An Assessment of the Contingency Theory of Mis
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Center for Information Systems Research (CISR)
affiliation not provided to SSRN
NYU Working Paper No. IS-87-31
The purpose of this paper is to define and critique the use of contingency theory in the field ofManagement Information Systems (MIS). The existence of such a theory is demonstrated through adetailed review of the MIS literature. The development of contingency theory in MIS is compared tothe development of Organization Theory. The developments in the two fields have been remarkablysimilar and the field of MIS can benefit from the experiences of organization theorists. We arguethat since MIS is at an early stage of development, it is now repeating some of the unproductiveassumptions and lines of development of contingency theory.The conclusion from this analysis is that the contingency theory implicit in MIS research isinadequate. Progress in the field has been hampered by the adoption of a naive meta-theory and anarrow research perspective. This has resulted in highly mixed empirical results, a prematurequantification strategy, and ill-defined concepts of performance and fit.A series of recommendations for improving the theoretical basis of MIS are given. Theserecommendations include relaxing the assumptions that constitute the naive meta-theory of acontingency theory in MIS. A more subjectivist, less functional, less unreflexive and lessdeterministic approach is advocated. In addition, changes in research methodologies are recommended.An increased emphasis on training in case study methodologies, longitudinal research andethnographic approaches is suggested.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 28working papers series
Date posted: October 31, 2008
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