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Research in Management Control: An Overview of Its Development

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British Journal of Management, Vol. 6, Special Issue, S31-S44 (December 1995)

Research in Management Control:

An Overview of its Development

David Otley*, Jane Broadbent? and Anthony Berry$

*Lancaster University Management School, ?Department of Accounting and Financial

Management, University of Essex and $ManChester Business School

SUMMARY This paper builds on a series of earlier reviews of the management control literature

(Giglioni and Bedeian, 1974; Hofstede, 1968; Merchant and Simons, 1986; Parker,

1986) and considers the development of the management control literature in the context

of organizational theories. Early themes which have provided the roots for the

development of the subject area are explored as is more recent work which has evolved

both as a continuation and a reaction against them, with Scott's (1981) framework being

used to organize this literature. It is argued that one of the unintended consequences of

the influential work of Robert Anthony (1965) has been a restriction of the subject to an

accounting-based framework and that this focus needs to be broadened. The review

points to the potential of the subject as a integrating theme for the practice and research

of management and some themes for future research are suggested.


This paper reviews the development of research in

management control, building upon other reviews

both to examine the roots of the subject from the

turn of the century and to demonstrate the depth

and breadth of the subject. Four previous reviews

form the foundation for our overview.

Giglioni and Bedeian (1974) review the contribution

of the general management and organizational

theory literature for the period 1900-1972,

drawing out several different strands to conclude


‘even though control theory has not achieved the

level of sophistication of some other management



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