Balancing Control Structures: An Empirical Analysis of the Levers of Control Framework

50 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2013 Last revised: 28 Nov 2013

See all articles by Anne-Marie Kruis

Anne-Marie Kruis

Nyenrode University

Roland F. Spekle

Nyenrode Business University

Sally K. Widener

Clemson University

Date Written: November 28, 2013


The impact of the Levers of Control (LOC) framework on the accounting literature is undeniably large. The framework, however, has also been criticized for being vague and ambiguous. One of the central, but unclear, concepts in the LOC framework is the notion of balance. That is, the framework holds that control systems must be in balance in order to manage competing tensions such as that found between predictable goal achievement on the one hand and innovation on the other. The goal of our study is to make the concept of balance more explicit by providing empirically informed insights on different balancing arrangements that exist in a cross-section of business units. To empirically examine the concept of balance, we develop a survey and administer it in person to a convenience sample of business unit managers. Using responses from 217 managers, cluster analysis reveals four stable configurations of balance, which we label strategic stability, strategic vigilance, strategic exploitation, and strategic responsiveness. We examine organizational and contextual factors that further validate and help explain the observed patterns of balance. By shedding light on one of the key concepts in the LOC framework, our study helps to explicate a hitherto underspecified theoretical claim in that framework. This explication is a significant step in the further development of the framework, adding to its explanatory expressiveness as well as to its empirical contestability.

Keywords: Levers of Control Framework, Balance, Management Control, Cluster Analysis, Configuration Theory

JEL Classification: M40, L20

Suggested Citation

Kruis, Anne-Marie and Spekle, Roland F. and Widener, Sally K., Balancing Control Structures: An Empirical Analysis of the Levers of Control Framework (November 28, 2013). AAA 2014 Management Accounting Section (MAS) Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Anne-Marie Kruis (Contact Author)

Nyenrode University ( email )

3621 BG Breukelen

Roland F. Spekle

Nyenrode Business University ( email )

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

Sally K. Widener

Clemson University ( email )

Clemson, SC 29634
United States

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