Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Affairs and Administration

First Advisor

Dr. V. Jean Ramsey

Second Advisor

Dr. Thomas L. Thompson

Third Advisor

Dr. Peter Kobrak


In the last two decades, organizational-environment contingency theory has attracted much attention. A great deal of research has been done on investigating the impact of environment on organizations, suggesting the appropriate design of organizational structure. In recent years, organizational theorists have moved to investigate proactive approaches to organizational environments.

Most empirical studies, however, have been conducted in the private sector. In order to transfer the knowledge to the public sector, it is necessary to investigate whether public organizations are also subjected to environmental influence and how public administrators interact with the environment.

This study investigated the following three questions: (1) Is the organizational structure in public organizations affected by its environment? (2) How can the factors seemingly essential to the analysis of public organizations be incorporated into environmental contingency theory? and (3) How well are public organizations dealing with the environment? Do they need a more proactive approach to the environment? If so, how is the need to change affected by the environment?

To investigate these issues, ten hypotheses were formulated. Three of them concerned the effect of organizational environment on organizational structure; four concerned actual ability to cope with the environment in relation to the desired coping ability; and three concerned the need for a proactive approach in relation to organizational environment.

A questionnaire was developed and mailed to 362 state administrators who have the authority to plan, to organize, and to budget in all 19 state departments in the State of Michigan. Of those, 194 were returned in a form valid for data analysis. A four-cell grid, with two dimensions (internal and external environments) was used to classify all respondents. ANOVA and post-hoc comparisons were used to test the ten hypotheses.

Major findings include: (1) the structure of public organization is influenced by the environment, but in a way different from that reported by Duncan (1971) for private organizations; and (2) public administrators desire more coping abilities for the following environmental factors: budgetary situation, competition, legislative influence, technology, and specialization. Results from this study will hopefully provide practicing managers with the information needed for managing their organizations.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access