, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 233-268
Date: 13 Oct 2012

Management control systems: a review

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


The purpose of this paper is to review analytical conceptualizations of management control systems (MCS) that have been developed in the academic literature. By means of a systematic review (Tranfield et al. in Br. J. Manag. 14: 207–222, 2003), a comprehensive analysis that encompasses both textbook approaches and research papers is provided. As a result, this article presents a landscape of possible MCS understandings. For the selection of textbooks a survey among accounting researchers and a syllabi search were conducted (Hoffjan and Wömpener in Schmalenbach Bus. Rev., 58: 234–258, 2006). Merchant and Van der Stede (Management control systems: Performance measurement, evaluation and incentives, 2nd edn. Prentice Hall, Harlow, 2003), Anthony and Govindarajan (Management control systems, 12th edn. McGraw-Hill, Boston, 2007), and Simons (Performance measurement and control systems for implementing strategy. Pearson, Upper Saddle River, 2000) as the three top-ranked textbooks were analyzed and used to generate criteria for the subsequent identification of relevant articles. Additional conceptual papers were included in the analysis. Accordingly, this paper contributes to the management control literature by presenting a review of analytical conceptualizations of MCS. In contrast to previous reviews, we compare analytical concepts of MCS at different categories such as definitions, purposes, types, and frameworks. Moreover, our review was conducted in a systematic manner, i.e. it follows a transparent and thorough process and, by doing this, it complements prior not primarily objective reviews. Finally, we outline a map of the fragmented MCS landscape.