Mintzberg’s on the Craft of Management and Managerial Roles

The management view that the business schools provide differ in perspective and tone. Learn about Mintzberg view on management.

Henry Mintzberg stands out as a thought leader whose perspectives have significantly shaped our understanding of managerial roles.

Through his extensive research and writings, Mintzberg has dissected the multifaceted nature of management, moving beyond traditional theories to present a more nuanced view.

Probably, if reading the start of this text, he would (maybe) already say something some bad use of some buzzwords.

This blog post delves into Mintzberg’s opinion on what managers do and his conceptualization of management as a craft.

The Roles in Management: Mintzberg’s Managerial Roles

In his seminal work, “The Nature of Managerial Work” published in 1973, Mintzberg challenged the traditional notions of managerial functions that were largely based on planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating, and controlling.

Instead, he introduced a model comprising ten managerial roles, grouped into three categories: interpersonal, informational, and decisional.

The interpersonal roles (figurehead, leader, and liaison) highlight the manager’s responsibilities in building relationships, motivating subordinates, and maintaining networks.

  • Interpersonal Roles:
    • Figurehead: Performing ceremonial and symbolic duties as the head of the organization.
    • Leader: Motivating and managing subordinates, fostering a productive work environment.
    • Liaison: Networking with internal and external contacts to gather and disseminate information.

The informational roles (monitor, disseminator, and spokesperson) emphasize the manager’s role in gathering, processing, and disseminating information within and outside the organization.

  • Informational Roles:
    • Monitor: Collecting and analyzing information from various sources to stay informed.
    • Disseminator: Sharing valuable information with team members and subordinates.
    • Spokesperson: Representing the organization and conveying information to outsiders.

The decisional roles (entrepreneur, disturbance handler, resource allocator, and negotiator) capture the manager’s responsibilities in initiating change, resolving conflicts, allocating resources, and negotiating on behalf of the organization.

  • Decisional Roles:
    • Entrepreneur: Initiating and managing change and innovation within the organization.
    • Disturbance Handler: Addressing and resolving conflicts and crises.
    • Resource Allocator: Distributing resources effectively to achieve organizational goals.
    • Negotiator: Engaging in negotiations with various stakeholders on behalf of the organization.

These roles are interconnected, and effective managers must juggle and balance all ten roles simultaneously, adapting their approach based on situational demands.

Mintzberg’s theory challenges the traditional view of management as a linear and deliberate process focused solely on planning, organizing, and controlling.

Instead, it portrays management as a dynamic and multifaceted endeavor, where managers must constantly shift between various roles to address the complexities and uncertainties of the organizational environment.

This perspective has significant implications for management education, training, and development, as it emphasizes the importance of developing a broad range of skills and competencies.

It has influenced the way organizations define job responsibilities, evaluate performance, and design organizational structures.

Moreover, the theory’s emphasis on situational leadership and adaptability has become increasingly relevant in today’s rapidly changing business landscape, where agility and responsiveness are crucial for organizational success.

Mintzberg’s framework highlights the complexity and dynamism of managerial work, emphasizing that managers must navigate a diverse set of roles that require a broad skill set.

Management as a Craft

Mintzberg’s view of management extends beyond these roles to conceptualize management itself as a craft.

In his book “Managing” published in 2009, he argues that management is neither an exact science nor a pure art but a craft that blends both.

  1. Practical Knowledge: “Management is, above all, a practice where art, science, and craft meet,” Mintzberg writes. He believes that managers learn and refine their skills through hands-on experience, much like craftsmen. This practical knowledge is essential for navigating the complexities of real-world situations that cannot be fully addressed by theoretical models alone.
  2. Contextual Sensitivity: Craftsmanship in management requires sensitivity to context. Managers must understand the unique aspects of their organization and industry, tailoring their approaches to fit specific circumstances. This contextual awareness allows managers to make informed decisions that are relevant and effective.
  3. Intuition and Insight: Like master craftsmen, successful managers develop a keen sense of intuition and insight. “Effective managers are not people who do a great deal of work; they are people who get the work done effectively through others,” says Mintzberg. This aspect of management underscores its artistic side.
  4. Continuous Learning and Adaptation: Craftsmanship is about continuous learning and adaptation. Mintzberg believes that effective managers are always evolving, learning from their experiences, and adapting to new challenges. This iterative process of reflection and adjustment is crucial for sustained success in management.

The Craft of Management in Practice

Mintzberg’s view of management as a craft has profound implications for how organizations develop and support their managers. Here are a few practical takeaways:

  1. Emphasize Experiential Learning: Organizations should create opportunities for managers to gain diverse experiences and learn through practice. Job rotations, mentorship programs, and on-the-job training can help managers build their practical knowledge and skills.
  2. Encourage Reflective Practice: Encouraging managers to reflect on their experiences can deepen their insights and improve their decision-making. Reflection sessions, peer discussions, and feedback mechanisms can foster a culture of continuous learning.
  3. Support Contextual Adaptation: Organizations should recognize the importance of context in management. Providing managers with the autonomy to adapt their approaches based on specific situations can lead to more effective and responsive management.
  4. Value Intuition and Creativity: Intuition and creativity should be valued as essential components of managerial effectiveness. Organizations can cultivate these qualities by promoting a culture that encourages experimentation and innovation.

Henry Mintzberg’s insights into what managers do and his conceptualization of management as a craft offer a rich and practical understanding of the managerial role.

Recognizing the multifaceted nature of managerial work and embracing the craft of management, organizations can better equip their managers to navigate the complexities of today’s dynamic business environment.

Mintzberg’s work reminds us that effective management is not just about applying formulas, but about mastering the art and craft of leading and guiding people and organizations. As Mintzberg aptly puts it, “Management is, above all, a practice where art, science, and craft meet.”