Contemporary Theories of Management
Basically, contingency theory asserts that when managers make a decision, they must take into account all aspects of the current situation and act on those aspects that are key to the situation at hand. Basically, it’s the approach that “it depends.” For example, the continuing effort to identify the best leadership or management style might now conclude that the best style depends on the situation. If one is leading troops in the Persian Gulf, an autocratic style is probably best (of course, many might argue here, too). If one is leading a hospital or university, a more participative and facilitative leadership style is probably best. ...view middle of the document...
Feedback also comes from the larger environment of the organization, e.g., influences from government, society, economics, and technologies. This overall system framework applies to any system, including subsystems (departments, programs, etc.) in the overall organization.
Systems theory may seem quite basic. Yet, decades of management training and practices in the workplace have not followed this theory. Only recently, with tremendous changes facing organizations and how they operate, have educators and managers come to face this new way of looking at things. This interpretation has brought about a significant change (or paradigm shift) in the way management studies and approaches organizations.
The effect of systems theory in management is that writers, educators, consultants, etc. are helping managers to look at the organization from a broader perspective. Systems theory has brought a new perspective for managers to interpret patterns and events in the workplace. They recognize the various parts of the organization, and, in particular, the interrelations of the parts, e.g., the coordination of central administration with its programs, engineering with manufacturing, supervisors with workers, etc. This is a major development. In the past, managers typically took one part and focused on that. Then they moved all attention to another part. The problem was that an organization could, e.g., have a wonderful central administration and wonderful set of teachers, but the departments didn’t synchronize at all. See the category Systems Thinking
As chaotic and random as world events seem today, they seem as chaotic in organizations, too. Yet for decades, managers have acted on the basis that organizational events can always be controlled. A new theory (or some say “science”), chaos theory, recognizes that events indeed are rarely controlled. Many chaos theorists (as do systems theorists) refer to biological systems when explaining their theory. They suggest that systems naturally go to more complexity, and as they do so, these systems become more volatile (or susceptible to cataclysmic events) and must expend more energy to maintain that complexity. As they expend more energy, they seek more structure to maintain stability. This trend continues until the system splits, combines with another complex system or falls apart entirely. Sound familiar? This trend is what many see as the trend in life, in organizations and the world in general.
Additional Sources of Management Theory
Information, Management Decision Making
Knowing What a Manager Does
Introduction to Management and Organizational Behavior
More Links on the History of Management
What is Scientific Management?
AOM's Management History Divisions' Web Site
Development of Management Thought
A Brief History of Management
The Four Contemporary Approaches to Management
1. Sociotechnical Systems
2. Quantitative Management