Essay on Organizational Structures

Published: 2021/11/29
Number of words: 2336


Organizations are established to achieve goals. These goals can only be attained through a structured plan with standardization of work across various units of an organization. Even within each unit, more distinction between task and personnel performing them are established. Recently, social scientist, including Henry Mintzberg, have amplified traditional organizational structures by adding various dimensions and configurations. According to Mintzberg, an organization can be structured along three key dimensions, such as organizational parts, means of coordination, and decentralization. Under organizational parts, an organization can be structured into a strategic apex, operating core, middle line, support staff, and technostructure. Furthermore, Mintzberg suggests that the three basics dimensions of an organization can be utilized to produce five structural configurations such as simple structure, adhocracy, professional bureaucracy, machine bureaucracy, and divisional sized form (Mintzberg, 1980). All these concepts are discussed in this paper.

Five Organizational Parts and their Significance to Organizational Design

Organizations, including both profit and non-profit, can be partitioned into five structured components developed by Henry Mintzberg. These components include strategic apex, middle line, technostructure, support staff, and operating core. According to Mintzberg, these components is essential in understanding the process of workflow in an organization, as discussed below;

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  • Strategic Apex

The strategic apex forms the most superior level in the organization. This level is occupied by the senior-most persons comprising the board of directors like the CEO, chairman, and executive directors. They play an indispensable role in organizational design. For example, they set objectives, define organizational values, mission, and ensure objectives are consistent with these values. Besides, the strategic apex is accountable for controlling organizational affiliation with the micro-environment. They are not involved in daily business operation or deal with suppliers or consumers, but they undertake the role of practicing oversight to these operations (Mintzberg, 1980).

  • Operational Core

This component performs activities necessary for producing outputs. Operational managers are involved in this part, and their core responsibility is to ensure daily operations in the organization. Under the guidance of senior managers, the operational managers can achieve organizational goals, especially on interactions with external shareholders such as consumers and suppliers. Moreover, they ensure organizational outcomes are based on quality and effectiveness. Due to their operational knowledge, they offer key information in determining strategic measures and budgeting by the senior management team (Lunenburg, 2012).

  • Middle Line

The middle line act as a link between the strategic apex and operating core. Its primary role lies in interpretation since the responsibility and workflow of the operating have to be in harmony with strategic apex prospects and plans. The managers in the middle line segment interpret the goals and policies of the strategic level administration into practicable measures and ideals that can be achieved by the operational administration. They formulate a budget, collect reports from accounting managers in strategic apex, and oversee organizational performances and undertake correctives standard where applicable. Furthermore, middle line managers regularly take financing and investing decisions as guided by the strategic level managers. Lastly, the roles of every department in regarding attainment of organizational goals are coordinated at this level (Lunenburg, 2012).

  • Technostructure

This element comprises important individuals serving in functions such as finance, public relations, human resource, among others. According to Mintzberg, multiple roles exist in technostructure. Employees at this level provide managerial assistance by conducting central activities of the organization. For example, planners determine the best outputs and outline quality requirements, whereas analysts choose the best way possible to perform the task effectively and focus on standardizing skills (Mintzberg, 1980).

  • Support Staff

Support staff operates in research and developments, legal roles, and public relations. The outputs of support staff directly contribute to the central theme of the organization since their roles facilitate the effectiveness and productivity of the middle line, operating core, and strategic apex levels. Even though support staff has the least relevance to the organization since their absentia has a least negative impact on the organization productivity, their services are crucial to the organization because these personnel offers good working environment and services. Organizational departments such as maintenance, cleaning, or canteen fall under this part.

In summary, the relative affluence of these components to each other has a positive influence on the organizational landscape. Henry Mintzberg emphasizes that has an ideal aspect of coordination. For instance, the strategic apex seeks to synchronize through management or supervision of other levels. Likewise, the middle line focus on standardizing output, whereas the technostructure is determined to standardize work process. Besides, the operating core seeks to standardize skills (Mintzberg, 1980). As such, each component in the organization operates by harmonizing workflows with respect to achieving organizational objectives.

Elements of Structural Dimensions and how it Related to Organizational Design

According to Henry Mintzberg, an organization can be differentiated into three basic structural dimensions such as core part of the organization, coordinating mechanism, and decentralization employed, as discussed below.

Organizational Core Parts

This structural dimension plays a crucial role in determining organizational success or failure. Its components include;

  • The strategic apex constitutes board f directors and senior executive. Their key role is to define organizational values, and ensure the goals of the organization are consistent with the mission and vision of the organization.
  • The operating core comprises employees performing an organizational task, and they are accountable for delivering output.
  • The middle line comprises lower-level management responsible for linking operating core and strategic apex.
  • The technostructure comprises specialists including planners, accountants, personnel managers, human resource e.t.c
  • The support staff comprises individuals providing indirect services in the organization (Mintzberg, 1980).

Coordinating Mechanism

This structure outlines procedures used by the organization to coordinate activities, for example;

  • Direct supervision where one personnel supervises others through scalar principles or unity of command
  • Standardization of work practices occurs when the tasks are structured or programmed.
  • Standardization of skills occurs when there is specified training necessary to perform the task.
  • Standardization of output occurs when the outcomes of the work are clearly stated.
  • Mutual adjustment occurs when the work is harmonized through informal means of communication (Oliveira, 2011)


Decentralization forms the extent to which an organization engages juniors in decision-making practice. The types of decentralization include;

  • Vertical decentralization, which involves power distribution downwards along the chain of command.
  • Horizontal decentralization allows non-administration such as staff to contribute to the decision-making process.
  • Selective decentralization involves the redistribution of decision making and delegation of powers into various departments within the organization (Serrat, 2012).

Relationship of Five Organizational Parts in Organization

Utilizing the three key dimensions, Henry Mintzberg’s establish organizational archetypes. He suggested that the approach an organization adopts and the extent to which organization carry out that approach would produce five structural configurations or archetypes: simple structure, professional bureaucracy, adhocracy, machine bureaucracy, and divisional form, as discussed below;

Simple Structure

This structural configuration has it core part at the structural apex where direct supervision is utilized as a leading mechanism of coordination. Also, the simple structure employs the incorporation of horizontal and vertical centralization. Some of the examples of this configuration include medium-sized retail stores, newly established governmental units or small corporations. The organization comprise senior manager and a few employees in the operative core. Besides, it lacks technostructures like human resource personnel and contains limited support staff who perform overlapping activities. As such, simple structure is relatively unstructured and informal in its operation, thus leading to inadequacy in decision making when sharing powers and assigning duties. According to Henry Mintzberg, simple structure is a centralized and autocratic configuration characterized by small hierarchy, with authority vested in the hands top management (Serrat, 2012).

Machine Bureaucracy

The machine bureaucracy accrues a lot of strengths and opportunities primarily from its technostructure. This configuration is best at mass production and is typified by sets of alignment, a huge number of routine practices, sharp divisions of labour, and formal structures and procedures. Therefore, the standardization of work process is utilized as a key coordination mechanism in this organization. Also, it is characterized by the high ability of work specialization and formalization. Since this structure involves numerous routines and protocols, decision making is centralized, and roles are clustered by the practical department (Serrat, 2012). Moreover, the machine bureaucracy has various levels of the chain of command from senior management all the way to the subordinates. Because this configuration is efficient and relies heavily on economies of scale, little lateral coordination is required (Lunenburg, 2012).

Professional Bureaucracy

Professional bureaucracy configuration utilizes operating core as its core part. Also, the standardization of skills is adopted as a coordinating mechanism and incorporates the use of both horizontal and vertical decentralization. In this configuration, the organization is moderately formalized but decentralized to offer some aspects of independence to employees. Mintzberg asserts that professional bureaucracy is bureaucratic in nature (Mintzberg, 1980. However, the key difference between this structure and machine bureaucracy is that in professional bureaucracy heavily depends on highly trained professionals who are autonomous in their work. Likewise, this structure is based on less hierarchy involved, built on democratic principles, and highly motivated over machine bureaucracy (Serrat, 2012). The structure has limited top management, few middle supervisors, and a small number of the technostructure. However, the support staff is typically extended to deliver necessary support for the professional, functional core. Professional bureaucracy focuses on providing high-quality services, which are centred on creativity since this structure comprises a large number of knowledgeable employees. Furthermore, professional bureaucracy is typically complex, and it involves a lot of legislation and procedures. As such, this allows the structure to enjoy a lot of efficiency and effectiveness. Examples of this form of configuration include law firms, institutions of higher learning, and hospitals (Oliveira, 2011).

Divisional Form

This structure employs the middle line as the core part and utilizes standardization of output as a key coordinating mechanism. Also, the divisionalized form uses partial vertical decentralization. At the divisional level, there is a decentralization of decision making and little coordination between distinct divisions. Organizational level personnel provides the coordination. Therefore, every division is comparatively centralized, and aspects of machine bureaucracy characterize it. These features enable top managers to retain more control and accountability than in the case of machine bureaucracy. Besides, with the decentralization of daily decision making, the central group can focus on the organizational core strategic plans. Moreover, the central headquarters in the divisional form support various autonomous divisions with their unique structures and who make their centralized decision (Lunenburg, 2012). As such, this configuration can be found in large corporates organizations operating in a variety of brands, has its operation in different geographical locations, and manufactures a variety of products. The diversified organization focus on merging business into larger corporates under the vertical label of integration in quest for capitalizing synergies (Serrat, 2012).

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Adhocracy Structure

This structural configuration uses support staff as its key part and employs joint adjustment as a mechanism of coordination. Also, this structure retains selective arrangements as an outline of decentralization. It contains small technostructure since technical professionals are based at the organization’s operative apex. The support staffs are extremely large to provide support to complex structure. Adhocracy structure is built on the ideology of innovation that could be synchronized through the standardization of norms, which are strengthened by socialization, selection, and indoctrination (Serrat, 2012). Besides, adhocracies operate in non-routine activities by incorporating the use of complex technology. Its primary objective is to nurture innovation in a rapidly changing environment. In adhocracies, an organization hires professional across a pool of talents to orchestrate a functional and creative team. As such, this structure is advantageous because it sustains a central pool of talent across a broader scope which can be drawn at any given time to address any situation or provide their expertise in constantly changing markets. Some of the examples of adhocracies include film making industries, aerospace and electronics firms, and research and development institutions such as pharmaceuticals (Lunenburg, 2012)


The Mintzberg organizational framework suggests that an organization can be structured into three basic dimensions. Firstly, the organizational part dimension, which plays a vital role in determining the success and failure of an organization. Secondly, the key means of coordination that comprises major procedure utilized by the organization while coordinating various task and responsibilities of its employees. Thirdly, the decentralization, which provides a basis for junior subordinates to participate in decision-making processes. Utilizing these basic dimensions, Mintzberg asserts that the strategy adopted would produce five structural configurations, as discussed above.


Lunenburg, F. C. (2012). Organizational Structure: Mintzberg’s Framework. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SCHOLARLY, ACADEMIC, INTELLECTUAL DIVERSITY14(1). Sam Houston State University.,


Mintzberg, H. (1980). STRUCTURE IN 5’S: A SYNTHESIS OF THE RESEARCH ON ORGANIZATION DESIGN*. Management Science26(3), 322–341.

Oliveira, N. (2011). Henry Mintzberg’s Five Basic Configurations. Automated Organizations, 27–37.

Serrat, O. (2012). On Organizational Configurations. 1–4. Cornell University ILR School DigitalCommons@ILR.

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