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2020B02 - Management control in auditing firms and its implications for managing competing objectives (PhD project S. Tiggelaar)

This study forms the basis of the PhD project by Sander Tiggelaar, from the University of Groningen.


This project studies the interplay among management control mechanisms and the effect of their joint use on how professional and commercial objectives are managed in auditing firms. The proposed research focuses on management control in relation to the conflicting objectives that coexist in these auditing firms. Furthermore, it extends existing knowledge of management control in auditing firms by recognising complementarities of different control elements. The first project is a qualitative study with an exploratory perspective. This project partly guides the quantitative approach in the second project. The third project specifically focuses on management control in relation to managing process innovations. 


In almost all companies, an important task for management control is to manage organisational tensions. These tensions come in many forms  For example, a dilemma implies that only one option can be chosen thereby excluding the other (such as a make-or-buy decision). Other tensions are more subtle and allow for a continuous balancing of objectives. This latter category includes tensions arising from balancing professional objectives and commercial objectives. Studies on the role of management control in this context focus predominantly on commercial companies such as manufacturers or wholesalers. For these companies, both the commercial and the professional output is more or less visible and thoroughly evaluated by different parties. For example, shareholders might evaluate profits (the commercial element) and consumers the quality of the product (the professional element). A sector in which this professional element is often ambiguous and invisible is the auditing sector. Auditing firms do not provide a product that clearly conveys something about quality. The only end product of auditing firms is the auditor report containing (or denying) a reasonable assurance that the financial statements provided by client company management are free from material misstatement and in accordance with accounting principles. Although these reports can be inspected for deficiencies, assessing the quality of this reasonable assurance is a complex task. Only in the exceptional case where judicial investigations may find serious shortcomings in auditing firm procedures (following a client company bankruptcy) can audit quality be unambiguously assessed.

Knowledge dissemination

FAR Literature Review: Management control in auditing firms and its implications for managing coexisting objectives
FARview #23 with Sander Tiggelaar

Back to overview
  • Project Number
  • Research team
    Sander Tiggelaar PhD student
    Prof. dr. Paula van Veen-Dirks
    Prof. Breeda Sweeney
    Dr. Sakshi Girdhar
  • Involved University
    University of Groningen
  • Timeline
    09/19 - 08/23