Purpose – Budgets are commonly viewed as a central component of management control systems (MCS). The beyond budgeting literature argues that managers can develop other controls to replace budgets. We contribute to this literature by investigating the MCS package of an organisation which has never in its history had a budget.Design/methodology approach – We carry out an ethnomethodology informed case study at Mainfreight, a large multinational logistics company headquartered in New Zealand. Data was collected from interviews with managers and accountants, internal company documents, published corporate histories, a company presentation, the corporate web site and site visits.
Findings – We found that Mainfreight’s MCS package was explicitly designed based on cultural and administrative systems which supported the planning, cybernetic, and reward systems managers used to monitor key drivers of short and long term performance with a focus on profitability.
Research limitations/implications – The implication of our finding is that a more holistic view of the MCS package is necessary to understand how control is achieved within organisations that have moved beyond budgeting.
Practical implications – We show that organisations can operate without budgets and still maintain a high level of control by developing appropriate cultural and administrative control systems that are internally consistent with their planning, cybernetic, and reward systems.
Originality/value – The scarcity of organisations that have never had budgets limits opportunities to investigate an MCS package intended to function without budgets. This unique case setting reveals the design of an integrated non-budgeting MCS package.