Mintzberg’s Organizational Configurations

Background of Mintzberg’s Organizational Configurations

Henry Mintzberg, a renowned management scholar, developed a framework known as Mintzberg’s Organizational Configurations, which provides a way to categorize and understand different organizational structures based on their design characteristics. Mintzberg proposed that there are six primary organizational configurations or structural forms that organizations can adopt:

  1. Simple Structure,
  2. Machine Bureaucracy,
  3. Professional Bureaucracy,
  4. Divisionalized Form,
  5. Adhocracy, and
  6. Hybrid Structure

Each configuration represents a unique combination of organizational design elements, such as

  • centralization,
  • standardization,
  • specialization, and
  • coordination mechanisms.

Understanding these configurations is crucial for leaders and managers as it helps them identify their organization’s strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement. By applying Mintzberg’s framework, organizations can enhance their effectiveness and adapt to changing market dynamics.

Understanding the Organizational Configurations

Simple Structure configuration

The Simple Structure configuration is characterized by a small, entrepreneurial organization with a centralized decision-making process.

In this configuration, authority and control are concentrated in the hands of the founder or top-level manager. Communication is informal, and decision-making is swift. This configuration is most commonly found in startups or small businesses where flexibility and quick decision-making are crucial for survival.

It is characterized by a flat hierarchy and informal communication channels. This configuration is common in small businesses and startups.

Machine Bureaucracy Configuration

The Machine Bureaucracy configuration is characterized by a highly formalized and mechanistic structure. In this configuration, organizations have a rigid hierarchy, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities.

Decision-making is centralized, and tasks are standardized to ensure efficiency and consistency. This configuration is commonly found in manufacturing or production-based organizations where precision and adherence to processes are essential.

Authority is vested in a few top managers, and this configuration is often found in large, stable organizations with a focus on efficiency and consistency.

Professional Bureaucracy Configuration

The Professional Bureaucracy configuration is prevalent in organizations with highly skilled and specialized professionals, such as law firms or consulting companies.

In this configuration, authority is decentralized, and decision-making is based on the expertise and knowledge of professionals. Coordination is achieved through standardization of skills and professional norms. This configuration emphasizes individual autonomy and innovation.

In professional bureaucracy, organizations rely on the expertise of highly trained professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, or engineers.

Divisionalized Form Configuration

The Divisionalized Form configuration is characterized by separate divisions or units within an organization, each with its own set of functions and goals. In this configuration, decision-making is decentralized to divisional managers who have autonomy over their respective divisions.

Coordination is achieved through the use of rules, procedures, and performance measures. This configuration is commonly found in large organizations with diverse product lines or geographical locations.

Adhocracy Configuration

The Adhocracy configuration is characterized by a flexible and innovative organizational structure. In this configuration, decision-making is decentralized, and authority is based on expertise.

Communication flows freely, and teams are formed based on projects or tasks. This configuration is commonly found in creative industries or technology-driven organizations where adaptability and creativity are essential for success.

Hybrid Structure

Some organizations may not fit neatly into a single category and instead exhibit a combination of the above configurations. These hybrid structures often emerge as organizations grow and face evolving challenges.

It highlights that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to organizational design, and different configurations may be more suitable for different contexts.

Using Mintzberg’s Organizational Configurations

Henry Mintzberg’s Organizational Configurations offer a framework for understanding the structure and dynamics of organizations. Firms can benefit from this model in several ways:

Understanding Organizational Structure

Mintzberg’s model identifies key components of organizations (strategic apex, middle line, operating core, technostructure, and support staff) and how they interact. By understanding these elements, firms can analyze their current organizational structure and identify areas for improvement.

Strategic Alignment

The model outlines different configurations (Simple Structure, Machine Bureaucracy, Professional Bureaucracy, Divisionalized Form, and Adhocracy).

Firms can use this to align their organizational structure with their strategy and environment. For instance, a start-up might benefit from a Simple Structure, while a large multinational might be better served by a Divisionalized Form.

Efficiency and Effectiveness

By understanding and implementing the appropriate configuration, firms can operate more efficiently. For example, a Machine Bureaucracy, with its standardized procedures and centralized decision-making, can be highly efficient in stable environments.

Flexibility and Innovation

Adhocracy, one of Mintzberg’s configurations, is suited for dynamic and innovative environments. Firms in fast-changing industries can adopt this configuration to encourage creativity and rapid response to market changes.

Human Resource Management

Mintzberg’s model also helps in understanding how human resources are managed in different configurations. For instance, a Professional Bureaucracy relies heavily on highly trained professionals, implying a focus on specialized training and development.

Decision Making

The model provides insights into how decisions are made in different types of organizations. This can help firms structure their decision-making processes more effectively, whether centralized or decentralized.

Change Management

Understanding these configurations aids in managing change. Firms can use this model to guide organizational changes, ensuring that changes are consistent with the underlying structure and strategy.

Conflict Resolution

By clarifying roles and hierarchies, Mintzberg’s configurations can help in resolving conflicts within organizations, as they provide a clear framework for authority and responsibility.

Scalability and Growth

As organizations grow, they often need to transition from one configuration to another. Understanding Mintzberg’s model can guide this transition, ensuring that the organizational structure supports the firm’s growth.

Benchmarking and Best Practices

Firms can use the model to compare their structures with those of other organizations in similar or different configurations, allowing them to adopt best practices and benchmark their performance.


What are Mintzberg’s organizational configurations?

Mintzberg’s organizational configurations are a framework that categorizes organizations into various structural forms based on their key coordinating mechanisms and characteristics.

How many organizational configurations did Mintzberg propose?

Mintzberg identified five primary organizational configurations: simple structure, machine bureaucracy, professional bureaucracy, divisionalized form, and adhocracy.

What is a simple structure in Mintzberg’s framework?

A simple structure is characterized by a small, centralized organization with a single leader who makes most decisions, minimal formalization, and direct supervision of employees.

What is a machine bureaucracy according to Mintzberg?

A machine bureaucracy is an organization with high standardization, strict rules and procedures, and a hierarchical structure, where tasks are performed based on well-defined roles.

What defines a professional bureaucracy in Mintzberg’s model?

A professional bureaucracy relies on highly skilled and specialized employees who have a significant degree of autonomy in decision-making, often found in professions like medicine or law firms.

What is the divisionalized form in Mintzberg’s framework?

The divisionalized form features multiple semi-autonomous units or divisions, each with its own resources and decision-making authority, while a central coordinating body oversees these divisions.

What is an adhocracy in Mintzberg’s organizational configurations?

An adhocracy is characterized by a flexible, non-hierarchical structure where innovation and creativity are encouraged, and decision-making is often based on expertise and knowledge rather than formal rules.

Are organizations limited to just one configuration in Mintzberg’s model?

No, organizations may exhibit elements of multiple configurations simultaneously, as they can adopt different structures for various functions or units within the same organization.

How can organizations benefit from understanding these configurations?

Understanding Mintzberg’s configurations can help organizations select or adapt their structure to better match their goals, strategies, and the environment they operate in.

Can organizations change their configuration over time?

Yes, organizations can evolve and adapt their configuration over time as their internal and external circumstances change, such as shifts in technology, market conditions, or strategic objectives.

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