School of Business and Economics


Noel O'Sullivan

Professor Noel O'Sullivan

Professor O'Sullivan is acting leader for the MA-RIG whose members investigate issues surrounding management accounting scholarship and practice

Management Accounting Research Interest Group (MA-RIG)

Leader: Noel O'Sullivan, Professor of Accounting

The Management Accounting Research Interest Group (MA-RIG) provides a forum for developing research on traditional and contemporary themes in the field. Currently, the research design is predominantly interpretive and data are analysed through a variety of theoretical lenses.

The Group couples management accounting scholarship with practice by circulating work-in-progress and entering into dialogues. The overall goal of the group is to bridge the gap between theory and practice. There are four key themes:

  • Pragmatic constructivism
  • Performance management
  • Sustainability
  • Lean accounting

Pragmatic constructivism

This research methodology directly addresses the theory/practice gap by deploying an ontology that is based on analysing the reality of management control in specific organizational settings. It sees management reality as being based on the integration of facts, logics, values and communication through actor-based philosophies and practices.

Performance management

Research on this theme revolves around the interplay between financial and non-financial performance measures and their management through target setting and reward structures. Recent CIMA funded research explored this theme in a number of large UK based organisations focusing on the transformation of the finance function.


Research focuses upon the inter-organisational dynamics of integrating sustainability into strategy and organizational behaviours. In particular, research on this theme seeks to understand how management control systems can effectively improve social and environmental performance.

Lean accounting

This research has an inter-disciplinary flavour through collaboration with other related disciplines such as operations management. A variety of theoretical approaches are applied including pragmatic constructivism and actor-network theory. The research is applied in both manufacturing and service sector contexts.

Our research is disseminated in the leading accounting journals – e.g., Accounting, Organizations & Society, British Accounting Review and Management Accounting Research. Members also disseminate their work at conferences and through practitioner orientated outlets including the Loughborough – CIMA Shared Service Forum.

  • Ye Lu - PhD Student (Charging, costing and transfer pricing in shared services)
  • Sarah Gamal - PhD Student (Lean management and shared services)

Below is a brief summary of activities over the past 2 years, for example; publications, conferences, research funding, PhD students, seminars and impact generation:


Ball, A., Grubnic, S. and Birchall, S.J. (2014). Sustainability Accounting and Accountability in the Public Sector. In Unerman, J., Bebbington, J. and O’Dwyer, B. (eds) Sustainability Accounting and Accountability (second edition).

Brown, R. and Jones M., Mapping and exploring the topography of contemporary financial accounting research British Accounting Review (forthcoming)

Fitzgerald, L., Brown, R., Chester-Buxton, R., Herbert, I.P., King, R.M. and McAulay, L. (2012) Relevance Regained? Performance Management in Shared Service Centres, Executive Summary Series, CIMA: London

Gond, J-P.; Grubnic, S.; Herzig, C. and Moon, J. (2012) Configuring management control systems: theorising the integration of strategy and sustainability, Management Accounting Research, 23(3), 205-223.

Herbert, I. and Seal, W.  (2012) Shared services as a new organisational form: Some implications for management accounting, British Accounting Review, 83-97.

Seal, W.B. (2012) Some suggestions for impactful business school research, Qualitative Research in Accounting and Management.

Seal, W and Herbert, I. (2013) Shared service centres and the role of the finance function: advancing the Iron Cage? Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change, 188-205.

Seal, W & Mattimoe, R. (2014) Controlling strategy through dialectical management, Management Accounting Research, 25, 230-243.

Seal, W. and Ye, L. (2014). The balanced scorecard and the construction of a management control discourse, Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change.

Thomson, I., Grubnic, S. and Georgakopoulos, G. (forthcoming). Exploring accounting-sustainability hybridisation in the UK public sector, Accounting, Organizations and Society.

Conference presentations:

Brown, R., and Herbert, I., Performance management and changing political rationalities in a research organisation, Management Accounting Research Conference, University of Aston, 20-21st November 2014

Fitzgerald, L., Brown, R., Chester Buxton, R.B., Herbert, I., King, R. and McAulay, L.,  The (Ir)relevance of Performance Measurement to Performance Management?, PMA 2012 Conference, Cambridge, UK, 13th  July 2012, 1-13

Fitzgerald, L., Brown, R., Chester Buxton, R.B., Herbert, I., King, R. and McAulay, L., Relevance Regained? Performance Management in Shared Service Centres, CIMA conference:  Kaplan & Norton: a contemporary performance, University of Edinburgh, 5thNovember 2012

Gond, J-P., Grubnic, S., Herzig, C. and Moon, J. 2012.  Designing levers of control for corporate sustainability: on the uses and relations of management and sustainability control systems.  25th Irish Accounting & Finance Association Annual Conference, 24-25th May 2012, Galway.

Thomson, I., Grubnic, S. and Georgakopoulos, G. 2013.  Exploring accounting sustainability hybiridisation in the UK public sector.  25th Irish Accounting & Finance Association Annual Conference, 24-25th May 2012, Galway.

Impact generation:

Impact Case study submitted for REF 2014 based on research around shared services (Herbert, Fitzgerald & Seal)

Research Funding

Shared Service Centres: Repackaging Intellectual Property

PI:  Ian Herbert with Will Seal
Period:  August 2008 – July 2013
Sponsor:  CIMA 
Award:   £62,961

Relevance Regained? Performance Management in Shared Service Centres

PI: Lin Fitzgerald with Rhoda Brown, Rosamund Chester Buxton, Ian Herbert, Ruth King and Laurie McAulay
Period:     September 2011 – August 2012
Sponsor:  CIMA
Award:      £36,000

Papers under review:

Brown, R., Exploring the Logics of Performance Measurement in UK Universities, Management Accounting Research

Seal, W. & Herbert, I., Actor-based management and captive shared services: a model for developing dynamic capabilities in the SME sector? British Journal of Management.

Papers to be re-submitted in 2014:

Gond, J-P, Grubnic, S., Herzig, C. & Moon, J., Levers of control for corporate sustainability: balancing the profit-sustainability tensions through management control systems.  Accounting, Organizations and Society

Seal, W. & Warren, The role of investment appraisal in the political economy of electricity generation. Accounting, Organizations and Society

Seal, W. & Mattimoe, R., The role of narrative in the development of management control knowledge from fieldwork: a pragmatic constructivist perspective. Accounting & Business Research

Seminar Plan 2014-2015:

Seal & Bateman, Re-visiting the illusion of management control: management accounting in a lean environment.

King & Fitzgerald, Professionals under Pressure: The changing nature of the accounting profession.

Chester-Buxton & Fitzgerald, Levers of control in shared service centres – a response to Tessier and Otley’s (2012) conceptual development of Sumons’ levers of control framework.

Brown & Herbert, Performance management and changing political rationalities in a research organisation.

Doctoral students join a lively and supportive community of research students, becoming an integral part of the School’s research culture. We welcome approaches from suitably qualified graduates, particularly those with a relevant Masters degree and sufficient funding, who may wish to undertake research projects in the specialist areas of the group, leading to a PhD.  As a research student, you will be encouraged to attend conferences to present your work and develop joint publications with your supervisors.

The group has great supervisory experience and is keen to supervise high quality research students in members’ specialist research fields. Recognition of the quality of supervision offered by the group members has resulted in funding for doctoral students from Research Councils. For students interested in further information on potential PhD projects and supervisors, please stay tuned to our webpages.

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