wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Henry Mintzberg (1939- )Henry Mintzberg


Canadian professor and highly influential management thinker (pictured right).


Key books and articles

The Nature of Managerial Work (1973)


Managers don’t plan and reflect systematically but deal with a wide range of regular duties superficially and quickly because of overwork.


Managers prefer oral communication (meetings and the telephone) and have 10 key roles in three broad categories:


1. Interpersonal 

(figurehead, leader, liaison).


2. Informational 

(monitor, disseminator, spokesman).


3. Decisional 

(entrepreneur, disturbance handler, resource allocator, negotiator).


Managers must:

  • Effectively carry out the 10 roles above.
  • Find systematic ways of sharing information.
  • Turn obligations to their advantage.
  • Rely heavily on intuition.


Key quote on management

He [the manager] is driven to brevity, fragmentation and superficiality in his tasks, yet he cannot easily delegate them because of the nature of his information


Crafting Strategy (1987 Harvard Business Review article)

Like a craftsman (e.g. a potter), strategists should craft their strategy based on an intimate knowledge and “natural synthesis” of:

  • past experiences.
  • present position (capabilities and markets).
  • future market opportunities.


Business success depends on a mixture of realized and deliberate strategy:


1. Realized (or emergent) strategy 

(that emerges gradually through learning and in response to an evolving situation).


2. Deliberate strategy 

Deliberately formulating and implementing a strategy through strategic analysis (involving vision and a SWOT analysis).

Unrealized strategies arise when “planned intentions do not produce the desired actions”.


Strategy should be based on:

  • feedback from employees with direct customer contact (like salespeople).
  • learning from successes and failures.
  • a balance between stability and change - long periods of evolutionary change (based on exploiting capabilities and continuous improvement) followed by very occasional revolutionary changes (which must be identified and implemented).
  • creativity and vision (creative customer solutions driven by visionary aims)
  • a deep knowledge of your business.
  • exploiting future market opportunities (based on a clear understanding of the past).



Key quote on management

Managers are craftsmen and strategy is their clay.


Key quotes on change

Obsession with change is dysfunctional.

Like potters at the wheel, organizations must make sense of the past, if they hope to manage the future


The Structuring of Organizations (1979) 

- its shorter version is Structure in Fives (1983)


There are five parts of an organization:


1. Strategic apex

(top management).


2. Middle line

(middle managers).


3. Operating core

(people who produce the organization’s product or service, supervised by the middle line).


4. Technostructure

(analysts like strategic planners responsible for organization-wide policies).


5. Support staff

(support departments like employee relations and human resources).


These five parts are deployed in six possible organization structures:


1. Simple or entrepreneurial structure - informal, centralized and small with:

  • co-ordination from direct supervision.
  • power in the hands of the chief executive.


2. Machine bureaucracy - based on:

  • standardization of work processes.
  • job specialization in which the technostructure plays a key role.


3. Professional bureaucracy (e.g. universities and hospitals) - decentralized and emphasizing:

  • the operating core.
  • individual responsibility.
  • the standardization of skills.


 4. Divisionalized form – decentralized with:

  • divisions (based on markets or products) reporting to headquarters.
  • prominence given to the middle line.


5. Missionary organization (e.g. a church)

This is based on

  • ideology and indoctrination. 
  • the standardization of behavioural norms. 
  • a loose structure.
  • a sense of mission.


6. Adhocracy

  • non-hierarchical.
  • performance and knowledge driven with multi-functional teams.

As the adhocracy is best suited to innovation, it has become increasingly popular as organizations try to cope with accelerating change.

There are two types of adhocracy:

  • operating adhocracy (concentrating on solving customers’ problems with the operating core and support staff prominent).
  • administrative adhocracy (in which projects are ends in themselves and support staff are key).


Every organization is likely to have a pull towards each of these structures, but one will predominate.

Alternatively, you may have to create a completely new structure based on the ideas from the six structures above.


Key quote on structure

The structure of an organization can be defined simply as the sum total of the ways in which it divides its labour into distinct tasks and then achieves co-ordination among them.


The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning (1994)


An organization’s success depends on:


1. Strategic planning 

(with a SWOT analysis etc.)


2. Strategic thinking 

(inspired by vision, learning, intuition and creativity and particularly important in times of change).


Vision requires “synthesis with imagination” (joining little details into one big picture).


Effective strategy requires:

  • formulation.
  • implementation.
  • top managers thinking of the whole organization without losing touch with the details of its operations.

“What kind of strategy does one get from someone who knows what a forest looks like from a helicopter but has never seen a tree?”, Mintzberg asks.


Key quotes on strategic planning

Many of the great strategies are simply great visions.

Strategic planning is not strategic thinking. Indeed, strategic planning often spoils strategic thinking, causing managers to confuse real vision with the manipulation of numbers.


Managers, Not MBA’s (2005)

The best approach to management education is learning from experience.

So MBA’s are useless if they:

  • recruit young people with little or no experience.
  • over-emphasize analysis at the expense of “insight” - the creative, intuitive and visionary side of management.


Key quotes on management

Management is a practice that has to blend a good deal of craft (experience) with a certain amount of art (insight) and some science (analysis).

There is no ‘one best way’ to manage; it all depends on the situation.


Key quotes on management education

We need to build the craft and the art of managing into management education.

Pretending to create managers out of people who have never managed is a sham.

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