Accounting as the 'Language' of Organizational Change: The Case of A Heritage Railway

Kelum Nishanta Jayasinghe, Teerooven Soobaroyen, Dennis Aubrey Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines the critical role the 'accounting language' plays in organisational change. Whilst researchers have studied 'business planning' as a pedagogic device aimed at controlling spending and at introducing accountability, the explicit role played by 'accounting language' in the change process has not been emphasised, particularly in the heritage and preservation domain where volunteer labour exercises more power than paid management in a 'dialectic of control'. We address this gap by employing a grounded methodology, involving the collection of evidence from interviews, records and observations to document two 'strategic planning' attempts in a volunteer-led heritage railway. We observe how the use of 'accounting language' (in the form of categories and encryptions) visibly conveys new decision rules and facilitates their acceptance as actors know and play by these new rules. Informed by Giddens' structuration theory concepts, the study also shows how 'accounting language' provides the modalities of structuration (meaning, moral order and power) bringing new 'languages' and 'rules' to the actors as well as creating a 'power' shift from volunteers to professional managers in their 'dialectic of control'.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-62
Number of pages37
JournalInternational Journal of Critical Accounting
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2011


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