The Expressive Role of Performance Measurment Systems: A Field Study of a Mental Health Development Project



In this paper we examine how performance measurement systems (PMS) can be used within organisations to help (or hinder) organisational actors to express their values and beliefs. This use of PMS, which we term its expressive role, is important as pluralistic and expressive forms of organisation are becoming more prevalent. Furthermore, prior research indicates that enabling the expression of values and beliefs by organisational members can generate energy and commitment that are important to the achievement of organisational objectives. In a field study of a mental health development project, we draw on Huy’s (1999) concepts of display freedom and playfulness to examine both the process and design issues that are important in the development of an expressive role for PMS. Critically, we examine the interplay between the expressive role and other uses of PMS, and identify circumstances in which these roles can clash and/or be complementary. This study of the expressive role of PMS study broadens understanding of the functioning of PMS in organisations (Ansari & Euske, 1987), the way in which management control systems can be used to signal values and preferences, and the use of PMS in NGOs to help manage potential tensions between service delivery and humanitarian values.

This seminar is organised by the Erasmus Accounting Research Group.