AC311      Half Unit
Results Accountability and Management Control for Strategy Implementation

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Oscar Timmermans MAR 3.33


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 BSc Programme Director.


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 organizational 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 organizational design features, to guide and ensure “strategy-aligned” decision-making in decentralized organizations. 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 organization’s objectives by way of the key concept of results accountability.

The emphasis in AC311 is on financial controls, which are prevalent 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 and targets/benchmarks (e.g., market, financial, and/or nonfinancial measures and targets); (3) performance evaluations, which take into consideration these performance measures and targets/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 and academic research, AC311 provides students with valuable insights into how financial results control systems vary across contexts, and how several situational factors, including organizational structure, culture, decision-making processes, and behavioral variables influence the design of financial results control systems. Some cases involve real-world data and the use of data analytics for strategic decision-making to address these management control problems.

The course is intended as an overview for those who will make business decisions, evaluate organizational performance, or evaluate others (and/or be evaluated) through the use of financial and non-financial information. And because management control is a core function of management, all students interested in business or management can benefit from this course. However, the course should be particularly useful for those who are, or aspire to be, managers, management consultants, financial specialists (e.g., controllers, budget analysts, auditors) or human resource specialists (e.g., compensation consultants).


Teaching is delivered in two weekly 90-minute sessions over 10 weeks across Michaelmas Term.

The course consists of 10 principal topics delivered in two parts each week across Michaelmas term. The first part of each week provides an introduction, positioning, and conceptual analysis of the key foundational elements of each topic. Students are expected to attend the session, together with having done the suggested readings for the week.

The second part each week offers a further discussion and expansion of the issues through case study analysis and real-world applications. The case study analyses and discussions permit the exploration of management control issues in a broad range of settings (e.g., large and small firms, manufacturing and service firms, multinational firms, startups and firms in distress, among others). The case method of instruction, however, requires good advance preparation by the students, and every student, onsite or online, should be ready to contribute to the case discussion.

This course has a reading week in Week 6 of Michaelmas 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, views and/or perspectives on the issue at hand during the session.

Indicative reading

The main textbook for AC311 is:

K. Merchant; W. Van der Stede; 2017. Management control systems: Performance measurement, evaluation and incentives (4th ed.). Pearson Education Limited.

In addition to the textbook, additional materials are accessible via Moodle.


Group project (25%) in the MT.
Take-home assessment (75%) in the LT.

This comprises two elements:

A group project (during MT) 25%

An integrated assessment (take home assessment 1 week before LT week 0) 75%

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.

Key facts

Department: Accounting

Total students 2021/22: 125

Average class size 2021/22: 63

Capped 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

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