Strategic Contingencies Model of Power
R. A. Williams
BA590 - Organizational Behavior, Grantham University
July 5, 2011
The Strategic Contingency Theory is expostulated such that when an organization confronts a problem that threatens its existence the sub-unit that has the ability to successfully manage the problem will gain power and influence. This theory posits three variables to illustrate the exercise of power: uncertainty, substitutability, and centrality. Identified herein is a discussion of sub-units controlling contingencies of another’s activities and thus drawing power from the dependency created. It is proffered that the most effective strategic model of power is one that utilizes different skills as the complexities of the environments change. Further, it is through the exercise of power that an organization adapts to its environment. Each dominant group attempts to formalize its power through institutionalizing its policies. I submit that such power is transitory. I propose that power does not permanently reside with the same sub-unit, but rather revolves as environmental challenges emerge. There is a plausibility presented in some references that power resides with activities and not individuals. Perceptions of power as influence, allocating resources, and decision control, shift with environmental challenges. Engineers, production managers or attorneys rise to dominance when needed to meet specific challenges and are then supplanted when the organization utilizes other talents to meet the next wave of genre-specific threats. Reliance on the references noted targeted large companies, universities and hospitals. Most research to date has been in the form of case studies with few empirical works. The authorities cited are from Europe, Canada and the United States, thus limiting evaluations from an Occidental view. Keywords: uncertainty, substitutability, centrality, routinization.
The question addressed herein is the nature of power in organizations, its acquisition and retention. First, the definition of power is presented, and how it is recognized. Second, illustrations of power in action are discussed to appreciate its possession and exercise. Third, the articulation of power through various evolutions reflecting environmental challenges are compared among the various references. Power is the ability to get things done. It is most easily recognized when exercised or when referred to as influence. Power in an organization comes from varied sources and has several bases, depending on the individuals’ personality, organizational design or structure. In the Strategic Contingencies Model of Power, those that have the ability to successfully address problems that threaten the organization (or its essential activities) gain power over scarce resources and influence over strategic decision making; thus creating dependency among other sub-units. It is the exercise of power that enables an organization to successfully manage its problems and remain competitive while facing environmental challenges (both internal and external). The exercise of power may be witnessed through the influence of a sub-unit (or an individual) of the organization in its control of policies, scarce resources, choice assignments, favorable positions, and most significantly, the processing of strategic information. Strategic contingency power is possible because of its ability to leverage its influence into the dependency of other sub-units. Since organizations seek to avoid uncertainty, those sub-units which can cope with the uncertainty will acquire power over other sub-units within the organization. When these coping skills are rare and difficult to substitute, power is re-enforced. Essential processes or outputs may be disproportionately influenced by a central sub-unit, heightening the dependency of the others. This influence also creates a power platform exacerbating...
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