AC311      Half Unit
Results Accountability and Management Control for Strategy Implementation

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Wim Van der Stede, OLD.2.18


This course is available on the BSc in Accounting and Finance, BSc in Econometrics and Mathematical Economics, BSc in Economics and Diploma in Accounting and Finance. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Available to students on other undergraduate/Diploma programmes with the permission of the Accounting Departmental Tutor.


Students must have completed Elements of Accounting and Finance (AC100) or Elements of Management Accounting, Financial Management and Financial Institutions (AC103). Accounting Theory and Practice (AC200) is recommended to complement either AC100 or AC103, but not required.

AC311 can be taken together with Performance Measurement, Strategy, and Uncertainty (AC312) in the Lent Term, which focuses in more depth on one aspect of management control systems, namely performance measurement. In this course (AC311), however, performance measurement is just one aspect of a broader management control focus that entails results controls, incentive systems and various other organizational design features (e.g., responsibility centres,  planning and budgeting, and inter-organisational controls). Students interested in careers in management consulting may benefit from taking both AC311 and AC312. Nevertheless, each course is also valuable as a standalone option.

Course content

AC311 examines results accountability and organisational control issues, focusing on how both financial and non-financial “results-oriented” practices underpin decision rights, planning and budgeting, and performance measurement and incentive systems, among other key organisational design features, to guide and ensure ‘strategy-aligned’ decision-making in decentralized organisations or inter-organisational settings (e.g., in joint ventures or strategic alliances). In other words, AC311 seeks to broaden and deepen your conceptual and technical understanding of accounting as it is used for management purposes—to implement strategy and ensure that everyone’s objectives and decisions are aligned with the organisation’s by way of the key concept of results accountability.

The emphasis in the course is on financial controls, which dominate in importance at managerial levels in all but the smallest organizations. Using financial controls requires managers to make decisions about: (1) responsibility structures (e.g., cost centers, profit centers); (2) performance measures (e.g., market, financial, and/or nonfinancial measures and their combinations); (3) performance evaluations, which take into consideration performance targets or other benchmarks; and (4) rewards (including incentive compensation). The course is issue-oriented, with current and emerging topics as its major focus.

Aided by case studies, AC311 provides students with valuable insights into how financial results control systems vary across contexts, and how several situational factors, including organisational structure, culture, decision-making processes, and behavioural variables influence them. Some cases will involve real-world data and the potential use of data analytics for strategic decision making.


Teaching is delivered in weekly seminars over 10 weeks across Michaelmas Term. Seminars contain a variety of concept-focused content, practical exercises, and case analyses. This year, some or all of this teaching may be delivered using virtual sessions as an alternative to face-to-face teaching. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of term.

Formative coursework

The course makes extensive use of case studies. Students are expected to contribute to the case discussions by having read the case study and related materials in advance of the session and by participating in the discussion and offering their own analysis, view and/or perspective on the issue at hand during the session.

Indicative reading

AC311 is built around a textbook: Merchant and Van der Stede’s Management Control Systems

The text will be supplemented with some additional materials that will be distributed via a coursepack or on Moodle.

  • (MV) Merchant K.A. & W. A. Van der Stede (2017), Management Control Systems (London: Financial Times/Prentice-Hall), 4th edition.


Project (25%) and take-home assessment (50%) in the LT.
Essay (25%) in the MT.

There will be two short essays that comprise the 25% Essay mark.

Further details of all aspects of assessment and coursework, as well as feedback, will be made available on Moodle nearer the scheduled start time of the course and will be updated as the course progresses with specific instructions, guidance, and feedback.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Accounting

Total students 2019/20: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Capped 2019/20: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Commercial awareness