The Contingency Theory

William Meller - The Contingency Theory
A contingency theory is an organizational theory that claims that there is no best way to organize a corporation, lead a company, or make decisions. 

Two earlier research programs focused on identifying effective leadership behaviors that influenced the contingency approach to leadership. 

Researchers at Ohio State University administered extensive questionnaires measuring potential leadership behaviors in various organizational contexts during the 1950s. 

Early research on contingency theory points out that such variables as the style of leadership, job design, participation in decision-making, and organizational structure are critical to understanding what will lead to a good overall managerial outcome.

It was found that two types of behaviors were particularly characteristic of effective leaders based on the results of these questionnaires: consideration leader behaviors and initiating structure leader behaviors.

Among consideration leader behaviors are building a good rapport with subordinates and showing support.

In contrast, initiating structure leader behaviors ensure goal attainment and task completion (role assignment, planning, scheduling, etc.).

In parallel, researchers from the University of Michigan's Survey Research Center conducted interviews and distributed questionnaires. 

To assess effective leadership behaviors, they collected measures of group productivity. 

The University of Chicago leadership behavior categories were similar to the Ohio State study's consideration and initiating structure behaviors. 

These leadership behaviors, however, were referred to as relation-oriented behavior by the University of Michigan investigators. 

It was later proposed by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton in 1964 that effective leaders score high on both of these behaviors.

The Agile community often talks about servant leadership. But there are other modes of leadership too, and they are all important.

A leader can be someone who inspires. 

A leader can be someone who you trust. 

A leader can be someone who gets everyone organized. 

A leader can be someone who keeps the pace up. 

A leader can be someone who represents us to others. 

A leader can be someone who takes care of the things that would distract us or block us so that we can focus. 

A leader can be someone who has shown great competency. 

A leader can be someone who has great ideas.

Although servant leadership is a powerful model, it is only one model, and for real teams and organizations, many different models are needed.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Toyota managers stated that the more Americans and Europeans visited them and attempted to understand their process in detail and replicate it in their factories in order to have the benefits of Lean, the further they distanced themselves from its success. 

The key was in the mindset, in the interaction between the organization's culture and the microculture of its teams.

According to the contingency approach, processes, tools, and structures are not irrelevant, nor is leadership style a critical success factor. 

However, organizational success depends on the interaction between internal and external factors, permeating the organization's culture and ecosystem, and is therefore a result of the equation.

Although some adopt agile methods, they still believe that their way is the only way, even geniuses can go wildly awry when disregarding that environmental variables must be considered, as well as intelligent life that is beyond their control.

A fatal mistake would be to copy the model of another company and call it something like a "Spotify Model". Isn't this weird?

The premise of contingency theories is that context matters. Until one knows the situation, one cannot determine the best approach. 

Therefore, there is no such thing as a "best practice" - there are only possible practices, from which one can choose the best one.

The essence of the Contingency Theory is that there is no single ideal organizational model, and every model is subject to contingency against its internal and external reality. 

The success of an organizational model must be studied, but it would be foolish to copy it without understanding its context. 

There are still companies that implement Agile methods in hopes of making more money, doing more with less in a shorter amount of time, and doing more with less without giving up a single inch of the command-control and industrial model of getting the most out of their workers until they get exhausted. 

The time to market, reprioritization, and exploitation cannot be achieved when everyone knows they cannot fail, cannot change the plan, and must agree to all manager requests.

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