Managers' Commitment to the Goals Contained in a Strategic Performance Measurement System*


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    Accepted by Gord Richardson. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2003 Contemporary Accounting Research Conference, generously supported by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, CMA Canada-Ontario, the Certified General Accountants of Ontario, and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario. This paper is based on my dissertation completed at the University of Alberta. I am grateful for the support and advice of my dissertation committee members, Judy Cameron, Michael Gibbins (chair), Ric Johnson, Marlys Lipe, and Peter Tiessen. Thanks to Emilio Boulianne, Maurice Gosselin, Karim Jamal, Michel Magnan, Steve Salterio, and Kristy Towry, and seminar participants at Concordia University, the University of Alberta, the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Waterloo, St. Mary's University, and Wilfrid Laurier University for helpful comments on earlier drafts. Thanks also to participants at the American Accounting Association 2003 Management Accounting Section conference, the Canadian Academic Accounting Association 2002 Annual conference, the Contemporary Accounting Research (CAR) 2003 Annual conference, Joan Luft (discussant), and two anonymous reviewers at CAR. Finally, thanks to the University of Alberta, the University of Waterloo, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for financial support.


A strategic performance measurement system (SPMS) is a set of causally linked nonfinancial and financial objectives, performance measures, and goals designed to align managers' actions with an organization's strategy. This study identifies and tests features unique to the cause-effect structure of an SPMS likely to affect an important antecedent to managerial performance: goal commitment. Companies often set difficult goals for the multiple performance measures contained in an SPMS, but research shows difficult goals are significantly more likely to lead to performance gains if individuals are committed to achieving them. Two features central to the SPMS approach are predicted to affect goal commitment: (1) the strength of the cause-effect links among the nonfinancial and financial performance measures contained in an SPMS and (2) managers' beliefs in their ability to achieve the SPMS nonfinancial goals. Results from an experiment conducted with experienced managers show both SPMS features have a positive effect on goal commitment.