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Interventionist research in management accounting: promoting engagement through face-to-face dialogues


Purpose This paper explores face-to-face dialogues between practitioners and interventionist researchers in the management accounting (MA) field during real-time interactions for the development of accounting devices. It aims to shed light on whether and how these dialogues can affect the construction of meanings around the devices, thereby influencing the course of interventionist research (IVR) projects. Design/methodology/approach This study presents a reflective analysis (both in itinere and ex-post) of an IVR project conducted by one of the authors within a healthcare organisation. It draws on a dialogical perspective to delve into the conversations between the author and the organisation's chief executive officer (CEO) during one-to-one meetings for developing a new strategic dashboard. Findings The findings show that a lack of alignment between the images invoked by verbal forms and the device representations can hinder accounting IVR projects. Obstacles can be overcome when the researcher, by acting upon verbal forms and device representations that mutually reinforce each other, shapes the practitioner's expectations creating shared meanings around the device. This occurs during face-to-face interactions in which the researcher recognises the trialogue with the practitioner and the device, thereby affecting the practitioner's mode of engagement. Originality/value This paper contributes to improving the understanding of how researchers can affect practitioners' conceptualisation of accounting devices through the real-time experience of face-to-face dialogues. In doing so, it sheds light on the potential for IVR in MA to embrace a dialogical perspective. The paper also contributes more broadly to studies on the relationship between verbal and written accounting forms.