Paradoxical tensions of the COVID-19 pandemic: a paradox theory perspective on the role of management control systems in helping organizations survive crises

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Purpose – We present paradox theory as a useful theoretical lens for researchers exploring crises such as COVID-19. We argue that paradox theory, which emphasizes a “both/and” as opposed to an “either/or” approach, is ideally suited for management control systems (MCS) research on crises.
Design/methodology/approach – We adopt a revelatory case approach to provide empirical examples of the insights that paradox theory can provide.
Findings – We highlight how MCS can be used to simultaneously manage short-term/operational and long-term/strategic objectives to navigate a crisis. Furthermore, we highlight how MCS can be mobilized during crises to identify and embrace opportunities.
Practical implications – We highlight the importance of MCS, focusing on not just the short-term, but also the long-term, and managing multiple objectives in assisting organizations to survive a crisis.
Originality/value – This paper highlights the benefits of using paradox theory to understand the role of MCS in helping organizations manage crises and to use a crisis as a source of opportunity.
Keywords - Conflicting objectives, COVID-19, Crisis, Crisis as opportunity, Paradox theory, Management control systems, MCS
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalAccounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Conflicting objectives
  • COVID-19
  • Crisis
  • Crisis as opportunity
  • Paradox theory
  • Management control systems
  • MCS

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