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World class manufacturing and accountability: how companies and the state aspire to competitiveness

Hopper, Trevor and Jazayeri, Mostafa and Westrup, Chris (2008) World class manufacturing and accountability: how companies and the state aspire to competitiveness. Journal of accounting & organizational change, 4 (2). pp. 97-135. ISSN 1832-5912

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Abstract

Purpose – The paper's aim is to establish how world class manufacturing (WCM) was diffused to some small- and medium-sized enterprises in the NW of England and the network of institutions involved ranging from the state to firms, and to iterate the results with Miller and O'Leary's work on accounting practices and governance. Design/methodology/approach – This followed an actor network theory approach of “following the actors and actants” using interviews and documentation. Findings – Three accountabilities (financial, production, and idealised customer) at firm and state levels were linked through agencies like consultants, academics, and employer federations, and quasi-governmental organisations like training and enterprise councils. New discourses and programmes of governance associated with competitiveness fostered changes in accountability locally and nationally. Competitiveness, WCM, and occasional allies like activity-based costing lacked stable and consistent definition. They are adopted and circulate because their plasticity helps actors redefine themselves within translation and mediation processes. Research limitations/implications – Shop floor workers were not directly studied. Hence, observations on resistance and enactment are tentative. Practical implications – Continual translations within large networks shape new techniques of management and governance. Originality/value – The paper shows that programmes and discourses of governance over time are reciprocally linked in a constellation of state institutions and firms.

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