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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/2451/14487

Authors: Weill, Peter
Olson, Margrethe H.
Issue Date: Apr-1987
Publisher: Stern School of Business, New York University
Series/Report no.: IS-87-31
Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to define and critique the use of contingency theory in the field of Management Information Systems (MIS). The existence of such a theory is demonstrated through a detailed review of the MIS literature. The development of contingency theory in MIS is compared to the development of Organization Theory. The developments in the two fields have been remarkably similar and the field of MIS can benefit from the experiences of organization theorists. We argue that since MIS is at an early stage of development, it is now repeating some of the unproductive assumptions and lines of development of contingency theory. The conclusion from this analysis is that the contingency theory implicit in MIS research is inadequate. Progress in the field has been hampered by the adoption of a naive meta-theory and a narrow research perspective. This has resulted in highly mixed empirical results, a premature quantification strategy, and ill-defined concepts of performance and fit. A series of recommendations for improving the theoretical basis of MIS are given. These recommendations include relaxing the assumptions that constitute the naive meta-theory of a contingency theory in MIS. A more subjectivist, less functional, less unreflexive and less deterministic approach is advocated. In addition, changes in research methodologies are recommended. An increased emphasis on training in case study methodologies, longitudinal research and ethnographic approaches is suggested.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2451/14487
Appears in Collections:IOMS: Information Systems Working Papers

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