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How should we manage – Henry Mintzberg’s view

In 1975, Henry Mintzberg published an article in Harvard Business Review on what constitutes the nature of managerial work. Rather than looking at what managers should do, he analyzed the way managers spend their time. He consolidated this into three areas and 10 roles that a manager fulfills:

Interpersonal roles

  • Figurehead – every manager must perform ceremonial duties
  • Leader – motivating, encouraging and aligning employees
  • Liaison – making contact outside the vertical role, with peers and others

Informational roles

  • Monitor – the manager perpetually scans the environment for information, interrogating liaison contacts and subordinates, and receiving unsolicited information, much of it as a result of the network of personal contacts.
  • Disseminator – the manager passes some privileged information directly to subordinates, who would otherwise have no access to it.
  • Spokesperson – the manager sends some information to people outside the unit and as a spokesperson, every manager must inform and satisfy the influential people who control the organizational unit.

Decisional roles

  • Entrepreneur – the manager seeks to improve the unit, to adapt it to changing conditions in the environment.
  • DisturbanceHandler – the manager involuntarily responding to pressures. The pressures of a situation are too severe to be ignored—a strike looms, a major customer has gone bankrupt, or a supplier reneges on a contract—so the manager must act.
  • ResourceAllocator – the manager is responsible for deciding who will get what. Perhaps the most important resource the manager allocates is his or her own time. Also, as resource allocator, the manager authorizes the important decisions of the unit before they are implemented.
  • Negotiator – managers spend considerable time in negotiations.

The popularity of Mintzberg’s work is due to its realistic description. It is not so much as philosophy as a way-things-are-done. Is shows the complexity and demands on the manager. Here management is more art – the blending of different demands.


Filed under: management philosophy,