Identification and measurement of organizational culture in the Hong Kong construction industry


Student thesis: Master's Thesis

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  • Wai Yin WU


Awarding Institution
Award date16 Jul 2007


The effect of organizational culture on the effective operation of a firm has attracted increasing attention of construction management researchers over the years. Organizational culture is usually defined as the social or normative glue that holds an organization together. It expresses the social ideas, values and the beliefs that members of an organization come to share. The interest in organizational culture is derived from the belief that culture of an organization has a direct impact on its performance. Culture can have a powerful positive effect on individual and organizational performance, especially in a competitive environment. In sum, organizational culture has been identified to have several important functions. It conveys a sense of identity for organization members; facilitates the generation of commitment to something larger than the self; enhances social system stability; and serves as a sense-making device that can guide and shape behavior. Previous reported studies suggested that culture can be identified by several dimensions, goals, interpersonal relations, conflict resolution, employee participation, processes and policies. Goal is the most important cultural trait of an organization. Successful organizations always have a clear goal that defines organizational objectives manifesting the vision the organizations would like to be in the future. Coordination and integration, team orientation have been identified as possible measures of interpersonal relations. A successful organization relies on team effort to get work done. As construction activities involve complex working procedures, it is particularly important for different functions and units of an organization to work together well to achieve common goals. Conflicts often occur within an organization. Unresolved conflicts can seriously affect the proper functioning of an organization. The degree to which an organization encourages employees to air conflicts and criticisms openly varies with individual firms. Decision making is needed in every management process. Employee participation signifies the extent to which employees perceive their involvement in the decision-making process of the organization. This form of affiliation is essential to command commitment of the employees. Innovation orientation, performance emphasis, and reward orientation have been identified as possible measures of processes and policies. Innovation orientation measures the degree to which employees are encouraged to be creative and innovative and to constantly search for better ways of getting the job done; performance emphasis measures the extent to which emphasis is placed on individual performance; and reward orientation measures the degree to which reward allocations are based on employee performance. In view of the positive relationship between culture and organization performance, this study aims to examine organization culture and develop an inventory of organizational culture in construction. To achieve the research aims, the detailed objectives of the study include: identification of the measurement tools of the proposed form of organization culture; and verification of the validity of research findings with construction practitioners. The following work has been conducted to achieve the research objectives. Firstly, the determinants of organizational culture and its relationship with effectiveness are discussed. Secondly, the development of organizational culture in construction organizations is explored. Thirdly, through these two reviews, a framework to describe organizational culture in construction is suggested. Finally, to ensure the validity and reliability of the proposed culture model, Reliability Analysis, Factor Analysis and Structural Equation Modeling were carried out. These tests were completed with data collected from practitioners through a questionnaire survey. The proposed organizational culture model has been validated through a series of tests. Five elements of culture – goals, interpersonal relations, conflict resolution, employee participation and processes and policies are included in the model. The results of the reliability tests including Cronbach’s alpha and inter-item correlation are satisfactory. In an exploratory factor analysis, the principal component factor analysis is used for taxonomy development. The proposed culture elements are clearly distinguished and these are further authenticated by a structural equation model. The structural equation modeling is used to confirm the model as well as refinements. For validation purpose, a test-retest methodology was applied and the organizational culture model is found to be acceptably reliable and reasonably stable over time. Having a validated organizational culture model would open the door to a wide range of important research and implications on practice. Some recommendations on the use of the model and further studies in the subject are suggested. Notably, the model can be used by organizations to identify areas that need improvement. Also, a clear road map for organizational development can be identified by understanding the current cultural strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, culture can be an important source of motivation for employees. An appropriate and cohesive culture can offer employees a sense of belonging, and thus increase the overall efficiency.

    Research areas

  • Hong Kong, Construction industry, China, Management