Japanese cost management meets Sri Lankan politics

  • Disappearance and reappearance of bureaucratic management controls in a privatised utility
  • Danture Wickramasinghe, Trevor Hopper, Chandana Rathnasiri
  • Accounting Auditing & Accountability Journal, February 2004, Emerald
  • DOI: 10.1108/09513570410525229

Japanese cost management in Sri Lanka

What is it about?

The Sri Lanka Telecommunications company was partially privatised and a major Japanese company became responsible for its management. Previously, it was a government department characterised by rule bound, bureaucratic management and political interventions into operational issues. The longitudinal study illustrates how a Japanese manager's charismatic and patrimonial leadership controls, brought new less bureaucratic management controls and reward systems, and achieved some commercial success. However, employees unsympathetic to the changes allied with politicians frustrated with their exclusion from organisational affairs to get the Japanese manager removed and restore formal bureaucracy, largely through the politicians' control of the regulatory system. Conflicts between the two competing management control ideologies were profound and violent.

Why is it important?

The paper traces how modes of production and management accounting and controls in less developed countries are related, and are transformed in an unpredictable and often unexpected fashion due to cultural, economic, and political factors. It also shows how privatisation may not eliminate political interference though this now came indirectly through the politician's control over regulatory structures.

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The following have contributed to this page: Professor Trevor Martin Hopper