Strategic Management Review > Vol 3 > Issue 1

An Underlying Theory for Strategy, Organization, and Management: Bridging the Gap Between Analysis and Synthesis

Henry Mintzberg, Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University, Canada,
Suggested Citation
Henry Mintzberg (2022), "An Underlying Theory for Strategy, Organization, and Management: Bridging the Gap Between Analysis and Synthesis", Strategic Management Review: Vol. 3: No. 1, pp 125-144.

Publication Date: 07 Feb 2022
© 2022 now Publishers, Inc.
Micro-foundations of strategy,  Leadership and governance,  Organization and strategy,  Strategic decision-making
Strategyorganizationmanagementunderlying theorymanagement policyHerbert SimonLudwig von BertalanffyGeneral Systems Theory


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In this article:
Three Traditional Actors in Organizations 
Von Bertalanffy and General Systems Theory 
Programming in the Parts 
The Programming Imperative 
Programming the Operations 
Programming into the Administration 
Programming at the Senior Level 
The Great Divide in Organizations 
Do Managers Plan in the Left Brain and Manage in the Right? 
Building Applied Theory on this Underlying Theory 
Looking Back into the Future 
Author's Main Publications on the Topics Described 


Considerable progress has been made in strategic management, organization theory, and general management over several decades, yet they seem to be at an impasse, riding off in all directions. Looking back may offer a way forward. This article revisits an underlying theory for the field, then called Management Policy, that was developed in the 1970s but never published. Building on the work of two eminent scholars, Herbert Simon on the programming of work and Ludwig von Bertalanffy on General Systems Theory, one more oriented to analysis, the other to synthesis, these fields are considered in terms of (1) basic elements (the structuring of organizations, power in and around organizations, and the nature of managerial work), (2) the strategy processes (strategic decision making and strategy making), and (3) the role of the analyst (analytic programs and planning programs). This article may offer some cohesion in a field that has been divided between analysis and synthesis.