This article, Empowering middle managers in social services using management control systems, examines how a public sector organisation combined management control systems (MCS) to comply with increased uncertainty and conflicting objectives of tight budget control, flexibility, and quality care simultaneously. It also analyses how middle managers interpret management control intentions and manage conflicting objectives, and how locally developed MCS are coupled with top management goals.
Based on interviews with top and middle managements, as well as document studies conducted at a medium-sized Danish municipality, the paper shows that both constraining and enabling control systems empower middle managers and facilitate tight budget controls. Furthermore, middle managers play a crucial role in the use of MCS, develop local control systems, adjust existing control systems and influence the decisions and strategies of top management.
This paper shows how MCS, including budgeting and planning systems, can be applied in social services to help middle managements obtain tight budget controls while also improving service quality. In this way, the paper adds to the limited extant research on the role of middle management in a control framework and demonstrates how MCS can balance conflicting goals in social services when uncertainty increases. Furthermore, this paper shows how the vertical coupling of MCS is tight when budgeting is employed for planning purposes.
The article is published in August 2020, with Anne Kirstine Svanholt, in Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management (vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 267-289). It can be downloaded from ResearchGate.
Another paper, Styring i spændingsfeltet mellem vilde problemer og stramme budgetter, has been published in Samfundslederskab i Skandinavien (formerly published as Økonomistyring & Informatik),Vol. 34, No. 3, pp. 229-266 (October 2019).