Understanding management accounting practices: A personal journey

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This paper reviews the changes which have taken place in management accounting research over the last 35 years. It traces the author's personal journey as a management accounting researcher and emphasises the shift which has taken place in what it means to understand management accounting practices. It argues that to make sense of diversity in management accounting practices we need to understand the complex mish-mash of inter-related influences which shape practices in individual organisations. It outlines the contribution which institutional theories can make to understanding this mish-mash of complexity. In particular, it reviews the achievements of the Burns and Scapens framework (2000) for studying management accounting change and describes some of its limitations and extensions; viz., the interplay of internal and external institutions; the importance of trust in accountants; the impact of circuits of power; and the need to study the role of agency in institutional change. It concludes that research in recent years has provided a much clearer understanding of the processes which shape management accounting practices; but the challenge for the future is to use this theoretically informed understanding to provide relevant and useful insights for management accounting practitioners. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages29
JournalBritish Accounting Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006


  • Change
  • Institutional theory
  • Management accounting
  • Practices
  • Rules and routines


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