Contingency research in operations management practices

Rui Sousa*, Christopher A. Voss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

695 Citations (Scopus)


As operations management (OM) best practices have become mature, research on practices has begun to shift its interest from the justification of the value of those practices to the understanding of the contextual conditions under which they are effective-OM practice contingency research (OM PCR). This article sets out to examine and critique the current state of OM PCR. We review OM PCR studies through the lens of the major theoretical view on contingencies, contingency theory, along a number of relevant dimensions: contingency variables, performance variables, measurement, research design and employed form of fit. In this process, we put forward a number of tasks that need to be accomplished in order to move OM PCR forward and develop more solid conceptual foundations in which to anchor rigorous research in this area. Finally, we reflect on the theoretical arguments that underlie OM PCR (which are based on the contingency approach) and identify its limitations in fully explaining the currently observed patterns of use of OM practices and associated performance outcomes. As a result, we propose that in order to increase our understanding of these patterns, OM scholars need to study in more depth the process of selection of OM best practices by organizations. Accordingly, we put forward a framework to underpin such research integrating contingency theory and other theoretical perspectives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)697-713
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Operations Management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2008


  • Best practice
  • Contingency research
  • Contingency theory


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