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What are Mintzberg’s five components of an organisation? The one-minute guide

Updated Friday 4th March 2016

Writing in 1979, Henry Mintzberg identified five components to answer the question 'what is an organisation'?.

Some people doing vaguely business-related things Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: helpsg These are clearly stock image people. What would it take to make them an organisation?

Henry Mintzberg, writing in The Structure of Organizations, came up with this diagram as a way of explaining what makes an organisation:

Mintzberg’s five components of organisation Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Mintzberg, H. (1979) ‘Five basic parts of organisations’, The Structure of Organizations, Pearson Education, Inc

What is the Strategic Apex?

At the top of the organisation is a Strategic Apex the purpose of which is to ensure the organisation follows its mission and manages its relationship with its environment. The individuals comprising the apex, for example, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), are responsible to owners, government agencies, unions, communities and so on.

What is the Middle Line?

Below the apex is the Middle line, a group of managers who are concerned with converting the objectives and broad plans of the Strategic apex into operational plans that can be carried out by the workers.

As organisations grow and become more complex, they usually develop a separate group of people who are concerned with the best way of doing a job, specifying output criteria (e.g., quality standards) and ensuring that personnel have appropriate skills (e.g., by organising training programmes). This group of analysts is referred to by Mintzberg as the Technostructure.

The organisation also adds other administrative functions that provide services to itself, for example legal advice, public relations, mailroom, cafeteria and so on. These are the Support staff.

What is the Operating Core?

Finally, at the bottom of the organisation, is the Operating Core. These are the people who do the basic work of producing the products or delivering the services.

Mintzberg’s generic organisational model also illustrates an important principle of organisation structure: the separation of direction and management, whereby those people who decide the mission and general direction of the organisation are different (other than in a very small organisation) from those who handle the implementation of plans and subsequent controlling of operations to ensure that objectives are met. Senior managers (the Strategic apex) will establish long-term organisational objectives and policies through which goals are to be achieved. Middle managers (the Middle line) will be responsible for translating the necessarily broad and general strategic plans into detailed action plans, specifying managerial responsibilities for particular tasks and how resources are to be allocated. These middle managers will also be responsible for monitoring activities and taking action to ensure that resources are being used efficiently and effectively to achieve organisational objectives.

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

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