Configurations of Control: An Exploratory Analysis

Posted: 14 Jan 2013 Last revised: 2 Apr 2015

See all articles by David S. Bedford

David S. Bedford

University of Technology Sydney (UTS)

Teemu Malmi

Aalto University School of Business

Date Written: April 2, 2015


There is growing interest in how management controls operate together as a package of interrelated mechanisms. Although theoretical debate dates back to the seminal paper of Otley (1980), there remains little empirical analysis of how control mechanisms combine. To increase knowledge in this area this study explores how multiple accounting and other control mechanisms commonly combine and the associations these combinations have with firm context. From a cross-sectional sample of 400 firms, this study presents an empirically derived taxonomy of five control configurations used by top managers, labelled as simple, results, action, devolved, and hybrid. Many of these patterns closely resemble control configurations common to the literature, while others represent distinctively contemporary arrangements, such as flexible variants of traditional bureaucracy (action), and instances where multiple and seemingly conflicting control types intermesh (hybrid). In analyzing these configurations this study provides accounting and control researchers with empirical observations to refine and extend existing control frameworks and theory.

Keywords: management control, configuration theory, control package, taxonomy

JEL Classification: M41

Suggested Citation

Bedford, David S. and Malmi, Teemu, Configurations of Control: An Exploratory Analysis (April 2, 2015). Management Accounting Research, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

David S. Bedford (Contact Author)

University of Technology Sydney (UTS) ( email )

15 Broadway, Ultimo
PO Box 123
Sydney, NSW 2007

Teemu Malmi

Aalto University School of Business ( email )

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

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