The academic and applied work of Charles Handy’s on understanding organisations has evolved over 30 years or more. However, even though the world in general has changed considerably over this period, his foundational model in terms of organisational cultures is as applicable today as it was in the mid 1970’s when it was first put forward.
Handy suggests that differences in culture are not the result of chance or accidental design but actually reflect a very specific kind of culture that is deliberately adopted as a basis for approaching the kind of work that the organisation in question is engaged in. Whatever the particular culture may be (and this booklet looks at the four major ones that Handy identifies) the idea is that the culture creates a cohesive set of views amongst staff especially after they have been with an enterprise for any substantive length of time. This can create a highly “clannish” climate or even quite “tribal” behaviour in which past values and traditions of the tribe are constantly reinforced usually through the vehicle of the private or internal language that is used, common catch phrases, organisational acronyms, mini rituals and even the “heroic” stories about the organisation.