Dent’s Definition of Culture, Essay Example
Accounting is a common practice for most organizations. Systems of hierarchical accountability, planning and budgeting activities, budgetary controls and remuneration arrangements, and performance appraisal procedures rely on accounting practices in more or lesser extent. Accounting is therefore, likely to be implicated in the cultural systems of organizations (Dent 442). Culture has many definitions depending on the circumstance with which they are applied. Culture is ordered clusters of significance, shared web of meaning through which individuals learn to appreciate the meaning of experience as guiding by action (Dent 444). Culture is produced as well as reproduced through interaction and action.
Culture is the product of minds between minds hence it is termed as public. Organizations are appreciated as being cultures, which brings the experiential and interpretive aspects of activities to the foreground of emphasizing, analysis and expressive qualities. With the concept of organizations as cultures, it is therefore, sensible to recognize the likelihood of existing subcultures among members of different social classes, occupational groups and managerial teams (Dent 444). The subcultures often overlap partially. Some cultures can be dominant, and others can be counter-cultures. Cultures in organizations are however, not independent of their social context. They interact with other social institutions and organizations because they are interpenetrated by wider systems of thought. They also import and export values, knowledge and beliefs.
Accounting has a likelihood of being differentially implicated in the subcultures in organizations. Information systems and accounting systems offer high views of the world. The systems embody some assumptions about organization, authority, time, rationality and so on. Some organizational cultures do not survive for long. This means that organizational cultures probably have inertial tendencies (Dent 445). Process of cultural change is often poorly understood in organizations. This is because of the notion that cultural change may be a political change; subcultures competing against each other for dominance and legitimacy. Cultural change can be equated to the diffusion of organizational forms, whose fields are rapidly adopting knowledge innovations.
Accounting practices have been known to reconstruct organizational reality. The influence of accounting on what has become cultural change; can be comprehended more by focusing on how it transforms the issue of professional identity on a local everyday operational action. Accounting reconstructs the culture of an organization and the change has been identified to have an impact on management accounting. Changes in organizational cultures can be a major source of power (Dent 443). This is particularly if it gains the ability to become dominant.
Research method used in the study and why the method was chosen.
The research method used is qualitative. Data consists of accounts and descriptions provided by parties involved in the research. Data is meant to be collected over a stretched time period, so that processes are recorded. The data will be theorized in an inductive manner. The data obtained will be analyzed where the process involved is an emergent process (Dent 446). The researcher will gradually develop an empathy with the data so that they can understand what they are to tell of participant’s process and realities. The researcher has to construct alternative interpretations until the researcher is sure that the representation is faithful. Interpretations must have ground in consistent and context with the order of events and interactions. The results given must be given in a way that the reader can judge its credibility independently as far as possible.
The reading was carried out in a period of two years, and it involved ongoing iterations between the collection of data and analysis. Contact and various channels provided access to the organizations involved. The researcher was given all the freedom to interview anyone they wished to. As a result, consent was in existence between the researcher and participants of the study. Interviews conducted stretched to all levels and thus, information collected was able to get the views of all people within the organization. Under interviews, data collected noted possible options, interpretations, confusions, and sentiments of all their participants. Therefore, interviews were later analyzed to bring forth and analyze the data collected equating it to the question under study. In addition, researchers were given access to internal meetings, where they were privileged to witness debates and thus, they noted dialogues (Dent 446). This enabled them have a feel of what the participants are going through and would be beneficial in giving recommendations to the management team. This will help them improve their leadership tactics and hence, will be vigilant to incorporate the feelings, views, and opinions of their staff. In addition, casual conversations made were also ways of collecting information and contributed in the development of the methodology, which played a role in delivering solutions.
Data was collected using several ways (Dent 447). Data was repeatedly analyzed as the project progressed. At each stage, emerging appreciations of that particular stage were checked against the next round of data. This was done in order to confirm if the researcher had properly understood the situation. In addition, this contributed to checking the data for validity and reliability. The process was continued until it reached a time when all subsequent data became predictable. Data was then analyzed from different perspectives. This means that level with which data was analyzed shifted from content to process. The findings of the research were noted and discussed with various participants (ÖZerdem and Richard 91).
The method of research was probably chosen because of the flexibility it gives to the researcher. The field research design can be modified at any time by the researcher. Because of this factor, the researcher is always ready to engage in field research whenever the need arises. For this study, researcher applied the two-dimensional space approach that was inclusive of role and hierarchy. However, time was later introduced and it became the three-dimension space that made stories unfold on the organizations meaning. This is despite the fact that some calls to do the research may be too sudden. Another reason for choosing the method is that it is effective especially when behaviors and attitudes are necessary for the examination of social processes over time. The research was to be done over a long period, and it involved uncoupling to recoupling. The railway culture stressed social service, which included mainly the need to study behavior and attitudes of the parties involved. Consequently, this is the more reason why the method was chosen as the most appropriate and suitable for the study. The data collected, however, was categorized into underlying values and content.
How the transition from a railway to a business culture take place in Dent’s study. Role of accounting in the transition
The study by Dent demonstrates a change from the public railway culture that stressed social service to that of business culture that aimed at profitability. Culture is comparable in terms of institution and thinking. The reconstruction of organizational cultures conceptualized as a process that involves uncoupling of activities that emanate from the railway culture and recoupling to the business culture. The railway company faced changing environments especially from the government (Kasim 114). Recruitment of accountants symbolized modernity, which was essential in securing legitimacy from the government.
Incompatibility between the business culture and public service culture created tensions between the pursuit of profitability and social service. Such tensions were however, necessary in order to challenge prevailing institutions. In the railway company, managers were imported who in turn became social agents (Kasim 114). They brought as well as instilled new profit-oriented culture in the company. The successful recoupling to the culture of business resulted in the promotion of the use of accounting as the new organizational knowledge. Managing change is all about managing relationships. It is about effective persuasion in order to reduce resistance from the organizational members (Kasim 117). Accountants need to be able to manage change through interactions and securing trust and confidence of other members in the organization.
The transition from ‘railway’ to business in this study takes place at the Capital City Terminus. Here, the author explains to us how the terminus has changed within a short time. In the past, the station was grimy and dark, and the employees were grumpy with crude response to customers. These descriptions are used to symbolize an old fashioned culture, which arouse during the origin of the public sector railway ownership. This was the reality of the dominant railway culture. It was established as a public service, and its sole purpose was to run trains. This meant that profitability came second.
However, in recent times this is not the case as the author narrates to employees who are now smiling and wearing uniforms; the concourse was bright and airy; people were milling; soft music played on the tannoy; there were large electronic screens that indicated the arrival and departure times. The emergence of the economic perspective came about after nationalization of the public sector. Privatizations lead to ceased social aims together with harsh imposed economic disciplines in the endeavor. Additionally there were colorful boutiques around which displayed ties, bags, socks as well as handkerchiefs. Cafes were also present in the station where people drank coffee and ate croissants. This showed that the organizational culture changed from the belief that the railway is a social service to that of a business perspective. As a result, cultural changes have a positive influence on employees and even on the running of organizations.
Across the street from the terminus, existing executive offices, where the author was going for a meeting with the General Manager about cost allocation regarding Intercity track. This implied that new management positions were created, which included business managers. The business managers were appointed so as to develop strategies that enhance the financial performance of each sector. The manager complains that Intercity want Freight to pay for wear and tear of their tracks since freight trains are heavy and go to a very fast rate. Therefore, transition from railway to business is seen through the changes that are present in the station. The old railway culture has been substantially displaced by the business perspective, which views railways as instruments for making profits. The new management of the station wants to maximize on their resources in order to facilitate growth and expansion of transportation industries. This improves on industrialization because management is embracing diversity in the transport sector and thus, will improve the economic sector of employees, organization, and the nation.
Accounting has played a key role in this transition. From the study, accounting practices have been identified as common practices in most work organizations. This is because activities such as planning and budgeting, remuneration arrangements, budgetary controls, systems of accountability and performance appraisal procedures all depend on accounting activities. This results into accounting being implicated in organizations’ cultural system. Hence, one role of accounting is to enable organizations practice the art of smooth running of activities amidst cultural changes (Dent 460).
Secondly, accounting enables organizations to be rewarded appropriately. This is reflected in organizations, which adopt rational management practices. Empirical grounded studies (Dent 461) cast accounting as a culturally expressive symbol of rationality. The rationality is particularly oriented towards a powerful external constituency, and moderating environmental control. This means that, the private sector operates rationally and aims at achieving profits first, followed by providing services to the public.
Accounting also plays the constitutive role of constructing an organizational life. This is done through finely crafted notions of costliness, profitability, efficiency, earnings-per-share as well as actively constructing particular definitions of reality that privileges both the financial and economic spheres (Dent 462).
Another role of accounting in the transition is to increase organizational core technological activities. This is done by permeating into organizational settings, leading to the development of particular agendas, stylizing definitions of success and failures, characterizing heroic performance and also mobilizing particular dynamics of change in an organization. In order to achieve such possibilities, organizations need a more intimate involvement of accounting into the organizational cultures (Dent 463).
According to readings cited in Jeremy’s study argue that accounting practices are not uniformly implicated in organizational activities. Some organizations centrally involve accounting in their work rituals. The rituals include celebrated financial achievement, massaged budgets and hence forth. In other organizations, accounting is incidental, that is, it exists as a practice but lacks a particular significance.
In the study, culture is defined as an elusive concept. It is the broad constellation of interpretive structures, by which actions and events are rendered meaningful to the society or community. As an ideational system, culture is produced and reproduced through interactions and actions. Appreciation of organizations as cultures brings the experimental and interpretive aspects of their activities to the foreground of analysis, putting emphasis on their expressive qualities.
One culture in which accounting was incidental was in the dominant culture. This culture was well established within the management group under study, but centered on engineering and production concerns. Here, accounting was necessary only in the technical-rational sense of ensuring that supplies were paid for, and also revenues were accounted for (Emmanuel, Otley and Merchant 182). This culture did not incorporate accounting into their senior management elite in any way or form.
As is elaborated in the study, a new culture emerged, which displaced the previously dominant oriented culture. The new culture was preoccupied with economic and accounting concerns and, as a result, new accounts were crafted. The new accounts got coupled with organizational activities through gradual action and interaction. The coupling was meant to reconstitute interpretation of organizational endeavor (Dent 455). This meant that accounting shaped the dominant meaning of a given organizational life, as well as ultimately getting a remarkable significance in the senior management culture. As a result, a new set of rituals, symbols and language emerged so as to celebrate an economic rationale for activities that are organized.
How accounting helps to construct a particular knowledge.
Accounting has a transformative power and can work itself into operational detail as well as local privacy where identity is embedded. Accounting enables an organization to account for its resources and utilization of knowledge and time. A cultural system incorporate knowledge about environments and the strategies meant to extract subsistence from them. The knowledge here is different from the two cultures that are, railway culture and business culture. The knowledge was that of providing the nation with adequate transport infrastructure while the government provided sustenance from its part. Given such knowledge, accounting was incidental especially in the railway culture. This was because of the necessity to account for supplies, and contain waste (Dent 460). A shift in knowledge with the help of accounting saw a shift from looking to the nation for subsistence to looking to markets. The change in knowledge meant a redefinition of the appropriate form of action. The new knowledge provided a means of extracting resources and expertise from markets, which in turn attracts influence and status.
The new knowledge saw the elimination of unnecessary operations and avoidance of waste. Activities are neither intrinsically wasteful nor intrinsically necessary. The activities were instead judged for their consequences especially in the market. Activities became more valuable than their cost (Dent 462). This means activities were designed for the market. Such factors as customer service, comfort, speed, and reliability were more focused on because their return outweighs the cost. The whole argument brings out a point that accounting can play a major role in the construction of specific knowledge. Accounting systems embody certain assumptions about organization, authority, time and rationality. If they permeate into underlying beliefs, values and knowledge, they can have real effects. Accounting in organizations constructs new theories of subsistence. This, in turn, implies certain patterns of influence and authority, modes of organization and mode of action.
Dent’s study argues that accounting can play a significant role in constructing specific knowledge. This is because accounting systems embody particular assumptions about rationality, authority, organization, time and so forth. If the above assumptions permeate into underlying values, beliefs and knowledge, then they can have very real consequence. Different cultures bring about different knowledge. For example, the business culture incorporates a different knowledge compared to the old fashioned culture. Here, the bottom line constructs the notion of the railway as a profit seeking organization. The rail transport is viewed as a product or service that can be bought or sold like any other business product. Revenues from these products cover the costs that they incur rather than obtaining government support. Given this knowledge, accounting activities become significant in enabling an organization to survive in the midst of competition. An organization will search for profit opportunities, and eliminate non –profit making activities all in the quest for survival (Emmanuel, Otley and Merchant 183).
The shift in knowledge, which accounting aids in constructing, is that of shifting from looking to the state for subsistence to looking to markets. In the old knowledge, the primary task was the operation of trains regardless of the cost, but in the new knowledge the primary task of the railway is serving the market. The meaningful form of management is the one which reflects and confronts markets.
Organizations are appreciated as being cultures, which provide rich insights into the life of an organization. Accounting can enter into an organization to constitute cultural knowledge in certain ways. Cultural knowledge in organizations yields organizational activities that have symbolic meanings. Jeremy F. Dent’s study is one that analyses the emergence of new organizational cultures, tracing out how new accounting practices have implicated the emergence. In this study, organizations are viewed as systems of knowledge, cultures, beliefs and values through which artifacts and actions are vested with expressive qualities.
The methodology applied in this study was able to bring out the real situation of the railway and contributed to the development of the industry. This also helped in analyzing problems that affected previous railway stations and thus, new management used better methods in improving and modifying the situation surrounding the railway environment. The same way it yields accounting with symbolic meaning. Cultural accounting analysis uncovers the meanings and locates them in the underlying beliefs, values and knowledge. The successful recoupling of the railway company to the business culture resulted in the promotion of the use of accounting as the new and productive organizational knowledge. Accounting in organizations can be utilized in order to achieve and attain economic efficiency.
Dent, Jeremy. “Accounting and organizational cultures: A Field Study of the Emergence of a New Organizational Reality.” Accounting, Organizations and Society, 16.8 (1991): 705-32. Print.
Emmanuel, Clive, Otley T. David, and Merchant, Kenneth. Accounting for Management Control. New York: Cengage Learning EMEA, 1990. Print.
Kasim, Abu. “Stories of Accounting Change during Financial Reform of Public Enterprises.” Pertanika Journal Social Sciences & Humanities, 14.2 (2006): 111-119. Print.
ÖZerdem, Alpaslan, and Richard Bowd. Participatory Research Methodologies (Epub) Development and Post-Disaster/Conflict Reconstruction. Brookfield, VT: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2013. Print.
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