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Monitoring and regulatory role of the balanced scorecard in controlling organisational identities

By Jungsun Kim


This thesis employs the theoretical fusion of disciplinary knowledge, interlacing an analysis from both functional and interpretive frameworks and applies these paradigms to three concepts—organisational identity, the balanced scorecard performance measurement system, and control. As an applied thesis, this study highlights how particular public sector organisations are using a range of multi-disciplinary forms of knowledge constructed for their needs to achieve practical outcomes. Practical evidence of this study is not bound by a single disciplinary field or the concerns raised by academics about the rigorous application of academic knowledge. The study’s value lies in its ability to explore how current communication and accounting knowledge is being used for practical purposes in organisational life. The main focus of this thesis is on identities in an organisational communication context. In exploring the theoretical and practical challenges, the research questions for this thesis were formulated as:\ud \ud 1. Is it possible to effectively control identities in organisations by the use of an integrated performance measurement system—the balanced scorecard—and if so, how?\ud \ud 2. What is the relationship between identities and an integrated performance measurement system—the balanced scorecard—in the identity construction process? \ud \ud Identities in the organisational context have been extensively discussed in graphic design, corporate communication and marketing, strategic management, organisational behaviour, and social psychology literatures. Corporate identity is the self-presentation of the personality of an organisation (Van Riel, 1995; Van Riel & Balmer, 1997), and organisational identity is the statement of central characteristics described by members (Albert & Whetten, 2003). In this study, identity management is positioned as a strategically complex task, embracing not only logo and name, but also multiple dimensions, levels and facets of organisational life. Responding to the collaborative efforts of researchers and practitioners in identity conceptualisation and methodological approaches, this dissertation argues that analysis can be achieved through the use of an integrated framework of identity products, patternings and processes (Cornelissen, Haslam, & Balmer, 2007), transforming conceptualisations of corporate identity, organisational identity and identification studies.\ud \ud Likewise, the performance measurement literature from the accounting field now emphasises the importance of ‘soft’ non-financial measures in gauging performance—potentially allowing the monitoring and regulation of ‘collective’ identities (Cornelissen et al., 2007). The balanced scorecard (BSC) (Kaplan & Norton, 1996a), as the selected integrated performance measurement system, quantifies organisational performance under the four perspectives of finance, customer, internal process, and learning and growth. Broadening the traditional performance measurement boundary, the BSC transforms how organisations perceived themselves (Vaivio, 2007). The rhetorical and communicative value of the BSC has also been emphasised in organisational self-understanding (Malina, Nørreklit, & Selto, 2007; Malmi, 2001; Norreklit, 2000, 2003). Thus, this study establishes a theoretical connection between the controlling effects of the BSC and organisational identity construction.\ud \ud Common to both literatures, the aspects of control became the focus of this dissertation, as ‘the exercise or act of achieving a goal’ (Tompkins & Cheney, 1985, p. 180). This study explores not only traditional technical and bureaucratic control (Edwards, 1981), but also concertive control (Tompkins & Cheney, 1985), shifting the locus of control to employees who make their own decisions towards desired organisational premises (Simon, 1976). The controlling effects on collective identities are explored through the lens of the rhetorical frames mobilised through the power of organisational enthymemes (Tompkins & Cheney, 1985) and identification processes (Ashforth, Harrison, & Corley, 2008). In operationalising the concept of control, two guiding questions were developed to support the research questions:\ud \ud 1.1 How does the use of the balanced scorecard monitor identities in public sector organisations?\ud \ud 1.2 How does the use of the balanced scorecard regulate identities in public sector organisations? \ud \ud This study adopts qualitative multiple case studies using ethnographic techniques. Data were gathered from interviews of 41 managers, organisational documents, and participant observation from 2003 to 2008, to inform an understanding of organisational practices and members’ perceptions in the five cases of two public sector organisations in Australia. Drawing on the functional and interpretive paradigms, the effective design and use of the systems, as well as the understanding of shared meanings of identities and identifications are simultaneously recognised. The analytical structure guided by the ‘bracketing’ (Lewis & Grimes, 1999) and ‘interplay’ strategies (Schultz & Hatch, 1996) preserved, connected and contrasted the unique findings from the multi-paradigms. The ‘temporal bracketing’ strategy (Langley, 1999) from the process view supports the comparative exploration of the analysis over the periods under study. \ud \ud The findings suggest that the effective use of the BSC can monitor and regulate identity products, patternings and processes. In monitoring identities, the flexible BSC framework allowed the case study organisations to monitor various aspects of finance, customer, improvement and organisational capability that included identity dimensions. Such inclusion legitimises identity management as organisational performance. In regulating identities, the use of the BSC created a mechanism to form collective identities by articulating various perspectives and causal linkages, and through the cascading and alignment of multiple scorecards. The BSC—directly reflecting organisationally valued premises and legitimised symbols—acted as an identity product of communication, visual symbols and behavioural guidance. The selective promotion of the BSC measures filtered organisational focus to shape unique identity multiplicity and characteristics within the cases. Further, the use of the BSC facilitated the assimilation of multiple identities by controlling the direction and strength of identifications, engaging different groups of members. \ud \ud More specifically, the tight authority of the BSC framework and systems are explained both by technical and bureaucratic controls, while subtle communication of organisational premises and information filtering is achieved through concertive control. This study confirms that these macro top-down controls mediated the sensebreaking and sensegiving process of organisational identification, supporting research by Ashforth, Harrison and Corley (2008). This study pays attention to members’ power of self-regulation, filling minor premises of the derived logic of their organisation through the playing out of organisational enthymemes (Tompkins & Cheney, 1985). Members are then encouraged to make their own decisions towards the organisational premises embedded in the BSC, through the micro bottom-up identification processes including: enacting organisationally valued identities; sensemaking; and the construction of identity narratives aligned with those organisationally valued premises. \ud \ud Within the process, the self-referential effect of communication encouraged members to believe the organisational messages embedded in the BSC in transforming collective and individual identities. Therefore, communication through the use of the BSC continued the self-producing of normative performance mechanisms, established meanings of identities, and enabled members’ self-regulation in identity construction. Further, this research establishes the relationship between identity and the use of the BSC in terms of identity multiplicity and attributes. The BSC framework constrained and enabled case study organisations and members to monitor and regulate identity multiplicity across a number of dimensions, levels and facets. The use of the BSC constantly heightened the identity attributes of distinctiveness, relativity, visibility, fluidity and manageability in identity construction over time.\ud \ud Overall, this research explains the reciprocal controlling relationships of multiple structures in organisations to achieve a goal. It bridges the gap among corporate and organisational identity theories by adopting Cornelissen, Haslam and Balmer’s (2007) integrated identity framework, and reduces the gap in understanding between identity and performance measurement studies. Parallel review of the process of monitoring and regulating identities from both literatures synthesised the theoretical strengths of both to conceptualise and operationalise identities. This study extends the discussion on positioning identity, culture, commitment, and image and reputation measures in integrated performance measurement systems as organisational capital. Further, this study applies understanding of the multiple forms of control (Edwards, 1979; Tompkins & Cheney, 1985), emphasising the power of organisational members in identification processes, using the notion of rhetorical organisational enthymemes. This highlights the value of the collaborative theoretical power of identity, communication and performance measurement frameworks. These case studies provide practical insights about the public sector where existing bureaucracy and desired organisational identity directions are competing within a large organisational setting. Further research on personal identity and simple control in organisations that fully cascade the BSC down to individual members would provide enriched data. The extended application of the conceptual framework to other public and private sector organisations with a longitudinal view will also contribute to further theory building

Topics: organisational identity, corporate identity, management control, performance measurement system, balanced scorecard
Publisher: Queensland University of Technology
Year: 2010
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