Controller Work in Strategic Capital Investment Projects : Case Studies in a Swedish Mining Company

Sammanfattning: There is a tendency in the management accounting literature to emphasize systems, procedures, models and techniques, designed to improve planning, and control of business activities. This tendency is also visible in the more specific stream of literature that concerns capital investment decision making. This thesis argues that controllers are important actors involved in the practice of handling the uncertainties that arise during the course of capital investment projects. If a rational decision-oriented view of management accounting is overemphasized, there is a risk that we overlook the controllers as agents, thereby obtaining an insufficient understanding of actual practice. The research question addressed in this thesis is how and why do controllers intervene in, and influence strategic capital investment projects (SCIPs)? The overall purpose is thus to empirically and theoretically develop an understanding of controller agency in SCIPs with a particular emphasis on a mining context. The study was conducted in LKAB, a Swedish multinational mining corporation. The company was considered suitable because of its SCIPs and because of a change program concerning the controller role. The literature study in paper I, explores the current state of controller research and identify three streams of literature and promising methodological and theoretical approaches for the study of controller agency. In paper II, the findings illustrate the social reality of the controller role, and the suitability of the pragmatic constructivist framework for understanding and studying controller agency. Paper III, explores the controller role from an individual perspective guided by institutional theory. The paper reveals prerequisites for becoming a business partner. Paper IV focuses on controllers using calculations for mining strategic capital investment projects. Drawing on the use of calculation framework, the paper provides insights into controller practice in relation to contexts and temporal aspects concerning management accounting work in mining. The conclusions of the thesis suggest that controller agency in mining SCIPs means more than being a provider of rational financial information to top-level managers. Controller agency involves making value based judgments concerning information. Controller agency also means dialogues with operational and top-level managers, where controllers discuss ideas and calculations regarding mining SCIPs. This means that the controllers interact with managers to develop insights about operations. When they combine financial expertise with operational knowledge, the controllers influence mining SCIPs. The conclusions suggest ways in which expectations, project properties, rules, norms and individual characteristics influence controller agency.