• management control systems;
  • strategy formation;
  • middle managers


The relationship between management control systems (MCS) and the strategy process is a largely unexplored area of strategic management. This paper reports the findings of an in-depth, longitudinal case study of a major British-based organization operating within the increasingly globalized telecommunications industry. Informed by Simons' (1991, 1994, 1995) theoretical model of the strategy process–MCS relationship, the study examines the nature and extent of this relationship at middle- and lower-management levels. Of particular interest were the effects that the design and use of three groups of MCS have on the development of new ideas and initiatives. Findings suggest that beliefs systems influence managers' initiation or ‘triggering’ decisions, the use of administrative controls affects the location of strategic initiatives and may lead to the polarization of roles, and simultaneous emphasis on a range of key performance indicators can create a bias towards one set of measures and against another. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.