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Organizational Archetypes Essay


The purpose of this paper is to examine Mintzberg’s organizational archetypes and to explain why an organizational template is a good idea. It will also explore briefly, the subject of teamwork and leadership and why there are not enough true leaders today.

Organizational Archetypes

To be successful, an organization has to be made up of quality people. It also has to be structured in such a way as to promote success. Successful businesses today are based on structural archetypes that were products of the work of Henry Mintzberg, a renowned management theorist. Henry Mintzberg graduated from McGill University and has written 15 books and about 150 articles all dealing with organizational structure. According to him, an organization’s structure comes from its strategy, the environmental forces it experiences, and the way the organization itself is built. When all of these work well together the organization will be successful, but if they do not interplay nicely the organization will not be successful (Markgraf, 2014).

To better illustrate the idea he was promoting Mintzberg came up with basically five different structural archetypes. A couple of them may be referred to by different names but the five included are 1) the simple or entrepreneurial archetype, 2) the machine bureaucracy archetype, 3) the professional archetype, 4) the divisional archetype, and 5) the innovative (also known as adhocracy) archetype (Mintzberg’s Organizational Configurations, 2014). Each of these archetypes demonstrate a different way that a business can be structured and each of them are like an umbrella, encompassing a number of different types of businesses within each. But together, they represent the organizational structure of pretty much every business that has any type of success. So this begs the question: What are the key features of each archetype?

First, we have the simple or entrepreneurial archetype. This kind of structure basically consists of one large unit with one or just a few top managers. It is relatively informal compared to other organizations and the lack of standardization allows it to be more flexible. This category is made up of mostly small or very young companies. As it grows this type of business structure begins to become inadequate as the decision-making load proves to be too much for the small management staff (Mintzberg’s Organizational Configurations, 2014).

Next we have the machine organization. This group is made up of mostly large manufacturers and government agencies. For the most part, tasks are formalized and there is a high level of standardization which allows the organization to function much like a machine. Jobs are clearly defined and procedures are regularly analyzed for efficiency. This works well but the downside is that this formalization can lead to specialization, and this can result in functional units having conflicting goals that are inconsistent with the corporation’s objectives (Mintzberg’s Organizational Configurations, 2014).

Third, and closely related to the machine structure, is the professional organization. While also being very bureaucratic, the difference is that decision-makers are highly trained professionals who have control over their own work. These specialized skills and the autonomy that these highly trained professionals enjoy makes the decision making more decentralized in this structure and that makes it much more complex. This type of organization is the kind where we find schools and universities falling within (Kokemuller, 2014).

In large and mature organizations you will often find the next archetype, and that is the divisional organization. In this type there are many different product lines and business units. There is a central headquarters with a number of autonomous divisions making their own decisions. One of the strengths of this type of organization is that with the autonomy of the separate divisions it leaves the central team to focus on the big picture. It also allows them to make sure that necessary support systems are in place for the entire organization. A significant weakness of this type is that with so many autonomous divisions you end up having a significant duplication of resources and activities and at times even conflict between divisions since they are competing for the same company resources (Kokemuller, 2014).

The last archetype is the innovative organization or “adhocracy”. This is best suited to new companies that need to be innovative just to survive. Filmmaking, pharmaceuticals, and consulting businesses all fall within this category. Within this type of organization power is delegated to wherever it is needed which can bring up some control issues, but at the same time gives them unequaled flexibility. They can also move their talent around to get them involved in any project where they may be needed. This allows them to respond very quickly to change. Because the talent moves around to where it is needed, teams can be self-organizing and the sharing of authority can be just as effective when shared horizontally as it is when shared vertically.

This really sets an “adhocracy” apart from other archetypes because in all the others authority really only flowed vertically to varying degrees. But here we have horizontal sharing too, which as we mentioned, can result in some problems with control and who has final authority over some decisions. But for the most part this is a very successful type of organization for project-based companies or those that require the ability to adjust to quick changes quite often (Mintzberg’s Organizational Configurations, 2014).

So, we find that Mintzberg’s five archetypes cover most successful businesses that we see. But these archetypes are broad descriptions of the organization. To really understand individual organizations we need to get more specific. This is where templates come in handy. They can be based on the archetype, but they illustrate more specifically how things will be structured and relate to each other in the business. They can quickly make clear what the purpose, mission, and goals are for the organization. You need templates because they can be used to very quickly see the current state of the organization and how different resources can be manipulated to improve the business. A template also makes it much easier to show employees the purpose of the business, how it is to run, and what their role will be. In this way it serves as a visual aid (Microsoft, n.d.).

Mintzberg also made the claim that we have too many managers and too few leaders. This paper supports that statement. A manager is a position to be filled. In businesses with a high turn-over of employees, such as the fast food industry or quick-marts, someone may be promoted to the position of manager but only because there is no other choice. It is not because they are qualified. This happens a lot today. So we have a lot of managerial positions being filled by persons who are untrained and do not possess true leadership skills. Then once promoted a lot of managers seem to want to be friends first and leaders second. It is not a bad thing to have a friendly relationship with your workers, but not at the expense of leading them properly. The result is that the business suffers. But it is a hard fact to change since we have such a big turnover in workers today (Peshawaria, 2003).

So in conclusion, Mintzberg was a theorist with several good ideas. His work in the field of organizational and managerial theory has helped people for decades to better understand how businesses should be classified and how they should be structured and run. By studying his ideas a person can certainly better understand the benefits and weaknesses of basing an organization on a particular type of structure and also how the decision making process should be handled.

Kokemuller, N. (2014). Mintzberg’s Five Types of Organizational Structure. Retrieved August 16, 2014, from Houston Chronicles: Markgraf, B. (2014). Mintzberg’s Five Types of Organizational Structure. Retrieved August 16, 2014, from azCentral: Microsoft. (n.d.). Business organizational chart. Retrieved August 16, 2014, from Templates: Mintzberg’s Organizational Configurations. (2014). Retrieved August 16, 2014, from Peshawaria, R. (2003, May 19). Too Many Bosses, Too Few Leaders. Retrieved August 16, 2014, from

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