Realizing a fast growth strategy - A case study of the evolution of management control systems in a fast growing firm

Sammanfattning: Growth has received considerable interest from researchersduring the past two decades. Some of this research focuses onorganizational issues as firms grow, proposing that thisprocess involves considerable formalization of structures,pro-cedures and systems. However, until recently, fewsubstantial research contri-butions have been made thatinvestigate the specific influence of growth on con-trol systemdevelopment. To address this gap in knowledge, this thesisexplores control system development in a fast-growing casefirm. Using a lever-of-control framework, it examines whichcontrol mechanisms that have been introduced, at what pointduring the growth process and why. This study also investigateshow these mechanisms were used during the period studied. Theempirical material was coll-ected through a number ofinterviews that were supplemented with internal docu-ments andobservations of organizational practice. In order to capturethe links between the control system changes and growth,special attention was paid to participants' intentions forthese changes. The focus on intentions is motivated by theassumption that participants' responses to their subjectiveperception of situ-ations are decisive for the emergence ofobservable organizational practices.The findings illustrate the importance of including anddistinguishing between dif-ferent growth measures, since bothorganizational growth (number of employees) and business growth(sales and profit) influenced the patterns observed in thiscase. Furthermore, the intentions behind the investigatedchanges involve both the achievement of goals and the handlingof consequences of the two types of growth. More specifically,business growth was related to the introduction of diagnosticcontrol systems and the formalization of work processes. Thesechanges were in-itiated by high-level managers striving toenhance firm performance and reduce risks. Organizationalgrowth, on the other hand, was associated with systems forintegration that were primarily initiated by employees. Inparticular, the geographi-cal differentiation of sub-unitsseemed to be associated with problems concerning motivation,confusions and coordination, because of communicationdifficulties between units that are spatially separate. Theseproblems were solved by providing distant units with additionalchannels for rich information. However, the interpre-tation andprecise classification of organizational practices also dependon which group's perspective one considers, as severalpractices could be interpreted in alt-ernative ways. Forinstance, when primarily considering the managers' perspective,one of the integrating information channels mentioned abovecould also be inter-preted as an interactive controlmechanism.The thesis also presents implications for theory andpractice and points out sev-eral promising areas for furtherresearch. Some findings highlight limitations in thetheoretical control framework and open for an extension of thelevers-of-control model. This case demonstrates that controlscan be used interactively not only to support innovation andstrategic maneuvering, but also for other purposes relevant tofirms operating in more stable environments that pursuestrategies with a relatively fixed business scope.