Accounting ambiguity and
Hans Englund, Jonas Gerdin and Gun Abrahamsson
rebro University School of Business, O ¨ rebro, Sweden
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present an emergent model showing the change potential
inherent in the mirroring of time-space bound metrics and numbers in management accounting (MA)
and other cognitive frames.
Design/methodology/approach – An observation-based qualitative field study of a change project
in a large manufacturing company is used as the basis for the analysis.
Findings – The empirical study shows that as actors recurrently mirror time-space bound
metrics/numbers in MA and other cognitive frames, three forms of ambiguity may occur. Definitional
ambiguities occur as actors’ extant MA frame cannot fully account for the metric as such, while
representational ambiguities occur as actors perceive uncertainties as to what a particular number
stands for “in reality”. Operational ambiguities, finally, occur as actors perceive uncertainties as to
how time-space bound numbers can be “causally” explained. In the emergent model, the paper shows
how these different forms of ambiguity constitute important sources of critical and collective reflection
of, and subsequent change in, both metrics and MA and other cognitive frames.
Originality/value – Through identifying and elaborating on the change potential inherent in the
interplay between cognitive frames and time-space bound metrics and numbers, the study adds a
partial, yet previously largely unexplored answer to the paradox of embedded agency in a MA context
(i.e. how actors may change existing cognitive (MA) frames when their interpretations and actions are
largely constrained and shaped by these very frames). Also, the study shows that it may not
necessarily be the content of MA information per se that triggers critical reflection and structural MA
change, but also the perceived ambiguities that such information use may engender.
Keywords Management accounting change, Metrics, Numbers, Ambiguity, Social structure,
Cognitive frames, Accounting, Management accounting
Paper type Research paper
Moral accounting? Employee
disclosures from a stakeholder
Sarah J. Williams
Independent researcher, and
Carol A. Adams
Monash Sustainability Institute, Monash University, Clayton, Australia
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine how disclosure of employee issues by a large UK
bank may or may not promote transparency and accountability (as assessed by the completeness of
the account) toward the employee stakeholder group, and to shed light on the implications of the
organisation-society relationship for employee accountability.
Design/methodology/approach – The intrinsic stakeholder framework forms the basis of the
qualitative, longitudinal analysis. It is adopted as the moral ground for the provision of a “complete”
account of employee issues. In seeking to shed light on the organisation-society relationship and its
implications for reporting on employee issues the authors build a broader theoretical framework
incorporating various social and political theories dealing with legitimacy, political economy, and
language and rhetoric. Interpretive and critical approaches are employed. The analysis draws on an
extensive review of published materials relating to employment in the UK retail banking industry and
NatWest in particular, impacts of workplace changes occurring in the banking sector, and to the
economic, social and political environment over the period of the study.
Findings – The findings indicate that what and how NatWest reported on employee issues was
influenced by considerations other than transparency and employee accountability. The analysis
highlights the complexity of the role of disclosures in the organisation-society relationship and
consequently the limitations of the use of a single theoretical framework to interpret disclosures.
Research limitations/implications – The longitudinal analysis indicates how reporting practices
are issue and context dependent and points to the limitations of theorising in corporate social reporting
based on a single time frame and a limited analysis of the reported issues.
Practical implications – In highlighting a lack of accountability to employees, the findings have
implications for the development of reporting standards on issues relevant to employees. Over time, it
is hoped that development of an employee inclusive reporting framework, along with exposure of the
contradictory role that reports may play in promoting accountability, will contribute toward improved
employee management practices.
Originality/value – This study contributes to the corporate social reporting literature by extending the
analysis beyond the firm focused stakeholder management perspective to considering disclosures from a
moral perspective and the extent to which the complex organisation-society relationship might work
against the promotion of transparency and accountability toward stakeholders (specifically employees). In
this way, through an in-depth longitudinal analysis of disclosures from multiple perspectives, the paper
contributes to theorising of the role of social disclosure in the organisation-society relationship.
Keywords Stakeholder accountability, Employee disclosures, Legitimacy, Political economy, Rhetoric,
Stakeholders, United Kingdom, Banking
Paper type Research paper
Results sky high: “DAMN”ing
School of Business, University of Western Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Purpose – The aim of this paper is to stimulate further discussion on divergent institutional and
academic needs for effective marking processes to evaluate student work in Australian universities.
This is in specific response to institutional stated goals and emerging policies under current economic
realities. After identifying the three significant areas of marking that must be addressed: content,
consistency and cost; the author proposes that the use of the AERO-dynamic model of marking will
reduce academic workloads and provide institutions with an effective marking process to meet
Design/methodology/approach – This conceptual paper is a synthesis of researcher participation
and discourse interpretation. It is based on a cynical response to changing realities and resides in the
arena of the “Theatre of the Absurd”.
Findings – The AERO-dynamic model of marking was found to be highly cost effective for
institutions with large student cohorts and ever diminishing budgets. Critical analysis identified areas
of concern in marking consistency and assignment content and recommends specific actions to
address these but also identifies that no process will be perfect and that some tradeoffs between cost,
consistency and content need to be made. The role of the academic within this marking process is
redefined and the implications of this for both institution and individual acknowledged.
Originality/value – This paper offers a starting point for further debate into the widening gap
between student expectations on assignment marking and institutional resource allocation and
Keywords Assignmentmarking,Academic integrity,Academicworkloads, Economic reality,Australia,
Paper type Conceptual paper
“The accounting conference”
School of Accountancy, QUT Business School,
Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
Purpose – The paper’s aim is to be a satirical reflection of participant experiences at an accounting
Design/methodology/approach – This is a poetic exposition.
Findings – The paper highlights the lifecycle of the accounting conference and the experiences of
participants in the myriad of conference activities.
Research limitations/implications – The research is limited to the observations and reflections of
one participant. Other participants may have different reflections of their interactions and
observations of an accounting conference.
Originality/value – The poem provides a visual representation of the dimensions of the accounting
conference and the peripheral interactions that form such a core component of participant experiences
at an accounting conference.
Keywords Conference, Accounting, Conference participants
Paper type Viewpoint
Constructing a research network:
accounting knowledge in
Grenoble E ´ cole de Management, Grenoble, France, and
Queensland University of Technology School of Accountancy, Brisbane,
Universite´ Paris Dauphine, Paris, France
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the sociology-of-science type of accounting
literature, addressing how accounting knowledge is established, advanced and extended.
Design/methodology/approach – The research question is answered through the example of
research into linkages between accounting and religion. Adopting an actor-network theory (ANT)
approach, the paper follows the actors involved in the construction of accounting as an academic
discipline through the controversies in which they engage to develop knowledge.
Findings – The paper reveals that accounting knowledge is established, advanced and developed
through the ongoing mobilisation of nonhumans ( journals) who can enrol other humans and nonhumans.
It shows that knowledge advancement, establishment and development is more contingent on network
breadth than on research paradigms, which appear as side-effects of positioning vis-a` -vis a community.
Originality/value – The originality of this paper is twofold. First, ANT is applied to accounting
knowledge, whereas the accounting literature applies it to the spread of management accounting ideas,
methods and practices. Second, an original methodology for data collection is developed by inviting
authors fromthe network to give a reflexive account of their writings at the time they joined the network.
Well diffused in sociology and philosophy, such an approach is, albeit, original in accounting research.
Keywords Research network, Accounting research, Knowledge, Actor-network theory, Controversies,
Translation, Knowledge management
Paper type Research paper