PurposeInterest has grown in how management controls operate together as a package of interrelated mechanisms. This study aims to contribute to the topic by focusing on a single industry in one country, addressing controls in medium-sized enterprises (MEs). It explores how accounting and other forms of control commonly combine and the associations these combinations have with firm characteristics and context. Design/methodology/approachThis study used a cross-sectional sample of 242 firms. Data were collected in 2015 from a survey of the Italian mechanical-engineering industry. FindingsThe MEs studied used two different control configurations. One group relatively strongly emphasized most studied controls, except for centralizing decision-making and strong hierarchy; the other relied on centralization and emphasized other controls less. Size, task programmability, outcome measurability, complexity in terms of the extensiveness of the product range and environmental unpredictability can predict the configuration in use. Originality/valueNo broad-based empirical evidence on control configurations in MEs currently exists. Previous research has focused on to what extent control systems affect business effectiveness or efficiency, without assessing how, and in which contexts, they combine.
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