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Empirical strategic management accounting (SMA) research has paid insufficient attention to the practices through which strategising occurs. SMA research has also overlooked the importance of strategy in the public sector and the specificities of this context that problematise existing knowledge of techniques that might make up SMA. Consequently, this study examines the role of management accounting in organisational practices through which strategy is enacted, and does this by way of a longitudinal study of a public sector agency. It is informed by the strategy-as-practice perspective that increasingly features in strategy research. The study identifies roles for management accounting in strategising that extend beyond the typically ascribed functions of decision-facilitation and decisioninfluencing. Its main contribution is the detailing of specific ways in which management accounting is constitutive of strategising through specific organisational practices. The findings of particular management accounting techniques being used for strategising by entities in the public sector provide a useful counter-point to the private sector orientation that has dominated SMA research to date. The study also outlines particular directions that a rebalanced SMA research agenda might take
The main contribution of this paper is the detailing of specific roles that management accounting plays within particular strategic practices through which strategising occurs. These findings extend beyond the well-established decision influencing and decision facilitation functions of SMA and the somewhat passive depiction of SMA within strategic activity. It builds on recent interest (Jorgensen and Messner, 2010) on how accounting is constitutive of strategising and shows the multiple ways this can occur. The findings of particular management accounting techniques being used for strategising by entities in the public sector is also useful in countering the exclusive private sector orientation that has dominated SMA research thus far. Consequently, we suggest particular directions that a rebalanced SMA research agenda might take. In closing, the limitations of this study need to be acknowledged. Although Alpha provides rich data and insights into the operation of management accounting that is strategic, these need to be appreciated in parallel with acknowledgement of the limitations of a case study in regard to generalisability. Comparative case studies across multiple organisations would be needed in order to determine whether this pattern of practices is found more broadly. Also, the law enforcement nature of the organisation and the need to protect information security meant that some strategising discussions were not directly observed. A particular case in point was the inability to access Board discussions where Strategic Work Programs for the year were approved. This was mitigated in part by routinely obtaining updates from representatives of the organisation that were responsible for bringing about the new operating model and implementing new strategising practices. Finally, certain management accounting techniques were in flux at Alpha. As such, it is always possible that new forms of SMA might emerge as strategy practitioners continue to grapple with the problems of ensuring that Alpha ‘did the strategy’.