Management control in pulsating organisations—a multiple case study of popular culture events

Martin Carlsson-Wall, Kalle Kraus, Louise Karlsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Major events comprise an important aspect of popular culture. The pulsating nature of event organisations implies that they quickly expand at the time of the event and then contract. By examining six sport event organisations, detailed action planning was found to be crucial to ensure that both the structure and flexibility were guaranteed when the event took place. Detailed action planning served as the backbone in the chain of control in each case, connecting the evaluation based on non-financial measures with the budgeting, and with policies and procedures that were applied during the process. It created a shared understanding of the breakdown of responsibilities and duties and made it possible to clarify the role each individual played within the system and to determine when and how improvisation was needed. Our findings thereby provide important boundary conditions to the literature on ‘minimal structures’ by making it clear that ‘minimal’ management controls are not sufficient to handle the balance between structure and flexibility in pulsating organisations, which often rely on thousands of inexperienced employees to work together for a very short period of time. Detailed action planning helped create ‘operational representation’ (Bigley and Roberts, 2001), i.e. the basic cognitive infrastructure permitting individuals and groups to effectively integrate their behaviours with those of others on a moment-to-moment basis as the event unfolds. We also contribute by explaining important management control differences across the six organisations through the distinction between participation- and spectator-driven events.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-34
Number of pages15
JournalManagement Accounting Research
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Management control systems
  • Minimal structure
  • Operational representation
  • Popular culture
  • Pulsating organisations
  • Sport events

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