Canadian management theorist and consultant. He pursued an academic career at McGill University in Montreal, after receiving his doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1968. He held the Bronfman chair in the Faculty of Management from 1982, until he was appointed the Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies in 1996. He holds numerous honours and awards, including the Distinguished Scholar Award for Contributions to Management from the Academy of Management in 2000.
In his first book, The Nature of Managerial Work (1973), Mintzberg exposed many of the myths surrounding senior management; previous research had concentrated on the people managed by managers and the structure of organizations rather than the day-to-day reality of managerial behaviour and performance. His concept of strategy emerging rather than being a wholly deliberate process is an important contribution to management thinking. He has challenged conventional strategic planning and also the business schools that teach it. He was also a principal architect and director of the International Masters Program in Practising Management, launched in 1995.
Mintzberg was born in Michigan. He graduated in mechanical engineering from McGill University in 1961 and worked in Operational Research at the Canadian National Railways until 1963, before going to MIT's Sloan School of Management, from where he received a PhD. In The Nature of Managerial Work, Mintzberg examined how managers actually worked. His research demonstrated that they spent most of their time responding to current issues and crises, and were not far-sighted strategists carefully planning their next move. From this, he identified the real work roles as interpersonal, such as leadership; information, as in communication; and decision-making. He also identified, in The Structuring of Organizations (1979), five types of ‘ideal’ organizational structure: simple, machine, professional, divisional, and adhocracy (a temporary structure).
In The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning (1994) Mintzberg argued that planning was concerned with collecting statistics and analysis, but that strategy was a creative process, sometimes simply a ‘great vision’. Effective strategists do not abstract themselves from the daily detail but use their experience, contacts, and initiative ‘to abstract the strategic messages’. He went on to criticize management education, describing business schools as obsessed with ‘cerebral management’, training people who were not managers, such as financial analysts, to become leaders. Since 1993 he has collaborated with business schools in Canada, England, France, India, and Japan to develop new approaches to management education. The International Masters Program in Practising Management was launched in 1995 to offer masters level training to practising managers in order ‘to teach real executives how to deal with real problems’.
Mintzberg is a visiting professor at INSEAD, France's leading business school, and was president of the Strategic Management Society (1988–91).
His other publications include Mintzberg on Management: Inside Our Strange World of Organizations (1989); Strategy Safari: A Guided Tour Through The Wilds of Strategic Management (1998); and Why I Hate Flying (2001).