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

The task culture is associated with Athena, the problem solving patron of Odysseus. Job-or project oriented, it is symbolised by the net, drawing resources from various parts of the organisation in order to focus them towards a particular problem. Task cultures are often associated with organisations that adopt matrix or project based structures.

Athena cultures speak of themselves as teams rather than organisations or sections and tend to be relatively youthful. They depend on the unifying power of the team where the outcome of the team’s work takes precedence over individual objectives.

The emphasis is on getting the job done; the culture seeks to bring together the appropriate resources and the right people at the right level in order to assemble the relevant resources for the completion of a particular project.

In the Athena culture, expertise in a specific field is the source for one’s power or influence and is marked by mutual respect based on ability rather than on age or status. Decision making occurs through meritocracies and performance is judged in terms of results.

Task cultures are expensive organisations to maintain and require highly paid experts to analyse organisational problems in depth. They are good at coming up with ideas but they do not care for the more routine tasks required of groups. They can respond rapidly to change since variety, rather than predictability, drives this kind of management. Hence, they are appropriate when flexibility and sensitivity to the market or environment are important, where the market is competitive, where the life of a product is short and/or where the speed of reaction is critical.

Task cultures, however, are short lived; when high cost drives organisations to construct routines and work with rules and procedures, a ‘role’ (Apollo) orientation is formed and when faced with an insoluble problem, it may necessitate the emergence of a ‘power’ (Zeus) culture to deal with the crisis.

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

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on November 11, 2012.