The lean controller and lean artefacts

Hele tekst

(1)
(2)

2

Abstract

Whenever manufacturing firms have become lean in their manufacturing department, they would like their supporting departments to become lean as well. The controller thus has to become lean. Initially, this paper expected management support and education and training to be the explanatory variables in the process of the controller becoming lean. In this paper, management support and education and training are indeed found to be of influence to the controller in becoming lean. However, these variables are found to be merely preconditions to become a lean controller. Based on semi-structured interviews in two successful lean manufacturing firms in the Netherlands and guided by grounded theory, this research has found empirical evidence that the lean controller is lean because of the lean artefacts and rituals he uses and acts by, and that his daily traditional accounting practices have not changed due to lean. One explanation would be that the lean controller has become lean to retain his credibility with the rest of the lean organisation to be able to communicate on the same level. For the researcher, it is impossible to say if a lean symbol -such as the lean whiteboard- is of true interest to the lean controller, but it is clear that the whiteboards and its corresponding meetings are of symbolic nature, and that these symbolics are very important to the lean firm. It seems that the better the controller possesses the lean symbolism in the company, the better he is able to do his traditional work. Other possible explanations could be that controlling is not suited for lean or that the controller has always been lean. In any way, this paper does not give a value judgement to the lean controller’s use of symbols and objects, but only finds the controller to perform well in lean organisations with accounting practices that by itself are not lean.

Keywords: Lean controller, management support, education and training, artefacts,

rituals.

(3)

3

Acknowledgements

I enrolled for this research theme as manufacturing firms have fascinated me my entire life. This research theme gave me the opportunity to visit the controlling departments of three lean manufacturing firms and gave me great insight in their daily work activities. When I first read the academic literature about lean in the controlling department, I expected the lean controller to have changed his actual accounting practices and work very structured. During the interviews it became clear that the lean controller’s daily work has not changed and that the lean whiteboards are of great importance to the lean controller. I am grateful that I have been given the opportunity to research leading lean manufacturing firms and I am confident that I would like to work in the controlling department of a lean manufacturing firm.

I would like to thank the people who have been willing to be interviewed for this research, and I would like to thank my supervisor, dr. Martijn van der Steen, for his feedback and help, as well as dr. Rouven Trapp for his co-reading. In addition, I would like to thank Jaqueline Hofstede for providing the contact with the case companies.

(4)

4

1. Introduction

Lean has been implemented in many manufacturing firms as they strive to become more competitive and produce more efficient (Fullerton et al., 2014; Holweg, 2007; Tillema and van der Steen, 2015). In the lean manufacturing firm’s journey to become more efficient, the controller needs to become lean as well. This research specifically focuses on the influence of management support and education and training in lean on the controller in becoming lean.

The mantra of lean production is customer-driven value (Kennedy and Brewer, 2006). Lean firms reorganise into cells and value streams to improve the continuous reduction of all forms of waste, and continually improve the quality of products and processes (Cua et al., 2001; Fullerton et al., 2014; Shah and Ward, 2003). Empirical evidence on an increase in operational efficiency, effectiveness and increased firm performance due to lean has been presented (e.g. Fullerton and Wempe, 2009; Hofer et al., 2012; Kaynak, 2003; Kraficik, 1988; Shah and Ward, 2003; Yang et al., 2011). Whenever manufacturing firms have become lean in their manufacturing department, they would like their supporting departments to become lean as well. The controller thus has to become lean.

Research on the lean controller is scarce. However, management support and education and training are known to be of influence to any change project. This research is eager to investigate how management support and education and training are of influence to the controller in becoming lean. As management support and education and training are such ambiguous terms, they have many interpretations and functions, it is unclear how they are of influence to the controller when becoming lean. This paper argues that these variables are more complex than explained in previous literature. Management support and education and training are often reported to be of influence to the lean introduction, but specific descriptions on why and how they are so important to the lean controller in becoming lean are not described well, nor have they been empirically validated (Worley and Doolen, 2006). Therefore, this thesis will open up these variables and to show how complex they are, and how they are of influence to the controller in becoming lean. The research question of this paper is: How do management

support and education and training influence the controller in becoming lean?

(5)

5

Netherlands. In each firm, semi-structured interviews with three employees are conducted. Grounded theory is at the basis of the gathering of new insights in the complex process of becoming a lean controller. The findings from the case companies are used to form a new theoretical framework in section four.

(6)

6

2. Literature Review

2.1 Lean Thinking

Lean is a mind-set greatly adopted in manufacturing firms (Fullerton et al., 2014). The origin of lean thinking lies within the Toyota Motor Corporation (Shingo, 1981, 1988; Monden, 1983; Ohno, 1988), a production system that became one of the most widespread versions of lean implementations (Holweg, 2007; Womack et al., 1990, Forza, 1996; Hines et al., 2004; Katayama and Bennet, 1996). Toyota was at the beginning of the kanban method of pull production and developed the just-in-time (JIT) production system (Hines et al., 2004). Within Toyota, employee problem solving was paramount and employees were respected (Hines et al., 2004). Lean producers strive to perfection and continually aim to declining costs, zero inventories and endless product variety (Tillema and van der Steen, 2015; Womack and Jones, 1996). ‘Bundles’ labelled as just-in-time (JIT), total quality management (TQM), total preventive maintenance (TPM) and human resource management (HRM) help lean manufacturers to achieve their goals (Shah and Ward, 2003). The work of Womack et al. (1990) kick-started the interest in lean manufacturing for the western manufacturing community, as they explored the infrastructure and best practices of lean production (Hines et al., 2004). In 1996, Womack and Jones presented the term ‘lean principles’, with a focus on quality (1990s), through quality, cost and delivery in the late 1990s, to customer value from 2000 onwards, as in parallel the value stream concept was developed to support the process from customer needs to raw material sources (Hines and Rich, 1997; Hines et al., 2004; Rother and Shook, 1998). This link with the material sources laid the foundation to include both suppliers and customers in the kanban system (Hines et al., 2004). Today, lean is found to be one of the most influential paradigms in production (Tillema and van der Steen, 2015). The lean production’s mantra is customer-driven

value, as the lean focus is on creating value for its customers (Kennedy and Brewer,

2006).

2.2 Accounting and Control in the Lean Organisation

(7)

7

practices as “a new method of managing a business that is built upon lean principles and

lean methods”. The controllers of lean manufacturing firms are thus expected to adopt

lean thinking into their accounting and control processes, and strive to lean goals such as the minimization of waste. According to Kennedy and Widener (2008, p. 302) “lean

accounting practices seek to reduce steps in transaction processing, eliminate standard costs in favour of actual costs, and discontinue cost allocations; while lean control practices re-focus the performance management system”. Much confusion in the use of

lean accounting and control systems is caused by differences in terminology. Chenhall (2003) identified four distinct terms to go against much of the confusion around lean accounting practices and lean control systems terminology. This paper defines lean accounting practices in accordance with Chenhall’s (2003, p. 129) management accounting definition as “a collection of practices such as budgeting or product costing”. These are the processes within accounting. The lean control systems in this paper are defined in accordance with Chenhall’s (2003, p. 129) definition of management control systems as “a much broader concept that includes management accounting and such

controls as personnel and clan controls”.

At the end of every paragraph in the literature section propositions are formed. These propositions describe the relations that are to be expected based on the literature, and form the basis to the further research. Based on previous literature (Fullerton and McWatters, 2002; Kennedy and Widener, 2008; Maskell and Baggely, 2004), the lean controller is expected to become lean because he has adjusted his accounting practices and control systems to serve the lean organisation.

Proposition 1: The lean controller has become lean because he works with lean accounting practices.

Proposition 2: The lean controller has become lean because he works with lean control systems.

2.3 Management Support

(8)

8

the lean controller in becoming lean. For example, when the management’s investment in the lean implementation in the controlling department is too little this may affect the success rate of the implementation, and controllers may feel discouraged when the management does not support them enough in their decisions (Worley and Doolen, 2006). It is important that the management drives the introduction of lean and shows commitment and leadership to the controllers (Boyer and Sovilla, 2003) as the lean implementation will fail without visible management commitment (Scherrer-Rathje, Boyle, Deflorin, 2008). The management should communicate the change throughout the company and create interest in in the implementation (Boyer and Sovilla, 2003; Worley and Doolen, 2006). It is thus to be expected that the degree to which the controllers become lean is dependent on the degree of management support they receive. In their paper, Scherrer-Rathje et al. (2008) report how their respondents addressed the lack of management commitment to be the number one cause of lean implementation failure. Top management should provide the controllers with enough resources such as time and materials to become lean (Worley and Doolen, 2006), as it is very difficult to become a lean controller without management support. In this research, management support is defined as the participation of the upper management team in leading or supporting the lean manufacturing implementation (Worley and Doolen, 2006), and expected to be of great influence to the controller in becoming lean.

Proposition 3: Management support influences the degree to which the controller becomes lean.

2.4 Education and Training

(9)

9

sustainability of lean are set in place (Scherrer-Rathje, Boyle and Deflorin, 2008). Such mechanisms could be a group of employees that are dedicated to make the lean implementation a success (Bhasin, 2012), for example lean black belts, an adaption to the black belts common in six sigma, who are expected to ‘live lean’ and support others in their adaption to lean (Scherrer-Rathje, Boyle, Deflorin, 2008). These formal mechanisms encourage and enable autonomy, and are found to be of vital importance to the lean success (Scherrer-Rathje, Boyle, Deflorin, 2008). Within lean thinking employees are expected to develop themselves and continue education and training in lean (Scherrer-Rathje, Boyle and Deflorin, 2008). As a result, it is to be expected that education and training influence the degree to which the controller becomes lean. Proposition 4: Education and training influence the degree to which the controller becomes lean.

2.5 Conceptual Framework

Based on existing literature four propositions are formed. These propositions relate to each other as illustrated in this conceptual framework. This conceptual framework is the starting point in answering the research question: How do management support and

education and training influence the controller in becoming lean? In line with the

literature, it is to be expected that the lean controller is lean because he makes use of lean accounting practices and lean control systems, and that the lean controller has become lean by the influence of management support and education and training.

Figure 1: Conceptual framework

(10)

10

3. Methodology

3.1 Research Design

The aim of this research is to describe the influence of management support and education and training on the controller in becoming lean, and explain the complex relation between these variables. As this research is exploratory in nature, a qualitative research approach is best suited for this research (Eisenhardt, 1989). During three interview days in November of 2016, a total of nine semi-structured interviews were conducted in three lean manufacturing firms in the Netherlands. In each company, two financial managers and one operational manager were interviewed. According to Eisenhardt (1989), the number of interviews conducted should be between four and ten to be able to generalise the results and meet the external validity conditions. Two researchers investigated the case companies for individual research and conducted the interviews at the same time, led by a structured interview guide. The semi-structured interview guide increased the reliability of the research.

Semi-structured interviews provide flexibility and enable the researcher to follow multiple lines of inquiry (Patton, 1990) and increase internal validity. Simultaneously, semi-structured interviews provide a structure, which enables the researcher to collect data in a uniform manner (Worley and Doolen, 2006). This qualitative research method allows the researcher to open up the complex relations between variables in their natural setting (Yin, 1994) and they provide depth, subtlety, and personal feeling and are therefore well suited for this research (Karlsson and Ahlstrom, 1996).

(11)

11

The interviews start with general questions such as the interviewee’s education, followed by the questions of our supervisor. These questions provide great initial insight in the way the interviewees experienced management support and education and training when becoming lean. The preliminary questions from our supervisor gave us the opportunity to ask more in depth questions, as is in line with grounded theory research (Glaser and Strauss, 1965). The co-interviewer’s research is about the seven phases the lean implementation in the controlling department. His research questions were combined quite naturally with those of this research. The interview guide can be found in Appendix A.

3.2 Case companies

Our supervisor had contact with Jacqueline Hofstede, an interim manager at Ynova, who provided the initial contact with the case companies. Our supervisor assigned the following three cases to us that are named Company A, Company B and Company C for confidentiality reasons.

3.2.1 Company A

The first case company investigated is a logistics company located in the south of the Netherlands and is one of the seven divisions of a larger holding. The division investigated has over €18 million in turnover and 135 employees, of which 75 are warehouse employees. Interviews were held with the Sales Manager, the Logistics Manager and the Head of General Operations, who also was the Head of the Controlling Department. The logistics business is highly competitive and margins are small, therefore it is crucial that they become more efficient and reduce cost. To do so, the Sales Manager employed a graduate student to implement lean in the warehouse. Lean was introduced to the warehouse employees as a cost reduction and efficiency improvement. When the graduate student finished his six-month internship, Company A did not improve lean anymore. Lean was never introduced to other parts of the company other than the warehouse.

(12)

12

for controlling departments like Company A in their process of becoming lean, but as the controlling department had not implemented lean, this company was not suited for this research and is thus not included further in this research. 3.2.2 Company B The second case company, Company B, is a company in the thermodynamics industry in the east of the Netherlands. They produce boilers and heat exchangers that are distributed in all of Europe. The company is part of a larger holding. This production facility has around 500 employees and about €200 million in turnover per year. Three interviews were held with consecutively the Vice President and Manager Manufacturing Operations, the Manager Finance and Control and the Business Controller Sales. A guided tour around the assembly floor was provided as well. The company purchases the components that are used for production from suppliers who can deliver on call. Company B has implemented lean in their assembly line to a great extent. Previously, they produced all their products on a mixed model line, as known from the automobile industry, which was state of the art. This mixed model line was highly efficient, as they had eliminated all start-up problems. A few years ago they decided to redesign the factory into several small lines that are dedicated to a single product and therefore more flexible. When working with these new smaller lines, the company is able to adjust to customer demand as quick as possible. At the time of visitation, they were still adjusting this system to become as efficient as the mixed model line once was. Two years ago, lean was implemented in the controlling department and the company actively engaged in becoming more lean.

3.2.3 Company C

(13)

13

This company has been producing in lean ways for over 30 years. Their assembly line is close to perfection and many other companies in the Netherlands come by to see how they have implemented lean in the manufacturing department. They aim to work safely and produce high quality with high delivery at low cost. They optimize their assembly line on a weekly basis. Interviews were held with subsequently a Production Manager, Head of Controlling and a Senior Controller. A guided tour around the assembly factory was provided as well. The controlling department of Company C has 18 employees and actively engages in the implementation of lean in their department. 3.3 Grounded Theory This research is very well suited for grounded theory (Glaser and Strauss, 1967), as it is exploratory in nature and aims to discover new insights on the influence of management support and education and training in lean on the lean controller. Glaser and Strauss first introduced grounded theory in their 1965 and 1967 papers as a form of research that uses systematic techniques to study the external world (Charmaz, 2003). In contrast to other theories, grounded theory includes the simultaneous involvement in data collection and analysis phases of research (Charmaz, 2003). As grounded theory provides structure to inductively start with individual cases and create more specific concepts from these cases, it enables the researcher to investigate situations, meanings, actions and intentions of the lean controller (Charmaz, 2003; Huberman and Miles, 1983). The fundamental building blocks in the analysis are formed by the categories that emerge from the data, and are grouped when they show similarity (Glaser and Strauss, 1967; Karlsson and Ahlstrom, 1996). When a category is formed, additional data is gathered in other companies to refine these categories (Charmaz, 2003). The most promising categories are compared with each other and in relation to the case companies (Yin, 1989). The possible theoretical explanations for these categories form the basis for theoretical insights (Charmaz, 2003), and are presented in the next chapter. Case-based observations are used for illustration. The results are strengthened as the supervisor reviewed this thesis during writing (Swanborn, 1996), which increased the construct validity.

(14)

14

(15)

15

4. Analysis

The categories that have emerged from the data are analysed and form the basis for new theoretical insights. From the interviews, it became clear that management support and education and training are indeed of influence to the controller in becoming lean. However, management support and education and training are found to be merely preconditions that need to be fulfilled in order to let the controller become a lean controller. Grounded theory allowed me to investigate the process of becoming a lean controller to a further extent. Empirical evidence is provided that it is not management support and education and training that makes the controllers lean, but rather the artefacts and rituals they work with on a daily basis.

4.1 Preconditions to Become a Lean Controller

The German headquarters of Company B imposed lean on the controlling department because they wanted lean to become a success. It can be said that Company B’s controlling department received sufficient management support from the holding. They received resources to make the lean implementation a success, such as training and education to both employees and managers and provided the department with sufficient monetary resources.

The implementation of lean started with a lean management training in Germany where all members of Company B’s management where present. They were educated in the function of lean whiteboards, how sit-ins and best practices can be used and what problem solving is used for. The goal of the lean implementation was communicated clearly as well: to become 20 per cent more efficient and cut their workforce by 20 per cent, improve continually and use the right management style. Company B’s management recognised the importance of management support in the lean implementation. The Manager Manufacturing Operations stated: “Lean has to be borne

by the top of the organisation. If not, lean implementation won’t happen. Forget it.” For

three months, every manager invested 40 to 50 per cent of his time in the lean implementation. Company B’s management goal is to stabilise the lean environment in the controlling department and improve the connection to the lean value stream, as one system, one method and one culture.

(16)

16

never requested any management support. The implementation of lean in the controlling department of Company C went more gradually then in Company B. The lean introduction was not lead by external consultants, nor was the lean implementation lead by a specific implementation program. The Head of Controlling mentioned that the controlling department was already lean before the lean implementation, and that only the use of whiteboards was new. Company C’s controller mentioned that he did not know what was lean about his work and what was not. The controllers in Company C received less lean training and used the whiteboards less intensive than Company B did. Company B invested heavily in the implementation of lean in the controlling department. Every employee received lean education or training. The first introduction of lean in the controlling department was lead by McKinsey consultants and was continued by the company’s internal lean navigators, who were dedicated to make the lean implementation a success. These navigators are part of the lean management organisation that is subject to the larger German holding, and part of the Department of Deployment of Business Excellence. These navigators have implemented lean in several divisions and consequentially have great practical expertise. Employees and their managers are trained in the usage of whiteboards, sit-ins and best practices. The management is trained specifically for coaching conversations. Company B’s Manager Finance and Control feels like he has had enough training in lean, although it was only two days. According to him, learning lean in practice is more fruitful, as lean is quite theoretic in organising whiteboards and such. After the lean implementation the navigators return regularly to audit the controlling department on how they are performing on lean performance indicators. During the time of the interviews the controlling department of Company B was on level 4 out of 5. Whenever the controlling department needs the expertise of the lean navigators they can request them from headquarters.

The Head of Controlling and Finance mentioned that the first attempt to implement lean in the controlling department failed. This was before he was employed at this organisation and could therefore not provide details. However, it was clearly communicated that the first attempt failed due to a lack of training and education to employees and management. Employees did not see the added value of lean. In the second attempt, the navigators managed to motivate employees as they now feel they contribute to the bigger picture and strengthen each other.

Company C has good connections with the Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan and exchanges lean ideas with them. As the Head of Controlling argued, “We can attempt to

(17)

17

the most efficient way of working, for example for solving problems.” According to him,

Company C is continually improving lean and both managers and employees are trained in lean ways when they start at the company. However, the Company C’s Senior Controller stated that he had not received any training, nor did any of his colleagues. In addition, the Head of Controlling noted that he does not see the added value of receiving more training. Company C’s Head of Controlling remarked the following: “I have not had all the lean training but I think it is sufficient. Lean training is also for persuading employees to lean thinking. I think that when you learn 20 per cent of the lean tools you are on the right track. To adapt new knowledge you will have to apply it in practice and learn from it again. Within controlling, this is less relevant.”

(18)

18

A few times per week, depending on the amount of activities, the employees and their manager come together around the whiteboard to ‘do lean’: discuss their activities and help each other when the traffic light is orange or red. The managers use lean to guide their employees in reaching the departments goals, do sit-ins when they want to help or check up on a specific employee. Whenever possible, they reduce the number of employees to improve the department’s efficiency.

Lean has provided the department with meetings on predetermined moments and thus makes it easier for the employees and their managers to communicate. Lean also gives insight in the workload employees have and if they can work more efficient. Once a week, on Friday, the Manager Finance and Control of Company B does a cascade with the controllers that work in other departments, such as the Business Controller Sales. During this cascade, all controlling related issues, for example from the sales department, are discussed. The General Manager organises cascades on a weekly basis as well with the managers of all departments. The cascades replace the traditional weekly work meetings.

The implementation of lean has changed the way the controlling departments of Company B and C work and communicate with other departments, even though their actual work has not changed. Lean revolves around the whiteboards and improves the mutual communication of employees, the communication of lean goals and the division of labour. Due to lean, the controllers come together more often. The whiteboard meetings have replaced the traditional work meetings. Lean makes the workload insightful and encourages controllers to plan ahead. Company C’s Senior Controller stated that with the implementation of lean they have started to plan more timely so they won’t be surprised by what is coming. They limit ad hoc responses and respond to what is coming.

4.3 Traditional Accounting Practices and Control Systems

(19)

19

techniques in use. As a result, there is no friction between traditional accounting systems and lean thinking.. All the respondents of both Company B and C acknowledged that due to lean their work has not changed, nor the output of their work has changed. Company B’s Manager Finance and Control mentioned the following: “My work has not changed because of lean and is not due to lean. Lean is, as I have said many times, making more insightful what employees do, to know what goals we pursue, see if we achieve those goals and in such a way communicate better with each other. The most important things in lean are communication, visibility of goals and behaviour. Everyone knows exactly what they are doing and why and the whiteboards support this. The substantive work has not changed; lean instead has implemented a mind-set that helps to decide what KPI’s are extra useful.” 4.4 Artefacts and Rituals Rather than that the controller’s actual work has changed due to lean, it is only the way the controller organises his work that has changed. The lean controller organises his work around the whiteboards. The whiteboards and its corresponding meetings are essential to the lean controller. Current literature argues that management support and education and training are explanatory in the process of the controller in becoming lean. However, in the case companies investigated, it would be impossible for the lean controller to perform his daily lean routines without the whiteboards. Management support and education and training are found to be merely preconditions for the controller to become lean, whereas the artefacts and routines are crucial to be a lean controller.

According to Scott (2007, p. 168), lean artefacts are “the physical things that a lean

process will typically contain, e.g. kanban cards and visual management boards”. In this

definition, the whiteboards that are used in the controlling department are artefacts. Management support and education and training are found to be important preconditions, but the controller becomes lean through his activities around the whiteboards as these objects have great influence on the daily activities the controller performs.

The activities that the controller performs around the whiteboards are found to be rituals. Waring and Bishop (2010, p. 1336) define rituals as, “those customary, patterned

social practices that occur on an almost taken-for-granted basis, and convey symbolic meanings, for example, reinforcing roles, group membership, status, or group cohesion”.

(20)

20

actually lean. This research provides empirical evidence that these artefacts and rituals, respectively the whiteboards and the lean meetings, make the difference between the traditional controller and the lean controller.

4.5 Two Types of Controllers

Based on the findings in the case companies, two types of lean controllers can be distinguished. These two typologies subsequently suit Company C and B. In the first typology, the controller becomes lean even though he can keep performing his daily traditional accounting practices with his traditional toolkit. He already had this kit before the lean implementation. However, if the controller did not become lean, his credibility in the rest of the lean organisation could have been disputed, as the rest of the organisation has high lean standards. In the end, the controller has to conform to the company’s lean standards. Since the lean controller is not dependent on lean to perform his daily work, he only adopts the visible, social aspect of lean. Therefore, the lean controller adopts the whiteboards and corresponding whiteboard meetings, but does not change his effective work accounting practices. The lean controller uses the lean symbols as an instrument to be able to come along in the rest of the lean organisation. The lean symbols can thus be used in an instrumental way.

The lean controller only adopts the visible lean aspects that help him to maintain his credibility in the rest of the lean organisation. He still has to be able to perform his traditional work. For example, Company C’s Head of Controlling mentioned that they had once attempted to put coloured lines on the desks where everyone’s smartphones should be put, but this proved to be unworkable and the lines were removed. This example illustrates how the lean controller only adopts the visible lean aspects that help to create the image of a lean controller in the rest of the organisation, while in fact very little has changed in the lean controller’s way of working. In this controlling department, it is much more about the lean rituals then the actual changes in everyday-work activities. Company C’s controller performs in a highly lean environment, which is a great motivation for the controller to become lean. Company C’s controllers are traditional controllers who retain their legitimacy in the organisation by ‘doing lean’ around the whiteboards when it suits them. This differs from the controllers of Company B in the second typology.

(21)

21

went more structured than in Company C. As a result, the lean controllers in Company B are more aware of what activities make them lean. As well as in typology one, the controllers use lean as a tool to maintain credibility in the rest of the organisation. This way the lean controllers are able to communicate on the same level with the rest of the lean organisation.

It can be said that the lean culture is very important to the lean controller. In addition, the controller of typology two recognises the potential of the lean whiteboards. The controller is more enthusiastic about the use of lean and he uses lean more emphatically to sort his work. The daily whiteboard meetings have replaced the work meetings. Still, the effective work of the lean controller in typology two has not changed. The lean controller in Company B conducts the same accounting practices as the traditional controller. The lean controller in Company B improved the way he coordinates his work by meeting around the whiteboards, but he is still able to do conduct his traditional work. Maybe it can even be stated that the traditional controller was already lean before the controlling department in Company B became lean. After all, the controller only slightly adjusted his daily activities so that he could come along in the rest of the lean organisation. Also, the lean controller in typology two is lean because the rest of the organisation requires him to be, but he is perfectly able to continue his traditional controlling activities.

In both typologies the case companies have implemented lean through the use of the lean whiteboards. Due to the whiteboards the communication has improved and the controllers work more structured. These are the aspects that make the lean controller lean. His traditional accounting practices have remained the same. This paper does not judge these findings, but only determines that this is in contrast to the propositions formed in the literature section. It can be concluded that artefacts, rituals and the need to conform to the rest of the lean organisation influence the lean controller in becoming lean. These needs come from both the lean controller himself as well as the rest of the lean organisation. Still, not all lean controllers are the same; the controllers of Company B and C differ. This paper therefore does not provide a recipe to become a great lean controller, but does present the lean controller of today.

(22)

22

of both case companies indicate that they do not need to become more lean as they are now. This means that in their current state, they are lean enough to properly function in the lean organisation. 4.6 Theoretical Framework Based on the analysis, a new theoretical framework can be formed. The lean controller exists by the grace of both symbolic and instrumental actions. The lean controller shows that he is lean and communicates in a new way, while the content of his work has not changed. This way, the controller retains his credibility in the rest of the lean organisation. When compared to the traditional controller, almost nothing has changed; it is merely about the symbolism that enables the lean controller to keep doing his traditional work.

(23)

23

5. Discussion

The case companies are leading in the findings. This research investigated two successful lean firms. The controlling departments of the case companies were able to perform well within the lean organisation. However, the controlling departments were focused more on lean rituals than on the effective changes in the lean controllers way of performing his work. These findings are in contrast to the papers of Fullerton and McWatters (2002), Kennedy and Widener (2008) and Maskell and Baggely (2004) that expected the lean controller to adjust his accounting practices to the lean organisation. The effective work the lean controller conducts has not changed since he became lean. What becomes clear from the analysis is that management support and education and training merely provide the preconditions for the controller to become lean. When the controller has received management support and education and training, he needs to find his own way in becoming lean. This is an addition to the papers of for example Bamber and Dale (2000) and Worley and Doolen (2006).

The findings in this research are subject to a number of scenarios. First, it could be the case that the controlling domain is fundamentally not suited for the lean approach as the implementation of lean had only a minor effect on the effective work of the lean controller.

Second, based on the interviews that were held in the two case companies, a certain image was formed. Namely, that there is a limited change in the daily accounting practices of the lean controller due to the lean implementation. Yet, the lean controller is able to come along in the lean organisation very well. These accounting practices are thus not related to lean. It might then be the case that the controller has always been lean. Is the lean controller old wine in a new bottle? The controller has always been generally known to be working structured, creating plans for improvement and attempting to continuously improve. It could be possible that the control domain was already organised lean before the lean approach was officially introduced to the controlling department. Perhaps the controlling department of the traditional controller was the first lean department, as the controlling department was always known for its working in structured ways and traditional accounting practices seem to go well together with the lean organisation.

(24)

24

accounting practices of the lean controller. It could be the case that lean activities in the controlling department have a greater influence because they are of a symbolic nature. This reasoning gives the impression that the credibility and trust of the rest of the organisation increases when the controller becomes lean as well. Furthermore, the lean controller becomes lean because he wants to retain his credibility with other departments and be able to communicate on the same level. For the researcher, it is impossible to say if a lean symbol, such as the lean whiteboard, is of true interest to the lean controller. But it is clear that the whiteboards and its corresponding meetings are of symbolic nature, and that these symbolic are very important to the lean firm. It gives the impression that the better the controller possesses the lean symbolism in the company, the better he is able to perform his traditional work.

Another result from this paper is that, contradictory to existing literature, the use of symbolism and instrumental are not two extremes but go together very well. Lean after all exists by the grace of many symbols. The controller’s contribution is symbolic in nature, yet the controller uses the symbols in an instrumental way; He uses these symbols as an instrument to retain his credibility within the rest of the organisation. The controller is required to become lean and therefore adopts symbolic aspects of lean to be able to do his traditional work. The case companies support this reasoning since they only use the social, visible aspects of lean. For example, the controller makes use of the whiteboards but does not use the stripes on his desk that mark where they can to store their tools on the table best.

It can be stated that the lean controller has not become lean by the actual work he performs, but that he has become lean because of the symbolism he uses, like the daily whiteboard meetings. In any way, the lean controller became lean to retain his credibility within the rest of the organisation. Also by working lean, the controller can better perform his traditional work. It is clear that the researcher does not make a value judgement on the use of symbols and objects. This research does not provide a decisive answer on the question if the lean controller’s use of symbols and objects is recommended or discouraged. It solely provides empirical evidence that the lean controller uses the lean symbols and objects to retain his credibility in the rest of the organisation with accounting practices that in itself are not lean.

(25)

25

6. Conclusion

6.1 Theoretical and Managerial Implications

The results of this research are of great interest to both researchers as well as practitioners. Suited with detailed descriptions in the analysis, this research provides great insight in the influence of management support and education and training on the controller in becoming lean. However, this research adds something new to the literature: management support and education and training are merely preconditions the organisation needs to provide to let the controller become lean. When the controller uses these variables he needs to find his own way in becoming lean. The controller really becomes a lean controller as his symbolic and instrumental behaviour changes through the use of artefacts, such as the lean whiteboards.

Based on the results of this research, a number of possible conclusions can be drawn. First, the results of this research could mean that the controlling department is fundamentally not suited for the lean approach, as limited changes to the controller’s daily activities occurred since the lean implementation. Second, it could be argued that the controlling domain was already lean before the lean approach was introduced. Third, the symbolic nature of the lean controller can be seen as a possible conclusion. Meaning that the lean controller only becomes lean to conform to the rest of the organisation.

All three possible explanations are of great influence to both academic literature and practitioners, as these results imply that the lean controller becomes lean for other reasons than described in previous literature. The controller exists by the grace of symbols, as he must participate in the symbolic behaviour of being lean to be able to work in an instrumental way. The lean controller uses lean to the extent that he needs, for example in the form of the whiteboards and daily meetings. So, contradictory to the established literature, the symbolic and instrumental behaviour of the controller go well together.

Concluding, it can be stated that is not the instrumental behaviour the controller performs that makes him lean, but rather the symbolic behaviour he expresses in his need to conform to the rest of his lean organisation.

(26)

26

use of symbols and objects is recommended or discouraged, it solely provides empirical evidence that the lean controllers in the case companies use the lean symbols and objects to retain their credibility in the rest of the organisation with work that in itself is not lean. 6.2 Research Limitations This research could be subject to a number of limitations that affect the reliability and validity of this study, even though precautions have been undertaken. First, due to the fact that this is a master thesis, this research has been conducted in a limited timespan. Therefore, there was only time to visit three case companies, and visit them once. The interviews therefore only represent a single point in time. There was no time to gather other information, for example observe a cascade or whiteboard meeting. Second, one of the case companies turned out to be unusable for this research and could therefore not be used. Third, after the initial contact provided by the interim manager, only managers have been interviewed. There was no option to interview other employees at the case companies. Fourth, the researcher could have been biased in his interpretations of the transcriptions. Fifth, as only two case companies are at basis of this research, further research must confirm the results of this research.

6.3 Directions for further research

Further research could explore if the results of this paper apply to the controllers of other lean organisations as well. Also could be investigated if the controlling department was indeed already organised in ways that could be described as lean, or that the controlling department is fundamentally not suited for the lean approach. In addition, further research could check if the controller becomes lean to conform to the rest of the lean organisation, as his instrumental behaviour has not changed due to the lean implementation.

However, there is not much research available that sheds any light on the activities of the lean controller during his workday. That would be of great value to this research, as it would show the influence of lean on the daily rituals of the lean controller.

(27)
(28)
(29)
(30)
(31)
(32)
(33)
(34)
(35)
(36)
(37)

Afbeelding

Updating...

Referenties

Updating...

Gerelateerde onderwerpen :