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Translating ambiguous reforms: doing better next time?

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The relevance of management accounting as an instrument of change continues to be a major focus of debate among commentators on public sector reforms. This paper investigates the translation of a key management accounting concern – performance-based appraisal and reward systems – in three central government organisations. Local translations of the management accounting technology reveal distinct divergences and achievements, with the ambiguity inherent in reforms shaped by a confluence of actors, events and technologies. The study concludes by discussing two issues – the role of management accounting and the intersection of rationalities and technologies with the specificities of local settings – that help shed light on the differing outcomes within the three organisations.

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