Jin-Shiang Huang
Department of Information Management, National Kaohsiung Marine University, 142 Hai Jhuan Rd., Kaohsiung, Taiwan
eywords: Knowledge Sharing, Organizational Culture, Competing Value Approach, IS Professionals
Abstract: On knowledge management discipline, little empirical research has been carried out to verify the differences
of knowledge sharing among individuals within different organizational settings. In the current study, theory
of Competing Value Approach (CVA) and knowledge classification structures from existing literature are
applied to conduct a conceptual framework to explore knowledge sharing intentions of different knowledge
categories for information system professionals from firms that exhibit various strengths on distinct cultural
dimensions. The hypothesized model is tested by Pearson correlation analysis and canonical analysis with
data from 172 full time workers of various job titles engaged in system development and maintenance
projects of different firms in Taiwan. Findings support the notion that knowledge sharing intentions of
information system professionals under distinct cultural types are quite different. Evidences also show that,
given the same organizational culture, the observed sharing intentions of various knowledge categories are
of equal level.
With the highly dependence on information
technology for organizations, information systems
(IS) professionals responsible to perform activities
within system development life cycles are expected
to pursue project success by effective acquirement
and dissemination of knowledge among team
members composed of technical specialists and user
representatives (Nambisan and Wilemon, 2000).
Even if an organization determined to outsource the
whole system development activities, the firm
should assign experienced IS employees to
communicate both formally and informally with its
contractors for the purpose of enhancing system
usability and relationship maintenance (Lee, 2001).
Therefore, if knowledge sharing practices among IS
professionals were not seriously addressed, no
matter what system implementation strategy used,
the overall quality of the acquired system might
questionable. As the consequences, organizations of
the current century must exert all its strength to
initiate and promote effective knowledge sharing
environment for IS professionals and project
members in order to gain system success.
Many preliminary researches have explored
factors that may influence the knowledge sharing
intentions among colleagues from various theoretical
perspectives such as economic exchange, social
exchange and social cognition (Bock and Kim,
2002). However, it is our assertion that knowledge
sharing behaviors can not be made clear until
cultural effects are taken into account. The widely
accepted perspectives of theory of reasoned action
(TRA) and succeeding improvement from theory of
planned behavior (TPB) all emphasized that the
behavioral intention of a person was not influenced
only by her personal attitude toward the action, but
also by cultural level of concerns such as norms,
values and expectations (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975;
Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980). In specific, TRA and
TPB were able to be adopted to examine the
knowledge sharing behaviors among organizational
members, and from these theories, researchers
inferred that factors that facilitate knowledge sharing
behaviors were included in both individual and
cultural levels of an organization (Bock and Kim,
Organizational culture is the shared values in a
firm accumulated over time with the effort of its
founders and succeeding colleagues, and these
values are not able be changed in a short period of
Huang J. (2005).
In Proceedings of the First International Conference on Web Information Systems and Technologies, pages 419-424
DOI: 10.5220/0001229004190424
time once established (Pettigrew, 1979). Therefore,
for organizations of specific cultural types,
knowledge sharing would become a common way to
deal with organizational affairs. On the contrary, if
negative appraisals toward knowledge dissemination
are prevailed in a firm, the knowledge sharing
practices would never be accepted by its
organizational members (Janz and Prasarnphanich,
2003). Base on the above inferences, the main
purpose of this study is to understand the influence
of organizational culture on knowledge sharing
intentions among IS professionals. The rest of this
study is organized as follows. First, the potential
differences of knowledge sharing among various
cultural types are explored by extending current
understandings from literature review, followed by
the formulation of research hypotheses. A filed
survey will succeeded to examine and test the
proposed hypotheses, and the discussions and
conclusions derived from these findings will be
The definitions of organizational culture are
relatively complex. In order to lower the degree of
abstraction and to fit the requirement of distinct
needs, researchers were apt to apply unique ways to
observe and classify organizational culture. Among
many candidates, we consider CVA is a suitable
perspective to understand the effects of
organizational culture on knowledge sharing since
CVA has its theoretical backgrounds in human
information processing, a behavioral observation
that focus on the various needs of information
immediacy and certainty (Deal and Kennedy, 1984),
and knowledge sharing is also an action of human
information processing that may take these needs
into account.
According to CVA, organizational culture can
be classified by considering the relative importance
of procedural flexibility as the vertical axis, and the
degree of external orientation within organizational
information processing as the horizontal axis (Quinn
and McGrath, 1985). Four typical organizational
cultural types were identified according to this
classification framework as shown below. The
ideological culture was characterized by pursuing
innovation, taking adventures and requesting of
growth for organization members who utilize their
intuitions, insights, and values to make decisions to
catch up with the migration of external
environments. The consensual culture addressed the
importance of internal cohesion and harmonious
atmosphere toward reaching consensus by informal
and flexible forms of participations for all
organizational members. In the typical hierarchical
culture, however, obedience was the only virtue.
Each person was required to apply internal rules,
codes or orders from upper levels to deal with
organizational problems. The rational culture
regarded goal achievements and competitiveness as
the most essential elements for organizational
success. Under the rational culture, members were
asked to make effort in raising their operational
efficiency and productivity to maximize
organizational profits and their personal welfare.
Knowledge is a multi-facet concept in its nature
(Nonaka, 1994). Elements such as facts, skills,
cognitions and procedures may all contribute to
some parts of organizational knowledge (Snyder,
1996). Therefore, to better understand the
knowledge sharing behaviors of organizational
members, a knowledge classification framework is
required to distinct the sharing intention of a specific
knowledge category from that of others. Numerous
works categorised organizational knowledge using
either the content attribute of know-that / know-how
(Ryle, 1975), or the presentation format of explicit /
tacit (Polanyi, 1966). In specific, know-that is the
knowledge about beliefs, intuition and cognition of a
person, while know-how represents the knowledge
of physical or mental execution; implicit knowledge
can not be stated or organized by words obviously,
while explicit knowledge can be edited or explained
by written language. Taking the above content
attributes and presentation formats into account
simultaneously, four typical types of organizational
knowledge can be identified, namely, explicit know-
that, tacit know-that, explicit know-how, and tacit
Organizational culture is believed to have significant
impacts on the behavior of employees since a firm’s
common value and attitude would ultimately
dominate the formation of individual value, attitude
and behavior (Steers and Porter, 1991). Therefore, if
a common value of an organization is to share
opinions with each other, the members will get used
to share their personal ideas in the long run (De
Long and Fahey, 2000). The above concept was also
supported by the results of a literature survey which
revealed that the successful knowledge management
practices and the advances of knowledge sharing
activities were highly associated with their
organizational culture (Alavi and Leidner, 2001).
Under ideological culture, employees pursue
organizational success through innovations derived
from insights and intuitions. Since ideologies, values
and insights are highly individualized and can hardly
be manipulated or explained, these personal
belongings were often categorized as “tacit” rather
than “explicit” (Snyder, 1996). Therefore, we infer
that organizations of ideological culture are willing
to encourage their employees to share all their
personal tacit knowledge mutually.
[H1] The strength of a firm’s ideological
culture will positively influence the
sharing intention of tacit know-that and
tacit know-how knowledge for its IS
Consensual culture addresses the importance of
group cohesion and harmonious atmosphere. Firms
of consensual culture always make the final
decisions by sharing and discussing all information
and knowledge available from each participant for
the purpose of achieving consensus (Storck and Hill,
2000). Thus, we hypothesize that the consensual
culture will sustain an environment for members to
exchange their personal ideas or feelings no matter
what category the knowledge is belonging to.
[H2] The strength of a firm’s consensual
culture will positively influence the
sharing intention of all four knowledge
categories for its IS professionals.
Hierarchical culture implies a top-down
management style in which only the persons on top
of the pyramid have the authority to create and share
knowledge, and followers should obey formal orders
from their superiors without reservation. Since the
hierarchical control mode is apt to ignore the
existence of tacit knowledge and skills from basic
levels, hierarchical firms request their employees to
exchange explicit rather than tacit knowledge
according to formalized rules (Nonaka and
Takeuchi, 1995). Base on the above inference, we
propose the following hypothesis:
[H3] The strength of a firm’s hierarchical
culture will positively influence the
sharing intention of explicit know-that
and explicit know-how knowledge for its
IS professionals.
Rational culture regards goal-achieving as the
only objective for firms. Since it address the value of
competition and individualization, organization
members tend to complete their tasks all by
themselves without seeking support from others.
Therefore, individuals under rational culture are not
willing to share whatever they know to each other
for the sake of sustaining their personal
competitiveness, which may limit the diffusion and
application of knowledge dramatically (Probst et al.,
2000). The following hypothesis is derived.
[H4] The strength of a firm’s rational culture
will negatively influence the sharing
intention of all four knowledge
categories for its IS professionals.
Organizational culture was measured using
questions from Cameron (1985). Rooted in CVA,
the questionnaire determined the strength of each
culture type for a firm by evaluating six cultural
dimensions which include dominant characteristics,
organizational leader, organizational glue,
organizational climate, criteria of success and
management style. Typical scenarios for all cultural
type in each dimension were offered to determine
the cultural similarity among an observed firm and
four exemplary firms of distinct culture types.
Knowledge items required by IS professionals
for each knowledge category were adopted from
Zmud (1983). In its original form, thirty IS related
knowledge items were classified into six categories:
knowledge of organizational overview,
organizational skills, target organizational unit,
general IS concepts, technical skills and IS products.
In order to fit know-that / know-how and explicit /
tacit knowledge framework used in this study, the
author and three independent coders separately
classified these thirty items into four knowledge
categories according to their contents and major
presentation formats. For the purpose of objectivity,
only knowledge items categorized into the same
knowledge category by all coders (shown in Table
1) were retained for further use. The sharing
intention of each retained knowledge item was
measured by a 5-point Likert scale question which
ranked the sharing willingness of respondents from
strongly disagree to strongly agree.
Table 1: Knowledge items retained in this study
Items retained
Explicit know-that Primary organizational functions
Work unit objectives
IS policies and plans
Tacit know-that IS/IT for competitive advantage
Fit between IS and organization
IS/IT potential
Critical success factors
Work unit problems
Environmental constraints
Explicit know-how Use of office automation products
Use/understand documentation
IS evaluation and maintenance
Use of operating systems
Use of specific application systems
Preparation of documentation
Tacit know-how Model application
Interpersonal communication
Group dynamics
Project management
Questionnaires were sent to project members of
major IS providing companies in Taiwan whose
contact information were available on companies’
websites. A total of 1031 e-mail surveys were sent
out in 2004 and with 172 returned for a response rate
of 16.7%. Table 2 portraits the respondents’
demographic dispersions. The distributions of these
attributes were roughly consistent with the official
statistics of IT related workers released by Institute
for Information Industry in Taiwan.
Respondents also reported the strength of each
culture type for their organizations. If counted on the
base of the strongest culture type, 58 reported their
organizational culture as the consensus culture, 20
reported as ideological culture, 68 as hierarchical
culture, and 26 as rational culture. The dispersions
reveal that our sampling firms are mainly equipped
with consensus or hierarchical characters.
The Pearson correlation coefficients shown in Table
3 offered some preliminary evidences toward
understanding the potential relationship between the
strength of organizational cultures and the sharing
intentions of each knowledge category. The
correlation results revealed that the stronger the
consensual culture, the higher level of sharing
intention is for all four knowledge categories,
therefore supporting H2. A rational culture was also
found to be negatively correlated with the sharing
intentions for all knowledge categories, supporting
H4 as expected. However, the proposed relationship
between ideological culture and sharing intentions of
tacit knowledge was not supported. The relationship
between hierarchical culture and sharing intentions
of explicit knowledge was also untenable. Both H1
and H3 should be rejected accordingly.
A further analysis was conducted by applying
canonical analysis to determine the potential causal
effects between the linear combination of four
cultures and the similar combination of four
knowledge categories. The results shown in Figure 1
delineated that only one set of canonical correlation
(with eigenvalue > 0.1) was found between
organization cultures and knowledge categories. The
explanation of this finding was that as the intensity
of consensual culture strengthened or the intensity of
rational culture weakened, the knowledge sharing
intentions of all knowledge categories for IS
professionals shall be enhanced accordingly, which
is similar to the Pearson correlation results.
Table 2: Demographic dispersions of respondents
Attributes Classifications Number Percentage
Sex Male
Education Junior college
Graduate Study
Job title Programmer
Technical specialist
System analyst
End user consultant
Table 3 Results of Pearson correlation analysis
0.257** 0.015 0.089 -0.222**
0.280** 0.063 0.024 -0.196*
0.282** 0.020 0.017 -0.188*
0.264** 0.045 0.031 -0.202*
* Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level
** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level
Figure 1: The results of canonical analysis
Our findings confirmed that the strength of
consensual culture would positively influence the
knowledge sharing intention of all knowledge
categories for IS professionals. This aspect is
consistent with the notion that the knowledge
oriented behaviors shall take place when there is full
of common values among organizational members
(De Long and Fahey, 2000). Therefore, it is
suggested that good personal relationship is ought to
be established and maintained within the
organization for the sake of enhancing knowledge
sharing intentions for IS professionals.
The strength of rational culture that addresses
the value of individualization was found to be
negatively influence the sharing intention of all
knowledge categories for IS professionals.
Researches suggested that in order to transfer
knowledge to other individuals, organizations should
inaugurate regular group discussions or community
oriented exchange platforms to ensure the
effectiveness of knowledge sharing activities
(Devenport and Prusak, 1998). Organizations are
also advised to adopt team-based rather than
individual-based motivation systems to avoid the
reservation of personal knowledge (Gupta and
Govindarajan, 2000). Thus, for organizations that
aimed at pursuing extensive knowledge sharing
among IS professionals, effective ways must be
carried out in advance to reduce the strength of
rational culture within their firms.
The hypothesized effect of the strength of
hierarchical culture on sharing intention of explicit
knowledge was not supported. A possible
explanation for the phenomenon was that the
behavioral intention of subordinates in hierarchical
culture depended heavily on the attitude of their
leaders (Quinn, 1988), which implied that, under
hierarchical culture, the knowledge sharing intention
of IS professionals may also depended heavily on
the opinions of chief executives. If organizational
leaders did not recognized the sharing behaviors of
explicit knowledge, although available in its natural
settings, IS professionals should behaved comply
with their superiors. Further studies are needed to
examine the potential moderating effect from high-
level in hierarchical culture.
Hypothesis related with ideological culture also
gained little empirical support in this study. Since
ideological firms innovated themselves merely
through individual insights and intuitions, the main
focus for their knowledge management activities
might be allocated to knowledge creation rather than
knowledge sharing. A recent survey found that the
major missions of knowledge management for many
technology oriented firms were enriching their
knowledge seeking and knowledge constructing
capabilities, which may often be completed by
independent employees (Murray, 2001). To
demonstrate the inferential rationality, the soundness
of this interpretation should be carefully examined
by further discussions.
Our findings showed that the knowledge
sharing intention of IS professionals under various
cultural types were quite different. With the above
idea in mind, knowledge management practitioners
should bring up unique ways to facilitate knowledge
sharing activities for each distinct organizational
culture type. However, since this study examined the
organizational culture dimension merely using CVA,
researches based on other cultural perspectives are
necessary to broaden the current understanding of
the overall effects of organization culture on
knowledge sharing behavior for IS professionals.
The attempt toward understanding the
relationship between knowledge sharing intentions
and cultural elements is at its very beginning.
Explicit know-that
Consensual intensity
Ideological intensity
Hierarchical intensity
Rational intensity
Tacit know-how
Tacit know-that
Explicit know-how
Further investigations might be carried out to re-
examine our findings by enlarging sample sizes,
improving response rate, or observing longitudinally.
Future research opportunities also exist to explore
and compare the knowledge sharing intentions of IS
professionals under numerous countries or regions
that withhold various value systems.
The author would like to thank three anonymous
reviewers for their comments on the manuscript. The
research was founded by a grant to the author from
National Science Council (Taiwan) under the
contract number NSC 93-2416-H-022-003.
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