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Time estimation errors in costing systems

Sophie Maussen & Sophie Hoozée (Ghent University)

In a recent article, published in the European Accounting Review, we experimentally studied the joint impact of task interruption and interactive time estimation on the accuracy of time estimates.

Employee estimates of task duration constitute an important element of many organizations’ costing systems. As time estimates are subject to estimation error, they may be a source of measurement error, and, subsequently, result in distortions in product and service costs, which has important consequences for decision making. In modern work contexts (e.g., multitasking), about 71% of people are frequently interrupted. These task interruptions increase cognitive load, which may have detrimental consequences for time estimation accuracy, according to the attentional-gate model (Zakay & Block, 1995). Relying on the judgment and decision-making (JDM) literature, we argue, however, that managers may offset the negative effect of task interruption on time estimation accuracy by designing the estimation process such that it enables employees to interact when estimating their task durations.

Results of our lab experiment show that interactive time estimation indeed mitigates the negative effect of task interruption on time estimation accuracy. Process tests reveal that our findings can be explained by the underlying effects of cognitive load and confidence in own judgment. In addition to the contributions to the cost accounting literature, the accounting literature more generally, and the cognitive psychology literature, our study has important managerial implications. In particular, our study adds to the understanding of measurement error induced by estimation errors in time-based costing systems. Since inaccurate cost information has important detrimental consequences for decision making, organizations can benefit from our results through enhanced understanding of the impact of certain task characteristics and the time estimation process on errors in their costing system. Based on our results, we encourage managers to enable an interactive estimation process when designing their time-based costing systems.

Read our full article: https://doi.org/10.1080/09638180.2020.1826339

To cite this article: Maussen, S., & Hoozée, S. (2020). On the influence of task interruption and interactive time estimation on estimation error in time-based costing systems. European Accounting Review.

 

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About sophie.maussen@ugent.be

GHENT UNIVERSITY
Assistant Professor

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