The role of accounting in making sense of post-acquisition integration

Hannu Puhakka*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study examines how accounting as a resource for sensemaking affected the shaping of meaning construction of two companies during their post-acquisition integration. Whereas earlier literature has shown accounting as forming organizational life, this paper corroborates this constitutive role of accounting by indicating that accounting has different roles for different actors at different times during ex ante- and ex post-acquisition sensemaking. The paper shows how accounting via forecasted net sales, average project sizes, and EBITDA framed the acquisition opportunity as anticipated and assisted in constructing a new meaning for the buyer in ex ante sensemaking. Adding to the accounting and sensemaking literature, this study indicates how accounting reduced complexity for the buyer so that the transaction could be legitimized within a limited pre-acquisition timeframe. Driven by the ex ante constructed meaning, the buyer's sensegiving attempts resulted in resistance to change on the part of the seller company's previous owners. Where earlier post-acquisition studies have shown that resistance to change results from strong existential difficulties during the post-acquisition role transformation, this study indicates that it was instead due to limited ex ante sensemaking. After the seller's CEO resigned, accounting metrics became the anchor for ex post sensemaking, emphasizing the achievement of forecasted net sales in the information memorandum provided during the acquisition negotiations. However, the buyer's focus and planning were narrowed down to encompass achieving net sales growth targets, leading to an inability to react to emerging situations. Therefore, rather than being an isolated phenomenon, accounting operated at the core of forming and reforming organizational life during both ex ante- and ex post-acquisition sensemaking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-22
Number of pages11
JournalScandinavian Journal of Management
Volume33
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Accounting
  • Post-acquisition integration
  • Sensemaking

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