Type A Organizations and Type B Organizations

Last few days, I was busy gathering some background information for yet another term paper (on the topic “Organizational Culture and Productivity”) I have to do for my MBA during this semester. I came up with this interesting classification made by Edgar H Schein, in one of his articles to the Sloan Management Review, back in 1984.

According to him there are two types of organizations. Type A and Type B.

Organizations in Type – A assume that;

  • Ideas come ultimately from individuals.
  • People are responsible, motivated and capable of governing themselves.
  • Nevertheless, in practice, truth can only be arrived at by fighting things out in groups.
  • Such fighting is possible because members of the organization see themselves as a family who will take care of each other.

It is therefore safe to fight, and be competitive among each other.

On the other hand, organizations of Type – B assume that;

  • Truth comes ultimately from older, wider and higher status members.
  • People are capable of loyalty and discipline in carrying out directions.
  • Relationships are basically lineal and vertical.
  • Each person has a niche in the organization that cannot be invaded.
  • The organization is responsible for taking care of its members.

In organizations of type A, there are open office landscapes, few closed doors, people milling about, intense conversations and arguments and a general air of informality. On the other hand in organizations of type B, everyone is in an office with closed doors, nothing is done except by appointment and prearranged agenda. When people of different ranks are present there is real difference and obedience.

And the most important point to note from Schein’s analysis is; he says “neither is wrong – they are just different!”

After all; the world is not black and white.


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