Assumes an organization's social system consists of concrete empirical phenomena that exist independently of the managers and employees that work there, ie. a realist ontology. Human nature is taken to be calculative and instrumentally rational, but essentially passive .
Functionalists therefore apply the methodologies used in the natural sciences to analyze the way organizational control systems work. hey describe the variables (eg.environment, strategy, technology, uncertainty) that lead to patterned variations in control systems, propose hypotheses, collect quantitative data and undertake statistical analysis. They assume they are neutral, objective and value-free observers of the management accounting and control systems they are observing: they are "positivistic" researchers. he existing power and political structures are treated as "given" and unproblematic.
Their overriding aim is to make management accounting and control systems function more effectively, to achieve better regulation and control of the status quo by eliminating behavioural dysfunctions and so ensure goal convergence. Issues of power and conflict in organizations and society as a whole are usually ignored.
Accordingly, they search for workable solutions to practical problems which will help accountants and managers achieve a better alignment of these systems with other organizational elements and forces. While it has several variations (eg.cybernetic systems theory, a mechanistic-organic model, etc), structural functionalism is the traditional, dominant paradigm for most management accounting and control systems thinking.
First, the focus is not only on getting the organization to run more smoothly, but also to produce rich and deep understandings of how managers and employees in organizations think about, interact and use management accounting and control systems – interactionists write cross sectional and longitudinal case studies about the way managers and accountants make sense of these systems.
Second, interactionists do not believe in the existence of any one single, objective, concrete organizational reality – each organizational actor interprets the situation in his or her own way and their reactions to events and situations are framed by their personal interpretations.
For interactionists, the meaning of an accounting system does not come from social structures that exist independently from accountants and managers, nor are they the result of a manager's psychological makeup; rather, they take on meaning only within the context of the situation and the people involved – the organizational world is socially constructed, dialogic and hermeneutical.