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Flexible Budget

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JOURNAL OF MANAGEMENT ACCOUNTING RESEARCH Volume Fifteen 2003 pp. 95–116

Practice Developments in Budgeting: An Overview and Research Perspective
Stephen C. Hansen The George Washington University David T. Otley Lancaster University Wim A. Van der Stede University of Southern California
Abstract: Practitioners in Europe and the U.S. recently have proposed two distinct approaches to address what they believe are shortcomings of traditional budgeting practices. One approach advocates improving the budgeting process and primarily focuses on the planning problems with budgeting. The other advocates abandoning the budget and primarily focuses on the performance evaluation problems with budgeting. This paper provides an overview and research perspective on these two recent developments. We discuss why practitioners have become dissatisfied with budgets, describe the two distinct approaches, place them in a research context, suggest insights that may aid the practitioners, and use the practitioner perspectives to identify fruitful areas for research.

INTRODUCTION udgeting is the cornerstone of the management control process in nearly all organizations, but despite its widespread use, it is far from perfect.1 Practitioners express concerns about using budgets for planning and performance evaluation. The practitioners argue that budgets impede the allocation of organizational resources to their best uses and encourage myopic decision making and other dysfunctional budget games. They attribute these problems, in part, to traditional budgeting’s financial, top-down, commandand-control orientation as embedded in annual budget planning and performance evaluation processes (e.g., Schmidt 1992; Bunce et al. 1995; Hope and Fraser 1997, 2000, 2003; Wallander 1999; Ekholm and Wallin 2000; Marcino 2000; Jensen 2001). We demonstrate practitioners’ concerns with budgets by...

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