Organization E. Evolution of Management Accounting:

Organization E. Evolution of Management Accounting:

A Framework for Change F. Vortec Medical Probe Example G. Outline of the Text H. Summary

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2 Chapter 1

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A. Managerial Accounting: Decision Making and Control Managers at Hyundai must decide which car models to produce, the quantity of each model to produce given the selling prices for the models, and how to manufacture the automobiles. They must decide which car parts, such as headlight assemblies, Hyundai should manufacture internally and which parts should be outsourced. They must decide not only on advertising, distribution, and product positioning to sell the cars, but also the quantity and quality of the various inputs to use. For example, they must determine which models will have leather seats and the quality of the leather to be used. Similarly, in decid- ing which investment projects to accept, capital budgeting analysts require data on future cash flows. How are these numbers derived? How does one coordinate the activities of hundreds or thousands of employees in the firm so that these employees accept senior management’s leadership? At Hyundai, and at other organizations small and large, manag- ers must have good information to make all these decisions and the leadership abilities to get others to implement the decisions.

Information about firms’ future costs and revenues is not readily available but must be estimated by managers. Organizations must obtain and disseminate the knowledge to make these decisions. Organizations’ internal information systems provide some of the knowledge for these pricing, production, capital budgeting, and marketing decisions. These systems range from the informal and the rudimentary to very sophisticated, electronic management information systems. The term information system should not be interpreted to mean a single, integrated system. Most information systems consist not only of formal, organized, tangible records such as payroll and purchasing documents but also informal, intangible bits of data such as memos, special studies, and managers’ impressions and opinions. The firm’s information system also contains nonfinancial information such as customer and employee satisfaction surveys. As firms grow from single proprietorships to large global corporations with tens of thousands of employees, managers lose the knowledge of enterprise affairs gained from personal, face-to-face contact in daily operations. Higher-level managers of larger firms come to rely more and more on formal operating reports.

The internal accounting system, an important component of a firm’s information system, includes budgets, data on the costs of each product and current inventory, and periodic financial reports. In many cases, especially in small companies, these accounting reports are the only formalized part of the information system providing the knowledge for decision making. Many larger companies have other formalized, nonaccounting–based information systems, such as production planning systems. This book focuses on how internal accounting systems provide knowledge for decision making.

After making decisions, managers must implement them in organizations in which the interests of the employees and the owners do not necessarily coincide. Just because senior managers announce a decision does not necessarily ensure that the decision will be implemented.

Organizations do not have objectives; people do. One common objective of owners of the organization is to maximize profits, or the difference between revenues and expenses. Maximizing firm value is equivalent to maximizing the stream of profits over the organiza- tion’s life. Employees, suppliers, and customers also have their own objectives—usually maximizing their self-interest.

Not all owners care only about monetary flows. An owner of a professional sports team might care more about winning (subject to covering costs) than maximizing profits. Nonprofits do not have owners with the legal rights to the organization’s profits. Moreover, nonprofits seek to maximize their value by serving some social goal such as education or health care.

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Introduction 3

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No matter what the firm’s objective, the organization will survive only if its inflow of resources (such as revenue) is at least as large as the outflow. Accounting information is useful to help manage the inflow and outflow of resources and to help align the owners’ and employees’ interests, no matter what objectives the owners wish to pursue.

Throughout this book, we assume that individuals maximize their self-interest. The owners of the firm usually want to maximize profits, but managers and employees will do so only if it is in their interest. Hence, a conflict of interest exists between owners—who, in general, want higher profits—and employees—who want easier jobs, higher wages, and more fringe benefits. To control this conflict, senior managers and owners design systems to monitor employees’ behavior and incentive schemes that reward employees for generat- ing more profits. Not-for-profit organizations face similar conflicts. Those people responsi- ble for the nonprofit organization (boards of trustees and government officials) must design incentive schemes to motivate their employees to operate the organization efficiently.

All successful firms must devise mechanisms that help align employee interests with maximizing the organization’s value. All of these mechanisms constitute the firm’s control system; they include performance measures and incentive compensation systems, promo- tions, demotions, and terminations, security guards and video surveillance, internal audi- tors, and the firm’s internal accounting system.1

As part of the firm’s control system, the internal accounting system helps align the interests of managers and shareholders to cause employees to maximize firm value. It sounds like a relatively easy task to design systems to ensure that employees maximize firm value. But a significant portion of this book demonstrates the exceedingly complex nature of aligning employee interests with those of the owners.

Internal accounting systems serve two purposes: (1) to provide some of the knowledge necessary for planning and making decisions (decision making) and (2) to help motivate and monitor people in organizations (control). The most basic control use of accounting is to prevent fraud and embezzlement. Maintaining inventory records helps reduce employee theft. Accounting budgets, discussed more fully in Chapter 6, provide an example of both decision making and control. Asking each salesperson in the firm to forecast his or her sales for the upcoming year is useful for planning next year’s production (decision making). However, if the salesperson’s sales forecast is used to benchmark performance for compen- sation purposes (control), he or she has strong incentives to underestimate those forecasts.

Using internal accounting systems for both decision making and control gives rise to the fundamental trade-off in these systems: A system cannot be designed to perform two tasks as well as a system that must perform only one task. Some ability to deliver knowl- edge for decision making is usually sacrificed to provide better motivation (control). The trade-off between providing knowledge for decision making and motivation/control arises continually throughout this text.

This book is applications oriented: It describes how the accounting system assembles knowledge necessary for implementing decisions using the theories from microeconomics, finance, operations management, and marketing. It also shows how the accounting system helps motivate employees to implement these decisions. Moreover, it stresses the continual trade-offs that must be made between the decision making and control functions of accounting.

1Control refers to the process that helps “ensure the proper behaviors of the people in the organization. These behaviors should be consistent with the organization’s strategy,” as noted in K. Merchant, Control in Business Organization (Boston: Pitman Publishing Inc., 1985), p. 4. Merchant provides an extensive discussion of control systems and a bibliography. In Theory of Accounting and Control (Cincinnati, OH: South-Western Publishing Company, 1997), S. Sunder describes control as mitigating and resolving conflicts among employees, owners, suppliers, and customers that threaten to pull organizations apart.

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4 Chapter 1

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A survey of senior-level executives (chief financial officers, vice presidents of finance, controllers, etc.) asked them to rank the importance of various goals of their firm’s account- ing system. Eighty percent of the respondents reported that cost management (controlling costs) was a significant goal of their accounting system and was important to achieving their company’s overall strategic objective. Another top priority of their firm’s account- ing system, even higher than cost management or strategic planning, is internal reporting and performance evaluation. These results indicate that firms use their internal accounting system both for decision making (strategic planning, cost reduction, financial manage- ment) and for controlling behavior (internal reporting and performance evaluation).2

The firm’s accounting system is very much a part of the fabric that helps hold the organization together. It provides knowledge for decision making, and it provides informa- tion for evaluating and motivating the behavior of individuals within the firm. Being such an integral part of the organization, the accounting system cannot be studied in isolation from the other mechanisms used for decision making or for reducing organizational prob- lems. A firm’s internal accounting system should be examined from a broad perspective, as part of the larger organization design question facing managers.

This book uses an economic perspective to study how accounting can motivate and control behavior in organizations. Besides economics, a variety of other paradigms also are used to investigate organizations: scientific management (Taylor), the bureaucratic school (Weber), the human relations approach (Mayo), human resource theory (Maslow, Rickert, Argyris), the decision-making school (Simon), and the political science school (Selznick). Behavior is a complex topic. No single theory or approach is likely to capture all the elements. However, understanding managerial accounting requires addressing the behav- ioral and organizational issues. Economics offers one useful and widely adopted framework.

B. Design and Use of Cost Systems Managers make decisions and monitor subordinates who make decisions. Both manag- ers and accountants must acquire sufficient familiarity with cost systems to perform their jobs. Accountants (often called controllers) are charged with designing, improving, and operating the firm’s accounting system—an integral part of both the decision-making and performance evaluation systems. Both managers and accountants must understand the strengths and weaknesses of current accounting systems. Internal accounting systems, like all systems within the firm, are constantly being refined and modified. Accountants’ responsibilities include making these changes.

An internal accounting system should have the following characteristics:

1. Provide the information necessary to assess the profitability of products or services and to optimally price and market these products or services.

2. Provide information to detect production inefficiencies to ensure that the proposed products and volumes are produced at minimum cost.

3. When combined with the performance evaluation and reward systems, create incentives for managers to maximize firm value.

4. Support the financial accounting and tax accounting reporting functions. (In some instances, these latter considerations dominate the first three.)

5. Contribute more to firm value than it costs.

2Ernst & Young and IMA, “State of Management Accounting,” .pdf, 2003.

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Introduction 5

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Figure 1–1 portrays the functions of the accounting system. In it, the accounting system supports both external and internal reporting systems. Examine the top half of Figure 1–1. The accounting procedures chosen for external reports to shareholders and taxing authorities are dictated in part by regulators. In the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) regulate the financial statements issued to shareholders. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) administers the accounting procedures used in calculating corporate income taxes. If the firm is involved in international trade, foreign tax authorities prescribe the accounting rules applied in calculating foreign taxes. Regulatory agencies constrain public utilities’ and financial institutions’ accounting procedures.

Management compensation plans and debt contracts often rely on external reports. Senior managers’ bonuses are often based on accounting net income. Likewise, if the firm issues long-term bonds, it agrees in the debt covenants not to violate specified accounting- based constraints. For example, the bond contract might specify that the debt-to-equity ratio will not exceed some limit. Like taxes and regulation, compensation plans and debt covenants create incentives for managers to choose particular accounting procedures.3

As firms expand into international markets, external users of the firm’s financial state- ments become global. No longer are the firm’s shareholders, tax authorities, and regula- tors domestic. Rather, the firm’s internal and external reports are used internationally in a variety of ways.

The bottom of Figure 1–1 illustrates that internal reports are used for decision making as well as control of organizational problems. As discussed earlier, managers use a vari- ety of sources of data for making decisions. The internal accounting system provides one

3For further discussion of the incentives of managers to choose accounting methods, see R. Watts and J. Zimmerman, Positive Accounting Theory (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1986).

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