Strategic change, leadership and accounting: A triptych of organizational reform

Chris Carter, Crawford Spence, Alan McKinlay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Strategic change in public sector organizations – especially in the form of increasing infiltration of ideas and practices emanating from the private sector – has been well documented. This paper argues that accounting and other calculative practices have only been accorded limited roles in extant accounts of public sector strategic change initiatives. This paper suggests that public management research would benefit from a greater appreciation of how calculative practices are deeply imbricated and constitutive of organizational life. In turn, the paper argues that the field of interdisciplinary accounting has much to learn from public administration, especially in terms of leadership. The overarching argument is that understanding strategic change in public organizations can be enhanced by bringing together insights from the academic fields of Public Administration and Interdisciplinary Accounting. This is particularly the case where an accounting innovation is central to a strategic change programme. In this respect, organizational reform can be understood as a triptych, involving strategic change, leadership and accounting practices. We illustrate this thesis through a case study of strategic change in the world’s largest public service broadcaster – The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). It is shown how, during the tenure of one organizational leader – John Birt - accounting technologies increasingly territorialized spaces, subjectivized individuals, was used to mediate between the organization and the State, and permitted adjudication on what was efficient and value for money within the organization and what was not.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-91
Number of pages30
JournalPublic Administration
Issue number1
Early online date10 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2020


  • broadcasting
  • change
  • leadership
  • accounting
  • BBC


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