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Strategic Management Accounting: Tillman & Goddard

Why the Authors are investigating the Role of Strategic Management Accounting in an Organization Setting

The two authors, Tillman and Goddard (2008), are investigating the role of strategic management accounting in an organizational setting. They seek to understand and explain the application and perception of strategic management accounting by key actors in organizations.

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Further, the research is focused on an organizational setting to understand the various strategic management complexities of accounting. By researching in the context of the organizational setting, it is possible to come to an understanding of how various organizational participants can make sense of accounting information by decision making. Such information, according to the authors, is crucial for the development of accounting systems.

The Important Discussions Studied by the Authors in Prior Literature

The authors study some important discussions in the prior literature. The two main topics of study are strategic management accounting and organizational sense-making. According to the authors, normative contributions to this topic suggest ideal SMA practices such as competitive position monitoring and competitor accounting. Despite its contribution to SMA, previous normative work has failed to highlight the usefulness of SMA and its application in organizations (Tillman & Goddard, 2008).

In effect, the application of surveys from the prior literature suggests that strategic pricing and competitor accounting are the most widely used accounting strategies. Others suggest that SMA is not widely applied in companies, and most managers do not often understand its meaning.

Further analysis of the prior research has shown that most researchers prefer the use of contingency theory while studying SMA practices. Application of the contingency theory to understanding the usage of SMA has greatly influenced an understanding of SMA, although it is prone to the various limitations that come with the application of the contingency theory. Applications of various research studies have shown that the accounting function is instrumental in attaining data on the company’s external environment as pertains to competitor’s plans and performance (Tillman & Goddard, 2008).

Another finding suggests that various SMA techniques may be readily available in companies, though such information may not be presented in accounting figures and may not be gathered and applied by the company’s management accountants. While other case studies investigating a similar issue yield the same result, they all tend to be highly descriptive by providing little to no theoretical insight on the research topic. Functionalist empirical findings have established that some of the developed techniques are used even if they are not known as SMA

The second discussion studied by the authors is organizational sense-making. The topic of organizational sense-making and findings from other literature reviews were kept to a minimum by the researchers due to the contentious nature of prior theories. Among the key functions of most researches that were conducted about this topic were to identify the application of accounting in organizations and its role in strategic decision-making. Another crucial area of study was to determine how managers applied accounting in arriving at strategic decisions.

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Ideally, the concept of sense-making has been discussed in other fields but has generated minimal discussion in the accounting field. Contextually, sense-making is referred to as reconstruction by parties involved in the change process (Tillman & Goddard, 2008). Ideally, there are various definitions of sense-making, with researchers identifying it as a process of being informed and others terming it as the process of developing models to foster understanding and to bring out the meaning, among others. Previous research on the topic stresses the importance of the process, citing that such an understanding is key to understanding the core activities of the company.

However, minimal publications have provided instrumental information on the concept of sense-making in accounting. Despite a limitation in the available data concerning the topic, it is imperative to understand that accounting systems are instrumental in enforcing the order for naturally present sense-making activities. Accounting is necessary to create a sense of reference frames that form an organization. Research has also shown that accountants apply interpretive reading present in an organization as their basis for drafting reports, which are in turn read by management and others as they seek to derive a sense of the prevailing company situation (Tillman & Goddard, 2008).

Overall, the various studies on organizational sense-making are instrumental in explaining the pivotal role of accounting in an organization, even though minimal research has delved into this particular area. Further, their research does not explain how accounting has helped accounting professionals make sense of situations in their organizations.

Do You Believe that the Methodology Adopted by the Authors is Adequate/Not Adequate for the Study? What Improvements You Believe Can Be Made.

Tillman and Goddard (2008) apply the grounded theory methodology in their research paper. According to Peters (2014), the objective of grounded theory as a methodology is to investigate both individual and social practices by applying empirical evidence and findings to develop a hypothesis and apply empirically grounded theories. One of the inadequacies of this methodology is that it constantly refers to prior literature (Peters, 2014). Ideally, the reference to previous knowledge and prior literature as applied in the data analysis hinders the research outcome as it limits the analysis process and tends to predetermine the possible results (Evans, 2013).

The two authors apply their ideas, prior knowledge of literature, and interests as scanners in the findings related to the empirical data. Thus, it is highly likely that the authors have highlighted certain elements concerning data analysis; they have applied their discrete knowledge to restrict the possible range of interpretations they would ideally identify. One solution to this problem is to ensure a thorough analysis of the strategic management concept being analyzed, as well as a proper application of sensitizing concepts.

The application of sensitizing concepts is helpful when using the grounded theory, as well as avoiding bias in the findings. Ideally, sensitizing concepts do not create predictions about the relationship that exists among variables, but they reflect the preliminary ideas of the research interest. This is unlike the use of a hypothesis, which requires testing through standardized methods (Peters, 2014).

Another characteristic of the methodology applied is that it utilizes coding as a typical means of data analysis. Notably, coding ensures that the researchers are redirected from the empirical material so that they do not simply carry out a reproduction of the previous findings. The coding procedure as applied in the methodology applies the three steps as explained by Cobin and Strauss (2008). According to Cobin and Strauss (2008), the coding process should take up a three-step process, which involves axial, open, and selective codes. However, an application of these three steps implies that the whole process is highly repetitive as the three steps cannot be fulfilled on their own, and neither can they be executed in sequential order.

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The Authors Have Adopted the Role of Grounded Theory for their Study. Do You Believe That Has Influenced the Direction and Findings of their Research?

I believe that the application of grounded theory has influenced the direction and findings of the research findings. One disadvantage of grounded theory is that is highly exhaustive. Therefore, most researchers tend to be inundated with the coding process (Hussein, Hirst, Salyers & Osuji, 2014). Specifically, the process of encompassing and abstracting various concepts about the research topic is not a simple one. In effect, it is possible that the researchers were absorbed with the coding process that they did not fully discover new ideas and themes emerging from the data.

Another aspect of the grounded theory that might have affected the findings of this research is the need to carry out literature before the development of necessary assumptions. Just as is the case with most researchers that apply the grounded theory methodology, there is a need to carry out a literature review before completing an analysis of the study. Ideally, Corbin and Strauss (2008) state that every research presents new findings. In effect, the prior literature must be minimized before exploring the use of grounded theory. However, as this is not done by Tillman and Goddard (2008), it is highly likely that potential bias was generated throughout the study (Scheriber, 2001).


Corbin, J. & Anselm, S. (2008). Basics of qualitative research. Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Evans, G. L. (2013). A novice researcher’s first walk through the maze of grounded theory. Grounded Theory Review, 12(1).

Hussein, M. E., Hirst, S., Salyers, V., & Osuji, J. (2014). Using grounded theory as a method of inquiry: Advantages and disadvantages. The Qualitative Report, 19(27), 1-15.

Peters, I. (2014). Too abstract to be feasible? Applying the grounded theory method in social movement research. GIGA Working Papers. Web.

Schreiber, R. (2001). New directions in grounded formal theory. In Schreiber, R., & Stern, P. N. (Eds.), Using grounded theory in nursing. New York, NY: Springer.

Tillmann, K., & Goddard, A. (2008). Strategic management accounting and sense-making in a multinational company. Management Accounting Research, 19(1), 80-102.

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