Simons' 'levers of control' framework indicates that an interactive use of management control systems (MCS) contributes to fostering successful product innovation. However, his work is ambiguous in not specifying whether the relationship between interactive controls and innovation is a mediating or a moderating relationship. This paper examines the relationships among variables embedded in Simons' framework of levers of control, explicitly distinguishing the different types of effects involved and testing their significance. The results of the survey-based research do not support the postulate that an interactive use of MCS favours innovation. They suggest this may be the case only in low-innovating firms, while the effect is in the opposite direction in high-innovating firms. No evidence is found either in favour of an indirect effect of the interactive use of MCS on performance acting through innovation. In contrast, the proposition that the impact of innovation on performance is moderated by the style of use of MCS is supported, with results indicating that the explanatory power of a model that regresses performance on innovation is significantly enhanced by the inclusion of this moderating effect.