The social, political and economic evolution of Spain in the last decades has favored a fast process of adoption of MAS (Management Accounting Systems). However, this evolution has pushed it through a number of condensed growth phases for which other Western countries had considerable more time available.
Particularly, two different periods can be considered as relevant to understand the increasing importance of MAS. Firstly, the period from 1939-1975 and secondly, the period from 1975-1995. Up until the mid-1970s a sheltered economy and a dictatorship made MAS not relevant for management purposes in Spanish organizations. Instead of this, a strong social control combined with non-formal organizational mechanisms of control prevailed. However, in the last two decades, as a result of a decreasing profitability and the weakening of the previous coercive mechanisms of social control, MAS have been increasing their importance in a large number of Spanish organizations. The improvement of economic conditions during the period 1985-90, the entry of foreign multinationals and the profound social changes have helped to institutionalize MAS.
Based on a previous essay (Amat, 1992) which is further developed, this article explores the interactions between MAS and their organizational and social context in Spanish firms through the description and analysis of three companies. Since the analysis suggested in this technical note is based on the evidence of three case studies, its conclusions are exploratory in nature.