Cost Consciousness: Conceptual Development from a Management Accounting Perspective
Velasquez, Santiago (2012)
Tampere University of Technology
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Cost consciousness is a notion which appears in thousands of scientific articles belonging to a wide range of disciplines. Despite its common use, the scientific community has allocated marginal attention to the understanding of cost consciousness. In this dissertation, I argue that it is important to develop this understanding for a couple of reasons. On the one hand, given that one of the objectives of scientific writing is to clearly communicate knowledge among scholars, unclear notions can be considered as unwanted elements of scientific literature. On the other hand, and certainly more important, developing our understanding of cost consciousness can potentially provide interesting and insightful new windows for research. This dissertation addresses the conceptualization of cost consciousness particularly from a management accounting perspective. In accomplishing this objective, this dissertation develops two interconnected exercises: (i) a conceptual exercise aiming to understand what cost consciousness is from the perspective of management accounting scholars; and (ii) a theoretical exercise analyzing how cost consciousness could be driven in an organization. In addition, a case company has been used to enrich the conceptualization of the notion and illustrate the way in which the formulation presented in this work could be used to analyze cases where the institutionalization of cost consciousness is of interest. With respect to the conceptual exercise, this work has rigorously identified and reviewed articles from management accounting related journals where the cost consciousness notion appears. From these, the definitions, interpretations, determinants and results which management accounting scholars have associated with cost consciousness have been identified and inferred. The results underline the difficulty in defining the notion and the perception of cost consciousness as a holistic concept that encapsulates various forms of understanding and reflecting on cost related issues. Moreover, management accounting systems have been identified as elements which may play an important role in driving cost consciousness. In addition, although the results of cost consciousness tend to be perceived as positive, the notion has also been associated with negative outcomes. With respect to the theoretical exercise, this work draws on the Burns and Scapens Framework (BSF) which is mainly based on Old Institutional Economics. Also, by considering the recent work by various scholars who have contributed and criticized the BSF, I have provided an extension of the framework and a formulation which includes and replaces various elements that appear on the original BSF. The conceptual and theoretical exercises are interconnected because the identified and inferred definitions, interpretations, determinants and results, have been brought into the extended BSF to theorize on how cost consciousness could be institutionalized from a management accounting perspective. In particularly, the results suggest that management accounting systems may play a very active role in the institutionalization of cost consciousness. Moreover, this dissertation also underlines the potential role of routines, rules, exogenous forces and agents in the institutionalization process. Therefore, the institutionalization of cost consciousness requires a mish-mash of elements and mechanisms interacting between each other. This dissertation serves as a comprehensive platform for various avenues of research on cost consciousness which could be based not any more on hunches, but on knowledge and better grounded understanding.
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