Creating New Attention in Management Control

University dissertation from Uppsala : Företagsekonomiska institutionen

Abstract: The need to focus and economize on scarce attention is increasingly being acknowledged within management accounting and control literature. The aim of this study is to investigate how practitioners go about creating new concepts and measurements to induce attention towards new issues and as-pects of strategic importance for the organization.In this case study, we follow a project group in a Swedish municipality, creating a management control model of employee health. A close-up view is provided through a narrative approach, based on filming and participant observation, illustrating the highly situated and contextual character of atten-tion in sensemaking processes. The naming of the concepts of management control was found to be associated with a science-framing, while references to local practices of management control induced practice-framing strongly de-emphasizing characteristic features of management control. Line-managers of the study accepted the framework without demands for indica-tors or predictive models.This outcome is in line with a practice notion of management control and a language-game understanding of human communication: management control systems are part of the practices defining meaning and directing at-tention towards different aspects of any situation. Rather than being a lan-guage, management control concepts and measurement may not provide much more than the phonetics of business. Consequently, it may be ques-tioned whether what gets measured automatically gets managed.In line with the attention-based view of the firm and a practice notion of management control, this study suggests that new attention is created through the naming and framing of management control ideals, and as a result of the expressions of managerial intent through practices.