|dc.description.abstracten||The management control systems,obstacle or mover
of the strategic adaptation ?
An illustration through the development of new control systems in five French networks companies.
The management control systems are traditionally
seen as the tools of the implementation of a
predetermined strategy, in the hands of the top managers. They build coherence in the organisations
which are described with clear and non ambiguous
This representation fails in front of the emergence of
the strategies, the transversal nature of certain
processes which overpass the frontiers of the firm, and in front of the recognition of the role of many
social actors in the use of the control tools, in an
interpretatisvist or constructivist point of view
(Chevalier-Kuszla, 1997). Management control systems may be autonomous systems, which could drive to strategic inconsistencies as the pioneers of the Activity-Based-Costing and Management showed it, twenty years ago. For 1987, Simons has noted
that, if some control systems exist in order to implement the strategies, others are used to limit their multiplication (boundary systems). This author describes in fact four "levers of control" for the
managers (Simons, 1995), which depend : - on the degree of control which the leaders want to keep for themselves: do they try to simply straddle the strategic orientations of the company or do they want to make sure of the deployment of a clearly formulated strategy ?
- and on the degree of autonomy which they leave to
the intermediate managers and to the operational ones because of their own cognitive limits, or of their more or less limited rationality : do the leaders
always clearly identify the key factors of risk and the key factors of success ? The notion of uncertainty which presses on the decisions cannot be evacuated by the models of control. Simons (1995) describes binding modes of control but also levers of control which are capable of encouraging the initiatives, possibly destabilizing, and the organizational learning (interactive control).
The four levers of control may constitute a good
framework in order to understand the role of the
management control systems in firms which have to adapt their strategy and which deal with new key factors of success or risk.
The aim of this communication is to show that, in firms in front of the same strategic context (the deregulation of the markets in the networks
industries), control systems and processes play
divergent roles in their strategic adaptation. They
may reinforce their initial role or, in the contrary,
generate change. In a first time, these different roles
will be characterized with the help of the framework
of Simons (1995). In a second time, we will show that
these roles are not independent from the way by
which the change in control systems is lead. The processes of change in management control systems
are more or less constructivists.
This analysis leans on the longitudinal studies of five
French networks firms which belong of the sectors of
the telecommunications, railways, energy and postal
activities. All of them implemented new management
control systems between 1992 and 1997.
Chevalier-Kuszla Catherine (1997), „Organizational
control: questioning models“, 8th World Congress of the International Association for Accounting, Education and Research, Paris, October 25-27, 25 p. Simons R. (1987), Accounting Control Systems and Business Strategy : An Empirical Analysis, Accounting, Organizations and Society, 12, 4, pp. 357-374. Simons R. (1995), Levers of Control, How Managers
Use Innovative Control Systems to Drive Strategic
Renewal, Harvard Business School Press, Boston,