From scientific to activity based office management: A mirage of change

Parker, L 2016, 'From scientific to activity based office management: A mirage of change', Journal of Accounting and Organizational Change, vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 177-202.

Document type: Journal Article
Collection: Journal Articles

Title From scientific to activity based office management: A mirage of change
Author(s) Parker, L
Year 2016
Journal name Journal of Accounting and Organizational Change
Volume number 12
Issue number 2
Start page 177
End page 202
Total pages 26
Publisher Emerald Publishing Limited
Abstract Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to examine the phenomenon of activity-based working (ABW), an office design and management system that has emerged in the past 20 years. It investigates its manifest and underlying agendas with a view to determining its degree of cost management focus and scientific management foundations. Design/methodology/approach - The paper uses historical and website analysis methodologies for investigating historical office management philosophies and practices, as well as contemporary office design and management philosophies and related ABW practices and discourse. These are examined through the theoretical lenses of governmentality and impression management theories. Findings - Despite a rhetoric of staff empowerment, ABW's dominant agenda is overhead cost reduction and operating cost management. This reflects scientific management principles of early twentieth-century office design and management. Cost efficiencies and productivity emerge as key ABW output foci. While ABW adopters and advocates present ABW as a desirable staff satisfaction and operations facilitator, the cost agenda nonetheless commands centre stage. Research limitations/implications - Accounting research into the office and its processes is much needed. This has been largely neglected in favour of line management and factory floor costing and accountability systems. In a world dominated by service industries, the office as a centre of organisational and economic activity merits researchers' greater attention. Practical implications - Contemporary office design and functioning developments merit greater recourse to and acknowledgement of their historic roots. Then, practitioners can better design and implement systems that build on past knowledge and learnings. While such innovations as ABW may carry potential for improved organisational performance, care is needed with respect to their balancing of agendas and suitability for thei
Subject Accounting, Auditing and Accountability not elsewhere classified
Keyword(s) Accounting and organizational change
Activity-based management approach
Control systems
Cost management
Critical research
Performance management
DOI - identifier 10.1108/JAOC-01-2015-0007
Copyright notice © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
ISSN 1832-5912
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