The Structuring of Organizations: A Synthesis of the Research

Posted: 4 Nov 2009

See all articles by Henry Mintzberg

Henry Mintzberg

McGill University - Desautels Faculty of Management

Date Written: 1979


Synthesizes the empirical literature on organizationalstructuring to answer the question of how organizations structure themselves --how they resolve needed coordination and division of labor. Organizationalstructuring is defined as the sum total of the ways in which an organizationdivides and coordinates its labor into distinct tasks. Further analysis of theresearch literature is neededin order to builda conceptualframework that will fill in the significant gap left by not connecting adescription of structure to its context: how an organization actuallyfunctions. The results of the synthesis are five basic configurations (the SimpleStructure, the Machine Bureaucracy, the Professional Bureaucracy, theDivisionalized Form, and the Adhocracy) that serve as the fundamental elementsof structure in an organization. Five basic parts of the contemporaryorganization (the operating core, the strategic apex, the middle line, thetechnostructure, and the support staff), and five theories of how it functions(i.e., as a system characterized by formal authority, regulated flows, informalcommunication, work constellations, and ad hoc decision processes) aretheorized. Organizations function in complex and varying ways, due to differing flows -including flows of authority, work material, information, and decisionprocesses. These flows depend on the age, size, and environment of theorganization; additionally, technology plays a key role because of itsimportance in structuring the operating core. Finally, design parameters aredescribed - based on the above five basic parts and five theories - that areused as a means of coordination and division of labor in designingorganizational structures, in order to establish stable patterns of behavior.(CJC)

Keywords: Organizational structures, Organizational practices, Firm age, Firm size, Employee management, Firm management, Technology policies, Coordination, Management theory

Suggested Citation

Mintzberg, Henry, The Structuring of Organizations: A Synthesis of the Research (1979). University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership Historical Research Reference in Entrepreneurship, Available at SSRN:

Henry Mintzberg (Contact Author)

McGill University - Desautels Faculty of Management ( email )

1001 Sherbrooke St. West
Montreal, Quebec H3A1G5 H3A 2M1

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