Get ready for an enlightening conversation with management icon Henry Mintzberg, one of the few professors who has fundamentally reshaped our understanding of management, strategy and leadership. With a career spanning decades, Henry has made groundbreaking contributions to both academia and practice, transcending traditional boundaries to offer innovative insights on complex economic and societal issues. In our interview, we tap into Henry's extensive knowledge and expertise, eventually honing in on his latest opus, a visionary manifesto to "Rebalance Society." As a vocal critic of today's big corporate-dominated world, Henry contends that it's time to move beyond conventional left-right politics to re-establish a society founded on the balancing of responsible businesses, respected governments, and a robust plural sector. Join us for a thought-provoking dialogue as we explore Henry unique perspective on the most pressing management issues of our time!

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BEHIND the interview

Why is the interview important? Who are we talking to?


Henry Mintzberg

Henry has been a profound source of inspiration for both of us, dating back to our undergraduate days. His bold challenges to conventional management wisdom have become timeless classics. As we prepared for this interview and revisited Henry's extensive body of work, it felt like a delightful journey back through the rich tapestry of management traditions - always accompanied by Henry's incisive and often controversial insights and his remarkable ability to cut through complexity and express the essence of matters at hand.

That said, our focus for this interview revolved around three key areas: Firstly, we were eager to delve into Henry's latest thoughts on organizational structures. What new archetypes was he exploring, beyond the concept of adhocracy, and what did he envision as the ideal model for modern firms? Secondly, we were captivated by his writings on healthcare and interested to draw comparisons with Paul Adler's work on Kaiser Permanente. What strategies existed for reform both within organizations and across the sector? How might insights from healthcare provide wider relevance? Finally, our greatest curiosity stemmed from Henry's latest work, both visionary and provocative: "Rebalancing Society." We wanted to understand Henry's perspective on what had gone wrong with capitalism since 1989, and how the so-called "plural sector" could genuinely drive change. Moreover, we intended to explore whether in this context large organisations could ever become actors "for good", and how his brilliant "declaration of interdependence" - which resonated with Mike O'Donnell's suggestions about social licensing - could possibly be operationalised.


  • What are the main organisational configurations? How do they differ? When are they applicable? Which one is "best" for the future?
  • What are the differences between management and leadership, and is the separation of both meaningful? What is communityship?
  • What does a balanced society look like? Why have we lost the balance, at least in the West? How could society be rebalanced? Is there a (positive) role for large organisations?


Henry Mintzberg is a distinguished Canadian management scholar and author, celebrated for his groundbreaking contributions to the fields of management, strategy, and leadership. Born on September 2, 1939, in Montreal, Quebec, Mintzberg embarked on an academic journey that would span decades and revolutionize our understanding of these domains. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from McGill University in 1961, followed by a Master's degree in Management from the MIT Sloan School of Management in 1965. However, it was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where his passion for management research truly flourished. Mintzberg completed his Ph.D. in Management in 1968 under the guidance of renowned management scholar Warren Bennis. 

Throughout his illustrious career, Mintzberg held various academic positions, including serving as a professor at McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management, where he has spent a significant portion of his academic life. His research, often characterized by its sharp and critical commentary, has spurred discussions and debates, leading to significant advancements in the field. Some of his most notable works include "The Nature of Managerial Work" (1973), "Structure in Fives: Designing Effective Organizations" (1983), and "Rebalancing Society: Radical Renewal Beyond Left, Right, and Center" (2015). A recipient of the Officer of the Order of Canada, Henry Mintzberg has been celebrated for his monumental contributions to the fields of management and academia. With an impressive collection of 21 honorary degrees from universities worldwide, he stands as a testament to his profound impact and influence, challenging conventional management theories and offering innovative perspectives on complex economic and societal issues. His enduring influence on management thinking and his commitment to reshaping the way we perceive organizations and society have solidified his reputation as a true icon in the world of management scholarship. His visionary ideas continue to inspire generations of scholars, leaders, and changemakers around the globe.

Exploring the Critical concepts for this session

Management (or managing) is the administration of organizations, whether they are a business, a nonprofit organization, or a government body through business administration, nonprofit management, or the political science sub-field of public administration respectively. It is the science of managing the resources of businesses, governments, and other organizations. 
Management includes the activities of setting the strategy of an organization and coordinating the efforts of its employees or volunteers to accomplish its objectives through the application of available resources, such as financial, natural, technological, allocated authority, and human resources. "Run the business" and "Change the business" are two concepts that are used in management to differentiate between the continued delivery of goods or services and adapting of goods or services to meet the changing needs of customers. The term "management" may also refer to those people who manage an organization—managers.

An organizational structure defines how activities such as task allocation, coordination, and supervision are directed toward the achievement of organizational aims. Organizational structure affects organizational action and provides the foundation on which standard operating procedures and routines rest. It determines which individuals get to participate in which decision-making processes, and thus to what extent their views shape the organization's actions. Organizational structure can also be considered as the viewing glass or perspective through which individuals see their organization and its environment. An organization can be structured in many different ways, depending on its objectives.

Communityship certainly makes use of leadership, but not the egocentric, “heroic” kind that has become so prevalent in the business world. Communityship requires a more modest form of leadership that might be called engaged and distributed management. A community leader is personally engaged in order to engage others, so that anyone and everyone can exercise initiative. If you doubt this can happen, take a look at how Wikipedia, Linux, and other open-source operations work.

This publication’s title “Mintzberg on (ir)responsible management”, is a play on words eluding to Henry’s seminal publication “Mintzberg on management”. Its purpose is to make Henry’s perspective on responsible management accessible, both for managerial practice and future research. We tie together the pearls of Henry’s wisdom on the string that is the extant responsible management literature: On the impossibility of ignoring social consequences - On rebalancing society through management - On irresponsibility in and outside the letter of the law - On responsible management puzzles - On responsibility to the ones closest to us - On the responsible action plane - On face-to-face responsibilit y- On judging managers by their (ir)responsibilities.

We recommend strongly to download his book “Rebalancing Society” which can be found on this page in addition to further comments, insightful articles, and suggestions for action. On this website the pathway to rebalancing society is shown: "Reformation will require, not leadership so much as communityship, in the form of local initiatives that consolidate into a global movement. We can make our way to reformation in three stages: I. DECLARING our interdependence, II. ACTING to reverse what is wrong and renew what can be right, and III. CONSOLIDATING this by getting these actions together."

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A Resource Kit to launch your explorations

Henry's own excellent homepage where you can find all his blogs, books (also those which are freely available) and many articles

Our absolute favourite: make sure you sign the "Declaration of Interdependence"!

If you are interested in coaching and development with Henry and with Phil please visit this page for further details on the global  "Coaching Ourselves" initiatives

Finally, you can get an overview and links to his scientific work here

Who should control the corporation? How? And for the pursuit of what goals? Historically, the corporation was controlled by its owners - through direct control of the manager if not through direct management - for the pursuit of ecoomics goals. But as shareholding became dispersed, owner control weakened; and as the corporation grew to very large size, its economic actions came to have increaing social consequences. And now?

Deliberate and emergent strategies may be conceived as two ends of a continuum along which real-world strategies lie. This paper seeks to develop this notion, and some basic issues related to strategic choice, by elaborating along this continuum various types of strategies uncovered in research. These include strategies labelled planned, entrepreneurial, ideological, umbrella, process, unconnected, consensus and imposed.

This paper is about two managers of Red Cross refugee camps in Tanzania who manage by exception in rather exceptional circumstances. Using a model of managerial work that delineates roles carried out at the information, people, and action levels, inside and outside the unit, these managers' activities concentrate especially on communicating and controlling a chaotic situation in a steady state, at least temporarily.

In an attempt to develop a new perspective on management education combined with management development, we have in recent years developed a new approach. Drawing on the most interesting innovations in management education and devel-
opment and devising a number of our own, we created the International Masters Program in Practicing Management. This program sets aside many of management education’s most cherished beliefs and in their place establishes seven basic tenets upon which we believe true management education should be built.

Politics and conflict sometimes capture an organization in whole or significant part, giving rise to a form we call the Political Arena. After discussing briefly the system of politics in organizations, particularly as a set of ‘political games’, we derive through a series of propositions four basic types of Political Arenas: the complete Political Arena (characterized by conflict that is intensive and pervasive), the confrontation (conflict that is intensive but contained), the shaky alliance (conflict that is moderate and contained), and the politicized organization (conflict that is moderate but pervasive). the interrelationships among these four, as well as the context of each, are then described in terms of a process model of life cycles of Political Arenas. A final section of the paper considers the functional roles of politics in organizations.

Further essays and materials from other authors

This paper looks at a number of examples which all have a common theme: that large-scale social change comes from better cross-sector coordination rather than from the isolated intervention of individual organizations. Evidence of the effectiveness of this approach is still limited, but these examples suggest that substantially greater progress could be made in alleviating many of our most serious and complex social problems if nonprofits, governments, businesses, and the public were brought together around a common agenda to create collective impact.

Based on a comprehensive review of literature, the paper examines how ‘managerial work’ as a fluid analytical category has been approached methodologically, theoretically and empirically for more than 60 years. In particular, it highlights the existence of competing scholarly understandings regarding its nature, performance, meaning and politics.

This review incorporates strategic planning research conducted over more than 30 years and ranges from the classical model of strategic planning to recent empirical work on intermediate outcomes, such as the reduction of managers’ position bias and the coordination of subunit activity. Prior reviews have not had the benefit of more socialized perspectives that developed in response to Mintzberg’s critique of planning, including research on planned emergence and strategy-as-practice approaches.

The concept of adhocracy was first proposed several decades ago, essentially as a flexible and informal alternative to bureaucracy. Here we’re intending to redefine the concept in a way that further distinguishes it not only from bureaucracy but also from the meritocracy model of organization.

Selected published works

Interested in Leadership? Here is our Top 100 selection of the most important books for professional leaders of all times.

the socratic dialogue

Live video recording and podcasts

Explanations, artefacts and references from the interview

Of course, we must give a call out for Henry's unique beaver sculpture collection!

FREE DOWNLOAD of Henry's book
Rebalancing Society

Rebalancing Society [Free Download]

by Henry Mintzberg

What have we learned? Our "Best Bit" takeaways from the Interview


Here you can find the most memorable insights from our interview, related to our three inquiry questions. Simply select from the drop down menu on the right -->

The good society
  • This gets back to the good society, and you know, a good society cares, good people care. Good parents care, fathers of a good country care. And, and we’re driving caring out in a way […] We devote much more effort to cure than to cause. […] You know, they came up with a vaccine for the pandemic, fantastic, but who’s looking at the cause of the pandemic. I don’t mean the origin with some bats in a Chinese market. But for what’s causing the pandemic, I go back to pollution, because I think it’s a factor and who’s looking at that? So, we, again, we lose sight of what matters. Causes matters more than cure […] causes are more important because if you can deal with a cause you don’t need a cure, you don’t need to cure disease, if you can get to the cause.
  • The root cause is individualism that runs rampant in society. it’s mind blowing, the kind of things we tolerate.
  • The imbalance in society has crept up on us. Essentially, there are three sectors in society not two — public, private and what I call plural. Well, we’ll come back to that, I guess. But plural means community. Public means government, private means markets, and so on. Healthy societies balance those. The communist regimes in Eastern Europe didn’t collapse. The communist countries were out of balance on the side of government. And because we believe that capitalism trounced communism, we’ve been going out of balance ever since, on the side of private markets and independence.
  • It didn’t start in 1989, with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, but it’s certainly accelerated since 1989. But it’s been with us for a long time. And I always have this point of view that business is just too powerful.
On the stock market
  • Okay. I mean, I’m not one for simplistic solutions, but I think there is one, the stock market is utterly dysfunctional.
  • And we’re not so much talking about entrepreneurial companies, at least until they go public. Entrepreneurial companies tend to be more responsible. Some of them view their employees as almost family. They’re deeply devoted to their products. They’re personally humiliated if something goes wrong, and so on, and so forth. It’s the big corporations, the publicly traded corporations. And you’re constantly being driven to up shareholder value, not for 10 years, or 20 years, but for the next quarterly report, which is crazy that massive corporations have to report on a quarterly basis.
Tax Evasion
  • You know, it’s a race to the bottom on corporate taxation. It’s a race to the bottom. Every country has to keep dropping its corporate taxes, because every other country is dropping its corporate taxes, so corporations don’t pay their share anymore. And if Canada decided to up it, Canada was one of the countries that went quite low around 15%, if they decided to go back to 30%, the corporations would all claim to leave. […]. And so, globalization […] has no countervailing power, nobody can stand up. Even the big countries have trouble standing up to international globalization.

On “adjectival Capitalism”

  • I also collect adjectives of capitalism. I’ve gotten to over 10, I think I’ve just found the 11th different phrase for fixing capitalism: caring capitalism, progressive capitalism, it just goes on and on. My favorite is “democratic capitalism”. Notice that capitalism is the noun, and democracy is the adjective, the order is quite clear. We need to fix capitalism. But we’re never going to fix capitalism if we don’t fix society, capitalism is run rampant in society. And nowhere is this better exhibited than in phrases like democratic capitalism. People don’t even think about what they’re saying, which is that capitalism is more important than democracy.
On the “corporate person“2”
  • I also collect adjectives of capitalism. I’ve gotten to over 10, I think I’ve just found the 11th different phrase for fixing capitalism: caring capitalism, progressive capitalism, it just goes on and on. My favorite is “democratic capitalism”. Notice that capitalism is the noun, and democracy is the adjective, the order is quite clear. We need to fix capitalism. But we’re never going to fix capitalism if we don’t fix society, capitalism is run rampant in society. And nowhere is this better exhibited than in phrases like democratic capitalism. People don’t even think about what they’re saying, which is that capitalism is more important than democracy.

On Corporate Irresponsibility
  • Well, societies are made up of organizations. You cannot separate the two. In fact, one of the main problems with corporate social responsibility is this idea that organizations are isolated. […] Well, if they’re behaving irresponsibly, nobody should tolerate them. They exist under national charters. They’re given the permission to exist, and it used to be that governments could take away that permission. In certain cases, but that’s long gone. Nobody can close down organization because they act irresponsibly. But we certainly need stronger public activities to do that.
On Good Health Care
  • The job of a hospital and medicine in general, is to get me into their categories. You know, so I got a problem in my lower right abdomen. It is diagnosed as appendicitis. We take out the appendix, everybody’s happy. That’s the great strength of medicine. […] But it’s also the debilitating weakness of medicine for three reasons. First, if you don’t fit the categories, for instance you have an irritable bowel syndrome, which they don’t know anything about, from what I understand, you are in trouble. […] Second, if you cross illnesses, like geriatric patients, who will present you with various problems. They are also not very good at solving this, as this requires cooperation, and they are not good at cooperating with each other. So, if it needs different medical specialties, to deal with it, that’s not easy. The third one is more interesting [beneath the categories]. So, the first is outside the categories, the second across the categories. But there’s beneath the categories that the treatment you need is better than what the protocol is called for. And there’s a wonderful article discussed in the book called the bell curve in which somebody was phenomenal in his own field. Because he went deeper. He treated the person, and not just the patient, he went beyond the symptoms, he went into the person’s life, to find out, why she wasn’t doing the exercises, what could help her do the exercises, and so on. And that’s why he was so successful.

On excessive CEO pay
  • An abomination. An absolute abomination. […] effective companies are communities of people, they work together, they cooperate, they function together. The idea that a CEO should accept to be paid 300 times as much as the workers in the same company makes that person not a leader. If you want a definition of someone who’s not a leader, it’s somebody, who by his pay, is prepared to send the message that I’m 300 times more important than any of my workers. That’s an abomination.
There is no “we” in classical economics
  • When Keynes said “in the long run, we’re all dead”, at which everybody laughed, he didn’t mean, WE, as a society, he never would have supported that, he meant each of us, he didn’t mean all of us. And that’s typical of economics, with its overemphasis on the individual and with its complete ignoring of the community for the most part. […] We need individualism, we need collectivism, we need communalism. And we need to find some kind of balance across those things.
On Corporate Governance
  • Yeah, well, for starters, I’m not a big fan of boards. It’s a status position. They don’t necessarily understand the company in much depth, or the NGO for that matter, although they’ll interfere in an NGO a lot quicker than they’ll interfere in the company.

On leadership
  • I think leadership is important. But the trouble with the word leadership is it implies an individual. When you say leader, you don’t mean a group, you don’t mean a community. You don’t mean several people, you mean someone. And it’s hyper individualistic. And what we need is communityship. More than leadership. Also, leadership to me is an intrinsic part of management. They’re not separate. In order to manage you have to lead, in order to lead you have to manage. Managers who don’t lead are boring, and leaders that don’t manage don’t know what’s going on. So, those two things are tied together.
  • Communityship means that people are members, people are respected, the organization respects them, and so they respect the organization. It’s collaborative.

Why Business Schools are Not Getting Better
  • Okay, so until now, what proportion of your teachers in management are teaching analysis? […] So, if three quarters of the faculty is teaching analysis, how you’re going to get to synthesis? Okay. That’s one thing. And the other thing is success. They’re minting money by mistreating education. They’re minting money by sending people out, who don’t have a clue what real management is about and are distorted from finding out. So, the few studies we have of MBAs as CEOs, including Harvard MBAs as CEOs, show that they do worse and get paid more.
On the Effect of SDGs
  • I think it’s important. I think it’s necessary. But wishes aren’t going to get us anywhere. You know, isn’t it a joke: the main reaction to climate change on the part of governments are, that they make decade long plans, they make 20, 30, 40 year plans. But these are 4 year governments! They won’t even be in power in 4 years, most of them, you know, so Obama made a plan. Isn’t that wonderful? Along comes Trump and the plan lands in the garbage. We don’t need wishes, we need action!

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diving deeper

Unleash your curiosity and discover new insights

✿ Good Organisations

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by John P. Kotter
HBR's 10 Must Reads on Change Management

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Fast/Forward: Make Your Company Fit for the Future

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by Julian Birkinshaw, Jonas Ridderstråle
Dialogic Organization Development: The Theory and Practice of Transformational Change

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by Gervase R. Bushe
Designing Organizations: Strategy, Structure, and Process at the Business Unit and Enterprise Levels

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by Jay R. Galbraith
Community: The Structure of Belonging

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by Peter Block

Organizational Strategy, Structure, and Process

by Raymond E. Miles, Charles C. Snow

Organization: Contemporary Principles and Practice

by John Child

Handbook of Organizational Change and Innovation

by Marshall Scott Poole, Andrew H. Van de Ven

Building Strategy from the Middle: Reconceptualizing Strategy Process

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Ice Cream Social: The Struggle for the Soul of Ben & Jerry's

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The Visible Hand: Managerial Revolution in American Business

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