Contingency approach seeks to analyze a problem, and then develop the best managerial or organizational solution to it.

Buchanan & Huczynski, Organizational Behaviour (1997)

The idea of contingency approach is above all a reaction to the One Best Way approach of Taylorism. Essentially, this way of thinking holds that the appropriate solution depends on, ie. is contingent on the circumstances of the problem at the time. There are two main lines of thought within the contigency approach school:

The determinists assert a single variable such as technology, environment or company mission determines the form of an organization. Notable thinkers include:

Then there are the strategic choice thinkers, who assert that structure is wholly a management decision, and variables like technology and the products the company produces are based on this structure; most notable is the idea of environmental strategic choice, which holds that instead of passively responding the environment changes as in environmental determinism, managers seek to change or enact their environments. When McDonalds wanted to open restaurants in Russia and found the food supply chain lacking, it didn't passively accept this; instead it built the largest food processing plant in the world to adapt the environment to its needs.

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Buchanan, David and Andrzej Huczynski. Organizational Behaviour, 3rd ed.