Where do you sit on Mintzberg's art, science, craft triangle?

Written by
Future Talent Learning

14 Nov 2019

14 Nov 2019 • by Future Talent Learning

To assess your personal style in terms of art, science and craft, try this simple diagnostic, developed by Henry Mintzberg with Beverly Patwell in 2008. 

Management guru, Henry Mintzberg’s thinking on management is rooted in the real-world research into how managers really do spend their time. He created his art-craft-science triangle as a visual way of demonstrating his view that management is a practice, and that, to be effective, managers need to create a “dynamic balance” between the three elements of the triangle:

  • Art produces ideas, insights and vision based on intuition; 
  • Craft is about learning from experience, working things out as we go along; 
  • Science provides order through the analysis of knowledge and data. 

Mintzberg also developed his triangle as a device for identifying different management styles by looking at how combinations of the three categories might manifest themselves in managers.

He does not say there is one best style, but he does warn us that we can have too much of a good thing:

Too much focus on applying the science? Then being cerebral might tip over into the calculating.

Too much art? A focus on insight, the creative and insightful to the exclusion of all else can become narcissistic.

Too much craft? Those among us who are stuck in the engaging style, finding it hard to beyond their own personal experience, can become tedious.

Even a combination of two styles, without the third, can be problematic.

Styles excluding craft result in disconnected managing.

Styles ignoring science result in disorganised managing.

Styles excluding art result in dispirited managing.

The bottom line is that no one style should be dominant: the best place to be is inside the triangle, aware of our default management styles and the influence they might have on others, and able to flex that style as needed.

An art-craft-science triangle diagnostic

In 2008, Mintzberg worked with consultant and coach, Beverly Patwell, to create a simple diagnostic based on the triangle. It’s designed to help managers assess where their default style might lie and, if necessary, consider how they might develop better balance. It’s a useful tool to boost our self-awareness.

How to use the diagnostic

  1. On each row of the table below, circle the word that best describes your own management style
  2. When you are finished, add up how many you have circled in each of the three columns.

The first column represents art, the second craft, the third science.

When you have finished, reflect on your answers in relation to the styles identified by Mintzberg and Patwell on their triangle.

If you’re strongly identifying with one style to the exclusion of others, or two styles without a third, what might you do to redress the balance?

Download the PDF here.

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