The role of organisational culture, trust and mechanisms in inter-project knowledge sharing

Wiewiora, Anna (2011) The role of organisational culture, trust and mechanisms in inter-project knowledge sharing. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Knowledge has been recognised as a powerful yet intangible asset, which is difficult to manage. This is especially true in a project environment where there is the potential to repeat mistakes, rather than learn from previous experiences. The literature in the project management field has recognised the importance of knowledge sharing (KS) within and between projects. However, studies in that field focus primarily on KS mechanisms including lessons learned (LL) and post project reviews as the source of knowledge for future projects, and only some preliminary research has been carried out on the aspects of project management offices (PMOs) and organisational culture (OC) in KS. This study undertook to investigate KS behaviours in an inter-project context, with a particular emphasis on the role of trust, OC and a range of knowledge sharing mechanisms (KSM) in achieving successful inter-project knowledge sharing (I-PKS). An extensive literature search resulted in the development of an I-PKS Framework, which defined the scope of the research and shaped its initial design. The literature review indicated that existing research relating to the three factors of OC, trust and KSM remains inadequate in its ability to fully explain the role of these contextual factors. In particular, the literature review identified these areas of interest: (1) the conflicting answers to some of the major questions related to KSM, (2) the limited empirical research on the role of different trust dimensions, (3) limited empirical evidence of the role of OC in KS, and (4) the insufficient research on KS in an inter-project context. The resulting Framework comprised the three main factors including: OC, trust and KSM, demonstrating a more integrated view of KS in the inter-project context. Accordingly, the aim of this research was to examine the relationships between these three factors and KS by investigating behaviours related to KS from the project managers‘ (PMs‘) perspective. In order to achieve the aim, this research sought to answer the following research questions: 1. How does organisational culture influence inter-project knowledge sharing? 2. How does the existence of three forms of trust — (i) ability, (ii) benevolence and (iii) integrity — influence inter-project knowledge sharing? 3. How can different knowledge sharing mechanisms (relational, project management tools and process, and technology) improve inter-project knowledge sharing behaviours? 4. How do the relationships between these three factors of organisational culture, trust and knowledge sharing mechanisms improve inter-project knowledge sharing? a. What are the relationships between the factors? b. What is the best fit for given cases to ensure more effective inter-project knowledge sharing? Using multiple case studies, this research was designed to build propositions emerging from cross-case data analysis. The four cases were chosen on the basis of theoretical sampling. All cases were large project-based organisations (PBOs), with a strong matrix-type structure, as per the typology proposed by the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) (2008). Data were collected from project management departments of the respective organisations. A range of analytical techniques were used to deal with the data including pattern matching logic and explanation building analysis, complemented by the use of NVivo for data coding and management. Propositions generated at the end of the analyses were further compared with the extant literature, and practical implications based on the data and literature were suggested in order to improve I-PKS. Findings from this research conclude that OC, trust, and KSM contribute to inter-project knowledge sharing, and suggest the existence of relationships between these factors. In view of that, this research identified the relationships between different trust dimensions, suggesting that integrity trust reinforces the relationship between ability trust and knowledge sharing. Furthermore, this research demonstrated that characteristics of culture and trust interact to reinforce preferences for mechanisms of knowledge sharing. This means that cultures that facilitate characteristics of Clan type are more likely to result in trusting relationships, hence are more likely to use organic sources of knowledge for both tacit and explicit knowledge exchange. In contrast, cultures that are empirically driven, based on control, efficiency, and measures (characteristics of Hierarchy and Market types) display tendency to develop trust primarily in ability of non-organic sources, and therefore use these sources to share mainly explicit knowledge. This thesis contributes to the project management literature by providing a more integrative view of I-PKS, bringing the factors of OC, trust and KSM into the picture. A further contribution is related to the use of collaborative tools as a substitute for static LL databases and as a facilitator for tacit KS between geographically dispersed projects. This research adds to the literature on OC by providing rich empirical evidence of the relationships between OC and the willingness to share knowledge, and by providing empirical evidence that OC has an effect on trust; in doing so this research extends the theoretical propositions outlined by previous research. This study also extends the research on trust by identifying the relationships between different trust dimensions, suggesting that integrity trust reinforces the relationship between ability trust and KS. Finally, this research provides some directions for future studies.

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ID Code: 50881
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Trigunarsyah, Bambang, Gable, Guy, & Murphy, Glen
Additional Information: Recipient of 2012 Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award
Keywords: knowledge sharing, inter-project context, organisational culture, trust, knowledge sharing mechanisms, case study, ODTA
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering
Past > Schools > School of Urban Development
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 13 Jun 2012 06:22
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2013 03:55

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