Productions and Operations Management & Management Accounting
Routledge Companion for Production and Operations Management, 2016 Forthcoming
Posted: 19 Mar 2016
Date Written: March 17, 2016
In this chapter, we would like to outline the benefits gained for practice from looking at the same Operations Management phenomenon through multiple angles, in particular by including an Accounting, performance measurement and incentives angle. Furthermore, we will explore the opportunities for inter-disciplinary contributions to both the academic Operations Management and Accounting literature. Accounting focuses on the role of accounting information in assessing, valuing and predicting performance of firms and individuals. Furthermore, Financial Accounting is concerned with the role of such information to improve external (to the firm) decision making such as lending decisions by banks and trading decisions by financial markets participants. Management Accounting, on the other hand, is focused on the role of accounting information internally within the firm.
If the reader will allow us some sweeping generalizations (to which there are of course notable exceptions), we would characterize Managerial Accounting research as originally and up to the mid-sixties being very focused on the role of information to improve internal decision making (Kaplan 1984). Over time, the focus of this research has shifted to the role of such information in measuring performance within the firm and providing incentives to align employees’ actions with the firm’s strategy. We would argue, however, that the pendulum has swung out a little too far: While the majority of what we teach in our Management Accounting courses is decision-making oriented so as to prepare our students for their roles in the workforce, the amount of research to support our teaching needs and update our teaching materials on this front is much more limited. Operations Management research, on the other hand, has continued to study the role of information in decision making (e.g. how to reduce the bullwhip effect by improved information sharing), and it would be valuable to bring some of that focus back to Accounting research.
On the whole, Operations Management has typically been much more concerned with decision-making and until fairly recently usually not considered the behavior of humans under incentives provided by performance measures (again – please permit us these sweeping generalizations). The main focus has been on accomplishing process and operations improvement by dealing with exogenously imposed challenges such as, for example, randomness of demand, outages and defects. Operations Management research and practice has not focused a lot on how to best measure aspects of an exogenously determined process and on the endogeneity that arises when measures are used not just to capture the properties of the process but to incentivize and inform decision makers that are responsible for managing the process (with of course some notable exceptions). As such, this perspective of Accounting research provides an important vantage point for thinking through the interactions among performance measurement options, the human’s behavior when responding to these incentives, and the resulting optimal structure of operations. Given the readership of the book, our chapter will focus on what an Accounting perspective can signify for Operations Management. We will argue that both areas are inseparable.
In Section 2, we will discuss the importance of considering incentives and performance measurement in Operations Management. Using the illustrative cases of two typical Operations Management settings (throughput maximization and the choice between push and pull production), we will outline how the performance measurement perspectives adds a lot of tools to the tool box of the operations manager and how opportunities for joint optimization of operations and performance measurement arise. We will also discuss the role for Management Accounting in devising additional performance measures (such as those included in a Balanced Scorecard which typically reports performance measures for four different perspectives: financial, learning and growth, internal and operational) to which incentives can be linked, and how this affects how to best solve an operations problem.
In Section 3, we take the opposite perspective and discuss how the organization of operations affects what can and cannot be measured by Accounting, with a focus on cost measurement techniques such as Activity-Based Costing and Time-driven Costing. We explain how Operations Management impacts the accuracy of such cost measurement. This will in turn impact the Operations Management decisions based on these reported costs, suggesting that Accounting and Operations Management are joined at the hip. To be clear, some practitioners and researchers are already wrestling with issues on this interface (such as many of the works referenced in this chapter), and we do not aim to provide an exhaustive reference list of those that do (e.g. additional references include Hansen and Mouritsen (2007) and Chao et al. (2014)). Rather, we hope that our chapter will further stimulate Operations Management researchers and practitioners to consider Accounting and performance measurement issues and vice versa by outlining some avenues for research and practice which we believe will be most fruitful.
Keywords: management accounting, operations management, interface
JEL Classification: M11, M41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation