Purpose – Tremendous change has taken place in organisational structures, networks and strategy
over the past 25 years. Yet, a strategic management framework developed 25 years ago has increased in
popularity among researchers in the past decade. This paper aims to review how Simons’ Levers of
Control (LOC) framework has been used in empirical research studies over the past 25 years.
Design/methodology/approach – The findings are based on electronic database searches of papers
adopting Simons’ framework published in accounting and management journals.
Findings – A total of 45 empirical studies adopting the LOC framework are presented chronologically
by research method. The review highlights the far greater use of the framework in qualitative compared
to quantitative studies. Qualitative studies have extended the application of the framework to broader
organisational issues such as sustainability, environmental accounting and inter-organisational
controls. The quantitative studies have mainly sought to add to our understanding of the antecedents
and outcomes of the use of interactive control systems.
Originality/value – This paper furthers our understanding of Simons’ framework by synthesising
and analysing the literature over 25 years. It provides insight into the varying interpretations of the
concepts underlying the framework in empirical studies including differences in operationalisation of
the concepts in quantitative studies. In addition, it highlights the application of the framework beyond
the original domain in which it was developed. Fruitful areas for future research are pointed to in the