What is it about?

This study investigates the difficulties involved in translating stakeholder expectations into action and maintaining legitimacy through the use of a performance measurement system (PMS) created in a Finnish regional development company (RDC). This longitudinal case study illustrates the fluctuating and socially constructed nature of legitimacy in the public sector. The initial interest in operational improvement changed to legitimation-seeking behavior by the case organization when the measures created were modified to accord with the changed preferences of the key stakeholders. However, the pursuit of legitimacy for the RDC was made difficult by the outcome-oriented, changing and contradictory nature of stakeholders' demands. This study's findings reveal a continuous mismatch between organizational activities and the board's expectations, leading to the eventual closure of the organization.

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Why is it important?

The findings help to analyze the legitimacy and relevance of PMSs in public sector projects. The study highlights the practical importance of analyzing the different legitimacy priorities of various stakeholder groups, such as politicians and entrepreneurs. The study analyzes the fluctuating nature of legitimacy longitudinally in the public-sector context from the stakeholder perspective. This study analyzes a situation where the stakeholders' evaluations of the legitimacy of the organization, and the PMS developed, change over time, complicating the accounting for stakeholders.


Writing this study has been a long and longitudinal journey that has been made in close collaboration with different fields of professionals. The case started in 2013, and I have learned a lot of about performance measurement, legitimacy and stakeholder expectations during this journey. I am happy to publish the results of our study. I hope this paper will add understanding about the meaning of stakeholder expectations, legitimacy and performance measurement, and how these elements can even have an impact on the existence of the organization.

Jenna Anttonen
University of Jyväskylä

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Legitimacy and relevance of a performance measurement system in a Finnish public-sector case, Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, November 2019, Emerald, DOI: 10.1108/qram-04-2018-0027.
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