We use a field research design to examine management control systems in creative teams working in fashion firms. The study is structured as an in-depth case study followed by five additional cases. We find management control systems to be deeply embedded in the work environment of creative teams. They are designed to define, negotiate, and legitimize the designs that emerge from the creation process. We identify a set of systems (directional) that define the creative space of design teams and that work as interfaces with the rest of the company. We also find a set of systems (inspirational) that guide the creative process to enhance novelty and provide a common vision to support consistency across the overall collection of products designed. In addition, our analysis documents how firms following different strategies—fine fashion versus mass market—design these systems differently to adapt their creative process to their strategic demands.

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