Masters of Change: Henry Mintzberg

Professor Henry Mintzberg, OC , OQ , Ph.D. , D.h.c. , FRSC (born September 2, 1939) is an internationally renowned academic and author on business and management. He is currently the Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at the Desautels Faculty of Management of McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where he has been teaching since 1968, after earning his Master’s degree in Management and Ph.D. from the MIT Sloan School of Management in 1965 and 1968 respectively.

Henry Mintzberg writes prolifically on the topics of management and business strategy, with more than 140 articles and thirteen books to his name. His seminal book, The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning, criticizes some of the practices of strategic planning today and is considered required reading for anyone who seriously wants to consider taking on a strategy-making role within their organization.

He recently published a book entitled Managers Not MBAs which outlines what he believes to be wrong with management education today and, rather controversially, singles out prestigious graduate management schools like Harvard Business School and the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania as examples of how obsession with numbers and an over-zealous attempt at making management into a science actually can damage the discipline of management. He also suggests that a new masters program, targeted at practicing managers (as opposed to younger students with little real world experience), and emphasizing practical issues, may be more suitable.

Ironically, although Professor Mintzberg is quite critical about the strategy consulting business, he has twice won the McKinsey Award for publishing the best article in the Harvard Business Review.

In 1997 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 1998 he was made an Officer of the National Order of Quebec. He is married to Sasha Sadilova and has two children, Susie and Lisa.

Henry Mintzberg, renowned for his heterodox view on strategy and master of strategic planning, says, “crafting as image better captures the process [of strategic planning] 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.” More can be found in his famous article “Crafting Strategy”.

Theory on Organizational Forms
The six Organizational Configurations
The organizational configurations framework of Mintzberg is a model that describes six valid organizational configurations

  • Mutual adjustment, which achieves coordination by the simple process of informal communication (as between two operating employees)
  • Direct supervision, in which coordination 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)
  • 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)

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

  • Strategic Apex (top management)
  • Middle Line (middle management)
  • Operating Core (operations, operational processes)
  • Technostructure (analysts that design systems, processes, etc)
  • Support Staff (support outside of operating workflow)
  • Ideology (halo of beliefs and traditions; norms, values, culture)

The six Coordination Mechanisms
According to the organizational configurations framework there are six valid coordinating mechanisms in organizations:

  • Direct supervision (typical for entrepreneurial organizations)
  • Standardization of work (typical for machine organizations)
  • Standardization of skills (typical for professional organizations)
  • Standardization of outputs (typical for diversified organizations)
  • Mutual Adjustment (typical for innovative organizations)
  • Standardization of norms (typical for missionary organizations)



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s