan, Jr., National Director (in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. ) of Management Advisory Services advisory services

advisory services provided to the public, in their capacity as owners and managers of animals, are an important part of veterinary science. They may be provided by government bureaux, by commercial companies who deal in pharmaceuticals or animals or animal
 for Price Waterhouse There have been several famous people with the surname Waterhouse:
  • Alfred Waterhouse (1830–1905), English architect.
  • Benjamin Waterhouse (1754-1846), American physician.
 & Co., provided a number of examples of questions that might be explored in attempting to assess the effectiveness of management accounting. These questions included the following:(2)

Is there something about the kind of person who becomes an accountant, or is it the nature of his techniques, or is it some acquired desire to deal only with transactions in which a third party sets values in monetary terms, which leads him to a value system in which economics is very, very much the king and to a form of scorekeeping from which noneconomic costs and value are eliminated?

Does the accountant by the way he keeps score help to shape and reinforce a particular style of management which perhaps would have evolved differently under a different accounting philosophy and perhaps would change in the future if accounting were to change?

What type of participation in goal setting and in the budgetary process is actually most productive in setting budgetary goals?

What happens when budgets are loose or tight, when options are limited, when opportunities to change are small?

What happens when the size of the group being measured is increased or decreased?

What happens when both economic and noneconomic measurements are employed?

What happens when the orientation of the accountant changes from control to support?

What happens when the orientation of the auditor auditor n. an accountant who conducts an audit to verify the accuracy of the financial records and accounting practices of a business or government. A proper audit will point out deficiencies in accounting and other financial operations.  undergoes a similar kind of change?

What happens to management decisions when the accounting principles used are changed or the form and content of accounting reports are altered?

It has been our personal experience that significant progress can be made when accountants start to discuss with other members of their organization questions of the type suggested by Mr. Toan. Even when answers to these questions are not readily forthcoming, the opening of channels of communication with those who are the users (or the subjects) of accounting information is extremely worthwhile in its own right. For, in this process, accountants are certain to begin to obtain a better understanding of how other members of the organization view the accounting system and how others may be expected to react to various kinds of accounting data, processes, and reports.

Undoubtedly, much remains to be accomplished before management accounting systems which are fully consistent with modern organization theory can be developed. Research, to date, in this area has barely scratched the surface. Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to anticipate that the increasing attention being devoted to behavioral accounting research will produce new and valuable insights into the problems discussed in these pages. In the meanwhile, this article will have served its purpose if it encourages some practicing management accountants and some accounting educators This is a list of educators. See also: Education, List of education topics.
External link:

 to expand their knowledge of behavioral science and to attempt to apply what they learn to their accounting activities.

2 Arthur B. Toan, Jr., "Does Accountancy's View of Human Behavior Meet Today's Needs?" The Price Waterhouse Review (Summer/Autumn 1971), pp. 15-17.
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Title Annotation:Control
Author:Caplan, Edwin H.
Publication:Management International Review
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Previous Article:Flexible budgets and the analysis of overhead variances.
Next Article:A note on the separation of ownership from control.

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