Strategy, political regulation and management control in the public sector: Institutional and critical perspectives

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This paper mobilizes institutional and critical theories in examining how evolving management control practices, inspired by the balanced scorecard, mediated the process of strategy formation in a Swedish central government agency. Particular attention is paid to how this process was conditioned by external, political regulation of the organization. Contrary to popular conceptions of strategy and strategic management as emerging alternatives to political regulation in the public sector, the study shows how the meaning of the notion of strategy became intricately intertwined with government regulation. Whilst this affirms the tendency of organizations to comply with institutional pressures exerted by dominant constituencies, the analysis also shows how the unfolding strategy discourse gradually narrowed the meaning of the notion of strategy permeating the organization. The extension of an institutional perspective to incorporate more critical insights highlights how this process fostered some " unintended" consequences with a detrimental impact on organizational practices aimed at achieving broader social objectives. In so doing, I draw attention to how the unobtrusive power of evolving strategy discourses conditions conceptions of organizational performance and relevant constituent interests. The implications for future management accounting research combining institutional and critical theories are discussed. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)278-295
Number of pages17
JournalManagement Accounting Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


  • Critical theory
  • Institutional theory
  • Management control
  • Political regulation
  • Strategy


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