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The Influence of Constraints on Organizations

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Contingency Theory

Summary of Contingency Theory. Abstract

Fred Fiedler

Hersey & Blanchard

Vroom & Yetton

Contingency theories (CT) are a class of behavioral theory that contend that there is no one best way of organizing / leading and that an organizational / leadership style that is effective in some situations may not be successful in others. In other words: The optimal organization / leadership style is contingent upon various internal and external constraints.

These constraints may include: the size of the organization, how it adapts to its environment, differences among resources and operations activities, managerial assumptions about employees, strategies, technologies used, etc.

Four important ideas of CT are:

1. There is no universal or one best way to manage
2. The design of an organizations and its subsystems must 'fit' with the environment
3. Effective organizations not only have a proper 'fit' with the environment but also between its subsystems and
4. The needs of an organization are better satisfied when it is properly designed and the management style is appropriate both to the tasks undertaken and the nature of the work group.

CT of leadership:

In CT of leadership, the success of the leader is a function of various contingencies in the form of subordinate, task, and/or group variables. The effectiveness of a given pattern of leader behavior is contingent upon the demands imposed by the situation. These theories stress using different styles of leadership appropriate to the needs created by different organizational situations. No single contingency theory has been postulated. Some of the theories are:

Fiedlerís CT: Fiedlers theory is the earliest and most extensively researched. Fiedlerís approach departs from trait and behavioral models by asserting that group performance is contingent on the leaderís psychological orientation and on three contextual variables: group atmosphere, task structure, and leaderís power position. This theory explains that group performance is a result of interaction of two factors. These factors are known as leadership style and situational favorableness. In Fiedler's model, leadership effectiveness is the result of interaction between the style of the leader and the characteristics of the environment in which the leader works.

Hersey & Blanchardís situational theory: This theory is an extension of Blake and Moutonís Managerial Grid Model and Reddinís 3-D management style theory. With this model came the expansion of the notion of relationship and task dimensions to leadership and adds a readiness dimension.

CT of decision making

Vroom and Yettonís decision participation CT or the Normative decision theory: According to this model, the effectiveness of a decision procedure depends upon a number of aspects of the situation: the importance of the decision quality and acceptance; the amount of relevant information possessed by the leader and subordinates; the likelihood that subordinates will accept an autocratic decision or cooperate in trying to make a good decision if allowed to participate; the amount of disagreement among subordinates with respect to their preferred alternatives.

CT is similar to situational theory in that there is an assumption of no simple one right way. The main difference is that situational theory tends to focus more on the behaviors that the leader should adopt, given situational factors (often about follower behavior), whereas CT takes a broader view that includes contingent factors about leader capability and other variables within the situation.

👀TIP: On this website you can find much more about the lack of a universal best way and Contingency Theory!

Compare with Contingency Theory:  Leadership Styles  |  Mechanistic and Organic Systems  |  Six Change Approaches  |  Core Groups  |  Groupthink  |  Levels of Culture  |  Changing Organization Cultures  |  Leadership Continuum  | 
Cultural Intelligence  |  Scenario Planning  |  Results-Based Leadership

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