Popularizing a management accounting idea: The case of the balanced scorecard

David Cooper, Mahmoud Ezzamel, Sandy Q. Qu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We explore how the Balanced Scorecard (BSC), as a management accounting technique, was developed and marketed as a general management practice. Drawing on actor network theory (ANT), we analyze interviews with key actors associated with the BSC, insights gained from attending BSC training workshops, and other documentary evidence to construct a history of the BSC. Our historical analysis offers theoretical tools to understand how the various features of the accounting technique were translated and transformed, that is, shaped and solidified. This translation entailed processes of modification, labelling, framing, and specification of abstract categories and cause-effect relations. We also examine the networks and associations that both shape the form of the BSC and mobilize the interests of various constituencies around it to produce what can be regarded as a global management technology. Finally, we highlight the strategies and actions used to maintain control of this technique through its continuous reinvention, and, by doing so, we emphasize the idea of strategic agency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)991-1025
Number of pages35
JournalContemporary Accounting Research
Issue number2
Early online date17 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


  • field study evidence
  • boundary objects
  • performance measure
  • supply alliance
  • actor networks
  • strategy
  • diffusion
  • power
  • inscriptions
  • subjectivity

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