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

The last type of culture that Charles Handy discusses is the Dionysus culture, also known as person culture (and often called the existential culture). In a person culture, the organisation exists to help the individual achieve his/her purpose and the focus of the culture is the success of the employees rather than the company. This is in sharp contrast to the other three cultures where the individual is subordinate to the organisation and exists solely to achieve the purpose of the organisation.

The positive attributes of this culture are that individuals are offered freedom, the preservation of identity and the chance to express themselves and make decisions through power sharing and consensus management. In organisations exhibiting the person culture, management by consensus is prevalent and every individual has the right of veto.

According to Handy, the Dionysus culture is becoming more prevalent in society. He states that “there is a growing band of ‘new professionals’ who define themselves according to their trade, not only doctors and lawyers, but now also the ‘systems analyst,’ ‘research scientist,’ ‘public relations adviser,’ and ‘consultant’”. Employees view themselves as independent professionals, temporarily loaning their skills and services to the corporation.

The symbol for this culture is a loose cluster or constellation of individual stars loosely gathered in a circle. The members of this type of organisation are not interdependent and thus do not cause any organisational change if one or more members leave the organisation.

Clearly, not many organisations can exist with this sort of culture, or produce it, since organisations tend to have some form of corporate objective over and above the personal objectives of their employees. Furthermore, control mechanisms, and even management hierarchies, are non-existent in these cultures unless it is by mutual consent. Influence is shared and the power base is usually the expert – people do what they are good at and are listened to for their expertise.

– 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 18, 2012.