Sunday 31st May 09:13

Management Gurus: Henry Mintzberg

mintzberg_142Henry Mintzerg was born in Canada in 1939 and has spent nearly all his life working in that country. He studied at McGill University in Montreal as a mechanical engineer and, after some time with Canadian National Railways returned to the university to become profesor of management studies. His impact as a management guru began with his book, "The Nature of Managerial Work" in 1973, when after years of detailed research and observation into the daily habits and time management of chief executive officers, Mintzberg demonstrated that what managers did was substantially different from what most management theories said they should do.

Henry Mintzberg: The Characteristics of Management Work

As a result of his observations of CEO's at work, Mintzberg was able to develop a range of characteristics that described the work of management. At the time, these were original and eye-opening and flew in the face of prevailing wisdom. They include the following characteristics

1. The manager's job is a mixture of regular, programmed jobs and unprogrammed tasks.
2. A manager is both a generalist and a specialist.
3. Managers rely on information from all sources but show a preference for that which is orally transmitted.
4. Managerial work is made up of activities that are characterised by brevity, variety and fragmentation.
5. Management work is more an art than a science and is reliant on intuitive processes and a feel for what is right.
6. Management work is becoming more complex.
7. Managers process large, open-ended workloads under tight time pressure - a manager's job is never done.
8. Managerial activities are relatively short in duration, varied and fragmented and often self-initiated.
9. CEOs prefer action and action driven activities and dislike mail and paperwork.
10. They prefer verbal communication through meetings and phone conversations.
11. They maintain relationships primarily with their subordinates and external parties and least with their superiors.
12. Their involvement in the execution of the work is limited although they initiate many of the decisions.

Henry Mintzberg: The Management Role

Arising out of his studies of what managers did, Mintzberg was then able to identify 10 separate roles that he believed made up the content of the manager's job. They fall into 3 categories: interpersonal contact; information processing; and decision-making. The roles are:

1. Figurehead: the manager is the visible leader of the team and performs symbolic duties
2. Leader: the manager creates an appropriate work culture and motivates and develops others
3. Liaiser: the manager develops and maintains a network of external contacts
4. Monitor: the manager receives information about how the business is doing
5. Disseminator: the manager transmits information to those who need it
6. Spokesperson: the manager speaks on behalf of the team to the outside world
7. Entrepreneur: the manager designs and initiates change
8. Disturbance Handler: the manager responds to unexpected events and operational breakdowns
9. Resource Allocator: the manager controls and authorises the use of resources
10. Negotiator: the manager makes deals with others.

Henry Mintzberg: Understanding the Work of Managers

Mintzberg's contribution to management was to shine the light on the myths of managers being able to spend their time quietly planning, organising, and reflecting on results. In one set of findings, Mintzberg discovered that a group of foremen did 583 different activities in one 8-hour shift, an average of one every 48 seconds, with no time at all for thinking. Out of his observations, Mintzberg challenged and re-defined our thinking about what it means to be a manager.