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Two weeks ago, as part of our discussion on Handy’s Gods of Management Theory, we talked about the Zeus Culture. This week we continue with the Apollo culture.

In the Apollo, or role culture as it is also known, the underlying theme is the worship of form over substance. Hierarchy and doing things the approved way dominate thinking. Apollo was the god of order and rules and hence this culture is based on rationality and logic.

A role culture has a typical pyramid structure and is symbolised by a Greek temple. The pillars of the temple represent the functions and divisions in an organisation. The culture exists in hierarchical organisations characterised by a high degree of formalisation and standardisation; strong functional or specialised areas with prescribed roles (job descriptions) are held together by a set of rules and procedures and coordinated by a narrow band of senior management at the top.

It is highly bureaucratic and jobs are defined by duties, not by purpose; run by strict procedures and defined roles, the structure determines the authority and responsibility of individuals. Exceeding the objectives or going the extra mile does not lead to reward and hence results in very little initiative among employees. Individuals tend to adhere to the rules and work according to their job description, without showing any creativity.

A strong role culture places a premium on order and efficiency. Power is hierarchical and decision making occurs at the top of the bureaucracy. This type of organisation looks to the past in order to predict the future, based on the assumption that tomorrow will be like yesterday. Stability and predictability are assumed and encouraged.

The role culture’s response to a change in the environment generally starts by ignoring changes in circumstances and by relying on the existing set of routines. It is likely to be successful in a stable environment where the market is steady, predictable or controllable, or where a product’s lifecycle is long; where technical expertise and depth of specialisation are more important than product innovation or service cost.

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