Cascading Control Changes, Incoherence, and Dialogue: Insights from a Longitudinal Case Study

T. Toldbod, B. van der Kolk

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Environmental shifts regularly urge organizations to adapt, which may entail management control (MC) changes. Changes to an MC element such as a performance measurement system, however, may in turn create incoherence with other, non-changed elements, generating a need for more changes, and thus trigger a cascade effect. To date, however, we know little about how this sequential process unfolds and what managers can do to deal with incoherence. This paper contributes by enhancing the understanding of sequential changes, drawing on the organizational ecology literature, and we empirically inform our research with a five-year longitudinal case study. Our data illustrates in detail how initial MC changes, intended to cope with an environmental shift, trigger a cascade effect. This sequential process results in an extensive change period, during which various incoherent MC elements coexist. Our study acknowledges that incoherence among MC elements can decrease control effectiveness by creating intra-organizational frictions, yet we highlight the role of managers in mitigating such negative effects. Specifically, we show how managers can alleviate the unfavorable effects of incoherence by changing their use of performance measures in order to better facilitate organizational dialogue, learning and problem solving.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Accounting Review
Pages (from-to)377-407
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Change
  • Management Control
  • Organizational Ecology
  • Performance Measurement


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