Change and Resistance in Cost Accounting System - The Evidence from a Libyan Oil Refining Organisation
Ammar, Sameh Farhat Belgasm
Date: 2 January 2014
University of Exeter
PhD in Accountancy
This thesis explored the dynamics of cost accounting systems (CAS). It focused on particular situations in which CAS can become institutionalised, embodying settled patterns of action and thought common to an organisation (Burns & Scapens, 2000). In such context, it is argued that the greater the degree of institutionalisation of CAS, ...
This thesis explored the dynamics of cost accounting systems (CAS). It focused on particular situations in which CAS can become institutionalised, embodying settled patterns of action and thought common to an organisation (Burns & Scapens, 2000). In such context, it is argued that the greater the degree of institutionalisation of CAS, the more difficult they are to change, and vice versa. This thesis has investigated the conditions and processes through which CAS can change and/or persist (i.e., remain relatively unchanged) through time. Exploring when, how and why institutional change and/or resistance may occur in CAS, is the specific motivation of this thesis. The following investigates CAS at a large oil refining organisation operating in Libya (RefCo). RefCo was undertaken as an interpretive case study, involving data collected through interviews, archives, internal company documentation and general (formal and informal) observations. The CAS in RefCo was subject to two change initiatives in a relatively short space of time. The first source of change was a requirement of its parent company to shift from a traditional production-orientation to a more commercial-orientation. With minimal resistance, the highly institutionalised CAS of RefCo evolved to become much more geared towards commercial decision-making. The second source of change originated in the recommendations of an external consulting organisation, who recommended that RefCo changed its CAS to take on more ‘best-practice’ principles, but also as part of a wider initiative of implementing Enterprise Resource Planning systems (ERPs). However, this particular change initiative faced significant resistance. Analysis of the case was informed by institutional theory using, in particular, the concepts of deinstitutionalisation (Oliver, 1992), institutionalisation (Burns & Scapens, 2000), and politics and power mobilisation (Hardy, 1996). In contrast to the more conventional view that institutionalised practices (e.g., CAS in RefCo.) are difficult to change, this thesis has shown how such practices can be destabilised and changed through the configuration of a complex and dynamic process of costing system change. It suggests an institutional interdependence that underpins the interrelation between various components of the organisational system, and exemplifies an intertwining between CAS and operation control. While CAS change processes were shaped by ongoing changes in operation control, the outcomes of the former provided an institutional basis from which to make sense of the operational activities (Scapens, 1994). This interdependence helps sustain day-to-day organisational life in RefCo and contributes to our understanding of both change (processes) and resistance in relation to institutionalised practices. Moreover, we observed that a great deal of such change and/or resistance could be understood and explained in terms of politics and power mobilisation.
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