Burns and Scapens framework in management accounting change


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Assignment Title

Burns and Scapens framework in management accounting change

Submission Date: 13th August 2014.


The constant and continuous changes in the business environment nowadays require everyone in the business organisation to be more proactive. The huge responsibilities are now on the manager since they are always at the front line of the business and their decision making can determine the success or failure of their organisations.

One practice that is important for every manager to know is managerial accounting. According to Garrison, Noreen (1999), the use of managerial accounting helps managers to acquire useful information about what is going within the organisation they work for. A classic example of the importance of management accounting is by using the achievement of Burns and Scapens framework.

The basic aim of this article is to identify and analyse the achievements of the Burns and Scapens framework for studying management accounting.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction ……………………………………………………………………..Page 3
  1. Burns and Scapens framework achievements……………………………… Page 3
  1. Limitations and extensions of Burns and Scapens framework…………… .Page 4
  1. Processes shaping the management accounting practices………………..Page 4
  1. Future challenges of management accounting ……………………………...Page 4
  1. Conclusion………………………………………………………………………..Page 5
  1. References ……………………………………………………………………… Page 5


Many scholars have used various theories to explain management accounting change in business organisation in the recent years. According to Burns, Scapens (2005), some of these theories came from various institutions like:

  1. NIE (New Institutional Economics): This institution main focus is the structures which organisations use to govern economic transactions
  2. NIS (New Institutional Sociology): unlike NIE, NIS main focus is on the environment that shape organisational structures and systems
  3. OIE (Old Institutional Economics): This institution basic focus is around the organisations that the actions and thoughts of individual human agents. Burns, Scapens (2005).

Funded jointly by CIMA and ESRC, Burns and Scapens conducted a resourceful research in the 90’s revealed huge facts about the significant role management accounting practice is playing in business organisations. Burns and Scapens were able to explore the difficulties surrounding the process of management accounting change. Their research focused on specific organisations, they were able to use it to develop Burns and Scapens framework. Burns et al., (2003).

Burns and Scapens framework is mainly concerned with internal institutions, according to Busco et al, (2002), internal institutions all have certain resemblances with the concept of corporate culture in the organisation literature. The main focus of the research is how these institutions emerge including their processes of change.

Burns and Scapens framework achievements

The research conducted by Burns and Scapens produced the framework which helped them to discover that the following:

  1. There is a continuous change in management accounting make it more flexible for management to make changes more often.
  2. Management accounting creates relationship between routines, rules and basic assumption.
  3. The framework also addresses the internal institutions, their arrival and process of change.
  4. Existing ways of thinking can have consequences on management accounting change; so there is a need to introduce a new methodology.
  5. While introducing a new methodology, it is important that current organisations should be studied carefully before introducing new systems of management accounting change
  6. The explanation of management accounting change as a constant process is helping business organisations to implement changes positively.
  7. Burns and Scapens framework Burns also stressed that business organisations must carry along the viewpoints of different groups in their organisations and their views should be considered strongly while implementing management accounting.

Limitations and extensions of Burns and Scapens framework

As we can see from this article that Burns and Scapens framework of management accounting mainly focus on internal institutions, as a result of this, they acknowledged that their framework has certain limitations. Some of the limitations are:

  1. Tension within the business organisation can create external pressure; which can lead to internal conflict.
  2. Building of trust enabled the process of change and introduction of new accounting systems.
  3. The study did not study the role of individual performers in change.
  4. It is possible for rules and routines to be kept in place by obvious use of power
  5. Burns and Scapens framework did not give unequivocal attention to the role of agency.

Processes shaping management accounting practices

In this article, the framework of Burns and Scapens explained various processes of management accounting change. The framework explains that the concept of management accounting change is evolutionary process; built on existing quality-oriented ways of discerning. Also the framework explained that there is a mixture of change and stability; because managers tend to create their own key performance indicators (KPI), they don’t always accept the key performance indicators (KPI) given to them by the upper management.

Burns and Scapens framework explained that thinking within the organisation often produce the change that organisation need, therefore the management accounting change process is not separate but a nonstop process.

Future challenges of management accounting

Some of the challenges for the future mentioned by Burns and Scapens framework of management accounting change are:

  1. Provisions of appropriate and suitable for management accounting practitioners; relating to how to use the information they collected in actual practice.
  2. The gap between theory and practice this might create resistance to change in management accounting in future.
  3. In future it is most likely that management accounting will face resistance from both outside and inside sources.
  4. Lack of trust can make it difficult in the future to implement management accounting changes.
  5. The influence of power play can play a crucial role in implementing management accounting changes.


In conclusion, from aforementioned it clear that organisation need management accounting change, managers can use the information they acquire from management accounting to make business decision for their organisation. The probability that management accounting change will face resistance within and outside the organisation is high, there any attempts to introduce new management accounting systems and methods should be but under careful consideration.


  • Burns, J., Ezzamel, M., Scapens, R., 2003. The Challenge of Management Accounting Change: Behavioural and Cultural Aspects of Change Management. CIMA Publishing/Elsevier, London/Oxford.
  • Burns, J., Scapens, R.E., 2000. Conceptualizing management accounting change: an institutional framework. Management Accounting Research 11 (1), 3–25.
  • Busco, C., Riccaboni, A., Scapens, R.W., 2002. When culture matters: processes of organizational learning and transformation. Reflections: The SOL Journal 4 (1), 43–52.
  • Garrison, R. H., P. E. Noreen, 'Managerial Accounting', Irwin McGraw Hill, 1999


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