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Management control systems in innovation companies: A contingency theory study

Haustein, Ellen


Ellen Haustein


Past research has traditionally argued that management control systems (MCS) may present a hindrance to corporate flexibility and creativity. The study’s overall research aim is to explore the contingency factors that influence the intensity of use of MCS in innovation companies. This thesis builds upon existing management control theory, mostly focused on R&D, product development and innovation settings, extended by field observations to identify factors that may influence the intensity of use of MCS categories in innovation companies. The objects of control paradigm, distinguishing between direct and indirect categories of control, is mobilized to test the consequent theoretical model of the impact of external, organisational and innovation related contingency factors on MCS.
The model predicts mixed influences on two direct control categories, results control and action control, but stresses the importance of two indirect categories, personnel control and cultural control. Empirical evidence was then collected from a cross-sectional survey of 578 German enterprises in innovation clusters.
Statistical analyses, applying partial least squares structural equation modeling using SmartPLS, identify several variables as influential factors for the use of MCS in innovation companies. The most important factors are environmental uncertainty and business strategy which were shown to have an impact on all of the control types. Additionally, decentralisation, ownership dispersion and firm size are responsible for a change in three of four MCS types. Other interesting findings are that an increase in innovation capability is not associated with a reduction in results and action control intensity, and is positively related to the application of personnel and cultural control. Furthermore, important sources of finance, venture capital and public funding, are both shown to be positively associated with the application of action control; whereas, contrary to expectation, venture capital is found to be negatively correlated with personnel control. Overall, the results indicate that direct control is as important as indirect control given specific contingency factors.
This study synthesises the fragmented literature of MCS contingency research in innovative settings by developing an original contingency model. The thesis adds value by inferring particular forms of management control which may be appropriate in innovative company settings. Thereby, the study contributes to both contingency research and to the knowledge and understanding of management control in innovative settings. It can assist managers by identifying MCS categories that are typically associated with particular influential factors. Further, the study is valuable from a methodological perspective by developing and testing novel constructs for three MCS categories. Beyond the relevance of the results to management control researchers, innovation company managers and policy makers, they also imply avenues for further related investigation.


Haustein, E. Management control systems in innovation companies: A contingency theory study. (Thesis). University of the West of England. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Keywords management control systems, innovation company, contingency theory, structural equation modelling
Public URL
Award Date May 27, 2014

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