The Structure Of Organisations Business Essay


Henry Mintzberg is Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies, at the Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University in Montreal. His work has focused on the work of the manager, and how managers are trained and developed. The author or co-author of 15 books, Mintzberg is, perhaps, best known for his work on organizational forms - identifying five types of organization: simple structure; machine bureaucracy; professional bureaucracy; the divisionalized form; and the adhocracy. He is also credited with advancing the idea of emergent strategy - the idea that effective strategy emerges from conversations within an organization rather than being imposed from on high. Mintzberg is a long time critic of traditional MBA programs. His first book, The Nature of Managerial Work (1973) challenged the established thinking about the role of the manager, and is one of the few books that actually examine what managers do, rather than discussing what they should do. Other highlights include The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning (1994); Managers Not MBAs (2004), and Managing (2009).This report presents overview of his major works.


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An engineer by training, he received a PhD from MIT before joining McGill's faculty of management in 1968. He was the first Fellow to be elected to the Royal Society of Canada from the field of Management. He designed and developed the IMPM, the International Masters Program in Practising Management, a degree-level programme delivered in six countries - Canada, England, France, India, Japan and Korea. It is a degree programme that focuses directly on the development of managers in their jobs and organizations.

Henry Mintzberg equates the process of strategy making to the process of making pottery. The strategist is similar to a craftsman, or potter in this case. Mintzberg says, "The crafting image better captures the process by which effective strategies come to be". First, the potter may create a product that follows in the tradition of her past work, but she may also create a work that breaks away from tradition in a new direction. Similarly, strategies are patterns that are put into action over time; but strategies may emerge in a different direction than tradition has previously held. Second, strategy making must be a deliberate process-thought must precede action. But "strategies can form as well as be formulated." Third, strategists do not necessarily have to be top management running an organization but removed from the inner-workings of that organization. Instead, like the potter is intimately connected with her work, strategists may be those most intimately connected with the company and those products/services it sells. Strategists may be those on the front lines, so to speak. Fourth, the potter may fail to make one piece, but the lump that remains may be formed into something completely different. In the same way, strategies can emerge any time and at any place; errors themselves may become chances for opportunity. The image of a craftsman is someone who is dedicated, passionate, intimately involved with the materials, has a personal touch, has mastered the detail of their art, and is experienced. The strategist must also be someone who is involved and connected with their industry and who is personally involved with the industrial processes. Finally, just as a craftsman may see things that other people miss, the strategist must be able to see emerging patterns and guide them into place as strategies.

Mintzberg's major impact on the management world began with his book. The nature of managerial work, published in 1973, and a seminal article in Harvard Business Review, The manager's job: folklore and fact written two years later. Based on detailed research and thoughtful observation, these two works established Mintzberg's reputation by showing that what managers did, when successfully carrying out their responsibilities, was substantially different from much business theory. Mintzberg's contribution to management thinking is not based on one or two clever theories within some narrow discipline. His approach is broad, involving the study of virtually everything managers do and how they do it. His general appeal is further enhanced by a fundamental belief that management is about applying human skills to systems, not applying systems to people - a belief that is demonstrated throughout his writing.

In his article The manager's job: folklore and fact, Mintzberg sets out the stark reality of what managers do: 'If there is a single theme that runs through this article, it is that the pressures of the job drive the manager to take on too much work, encourage interruption, respond quickly to every stimulus, seek the tangible and avoid the abstract, make decisions in small increments, and do everything abruptly'.

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Mintzberg uses the article to stress the importance of the manager's role and the need to understand it thoroughly before attempting to train and develop those engaged in carrying it out.

"No job is more vital to our society than that of the manager. It is the manager who determines whether our social institutions serve us well or whether they squander our talents and resources. It is time to strip away the folklore about managerial work, and time to study it realistically so that we can begin the difficult task of making significant improvements in its performance."

In The nature of managerial work, Mintzberg proposes six characteristics of management work and ten basic management roles. These characteristics and roles, he suggests, apply to all management jobs, from supervisor to chief executive.

The six characteristics are:

1. The manager's job is a mixture of regular, programmed jobs and unprogrammed tasks.

2. A manager is both a generalist and a specialist.

3. Managers rely on information from all sources but show a preference for that which is orally transmitted.

4. Managerial work is made up of activities that are characterised by brevity, variety and fragmentation.

5. Management work is more an art than a science and is reliant on intuitive processes and a feel for what is right.

6. Management work is becoming more complex.

Mintzberg places the ten roles that he believes make up the content of the manager's job into three categories:

1. Interpersonal

a) Figurehead - performing symbolic duties as a representative of the organisation.

b) Leader - establishing the atmosphere and motivating the subordinates.

c) Liaiser - developing and maintaining webs of contacts outside the organisation.

2. Information

a) Monitor - collecting all types of information that are relevant and useful to the organisation.

b) Disseminator - transmitting information from outside the organisation to those inside.

c) Spokesman - transmitting information from inside the organisation to outsiders.

3. Decision-making

a) Entrepreneur - initiating change and adapting to the environment.

b) Disturbance Handler - dealing with unexpected events.

c) Resource Allocator - deciding on the use of organisational resources.

d) Negotiator - negotiating with individuals and dealing with other organisations.

The structure of organisations

In his 1979 book, The structuring of organizations, Mintzberg identified five types of `ideal' organisation structures. The classification was expanded 10 years later in the book. Mintzberg on management and the following more detailed view of organisation types drawn up:

The entrepreneurial organisation - small staff, loose division of labour, little management hierarchy, informal, with power focused on the chief executive.

The machine organisation - highly specialised, routine operating tasks, formal communication, large operating units, tasks grouped under functions, elaborate administrative systems, central decision making and a sharp distinction between line and staff.

The diversified organisation - a set of semi-autonomous units under a central administrative structure. The units are usually called divisions and the central administration referred to as the headquarters.

The professional organisation - commonly found in hospitals, universities, public agencies and firms doing routine work, this structure relies on the skills and knowledge of professional staff in order to function. All such organisations produce standardised products or services.

The innovative organisation - this is what Mintzberg sees as the modern organisation: one that is flexible, rejecting any form of bureaucracy and avoiding emphasis on planning and control systems. Innovation is achieved by hiring experts, giving them power, training and developing them and employing them in multi-discipline teams that work in an atmosphere unbounded by conventional specialisms and differentiation.

The missionary organisation - it is the mission that counts above all else in such organisations; and the mission is clear, focussed, distinctive and inspiring. Staff readily identify with the mission, share common values and are motivated by their own zeal and enthusiasm.

Regarding the coordination between different tasks, Mintzberg defines the following mechanisms:

1. Mutual adjustment, which achieves coordination by the simple process of informal communication (as between two operating employees)

2. Direct supervision, is achieved by having one person issue orders or instructions to several others whose work interrelates (as when a boss tells others what is to be done, one step at a time)

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3. Standardization of work processes, which achieves coordination by specifying the work processes of people carrying out interrelated tasks (those standards usually being developed in the technostructure to be carried out in the operating core, as in the case of the work instructions that come out of time-and-motion studies)

4. Standardization of outputs, which achieves coordination by specifying the results of different work (again usually developed in the technostructure, as in a financial plan that specifies subunit performance targets or specifications that outline the dimensions of a product to be produced)

5. Standardization of skills (as well as knowledge), in which different work is coordinated by virtue of the related training the workers have received (as in medical specialists - say a surgeon and an anesthetist in an operating room -responding almost automatically to each other's standardized procedures)

6. Standardization of norms, in which it is the norms infusing the work that are controlled, usually for the entire organization, so that everyone functions according to the same set of beliefs (as in a religious order)

According to the organizational configurations model of Mintzberg each organization can consist of a maximum of six basic parts:

1. Strategic Apex (top management)

2. Middle Line (middle management)

3. Operating Core (operations, operational processes)

4. Technostructure (analysts that design systems, processes, etc.)

5. Support Staff (support outside of operating workflow)

6. Ideology (halo of beliefs and traditions; norms, values, culture)

Strategy and planning

The relationship between strategy and planning is a constant theme in Mintzberg's writing and his views on the subject are perhaps his most important contribution to current management thinking. In his 1994 book.  The rise and fall of strategic planning, Mintzberg produces a masterly criticism of conventional theory.

His main concern is with what he sees as basic failings in our approach to planning. These failings are:

Processes - the elaborate processes used create bureaucracy and suppress innovation and originality.

Data - `hard' data (the raw material of all strategists) provides information, but `soft' data, Mintzberg argues, provides wisdom: 'Hard information can be no better and is often at times far worse than soft information'.

Detachment - Mintzberg dismisses the process of producing strategies in ivory towers. Effective strategists are not people who distance themselves from the detail of a business, but quite the opposite: they are the ones who immerse themselves in it, while being able to abstract the strategic messages from it.'

He sees strategy not as the consequence of planning but the opposite: its starting point'. He has coined the phrase crafting strategies to illustrate his concept of the delicate, painstaking process of developing strategy - a process of emergence that is far removed from the classical picture of strategists grouped around a table predicting the future. He argues that while an organisation needs a strategy, strategic plans are generally useless as one cannot predict two to three years ahead.

5 P's of Strategy

In order to help to develop understanding of strategy Mintzberg developed what is known as the 5 Ps of Strategy. These are:

Strategy as Plan

Strategy as Intended Pattern

Strategy as Emergent/Unintended Pattern

Strategy as Position

Strategy as Perspective

Strategy as Plan

Mintzberg defined this as some sort of consciously intended course of action, a guideline (or set of guidelines) to deal with a situation. The example of Game Theory where Strategy is a complete plan: a plan which specifies what choices [the player] will make in every possible situation.

Rebuilding Companies as Communities

Community means caring about our work, our colleagues, and our place in the world, geographic and otherwise, and in turn being inspired by this caring. Tellingly, some of the companies we admire most-Toyota, Semco (Brazil), Mondragon (a Basque federation of cooperatives), Pixar, and so on-typically have this strong sense of community. Young, successful companies usually have this sense of community. They are growing, energized, committed to their people, almost a family. But sustaining it with the onset of maturity can be another matter: Things slow down, politics builds up, the world is no longer their oyster. Community is sometimes easier to preserve in the social sector-with NGOs, not-for-profits, and cooperatives. The mission may be more engaging, and the people more engaged. But somehow, in our hectic, individualist world, the sense of community has been lost in too many companies and other organizations. In the United States in particular, many great enterprises, along with the country's legendary sense of enterprise, have been collapsing as a consequence.

The Fall and Rise of Strategic Planning

When strategic planning arrived on the scene in the mid-1960s, corporate leaders embraced it as "the one best way" to devise and implement strategies that would enhance the competitiveness of each business unit. True to the scientific management pioneered by Frederick Taylor, this one best way involved separating thinking from doing and creating a new function staffed by specialists: strategic planners. Planning systems were expected to produce the best strategies as well as step-by-step instructions for carrying out those strategies so that the doers, the managers of businesses, could not get them wrong. As we now know, planning has not exactly worked out that way.

While certainly not dead, strategic planning has long since fallen from its pedestal. But even now, few people fully understand the reason: strategic planning is not strategic thinking. Indeed, strategic planning often spoils strategic thinking, causing managers to confuse real vision with the manipulation of numbers. And this confusion lies at the heart of the issue: the most successful strategies are visions, not plans.

Strategic planning, as it has been practiced, has really been strategic programming, the articulation and elaboration of strategies, or visions, that already exist. When companies understand the difference between planning and strategic thinking, they can get back to what the strategy-making process should be: capturing what the manager learns from all sources (both the soft insights from his or her personal experiences and the experiences of others throughout the organization and the hard data from market research and the like) and then synthesizing that learning into a vision of the direction that the business should pursue.

Organizations disenchanted with strategic planning should not get rid of their planners or conclude that there is no need for programming. Rather, organizations should transform the conventional planning job. Planners should make their contribution around the strategy-making process rather than inside it. They should supply the formal analyses or hard data that strategic thinking requires, as long as they do it to broaden the consideration of issues rather than to discover the one right answer. They should act as catalysts who support strategy making by aiding and encouraging managers to think strategically. And, finally, they can be programmers of a strategy, helping to specify the series of concrete steps needed to carry out the vision.

By redefining the planner's job, companies will acknowledge the difference between planning and strategic thinking. Planning has always been about analysis-about breaking down a goal or set of intentions into steps, formalizing those steps so that they can be implemented almost automatically, and articulating the anticipated consequences or results of each step. "I favour a set of analytical techniques for developing strategy," Michael Porter, probably the most widely read writer on strategy, wrote in the Economist.

The label "strategic planning" has been applied to all kinds of activities, such as going off to an informal retreat in the mountains to talk about strategy. But call that activity "planning," let conventional planners organize it, and watch how quickly the event becomes formalized (mission statements in the morning, assessment of corporate strengths and weaknesses in the afternoon, strategies carefully articulated by 5 p.m.).

Strategic thinking, in contrast, is about synthesis. It involves intuition and creativity. The outcome of strategic thinking is an integrated perspective of the enterprise, a not-too-precisely articulated vision of direction, such as the vision of Jim Clark, the founder of Silicon Graphics, that three-dimensional visual computing is the way to make computers easier to use.

Such strategies often cannot be developed on schedule and immaculately conceived. They must be free to appear at any time and at any place in the organization, typically through messy processes of informal learning that must necessarily be carried out by people at various levels who are deeply involved with the specific issues at hand.

Crafting Strategy

Imagine someone planning strategy. What likely springs to mind is an image of orderly thinking: a senior manager, or a group of them, sitting in an office formulating courses of action that everyone else will implement on schedule. The keynote is reason-rational control, the systematic analysis of competitors and markets, of company strengths and weaknesses, the combination of these analyses producing clear, explicit, full-blown strategies.

Now imagine someone crafting strategy. A wholly different image likely results, as different from planning as craft is from mechanization. Craft evokes traditional skill, dedication, perfection through the mastery of detail. What springs to mind is not so much thinking and reason as involvement, a feeling of intimacy and harmony with the materials at hand, developed through long experience and commitment. Formulation and implementation merge into a fluid process of learning through which creative strategies evolve.

My thesis is simple: the crafting image better captures the process by which effective strategies come to be. The planning image, long popular in the literature, distorts these processes and thereby misguides organizations that embrace it unreservedly.

In developing this thesis, I shall draw on the experiences of a single craftsman, a potter, and compare them with the results of a research project that tracked the strategies of a number of corporations across several decades. Because the two contexts are so obviously different, my metaphor, like my assertion, may seem farfetched at first. Yet if we think of a craftsman as an organization of one, we can see that he or she must also resolve one of the great challenges the corporate strategist faces: knowing the organization's capabilities well enough to think deeply enough about its strategic direction. By considering strategy making from the perspective of one person, free of all the paraphernalia of what has been called the strategy industry, we can learn something about the formation of strategy in the corporation. For much as our potter has to manage her craft, so too managers have to craft their strategy.

At work, the potter sits before a lump of clay on the wheel. Her mind is on the clay, but she is also aware of sitting between her past experiences and her future prospects. She knows exactly what has and has not worked for her in the past. She has an intimate knowledge of her work, her capabilities, and her markets. As a craftsman, she senses rather than analyzes these things; her knowledge is "tacit." All these things are working in her mind as her hands are working the clay. The product that emerges on the wheel is likely to be in the tradition of her past work, but she may break away and embark on a new direction. Even so, the past is no less present, projecting itself into the future.

In my metaphor, managers are craftsmen and strategy is their clay. Like the potter, they sit between a past of corporate capabilities and a future of market opportunities. And if they are truly craftsmen, they bring to their work an equally intimate knowledge of the materials at hand. That is the essence of crafting strategy.

In this article, we will explore this metaphor by looking at how strategies get made as opposed to how they are supposed to get made. Throughout, I will be drawing on the two sets of experiences I've mentioned. One, described in the sidebar, is a research project on patterns in strategy formation that has been going on at McGill University under my direction since 1971. The second is the stream of work of a successful potter, my wife, who began her craft in 1967.

The Five Minds of a Manager

The chief executive of a major Canadian company complained recently that he can't get his engineers to think like managers. It's a common complaint, but behind it lies an uncommonly important question: What does it mean to think like a manager?

Sadly, little attention has been paid to that question in recent years. Most of us have become so enamored of "leadership" that "management" has been pushed into the background. Nobody aspires to being a good manager anymore; everybody wants to be a great leader. But the separation of management from leadership is dangerous. Just as management without leadership encourages an uninspired style, which deadens activities, leadership without management encourages a disconnected style, which promotes hubris. And we all know the destructive power of hubris in organizations. So let's get back to plain old management.

The problem, of course, is that plain old management is complicated and confusing. Be global, managers are told, and be local. Collaborate, and compete. Change, perpetually, and maintain order. Make the numbers while nurturing your people. How is anyone supposed to reconcile all this? The fact is, no one can. To be effective, managers need to face the juxtapositions in order to arrive at a deep integration of these seemingly contradictory concerns. That means they must focus not only on what they have to accomplish but also on how they have to think. Managers need various "mind-sets."

Helping managers appreciate that was the challenge we set for ourselves in the mid-1990s when we began to develop a new master's program for practicing managers. We knew we could not rely on the usual structure of MBA education, which divides the management world into the discrete business functions of marketing, finance, accounting, and so on. Our intention was to educate managers who were coming out of these narrow silos; why push them back in? We needed a new structure that encouraged synthesis rather than separation. What we came up with-a structure based on the five aspects of the managerial mind-has proved not only powerful in the classroom but insightful in practice, as we hope to demonstrate in this article. We'll first explain how we came up with the five managerial mind-sets, then we'll discuss each in some depth before concluding with the case for interweaving the five.

The Manager's Job: Folklore and Fact

If you ask managers what they do, they will most likely tell you that they plan, organize, coordinate, and control. Then watch what they do. Don't be surprised if you can't relate what you see to these words.

When a manager is told that a factory has just burned down and then advises the caller to see whether temporary arrangements can be made to supply customers through a foreign subsidiary, is that manager planning, organizing, coordinating, or controlling? How about when he or she presents a gold watch to a retiring employee? Or attends a conference to meet people in the trade and returns with an interesting new product idea for employees to consider?

These four words, which have dominated management vocabulary since the French industrialist Henri Fayol first introduced them in 1916, tell us little about what managers actually do. At best, they indicate some vague objectives managers have when they work.

The field of management, so devoted to progress and change, has for more than half a century not seriously addressed the basic question: What do managers do? Without a proper answer, how can we teach management? How can we design planning or information systems for managers? How can we improve the practice of management at all?

Our ignorance of the nature of managerial work shows up in various ways in the modern organization-in boasts by successful managers who never spent a single day in a management training program; in the turnover of corporate planners who never quite understood what it was the manager wanted; in the computer consoles gathering dust in the back room because the managers never used the fancy on-line MIS some analyst thought they needed. Perhaps most important, our ignorance shows up in the inability of our large public organizations to come to grips with some of their most serious policy problems.

Somehow, in the rush to automate production, to use management science in the functional areas of marketing and finance, and to apply the skills of the behavioral scientist to the problem of worker motivation, the manager-the person in charge of the organization or one of its subunits-has been forgotten.

I intend to break the reader away from Fayol's words and introduce a more supportable and useful description of managerial work. This description derives from my review and synthesis of research on how various managers have spent their time.

In some studies, managers were observed intensively; in a number of others, they kept detailed diaries; in a few studies, their records were analyzed. All kinds of managers were studied-foremen, factory supervisors, staff managers, field sales managers, hospital administrators, presidents of companies and nations, and even street gang leaders. These "managers" worked in the United States, Canada, Sweden, and Great Britain.

Strategy as Pattern

Mintzberg defines strategy as consistency in behavior, whether or not intended. Strategy may also emerge as patterns, which can be seen as the resulting actions. For example when Henry Ford originally developed the Model T, the strategy was to only offer the car in the color black, by strategy as a pattern, this was an intended strategy.

An example of an unintended strategy as pattern can be seen with how Ikea began to flat pack their furniture, the original idea for this was borne of one of the companies designers trying to load a table into their car, when they realised that it wouldn't fit and they would have to remove the legs of the table, they realised that customers would face the same issue when purchasing the product, and as such a vital aspect of Ikea's strategy emerged unintentionally.

Strategy as Position

Strategy as a position refers to the environment in which the organisation operates in and the mediating force between the internal and external context. Examples of this may be an organisations strategy towards dealing with environmental factors such as extreme heat, disposal of waste, use of green IT.

Strategy as Perspective

This aspect of strategy is concerned with how the organisation itself sees the business environment. For example an organisation may decide to be the pacesetters, always at the bleeding edge of technology and may sell their products based on technological advances. Another organisation may decide to be followers where they learn from the mistakes of the pace setter and only adopt proven technologies and may be more concerned with quality and reliability rather than bleeding edge technology.

Examples of this in the automotive industry can be seen in how Ford have recently began the market the new Ford Focus as the technological leader in the product category. By using Ford's economies of scale Ford have been able to cheaply introduce technologies such as Self-Parking, a technology associated with premium brands rather than Ford an auto manufacturer that traditionall  targets blue-collar workers.

Key works by Henry Mintzberg


Managing. FT Prentice-Hall, 2009

Management: it's not what you think. (With Bruce Ahlstrand and Josepeh Lampel). FT Prentice-Hall, 2010

Strategy bites back. (With Bruce Ahlstrand and Josepeh Lampel). Pearson, 2005

Managers not MBAs. Berrett-Koehler, 2004

Strategy safari. (With Bruce Ahlstrand and Joseph Lample) London: Prentice-Hall, 1998

The strategy process: concepts, contexts, cases (3rd ed).London: Prentice-Hall International, 1996

The rise and fall of strategic planning. Hemel Hempstead: Prentice-Hall International, 1994

Mintzberg on management: inside our strange world of organizations. New York: Free Press, 1989

Power in and around organizations. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1983

Structures in fives: designing effective organizations.Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1983

The structuring of organizations: a synthesis of the research.Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1979

The nature of managerial work. New York: Harper and Row, 1973

Journal articles

Key articles are given below, for a complete list from 1967 to date, with some links through to full text, please see

The manager's job: folklore and fact. Harvard Business Review, 68 (2) Mar-Apr 1990, pp. 163-176. Originally published in 1975, the article includes a retrospective commentary by the author.

Crafting strategy. Harvard Business Review, 65 (4) Jul-Aug 1987, pp. 66-75

The fall and rise of strategic planning. Harvard Business Review, 72 (1) Jan-Feb 1994, pp. 107-114

Rounding out the manager's job. Sloan Management Review, 36 (1) Autumn 1994, pp. 11-26

Musings on management. Harvard Business Review, 74 (4) Jul-Aug 1996, pp. 61-67

Managing on the edge. International Journal of Public Sector Management, 10 (3) 1997, pp. 131-153

The yin and yang of managing. Organizational Dynamics, 29 (4) 2001, pp. 306-312