To Six Configurations of Organization . . and Beyond

Is there a sixth configuration? Well, the rainbow still has only five colors.1 But the planets turned out to number more than five. We even seem to be on the verge of recognizing that sixth sense. So why not a sixth configura- tion? As long, of course, as it maintains the harmony of our theory: it must have its own unique coordinating mechanism, and a new, sixth part of the organization must dominate it.

We do have a candidate for that sixth configuration—one, in fact, that appeared, like the others, repeatedly in this book. It came up in socializa- tion and indoctrination in Chapter 2, then somehow got lost within Profes- sional Bureaucracy in Chapter 10; it was passed over quickly in the men- tion in Chapter 5 of the democracy of the volunteer organization; it was hinted at in the mentions of loyalty and organizational identification in various places; one of its founding characteristics—charismatic leader- ship—was discussed under Simple Structure in Chapter 8. Moreover, its work is often simple and routine, as in Machine Bureaucracy, its members often function in quasi-autonomous cells or enclaves, as in the Division- alized Form, and they are prepared to cooperate with each other like the members of the Adhocracy. A composite of all five configurations is ob- viously a signal to introduce a sixth.

The Missionary configuration has its own key coordinating mecha- nism—socialization, or, if you like, the standardization of normsand a corresponding main design parameter, indoctrination, as well as a sixth and key part of the organization, ideology. Indeed, ideology is a living (if not technically animate) part of every organization, at least a part evident to those with that elusive sixth sense. The perceptive visitor ‘”senses” it immediately. Ideology—here referring to the system of beliefs about the organization itself, not those of the society that surrounds it—represents a sixth important force on every organization, toward a sense of mission: the pull to evangelize on behalf of the organization. (Hence the ideology can be pictured as a halo that surrounds our entire logo, and the pull to evangelize as arrows emanating radially from this halo.) Usually this is one pull among many, in some cases strong enough to overlay missionary charac- teristics on what would otherwise have been something close to one of the other pure configurations. More often, perhaps, in today’s organizations, the pull of ideology is lost in the stronger pulls to standardize, Balkanize, and so on. But the pull to evangelize can dominate too, giving rise to a relatively pure form of the Missionary configuration.

The pure Missionary is built around an inspiring mission—to change society in some way, or to change the organization’s own members, or just to provide them with a unique experience—and an accompanying set of beliefs and norms. In this latter respect, the Missionary is a form of bureau- cracy, since it coordinates based on the standardization of norms. In that sense, it too is inflexible and nonadaptive: the mission has to be distinctive and inspiring, but neither it nor the set of norms that surround it—”the word,” so to speak—can be changed. Indeed, some Missionaries are intent on changing all organizations except themselves!

In other respects, however, the Missionary is very different from our other forms of bureaucracy. Above all, it is very loosely structured. Once its new members are duly socialized and indoctrinated, establishing their undivided loyalty, they can be trusted to perform their work free of all the controls of conventional bureaucracy. In other words, “normative” control is more than sufficient to achieve most of the needed coordination. Indeed, such loyalty can be maintained only by trusting all the members equally, which necessitates dispensing with these controls. This also requires a simple mission and a simple technical system, both free of the need for expert skills and all the status differences that accompany them.

From these basic features stem virtually all the other characteristics of the pure Missionary. A loose division of labor exists throughout, with job rotation in place of job specialization, and minimal or even no distinction between manager and operator or between line and staff. The organization achieves the purest form of decentralization, with no privileged group at all (making this the closest configuration to the democratic ideal, although strong, charismatic leadership—and Simple Structure—had to exist as a prior condition to create the ideology in the first place). Grouping is on the basis of market (that is, mission) in one relatively small unit. Should the organization grow larger, it will tend to keep dividing itself into small units (or enclaves), each autonomous except for its sharing of the common ideol- ogy. That is because personal contact is the only way to maintain the strong ideology.

Aside from these structural characteristics, the pure Missionary tends to exhibit an absence of others: hardly any direct supervision or standard- ization of work or outputs or skills, hence minimal hierarchy, no tech- nostructure, barely any middle line, and a virtual absence of formalization, outside training, action planning, and performance control. Whatever mu- tual adjustment is needed to reinforce the standardization of norms can be achieved informally, with little need for the semiformal liaison devices. In other words, here we have a configuration of the design parameters (and of the situational factors) no less consistent than any of the others—and, in the literal sense, far more harmonious.2

We can obviously find something close to the pure Missionary config- uration in volunteer organizations with strong systems of beliefs—tradi- tional Israeli kibbutzim, ideological religious movements and sects, revolu- tionary political parties, groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and so on. But Missionary characteristics appear in more conventional organizations, too, when they develop their own powerful and unique ideologies—as in the highly idealistic small-town university, or the manufacturing firm whose employees thoroughly believe in its unique, carefully crafted products.

Indeed, the current interest in the organization of Japanese enterprise revolves around its essentially Missionary characteristics, which stand in sharp contrast to the Machine Bureaucracies of the West. The West has never had an era of the Missionary, in which that configuration was in fashion. But perhaps our descendants, in their wish to escape from in- stability and impersonal relationships in their “post-adhocratic” age, will turn increasingly toward ideology and the Missionary configuration in the structuring of their organizations.

One last point. Why introduce a sixth configuration at this point in our discussion? For its own sake, to be sure, since it is important in the effective structuring of organizations and seems destined to become in- creasingly so. Our pentagon should really be considered a hexagon. But for another reason, too: because the reader should be left to question one major premise of this book. Throughout, we have implied that the effective structuring of organizations is a kind of jigsaw puzzle. “Here are the pieces—five parts of the organization, five coordinating mechanisms, nine design parameters, four sets of situational factors. Now let’s see how they fit together. Lo and behold, there turn out to be five ways. To design an effective organization, you should select one of these five images. Or at least put together a logical composite of the five of them. You define your situation and then slot right into the pigeonholes (just as the Professional Bureaucracy does with its clients).”

In fact, this makes good sense for many organizations (as it does for most of the clients of Professional Bureaucracies). But not all. Some need to break away from the standard solutions (as must the clients who have unique problems, and so had better find an Adhocracy instead). These organizations must, in other words, create their own configurations—play “Lego” with the pieces instead of jigsaw puzzle—building new, un- thought-of, yet equally consistent structures. Thus, we offer a final hy- pothesis of organizational effectiveness, one that, while compatible with the calls of the others for congruence and consistency, transcends them. We call it the creation hypothesis: effective structuring sometimes re- quires the creation of a new configuration, an original yet consistent combination of the design parameters and the situational factors. Not every organization can create a whole new structural form. But some, to be truly effective, must. That is why those who possess real magic think beyond five.

And so it should be told that one day in her aging years, when Ms. Raku came down from her fifty-fifth story office to preside at the ground- breaking ceremony for Ceramico’s largest-ever factory, she slipped on her shovel and fell in the mud. Her sense of revulsion at having dirtied her dress was suddenly replaced by one of profound nostalgia, for she realized that this was her first real contact with the earth since her days in the studio. There came the sudden revelation that making pots was more important than making money. And so the organization took on a new mission—the hand-making of beautiful yet functional pots—and it devel- oped a new structure to reflect its new ideology. As her last act as presi- dent, Ms. Raku changed the name of the organization one last time—to Potters of the Earth.

Source: Mintzberg Henry (1992), Structure in Fives: Designing Effective Organizations, Pearson; 1st edition.

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