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Institutionalised practices – a simple example


In my research work, I write and read a lot about how accounting practices become taken-for-granted within organisations. This taken-for-grantedness might be equated with the term “institutionalised”, based on theories from economics and sociology.  When we think of the term institutionalised, we often associate with things like being in jail for too long, or something that’s more physical like the an Institute of Engineers. But, it can be something far more fluffy. While driving to work in early December, a useful example came to mind as I listened to the radio. It was December 1st, and an Irish radio DJ called Larry Gogan is typically accepted as the person to play the first Christmas song on the Irish airwaves – it was Fairytale of New York for Christmas 2011 just in case you’re interested.  It is not written down anywhere that Larry does this, and to be honest I don’t know how this practice came about. But radio listeners know that Larry is expected to play the first Christmas song each year. In other words, it is an institutionalised practice. And what happens is something tries to change this? After a quick search I found some comments from 2006 on a boards site:


Every year on 2fm Larry Gogan plays the first christmas song on the radio, usually in the first week of december, Apparently Gerry Ryan went and broke the tradition thats nearly 25 years old, i’m a little bit pissed off about that, larry is like a national treasure, you shouldn’t mess with him, boo gerry boo i say

I hope he gets a rap on the knuckles / kick in the balls for stealing Larry’s thunder. If he wants to do it after Larry has gone to the Great Microphone in the Sky (not for many years yet, I hope, I hasten to add), fair enough, but he shouldn’t have upstaged Larry like that  

These quotes/posts above show that some people did not like the fact that another DJ broke the accepted practice. This is quite typical when change to any institutional practices is attempted. Similarly, in the world of accounting, there may be practices which are just accepted as how things should be done. Trying to change these can be tricky, but if we can understand why such practices became institutionalised, then we might be able to foster some change.

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About martinjquinn

I am an accounting academic, accountant and author based near Dublin, Ireland.

One response to “Institutionalised practices – a simple example”

  1. lecturersnotes says :

    And sometimes the external conditions and circumstances are so unusual that they leave no other choice than change. You can’t play a video game with a hammer, so go and buy a controller! 😉

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