Persistent but adaptable – the path dependent development of German cost accounting

Juergen Weber, Leona Wiegmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper aims to investigate how and why German cost accounting prevails and develops in German multinational organisations despite the various indications in the literature that it will converge towards an anglophone system over time. To analyse this, the authors draw on the ideas of professional practices (Jarzabkowski et al., 2016) and their path dependency (Schreyögg and Sydow, 2011) as a method theory. Design/methodology/approach: The authors deploy an exploratory method using multiple case studies to determine similarities and differences between organisations concerning how cost accounting practices developed over time. They conducted interviews with cost accountants, group controllers and managers of German multinational organisations as well as experts from higher education institutions and consultancies. Findings: This paper shows the path-dependent development of German cost accounting. It identifies self-reinforcing learning and complementary effects that seem to make it inefficient for organisations to deviate from the learned path as well as economic and normative pressures that affect the design of cost accounting systems. Originality/value: By considering German cost accounting a path-dependent professional practice, this paper illustrates how and why the core of German cost accounting prevails, although organisations make adjustments within the existing structures to respond to the pressures they face. This paper hereby highlights the role of cost accountants in defining (and consequently bringing about or preventing changes to) the design of cost accounting systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-493
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Accounting and Organisational Change
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Current cost accounting
  • German cost accounting
  • Path dependency
  • Professional practices

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