This paper combines insights from the sociology of knowledge and the emerging practice-based literature on learning and knowing to extend the institutional framework of accounting change developed by Burns and Scapens [Burns, J., Scapens, R.W., 2000. Conceptualising management accounting change: an institutional framework. Manage. Acc. Res., 11, 3-25]. In particular, it explores how management accounting systems (MAS) can be implicated in processes of learning and culture change, and used to identify 'trustworthy' solutions in the face of organisational crises. A case study of an Italian company, which was subject to massive change following its acquisition by General Electric, is used to discuss how, when crises arise and organisation members find themselves under intense pressure for change, their rationales and routinised behaviour, which are driven by the existing knowledge and cultural assumptions, are challenged. The case illustrates how MAS can act as sources of trust for the processes of change - i.e., accounting for trust; while at the same time being socially constructed objects of trust - i.e., trust for accounting. Drawing on the concept of personal trust and the notion of roles as access points to organisational (expert) systems, the paper discusses how, in this case, finance experts facilitated the acceptance and progressive sharing of new rationales and routines. Clearly, this does not guarantee that change will occur or occur in some 'desired' direction in other cases, but it increases the possibility of replacing trust in the predictability of routines with feelings of trust for change. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
- Expert systems
- Management accounting