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Strategic change, leadership and accounting: a triptych of organizational reform

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Alan McKinlay



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Wiley-Blackwell, 2020.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Strategic change in public sector organizations - especially I the form of increasing infiltration of ideas and practices emanating from the private sector - has been well documented. This article argues that accounting and other calculative practices have only been accorded limited roles in extant accounts of public sector change initiatives. This article suggests that public management research would benefit from a greater appreciation of how calculative practices are deeply imbricated and constitutive of organizational life. In turn, the paper argues that the field of interdisciplinary accounting has much to learn from public administration, especially in terms of the latter's engagement with leadership. The article's overarching argument is that understanding strategic change in public organizations can be enhanced by bringing together insights from the academic fields of Public Administration and Interdisciplinary Accounting. This is particularly the case where an accounting innovation is central to a strategic change programme. In this respect, organizational reform can be understood as a triptych, involving strategic change, leadership and accounting practices. We illustrate this thesis through a case study of strategic change in the world's largest public service broadcaster - The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). It is demonstrated how, during the tenure of one organizational leader - John Birt - accounting technologies increasingly territorialized spaces, subjectivized individuals, mediated between the organization and the State, and permitted adjudication on what was efficient and value for money within the organization and what was not.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Carter C, Spence C, McKinlay A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Public Administration

Year: 2020

Volume: 98

Issue: 1

Pages: 62-91

Print publication date: 01/03/2020

Online publication date: 10/09/2018

Acceptance date: 07/08/2018

Date deposited: 19/09/2018

ISSN (print): 0033-3298

ISSN (electronic): 1467-9299

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell


DOI: 10.1111/padm.12550


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