Divine intervention

Written by Alokananda Chakraborty | Updated: Nov 9 2008, 05:53am hrs
First things first. Charles Handy variously described as one among the most important management thinkers of all times and the author who put philosophy back into the study of management was born in Kildare, Ireland, in 1932, and was educated in the UK and the US. He graduated from Oriel College, Oxford, with first-class honours in Greats, a study of classics, history and philosophy. It is perhaps this influence that is most visible in his seminal work The Gods of Management, which went on to become a best-seller. First published in 1978, Handy uses four Greek Gods to illustrate to managers the various approaches they can use to run their own businesses. The book is thought provoking, insightful and downright funny in parts.

The four gods of the title symbolise the very different styles of management and culture to be found in todays organisations. Zeus is the dynamic entrepreneur who rules over companies of the club culture, characterised by speed of decision and rapid, intuitive communication. Apollo, god of order and bureaucracy, is the patron of the role culture, based not on personalities but on definition of the jobs to be done. Athena, goddess of craftsmen, recognises only expertise as the basis of power and influence: hers is the task culture. Dionysus is the god preferred by artists and professionals within the existential culture, people who owe little or no allegiance to a boss.

The book has eight chapters, clubbed under two broad parts The Theory of Cultural Propriety and The Apollonian Crisis basically self-contained, which means that even if you read only one chapter, you will still have gained valuable insight into what the changing work of organisations entails.

Gods of pulls no punches. Author Handy identifies the most significant ingredients of effective management and shows managers how to devise strategies for improving their ability to resolve conflicts, influence others, manage stress and difficult situations. As with all his other books, Handys stimulating analysis in Gods of can provide managers with assessment tools to help understand and change their own management styles, while gaining insight into the style of others. Each chapter presents a range of situations that help ground his principles in a sense of reality.

Handys book makes it clear how a person can pick and choose the techniques that work best for him, rather than attempting to stick to a plan developed by someone else-you can also take it as a set of directions to start improving personal productivity.

Where many management books are somewhat cut and dried in their approach, this one has a freshness about it, keeping you reading. You may want to put it down only when you have finished.