Saturday 04th April 11:18

Management Gurus: Charles Handy

charleshandy02Charles Handy is an Irish author and philosopher who is regarded as one of the most influential management thinkers of the last 50 years. After an early career as an oil executive and economist, he became a professor at the London Business School before starting to write on life, work and management. Since then, he has been consistently listed in the Thinkers 50, a private list of the top management thinkers in the world. Through a range of books, such as "The Future of Work", "The Age of Unreason", and "The Elephant and the Flea", he has brought a range of models and ideas to the attention of many practising executives including his idea of the "portfolio worker" and the "shamrock organisation". Many of his ideas are incorporated in ManageTrainLearn courses. Here are 3 of them.

1. Organisational Culture

Handy's model of organisational structures comes from his book, "Gods of Management" and uses four different Greek gods to describe the style and focus of an organisation's culture. They are:

a. Zeus, the supreme god, who stands for the "Power" culture and is represented as a web with all power in the centre
b. Apollo, the god of light, who stands for the "Role" culture and is represented as a Greek temple with power at the top and distributed down
c. Athena, goddess of wisdom, who stands for the "Task" culture and is represented as a lattice with interlocking lines
d. Dionysus, god of spontaneity, who stands for an "Empowered" organisation and is represented as a cluster where power is with individuals.

2. The Inverted Doughnut

Handy's model of "the inverted doughnut" comes from his book, "The Empty Raincoat" and is a representation of how societies, organisations, and even individuals need to manage themselves in times of change. Unlike a real doughnut where the space is in the centre and the solid material around it, the "inverted doughnut" has the material at the core and the empty space around it. The core represents the essential requirements of the job while the space is the opportunity for initiative and creativity, going beyond what must be done, adding extra value. This model can be applied to relationships, jobs, change, products, and organisations themselves.

3. The Sigmoid Curve

The Sigmoid Curve is the way Handy explains the need for organisations and individuals to manage change during the life cycle of an existing activity. All life cycles grow and decline in a bell-shaped curve. The secret, according to Handy, is to begin a new cycle as near to the top of the present cycle as can be predicted, ie before the peak when things start going downhill. With the vision and courage to start a new cycle before the peak, you have energy, time and resources while the existing cycle is running on automatic. The change model then stops being a simple one-off rise and fall but looks like a continuous "S", or "Sigmoid" curve.

Further Resources on Charles Handy

Here are further resources on Charles Handy and his work:

Click here for a full biography of Charles Handy.

Click here for an interesting interview with Charles Handy.

For an MTL SkillBooster on Charles Handy's "Power Cultures", click here.