The background to this study is the frequent deployment of concepts like process orientation in Swedish companies. The basic question is how management control relates to these changes. From a contingency perspective one would expect the management control to change in order to keep a fit between the organisation and the management control. My research questions deals with if and how the management control changes, what effects this might have and why it does (or does not) change.
During the study it eventually became very clear to me that the concept process orientation, would include different approaches. In order to handle this I developed a process orientation taxonomy based on Burns and Stalker’s concepts of mechanistic and organic management systems. The mechanistic approach does seem to have a lot in common with Fordism and even Taylorism. The organic approach, on the other hand, seems to be influenced by socio-technique and the culture movement. Although these two extremes, mechanistic and organic process orientation, are very different from each other, they still seem to deploy the same rhetoric when describing what they are all about and why they should to be deployed.
When discussing the management control I use three concepts that I describe as basic forms of control. The three different concepts are rule-based, target-based and value-based (cultural) control. I define them as rule-based control dealing with how a process should be performed, target-based as dealing with what the process should perform and value-based as why the process is needed, i.e. the purpose of the process. The latter relates to meaning and sense-making.
Cognitive organizational theory is employed in order to explain why the management control has changed the way it has. Empirically I have two case studies, one representing the mechanistic and the other the organic approach to process orientation. Main findings include:
- The management control change is linked to, or even part of the used approach to process orientation, the mechanistic approach leading to a focus on rule-based control and the organic approach leading to a focus on target- and value-based control.
- Cognitive organizational theory offers plausible explanations to why the different approaches of process orientation and forms of control are put in operation.