Harrison & Handy

Theory of Harrison & Handy and Questionnaire

According to Harrison the organization must take account of conflicting interests between individual and organization. For the individual to things as satisfaction in the work, safety, influence and economic yields. For the organization to survive in a dynamic environment. Often both the organization and the individuals have different interests, some of which may conflict with each other. The solutions that organizations find for this tension of conflicting interests, determines their organizational culture. Harrison distinguishes the Power-oriented organization, the Role-oriented organization, the Task-oriented organization and the Personal-oriented organization.

Handy, took over this typology and provides for the four types of cultures of God names: Zeus, Apollo, Athena and Dionysus.

  • Zeus represents the patriarch with a charismatic personality
  • Apollo is the god of laws and regulations
  • Athena the goddess of wisdom, which can resolve problems excellent
  • Dionysus symbolizes a high degree the individualist.

Typology of Harrison & Handy
Within the organization with a Power / Club Culture (Zeus) there is a strong leaders figure. As a spin in the web it controls the organization, he will choose loyal staff around, in which he recognize himself. Most of the staff do their best to be more central to the web. This may be accompanied with intrigue and power games. The organizational culture is characterized by the fact that there are few rules. The individual is important and it is confident. This culture is to be found in small and start-up companies. An example is a family-run establishment where the director (owner) is in control on everything. The Power Culture is symbolized by a spider’s web, where all wires together. Without the spin, no decisions will be taken, and rules or procedures can only be ignored with his agreement. This type of organizations are trying to manage both the environment and the own staff. Power and influence, are based on the function.

The Role Culture (Apollo) is similar to a Greek temple with columns. The basis is formed by rules, appointments, procedures and the hierarchy. The columns can model for the different functions and/or departments. When the work according to the appropriate rules and procedures is done, it will be seen as correct and effective. People are not important. It is a lot more to the role and the status that someone has within the organization. Role and status are more important than performance. This culture is to be found in large, bureaucratic organizations. In a Greek temple, the different columns in the roof top together. At the Role Culture all roles and functions within an organization come together in the top, where they are coordinated. The Role Culture is therefore often symbolized by a Greek temple. Procedures and rules are an important framework, as well as the hierarchy and the correct manners. Power and influence are particularly depending on your position in the temple. This type of organizations are not very flexible.

Organizations with a Task Culture (Athena) emphasize task orientation and expertise. The management must be able to resolve issues. Results are more important than rules, power or personal needs. This Task Culture is to be found in small organizations that are set up for a common purpose. Research Teams, small charitable organizations and companies with a high risk. Teamwork is important and people should be able to work well together in small loose-hard work units. The Task Culture is represented by a network and shall achieve results first, procedures should be useful. People will get power and influence by expertise, dedication and success.

In the Person / Existential Culture (Dionysus) it is the individual in the foreground. The organization is there for the people and not vice versa. The manager is the equivalent of the employee (primus inter pares). Members of the management have no high status. Leadership must happen. The culture is characterized by few rules and procedures. Growth of the organization is not a major objective. Examples of a Person / Existential Culture is a professional organization with highly skilled staff and a small size, such as consultancies, law firms and partnerships. The Person / Existential Culture sets the needs of employees. The organization is a way to achieve the own goals. Hierarchy is little present or desired. Power and influence you get at most by personality, expertise and exceptional performance.*

You can click on the following link to download the questionnaire: Questionnaire Harrison and Handy

You will find more specific information in the literature, shown in the left section of this page.

*Source: Handy. C. ‘Understanding Organizations’, Penguin, 1993 & Harrison, R. ‘Understanding your organization’s character’, Harvard Business Review, 1972.