Contingency Theories in Management

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This essay sets out to show where the four popular management contingency variables of organisational size, routineness of task technology, environmental uncertainty and individual differences are reflected in the work of the manager that was interviewed. Using classical theories of Fayol, Mintzberg and Katz along practical examples from the managers’ day-to-day routine, this essay sets out to explain how these theories and functions impact upon how the manager applies the situational approach to management using the contemporary and widely accepted contingency theories.

The manager that was interviewed was Mr. Luke Jecks, the Director of Sales and Marketing within an Australian-based organisation in the private sector, Cellarmaster Wines. With over three hundred staff, the organisation is Australia’s largest selling direct retailer of wines, selling over one million cases of wine per annum to in excess of three hundred thousand club members a year, as well as exporting to international markets, namely the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Cellarmaster Wines uses various forms of direct marketing, but predominantly focuses on Internet, print media and telemarketing to sell to their club members.

Being a top-level manager, Mr. Jecks, performs an extremely diversified number of roles within his position, but Mr. Jecks’ main focus is defining marketing strategies, allocating advertising activities and budgets, motivating sales staff and other members of the organisation and monitoring the external sales environment. In applying the situational approach to the dynamic and ever-changing organisational environment, Mr. Jecks applies various roles and functions outlined by the classical management theorists, Fayol, Katz and Mintzberg, in order to co-ordinate the organisation using the contemporary contingency approach.

The contingency approach to management is based on the idea that there is no one best way to best way to manage and in order to be effective, planning, organising, leading and controlling must be tailored to the particular circumstances faced by an organisation. (Robbins, Bergman, Stagg and Coulter, 2009). This open system perspective stresses the importance of organisations facing different contingencies, and thus requires different styles of management (Robbins et al, 2009) Managers must implement different ways of managing in line with the four popular contingency variables; organisational size, routineness of task technology, environmental uncertainty and individual differences.

Organisational size is significant as it impacts on the effectiveness of different organisations (Barnett, 2006). The larger the organisation, the delegation of tasks and goals becomes more fragmented, and coordination becomes more difficult. Due to the relatively large number of subordinates, Mr. Jecks applies Fayols’ principle of Division of work, as Fayol (as cited in Rodriques, 2001 p.19-20) states “work can be performed more efficiently and more productively if it is divided into smaller elements to specific workers.” Mr. Jecks sets clear and transparent work plans and allocates human resources to carry out the plans. Katz’s human skills are also applied by Mr. Jecks, which is defined by Katz (1955, p.91) as the “ability to work co-operatively with others, to communicate effectively, to resolve conflict and be a team player”. Within the organisation, Mr. Jecks must apply this skill in order to be effective in administering work plans to other heads of departments and individuals, so that organisational plans can be accomplished. The interpersonal role of leader outlined by Mintzberg (1975,p.54) states that “because he is in charge of and organisational unit, the manager is responsible for the work of the people of that unit.” Mintzberg (1979) also states that mangers lead on a group level, especially by building and managing teams. This role is reflected when Mr. Jecks addresses the organisational contingency by...
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