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Charles Handy is best known for his Four Cultures Theory, also known as the Gods of Management Theory, which defines four types of organisational cultures that exist in today’s corporate world. For context, organisational culture is defined a set of shared values, attitudes, beliefs and customs that guide action in organisations by defining appropriate behaviours for various situations.

Handy uses ancient Greek gods to symbolise four distinct management cultures that exist within all organisations which define the origin of power within the organisation and how that affects the success of employees and the business.

The four cultures in Handy’s Gods of Management Theory are:

1. The Zeus (Father of the Gods) or Power Culture. Also known as The Club Culture, the Power Culture is concentrated with one dominant authority in an autocratic manner with power or control flowing from a central source. The relationship with the central figure matters more in this culture than any formal title or position.

2. The Apollo (God of Reason) or Role Culture. Roles and duties are fixed and authority is delegated within a highly defined structure which results in the formation of hierarchical bureaucracies. The past is viewed to predict the future using logic and rationality.

3. The Athena (Goddess of Wisdom) or Task Culture. Employees perform specific tasks and management is viewed “as being basically concerned with the continuous and successful solution of problems”.  Expertise in a specific field is the source of one’s power or influence.

4. The Dionysus (God of Wine and Song) or Person Culture. The success of the employees is focused on, rather than the company’s. Employees are viewed as specialists or independent professionals who temporarily loan their services or skills to an organisation. This is in contrast to the other three types of cultures where the individual is there to help the organisation achieve its
purpose.

Awareness of the different cultures in an organisation can help a manager assess where they currently are and where they would like to be in order to achieve maximum benefits.

– Fauzia Kerai Khan

The writer is Chief Consultant, i&b Consulting, Training, eLearning. fauzia@iandbconsulting.com.

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