American Society of Civil Engineers

Organizational Culture and Knowledge Management Success at Project and Organizational Levels in Contracting Firms

by Patrick S. W. Fong, (corresponding author), (Associate Professor, Dept. of Building and Real Estate, The Hong Kong Polytechnic Univ., Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong E-mail: and Cecilia W. C. Kwok, (Dept. of Building and Real Estate, The Hong Kong Polytechnic Univ., Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong.)

Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, Vol. 135, No. 12, December 2009, pp. 1348-1356, (doi:

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Document type: Journal Paper
Section Heading: Organizational Issues
Abstract: This research focuses on contracting firms within the construction sector. It characterizes and evaluates the composition of organizational culture using four culture types (clan, adhocracy, market, and hierarchy), the strategic approach for knowledge flow, and the success of knowledge management (KM) systems at different hierarchical levels of contracting organizations (project and parent organization level). Responses from managers of local or overseas contracting firms operating in Hong Kong were collected using a carefully constructed questionnaire survey that was distributed through electronic mail. The organizational value is analyzed in terms of the four cultural models. Clan culture is found to be the most popular at both project and organization levels, which means that the culture of contracting firms very much depends on honest communication, respect for people, trust, and cohesive relationships. On the other hand, hierarchy culture, which focuses on stability and continuity, and analysis and control, seems to be the least favored at both levels. Another significant finding was that the two main KM strategies for knowledge flow, codification and personalization, were employed at both project and organization levels in equal proportion. This indicates that successful KM efforts at both enterprise levels utilize a hybrid and balanced approach for their knowledge flow, and that they complement each other. The findings also revealed that knowledge management system success factors emphasize the support of the management level. The results show that KM is critical and beneficial as indicated by 64% at the project and 74% at the organization level. The expectation is higher for organizations as they are the organizational memories in which experiences of past projects are archived and connected. Understanding these factors and the relationships among them has been demonstrated to be critical in order to increase the chances of success or to help with making decisions when applying KM.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Construction companies
Construction management
Knowledge-based systems
Decision making