The purpose of this thesis is to examine how managers mobilise non-financial performance information (NFPI) within an Australian financial institution. The thesis contains published work and uses a narrative approach to build on top of the three empirical papers. This narrative approach is used as both a theory and method. Data was collected from one Australian financial institution and included interviews with 14 executives and 45 employees, employee newsletters (2003-07), annual reports (2003-07), external stakeholder reports (2003-07) and internal strategy documents (2004-06). Narrative analysis was used to provide an understanding of the workings of the organisation by linking the past events to understand the mobilisation of NFPI. The rich detailed information found in the three individual papers was recast in this thesis into stories containing a plot, to understand how managers mobilised NFPI in the organisation.
Managers found it a challenge to use NFPI frameworks because these frameworks tried to separate the individual elements (such as human capital, structural capital and relational capital). It was found that these non-financial elements worked in a network with each other and could not individually be put to work when they were separated. Also, it was found that the functioning of non-financial resources, such as intellectual capital, required inputs of financial resources. The managers faced many trials while using NFPI because these non-financial resources were constantly moderated by unacknowledged conditions and unintended effects.
A plot was identified for each of the three empirical papers. Paper 1 was classified as a „tragedy‟, paper 2 classified as „satire‟ and paper 3 was classified as „romance‟. When financial resources interfered with the functioning of the back office (BO) „tragedy‟ was exhibited as the managers had to make decisions based on economisation and rationalisation
of financial resources. When the internal and external documents highlighted that non-financial resources could be separated and evaluated individually, „satire‟ was exhibited. It was found that when managers tried to mobilise one intellectual capital element, it impacted on another intellectual capital element, due to constrained financial resources. However, by using a discourse on „workplace flexibility‟ managers were successful in mobilising non-financial resources, as the need for financial resource investment was insignificant, exhibiting a „romantic‟ drama.
In this thesis, the narrative approach is considered as a frame of reference, a way of reflecting during the entire inquiry process, a research method, and a mode for representing the study. The thesis uses narratives to show the complexities that managers face while mobilising NFPI in practice. By using a narrative approach, this thesis portrays an actual organisational experience that questions common understandings and offers a degree of interpretive space.
When major plots are identified comparison is possible. Tragic narratives focus attention on problem areas and crisis; satiric plots locate decision points that direct attention transitions where different actions lead to different results; romantic narratives suit processes where management actions lead to (expected) results. By reviewing and synthesising the literature and using a narrative approach, this thesis provides an important source of reference for future researchers and policy makers who wish to understand how managers mobilise NFPI in a large organisation. It also provides significant empirical evidence about how non-financial performance information is mobilised within an organisational setting.