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- Within organization studies, contingency theory has provided a coherent paradigm for the analysis of the structure of organizations. The paradigm has constituted a framework in which research progressed leading to the construction of a scientific body of knowledge... Contingency theory states that there is no single organizational structure that is highly effective for all organizations. It sees the structure that is optimal as varying according to certain factors such as organizational strategy or size. Thus the optimal structure is contingent upon these factors which are termed the contingency factors. For example, a small-sized organization, one that has few employees, is optimally structured by a centralized structure in which decision-making authority is concentrated at the top of the hierarchy, whereas a large organization, one that has many employees, is optimally structured by a decentralized structure in which decision-making authority is dispersed down to lower levels of the hierarchy.
- Lex Donaldson, "The normal science of structural contingency theory." Studying Organizations: Theory and Method. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage (1999): 51-70.
- The aim [of positivism in organization studies] is to reveal causal regularities that underlie surface reality.
- Lex Donaldson (2003; 41), as cited in: Walter R. Nord, Ann F. Connell (2012). Rethinking the Knowledge Controversy in Organization Studies. p. 150.
The contingency theory of organizations, 2001
Lex Donaldson, The contingency theory of organizations. Sage, 2001.
- Critics of structural contingency theory sometimes argue that it is not sensible for organizations to move into fit with their contingencies, because while the organization is changing its structure to fit the contingencies, the contingencies themselves change, so that the organizational structural change does not produce fit. Nevertheless, by moving towards the fit, the organization is decreasing misfit, and thereby increasing its performance relative to what it would be if it were to make no structural change.
- p. 23.
- Some scholars have argued strenuously against the idea that the organization is determined by its situation and have instead asserted that managers have free choice and are thereby to be held morally accountable (Bourgeois 1984; Whittington 1989). Contingency theory appears to some critics to be a managerially convenient ideology that justifies as inevitable organizational characteristics that are not really inevitable, because they are not really required for organizational effectiveness, and that injure the interests of employees *Schreyogg, 1980). Thus contingency theory is opposed by free choice.
- An intermediate position within this debate is that propounded by Child (1972), which he terms “strategic choice” (though he is talking about choice regarding structure). This takes the contingency theory of organizational structure but shows that some degree of choice can nevertheless enter in at several stages in the process.
- p. 127.
Quotes about Lex Donaldson
- Donaldson [is] a leading proponent of ‘sociological positivism’ in the field of organisation studies.
- Tony Watson and Marek Korczynski. Sociology, work and organisation. Routledge, 2011. p. 23.
- Lex Donaldson at UNSW Australia Business School