Henry Mintzberg

Canadian business theorist

Henry Mintzberg (born September 2, 1939) is a Canadian organizational theorist and Professor of Management Studies at the McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Henry Mintzberg in 2009.


  • We create organizations to serve us, but somehow they also force us to serve them. Sometimes it feels as if our institutions have run out of control, like the machinery of Charlie Chaplin's film Modem Times. Why we should become slaves to our servants... A society of organizations is one in which organizations enter our lives as influential forces in a great many ways — in how we work, what we eat, how we get educated and cured of our illnesses, how we get entertained, and how our ideas are shaped. The ways in which we try to control our organization and our organization in return try to control us become major issues in the lives of all of us.
    • Henry Mintzberg (1989) Mintzberg on management: inside our strange world of organizations. p. 301. As cited in: R. van den Nieuwenhof (2003) 2 strategie: omgaan met de omgeving. p. 36
  • For two hundred and fifty years, from the second half of the eighteenth Century on, Capitalism was the dominant social reality. For the last Hundred years, Marxism was the dominant social ideology. Both are rapidly being superseded by a new and very different society. The new society – and it is already here – is a post-capitalist society... The center of gravity in the post-capitalist society – its structure, its social and economic dynamics, its social classes, and its social problems – is very different from the one that dominated the last two hundred and fifty years
    • Drucker (1993) Guru Guide. p. 293-294 as cited in: Nancy Campbell (2004) "The Practice of Management and the Idea of Leadership: An Overview of Theory and Practice"
  • Strategy making needs to function beyond the boxes to encourage the informal learning that produces new perspectives and new combinations... Once managers understand this, they can avoid other costly misadventures caused by applying formal techniques, without judgement and intuition, to problem solving.
    • Mintzberg (1994), (partly) cited in Douglas C. Eadie (1997) Changing by design: a practical approach to leading innovation in nonprofit organizations. p. 128
  • Strategic planning is not strategic thinking. Indeed, strategic planning often spoils strategic thinking, causing managers to confuse real vision with the manipulation of numbers.
    • Attributed to Mintzberg in C.W. Cook, P.L. Hunsaker (2001) Management and organizational behavior. p. 58

The structuring of organizations (1979)

Mintzberg (1979) The structuring of organizations: A synthesis of the research
  • Five coordinating mechanisms seem to explain the fundamental ways in which organizations coordinate their work: mutual adjustment, direct supervision, standardization of work processes, standardization of work outputs, and standardization of worker skills.
    • p. 3
  • Given the five parts of the organization - operating core, strategic apex, middle line, technostructure, and support staff - we may now ask how they all function together. In fact, we cannot describe the one way they function together, for research suggests that the linkages are varied and complex. The parts of the organization are joined together by different flows - of authority, of work material, of information, and of decision processes (themselves informational).
    • p. 35
  • We find that the manager, particularly at senior levels, is overburdened with work. With the increasing complexity of modern organizations and their problems, he is destined to become more so. He is driven to brevity, fragmentation, and superficiality in his tasks, yet he cannot easily delegate them because of the nature of his information. And he can do little to increase his available time or significantly enhance his power to manage. Furthermore, he is driven to focus on that which is current and tangible in his work, even though the complex problems facing many organizations call for reflection and a far-sighted perspective.
    • p. 173
  • The formalization of behavior takes formal power away from the workers and the managers who supervise them and concentrates it near the top of the line hierarchy and in the technostructure, thus centralizing the organization in both dimensions. The result is Type A decentralization. Training and indoctrination produces exactly the opposite effect: it develops expertise below the middle line, thereby decentralizing the structure in both dimensions (Type E). Putting these two conclusions together, we can see that specialization of the unskilled type centralizes the structure in both dimensions, whereas specialization of the skilled or professional type decentralizes it in both dimensions.
    • p. 211
  • The professional administrators — especially those at higher levels — serve key roles at the boundary of the organization, between the professionals inside and interested parties — governments, client associations, and so on — on the outside. On the one hand, the administrators are expected to protect the professionals' autonomy, to "buffer" them from external pressures. On the other hand, the administrators are expected to woo these outsiders to support the organization, both morally and financially. Thus, the external roles of the manager—maintaining liaison contacts, acting as figurehead and spokesman in a public relations capacity,negotiating with outside agencies—emerge as primary ones in professional administration.
    • p. 326
  • Data don't generate theory – only researchers do that.
    • p. 584

Managers Not MBAs (2005)

Mintzberg (2005) Managers Not MBAs: A Hard Look at the Soft Practice of Managing and Management Development.
  • Effective managing therefore happens where art, craft, and science meet. But in a classroom of students without managerial experience, these have no place to meet — there is nothing to do.
    • p 10
  • Theory is a dirty word in some managerial quarters. That is rather curious, because all of us, managers especially, can no more get along without theories than libraries can get along without catalogs — and for the same reason: theories help us make sense of incoming information.
    • p. 249
  • Learning is not doing; it is reflecting on doing. T. S. Eliot writes in one of his poems, “We had the experience but missed the meaning.” Reflection is about getting the meaning.
    • p. 254
  • Anecdotal data is not incidental to theory development at all, but an essential part of it
    • p. 362
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