Review of Accounting Studies

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 503-536

First online:

Flattening the organization: the effect of organizational reporting structure on budgeting effectiveness

  • R. Lynn HannanAffiliated withJ. Mack Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University Email author 
  • , Frederick W. RankinAffiliated withCollege of Business, Colorado State University
  • , Kristy L. TowryAffiliated withGoizueta Business School, Emory University

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This study investigates whether increasing a superior’s span of control improves the effectiveness of the budgeting process. We characterize the superior’s utility function as consisting of utilities for norm enforcement and wealth, leading the superior to reject profitable projects believed to contain excessive slack. We develop theory to predict that superiors become more willing to reject projects as their span of control increases. Further, subordinates anticipate superiors’ behavior and reduce slack as span of control increases. Experimental results are consistent with these predictions. As span of control increases, superiors show a greater willingness to reject projects that they believe contain excessive slack, and subordinates submit budgets with less slack. The net result is that superiors earn more profit per subordinate under an expanded span of control. Our study suggests that increasing span of control can improve the effectiveness of the budgeting process, an important component of most firms’ control environments.


Capital budgeting Organizational structure Informal management control systems Norm enforcement

JEL Classification

D02 D03 D82 M40 M55