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  • During the by 30 years, managers have been bombarded with 2 competing approaches to the problems of human assistants and organization. The first, usually called the classical school of organization, emphasizes the need for well-established lines of authority, conspicuously divers jobs, and authorisation equal to responsibility. The 2nd, often called the participative arroyo, focuses on the desirability of involving organisation members in decision making so that they will be more highly motivated.

    Douglas McGregor, through his well-known “Theory X and Theory Y,” drew a distinction between the assumptions about human being motivation which underlie these two approaches, to this effect:

    • Theory X assumes that people dislike work and must exist coerced, controlled, and directed toward organizational goals. Furthermore, most people prefer to exist treated this mode, so they can avoid responsibility.
    • Theory Y—the integration of goals—emphasizes the average person’s intrinsic involvement in his work, his desire to exist self-directing and to seek responsibility, and his capacity to be creative in solving business problems.

    It is McGregor’s conclusion, of course, that the latter approach to organization is the more desirable i for managers to follow.1

    McGregor’south position causes confusion for the managers who endeavor to cull betwixt these two alien approaches. The classical organizational approach that McGregor associated with Theory Ten does piece of work well in some situations, although, as McGregor himself pointed out, there are also some situations where information technology does not work effectively. At the aforementioned time, the approach based on Theory Y, while it has produced good results in some situations, does not always do and then. That is, each arroyo is effective in some cases but not in others. Why is this? How tin managers resolve the confusion?

    A New Approach

    Contempo work by a number of students of management and organization may help to answer such questions.2
    These studies indicate that there is not one best organizational approach; rather, the best approach depends on the nature of the work to be done. Enterprises with highly predictable tasks perform ameliorate with organizations characterized by the highly formalized procedures and management hierarchies of the classical approach. With highly uncertain tasks that require more extensive problem solving, on the other manus, organizations that are less formalized and emphasize self-control and fellow member participation in decision making are more than effective. In essence, co-ordinate to these newer studies, managers must pattern and develop organizations so that the organizational characteristics
    the nature of the task to be done.

    While the conclusions of this newer approach volition brand sense to most experienced managers and can alleviate much of the defoliation virtually which arroyo to choose, there are nevertheless two important questions unanswered:

    1. How does the more than formalized and controlling organization bear on the motivation of organisation members? (McGregor’s virtually telling criticism of the classical approach was that it did not unleash the potential in an enterprise’south man resources.)

    2. Equally of import, does a less formalized organization always provide a loftier level of motivation for its members? (This is the implication many managers accept drawn from McGregor’s work.)

    Nosotros have recently been involved in a report that provides surprising answers to these questions and, when taken together with other recent work, suggests a new set up of basic assumptions which move beyond Theory Y into what we call “Contingency Theory: the fit between task, organization, and people.” These theoretical assumptions emphasize that the appropriate pattern of arrangement is
    on the nature of the work to be done and on the particular needs of the people involved. Nosotros should emphasize that we have labeled these assumptions as a step beyond Theory Y because of McGregor’southward ain recognition that the Theory Y assumptions would probably exist supplanted by new noesis inside a brusk time.iii

    The Study Design

    Our study was conducted in four organizational units. Two of these performed the relatively certain task of manufacturing standardized containers on high-speed, automated production lines. The other two performed the relatively uncertain work of enquiry and development in communications technology. Each pair of units performing the same kind of chore were in the same big company, and each pair had previously been evaluated past that company’s management every bit containing one highly effective unit and a less effective ane. The study pattern is summarized in Exhibit I.

    Exhibit I. Report Design in “Fit” of Organizational Characteristics

    The objective was to explore more fully how the fit between system and task was related to successful performance. That is, does a good fit between organizational characteristics and task requirements increase the motivation of individuals and hence produce more effective individual and organizational performance?

    An particularly useful approach to answering this question is to recognize that an private has a strong need to principal the world around him, including the task that he faces as a member of a work arrangement.4
    The accumulated feelings of satisfaction that come from successfully mastering one’s surroundings tin be called a “sense of competence.” We saw this sense of competence in performing a item task as helpful in understanding how a fit between task and organizational characteristics could motivate people toward successful performance.

    Organizational dimensions

    Because the iv study sites had already been evaluated by the respective corporate managers as high and low performers of tasks, we expected that such differences in performance would be a preliminary clue to differences in the “fit” of the organizational characteristics to the job to exist done. But, start, nosotros had to define what kinds of organizational characteristics would determine how appropriate the organization was to the particular task.

    We grouped these organizational characteristics into two sets of factors:

    i. Formal characteristics, which could be used to judge the fit betwixt the kind of task being worked on and the formal practices of the system.

    2. Climate characteristics, or the subjective perceptions and orientations that had adult amidst the individuals about their organizational setting. (These besides must fit the task to be performed if the organization is to be effective.)

    We measured these attributes through questionnaires and interviews with about forty managers in each unit to determine the ceremoniousness of the arrangement to the kind of task existence performed. We too measured the feelings of competence of the people in the organizations so that we could link the appropriateness of the organizational attributes with a sense of competence.

    Major findings

    The main findings of the survey are all-time highlighted by contrasting the highly successful Akron found and the high-performing Stockton laboratory. Because each performed very unlike tasks (the old a relatively certain manufacturing task and the latter a relatively uncertain research job), we expected, as brought out before, that there would have to be major differences between them in organizational characteristics if they were to perform effectively. And this is what we did discover. But nosotros also institute that each of these constructive units had a better fit with its detail task than did its less effective counterpart.

    While our major purpose in this article is to explore how the fit between job and organizational characteristics is related to motivation, nosotros first want to explore more fully the organizational characteristics of these units, so the reader will better sympathise what we hateful by a fit between chore and arrangement and how it tin can lead to more effective beliefs. To do this, we shall place the major emphasis on the contrast between the high-performing units (the Akron constitute and Stockton laboratory), but we shall also compare each of these with its less effective mate (the Hartford plant and Carmel laboratory respectively).

    Formal characteristics

    Beginning with differences in formal characteristics, we establish that both the Akron and Stockton organizations fit their respective tasks much better than did their less successful counterparts. In the predictable manufacturing task environs, Akron had a pattern of formal relationships and duties that was highly structured and precisely defined. Stockton, with its unpredictable enquiry task, had a low degree of construction and much less precision of definition (see Showroom Two).

    Exhibit II. Differences in Formal Characteristics in High-performing Organizations

    Akron’south blueprint of formal rules, procedures, and command systems was so specific and comprehensive that it prompted one director to remark:

    “We’ve got rules hither for everything from how much powder to use in cleaning the toilet bowls to how to cart a dead body out of the found.”

    In contrast, Stockton’s formal rules were so minimal, loose, and flexible that one scientist, when asked whether he felt the rules ought to exist tightened, said:

    “If a man puts a nut on a screw all day long, you may need more rules and a chore definition for him. But nosotros’re not novices here. Nosotros’re professionals and not the kind who need shut supervision. People around here
    produce, and produce nether relaxed conditions. Why tamper with success?”

    These differences in formal organizational characteristics were well suited to the differences in tasks of the two organizations. Thus:

    • Akron’s highly structured formal practices fit its predictable task because behavior had to be rigidly defined and controlled around the automated, high-speed production line. There was actually only one way to accomplish the establish’s very routine and programmable task; managers defined it precisely and insisted (through the institute’due south formal practices) that each man do what was expected of him.

    On the other hand, Stockton’s highly unstructured formal practices fabricated just every bit much sense because the required activities in the laboratory simply could not be rigidly defined in accelerate. With such an unpredictable, fast-irresolute job as communications technology research, in that location were numerous approaches to getting the job done well. As a consequence, Stockton managers used a less structured pattern of formal practices that left the scientists in the lab gratis to reply to the changing task situation.

    • Akron’southward formal practices were very much geared to
      concerns as its task demanded. For instance, formal production reports and operating review sessions were daily occurrences, consistent with the fact that the through-put time for their products was typically only a few hours.

    Past dissimilarity, Stockton’s formal practices were geared to
    concerns, as its task demanded. Formal reports and reviews were made only quarterly, reflecting the fact that research frequently does not come to fruition for iii to v years.

    At the 2 less effective sites (i.e., the Hartford institute and the Carmel laboratory), the formal organizational characteristics did not fit their respective tasks nearly as well. For example, Hartford’south formal practices were much less structured and controlling than were Akron’s, while Carmel’s were more restraining and restricting than were Stockton’s. A scientist in Carmel commented:

    “There’southward something here that keeps y’all from being scientific. It’south hard to put your finger on, but I guess I’d call information technology ‘Mickey Mouse.’ There are rules and things here that go far your fashion regarding doing your chore as a researcher.”

    Climate characteristics

    As with formal practices, the climate in both high-performing Akron and Stockton suited the corresponding tasks much better than did the climates at the less successful Hartford and Carmel sites.

    Perception of structure:

    The people in the Akron plant perceived a cracking deal of structure, with their beliefs tightly controlled and defined. 1 director in the plant said:

    “We can’t let the lines run unattended. We lose money whenever they do. And then we make sure each human being knows his job, knows when he can take a intermission, knows how to handle a change in shifts, etc. It’s all spelled out conspicuously for him the day he comes to piece of work here.”

    In contrast, the scientists in the Stockton laboratory perceived very lilliputian structure, with their beliefs but minimally controlled. Such perceptions encouraged the individualistic and creative beliefs that the uncertain, rapidly irresolute research chore needed. Scientists in the less successful Carmel laboratory perceived much more than construction in their organization and voiced the feeling that this was “getting in their mode” and making it difficult to practise effective research.

    Distribution of influence:

    The Akron plant and the Stockton laboratory likewise differed substantially in how influence was distributed and on the graphic symbol of superior-subordinate and colleague relations. Akron personnel felt that they had much less influence over decisions in their found than Stockton’southward scientists did in their laboratory. The job at Akron had already been clearly defined and that definition had, in a sense, been incorporated into the automated production flow itself. Therefore, in that location was less need for individuals to take a say in decisions concerning the piece of work procedure.

    Moreover, in Akron, influence was perceived to exist concentrated in the upper levels of the formal structure (a hierarchical or “meridian-heavy” distribution), while in Stockton influence was perceived to be more evenly spread out among more levels of the formal construction (an egalitarian distribution).

    Akron’s members perceived themselves to have a low degree of freedom vis-à-vis superiors both in choosing the jobs they work on and in handling these jobs on their own. They likewise described the type of supervision in the plant as existence relatively directive. Stockton’s scientists, on the other manus, felt that they had a keen bargain of freedom vis-à-vis their superiors both in choosing the tasks and projects, and in handling them in the way that they wanted to. They described supervision in the laboratory equally beingness very participatory.

    Information technology is interesting to notation that the less successful Carmel laboratory had more of its decisions fabricated at the elevation. Because of this, there was a definite feeling by the scientists that their item expertise was not being effectively used in choosing projects.

    Relations with others:

    The people at Akron perceived a swell deal of similarity among themselves in background, prior work experiences, and approaches for tackling job-related problems. They besides perceived the caste of coordination of effort among colleagues to be very high. Because Akron’s task was so precisely defined and the behavior of its members so rigidly controlled around the automated lines, it is easy to see that this design too made sense.

    By dissimilarity, Stockton’s scientists perceived not only a great many differences amongst themselves, especially in education and background, just likewise that the coordination of effort amongst colleagues was relatively depression. This was appropriate for a laboratory in which a peachy diversity of disciplines and skills were present and private projects were of import to solve technological problems.

    Fourth dimension orientation:

    As we would look, Akron’southward individuals were highly oriented toward a relatively brusk fourth dimension bridge and manufacturing goals. They responded to quick feedback apropos the quality and service that the plant was providing. This was essential, given the nature of their task.

    Stockton’southward researchers were highly oriented toward a longer time bridge and scientific goals. These orientations meant that they were willing to wait for long-term feedback from a inquiry projection that might take years to complete. A scientist in Stockton said:

    “We’re not the kind of people here who need a pat on the dorsum every day. We can wait for months if necessary before nosotros get feedback from colleagues and the profession. I’ve been working on one project now for iii months and I’m still not sure where it’s going to accept me. I tin can live with that, though.”

    This is precisely the kind of behavior and attitude that spells success on this kind of job.

    Managerial style:

    Finally, the individuals in both Akron and Stockton perceived their chief executive to have a “managerial style” that expressed more of a concern for the task than for people or relationships, merely this seemed to fit both tasks.

    In Akron, the engineering science of the task was and so dominant that pinnacle managerial beliefs which was non focused primarily on the task might accept reduced the effectiveness of operation. On the other hand, although Stockton’due south inquiry task called for more than individualistic trouble-solving behavior, that sort of behavior could accept become segmented and uncoordinated, unless the top executive in the lab focused the group’s attention on the overall research job. Given the individualistic bent of the scientists, this was an important force in achieving unity of effort.

    All these differences in climate characteristics in the two loftier performers are summarized in Showroom 3.

    Exhibit Three. Differences in “Climate” Characteristics in High-performing Organizations

    As with formal attributes, the less constructive Hartford and Carmel sites had system climates that showed a perceptibly lower degree of fit with their respective tasks. For instance, the Hartford plant had an egalitarian distribution of influence, perceptions of a low degree of structure, and a more participatory type of supervision. The Carmel laboratory had a somewhat meridian-heavy distribution of influence, perceptions of high structure, and a more directive type of supervision.

    Competence Motivation

    Because of the difference in organizational characteristics at Akron and Stockton, the ii sites were strikingly unlike places in which to work. But these organizations had 2 very of import things in common. First, each organization fit very well the requirements of its job. Second, although the behavior in the two organizations was different, the effect in both cases was effective job performance.

    Since, every bit we indicated earlier, our primary business in this written report was to link the fit between arrangement and chore with individual motivation to perform finer, we devised a two-part test to measure the sense of competence motivation of the individuals at both sites. Thus:

    office asked a participant to write artistic and imaginative stories in response to half dozen cryptic pictures.

    asked him to write a creative and imaginative story about what he would be doing, thinking, and feeling “tomorrow” on his job. This is called a “projective” test because it is assumed that the respondent projects into his stories his own attitudes, thoughts, feelings, needs, and wants, all of which tin be measured from the stories.5

    The results indicated that the individuals in Akron and Stockton showed significantly more than feelings of competence than did their counterparts in the lower-fit Hartford and Carmel organizations.6
    We found that the organisation-job fit is simultaneously linked to and interdependent with both individual motivation and effective unit of measurement performance. (This interdependency is illustrated in Exhibit 4.)

    Exhibit Four. Basic Contingent Relationships

    Putting the conclusions in this course raises the question of crusade and effect. Does constructive unit of measurement performance consequence from the task-organisation fit or from higher motivation, or perhaps from both? Does higher sense of competence motivation outcome from effective unit operation or from fit?

    Our answer to these questions is that we practice non call up there are any single cause-and-effect relationships, but that these factors are mutually interrelated. This has of import implications for management theory and practice.

    Contingency Theory

    Returning to McGregor’s Theory 10 and Theory Y assumptions, we can at present question the validity of some of his conclusions. While Theory Y might help to explicate the findings in the two laboratories, we clearly need something other than Theory X or Y assumptions to explain the findings in the plants.

    For example, the managers at Akron worked in a formalized organization setting with relatively trivial participation in decision making, and nonetheless they were highly motivated. According to Theory X, people would work hard in such a setting simply because they were coerced to do and then. According to Theory Y, they should have been involved in conclusion making and been self-directed to feel so motivated. Nothing in our data indicates that either prepare of assumptions was valid at Akron.

    Conversely, the managers at Hartford, the low-performing plant, were in a less formalized organization with more participation in decision making, and yet they were not as highly motivated like the Akron managers. The Theory Y assumptions would advise that they should take been more motivated.

    A way out of such paradoxes is to land a new gear up of assumptions, the Contingency Theory, that seems to explicate the findings at all 4 sites:

    1. Human beings bring varying patterns of needs and motives into the work arrangement, but one central need is to accomplish a sense of competence.

    two. The sense of competence motive, while information technology exists in all human beings, may be fulfilled in different means by different people depending on how this need interacts with the strengths of the individuals’ other needs—such equally those for ability, independence, structure, achievement, and affiliation.

    3. Competence motivation is virtually likely to exist fulfilled when at that place is a fit between task and system.

    4. Sense of competence continues to motivate even when a competence goal is achieved; once one goal is reached, a new, higher one is set.

    While the central thrust of these points is clear from the preceding give-and-take of the study, some elaboration can exist made. First, the thought that different people have different needs is well understood by psychologists. Even so, all too oftentimes, managers assume that all people have like needs. Lest we be accused of the same error, we are saying merely that all people have a demand to feel competent; in this
    style they are similar. Only in many other dimensions of personality, individuals differ, and these differences will determine how a particular person achieves a sense of competence.

    Thus, for case, the people in the Akron plant seemed to be very different from those in the Stockton laboratory in their underlying attitudes toward uncertainty, say-so, and relationships with their peers. And because they had different need patterns forth these dimensions, both groups were highly motivated by achieving competence from quite different activities and settings.

    While there is a demand to farther investigate how people who work in different settings differ in their psychological makeup, 1 important implication of the Contingency Theory is that we must not only seek a fit between organization and job, merely too between task and people and betwixt people and organization.

    A further indicate which requires elaboration is that one’s sense of competence never really comes to residuum. Rather, the real satisfaction of this demand is in the successful performance itself, with no diminishing of the motivation as one goal is reached. Since feelings of competence are thus reinforced by successful performance, they can be a more consistent and reliable motivator than salary and benefits.

    Implications for managers

    The major managerial implication of the Contingency Theory seems to residual in the task-organization-people fit. Although this interrelationship is complex, the best possibility for managerial action probably is in tailoring the organization to fit the task and the people. If such a fit is accomplished, both effective unit of measurement performance and a higher sense of competence motivation seem to result.

    Managers can start this process by considering how certain the job is, how frequently feedback about task operation is available, and what goals are implicit in the task. The answers to these questions volition guide their decisions about the design of the management hierarchy, the specificity of chore assignments, and the utilization of rewards and control procedures. Selective apply of grooming programs and a general accent on appropriate management styles will move them toward a task-organization fit.

    The trouble of achieving a fit amidst task, organization, and people is something nosotros know less nigh. Equally we have already suggested, we demand further investigation of what personality characteristics fit various tasks and organizations. Even with our limited cognition, even so, in that location are indications that people will gradually gravitate into organizations that fit their detail personalities. Managers can help this process past becoming more aware of what psychological needs seem to best fit the tasks available and the organizational setting, and by trying to shape personnel selection criteria to take account of these needs.

    In arguing for an arroyo which emphasizes the fit amid job, organization, and people, we are putting to balance the question of which organizational arroyo—the classical or the participative—is best. In its place we are raising a new question: What organizational approach is virtually appropriate given the chore and the people involved?

    For many enterprises, given the new needs of younger employees for more than autonomy, and the rapid rates of social and technological change, it may well be that the more participative approach is the virtually appropriate. Just there will even so exist many situations in which the more controlled and formalized organization is desirable. Such an arrangement need not be coercive or punitive. If information technology makes sense to the individuals involved, given their needs and their jobs, they will find it rewarding and motivating.

    Concluding Note

    The reader will recognize that the complexity we accept described is not of our own making. The basic deficiency with earlier approaches is that they did not recognize the variability in tasks and people which produces this complication. The force of the contingency approach we accept outlined is that information technology begins to provide a way of thinking almost this complexity, rather than ignoring it. While our knowledge in this area is still growing, we are sure that whatsoever adequate theory of motivation and organization will take to take business relationship of the contingent relationship between job, organization, and people.

    1. Douglas McGregor,
    The Man Side of Enterprise
    (New York, McGraw-Hill Volume Company, Inc., 1960), pp. 34–35 and pp. 47–48.

    2. See for example Paul R. Lawrence and Jay Due west. Lorsch,
    Arrangement and Surroundings
    (Boston, Harvard Business School, Sectionalisation of Research, 1967); Joan Woodward,
    Industrial Arrangement: Theory & Practise
    (New York, Oxford University Printing, Inc., 1965); Tom Burns and G.M. Stalker,
    The Direction of Innovation
    (London, Tavistock Publications, 1961); Harold J. Leavitt, “Unhuman Organizations,” HBR July–Baronial 1962, p. ninety.

    3. McGregor, op. cit., p. 245.

    4. Run into Robert West. White, “Ego and Reality in Psychoanalytic Theory,”
    Psychological Issues,
    Vol. III, No. 3 (New York, International Universities Press, 1963).

    5. For a more detailed description of this survey, see John J. Morse,
    Internal Organizational Patterning and Sense of Competence Motivation
    (Boston, Harvard Business organisation Schoolhouse, unpublished doctoral dissertation, 1969).

    6. Differences between the two container plants are significant at .001 and between the research laboratories at .01 (one-tailed probability).

    A version of this article appeared in the May 1970 consequence of
    Harvard Business Review.