An Interview with Management Guru Henry Mintzberg Created by Ron Duerksen 09/06/23
In a 2003 Harvard Business Review article “The Five Minds of a Manager,” Jonathan Gosling and Henry Mintzberg introduced a revolutionary framework for effective leadership in the modern global economy. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Professor Mintzberg now contextualizes these “Managerial Mindsets” within the dynamic landscape of today’s fast-paced world.
According to the latest 2023 McKinsey CEO Excellence Survey, the world’s top CEOs believe disruptive digital technologies, geopolitics and the economy to be the most pressing business concerns today. Leaders are not only facing managerial and business challenges but geopolitical, social and environmental obstacles too — from the advancements of artificial intelligence and ChatGPT to adapting to post-COVID employee expectations and working styles and the lingering threat of climate change, to name just a few. How leaders respond to these challenges will define their organization’s success.
Jonathan Gosling and Henry Mintzberge explain that what every effective manager does lies in between action on the ground and reflection in the abstract; action without reflection is thoughtless, and reflection without action is passive. Every manager must find a way to combine these two mindsets to function at the point where reflective thinking meets practical doing.
And, to create a pathway between reflection and action, they identify three additional “mindsets” for managers to work on — action, collaborative and worldly — in order to get the best out of themselves, their people and do the best for the world around them.
“Every effective manager works in between action on the ground and reflection in the abstract.”
Getting from reflection to effective action requires a collaborative mindset. Collaboration can happen as much within an organization or business unit, as it can with shareholders and outside stakeholders, partners and suppliers.
Then, that action, reflection and collaboration must be rooted in a deep appreciation of reality in all its facets — whether economic, environmental or geopolitical to hold any tangible value. The “worldly” mindset thus uses knowledge to enable a manager to see a problem and its potential solution from multiple perspectives and treat it accordingly. It is called the “worldly” mindset and not the global mindset because worldly encompasses more than geography. It covers opinions, culture, experiences and social structures.
Finally, action, reflection, collaboration and worldliness must subscribe to a certain rationality or logic. This is accomplished through an analytic mindset, which brings in the role of data and analysis (financial, market, economic, etc.) for decision-making.
The mindset approach to management is one unique characteristic of the International Masters Program for Managers (IMPM), launched by Henry Mintzberg over 25 years ago. Other executive programs followed, including the McGill-HEC Montreal EMBA and the International Masters for Health Leadership.
I asked Professor Mintzberg to provide some recent context to the Five Minds of a Manager and explain the pertinence of executive leadership programs that follow this approach.
How did you and Jonathan Gosling come up with these five managerial mindsets?
Managing has traditionally been described as planning, organizing, coordinating and controlling. All of which are words for controlling, really. But that doesn’t even hint at the fact that managers spend at least as much time with people outside their units or their organizations than inside. The five mindsets are based on my study of managers and the things that they do.
“Managing has traditionally been described as planning, organizing, coordinating, and controlling. But that doesn’t capture what managers do.”
Managing is a social process. It’s not a science. It relies heavily on social skills, and intuition — kind of the softer side. We must be aware of the concrete side, but a lot of managing has been driven artificially toward people sitting in their offices and reading financial statements and thinking they’re managing. We needed a structure that encouraged synthesis rather than separation.
We were quite clear that we didn’t want to build the program around the business functions because that’s not management. Managers need to know marketing and finance and accounting and all that, but that’s not managing. Instead, we looked for another framework that came from observing what managers do.
Why are these mindsets so important in a global economy?
Global conglomerates are often managed largely through financial controls (analysis). This distorts their practice. If you’re a conglomerate like GM, for instance, you can’t manage all these businesses through control. Many global organizations are controlling their business units through analysis. This distorts their practice of managing. The only way I believe you can manage a conglomerate is by picking good businesses, picking good people to manage those businesses, and not micromanaging them.
Why did you launch the International Masters Program for Managers (IMPM) in 1996?
My original research indicated that managing was not at all the way it had been historically described: planning, organizing, coordinating and controlling. Managing is a practice. You learn it on the job. Kind of like swimming. You can’t teach swimming in a classroom. You can give a few theories about hydraulics, buoyancy, and all that, but that doesn’t teach you how to swim. You learn how to swim in a pool. You learn how to manage by managing.
And then you walk into an MBA classroom, and you’ve got a bunch of people there who’ve never managed, and you’re supposed to turn them into managers. It is quite clear you can’t do that. We designed the IMPM to reflect both the realities of what managers do and how they can do better through a mindset-based approach.
“Managing is a practice. You learn it on the job, you learn it by doing it.”
All five mindsets need attention. And most importantly we emphasize peer-to-peer and action learning. Managers are the ones with the experience. Professors can provide knowledge and techniques, and facilitate the learning process, but so much of the real learning is done by participants in the program reflecting on their experience and sharing it. We don’t use written case studies in class. Every participant is encouraged to bring their challenges into the classroom to use as live case studies.
How do you go about teaching the five mindsets?
We have embedded each mindset within an appropriate geographic location and culture (U.K., Canada, India, Japan, Brazil), and delivered from five unique academic perspectives (Lancaster University, McGill University, Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, Yokohama National University, FGV-EBAPE Business School). For instance, India is a country of numerous cultures, languages, and beliefs. In India, the worldly mindset is represented both within the country itself and its context in the global economy.
IMPM participants also undertake a managerial exchange with each other for several days. It’s a transformational experience because observations of colleagues at work can reveal blind spots, bringing out strengths, weaknesses and opportunities that an individual may not see by themselves.
How do the mindsets complement each other?
If you’re the chief executive of a very analytical organization, you may find greater strength in bringing something other than an analytical mindset to the company’s stewardship. I’ve seen examples of chief executives in analytic organizations who were collaborative and worldly, and they enabled the organization to function well. But, within each organization, if you’ve got a lot of different managers doing a lot of different things. If you’re the production manager, you’re likely to be a little bit more analytic maybe. If you’re a project manager, you’re likely to be more collaborative.
Different communities have different strengths. Japan, for example, is one of the most collaborative societies in the world, especially in business, which is why we teach the Collaboration mindset at Yokohama National University. When you have a diverse cohort of people from different organizations or cultures, they complement each other. We get them talking to each other and learning from each other. If you’re more analytic, then you might learn something new from someone who’s more collaborative, etc.
Decades later, not only is this mindset approach still considered innovative, but it has also become even more relevant. Not only in tackling organizational challenges but also broader ones like environmental degradation, biodiversity loss and climate change. CEOs should be concerned with developing an organizational culture that values their managers as being reflective, analytical, worldly, collaborative and action-oriented if they want to remain competitive.
ChatGPT can’t do all of that yet, if ever. But neither can one person. It takes an entire organization of people, with leaders willing to expand their minds, in at least five different ways.
*Eduniversal Executive Masters Rankings 2016-2023
Read the full article at https://www.ibtimes.com/5-mindsets-that-could-transform-you-your-organization-3710842