Bard MBA

Accounting & The Integrated Bottom Line

Fall, 2012
3 Credits

The key learning objectives for the course are:
  • Understanding how the choices of what you measure affect behavior and outcomes
  • Understanding why sustainability factors have traditionally been left out of accounting
  • Identifying measurement systems that provide mechanisms to address various stakeholder motivations and resource expectations
  • Identifying sources of potential risk
  • Understanding the control procedures to minimize risk
  • Using financial data to analyze decision alternatives and indentify consequences for profitability as well as relevant stakeholders
  • Understanding the risks and opportunities derived from choices made about cost structure of a firm
  • Understanding budgeting from a strategic and operational perspective
  • Assessing how inputs lead to outputs (and outcomes)
Student Outcomes:
The class is designed to teach students what should be measured and how it should be measured, and the role accounting plays in achieving strategic goals and managing stakeholder tensions.

  • Simons, Robert, Performance Measurement & Control Systems for Implementing Strategy: Text and Cases, Prentice Hall, 1999.
  • Zimmerman, Jerold, Accounting for Decision Making and Control – 6th Edition, McGraw Hill, 2008.
  • We’ll also include some key articles such as:
    • Gentile, Mary “Giving Voice to Values,” (Accounting case studies) Yale University Press, 2010.
    • Libby, Theresa, and R. Murray Lindsey, “Beyond Budgeting or Better Budgeting?” Strategic Finance, August 2007, p. 46-52.
    • Rose, F. “Big Stars – Huge Explosions! 3% Margins” Fortune, October 26, 1998, Vol 138, Iss. 8, pp. 52-54.
The course will be a combination of lectures, case studies, group discussions, and student projects. Active participation in class discussions will be essential. Grading will be determined by participation in in-class exercises, case and causality analysis, group presentations, completion of homework, and multiple exams.

Course Outline:
The Bard MBA curriculum is modular, with each module topic corresponding to a residency. The outline below provides the Accounting and the Integrated Bottom-Line set of topics for each of the semester’s modules, with each set of topics corresponding to three to four weeks of conventional instruction.




Managing and Measuring: We begin with a discussion of recent catastrophic business failures—and consider whether bad information systems were to blame, or whether managers failed to heed the warnings provided by those systems. We also introduce basic statistical concepts: central tendency, variance, and the normal distribution.


Causality and management. Measurement is only useful if it identifies the causal linkages between inputs and outputs. We will focus on performance measurement, non-financial performance management, understanding causality and evaluating how choices of what to measure affect behavior. We will highlight why sustainability factors have traditionally been left out of the accounting process.

Stakeholders and communication

Internal control and risk assessment. We will build an understanding of what impacts the quality of information being used to make decisions can have, as well as what managers can do to ensure the information produced by the organization can be relied upon. The focus will be on identifying and managing strategic risk – including environmental, social, stakeholder, etc.

Frames for decision making

Cost behavior and decision making. Here we focus on understanding the nature of costs and the consequences of different cost structures on short and long-term risks and opportunities.

Budget creation and monitoring. The examination of budgeting from a strategic, operational perspective (planning and analysis). Also, we will consider the financial consequences of changing strategies, as well as how resource allocations impact various stakeholder groups.

The new information landscape

Activity analysis. We will focus on inputs and their affect on outcomes, activity-based costing, material flow cost accounting, GRI reporting, carbon accounting.