Would Zeus be more effective running a bank or an ad agency? Executives will find out in The Gods of Management, which is perhaps the most intriguing work from the best-selling author of The Age of Unreason and The Age of Paradox. Charles Handy has written a highly entertaining book, but more important, he provides an extremely valuable framework for understanding management styles and the corporate cultures associated with them.
Handy uses four Greek gods to illustrate for managers the four basic approaches they can take, and the organizational cultures that result. In a Zeus or "club" organization, power radiates from the top boss, and a personal relationship with that individual matters more than any formal title or position. We see this often in small entrepreneurial companies, brokerage firms, investment banks, and political groups. An Apollo "role" culture results in a highly structured, stable company--a bureaucracy with precise job descriptions, such as a life insurance company, a monopoly, or a firm with a long history of success with a single product. The Athena "task" culture emphasizes talent and youth, and promotes continuous, successful team problem-solving, as reflected in consultancies, ad agencies, and startup high-tech enterprises. Finally, a Dionysus "existential" organization survives mainly so that individuals can achieve their purposes: think of a university, or of a group medical practice, or of architects who share office space. Handy shows that each "god," or company culture, stems from different assumptions about the basis of power and influence, what motivates people, how people think and learn, and how change should occur. And he reveals that firms with the wrong culture often wallow in inefficiency and unhappiness, either blind to their plight or unwilling to struggle to find the right culture for the firm.
If managers are aware of their own "gods" and of the cultural choices available for them and their organization, they can create a more productive and satisfying workplace. In this delightfully readable, stimulating volume, Charles Handy shows them how.show more