What are Organizational Configurations? Description
The organizational configurations framework of Henry Mintzberg describes
six valid organizational setups.
- Simple Structure (Entrepreneurial Startup)
- Machine Bureaucracy
- Professional Organization (Professional Bureaucracy)
- Division Organization
- Ad-hocracy (Innovative Organization)
- Idealistic Organization (Missionary Organization) (added later by Mintzberg)
- Political (= lacking a real coordinating mechanism)
1: Simple Structure (Entrepreneurial Startup)
The simple structure is characterized, above all, by what is not elaborated.
Typically, it has little or no technostructure, few support staffers, a loose
division of labor, minimal differentiation among its units, and a small managerial
hierarchy. Little of its behavior is formalized, and it makes minimal use
of planning, training, and liaison devices.
Coordination in the simple structure is effected largely by direct supervision.
Specifically, power over all important decisions tends to be centralized in
the hands of the chief executive officer. Thus, the strategic apex emerges
as the key part of the structure; indeed, the structure often consists of
little more than a one-person strategic apex and an organic operating core.
Most organizations pass through the simple structure in their formative years.
The environment of the simple structure tends to be at one and the same time
simple and dynamic. A simple environment can be comprehended by a single individual,
and so enables decision making to be controlled by that individual. A dynamic
environment means organic structure: Because its future state cannot be predicted,
the organization cannot effect coordination by standardization.
Another condition common to simple structures is a technical system that is
both non-sophisticated and non-regulating. Sophisticated ones require elaborate
staff support structures, to which power over technical decisions must be
delegated, and regulating ones call for bureaucratization of the operating
2. The Machine Bureaucracy
A clear configuration of the design parameters is described consistently
in the research: highly specialized, routine operating tasks; very formalized
procedures in the operating core; a proliferation of rules, regulations, and
formalized communication throughout the organization; large-sized units at
the operating level; reliance on the functional basis for grouping tasks;
relatively centralized power for decision-making; and an elaborate administrative
structure with sharp distinctions between line and staff.
The machine bureaucracy depends primarily on the standardization of its operating
work processes for coordination. Because of that the technostructure - which
houses the analysts who do the standardizing - emerges as the key part of
Machine bureaucratic work is found above all in environments that are simple
and stable. The work of complex environments cannot be rationalized into simple
tasks, and that of dynamic environments cannot be predicted, made repetitive,
and so standardized.
The machine bureaucracy is typically found in the mature organization. The
mature organization is large enough to have the volume of operating work needed
for repetition and standardization. And it is old enough to have been able
to settle on the standards it wishes to use. Machine bureaucracies tend also
to be identified with regulating technical systems, since these enable routine
work and so enable it to be formalized.
The managers at the strategic apex of these organizations are concerned mainly
with the fine-tuning of their bureaucratic machines. These are "performance
organizations"; not "problem solving" organizations. They constantly search
for more efficient ways to produce given outputs. Thus, the entrepreneur function
has a very restricted form at the strategic apex.
3. Professional Organization (Professional Bureaucracy)
The professional bureaucracy relies for coordination on the standardization
of skills and its associated design parameter, training and indoctrination.
It hires duly trained and indoctrinated specialists ("Professionals") for
the operating core, and then gives them considerable control over their work.
Control over their own work means that the Professionals work relatively independently
of their colleagues, but closely with the clients that they serve. Most necessary
coordination between the operating Professionals is handled by the standardization
of skills and knowledge - in effect, by what they have learned to expect from
Whereas the machine bureaucracy generates its own standards, the standards
of the professional bureaucracy originate largely outside its own structure:
in the self-governing association, which its operators join with their colleagues
from other professional bureaucracies. The professional bureaucracy emphasizes
authority of a professional nature - the power of expertise.
The strategies of the professional bureaucracy are largely ones of the individual
professionals within the organization as well as of the professional associations
on the outside. The professional bureaucracy's own strategies represent the
cumulative effect over time of the projects, or strategic "initiatives," that
its members are able to convince it to undertake.
The technical system cannot be highly regulating, certainly not highly automated.
The professional resists the rationalization of his skills - their division
into simply executed steps - because that makes them programmable by the technostructure,
destroys his basis of autonomy, and drives the structure to the machine bureaucratic
Like the machine bureaucracy, the professional bureaucracy is an inflexible
structure, well suited to producing its standard outputs but ill-suited to
adapting to the production of new products or services.
Change in the professional bureaucracy does not sweep in from new administrators
taking office to announce major reforms. Rather, change seeps in by the slow
process of changing the Professionals: changing who can enter the profession,
what they learn in its professional schools (norms as well as skills and knowledge),
and thereafter how willing they are to upgrade their skills.
4. Division Organization
Coordination is achieved by specifying the results of different work. Through standardization of outputs. Diversified markets (products and services). The middle line is the key part of the organization. They coordinate the output, acting between the strategic apex and the operating core.
5. Adhocracy (Innovative Organization)
In an adhocracy, we have a highly organic structure, with little formalization
of behavior. Job specialization that is based on formal training. A tendency
to group the specialists in functional units for housekeeping purposes but
to deploy them in small, market-based project teams to do their work. A reliance
on liaison devices to encourage mutual adjustment. This is the key coordinating
mechanism, within and between these teams.
To innovate, we must break away from established patterns. Therefore the innovative
organization cannot rely on any form of standardization for coordination.
Of all the configurations, adhocracy shows the least respect for the classical
principles of management, especially unity of command. The adhocracy must
hire experts and give power to them - Professionals whose knowledge and skills
have been highly developed in training programs.
Unlike the professional bureaucracy, the adhocracy cannot rely on the standardized
skills of these experts to achieve coordination, because that would cause
standardization instead of innovation. Rather, it must treat existing knowledge
and skills merely as bases on which to build new ones. Moreover, the building
of new knowledge and skills requires the combination of different bodies of
existing knowledge. So rather than allowing the specialization of the expert
or the differentiation of the functional unit to dominate its behavior, the
adhocracy must instead break through the boundaries of conventional specialization
and differentiation. Whereas each professional in the professional bureaucracy
can work autonomous, in the adhocracy professionals must amalgamate their
efforts. In adhocracies the different specialists must join their forces in
multi-disciplinary teams, each formed around a specific project of innovation.
Managers abound in the adhocracy - functional managers, integrating managers,
project managers. The last named are particularly numerous, since the project
teams must be small to encourage mutual adjustment among their members, and
each team needs a designated leader, a "manager." Managers become functioning
members of project teams, with special responsibility to effect coordination
between them. To the extent that direct supervision and formal authority diminish
in importance. The distinction between line and staff is not clear.
The adhocracy can take two basic forms:
5A. The Operating Adhocracy
The operating adhocracy innovates and solves problems directly on behalf
of its clients. Its multidisciplinary teams of experts often work under contract,
as in the think-tank consulting firm, creative advertising agency, or manufacturer
of engineering prototypes.
A key feature of the operating adhocracy is that its administrative and operating
work tend to blend into a single effort. That is, in ad hoc project work it
is difficult to separate the planning and design of the work from its execution.
Both require the same specialized skills, on a project-by-project basis. Thus
it can be difficult to distinguish the middle levels of the organization from
its operating core, since line managers and staff specialists may take their
place alongside operating specialists on project teams.
5B. The Administrative Adhocracy
The second type of adhocracy also functions with project teams, but toward
a different purpose. Whereas the operating adhocracy undertakes projects to
serve its clients, the administrative adhocracy undertakes projects to serve
itself, to bring new facilities or activities on line, as in the administrative
structure of a highly automated company. And in sharp contrast to the operating
adhocracy, the administrative adhocracy makes a clear distinction between
its administrative component and its operating core. The core is truncated
- cut off from the rest of the organization - so that the administrative component
that remains can be structured as an adhocracy.
This truncation may take place in a number of ways:
- First, when the operations have to be machinelike and so could impede
innovation in the administration (because of the associated need for control),
it may be established as an independent organization.
- Second, the operating core may be done away with altogether - in effect,
contracted out to other organizations.
- A third form of truncation arises when the operating core becomes automated.
This enables it to run itself, largely independent of the need for direct
controls from the administrative component. The latter is left free to structure
itself as an adhocracy to bring new facilities on line or to modify old
ones. With this change in the operating work force comes a dramatic change
in structure: the operating core transcends a state of bureaucracy - in
a sense it becomes totally bureaucratic, totally standardized, ... and the
administration shifts its orientation completely. The rules, regulations,
and standards are now built into machines, not workers. And machines never
become alienated, no matter how demeaning their work. So there is no need
anymore for direct supervision and technocratic standardization. The obsession
with control ends as well. And in comes a corps of technical specialists,
to design the technical system and then maintain it.
6. Idealistic Organization (Missionary Organization) (added later by Mintzberg)
The norms infusing the work are controlled, usually for the entire organization, so that everyone functions according to the same set of beliefs. As in a religious order.
The maximum of six parts of any organization
- Strategic Apex. (Top management) See:
- 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)
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)
Book: Henry Mintzberg
- Mintzberg on Management -
- In my opinion the configuration school has clearly contributed to strategic management and strategy formation by means of its diverse literature and practice....
New Organisation Configurations
- Good article about configuration. It has incorporated retrospective (classical) thinkers view as well as prospective thinkers views. Henry Mintzberg's analysis is direct & simple to understand for organisation theory & structure researchers. Recently...
Different Times and Organizational Size
- Now things have changed a lot and the size of present day organisations has become bigger, so most of the principles seem to matter less in the present context....
Configurations don't exist
- Of course, in reality none of the configurations described by Mintzberg actually exist and organizations are much more complex. But the structures from Mintzberg are useful to analyze:|
* Why and how is an organization shaped in a particular way?
Organizational Configurations (Mintzberg) Special Interest Group
Organizational Configurations (Mintzberg) Education & Events
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