Academic journal article International Journal of Management

The Meaning and Development of the Concept of Management Control: An Etymological Study

Academic journal article International Journal of Management

The Meaning and Development of the Concept of Management Control: An Etymological Study

Article excerpt

The purpose of this paper is to describe and analyse how the concept of management control has been defined by researchers publishing in Accounting, Organizations and Society, from 1976 to 2003. A word may develop and change over time, mainly depending on the context in which it is being used. The social and cultural context affects the meaning and content of the word. Building on etymological theory, the original meaning and use of management control as a concept among researchers published in AOS, have been traced. The findings show that though the concept has held different emphasis during the years, a common core may be distinguished, where the concept is used as a way to describe how managers and employees work with a system, i. e. goals, planning and control, which handles resources.

Introduction

In the language, concepts, and words we use different meanings are stored in something like a knowledge bank (Berger & Luckmann, 1966). The words become carriers of a meaning that you have to understand in order for the words to be meaningful. When words are interpreted by a user they become meaningful (Weick, 1995). This paper uses an etymological approach to understand the meaning and content of a theoretical notion or concept. Etymology implies the study of the Original meaning, or use, of a given lexical unit or proper name' (Malkiel, 1993, p. s. 1). A word may develop and change over time, mainly depending on the context in which it is being used. The social and cultural context affects the meaning and content of the word. Words may, in some contexts, appear as a riddle that needs to be solved, where the question asked is, 'which meaning should this word hold?'

The language within a profession is used to construct semantic fields and a social knowledge bank (Berger & Luckmann, 1966). The language helps to bring a structure to routine events and ordinary workdays. The everyday work will then become meaningful when it is expressed in a language that has stored a meaning over a longer period of time, a meaning built on the knowledge bank of the social situation. Individual experiences and group experiences are stored as contents of words and expressions. When the words are then used later on, they have been enriched with further content and are objectified as it is no longer the individual experience, but the common use of the word, that counts. The words are also an aid to solve practical problems which have no direct or natural solution, hi a practical situation, a problem is constructed according to the context in which the problem is arising, and the situation becomes meaningful through the language by which the problem is expressed (Weick, 1995). The meaning of words is crucial in deciding whether a social context, a practical context, will work in a meaningful way.

The motivating question of this paper asks what the content of management control is, and how it has changed over time. Management control is a field with an obvious, practical implementation clearly abiding in the mid-level of organisations. The content of the concept though, is not quite clear-cut. The purpose of this paper is to describe and analyse how the concept has been defined by researchers, and in which contexts it has been studied over the years. The theoretical framework for the study is the etymological field. The intention is not to study pronunciation (Muller, 1871), or conjugation of different word classes (Dunmore, 1993), but this paper is focusing on the development of the meaning of a concept in a research context (Malkiel, 1993).

The context of words

In our daily situations we use words to communicate what we want to say. The words and our language are a way of relating to one another and to the social context in which we live (Berger & Luckmann, 1 966). The words in themselves have a content that we utilise to deliver what we experience and refer to, they supply content to the one receiving the message (Weick, 1995). …

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