Mintzberg’s Five Configurations of Strategic Management

The famous management expert, Henry Mintzberg, proposed a five configurations approach to strategic management wherein any organization can be broken down into five core elements or parts. The interactions between these parts determine the strategy of the organization.

The five parts according to Mintzberg are:

  1. The Operating Core which consists of those doing the basic work and whose output can be directly linked to the goods and services that the organization makes and sells. According to Mintzberg, this part is common to all organizations since the core work must be done and hence, the operating element has to be put in place.

  2. The Strategic Apex, which is composed of senior management and the senior leadership, which provides the vision, mission, and sense of purpose to the organization. Indeed, it can be said that this part consists of those men and women who shape and control the destinies of the organization.

  3. The Middle Level Managers who are the “sandwich” layer between the apex and the operating core. This element is peopled by those who take orders from above and pass them as work to the operating core and supervise them.

    In other words, they perform the essential function of acting as a buffer between the senior management and the rank and file employees.

  4. The fourth element is the Technostructure that is composed of planners, analysts, and trainers who perform the intellectual work. This element provides the advice for the other parts and it is to be noted that they do not do any work but function in an advisory capacity.

  5. The final element is the Support Staff who perform supporting roles for the other units and exist as specialized functions that are responsible for the peripheral services in the organization.

The key aspect about these configurations is that it can be used to predict the organizational structure of any organization and used to model the strategy that the organization follows as a result of the interaction between these parts.

For instance, in many service sector companies, the organization structure is very fluid and interchangeable with the result that the middle managers perform crucial tasks and the apex gets directly involved in running the organization.

On the other hand, in many manufacturing companies, it is common to find the Technostructure prevailing as the organizational processes are bureaucratic and have mechanistic characteristics which makes the organization function like a machine. This is the configuration in many public sector and governmental organizations as well.

Finally, the startups have a structure that is composed of the strategic apex and the supporting staff in their initial years of operation as the organization structure is yet to be formalized.

The key implications of Mintzberg’s configurations are that it gives us a useful model to describe how the organizational structure affects strategy. As many theoretical models depend on external strategy alone, this model is preferred by those who want to understand how internal dynamics produce strategy.

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Strategic Management