Constituting performance : Case studies of performance auditing and performance reporting

Abstract: The aim of this thesis is to problematize how and under what conditions organizational performance is constituted in the practices of performance auditing and accounting. Organizational performance disclosure is a world-wide phenomenon for enabling accountability relationships in large organizations regardless of the societal sector they operate in. In constitutive accounting literature, there is a well-established notion that accounting and performance auditing enable “government at a distance” by representing organizational actions and results of those actions, i.e. by constituting performance.  Accounting and performance auditing have been regarded as “technologies of government” that make government from spatial and temporal distances possible by linking political and programmatic ambitions, i.e., the will of a superior, to everyday organizational conduct. However, whereas many previous studies of accounting and performance auditing as technologies of government focus on the discourses over the technologies of accounting and performance auditing, this thesis focuses its analysis on the operationalization of these technologies in local organizational settings. By studying the constitution of performance in the practices of accounting and performance auditing this thesis contributes by problematizing that which supposedly makes government at a distance possible.The thesis is based on two case studies of performance audit and two case studies of performance reporting. On the basis of these papers, the thesis studies the constitution of performance in performance auditing and accounting. Whereas the constitution of performance may seem stable and unproblematic at the level of discourse, this thesis suggests that constituting performance is a complex process of social construction that requires significant organizational efforts and that the ability of accounting and performance auditing to connect political and programmatic ambitions to daily organizational conduct cannot be taken for granted. The thesis suggest that once we acknowledge that performance is a socially constructed representation of organizational actions and begin to pay attention to how performance is constituted in local organizational settings, we can find new ways of addressing the ongoing challenge of constituting performance in accounting and performance auditing and increase our understanding about the ability of these practices to enable government at a distance.