Purpose – This paper sets out to demonstrate a conceptual structure for the study of performance management systems which subsumes one major aspect of management accounting activity, namely performance evaluation and control.
Design/methodology/approach – The approach takes the form of a review of management accounting practices and change over the past 20 years, to give insight into how research can become more fruitful in the future.
Findings – Management accounting is argued to be an unhelpful conceptual category in developing insight and theories in the field of organizational control practices. A wider framework is proposed that has fewer limitations.
Practical implications – Many of the practical implications have already been observed in organizational practices; for academic research, the practical implication is the need to move beyond the confines of an artificial management function and seek to establish a more appropriate basis for theorisation.
Originality/value – The paper gives guidelines and criteria for evaluating the likely contribution of different research approaches. It is hoped that these will be helpful in encouraging researchers to move outside conventional boundaries in developing fresh approaches to understanding long-standing issues and practices.