Managing Change Toolkit

Develop a Change Strategy

Mintzbergs Model on Organisational Structures

The Five Parts

This note summarises the key features of Henri Mintzbergs theory on the structuring of organisations, which he presented in his book The Structuring of Organisations and Structure in 5's: Designing Effective Organizations in the early 1980s.

According to Mintzberg organisations are formed of five main parts:

Mintzberg overview

Operating core

Those who perform the basic work related directly to the production of products and services

Strategic apex

Charged with ensuring that the organisation serve its mission in an effective way, and also that it serve the needs of those people who control or otherwise have power over the organisation

Middle-line managers

Form a chain joining the strategic apex to the operating core by the use of delegated formal authority


The analysts who serve the organisation by affecting the work of others. They may design it, plan it, change it, or train the people who do it, but they do not do it themselves

Support staff

Composed of specialised units that exist to provide support to the organisation outside the operating work flow



Each of these five parts has a tendency to pull the organisation in a particular direction favourable to them

Mintzberg power

Five Generic Structures

There are five generic organisation structures which can be described in terms of the five-part theory:

Simple Structure

simple structure

The simple structure, typically, has

Coordination in the simple structure is controlled largely by direct supervision. Especially, 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 environments of the simple structures are usually 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

Machine Bureaucracy

machine bureaucracy

The design of a machine bureaucracy tends to be as follows:

Because the machine bureaucracy depends primarily on the standardization of its operating work processes for coordination, the technostructure emerges as the key part of the structure

Machine bureaucratic work is found, in environments that are simple and stable. Machine bureaucracy is not common in complex and dynamic environments because the work of complex environments can not be rationalized into simple tasks and the processes of dynamic environments can not be predicted, made repetitive, and standardized

The machine bureaucracies are typically found in the mature organizations, large enough to have the volume of operating work needed for repetition and standardization, and old enough to have been able to settle on the standards they wish to use

The managers at the strategic apex of these organizations are mainly concerned with the fine-tuning of their bureaucratic machines. Machine bureaucracy type structures are "performance organizations" not "problem solving" ones.

Professional Bureaucracy
professional bureaucracy

The professional bureaucracy relies for coordination on:

Whereas the machine bureaucracy generates its own standards the standards of the professional bureaucracy originate largely outside its own structure (especially in the self-governing association its operators join with their colleagues from other professional bureaucracies). The professional bureaucracy emphasizes authority of a professional nature or in other words "the power of expertise".

The strategies of the professional bureaucracy are mainly developed by the individual professionals within the organization as well as of the professional associations on the outside.

Divisionalised Form


Divisionalised form type organizations are composed of semi-autonomous units - the divisions. The divisionalised form is probably a structural derivative of a Machine Bureaucracy - an operational solution to co-ordinate and controls a large conglomerate delivering:

  1. Horizontally diversified products or services
  2. In a straight-forward, stable environment
  3. Where large economies of scale need not apply.

If large economies of scale were possible the costs and benefits of divisionalisation would need careful examination. The modern, large holding company or conglomerate typically has this form

Like the Professional Bureaucracy, the Divisional Form is not so much an integrated organization as a set of quasi-autonomous entities coupled together by a central administrative structure. But whereas those "loosely coupled" entities  in the Professional Bureaucracy are individuals—professionals in the operating core—in the Divisionalised Form they are units in the middle line. These units are generally called divisions, and the central administration, the headquarters

The Divisionalised Form differs from the other four structural configurations in one important respect. It is not a complete structure from the strategic apex to the operating core, but rather a structure superimposed on others. That is, each division has its own structure.

Most important, the Divisionalised Form relies on the market basis for grouping units at the top of the middle line. Divisions are created according to markets served and they are then given control over the operating functions required to serve these markets.


Adhocracy includes a highly organic structure, with:

The innovative organization cannot rely on any form of standardization for coordination. Consequently, the adhocracy might be considered as the most suitable structure for innovative organizations which hire and give power to experts - professionals whose knowledge and skills have been highly developed in training programs.

Managers (such as functional managers, integrating managers, project managers etc.) abound in the adhocracy type structures. Project managers 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 are also 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 disappears.