Can formal controls stimulate responsible behaviour?
On Friday 18 October 2019 Grete Helle will hold a trial lecture on a prescribed topic and defend her thesis for the PhD degree at NHH.
Prescribed topic for the trial lecture:
Accountability in different contextual settings - how accountabilities vary in time and place
10:15 in Jebsen Centre, NHH
Title of the thesis:
Formal Controls and Intelligent Accountability
This dissertation expands our theoretical understanding on intra-organisational accountability by examining formal controls’ potential to contribute to intelligent accountability processes. While accountability is seen as a morally significant practice that reflects both our responsibility and our role in the wider community, a shared concern in the literature is that formal controls tend to individualise organisational action, reducing responsibility to what must be accounted for. Hence, formal controls are predominantly treated as something that must be balanced, compensated, resisted, or reduced in order to allow for responsible behaviour.
This dissertation challenges such a critical view by questioning whether formal controls can stimulate responsible behaviour by building on and expanding the notion of intelligent accountability - a form of accountability that addresses the complexity of organisational practices rather than what is made transparent.
Through an interpretive case study of a Norwegian energy company, Grete Helle analyses how formal controls are embedded in wider frameworks of accountability at different organisational levels.
The first paper analyses the relationship between trust and formal controls as the case company changed their strategic direction from growth to cost consciousness. The second paper examines how formal controls influenced coordination between operational and technical support units. Lastly, the third paper examines intelligent accountability directly and finds that individuals in the case company interpreted accountability as actively taking responsibility. This interpretation was informed by formal controls that provided employees with direction and discretion and acknowledged the uncertainty of operations and the impossibility of knowing what good performance looked like in advance.
Consequently, the dissertation finds that together with a continuous emphasis on open communication and learning, formal controls can foster accountability processes that are concerned with making sense of what lies behind the numbers in a holistic manner that motivates reflections on responsibility.
12:15 in Jebsen Centre, NHH
Members of the evaluation committee:
Professor II Bino Jose Catasus (leader of the committee), Department of Accounting, Auditing and Law, NHH
Professor Matti Skoog, Åbo Akademi/Stockholms University
Assistant Professor Emilia Florin Samuelsson, Jönköping University
Professor Katarina Kaarbøe (main supervisor), Department of Accounting, Auditing and Law, NHH
Professor Sven Modell, University of Manchester
Senior Lecturer Sabina Du Rietz, Örebro University School of Business