Controllers' Protoscripts and the Shaping of Control

21 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2004

See all articles by Ivo De Loo

Ivo De Loo

Nyenrode Business University

H. Peter Nederlof

Open Universiteit Nederland

Bernard Verstegen

Unaffiliated Authors

Date Written: April 28, 2004


The control mechanisms and instruments that eventually emerge in an organization are the result of a number of interrelated factors and processes. The design and construction of control instruments, the communication about them, the way in which the instruments are actually used, the processes of institutionalization that lead to the procedures and routines that are eventually entrenched in an organization, and processes of accounting change are just a few examples hereof. Of special interest to us is the behaviour of management accountants and controllers in the shaping of control. Accountants and controllers are not only of importance in the shaping of control mechanisms themselves. It is also in their best interest that the control mechanisms they design, develop and alter are actually used in a firm and function properly. Furthermore, it is part of a controller's core-business to handle the link between management information and accounting and control change.

When studying the link between the behaviour of accountants and controllers and the institutional environment of a firm, it may be hypothesized that institutions both arise from and constrain social action, and that day-to-day operations involving institutions can be regarded as 'scripts'. Scripts describe observable, recurrent activities and patterns of interaction characteristic of a particular setting. Ultimately, scripts may become institutionalized in a firm. There is probably a greater tendency for the institutionalization of stereotypical behavioural patterns than for atypical patterns, since the latter are not common in an organization. Scripts may therefore be a useful tool to study how the institutionalization of accounting processes (which by definition involve stereotypical behaviour) comes about.

In this paper, we describe the procedure and outcome of the collection of a group of so-called behavioural scripts that management accountants and controllers apply in various types of problem situations. Through the use of a variety of interview techniques we could find several patterns of action that controllers deem stereotypical in the shaping of control. We find that in order to get an idea how the institutionalization of accounting processes and instruments actually takes place in an organization - a topic that is as of yet (almost) unexplored in management accounting studies although it is attracting more and more attention, the discovery of scripts is an important first step.

Keywords: Controlling, behavioral patterns, scripts, management accounting, interviews

JEL Classification: M20, M40

Suggested Citation

De Loo, Ivo and Nederlof, H. Peter and Verstegen, Bernard, Controllers' Protoscripts and the Shaping of Control (April 28, 2004). Available at SSRN: or

Ivo De Loo

Nyenrode Business University ( email )

Straatweg 25
P.O. Box 130
Breukelen, 3620 AC

H. Peter Nederlof

Open Universiteit Nederland ( email )

P.O. Box 2960
Heerlen 6401DL

Bernard Verstegen (Contact Author)

Unaffiliated Authors

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics