A Critical Analysis of the Balanced Scorecard: Towards a More Dialogic Approach

  • David J. Cooper
  • Mahmoud Ezzamel


The Balanced Scorecard (BSC) is a very influential performance measurement system (PMS). Such systems institutionalize certain ways of looking at, and understanding, the nature of management and organization. We provide a critical analysis that integrates a technical and social view of the BSC. This allows an analysis of the core assumptions of the BSC: the value of strategy and strategizing, the nature of stakeholder interests, the modeling of organization, and the role of language, particularly the effects of quantification. We argue that the assumptions of technical approaches to the BSC encourage mechanical, partisan, quantified and hierarchical approaches to management. We call for greater dialogue within an organization between those who contribute to an organization’s success. A more dialogic approach seeks a better balance between acting and thinking, between discussions about organizational ends and means of achieving those ends and the possible integration of social and technical understandings. A commitment democratic deliberation should lead to a more equitable scorecard, and enhanced organizational performance.


Balanced scorecard Strategic management Performance measurement Critical analysis Organizational modeling Quantification Language Democratic deliberation Dialogue 


  1. Accounting Standards (formerly Steering) Committee. (1975). The corporate report. London: ICAEW.Google Scholar
  2. Action-Aid. (2010). Calling time: Why SABMiller should stop dodging taxes in Africa. London: Acton-Aid.Google Scholar
  3. Adler, P., & Borys, B. (1996). Two types of bureaucracy: Enabling and coercive. Administrative Science Quarterly, 41, 61–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Agger, B. (2004). The virtual self. A contemporary sociology. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  5. Aglietta, M., & Rebérioux, A. (2005). Corporate governance adrift: A critique of shareholder value. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Agyemang, G., & Lehman, C. (2013). Adding critical accounting voices to migration studies. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 24(4/5), 261–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Allen, W. (1992). Our schizophrenic conception of the business corporation. Cardozo Law Review, 14(2), 261–281.Google Scholar
  8. Amel-Zadeh, A., & Meeks, G. (2013). Bank failure, mark to market and the financial crisis. Abacus, 49(3), 308–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Andersen, N. (2003). Discursive analytical strategies: Understanding Foucault, Koselleck, Laclau and Luhmann. Bristol: Policy Press.Google Scholar
  10. Andre, P., Cazavan-Jeny, A., Dick, W., Richard, C., & Walton, P. (2009). Fair value accounting and the banking crisis; shooting the messenger. Accounting in Europe, 6(1), 3–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Angier, N. (1999). Woman: An intimate geography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  12. Angier, N. (2007). The canon. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  13. Annisette, M. (2003). The colour of accountancy: Examining the salience of ‘race’ in a professionalization project. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 28(7/8), 639–674.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Annisette, M., & Trivedi, V. (2013). Globalization, paradox and the (un)making of identities: Immigrant chartered accountants of India in Canada. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 38(1), 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Anthony, R. (1965). Planning and control systems: A framework for analysis. Boston: Harvard University.Google Scholar
  16. Antonio, R. (1981). Immanent critique as the core of critical theory: Its origins and developments in Hegel, Marx and contemporary thought. British Journal of Sociology, 32(3), 330–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Armour, J., Deakin, S., & Konzelmann, S. (2003). Shareholder primacy and the trajectory of UK corporate governance. British Journal of Industrial Relations, 41(3), 531–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Armstrong, P. (1994). The influence of Michel Foucault on accounting research. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 5(1), 25–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Arnold, P. (2009). Global financial crisis: The challenge to accounting research. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 34(6), 803–809.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Arrighi, G. (2010). The long twentieth century: Money, power, and the origins of our times. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  21. Arrington, C. E., & Francis, J. (1989). Letting the chat out of the bag: Deconstruction, privilege and accounting research. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 14, 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Arrington, C. E., & Schweiker, W. (1992). The rhetoric and rationality of accounting research. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 17, 511–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ashby, W. R. (1956). An introduction to cybernetics. London: Chapman and Hall.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ashby, W. R. (1958). Requisite variety and its implications for the control of complex systems. Cybernetica, 1(2), 83–99.Google Scholar
  25. Bakan, J. (2004). The corporation—The pathological pursuit of profit and power. London: Constable and Robinson Ltd.Google Scholar
  26. Ball, R., & Brown, P. (1968). An empirical evaluation of accounting numbers. Journal of Accounting Research, 6, 159–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Barley, S., & Kunda, G. (1992). Design and devotion: Surges in rational and normative ideologies of control in managerial discourse. Administrative Science Quarterly, 37, 363–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Barter, N., & Bebbington, J. (2010). Pursuing environmental sustainability (Research report 116). London: ACCA.Google Scholar
  29. Barth, M., & Landsman, W. (2010). How did financial reporting contribute to the banking crisis? Accounting Horizons, 19(3), 399–423.Google Scholar
  30. Battilana, J., & Dorado, S. (2010). Building sustainable hybrid organizations: The case of commercial microfinance organizations. Academy of Management Journal, 53(6), 1419–1440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Beaver, W. (1968). The information content of annual earnings announcements. Journal of Accounting Research, Supplement, 6, 67–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Beaver, W. (1981). Financial reporting: An accounting revolution. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  33. Bebbington, J. (2007). Accounting for sustainable development performance. London: CIMA.Google Scholar
  34. Bebbington, J., & Gray, R. (2001). An account of sustainability: Failure, success and a reconception. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 12(5), 557–587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Bebbington, J., & Larrinaga-Gonzalez, C. (2014). Accounting and sustainable development: An exploration. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 39(6), 395–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Bebbington, J., Gray, R., Hibbitt, C., & Kirk, E. (2001). Full cost accounting: An agenda for action. London: ACCA.Google Scholar
  37. Bebbington, J., Brown, J., & Frame, B. (2007a). Accounting technologies and sustainability assessment models. Ecological Economics, 61(2), 224–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Bebbington, J., Brown, J., Frame, B., & Thomson, I. (2007b). Theorizing engagement: The potential of a critical dialogic approach. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 20(3), 356–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Beer, S. (1959). Cybernetics and management. London: English University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Beer, S. (1966). Decision and control. London: John Wiley.Google Scholar
  41. Beer, S. (1972/1981). Brain of the firm. London/Chichester: Allen Lane, Penguin/John Wiley.Google Scholar
  42. Beer, S. (1974). Designing freedom. Toronto: CBC Learning.Google Scholar
  43. Beer, S. (1975). Platform for change. London: John Wiley.Google Scholar
  44. Beer, S. (1979/1995). The heart of enterprise. London: John Wiley.Google Scholar
  45. Beer, S. (1985). Diagnosing the system for organizations. Oxford: University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Beer, S. (2004). World in torment: A time whose idea must come. Kybernetes, 33(3/4), 774–803.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Bennett, J. (2008). Research for life: Paradigms and power. Feminist Africa, 11, 1–12.Google Scholar
  48. Bennett, M., & James, P. (Eds.). (1999). Sustainable measures: Evaluation and reporting of environmental and social performance. Sheffield: Greenleaf.Google Scholar
  49. Berle, A. (1954). The 20th century capitalist revolution. New York: Harcourt, Brace.Google Scholar
  50. Berle, A. (1959). Power without property: A new development in American political economy. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World.Google Scholar
  51. Berle, A. (1968). Property, production and revolution. Preface to A. Berle., & G Means (Eds.), The modern corporation and private property, revised edition. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World.Google Scholar
  52. Berle, A., & Means, Gardiner C. (1932/2007). The modern corporation and private property. London: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
  53. Bernstein, R. (1976). The restructuring of social and political theory. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  54. Berry, A., et al. (1985). Management control in an area of the NCB: Rationales of accounting practices in a public enterprise. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 10(1), 3–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Bhaskar, R. (1975). A realist theory of science. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  56. Bhaskar, R. (1979). The possibility of naturalism. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  57. Bhaskar, R. (1989). Reclaiming reality: A critical introduction to contemporary philosophy. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  58. Biondi, Y., Canziani, A., & Kirat, T. (2007). The firm as an entity: Implications for economics, accounting and the law. Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  59. Bisoux, T. (2010, July/August). Taking care. BizEd, 20–24.Google Scholar
  60. Bititci, U., Turner, T., & Ball, P. (1999). The viable business structure for managing agility. International Journal of Agile Management Systems, 1(3), 190–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Blackburn, N., Brown, J., Dillard, J., & Hooper, V. (2014). A dialogical framing of AIS-SEA design. International Journal of Accounting Information Systems, 15(2), 83–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Boland, R. (1978). The process and product of system design. Management Science, 24(9), 887–898.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Boland, R. (1989). Beyond the objectivist and the subjectivist: Learning to read accounting as text. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 14, 591–604.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Boland, R., & Tenkasi, R. (1995). Perspective making and perspective taking in communities of knowing. Organization Science, 6(4), 350–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Bond, S. (2011). Negotiating a ‘democratic ethos’: Moving beyond the agonistic–communicative divide. Planning Theory, 10, 161–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Boulding, K. (1974). In L. Sigell (Ed.), Collected papers: Toward a general social science. Boulder: Colorado Associated University Press.Google Scholar
  67. Bourdieu, P. (1990). In other words: Essays towards a reflexive sociology. Oxford/Palo Alto: Polity Press/Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  68. Bourdieu, P. (2004). Science of science and reflexivity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  69. Bourdieu, P. (2007). Sketch for a self-analysis. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  70. Bourdieu, P. (2010). Sociology is a martial art. New York: The New Press.Google Scholar
  71. Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L. (1992). An invitation to reflexive sociology. Chicago/Oxford: University of Chicago Press/Polity Press.Google Scholar
  72. Bourguignon, A., Malleret, V., & Norreklit, H. (2004). The American balanced scorecard versus the French tableau de bord: The ideological dimension. Management Accounting Research, 15(2), 107–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Bove, P. (1992). In the wake of theory. Hanover: Wesleyan University Press.Google Scholar
  74. Bowman, S. (1996). The modern corporation and American political thought: Law, power, and ideology. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
  75. Bratton, W., Jr. (1989). The new economic theory of the firm: Critical perspectives from history. Stanford Law Review, 41(6), 1471–1527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Braverman, H. (1974). Labor and monopoly capital. New York: Monthly Review Press.Google Scholar
  77. Broadbent, J. (2002). Critical accounting: A view from England. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 13(4), 433–449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Broadbent, J., & Kirkham, L. (2008). Glass ceilings, glass cliffs or new worlds?: Revisiting gender and accounting. Accounting Auditing, and Accountability Journal, 21(4), 465–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Broadbent, J., & Laughlin, R. (1997). Developing empirical research in accounting: An example informed by a Habermasian approach. Accounting Auditing and Accountability Journal, 10(5), 622–648.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Broadbent, J., & Laughlin, R. (1998). Resisting the ‘new public management’: Absorption and absorbing groups in schools and GP practices in the UK. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 11(4), 403–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Broadbent, J., & Laughlin, R. (2013). Accounting control and controlling accounting. Bingley: Emerald.Google Scholar
  82. Broadbent, J., Laughlin, R., & Read, S. (1991). Recent financial and administrative changes in the NHS: A critical theory analysis. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 2, 1–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Brooks, R. (2013). Britain became a tax haven for fat cats and big business. London: Oneworld.Google Scholar
  84. Brown, J. (2009). Democracy, sustainability and dialogic accounting technologies: Taking pluralism seriously. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 20(3), 313–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Brown, J. (2010). Accounting and visual cultural studies: Potentialities, challenges and prospects. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 23(4), 482–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Brown, J., & Dillard, J. (2012). Agonistic pluralism and imagining CSEAR in the future. Social and Environmental Accountability Journal, 32(1), 3–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Brown, J., & Dillard, J. (2013a). Agonizing over engagement: SEA and the “death of environmentalism” debates. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 24(1), 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Brown, J., & Dillard, J. (2013b). Critical accounting and communicative action: On the limits of consensual deliberation. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 24(3), 176–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Brown, J., & Dillard, J. (2014). Integrated reporting: On the need for broadening out and opening up. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 27(7), 1120–1156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Brown, J., & Dillard, J. (2015). Dialogical accountings for stakeholders: On opening up and closing down participatory governance. Journal of Management Studies, 52, 961–985. doi: 10.1111/joms.12153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Brown, J., Dillard, J., & Hopper, T. (2015). Accounting, accountants, and accountability regimes in pluralistic societies: Taking multiple perspectives seriously. Accounting Auditing and Accountability Journal, 28(5), 626–650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Brunsson, N. (2002). The organization of hypocrisy: Talk, decisions and actions in organizations. Malmo: Liber.Google Scholar
  93. Burchell, S., Clubb, C., Hopwood, A., Hughes, J., & Nahapiet, J. (1980). The roles of accounting in organizations and society. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 5(1), 5–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Burchell, D., Clubb, C., & Hopwood, A. (1985). Accounting in its social context: Towards a history of value added in the United Kingdom. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 10, 381–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Burkett, E. (2015, June 6). What makes a woman? New York Times.Google Scholar
  96. Burnham, J. (1941/1962). The managerial revolution. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  97. Burns, T., & Stalker, G. (1961). The management of innovation. London: Tavistock.Google Scholar
  98. Burrell, G., & Morgan, G. (1979). Sociological paradigms and organisational analysis. London: Heinemann Educational.Google Scholar
  99. Busco, C., & Quattrone, P. (2015). Exploring how the balanced scorecard engages and unfolds: Articulating the visual power of accounting inscriptions. Contemporary Accounting Research, 32(3), 1236–1262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  100. Butler, H. (1989). The contractual theory of the corporation. George Mason University Law Review, 11(4), 99–123.Google Scholar
  101. Camfferman, K., & Zeff, S. (2006). Financial reporting and global capital markets. Oxford: University Press.Google Scholar
  102. Camfferman, K., & Zeff, S. (2015). Aiming for global accounting standards. Oxford: University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • David J. Cooper
    • 1
  • Mahmoud Ezzamel
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.School of BusinessUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Cardiff Business SchoolUniversity of CardiffCardiffWales
  3. 3.IE Business SchoolMadridSpain

Personalised recommendations