Organizational consultant: Creating a useable theory for organizational design


Journal Article

Organization theory is a positive science; organizational design is a normative science "concerned with how things ought to be, with devising structures to attain goals." The Organizational Consultant is a knowledge base expert system to help design organizations. That is, it takes facts about the environment, size, strategy, technology, ownership, and management preferences and applies the knowledge base to recommend the design structure and properties such as complexity, formalization, centralization, and span of control, among others. Organization theory is comprised of numerous positive contingency theories, which are not integrated. The main issue is to create a comprehensive and consistent knowledge base from what we know, i.e., create a useful synthesis. We utilize four fit criteria as a guide: contingency fit, design parameter fit, situation fit, and total parameter fit. Contingency fit demands that the knowledge base of if-then rules follow what we know from the literature. Design parameter fit requires a balance, or weighting, among the supporting and opposing design recommendations. Situation fit assures us that the situation itself is not inconsistent. Finally, total design fit requires that it is useable and helpful to recommend structure and properties to attain goals. The development of the Organizational Consultant is a continuing validation exercise. The size of an organization is an important design contingency. Yet, an operational definition of size for design purposes has been wanting. We discuss how a useful definition of size was developed for the Organizational Consultant. We describe the development of the Organizational Consultant - a knowledge-based expert system that utilizes a synthesis of the elements of organizational contingency theory through a validation process. The four fit criteria were applied to guide the development process.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Baligh, HH; Burton, RM; Obel, B

Published Date

  • January 1, 1996

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 42 / 12

Start / End Page

  • 1648 - 1662

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0025-1909

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1287/mnsc.42.12.1648

Citation Source

  • Scopus