How does one describe Charles Handy? For one, he studied at Oxford University ("greats", classics, history and philosophy at Oriel College) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan School of Management). For another, his career spanned a stint in Shell International as economist helped launching and then directing London Business School's Sloan Programme, Warden of St. George's House, Windsor Castle a study centre for ethics and social policy), and Chairman, Royal Society of Arts. Currently, he is a writer and broadcaster.    

Widely regarded as a leading European management guru, his output has been prolific though perhaps not in the same league as Peter Drucker. His writings range from Understanding Organisations (1976)*  to the Future of Work (1984), Gods of Management (1986) **, The Making of Managers (with John Constable) (1988) , The Age of Unreason (1989) *** Inside Organisations (1990), **** The Empty Raincoat (1994), Beyond Certainty (1995), and The Hungry Spirit: Beyond Capitalism - A Quest for Purpose in the Modern World (1998).    

The to works - The Age of Unreason and The Empty Raincoat established Charles' Handy's reputation as a leading management thinker (The latter is entitled The Age of Paradox in the US). Since its publication in 1989, The Age of Unreason has become one of the classics in management literature.    

We are entering an age of unreason, a time when the future, in so many areas, is to be shaped by-us and for -us; a time when the only prediction that will hold true is that no prediction will hold true ; a time, therefore, for bold imagining in private life as well as public; for thinking the unlikely and doing the unreasonable, exhorts Charles Handy in The Age of Unreason.    

Organisations have always existed, for centuries if not ages. Probably they will in future too. Indeed organisations appear to be sensible way for setting objectives and then achieving them, all for the cause of society. In recent past organisation as a formal structure, has been undergoing fundamental change in the business world though the change has largely left unaffected the bureaucratic command - and - control structures in public organisations.    

The main theme of The Age of Unreason is change, a much bandied word. Change this time, argues Handy, is discontinuous and not part of a pattern; little changes make biggest differences - Changes in the way our work is organised will make the biggest differences to the way we all live. discontinuous change requires discontinuous upside - down thinking to deal with it even though it may appear absurd at first sight.    

To illustrate his theme, Handy introduces a number of concepts. Take for example, shamrock organisation (The shamrock is Irish national emblem. It is a small clover - like plant with three leaves to each stem). In future, according to Handy, the organisation will be shamrock organisation - first leaf representing `core, indispensable workers, second representing contracted workers, and the third representing part-time workers. Such organisations have already started coming into being, particularly in the market-oriented western world.    

Yet another concept Handy introduces in The Age of Unreason is the triple I organisation. The triple I organisation is based on the formula P = AV, where I stands for Intelligence, Information and Ideas, and AV means added value in cash or kind. In the past wealth was based on the ownership of land, and subsequently on the capacity to make things. Increasingly now it is based on knowledge and the ability to use that knowledge.  A combination of intelligence, information and ideas results in added value which leads to creation of wealth. It is a simple but a very profound formula.    

In The Empty Raincoat-, Making Sense of the Future, Charles Handy proclaims : Life will never be easy, or sure, or perfect. Best understood backwards, we have to live it forwards - with all its contradictions. There is a paradox at the heart of things. The challenge of the future is to find a pathway through the paradoxes. He finds paradox to be inevitable, endemic and perpetual. The more turbulent the times, the more complex the world, the more the paradoxes.    

He enumerates no less than nine principal paradoxes - paradoxes of intelligence, work, productivity, time, riches, organisations, age, individual, and justice. Take for instance the paradox of intelligence. Focused intelligence, says Handy, the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and know - how is the new source of knowledge. It is, however, not possible to give people intelligence by decree or distribute it. Similarly take another paradox-the paradox of work. It is universally recognised, almost as a matter of right, that man must have work. (otherwise what does he do with himself?). As society, however, progresses, work is getting done more efficiently requiring lesser and lesser workers, and the list of paradoxes goes on.    

What does then one do with these paradoxes ? Handy, after his diagnosis, does provide treatment. He urges us to learn \o use the paradoxes, to balance the contradictions and the inconsistencies and to use them as an invitation to find a better way . How ? Well, he suggests pathways through paradoxes. These include the sigmoid curve the doughnut principle, and the Chinese contract.    

The sigmoid curve is the familiars - shaped curve showing first a slow start, then progressing rapidly, and finally reaching a plateau and then falling down. Handy suggests that start a second sigmoid curve before the first one starts to peter out. The doughnut Principle has a hard core at the centre and an outer rim. The space between the core and the boundary is the opportunity space which must be utilised. The Chinese contract is a win - win contract, that is, a contract in which both the parties feel that they are the winners as against the conventional contract in which one side's `win' is at the cost of the other.    

How does one then manage these paradoxes. Handy suggest several ideas, for example, the federalist idea, twin citizenship, and subsidiarity. Federalism is based on two key concepts - twin citizenship and subsidiarity. Twin citizanship is based on local as well as a broader loyalty. Deny the local smaller loyalty and we kill all liberty, incentive and initiative and rely on the centre to be right, as IBM did, to its great cost, in the early 1990s, says Handy. He then says; Deny the bigger loyalty, and inefficiencies, duplications and misunderstandings will proliferate. We need both loyalties. Subsidiarity, according to Handy, can be defined as `reverse delegation,' - the delegation by the parts to the centre. This is in the belief that the centre can do some things better on a collective basis than they can on their own.    

The title - The Empty Raincoat - was inspired by a sculpture in Minneapolis called `Without Words' by Judith Shea. It is a bronze raincoat, standing upright, but empty. Handy says that we were not distined to be empty raincoats, nameless numbers on a payroll, role occupants, the raw material of economics or sociology, statistics in some government report. Handy contests that if that is to be its price, then economic progress is an empty promise. For him, there must be more to life than to be a cog in someone else's great machine, hurtling God knows where. One cannot but agree with him.    

For Charles Handy, from being a `student' of organisations, to a management thinker, to ultimately a management guru has indeed been a long and rewarding journey. The insights provided by him are profound and stimulating, and his coverage of the theme vast. He helps us think that the organisation man is much more than a man in the organisation and the current business, if they have to survive even in the short term, have to think in radically different ways. In both the works reviewed here he conveys his message convicingly.    

                                                      D. C. Misra
*     Handy, Charles (1976) Understanding Organizations, London, Penguin books, Fourth edition 1993,   

**   Handy, Charles (1978); Gods of Management, London) Arrow Books. 1995 edition.   

***  Handy, Charles (1989) : The Age of unreason, London, Arrow  Books. 1995 edition.   

****  Handy, Charles 1990. Inside organisations, London, Penguin.   

0     Handy Charles (1994): The Empty Raincoat, London, Arrow Books. 1995 edition.   

00    Handy, Charles (1997); The Hungry spirit : Beyond Capitalism- A Quest for Purpose in the Modern world London, Arrow Books. 1998 edition.