Claire DAMBRIN () and Anne PEZET ()
Abstract: The investment procedure prescribes the stages and tests through which all investment projects must pass before being accepted or not. It governs the conditions of acceptability and constitutes a powerful device of a priori control. In this paper, we intend to understand how investment procedures enable grand ideals regarding investment to be institutionalised. In particular, over and above the assumed effectiveness and rationale of these procedures, we identify the mechanisms through which these procedures construct social roles. In this respect, this research goes beyond the procedures’ technical functions and focuses on the very form of procedures. Indeed, the form of a procedure presents two features: it is written, generally consigned to a “manual”; and it relies on “cognitive artefacts” (Norman, 1991) or “technologies of the intellect” (Goody, 1977) such as lists, tables and formulae like Discounted Cash Flow. This paper shows how this specific form takes effect during the process of institutionalisation, through which grand investment ideals (e.g. competitiveness, value creation) are transformed into concrete devices and into roles (Miller, 1991). Thanks to an enquiry conducted in 2003 and 2004, investment procedures in six large companies in a French context are analysed. It is argued that (1) the formalisation of the objectives of the procedures, as well as the definitions of investment through typologies shape the actors’ boundaries of action; (2) valuation methods based on the domination of economic-mathematical formula favour short-term over long-term reflection; (3) the setting of decision-making thresholds formalise individuals’ tasks and responsibilities. Therefore, the very form of procedures shape each phase of the institutionalisation process as defined by Hasselbladh and Kallinikos (2000) and contribute to creates a singular world – that of investment decisions.
28 pages, April 4, 2007
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