CPSC 689/602--Spring 1997
Computer-Supported Cooperative Work
Title: A Typology of Organizational Structure
Authors: Henry Mintzberg
Citation: Mintzberg, H. (1984). A Typology of Organizational Structure. In Miller, D. and Friesen, P. H. (Eds.), Organizations: A Quantum View, Prentice-Hall, pp. 68-86.
Reprinted in: Readings in Groupware and Computer-Supported
Cooperative Work: Assisting Human-Human Collaboration by Ronald M.
Baecker on pp. 177-186
This article detailed five basic organizational structures that all
organizations gravitate toward. The forces and primary challenges of an
organization's environment push it toward one of these structures.
The structures are the following:
These organizational structures arise any time when more than one person must
coordinate different tasks to get a single job done. There are five ways to
effect such coordination. They are listed below:
- Simple Structure
- Machine Bureaucracy
- Professional Bureaucracy
- Divisionalized Form
All of these organizational structures are, to varying degrees, made up of the
following five parts:
- Direct supervision -- One person gives direct orders to others.
- Standardization of work processes -- One person designs the general work
procedures of others.
- Standardization of outputs -- One person specifies the general outputs of
the work of another.
- Standardization of skills -- A person in trained in a certain way.
- Mutual adjustment -- Two or more people communicate informally among
These various parts have more influence and are of greater size in the
different organizational structures.
- operating core -- where the basic work of producing the organization's
products and services gets done.
- strategic apex -- the home of top management.
- middle line -- all those managers who stand in a direct line relationship
between the strategic apex and the operating core
- techostructure -- the staff analysts who design the systems by which work
processes and outputs are standardized
- support staff -- all those specialists who provide support to the
organization outside of its operating workflow.
Hybrid structures can be found where an established company is being forced to
change by changes in its environment, or where a younger company is coming of
age. Some examples of where the different structures might be found and their
environments are listed below:
The article was to a great extent simply about management theory. The main
point that I think it brings up for CSCW is to consider which of these
structures would benefit most from which kind of computer support systems. It
is also worth considering which structures might even be disrupted by certain
types of computer systems being introduced.
- Simple Structure -- entrepreneurial firm; the environment is at the same
time simple (comprehensible by one person) and dynamic.
- Machine Bureaucracy -- mass-production firms; the environment is both
simple (i.e. non-complex) and stable.
- Professional Bureaucracy -- school systems, social-work agencies,
accounting firms; the environment is both complex (requiring extensive training) and stable (the training can be standardized).
- Divisionalized Form -- large corporations, government; the environment is
characterized by market diversity; specifically, that of products and
- Adhocracy -- consulting firms, advertising agencies, chemical firms, space
agencies; the environment is both complex and dynamic.
Report prepared by: Tom McCollum, Email:
Discussion date: 1/31/97
Report date: 2/3/97