Quality management in a top tier accounting firm: Towards a socio-cognitive model

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Audit quality has been subject to extensive research in the accounting field. Particularly macro level influences (e.g., legal environment, professional self-regulation) and meso level influences (e.g., accounting firm size, non-audit services, industry specialization) have been examined. However, few scholars have explored the production of audit quality on a micro level. Drawing on insights from error management literature and an embedded case study design, we explore error management in accounting firms. Based on 18 months of participant observations, 41 interviews, and archival materials in a Big 4 accounting firm we suggest a socio-cognitive model that explains error management as a self-reinforcing system, in which structures and systems, organizational practices, and individual skills interact and jointly constitute and reconstitute each other in the production of audit quality. In particular, our study shows how organizational error prevention practices create resilient individuals which are the key for resilient error management practices in audit teams. Furthermore, resilient error management practices are reflected in the organizational structures and systems supporting error management in accounting firms. We conclude that studying error management in general and error management in accounting firms in particular requires a socio-cognitive approach that explores the close interaction of structure and systems, organizational practices, and individual skills.
Original languageEnglish
Article number11722
JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2013