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Background Information Charles Handy

Charles Handy is an organisational and social development guru who has written many books filled with modern ideas about work, fulfilment, globalisation and life purpose.

Other Works

Charles Handy is regarded by many as the most advanced management thinker in the world. His early work, such as his 'Motivation Calculus' outlined below, has been steadily surpassed and extended by his more recent modern and sophisticated thinking about the purpose of work, business and organisations.

Handy's first book, 'Understanding Organisations' (1976, revised 1991) is well regarded. 'Gods Of Management' (1978), is another highly regarded work, in which Handy uses a metaphor of the Greek Gods to explain different organisational cultures:

  • Zeus (power, patriarchy, 'the club' culture)
  • Apollo (order, reason, bureaucracy, the 'rôle' culture)
  • Athena (expertise, wisdom, meritocracy, 'task' culture)
  • Dionysus (individualism, professionalism, non-corporate, existentialist culture)

Handy was one of the first to identify that 'careers for life' were destined to become a thing of the past, and as a thinker, Handy seems able to predict trends and changes on a global and fundamental scale. He is a visionary, rather than an analyst, and sees huge, 'big pictures' and trends, rather than small effects and details.

Charles Handy's works are generally philosophical and insightful, rather than stacked with modular theories and diagrams, and as such will tend to appeal to intuitive humanitarian thinkers perhaps more than structured process-oriented types.

Here is a rare example of a Handy 'model' from his earlier writings, included especially because it illustrates his focus on the human individual perspective.

Motivational Calculus Theory Summary

Charles Handy's Motivation Calculus is an extension of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, and an example of Handy's early clarity and interpretation of the human condition and response to work.

The simple model addresses cognitive and external reference points in a way that Maslow's original Hierarchy of Needs five-level model does not. 

  • Handy's Motivation Calculus attempts to cater to complexities and variations in people's situations beyond the reach of the original Hierarchy of Needs model. 
Briefly, this is Handy's Motivation Calculus, which implies that our motivation is driven by a more complex series of needs than 'needs' alone, that is, our own interpretations and assessments form additional layers determining and determined by our response to our own needs and the effects of those responses:

  1. Needs - Maslow Hierarchy of Needs factors, personality characteristics, current work environment, outside pressures and influences.
  2. Results - We must be able to measure the effect of what our additional efforts, resulting from motivation, will produce.
  3. Effectiveness - We decide whether the results we have achieved meet the needs that we feel.