Contingency approach, also known as situational approach, is a concept in management stating that there is no one universally applicable set of management principles (rules) by which to manage organizations. Organizations are individually different, face different situations (contingency variables), and require different ways of managing. Contingency approaches remain less common than change management approaches.
Contingency approach evolved during the 1960s. Management theory and research began to adopt a new orientation, one that embodied a simple concept and enabled significant advancements in the study of management and organizations, now referred to as the contingency approach. It emphasised the importance of situational influences on the management of organisations and questioned the existence of a single, best way to manage or organise. Today, the contingency approach dominates theory and research in the management literature. Contingency approach challenged the classic process and models designed by management theorists such as Taylor and Fayol. Various researchers concentrated on different contextual factors. Joan Woodward (1958) studied the production technology, Blau and Schoenherr (1971) the size of the organizations, Burns and Stalker (1961) as well as Lawrence and Lorsch (1967) into the economic environment, in particular market competition and technological change. A broader approach was developed by a British team of researchers at the University of Aston, widely known as Aston Group by developing a conceptual scheme for the comparative analysis of organizational structure which took account of several contextual factors at the same time (Pugh & Hickson et al., 1963).
A conceptual model of the contingency approach was developed by Kieser and Kubicek. According to the model, the formal structure of an organization defines the roles of its members in a specific way and thereby directs their behaviour to a certain degree. The performance of the organization depends on the degree to which these role definitions enable members to cope with the requirements resulting from the context of the organization.
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- Kubicek, H. (1975). Empirische Organisationsforschung. Stuttgart.
- Valarie A. Zeithaml, P. "Rajan" Varadarajan, Carl P. Zeithaml, The Contingency Approach Contingency, its Foundations and Relevance Approach to Theory Building and Research in Marketing
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- Pugh, D. S. & Hinings, C. R.. (eds) (1976). Organizational Structure. Extensions and Replications. The Aston Programme II. Westmead – Farnborough.
- Pugh, D. S. & Payne, R. L. (eds) (1977). Organizational Behavior in Iis Context. The Aston Programme III. Westmead – Farnborough.