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Consultants Politecnico di Milano


  • pg 1
									          Research theme:
The practice-orientation of academic
    researchers in public sector
     management accounting

                                               Politecnico Milan, Feb. 2012
   Presentation at the Politecnico di Milano
              1st of March 2012

   Jan van Helden, University of Groningen

Overview of research projects

    Public sector practice, politicians and managers

   supply         demand       demand          supply

                                                                     Politecnico Milan, Feb. 2012
Academic researchers                        Consultants
(public sector                              (public sector market)
management accounting)
            Project 1: the research arena
        Project 2: supply of advice by academics and consultants          2
        Project 3: demand for advice by academics and consultants
Project 1: Examining the practical relevance of public sector
management accounting research, with Deryl Northcott, New Zealand,
FAM, 2010

 • Two themes of practical relevance:
 1. Content
   Do the stated objectives (and subsequent content)
   focus on matters of practical relevance?

                                                                     Politecnico Milan, Feb. 2012
 2. Communication
   Do the conclusions identify and communicate the
   practical implications of the research?
 • Method: Literature review of 128 papers in international

Research findings
Research goals categorized according to practical
•   A: Developing new MA techniques
•   B: Evaluating existing MA techniques
•   C: Conditions for successful implementation
•   D: Understanding the adoption and use of techniques
    Goal D is mostly (ca. 75%) addressed, while goals A, B and C,

                                                                        Politecnico Milan, Feb. 2012
       with more immediate practical relevance, are underresearched
• Communication: in around 50% of papers the practical
  implications are presented
• Potential for more research on topics of immediate practical
  relevance (objectives A, B & C) and for greater reflection on the
  practical implications of our research for practitioners: via other
  outlets (practice journals, media, consultancy, reports, research
  networks), but also in academic papers (engaging peers)                    4
Project 2:Knowledge Creation for Practice in Public Sector
Management Accounting by Consultants and Academics, MAR, 2010
(with Harrie Aardema, Henk ter Bogt and Tom Groot), 18 interviews in
the Netherlands
                                  Types of know-
                                  ledge consultants
                                  in expertise
      Types of                                        Types of
      knowledge                                       knowledge
      created by                                      created by

                                                                       Politecnico Milan, Feb. 2012
      consultants                                     researchers

                                   Types of know-
                                   ledge created by

          Strong relationship

          Weak relationship            practice
        Hardly any relationship
                    Project 3
Public sector managers’ preferences for attracting
 consultants or academics as external experts; a
         multi-country exploratory study

                                                     Politecnico Milan, Feb. 201
     Paper to be published in QRAM, Summer 2012

        Jan van Helden, University of Groningen
       Anders Grönlund, University of Stockholm
          Riccardo Mussari, University of Siena
         Pasquale Ruggiero, University of Siena
•   Introduction and background
•   Research questions and research design
•   Theoretical framework
•   A diversity of methods of data collection

                                                             Politecnico Milan, Feb. 2012
•   The findings of the varying methods of data collection
•   Conclusions and discussion

Introduction and background
• Practitioners are asking for new knowledge, which
  external experts can give (Jacobsen, 2004);
• Public sector reforms may lead to public managers’
  competence shortage (competence movement –
  Lodge and Hood, 2005);

                                                          Politecnico Milan, Feb. 2012
• In the last years expenses of public administrations,
  especially at the central level, for external advices
  are increasing substantially (Management
  Consultancies Association, 2001).
• Our study focuses on public sector managers
  demand for external expertise by consultants and
  academics and builds on an earlier published study
  on the supply side of external expertise (Van                8
  Helden, Aardema, ter Bogt and Groot in MAR 2010)
Research question and research
• Research question:
   • Which factors determine public sector managers’
     preference to approach either consultants or
     academics in order to solve their managerial

                                                       Politecnico Milan, Feb. 2012
• Research design: Face to face semi-structured
  interviews with 24 central government agencies top
  managers (eight in each country)

Knowledge created by
consultants and academics
• Differences relate to:
 • Objective of knowledge creation and kinds of
   knowledge produced
 • Process of knowledge creation

                                                  Politecnico Milan, Feb. 2012
 • Transfer of knowledge

  Framework: Knowledge created by consultants and academics
Types of differences   Consultants                 Academics
Objective of           Solving practical and       Solving value-laden
knowledge creation     technical problems          problems
and kinds of           Helping to solve well-      Support in identi-
knowledge produced     defined problems            fying problems
Process of knowledge Based on own                  Based on scientific
creation             experience and that of        approach, methods,
                     colleagues                    theories
                     Resembles                     Process relatively
                     knowledge creation in         independent and
                                                   neutral to organization
Transfer of knowledge Tacit and explicit                   Explicit knowledge
                      knowledge, where                     transferred through
                      tacit knowledge is                   interiorization
                      transferred through                  Mediating in contro-
                      socialization                        versial interests by
                                                           providing authorative
                               Politecnico Milan, Feb. 2012              11
Methods: three types of questions used
in interviews
• Reflections on six real-life-cases (real-life constructs)
• Factual experiences of managers regarding a project for
  which a consultant was attracted and a project for a
  which an academic was attracted

                                                              Politecnico Milan, Feb. 2012
• Reactions on statements about circumstances under
  which a consultant or an academic is preferred

                  Examples of real-life cases
  Case 2
  Currently your organization uses two separate financial systems, one for
  external reporting and the other for internal budgeting and accounting. In
  your capacity as public sector manager, you want to introduce a so-called
  multi-purpose financial system that provides relevant information for both
  external and internal purposes.

                                                                                    Politecnico Milan, Feb. 2012
  Case 5
  In your capacity as public sector manager, you introduced a new system for
  job appraisal for managers three years ago. This system is based on
  quantitative information about issues such as meeting budget targets, sick
  leave of employees, complaints of clients, and the productivity of key
  processes. This system is considered highly controversial: some managers
  argue that it overrates the value of quantitative information and that it
  stimulates a tunnel vision. The supervisory board of your organization
  therefore wants this system to be evaluated.
Expectations: in case 2 preference for consultant and in case 5 preference for an
   Findings on real-life cases
Real-life cases                                     Expected       Preference
                                                    preference     found

1. Restructuring of the organization                Consultant     Consultant
2. Introduction of multi-purpose financial          Consultant     Consultant
3. Implementation of new cost allocation            Consultant     Consultant
4. Change in the attitude of the managers           Consultant or Diverging
and employees of your organization                  academic
(towards client orientation)
5. Assessment of controversial system for           Academic       Diverging,
job appraisal                                                      50%

6. Reconsideration of strategic position in          Academic      Diverging
the service providing chain         Politecnico Milan, Feb. 2012         14
Factual experiences of managers regarding a project for
which a consultant was attracted and a project for a which
an academic was attracted
• Consultants:
   • mostly approached for reorganising the client’s organization or
     helping them in designing and implementing specific systems
   • Experience in comparable cases in the past is the main reason
     for approaching a consultant
   • Interaction between consultant and organization is strong

                                                                        Politecnico Milan, Feb. 2012
• Academics, give a more diffused picture:
   • Some of the topics for which academics were approached
     confirm the expectations of our theoretical framework
   • However, also typical consultancy topics are addressed
     (Examples: development of a strategy for real estate
     management, design/implementation management training)
   • However, a closer look reveals that the reasons for calling upon
     an academic are often the need for impartial advice                15
   • Interaction with organization mostly strong
  Reactions on pre-structured statements
Statement (examples, 3 statements approved, 4 with unclear          Support?
1. When I need to tackle a technical matter, such as the            Yes
introduction of a new instrument, I prefer a consultant to an
2. If an issue, such as a new technique or approach, is             Yes
controversial, I prefer an academic to a consultant because the
advice of an academic is mostly more trustworthy than that of a
3. When I am strongly committed to a certain practice (technique,   No clear
approach, etc.) in my organization, I will be more reluctant to     support for
approach an academic than a consultant, because academics           or
mostly have a quite independent perspective on the phenomena        disapproval
they have to evaluate.
4. The way in which a consultant works is more similar to how I     No clear
work as a public sector manager than to the way in which an         support for
academic works, and therefore I involve myself more easily in the   or
                                        that of Milan, Feb. 2012
advisory process of a consultant than inPolitecnicoan academic.     disapproval
Consultant’s profile corroborated

• A consultant:
  • Helps to solve technical and practical problems, for
    which experience in comparable cases in the past is

                                                            Politecnico Milan, Feb. 2012
  • Strongly interacts with people from the client
    organization in identifying the problem and searching
    for solutions (knowledge transfer through

Academic’s profile only partly
 • An academic is approached:
  • When a problem relates the values of the
    organization, but also – comparable to consultants –
    when practical and technical problems have to be
    solved (in the latter cases giving an impartial advise is

                                                                Politecnico Milan, Feb. 2012
    often considered to be important)
  • Interaction with client organization in the advisory
    process is mostly strong (so rather than
    interiorization learning through socialization)

Country specific differences?
• In general differences between countries are
  small, although the number of interviews is
  • This regards the types of deficiencies (design,

                                                                Politecnico Milan, Feb. 2012
    implementation, reflection, etc.), with variations within
    countries that are larger than variations between
  • This also regards types of problems: economic (more
    appropriate for consultants) versus democratic (more
    suitable for academics), although some differences
    appear between Italy and Sweden
Conclusions and discussion (1)
• The type of topic for which a public sector manager
  needs an advise from an external expert, is not always
  distinctive for consultants and academics
  • the decision to choose an academic rather than a consultant
    was often motivated by the type of advice needed rather than
    by the topic, in the sense that academics were particularly

                                                                   Politecnico Milan, Feb. 2012
    preferred when the organization was faced with ill-defined
    problems or when ambiguous problems needed an impartial
• The need for impartiality makes an academic more
  attractive, and consultants are primarily asked for
  experience-based knowledge
• Socialization (as expected for consultants) was also the
  dominant way of transferring knowledge when
  academics were approached as external experts                    20
Conclusions and discussion (2)
• Also unexpected differences appear, especially when
  consultants are asked for behavioural matters and
  academics for exploration of alternative options
  • a deeper understanding of the types of topics concerning the
    values of the client organization that require the advice of either
    a consultant or an academic. Some of our real-life cases on
    value-laden topics, like a controversial performance rewarding

                                                                          Politecnico Milan, Feb. 2012
    system or the position of the organization in the value chain,
    show that public sector managers prefer a consultant when
    behavioural aspects dominate, and an academic in the case of
    method problems or when various options need to be explored.
• Some real-life cases indicated that a quick advice
  requires a consultant and more complex issues, for
  which more time is available, call for an academic
• We are further investigating the extent to which the
  three methods of data collection show coherent results                  21
  among the interviewees

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