Development through Alternation

4.7 Modes of managing

Anthony Judge

In discussing the dilemmas of the organized society, Charles Handy, a management scientist, distinguishes three types of management problem: (a) steady-state, programmable, predictable problems that can be handled by systems; (b) development problems designed to deal with new situations; and (c) exceptional problems or emergencies where speed and instinct are essential (125, p. 45)

Handy identifies four styles of organization and management which respond to these problems. He points out that any organization will tend to make use of all these styles, although the larger the organization the more evident will be their role in the blend of styles used. The manager therefore has to embrace within himself all four of the styles, using each in appropriate circumstances, since none is sufficient to contain all combinations of problems (even though style-bound managers may believe it possible). Each has a place under certain circumstances.

For convenience, Handy labels each of the four philosophies of management (and the corresponding organizational culture) with the name of a Greed god (11):

  • Zeus style: this is the club culture of the "old boy network" in which the crucial links are the empathy radiating out in a web-like manner from the patriarch or inner circle. It is excellent for speed of decision in high rish enterprises but relies heavily on trust, dependent on common background. Power lies at the centre.
  • Appolonian style: this is the role-structured, hierarchical organization portrayed in standard organization charts, split into divisions at the base, linked by a board at the top. It is excellent for routine tasks in which stability and predictability are taken for granted, and no one is irreplaceable. Power lies at the top.
  • Athenian style: this is based on a network of task-oriented units responding to new one-off problems. Resources are drawn from various parts of the network to focus on a particular problem. It is excellent where innovative responses are required and experiments are encouraged. Power lies in the interstices.
  • Dionysian style: this is the style in which the organization is perceived as existing to help the individual in it achieve his idiosyneratic purposes, and preserve his identity and freedom. Coordination is accepted as an "administrative" necessity but no ultimate authority is recognized other than the peer group. This tyle is excellent where the talent or skill of the individual is the crucial asset of the organization.

Handy points out that the ways of each style are anathema to the others. Linkage between these modes is however essential. He distinguishes three elements of effective linkage: cultural tolerance, allowing each mode to develop its own methods of control: bridging mechanisms, including exchanges of correspondence, liaison groups and task forces; and a common language. He argues that the organization of the future will be a membership organization, multi-purpose and dispersed, combining the search for community, the economics of quality, and the revolution in communications.