In Search of Management Accounting Theory

Posted: 20 Feb 2009

See all articles by Teemu Malmi

Teemu Malmi

Aalto University School of Business

Markus Granlund

Turku School of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 18, 2009


In this article we discuss the motivation for and role of theory in management accounting. We argue that theories in an applied field such as management accounting should provide explanations that are useful for those we study - managers, organizations and society. We evaluate the nature of theories currently used and developed. Those theories that are considered theories by the research community are largely imported from other disciplines, but have hardly anything that makes them unique to management accounting. Those theories that are not currently regarded as theories by many of our colleagues attempt to explain how to apply management accounting to achieve superior performance. We argue that both forms of theories, at present, largely fail to provide valid support for practitioners. We contend that management accounting theory should help us to answer questions of what kind of management accounting systems we should apply, how, in what circumstances, and how to change them. We provide suggestions on how management accounting research could proceed to produce better theories in this regard.

Keywords: management accounting, theory, practice relevance

JEL Classification: M40, M46

Suggested Citation

Malmi, Teemu and Granlund, Markus, In Search of Management Accounting Theory (February 18, 2009). European Accounting Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Teemu Malmi (Contact Author)

Aalto University School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 21220
Aalto, 00076
+358 40 5100827 (Phone)

Markus Granlund

Turku School of Economics ( email )

Rehtorinpellonkatu 3
FIN-20500 Turku
+358 2 481481 (Phone)
+358 2 4814350 (Fax)

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