In the paper, we contend that environmental shifts regularly urge organizations to adapt, which may entail changes related to management control (MC). 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.
Our 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, 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.