From his first book, The Nature of Managerial Work, to his latest, Mintzberg on Management, Henry Mintzberg has been a provocative, influential voice in the general management discussion. This article develops his work on organizational structures, refining his theories to better explain how effective organizations manage the contradictory internal forces that can so easily tear them apart. There is no best way, he argues; organizations must build their own structures, using established forms or combining them. But while there is no blueprint for the effective organization, we can be aware of the dangers — when the force for efficiency, for instance, begins to suppress innovation, or when healthy internal competition deteriorates into petty politics. Managing an organization is like building with LEGOs, he writes, and the best structure is the one that balances forces most gracefully.
1. See T.S. Peters and R.H. Waterman, In Search of Excellence (New York: Harper and Row, 1982); and
M.E. Porter, Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors (New York: The Free Press, 1980).
2. See H. Mintzberg, The Structuring of Organizations (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1979) and Mintzberg on Management (New York: The Free Press, 1989). See also: D. Miller and H. Mintzberg, “The Case for Configuration,” in Organizations: A Quantum View, eds. D. Miller and PH. Friesen (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1984).
3. C. Darwin, The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, ed. F. Darwin (London: John Murray, 1887), p. 105.
4. The first five forms were described in some detail, under slightly different labels, in Mintzberg (1979). The last two forms were developed in:
H. Mintzberg, Power In and Around Organizations (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1983).
5. D. Miller and M. Kets de Vries, The Neurotic Organization (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1984). See also:
D. Miller and M. Kets de Vries, Unstable at the Top (New York: New American Library, 1987).
6. See D. Miller, The Icarus Paradox (New York: Harper & Row, 1990).
7. One might think that the high incidence of entrepreneurial forms reflects the students’ bias toward studying small organizations, but I think not. Many more small organizations exist, in business and elsewhere, than large ones, and they are usually entrepreneurial. I would expect the larger ones to be predominantly machine in form in any western society. As for the incidence of combinations, I believe that the diversified and adhocracy forms are the most difficult to sustain (the former is a conglomerate with no links between the divisions, the latter is a very loose and free-wheeling structure), and so these should be most common in hybrid combinations. Also, some of the combinations reflect common transitions in organizations, especially from the entrepreneurial to the machine form.
8. R.M. Cyert and J.G. March, A Behavioral Theory of the Firm (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1963).
9. B.R. Clark, The Distinctive College (Chicago: Aldine, 1970).
10. Peters and Waterman (1982).
11. Porter (1980).
12. Quoted in W. Kiechel III, “Sniping at Strategic Planning (Interview with Himself),” Planning Review, May 1984, p. 11.
13. See H. Mintzberg, “Five Ps for Strategy,” California Management Review, Fall 1987, pp. 11–24.