Types of Organizational Culture

Handy describes four main types of organizational cultures: power culture; role culture; task culture; and person culture.

  • Power Culture

Power culture depends on a central power source with rays of influence from the central figure throughout the organization. A power culture is frequently found in small entrepreneurial organizations and relies on trust, empathy and personal communications for its effectiveness. Control is exercised from the center by the selection of key individuals. There are few rules and procedures, and little bureaucracy. It is a political organization with decisions taken largely on the balance of influence.

  • Role Culture

Role culture is often stereotyped as a bureaucracy and works by logic and rationality. Role culture rests on the strength of strong organizational ‘pillars’ – the functions of specialists in, for example, finance, purchasing and production. The work of, and interaction between, the pillars is controlled by procedures and rules, and co-ordinated by the pediment of a small band of senior managers. Role or job description is often more important than the individual and position power is the main source of power.

  • Task Culture

Task culture is job-oriented or project-oriented. In terms of structure the task culture can be likened to a net, some strands of which are stronger than others, and with much of the power and influence at the interstices. An example is the matrix organization. Task culture seeks to bring together the right resources and people, and utilises the unifying power of the group. Influence is widely spread and based more on expert power than on position or personal power.


  • Person Culture

Person culture is where the individual is the central focus and any structure exists to serve the individuals within it. When a group of people decide that it is in their own interests to band together to do their own thing and share office space, equipment or clerical assistance then the resulting organization would have a person culture. Examples are groups of barristers, architects, doctors or consultants. Although it is found in only a few organizations many individuals have a preference for person culture, for example university professors and specialists. Management hierarchies and control mechanisms are possible only by mutual consent. Individuals have almost complete autonomy and any influence over them is likely to be on the basis of personal power.

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