The diffusion of a balanced scorecard in a divisionalized firm : Adoption and implementation in a practical context

Abstract: Diffusion studies are commonly associated with the dissemination of innovations across legally and economically independent organizational units. Suggesting a new perspective on the existing diffusion literature, this thesis argues that diffusion of innovations is a relevant issue to study also on a (formally) micro–level of investigation. Based on this reasoning, this thesis examines how and why a contemporary management accounting tool diffuses within a group of organizations belonging to a common corporate group. The concept in focus is the Balanced Scorecard. A high number of adopters worldwide combined with a shortage of empirically grounded scientific studies dealing with the practical Scorecard application make it a relevant tool to study. Against this background, this thesis also aims to enhance our knowledge on what it means to adopt and to maintain a Balanced Scorecard in practice. To address these aims, this study presents the results of an in-depth case study of a large-sized multinational firm. The empirical data describes a five-year BSC adoption and implementation process in five business divisions; all of them active in the communications business. Diffusion of innovations studies, supplemented by management accounting implementation studies form a first part of the theoretical framework developed. In an effort to create an even richer understanding of the data, a network perspective is additionally applied in a second analytical step. The findings of this thesis indicate that applying theory of diffusion on a micro–level requires using a process-approach of study. Under this pre-condition, the study portrays the intra-firm Balanced Scorecard diffusion as a complex process—unpredictable in its nature and highly dependent on groups of individuals and their interests. The Balanced Scorecard is identified as a management fashion. Confirming experiences made with established management accounting tools, organizational resistance prolongs its implementation process. Parts of this resistance are identified as being related to the Scorecard concept itself, while others appear to be non-specific to the tool examined.