Taxonomies of culture

Two well known classifications of organisational culture by type are those by Deal and Kennedy (1982) and Handy (1985), which build on earlier work by Harrison (1972).

Deal and Kennedy’s classifications:

  • The tough-guy macho culture – typified by fast feedback and reward, and high risk. Financial markets, venture capitalists, management consultancies are good examples.
  • The work-hard/play-hard culture – again typified by fast feedback and reward, but this time low risk. Property, car sales, and IT are good examples.
  • Process culture – typified by slow feedback and reward, and low risk. Insurance companies, banks, heavily regulated industries such as utilities, and public sector organisations such as HMRC are good examples.
  • Bet-your-company culture – typified by slow feedback and reward, but high risk. Good examples include pharmaceuticals, biotech, and other science/technology companies.

Handy/Harrison’s classifications:

  • Power culture – power is concentrated at the centre, like a spider in the centre of a web.
  • Task culture – strongly job/task-oriented.
  • Person culture – puts individuals and their interests first.
  • Role culture – systems and procedure-based; the opposite of person culture.
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