Gods Of Management

Gods of Management The author, in the Gods of Management, attempts to
classify four distinct management cultures that exist within all
organizations. The author further uses the ancient Greek gods to symbolize
these management cultures or philosophies. There are four types of
management cultures or philosophies present within all organizations. The
four cultures are the club (Zeus), role (Apollo), task (Athena), and
existential (Dionysus) cultures. The first culture the author discusses is
the club or Zeus culture. The author uses a spider web to represent the
club culture. “The lines radiating out from the center” represent
“divisions of work based on functions or products” (Handy p. 14). The most
important lines however “are the encircling lines, the ones that surround
the spider in the middle, for these are the lines of power and influence,
losing importance as they go farther from the center. The relationship with
the spider matters more in this culture than does any formal title or
position description” (Handy p.14). The author also maintains that this
type of culture is excellent for “speed of decisions” (Handy p. 15).

However, the author also informs the reader that because of it’s speed,
quality is dependent upon Zeus and his inner circle. This results in an
emphasis being placed upon the selection and succession of Zeus. The club
culture achieves its speed through empathy. This in turn leads to very
little documentation within the organization and face to face meetings
between Zeus and his subordinates or contacts. Furthermore, this culture is
dependent upon networks of “friendships, old boys, and comrades” (Hardy
p.16). Because of the high level of trust, the author asserts that this
type of organization is cheap to operate. The only costs incurred in this
type of organization are those of phone and travel expenses. In essence,
these types of organizations value the individual, give him or her free
rein, and reward their efforts. The second type of culture that the author
discusses is the role or Apollo culture. This type of culture bases its
approach on the definition of the role or the job to be done. The symbol
the author uses to represent this type of culture is a Greek temple. The
pillars of the temple represent the functions and divisions in an
organization. “The pillars are joined managerially only at the top, the
pediment, where the heads of the functions and divisions join together to
form the board, management committee, or president’s office” (Handy p. 44).

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Besides being joined at the pediment, the pillars are also connected
through rules and procedures. This type of organization looks to the past
in order to predict the future based on the premise that tomorrow will be
like yesterday. This then allows the organization to examine and pull apart
yesterday in order to formulate improved rules and procedures. “Stability
and predictability are assumed and encouraged” (Handy p. 45). The role or
set of duties are fixed in the Apollo culture. Furthermore, in this type of
organization, efficiency is determined upon meeting deadlines and standard
objectives. Exceeding the objectives or beating the deadlines does not lead
to reward but rather a reevaluation the institutions goals and objectives.

This in turn results in very little initiative among the employees.

According to the author, some typical examples of the role or Apollo
culture are “life insurance companies, civil service, state industries, and
local government” (Handy p.47). Furthermore, apollonian cultures abhor
change. Generally an apollonian response to a change in the environment
would be to first ignore it and then usually do more of what they were
already doing. “Role cultures respond to drastic changes in the environment
(changing consumer preferences, new technologies,, new funding sources) by
setting up a lot of cross-functional liaison groups to hold the structure
together. If these measures don’t work, the management will fall, or the
whole temple will collapse in merger, bankruptcy, or a consultants’
reorganization” (Handy p. 48). The next type of organization is the task or
Athena culture. This type of organization basically views management “as
being basically concerned with the continuous and successful solution of
problems” (Handy p. 70). The management accomplishes this by first locating
or finding the problem. After locating the problem, appropriate resources
are given to solve the problem and waits for the results. In this type of
organization, performance is judged by the results or problems solved. The
symbol the author uses for the task culture is a net. According to Handy,
these types of organizations draw resources from various parts of the
organization in order to solve a problem. In this type of culture, “power
lies at the interstices of the net” and is a “network of loosely linked
commando units, each unit being largely self-contained but having a
specific responsibility within an overall strategy” (Handy p. 72). In the
Athena culture, only expertise in a specific field is the source for one’s
power or influence. For example the author states that “to contribute to
your group, you need talent, creativity, a fresh approach, and new
intuitions. It is a culture where youth flourishes and creativity is at a
premium” (Handy p.72). However, the author asserts that task cultures are
expensive organizations to run. The author supports his assertion by
stating that these types of organizations are staffed by experts who demand
their market worth. Furthermore, the author maintains that these experts
discuss in excess the problems an organization faces which results in
costing the organization a large quantity of money. Also he states that
some problems are not solved the first time around, so there is a need to
experiment which results in some errors and those errors also cost the
organization money. This leads the author to conclude that these types of
organizations “tend to flourish in times of expansion, when the products ,
technologies, or services are new or when there is some sort of cartel
arrangement that provides a price floor” (Handy p. 74). However, the author
contends that a task culture comes into difficult times when the
organization needs to make the solutions permanent or routine, and that the
cost of maintaining the culture seems excessively expensive. Furthermore,
the author asserts that the life of task cultures are short. To support his
assertion, the author states that “if organizations are successful, they
will grow big, and to pay their way will take on a lot of routine or
maintenance work, which requires Apollonian structures” (Handy p. 74). In
essence, this leads to the transformation of a task culture into that of a
role culture. The last type of culture or philosophy that the author
discusses is the existential or Dionysus culture. In an existential
culture, the author asserts that the organization exists to help the
individual achieve his purpose. This is in contrast to the other three
types of cultures where the individual is there to help the organization
achieve its purpose. The symbol the author uses for this type of culture is
a cluster of individual stars loosely gathered in a circle. The members of
this type of organization are not interdependent and thus does not cause an
organizational change if one or more members leave the organization. In
this type of organization, management is considered a chore. Furthermore, a
manager is considered the lowest status in such organizations. Furthermore,
in an Dionysus culture, the manager can only manage by consent, and every
individual has the right of veto, so that any coordinated effort becomes a
matter of endless negotiation. An example the author gives the reader of a
Dionysus culture is a university. The author maintains that a university is
a existential culture in that “there are no sanctions that can be used
against the professors, and dismissal, money perks, or punishment
are all outside the jurisdiction of the leader” (Handy p. 97). Furthermore
the author states that these decisions are made by a “group of equals” and
not an individual. In essence, the author asserts that the Dionysus culture
is becoming more prevalent in society. The author states that “there is a
growing band of “new professionals”–individuals who define themselves
according to their trade, not just doctors and lawyers, but now also the
“systems analyst,” “research scientist,” “public relations adviser,” and
“consultant”” (Handy p. 100) Furthermore, Handy asserts that these types of
people view themselves as independent professionals who have temporarily
lent their services or skills to an organization. According to the author,
most people who belong to this culture are “young and usually talented and
can command an open market salary and reputation” (Handy p. 102). In
essence, the author argues that in order for a manager to be successful,
the manager must first be aware of the different organizational cultures
that exist within his or her organization. Once a manager is aware of the
different cultures present in an organization, the manager may be effective
as a liaison between the different cultures thereby eliminating slack or

Handy, C. (1995). Gods of management: The changing work of organizations.

New York: Oxford University Press
Word Count: 1488