Contingency Theory

Topics: Leadership, Fiedler contingency model / Pages: 9 (2249 words) / Published: Aug 8th, 2013
CONTINGENCY THEORY

Contingency Theory is a class of behavioral theory that claims that there is no best way to organize a corporation, to lead a company, or to make decisions. Instead, the optimal course of action is contingent (dependent) upon the internal and external situation. The leading practitioners of which were Tom Burns, Joan Woodward, Paul Lawrence, Jay Lorsch, and Fred Fiedler, an otherwise theoretically eclectic group who were nevertheless united in their belief that no single organizational structure was inherently more efficient than all others. Rather, since organizations differed in the tasks they performed and environments they faced, the appropriate organizational structure was in each case a function of such factors as technology, market, and the predictability of tasks.
Joan Woodward was a pioneer for empirical research in organizational structures and author of analytical frameworks that establish the link between technology and production systems and their role in shaping effective organizational structures. She classified the technology into Unit based or (Small scale), Mass based or (large scale) and Continuous process organizations. All successful organizations in these categories, according to her, were having a particular organizational structure. She wrote a book entitled, Industrial Organization: Theory and Practice which has rightly been described as a "classic" in the history of organizational theory. First published in 1965, the book stood in marked contrast to the traditions of scientific management. In doing so, Woodward offered lasting insights into issues of levels of hierarchy and spans of management control - issues that today might be discussed in terms of "delayering" and "process re-engineering".
Jay Lorsch and Paul Lawrence (Organization and Environment, 1967) found, in a study of ten firms in three different industrial environments (plastics, food, containers) in the United States, that the degree of uncertainty in



Bibliography: Bedeian, Arthur G., and William F. Gleuck. Management: Third Edition. Chicago: Dreyden Press, 1983. Dunham, Randall B. Organizational Behavior. Homewood, Illinois: Richard D. Irwin, 1984. Gannon, Martin J. Management: An Integrated Framework. Boston: Little, Brown, 1982. Gray, Jerry L., and Frederick A. Starke. Organizational Behavior: Concepts and Applications. Columbus, Ohio: Merril, 1988. By Patrick Antoine www.sociologycs.com/contingency-theory.htm#sthash.dOa4fE7m.dpuf www.wikipedia.com

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