The purpose of this paper is to investigate whether and how evolving ideas about management control (MC) emerge in research about public sector performance management (PSPM).
This is a literature review on PSPM research through using a set of key terms derived from a review of recent developments in MC.
MC research, originating in the management accounting discipline, is largely disconnected from PSPM research as part of public administration and public management disciplines. Overlaps between MC and PSPM research are visible in a cybernetic control approach, control variety and contingency-based reasoning. Both academic communities share an understanding of certain issues, although under diverging labels, especially enabling controls or, in a more general sense, usable performance controls, horizontal controls and control packaging. Specific MC concepts are valuable for future PSPM research, i.e. trust as a complement of performance-based controls in complex settings, and strategy as a variable in contingency-based studies.
Breaking the boundaries between two currently remote research disciplines, on the one hand, might dismantle “would-be” innovations in one of these disciplines, and, on the other hand, may provide a fertile soil for mutual transfer of knowledge. A limitation of the authors’ review of PSPM research is that it may insufficiently cover research published in the public sector accounting journals, which could be an outlet for MC-inspired PSPM research.
The paper unravels the “apparent” and “real” differences between MC and PSPM research, and, in doing so, takes the detected “real” differences as a starting point for discussing in what ways PSPM research can benefit from MC achievements.