• Management Accounting and Decision-Making

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Management Accounting | 15
Management Accounting and Decision-Making
Management accounting writers tend to present management accounting as a
loosely connected set of decision‑making tools. Although the various textbooks on
management accounting make no attempt to develop an integrated theory, there is
a high degree of consistency and standardization in methodology of presentation.
In this chapter, the concepts and assumptions which form the basis of management
accounting will be formulated in a comprehensive management accounting decision
The formulation of theory in terms of conceptual models is a common practice.
Virtually all textbooks in business administration use some type of conceptual
framework or model to integrate the fundamentals being presented. In economic
theory, there are conceptual models of the firm, markets, and the economy. In
management courses, there are models of organizational structure and managerial
functions. In marketing, there are models of marketing decision‑making and channels
of distribution. Even in financial accounting, models of financial statements are used
as a framework for teaching the fundamentals of basic financial accounting. The
model, A = L + C, is very effective in conveying an understanding of accounting.
Management accounting texts are based on a very specific model of the business
enterprise. For example, all texts assume that the business which is likely to use
management accounting is a manufacturing business. Also, there is unanimity in
assuming that the behavior of variable costs within a relevant range tends to be
linear. The consequence of assuming that variable costs vary directly with volume
is a classification of cost into fixed and variable. A description of the managerial
accounting perspective of management and the business enterprise will help put in
focus the subject matter to be presented in later chapters.
16 | CHAPTER TWO • Management Accounting and Decision-Making
The Management Accounting Perspective of the Business Enterprise
The management accounting view of business may be divided into two broad
categories: (1) basic features and (2) basic assumptions.
Basic Features
The business firm or enterprise is an organizational structure in which the basic
activities are departmentalized as line and staff. There are three primary line functions:
marketing, production, and finance. The organization is run or controlled by individuals
collectively called management. The staff or advisory functions include accounting,
personnel, and purchasing and receiving. The organization has a communication or
reporting system (e.g. budgeting) to coordinate the interaction of the various staff
and line departmental functions. The environment in which the organization operates
includes investors, suppliers, governments (state and federal), bankers, accountants,
lawyers, competitors, etc.)
The organizational aspect of the business firm is illustrated in Figure 2.1. This
descriptive model shows that there are different levels of management. A commonly
used approach is to classify management into three levels: Top management, middle
management, and lower level management. The significance of a hierarchy of
management is that decision‑making occurs at three levels.
Basic Assumptions in Management Accounting
The framework of management accounting is based on a number of implied
assumptions. Although no single work has attempted to identify all of the assumptions,
Figure 2.1 • Conventional Organizational Chart
Board of
Vice-President Vice-President Vice-President
Marketing Production Finance
Manager Manager Manager
Cutting Dept Finishing Dept. Finishing Dept.
Balance Sheet
Management Accounting | 17
the major assumptions will be detailed below. Five categories of assumptions will be
1. Basic goals
2. Role of management
3. Nature of Decision‑making
4. Role of the accounting department
5. Nature of accounting information
Basic Goal Assumptions - The basic goals or objectives the business enterprise
may be multiple. For example, the goal may be to maximize net income. Other goals
could be to maximize sales, ROI, or earnings per share. Management accounting
does not require a specific of type of goal. However, whatever form the goal takes,
management will at all times try to achieve a satisfactory level of profit. A less than
satisfactory level of profit may portend a change in management.
Role of Management Assumptions - The success of the business depends
primarily upon the skill and abilities of management–which skills can vary widely
among different managers. The business is not completely at the mercy of market
forces. Management can through its actions (decisions) influence and control events
within limits. In order to achieve desired results, management makes use of specific
planning and control concepts and techniques. Planning and control techniques
which management may use include business budgeting, cost‑volume‑profit
analysis, incremental analysis, flexible budgeting, segmental contribution reporting,
inventory models, and capital budgeting models. Management, in order to improve
decision‑making and operating results, will evaluate performance through the use of
flexible budgets and variance analysis.
Decision-making Assumptions - A critical managerial function is decision‑
making. Decisions which management must make may be classified as marketing,
production, and financial. Decisions may also be classified as strategic and tactical
and long‑run and short‑run. A primary objective of decision‑making is to achieve
optimum utilization of the business’s capital or resources. Effective decision‑making
requires relevant information and special analysis of data.
Accounting Department Assumptions - The accounting department is a primary
source of information necessary in making‑decisions. The accounting department
is expected to provide information to all levels of management. Management will
consider the accounting department capable of providing data useful in making
marketing, production, and financial decisions.
Nature of Accounting Information - In order for the accounting department to
make meaningful analysis of data, it is necessary to distinguish between fixed and
variable costs and other types of costs that are not important in the recording of
business transactions. Some but not all of the information needed by management can
be provided from financial statements and historical accounting records. In addition to
historical data, management will expect the management accountant to provide other
types of data, such as estimates, forecasts, future data, and standards. Each specific
18 | CHAPTER TWO • Management Accounting and Decision-Making
managerial technique requires an identifiable type of information. The accounting
department will be expected to provide the information required by a specific tool. In
order for the accounting department to make many types of analysis, a separation of
costs into fixed and variable will be required. The management accountant need not
provide information beyond the relevant range of activity.
Implications of the Basic Assumptions
The assumption that there are three types of decisions,( marketing, production,
and financial) requires that management identify the specific decisions under each
category. The identification of specific decisions is critical because only then can the
appropriate managerial accounting technique be properly used.
Some typical management decisions of a manufacturing business include:
Marketing Production Financial
Pricing Units of equipment Issue of bonds
Sales forecast Factory workers’ wages Issue of stock
Number of sales people Overtime, second shift Bank loan
Sales people compensation Replacement of equipment Retirement of bonds
Number of products Inventory levels Dividends
Advertising Order size Investment in securities
Credit Suppliers
An understanding of financial statements is critical to the ability of management
to make good decisions. Financial statements, although prepared by accountants,
are actually created by management through the implementation of decisions. The
historical data from which accountants prepare financial statements result from actual
management decisions. The reader and user of financial statements is not primarily
the accountant but management. From a management accounting point of view, it is
management rather than accountants that needs to have the greater understanding
of financial statements.
The income statement and the balance sheet can be viewed as a descriptive
model for decision‑making. Financial statements reflect success or lack of success
in making decisions. Management can be deemed successful when the desired
income has been attained and financial position is considered sound. To achieve
managerial success management must manage successfully the assets, liabilities,
capital, revenue and expenses. Financial statements, then, serve as a ready and
convenient check list of decision‑making areas.
The basic balance sheet equation, of course, is A = L + C. A management
accounting interpretation is that the assets or resources come from the creditors
(liabilities) and the owners (capital). It is management responsibilities to manage
both sides of the equation. That is, management must make decisions about both the
resources (assets) and the sources of the assets (liabilities and capital).
Each item on the balance sheet is an area of management. Stated differently each
item on financial statements represents a critical area sensitive to mismanagement.
Management Accounting | 19
Cash, accounts receivable, inventory, fixed assets, accounts payable, etc. can be too
large or too small. Given this fact, then, for each item there must be the right amount
or optimum. It is management’s responsibility to make the best decision possible
regarding each item on the financial statements. Gross mismanagement of any single
item could either result in the failure of the business or the downfall of management.
Following are some examples of decisions associated with specific financial
statement items:
Balance Sheet Items Decision
Cash Minimum level
Accounts receivable Credit terms
Inventory Order size
Fixed asset Capacity size
Bonds payable Amount and interest rate
Income Statement Items
Sales Price, number of products, number
of sales people
Salesmen compensation Salaries and commission rate
Advertising Media, advertising budget
The statement that the management accountant will be required to furnish
information not of a historical nature means that the accountant will have to deal
with planned and estimated or future data. Furthermore, much of this data will be
not be found in the historical data bank from which the accountant prepares financial
statements. The management accountant may be required to do analysis requiring
data of an economic nature. For example, analysis of pricing may require data
about the company’s demand curve. Labor cost analysis may require estimating the
productivity of labor relative to various wage rates.
Decision-making in Management Accounting
In management accounting, decision‑making may be simply defined as choosing
a course of action from among alternatives. If there are no alternatives, then no
decision is required. A basis assumption is that the best decision is the one that
involves the most revenue or the least amount of cost. The task of management with
the help of the management accountant is to find the best alternative.
The process of making decisions is generally considered to involve the following
1 Identify the various alternatives for a given type of decision.
2. Obtain the necessary data necessary to evaluate the various alternatives.
3. Analyze and determine the consequences of each alternative.
4. Select the alternative that appears to best achieve the desired goals or
5. Implement the chosen alternative.
6. At an appropriate time, evaluate the results of the decisions against
standards or other desired results.
20 | CHAPTER TWO • Management Accounting and Decision-Making
From the descriptive model of the basic features and assumptions of the
management accounting perspective of business, it is easy to recognize that
decision‑making is the focal point of management accounting. The concept of
decision‑making is a complex subject with a vast amount of management literature
behind it. How businessmen make decisions has been intensively studied. In
management accounting, it is useful to classify decisions as:
1. Strategic and tactical
2. Short‑run and long‑run
Strategic and Tactical Decisions
In management accounting, the objective is not necessarily to make the best
decision but to make a good decision. Because of complex interacting relationships,
it is very difficult, even if possible, to determine the best decision. Management
decision‑making is highly subjective.
Whether a decision is good or acceptable depends on the goals and objectives of
management. Consequently, a prerequisite to decision‑making is that management
have set the organization’s goals and objectives. For example, management must
decide strategic objectives such as the company’s product line, pricing strategy,
quality of product, willingness to assume risk, and profit objective.
In setting goals and objectives, it is useful to distinguish between strategic and
tactical decisions. Strategic decisions are broad‑based, qualitative type of decisions
which include or reflect goals and objectives. Strategic decisions are non quantitative
in nature. Strategic decisions are based on the subjective thinking of management
concerning goals and objectives.
Tactical decisions are quantitative executable decisions which result directly from
the strategic decisions. The distinction between strategic and tactical is important in
management accounting because the techniques of management accounting pertain
primarily to tactical decisions. Management accounting does not typically provide
techniques for assisting in making strategic decisions.
Examples of strategic decisions and tactical decisions from a management
accounting point of view include:
Decision items Strategic Decisions Tactical Decisions
Cash Maintain minimum level
without excessive risk Specific level of cash
Accounts receivable Sell on credit Specific credit terms
Inventory Maintain safety stock Specific level of inventory
Price Be volume dealer by Specific price
setting price lower than
Once a strategic decision has been made, then a specific management tool can be
used to aid in making the tactical decision. For example, if the strategic decision has
been made to avoid stock outs, then a safety stock model may be used to determine
the desired level of inventory.
Management Accounting | 21
The classification of decisions as strategic and tactical logically results in thinking
about decisions as qualitative and quantitative. In management accounting, the
approach to decision‑making is basically quantitative. Management accounting deals
with those decisions that require quantitative data. In a technical sense, management
accounting consists of mathematical techniques or decision models that assist
management in making quantitative type decisions.
Examples of quantitative decisions include:
Decision Quantitative Criterion
Price Maximum income
Inventory order size Minimum total inventory cost
Purchase of new equipment Lowest operating costs
Credit terms Maximum net income/sales
Sales people compensation Minimum total compensation
Short‑run Versus Long-run Decision-making
The decision‑making process is complicated somewhat by the fact that the horizon
for making decisions may be for the short‑run or long‑run. The choice between the
short‑run or the long‑run is particularly critical concerning the setting of profitability
objectives. A fact of the real business world is that not all companies pursue the same
measures of success. Profitability objectives which management might choose to
maximize include:
1. Net income
2. Sales
3. Return on total assets
4. Return on total equity
5. Earnings per share
The decision‑making process is, consequently, affected by the profitability
objective and the choice of the long‑run versus the short‑run. If the objective is to
maximize sales, then the method of financing a new plant is not immediately important.
However, if the objective is to maximize short‑run net income, then management might
decide to issue stock rather than bonds to avoid interest expense. In the short‑run,
profits might suffer from expenditures for preventive maintenance or research and
development. In the long run, the company’s profit might be greater because of
preventive maintenance or research and development.
Although the interests of management and the organization may be presumed
to coincide, the possibility of making decisions for the short‑run may cause a conflict
in interests. An individual manager planning to make a career or job change might
have a tendency to make decisions that maximize profitability in the short‑run. The
motivation for pursuing short‑run profits may be to create a favorable resume.
The tools in management accounting such as C‑V‑P analysis, variance analysis,
budgeting, and incremental analysis are not designed to deal with long range
objectives and decision. The only tools that looks forward to more than one year
22 | CHAPTER TWO • Management Accounting and Decision-Making
are the capital budgeting models discussed in chapter 12. Consequently, the results
obtained from using management accounting tools should be interpreted as benefits
for the short‑run, and not necessarily the long‑run. Hopefully, decisions which clearly
benefit the short‑run will also benefit the long‑run. Nevertheless, it is important for the
management accountant, as well as management, to beware of possible conflicts
between short‑run and long‑run planning and decision‑making.
Management Accounting Decision Models
Management accounting consists of a set of tools that have been proven to be
useful in making decisions involving revenue and cost data. Even though many of
the techniques appear to be simplistic in nature, they have proven to be of consider‑
able value. A comprehensive list of the tools and their mathematical nature which
constitute management accounting appears in Appendix C of this book.
The techniques which are also listed in Figure 2.2 are all based on mathematical
equations or mathematical relationships. All of the techniques may be regarded
as mathematical decision‑making models. For example, the foundation of C‑V‑P
analysis is the equation: I = P(Q) - V(Q) - F. The mathematical models which form the
foundation of every tool are summarized in Appendix C to this book.
The approach described above concerning the use of financial statements as a
check list to identify decision‑making areas may also be used to identify the appropriate
management accounting technique. For every item on financial statements, there is
one or more appropriate management accounting technique.
The following illustrates the association of management accounting tools with
specific financial statement items.
Financial Statement Items Management Accounting Tools
Balance Sheet:
Cash Cash budget
Capital budgeting models
Accounts receivable Incremental analysis
Inventory EOQ models, Safety stock model
Fixed assets Incremental Analysis, Capital budgeting
Income Statement:
Sales C‑V‑P analysis, Segmental reporting
Incremental analysis
Expenses C‑V‑P analysis, Incremental analysis
Net income Direct costing
Management Accounting | 23
Figure 2.2 • Management Accounting Tools
1. Comprehensive business budgeting
2. Flexible budgeting and variance analysis
3. Variance analysis
4. Capital budgeting
5. Incremental analysis
Keep or replace
Additional volume of business
Credit analysis
Demand analysis
Sales people compensation analysis
Capacity analysis
6. Cost‑volume‑profit analysis
7. Cost behavior analysis
8. Return on investment analysis
9. Economic order quantity analysis
10. Safety stock/lead time analysis
11. Segmental reporting analysis
Decision-making and Required Information
The assumption that management will use management accounting tools in
making decisions places a burden on the management accountant. Each tool
requires special information. The management accountant will be asked to provide
the specialized information needed. Management accounting texts have traditionally
emphasized the mechanics of techniques with little emphasis on how to obtain the
necessary data. In many cases, the inability to obtain the required information has
rendered a particular technique useless.
The following illustrates the kind of information required for certain selected
Tools Required Information
Flexible budget Variable cost rates
Variance analysis Standard costs
EOQ models Purchasing cost, carrying cost
Incremental analysis Opportunity cost, escapable costs
Capital budgeting models Future cash inflows, future cash
Cost‑volume‑profit analysis Variable cost percentage, fixed cost,
desired income
24 | CHAPTER TWO • Management Accounting and Decision-Making
Comprehensive Management Accounting Decision Model
As the above discussion should make clear, decision‑making is a complex network
of interrelated decision variables. Management can face an overwhelming task if it tries
to identify every variable and minute decision relationship. One approach to dealing
with complexity is the development of models, both mathematical and descriptive for
the purpose of simulating only the relevant or more important variables. Management
accounting is, therefore, one approach to simplifying complex relationships by dealing
with key variables and models based on restricting assumptions.
The decision‑making process discussed in this chapter leads to the conclusion
from a management accounting perspective that there is a connecting link between
the following:
1. Financial statement items
2. Strategic and tactical decisions
3. Management accounting techniques
4. Decision‑making information
The relationships among these elements may be summarized by the following
Financial Strategic Tactical Management
Statement Items Decisions Decisions Accounting
Tools Information
These relationship as discussed may be used to develop a comprehensive
management accounting decision model for a manufacturing business. The complete
version of this model as it applies to a manufacturing firm from a management
accounting viewpoint is illustrated in the appendix to this chapter as Exhibits I, II, and
From a management accounting point of view the primary purpose of management
is to make decisions that may be classified as marketing, production, and financial.
The tactical decisions which must be preceded by strategic decisions provide the
historical data from which the accountant prepares financial statements. In addition
to being statements summarizing historical transactions, financial statements may be
regarded as a descriptive model for decision‑making. Every item or element on the
financial statements is the result of a decision or decisions. For each decision, there
exists a management accounting tool that may be used to make a good decision.
However, the management accounting tools can be used only if the management
accountant is successful in providing the information demanded by the particular
Management Accounting | 25
Appendix: Management Accounting Decision‑Making Model
Exhibit 1 Balance Sheet Model
Strategic Tactical Management Required
Decisions Decisions Accounting Tool Information
Cash Risk Minimum Cash budget Cash inflows
balance Cash outflows
Amount needed
Accounts Credit Credit terms Incremental analysis Additional sales
receivable Additional ex‑
Inventory Risk Order size, no. of EOQ model Purchasing cost
Materials Quality orders Carrying cost
Risk Supplier Demand
Finished Goods Safety stock Safety models Probability
Fixed Assets Capacity Depreciation Capital budgeting Cash inflows/out‑
Purchase/ methods flows
lease Rate of return Present value
Investments Risk/ Number of Capital budgeting Potential dividends
diversification shares / earnings
Accounts pay‑ Leverage Amount to pay/ Cost analysis Interest rate
able not pay Terms of credit
Notes payable Leverage Amount borrow/ ROI analysis Interest rate
Short‑term vs. repay Incremental analysis Cost of capital
long‑term Interest rate/
Bonds payable Leverage Shares to issue ROI analysis Interest rate
Short‑term Shares to retire Incremental analysis Cost of capital
versus Cost of capital ROI data
long‑term analysis
Common stock Leverage / risk Shares to issue ROI analysis Cost of capital
Amount needed Incremental analysis Cost of issuing
Cost of capital ROI data
Retained Internal Amount of Incremental analysis ROI data
earnings financing dividend Cost of capital Cost of capital
Risk Type of dividend analysis
26 | CHAPTER TWO • Management Accounting and Decision-Making
Exhibit 2 • Income Statement Model
Strategic Tactical Management Required
Decisions Decisions Accounting Information
Sales Market share Price Incremental Demand curve
Growth Number of analysis Fixed & variable
territories C‑V‑P analysis costs
Credit Cost behavior
Cost of goods sold (See exhibit 3) Amount of EOQ model Probability of
Beginning inventory Risk safety stock Safety stock stock out
Cost of goods mfd. model Purchasing costs
Ending inventory Carrying costs
Gross profit
Selling Motivation/turnover Salary Incremental Price of product
Sales people salaries Number of analysis Calls per month
Commissions Motivation/turnover sales people C‑V‑P analysis Fixed and vari‑
Sales people training Commission able costs
Travel Risk/volume rate Sales forecast
Advertising Number of new Market potential
Packaging Risk people Bad debt prob‑
Bad debts ability
Sales office rentals Amount of
Office operating advertising
Home office
Bad debt
General and Admin. Effective service Amounts of C‑V‑P analysis Fixed and vari‑
Executive salaries Turnover salaries able costs
Net income
Management Accounting | 27
Exhibit 3 • Cost of Goods Manufactured Model
Strategic Tactical Management Required
Decisions Decisions Accounting Tool Information
Materials Used
Materials (BI) Safety stock model Lead time
Material Quality Budgeted pro‑ Budgeted production Carrying cost
Purchases Standards duction Incremental analysis Purchasing cost
Suppliers EOQ model Demand
Order size
Number of orders
Sales forecast
Freight-in Suppliers Incremental analysis Quantity discount
List prices
Direct labor Productivity Wage rate Incremental analysis Fixed and variable
Motivation Number of Business budgeting costs
Capacity workers C‑V‑P analysis Relevant costs
Industry repu‑ Second shift/ Wage rates
tation overtime Productivity rates
New equipment
Variable Capacity Keep or replace Incremental analysis Variable cost rates
manufacturing Wage rates Cost factors
overhead Physical factors
Fixed Manufacturing Overhead
Fixed direct labor Capacity Keep or replace Incremental analysis Fixed and variable
C‑V‑P analysis product cost
Utilities Capacity Keep or replace Incremental analysis Fixed and variable
product cost
Production Capacity Incremental analysis Fixed and variable
planning product cost
Purchasing & Capacity Incremental analysis Fixed and variable
receiving product cost
Factory Capacity Incremental analysis Fixed and variable
insurance product cost
Depreciation, Capacity Keep or replace Incremental analysis Fixed and variable
equipment product cost
Deprecation, Capacity Incremental analysis Fixed and variable
building product cost
Factory supplies Capacity Incremental analysis Fixed and variable
product cost
28 | CHAPTER TWO • Management Accounting and Decision-Making
Q. 2.1 List four examples of strategic decisions.
Q. 2.2 List six examples of tactical decisions.
Q. 2.3 What type of financial goals may management set for the business?
Q. 2.4 What is the primary role of management in a business from a
management accounting point of view?
Q. 2.5 In what different ways may decisions be classified?
Q. 2.6 What kinds of information can the management accountant be expected
to provide to management?
Q. 2.7 Explain how financial statements can be used to identify the deci

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