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A Conceptual Development of Simons’ Levers of Control Framework

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>09/2012
<mark>Journal</mark>Management Accounting Research
Issue number3
Volume23
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)171-185
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The management control literature has been criticised for having concepts that are ill-defined. This causes mixed empirical results and makes it difficult to build a coherent body of knowledge. The paper addresses this issue by developing an important framework, that of Simons’ Levers of Control, which has been criticised in the past for its vague and ambiguous definitions. Using methods of concept analysis, the paper analyses prior literature to identify ambiguities with the different levers of control and uses examples from prior field studies to illustrate these ambiguities. The paper also analyses the positive and negative dimensions of controls which, although part of Simons’ framework, have remained unexplored. For each ambiguity identified, the paper proposes a solution to improve concept definitions or to clarify the relationship between concepts. The result is a revised framework that explicitly separates managerial intentions for controls and employee perceptions of controls. Managerial intentions are comprised of three levels: 1) types of controls (social and technical) 2) which are organised as four control systems (strategic performance, operational performance, strategic boundaries and operational boundaries) and 3) which can be used diagnostically or interactively, have an enabling or constraining role and can lead to either reward or punishment. Finally, after defining the framework’s concepts and explaining how they interact, the paper concludes by offering avenues for future research.